Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Give George Bush His War

"The position to take is that it’s not America’s war at all. The issue is that it’s George Bush’s war. His own, personal, private obsession. "

(There's a lot of really good stuff at commondreams right now.)

US Undermines Iraqi Peace Plan

Even though the Iraqis overwhelmingly want the U.S. out, Bush & Co. plan permanent bases, so there can be no timetable for withdrawal. And the Democrats just go along with it all...

Rat Park

This 1981 psychology study has fascinated me ever since my brother told me about it a few months ago.

The researcher, Bruce Alexander, hypothesized that addiction to drugs like heroin is caused not by the addict's sheer inability to kick an obviously harmful habit, but by the addict's active need for pain relief due to living in unbearable social and economic conditions.

Dr. Alexander got a bunch of caged lab rats addicted to morphine, and then did follow-up experiments involving Rat Park, a 200-square-foot rat heaven, with many rats for socializing, trees, ample food, toys and places to burrow and quiet spots for the females to give birth.

He basically found that the rats weaned themselves off the morphine, even when given free access to the drug.

Follow the link for more detail; the study was rejected by the journals Science and Nature, Alexander's university withdrew funding, and the information, with its profound ramifications for social policy, was all but forgotten...

Gardens of Eden

I wrote the following, Thoughts on the Draft, on January 8, 2003, a little more than two months before the Iraq War began. Reading James Carroll's essay about the international seed bunker reminded me of it...

I just heard on the radio that Congressmen Charles Rangel and John Conyers have introduced a draft bill for the purpose of making an inevitable draft for an inevitable basket of wars that neither man supports “more fair.”

Conyers stated very clearly that blacks make up a little more than 20 percent of the volunteer army and only 13 percent of the general population. He also stated that these young black people do not really volunteer, they “volunteer” because they cannot get education and career opportunities otherwise.

Rangel intoned that the “sacrifices” demanded by war should be borne by everyone, not just the poor.

First Point: Bush’s war is not inevitable. Congress declares war, not the President. Congress can allocate funding, and Congress can cut it off. Citizens can pay war taxes, and citizens can refuse. Police officers and judges can put people in jail, and police officers and judges can set people free. Soldiers can fire, or hold their fire.

To engage in war is to carry out a choice made by individual humans. War is not a form of the weather. And the millions of Americans currently involved in the Peace Movement or contemplating involvement do not get out of our houses and workplaces for a single anti-war action because we sit on our couches saying to ourselves, “Well, Bush wants it. So I guess it has to be.”

Besides, to be truly a fair fight, Bush and Hussein should duel one-on-one.

Second Point: US Strategy in Iraq to this point has been absolutely irrational, incoherent and unrelated to promoting human freedom. America funded, armed, trained and supplied Saddam Hussein and his fighters in the 1970s and 1980s to be our “friend” against Iran. The US gave Hussein the go-ahead to invade Kuwait and then pounced with ridiculously overpowering military force when he did. After reducing the country to rubble through the Gulf War, America imposed harsh economic sanctions that have exclusively sickened and killed the civilians of Iraq and destroyed their civil infrastructure, softening Saddam Hussein not one tiny little bit. America deliberately pulled out United Nations weapons inspectors -- some of whom were spies -- in 1998, because American bombs were about to start falling.

This irrationality and incoherence and absolute stupidity continues right up to the present day, when the United Nations is simultaneously conducting renewed inspections under a non-hair-trigger resolution, apparently finding nothing of particular threat to America or Americans WHILE conducting studies to prepare for the death, sickening, maiming and evacuation of up to 10 million Iraqi civilians WHILE Bush and Rumsfeld are merrily calling up reserves, building bases and shipping supplies for a ground invasion.

I try very hard to love George W. Bush, because I think Jesus was onto something really smart when he talked about loving your enemies and turning the other cheek. If you don’t, you have a vicious cycle of hate that never ends. But I also have a little voice in the back of my mind saying: “What if someone had assassinated Hitler? Would those millions of people have lived and loved for another 50 years?”

I don’t believe killing Bush is the right answer. Cheney would step into his shoes, and then Rumsfeld, ad infinitum, although I know technically that’s not how Presidential successions work. Then again, Presidential elections don’t technically work like the one in 2000, and the Constitution isn’t technically supposed to be used to violate citizens' individual or collective rights, so what difference do the rules make now?

On the other hand, I keep thinking about that September 1999 Talk magazine account of Bush’s impersonation of Karla Faye Tucker, a death row inmate in Texas, when she was asked what she would say to Bush if she could meet with him.

