Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Joy to the World

I hang out with ordinary people. We go to our jobs, take care of our children, walk our dogs, support our communities, watch our TV shows, and make lists to keep up with everything else. We are assembly line workers and attorneys, entrepreneurs and engineers, surgeons and songwriters, preachers and painters, chefs and shoe salesfolk. We come from the city and the country, from the US, Mexico, China and Palestine, from big families and very small families, from Christian to Buddhist to atheist. We struggle, we celebrate, we grieve, we console, we dance, we pray. We believe. We believe in right over wrong, in mystery and in science, in freedom and in truth. We believe in the kindness of people, the strength of the human spirit, the power of one strong voice crying out in the wilderness. We believe in angels and gods, holy women and wise men, and the Baby born under a star in the East. We are at work in the world...healing and feeding, championing causes and holding hands with the broken. Some of us write, some of us lobby, some of us ladle soup into styrofoam bowls, some of us sing, some of us smile and listen. Some of us roll down our windows at intersections and give change to the woman holding the "Homeless with 3 Children" sign. Some of us put spare quarters in the "Heifer Project" box at the office. Some of us buy stuffed animals for kids in the children's hospital. Some of us simply wish we had more to do more...and we wait hopefully for the time when we do, because we will. I hang out with some ordinary folks...but they are people who carry amazing dreams for the world. These are people - every last one of 'em - filled with a collective mission to be ambassadors of great comfort and deep joy. They respond to that need everywhere - from the neighbor's house next door, to the orphan's hut in Uganda. It is a circle of unexplainable hope, irresistible joy, and determined love. It is a force to be reckoned with. It is extraordinary. I am part of a movement to bring Joy to the World! If you are reading here, you are, more than likely, one of these people. Thank you. Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. - Desmond Tutu Peace.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Once Upon a Time...

Did you see the young guy on the Daily Show last week who's had a vasectomy just because he doesn't want to bring another consumer into the world? Even I think that's a little extreme...though I do understand his motives.
We the people of the United States of America are 5% of world’s population. We consume 24% of world’s resources. 1 American, on average, consumes as much energy as: 2 Japanese 6 Mexicans 13 Chinese 370 Ethiopians We are overweight, overindulged, and saturated with images that tell us to spend, borrow, and own every little thing we want (whether we can afford it or not). But, we apparently have our limits. It appears to me the Economics 101 lessons of the last few months have provided the ceiling on our tolerance for being compelled to spend, spend, spend. We don't like unabated greed. We can't believe we stood by while people with money made more money preying on unqualified home buyers. We don't appreciate auto execs who make obscene amounts of money while people who build their cars take it on the chin. We don't trust falling gas prices in an economy otherwise going belly up. We don't feel at all comfortable with the idea that billions of tax dollars are being promised from a general ledger that's trillions in the hole. I think we've had enough.

According to the American Research Group, Inc., we will be spending half what we spent last year on Christmas. The amount we're willing to spend on the magic of the season this year is $431. In 2007, the number was $859.

My friend Frank works for a high end clothing chain here in Austin. He told me yesterday that Christmas sales in his store are down 70% from last year. As much as I hate to see a friend's personal economy in peril...I have to say I'm happy to know we're thinking about what we're doing with our credit cards and our savings accounts.

Because twice as much money spent does not really say "I Love You" twice as much. Does it?

In fact, what we're involved in at Christmastime is apparently something right out of Grimm (as in the fairy tale). Some smart university researchers have followed a handful of Christmas shoppers around for 7 years. What they discovered is a pattern of motivation that reads a bit like Jack and the Beanstalk...small dreamer (us) with magic seeds (our Christmas lists) pulls off a giant (retail world) tricking feat of daring (shopping) to bring home prizes of great value (the gifts under the tree).

Unless, of course, a villain prevails...which typically (according to research, not me) is a husband or father or death of a loved one.

Or the collapse of a greedy economy?

Stop right here for a moment, my friends, and ponder this: How are you really feeling about the condition of your Christmas economy this year? Hero or villain?

I say it's a good year to spend less, sit more, and enjoy the view from the bottom of the beanstalk.

And we all lived happily ever after...

Peace.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do Bees

Don't get excited...I'm writing about Romper Room DO Bees. Not doobies. Romper Room was the preschool prequel to Sesame Street. The Do Bees were Romper Room's version of lesson-teaching muppets. As we sang along with the Do Bee song, we learned some of life's most basic skills: be a sidewalk player, be a shoe cleaner, be a car sitter, be an ear washer AND be a plate cleaner. Do be a plate cleaner, don't be a food fussy. That's what the Do Bees demanded from little Romper Roomers who "never did anything wrong."
I think we learned the plate cleaning lesson well.
Americans consume 815 billion calories a day - that's about 200 billion more than we need. Meanwhile, 700-800 million people in the world don't get enough food to support normal daily activities. 9.8 million people have died in the world this year of hunger and hunger related diseases. Here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we throw away 200,000 pounds of edible food...every day. And that's usually after we've cleaned our plates. We just throw away the extra food that never even got to the plate. I know, I know - you heard this over dinner when your mom wanted you to eat your peas: "There are children starving in Africa," she'd say. And we all thought: "Then, send these peas to Africa." You'd think our early awareness of starving children in the world might have, at some point in time, made us think about the way we consume the world's food.
In fact, it has not. In the 38 years since I was made aware of starving children in Africa while pushing broccoli around on my plate, food consumption, per person, in the United States has gone up 16%.
66.6% of adults in this country over the age of 20 are overweight.
32% are obese.
I don't want to be a wet blanket on the official U.S. eating season, but could we stop for a moment and at least think about our food traditions? I know I need to. It's so easy to confuse what we need with what we want, whether we are preparing the food or piling it on the plate. It's almost impossible, I believe, for a fully resourced urban American to even know when enough is enough. I've spent more money on magazines full of holiday recipes than many families in the world have to spend on food in a month.
And what about those starving children in Cameroon, Pakistan, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines (the top 5 hungriest countries in the world)?
I tell you these things not to inflict guilt, like your mom may have