“Please,” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation. “Don’t kill me.”

I feel like he’s mocking the whole country and the whole world in the exact same way right now, as the pleas for sanity and restraint come pouring in from other countries’ leaders, as American churches and peace groups gather for weekly vigils and demonstrations all over the country, as the desperate letters, e-mails and calls pour into the White House.

I picture him cackling to himself in the Oval Office, impersonating us for Cheney and Rumsfeld:
“Please,” he whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation. “Don’t kill us.”

Still, because of the endless succession of Bush-type people lined up behind him, there are two important question facing the human species right now: Why are White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants, especially the rich male American ones, so damn angry? And what are we to do about these awful temper tantrums they keep having on a global scale, lying down, kicking and screaming: “I want to kill! I want to bomb! I want to poison people! I want to cut down all the trees! I want the sky to be black, not blue! I’ll scream until you let me do it all!!!!”

The answer to the first question lies in their creation myth. These pink-skinned, baby-faced men’s minds and hearts were fed with the story of Adam and Eve, whiling away the beautiful hours in the Garden of Eden until WHAM! God says: “I gave you curiosity, but you used it. Ha-ha. No more Garden of Eden for you.”

What a sense of betrayal these men must have. They tried to pass it off on women, but even the thickest among them have noticed by now that women are not the bulk of those running around scaring people and making big messes everywhere. So it comes back to their own inarticulate rage that they’ve been punished for something they couldn’t not be: curious. They decide daily to declare their independence from life and love, stick out their pink tongues and say: “Fine, God. Take your dumb garden and stuff it up your butt. I’ll just destroy the rest of the world you made. So there.”

In their confusion and rage, they miss seeing the obvious flaw in their myth: we never left the Garden of Eden. The sky is still blue. The wind and rain still blow and fall. The sun still shines. The plants still grow. The animals still scurry around in the underbrush and swim through the oceans. Fewer different kinds, of course. But they’re not all gone, yet. Miraculously, babies of all sorts are born every day.

The answer to the second question comes down to good parenting. Any good parent will tell you that when a child is having a temper tantrum, you do not give in. You don’t hit the child either. First, you keep the child safe. If he’s thrashing around, you hold him tight. If he wants some private time to calm down, you give it to him.

You support his feelings: “I know you want to kill a lot of people. Sometimes it’s hard to be so angry and upset and you don’t know where to put that energy. But killing people is not okay. Not ever.”

And then you give the child alternatives: “I will not let you kill people. But you could use all that energy to chop this cord of wood into kindling.” Or, for someone on Bush’s scale: “We will not let you kill people. But you could use all that rage at an unfair God to thwart the unfairness. You could be the President Who Ended Poverty by developing a global plan for micro-lending and sustainable development.”

But the main, most important point, is that you do not give in. You don’t give in because giving in gives the child the mistaken impression that killing people is okay, and that’s not a lesson any child should be taught. You provide incentives for cooperative, caring behavior, and you provide disincentives for violent, destructive behavior. Good parents know that, as do good civilizations.

Which brings me back to the beginning, about the inevitable war and the inevitable draft. If at any point in America’s horrific relationship with the people of Iraq and their unelected leader, Saddam Hussein, our government had cut off the flow of weapons and supplies, the regime would have either fallen or looked elsewhere for support. And if America, with our great moral stature as a beacon of freedom for the world, had refused to support Hussein’s violent dictatorship, and violent dictatorships around the globe, other countries would have had a harder time supporting those regimes.

But we did support Iraq and the others, and we still do. We give them money and we give them moral weight. It was a mistake then and continues to be a mistake today. The mere existence of one society founded on freedom -- however imperfectly we meet our ideal -- is enough to undermine all societies founded on repression.

Wars don’t spread freedom. Freedom spreads freedom.

And the fact that each individual’s desire to be free cannot ever be completely extinguished absolutely guarantees that even should the American experiment in government “of, by and for the People” fail, the flame of the ideal will never flicker out of human consciousness.

I don’t want the experiment to fail, however. I want all of America to give Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld the restraining arms of the parent that they never had as children. I want us, through our Congress, and our newspapers, and our tax returns, and our legs, to cut off the flow of money, cut off the supply of moral support, and cut off the stream of living human bodies marching into the people-shredder of war, through the “volunteer” army AND through the draft.

War is NOT inevitable.

The draft is NOT inevitable.

If we don’t let them, they can’t do either one.

If they can’t make war, we can propose alternative uses for all that energy, rage and money. We can help them give their cruel God the ultimate kiss-off: recognize the lie for what it is and start living peacefully in the Garden of Eden that’s been here all along.

Reinhold Niebuhr - Awkward Imperialists

May 1930

Atlantic Monthly, Volume 145, No. 5

Our empire was developed almost overnight. At the beginning of the World War [I] we were still in debt to the world…We wiped out our debt and put the world in our debt by well-nigh thirty billion dollars in little more than a decade, and we have increased our holdings in the outside world by one to two billion dollars per year…

We are not prosperous because we are imperialists; we are imperialists because we are prosperous…

We are a business people who know nothing about the intricacies of politics, especially international politics, and in the flush of youthful pride we make no calculations of the reactions to our attitudes in the minds of others.

Our lack of imagination is increased by the fact that we have come into our position of authority too suddenly to adjust ourselves to its responsibilities and that we are geographically too isolated from the world to come into intimate contact with the thought of others. It was only yesterday that we were a youthful nation, conscious of making an adventure in democratic government which the older nations did not quite approve, and we still imagine that it is our virtue rather than our power which the older nations envy…

We hold ourselves aloof from international councils because we feel ourselves too powerful to be in need of counseling with others, but we are able to practise the deception of imagining that our superior political virtue rather than our superior economic strength makes such abstention possible and advisable…

It has always been the habit of fortunate people to ascribe their luck or their fortune to their own moral qualities rather than to any inscrutability of history, and our fortune-favored nation has developed this habit with the greatest possible consistency…

We still maintain the fiction that nothing but the love of peace actuates our foreign policy. A certain amount of hypocrisy which varies between honest self-deception and conscious dishonesty characterizes the life of every nation…

We make simple moral judgments, remain unconscious of the self-interest which colors them, support them with an enthusiasm which derives from our waning but still influential evangelical piety, and are surprised that our contemporaries will not accept us as saviors of the world.

Three Words

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cold Comfort

All wars end, eventually. So we pacifists always “win,” eventually. Even the Courier-News recently admitted that despite anti-war protestors with plenty of hard evidence, clamoring for a public debate for months before the invasion, their executive board, like Congress, was taken in by the Bush lies.

Cold comfort for more than 2,500 American troops, dead, and their bereaved families. Cold comfort for the blinded, lame and mentally ill veterans. Cold comfort for well over 150,000 Iraqis dead, and thousands more Afghanis: ruined cities, starving children, all the normal fallout of war.

But these wars will end. One fine day, either the populations of soldiers or civilians will run out, or the enraged and yet stifled American public will somehow develop an effective way to get our media and our leaders to end one or both wars, with policy decisions to pull out, along with public and policy positions against force as a viable conflict resolution tool, and against the international arms trade as a legitimate source of economic activity.

Even then, though, we peaceniks won’t win, because what we want is not just an end to any particular war, but an end to the beginnings of all wars. I’m almost resigned to the fact that we couldn't stop these wars before they began. But sooner or later, the bloodshed will gush and then trickle to an end, this time around. I fear the build-up to the next one.

I put hope in the idea of the UN creating a “Pen Pals for Peace” program, in which individual suburban American families, with their two-car garages and Chem-Lawns, overbearing mortgages and hour-long commutes, will be linked directly with individual Iraqi families, so they can personally get to know the people whose lives their apathy, ignorance and gullibility helped destroy. So the sudden, violent death of an uncle or a daughter, or the destruction of a home, will move from being an abstract number in a news article buried on the international page, to become a visceral, tangible, horrible reality, and they won’t ever be able to go back to silent compliance. So that our people will refuse to participate in the exact same crimes committed by those who we reject as terrorists.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Representative George Miller

Friday, June 23, 2006

Raca, or "Fool"

The Beatitudes have it that Jesus told his followers not only to avoid killing others, but to avoid the anger that might lead to killing. In particular, he cautioned us not to call others “raca,” or fool: not to belittle others, or hold them in contempt.

This has been on my mind since reading some of the feedback from last week’s www.truthout.org posting, which included contemptuous comments about how we’d each be dead if our immune systems refused to go to war against infectious invaders, presumably an analogy for how America would be dead if Bush had refused to go to war against infectious Muslim suicide bombers.

This analogy, given factual developments since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have inflamed anti-American sentiment in the Middle East and spurred a jihadi recruiting period beyond Osama’s wildest imagination, isn’t such a good one, even assuming a goal of nationalist self-preservation.

But nation-states are increasingly irrelevant. As Barry Lopez writes: “In a mature nation, where terrorists might be understood as part of a worldwide awakening to the specter of finite resources, and to the strategic and tactical planning required to secure ownership to fresh water, petroleum and grain fields, it would be possible in political discussion to raise the subject of the fate of Homo sapiens.”

Then again, we can look at the epidemiological increases in autoimmune diseases and cancers, as microcosms of global self-destruction through war and environmental self-destruction, and self-destruction through unchecked capital and productivity growth, all four rampant. As Katrina Berne writes in her book on Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome:

“We tend to oversimplify the problem, believing that a germ causes an illness; therefore, conquering the germ will allow us to become well again. The illness process is actually a complex interaction between a susceptible host and a triggering agent. The agent alone doesn’t cause the illness; it acts as a catalyst in provoking the vulnerabilities of an organism. The unicausal approach is tantalizingly simple. All we have to do is identify the culprit, kill that rotten germ, and be well again. But as in any war, the problem is not as simple as merely obliterating the enemy. That doesn’t solve the problem; there will always be other enemies.

It’s the same for America. We are a cultural organism whose complexity, financial and military dominance of others, and technological vulnerabilities were revealed by the triggering agents on September 11, 2001. Even more interestingly, in light of recent revelations about U.S. troops killed by the Iraqi soldiers they had trained to kill, is that we go around saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Then we train those enemies to become our enemies too. With each war, we prepare the next. For more information, look under: “Taliban, American support for” cross-referenced with “Osama bin Laden.”

But I keep coming back to this fool business, because I don’t want to be angry at others for making their arguments, and treating the apparently indestructible idea of pacifism, which has survived millennia of efforts to quash its power, with contempt.

Two prominent bloggers provide another example in Crashing the Gates. They made the excellent point that progressive interest groups need to see our common interests and band together to elect better leaders, even if individual candidates may not vote perfectly on every issue all the time. We can’t afford to backbite each other; the stakes are too high. And yet in the same book, the authors felt it was fair game to belittle pacifists, who they describe as naively encouraging people to “visualize” peace, as if a mental exercise will make flesh and blood suicide bombers stop killing.

First off, vision matters a great deal. It’s not a complete strategy; visualizing isn’t all we need to do to bring about world peace. But it is a very early part of the process, and an aspect that needs to be steadily maintained throughout all the days and years that any person or group works on war and peace issues. We need to think about the world we want, to take steps now toward making those ideas real, because the terrorists and those who attempt to make them and their grievances disappear through bombs, are certainly working out their own vision of the good, and taking concrete steps to make their ideas real.

John Edwards is starting to talk in terms of steps to a visualized better future, with his plans to cut poverty in America by a third over the next decade. And, as Michael Franti writes, “We can bomb the world to pieces/but we can’t bomb it into peace.” The Pentagon has so-called “War Games,” involving thousands of soldiers practicing killing maneuvers by land, sea and air. We pacifists should have “Peace Games,” involving thousands of regular people practicing mutual care-giving exercises, across neighborhoods, state borders and oceans and mountain ranges, and especially across war zones. Such exercises in making this world – certainly not the best of all possible worlds – better, begin with imagination. They don’t stop there.

More to the point: Is it possible to advocate coalitions without showering contempt on those most likely to join the coalition? What is the purpose of critiques that cut down those with whom we disagree? Who benefits when even those with many overlapping interests turn on each other?

One of the main arguments against pacifists actually has nothing to do with pacifism itself. The argument is: “You can only speak freely of your pacifism because men fought and died to protect your freedom. Shut up and stop biting the hand that protects you by killing on your behalf.”

But looking back over history, there’s as much or more evidence to support the assumption that it is war that will shut us up, not advocating peace. Long before other pacifists and the peace idea make us vulnerable to onslaught by foreign invaders, our own governments, citing national security in wartime, will round up dissidents, including intellectuals, pacifists, artists, therapists and other creative, nurturer types, for detention, torture and execution. It’s luck that we haven’t been rounded up yet, or (equally unprovable) it’s the very fact that we do speak against war on behalf of those silenced within war zones. The military decision-makers have no interest in protecting my kind, or preserving our voices to carry the ideal of peace through this generation to pass it on to the next.

As long as they “stay the course,” we pacifists will stay our course too.

Friday, June 16, 2006

thinking globally, acting locally

I was at a community forum on school construction in a nearby city last night, and the signs were good. Much talk of multi-use buildings (schools with museums, hospitals with schools, etc.) and green building and performing arts schools and community events...Just like in other cities, it seems.


Lots of sages have suggested that we should live every day like it's our last, treasuring the sunlight, the faces of loved ones, the breezes through the trees. Partly because that attitude keeps us in the now, and partly because it may, in fact, be our last day. Others recommend living each day like it's our first, noticing the wonder of things as though we'd never seen or heard or smelled them before. Same rationale.

I do these things fairly often, but mostly out of fear that everything could all evaporate in a sickening instant, like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or fear that even if it's not that quick, all that lies before us is a slow slide into human extinction, with every day more choking and hot and hungry than the day before.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live each day like there would be more, to feel confident about making plans for a whole life, instead of just a few hours at a time.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Diogenes' Quest Fulfilled

Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), who has led opposition within the Congress to the war from the beginning, issued the following statement on the war Supplemental funding bill on the House floor Monday evening:

Mass death on the installment plan. That's what this supplemental vote to keep our troops in Iraq is all about."Today Iraqi civilian casualties number well over 100,000. Iraqi civilian injuries could be over one million, but who is keeping track? Some act as though the Iraqis are not real people, with real families, real hopes and real dreams and loves of their own.

We have lost nearly 2,500 of our own brave soldiers. Up to 48,000 troops have suffered physical or emotional injuries that could scar them and their loved ones for life.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Steiglitz says the war could cost $2 trillion dollars. Two trillion dollars for war while the American people are told we don't have enough money for job creation, education, health care and social security.

The Administration went into Iraq without an exit strategy not because they are incompetent, but because they have no intention of leaving.

We are spending hundreds of millions building permanent bases in Iraq. The Administration recently announced deployment of no less than 50,000 troops in Iraq far into the future. We are looking at the permanent occupation of Iraq.

And so the long cadence of lies has led to Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Haditha, soon to be replaced by more lies and more tragedies.

What can you say when you are watching your nation descend, sleep walking, into something like the lower circles of hell in Dante's Inferno?

You can say stop it ! You can say enough blood is enough blood ! You can stop it ! Bring our troops home ! You can say no to any more funds for this war ! And then we can begin a period of truth and reconciliation about 9/11 and Iraq. Begin the healing of the soul of America.

The Bible says, 'He who troubleth his own house shall inherent the wind.' Our house has been troubled by this war based on lies. What will our inheritance be?

Faith Voices for the Common Good

I partipated in early stages of drafting these statements of purpose, along with other women from many religious backgrounds:

Women’s Public Vision

As women leaders, we are guided by a public vision based on justice, dignity, equality, empathy, respect, love, peace, sufficiency, sustainability, relationality, reciprocity, and communication.

This vision calls for greater women's leadership and responsibility. It calls for universal access to food, water, housing, health care, education, and employment. It calls for inclusive participation of all disadvantaged groups in decision making; restoration of natural ecosystems; payment for caregivers, and good wages for all. It calls for a reallocation of resources, fair elections, and corporate accountability. It calls for pluralism in all its forms, including religious pluralism, to be embraced as learning opportunities, not as justification for conflict and war.

We seek meaningful individual and local community control over and access to: political power, public funds, clean air and water, safe neighborhoods, outstanding child care, education and creative outlets, nutritional foods, excellent health care, safe housing, non-commercialized media outlets, satisfying personal occupations (whether paid or unpaid), and a multitude of environmentally sustainable consumer choices. We seek a world of balanced participation by men and women of all ages, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, physical abilities, and religious affiliations. We seek healing and spirit and love.

In order for these to occur, We commit ourselves to promoting women's leadership. We seek to build a movement that bridges our diversities and supports leaders who promote our values. In particular, we seek to recruit and support the leadership of talented, diverse women. We seek to create support structures for women in leadership, and especially to promote greater public leadership by mothers, young women, women of color, poor women, and other under-represented women.

As women leaders, we commit ourselves to accomplishing these goals with integrity, self-reflexivity, grace, and love.

Women's public values insist that we recognize equal rights and opportunities for all, within a context of shared responsibility for each other and our communities. As women, we demand that values such as interdependence, shared responsibility, equal opportunity, personal growth, compassion, and respect for individual worth and dignity are relevant and important to public life. These values ask that we give voice to those left out of power and politics, so that we can all define our rights, concerns, and interests, rather than have them defined for us.

We can live out these values in politics, policy, and our own lives, by creating responsive and respectful institutions and organizations; by developing policies that respect individual agency and encourage a sense of compassion and responsibility for community; by personally engaging in community life; and by choosing to live our lives in ways that reach out to others and respect the agency of people of all backgrounds.

Our Values

We acknowledge that all people are interdependent; what happens to the most disadvantaged affects us all. Therefore, each person is mutually responsible for the well-being of others and our communities. Individual rights are important & must be respected, but they must also be understood within the greater context of the well-being of all.

Each person must have equal opportunities for access to education, jobs, political involvement, and other political and economic rights. All of us should have the opportunity to help define those rights, and to pursue what delights and inspires us, while respecting the rights, needs, and desires of others.

Living Our Values Out Loud

We can live our values out in public life by creating more responsive political channels for accessing elected officials, particularly by those left out of power, and by developing ways for community & political groups to listen to how women & men define their concerns. We ask that structures for social welfare, police, & other services are also responsive and respectful of all of us.

We support policies that encourage every person to reach their full potential, and that recognize women's own moral and political agency to make choices about their lives. We insist that public policies give priority to ensuring our physical safety, caring for our mental and physical health, supporting childrearing, providing access to education from childhood through adulthood, respecting our reproductive choices, and ensuring work with dignity for all.

We pledge to live this ethic ourselves, by analyzing the impact of whom we reach out to and what we say and do; by changing our own habits to model what we want to see in the world; and by recognizing that alliances across race, class, religion, disability, and other lines are good for individuals, communities, and movements for social change.

We will speak out to ensure that our concerns and needs, as well as the concerns and needs of others, are heard. And when others cannot speak for themselves, we will help them claim a voice by listening, reflecting, and advocating for them. With their permission!

Finally, we pledge to ensure respect for individuality and diversity in decision making. We will challenge racism, sexism, and other prejudices whenever and wherever we are confronted by them, and we will insist that all people can be heard and considered in decisions affecting their lives and communities.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pacifism Is Self-Defense

It all depends on how largely you define “self.”

Many people wrote penetrating responses to a posting I put on www.truthout.org last week. The most insightful suggested that absolute pacifism is a deceptive position, and such pacifists are secretly grateful that others are willing to kill and die for our safety. The writer said that if push ever came to shove, and my own safety was directly threatened, I too would kill to save my own life. The writer suggested that to work toward global acceptance of non-violence as an organizing principle of society, and to argue for unilateral, pre-emptive American disarmament as a precondition for universal disarmament, are naïve and “tautological” views, suitable perhaps for slogans and bumper stickers, but not for actual foreign policy.

I’ve confronted this tautology argument before; it’s often a showstopper, as though the speaker is saying: “Duh. If nobody had any weapons and everybody agreed not to fight, of course there would be peace. But they do, and they won’t, so the goal of no war and no weapons is worthless. Never gonna happen. Got any other ideas?”

I thought tautology referred to arguments that make logic circles, as in: President Bush claims the right to unilaterally make and discard laws to protect national security. Using his presumed authority, he ordered NSA wiretapping of American citizens without FISA court approval as required by Congress. Therefore, the wiretapping is legal, and, for “national security reasons,” can be neither challenged in court and nor overseen by Congress.

Under that definition, there could be a difference between a more or less coherent logical construct and observable fact, or what I think of as true.

But I looked up tautology, and it’s even more simple than a logic circle: “needless repetition of an idea in a different word, phrase, or sentence, redundancy.”

A.J. Muste summed up the absolute pacifist position as: “There’s no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

Is that redundant, tautological? Or is it as summation of the observable fact that there is literally no safety for any one of us, until there is guaranteed safety for all of us? There will always be somebody willing to hit back, at least until we stop hitting them, and probably long after, as the rage works its way out of our planetary system.

If it were true that I was happy to have others kill and die for my safety, then I would shut up about the horror of other people’s children being blown up, and other children losing their parents to violence, guns, bombs, radiation. At this point, I haven’t killed anyone, or had a loved one violently killed, and I don’t live in a war zone. So my work as a pacifist writer is primarily about stopping my government’s destruction of other people’s lives, and helping to create conditions for those other people to survive, and someday flourish. It’s secondarily about me, my family, my dwelling, my neighborhood.

But even that hierarchy doesn’t get at how I really look at things, which lays the groundwork for the idea that non-violence is self-defense. I really do think of their children as if they were my children, because I believe all children are everyone’s children, and everyone’s pain and grief are part of mine. I believe everything is connected, and, in the end, One.

I believe that not only as an act of faith and a coherent logical position, but as an observable, physical reality. The chair under me, connected to the floor, connected to the ground under the house, is connected to the ground under every other person and thing – living and non-living – on Earth. Try as I might, I cannot escape from this connection. I jump, and gravity brings me right back down.

This volunteer, unpaid, all hours community building and peace writing is exhausting work, if all I want is self-righteous hypocrisy and somebody else to shoot the guns for me. Plus, I’m personally no good at denial as a coping mechanism. Rationalizing, intellectualizing, somatizing, yes. But I am terrible at pretending things to myself, hence my frequent despair in this terrible, tenuous turning moment in history.

I know it could go many directions other than the peace-filled way. At the end of the day, there’s a slide show in my mind’s eye, of blood and guts and rubble and babies just like my daughter, little boys just like my son, but with split-open skulls and intestines spilling out of giant holes in their bellies. If I’m lucky, that imagining is followed by the one about no cars, and friendly little neighborhood clinics and schools, and lots of trees where parking lots used to be, and clean water to drink, and art studios open to everyone, and I wind up thinking: “Why not?”

Why not aim unrealistically high? The forces of violent death and destruction are all around us, making their vision into reality. Our notion of our future world is undeniably better: no guns, no bombs, no armies, no children crying over their father’s shrapnel-filled bodies, no fighting and hunger and hopelessness.

What have we got to lose by holding it in mind, describing it to each other, and working for it with all the energy of mind and body we can muster? Even if we fall far short of our ultimate goal, we win by doing what we can and refusing to let go of our vision.

But the truth is, I could no more stop dreaming/ than I could make them all come true.”
-Buddy Mondlock

Friday, June 09, 2006

Michael Berg

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Citizen Power

Grassroots Growing Up

Women in Iraq

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Letter from an American Pacifist

(Sent to Al Jazeera.net)

These are strange times to be inspired by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. But I am, and have been for a long time. I write from behind the iron curtain of media propaganda here in America, terrified that indeed, as we are told, all Muslims hate not only our government but all of us: even those, like me, who struggle daily to live a completely different idea of peace, freedom and democracy from the one presented to you in the Middle East at gunpoint.

Sometimes I have a little hope, that you are less blind than so many of my countrymen, that you do not equate all of us with the crimes of our leaders. It’s very easy for me to see that, while a few men from your countries may have killed and seek to kill more, they are a tiny fraction. Most of you are just trying to get by and raise families under the almost unbearable weight of the world. Just like me.

I hate the Iraq War. I hate all war, all hatred, all despair, and all violence. I struggled through the streets of New York City in February 2003, as millions thronged streets all over the world, to stop this war. I can’t yet find words for how powerfully I felt the failure of our global effort the March night that “shock and awe” began to rain down death and unspeakable pain on the people of Iraq. I watch the growing, spiraling violence with a sense of suffocation.

Much ink has been spilled, while the blood has flowed even more freely, about America’s reputation. Just after 9/11, we’ve been told, the world sympathized with our losses, our grief for the deaths of our loved ones.

But President Bush wouldn’t allow us to pause in that grief, and move through it to greater awareness of universal suffering. Instead, he told us that the terrorists hated our “freedom,” and that to answer such hatred, we should kill and maim more people. He whipped our grief into vengeful anger, and unleashed the unprecedented power of our military onto the people of Afghanistan and then Iraq. Perhaps there will never be a grosser demonstration of bullying in human history.

The propaganda mill here in America churns on, and tells us that now, as the invasion, the blowback, the insurgency and the torture continue, now the world hates us for our war crimes, our hubris and arrogance.

But I make distinctions. I hate the crimes but not the criminals. Like many people around the world, I love the ideas of individual liberty and mutual support, but not the lying leaders who falsely claim to uphold them. I don’t think there has been a dramatic shift in world opinion about America. For at least a century, and arguably for our whole history, America has stomped around the world stealing stuff and killing people to get it. Anger at America is new to many, but not all Americans. If more of us had better history educations, we'd all understand where the anger comes from, and how justified it is.

I also see more than one possible future for my country and the world. President Bush talks of the war on terror, the long war, the war of many generations, the war on Islamo-fascism. He’s establishing himself as a unitary executive with completely unchecked power, and preparing the death blow to the U.S. Constitution. He’s setting up domestic spy networks and concentration camps and laying the groundwork for martial law, while the military he commands struggles under the strain of his over-reach, frets and frays. To bomb people abroad and build new, more deadly weapons, he’s starving the government of the ability to provide basic services to our people, and starving our people of the education, health care, housing and jobs we need to provide for ourselves.

In this darkness, the light of different possibilities shines all the more clearly. Many of us are gathering ourselves up around clear, simple goals.

We want power non-violently removed from the abusive hands of our federal tyrants, and placed back into truly accountable regional and local hands.

We want a systematic reduction of unnecessary energy use, and systematic development of public transportation systems and clean, renewable energy supplies needed for vital functions.

We want small, neighborhood schools to foster individual creativity, not to fit all of us square pegs into the round holes of multinational corporations.

We want organic community gardens, community kitchens and small health care clinics in each and every neighborhood.

Most important, we want a foreign policy completely grounded in reciprocity: never doing to others what we don’t want others doing to us. No stealing. No shooting. No bombing. No torture. No humiliation, of ourselves or of others. We want unilateral disarmament: America first.

We want for you what we want for ourselves, our children, our children's children: quiet neighborhoods; clean air, water and soil; good health and satisfying, life-sustaining work.

This question keeps me up at night, as I’m haunted by images of you being kept awake by explosions and gunfire: How long? How long will the transition take? How many more minutes, hours, years, decades, centuries of stored up rage and lashing out must we all endure before we reach that new level? How many more cycles of hit and hit back will it take to get beyond this terrible sickness of cruelty and disconnection?

Please know we American pacifists are working hard to end that cycle here, and our strength is growing, even if we are still barely perceptible to our press and our government. We know you are doing the same over there. Please keep going.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Moby: Save the Internet!

Turn your sound on for this video. Then call your Congress-people.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Unbroken Chains of Life

My husband and I took our children to a Scottish festival today. I used to go to such festivals when I was a child, because my father is of Scottish descent - a Watt of the Buchanan clan, hailing from near Loch Lomond. In fact, my sister gave my father a book by James Webb, all about why the Scots-Irish Americans are such a militant, aggressive and patriotic people. My father loaned the book to me, and I was somewhat disgruntled at the suggestion that to think about the people killed in war, and therefore oppose violence and war, is not only perceived as un-American, wussy, naive, traitorious, etc., but is even a betrayal of my cultural heritage. On the other hand, James Webb has since decided that perhaps the Iraq War was a mistake, and is running for U.S. Senate in Virginia.

Anyway, walking around a muddy field in the rain, seeing the kilts, hearing the bagpipes and drums, watching the men toss the caber, and touching the wool of the clan plaid again was very evocative for me - of distant ancestors in rocky, boggy places, of connection.

I think especially of the women, women giving birth to babies in those rocky, boggy places, although my mind generally wanders first through my Dutch mother's mother's mother: Elizabeth Tijsseling, who bore Gerda Overbeek, mother of Beatrix, mother of Katherine, mother of my two children. What always fascinates me is that there is an unbroken line between me and the very first humans. If any one of those people had died before having children, I would not exist at all. Annie Dillard has written of this, of the terrible odds against any of us actually being here, and yet here we are.

I told my husband about these thoughts while we drove on to pick strawberries - canning season has begun! And he told me he often finds himself thinking about the conservation of matter: that because all the atoms that were in the universe at the Big Bang beginning are still the same atoms, just rearranged all the time, he, and I, and our kids, and everyone else are completely made up of stuff that is billions of years old and will never be destroyed.

Sometimes these thoughts lead me into musing about Einstein's relativity, the expansion of the universe, and the strange possibility that the universe will someday reach the end of its expansion, begin to contract, and time will go backwards: we'll all live our lives over again, starting from being old and getting younger all the time. But maybe that's what we already do, without knowing it.

What if the Gaia Hypothesis is super-cosmic, and, in the same way all the women in human history have birthed all the people in human history through our expanding and contracting wombs, and all the people's movements of human history have been trying to make new societal structures through sweat, and tears, and patient endurance, what if the universe is birthing some new baby universe too? It pops up everywhere, this paradoxical theme, not either-or, not subject-object: both.

Barry Lopez was the interviewee in The Sun magazine http://www.thesunmagazine.org/ this month. He talked about his work as "literature of hope."

"I'm not optimistic. Optimism for me is about examining the evidence on the table, and the evidence on the table is bad. The way we are conducting ourselves in a world with limited supplies of fresh water is bad. No federal initiatives to address global warming; heavy metals pollution; corporate avarice? Bad. The degree to which we are dependent on prescription drugs as a culture? Bad. So: optimistic, no.

Hopeful, yes. The reason is the staggering power of the human imagination to circumvent every kind of roadblock. So when I say a 'literature of hope,' I mean a literature that gives readers the opportunity to be hopeful about their own circumstances and the circumstances of their communities. And if we encourage this sense of hope, people will exercise their imaginations in ways we could not have foreseen, and that will be our blessing and our release from pessimism. Somebody will see a different way to do things..."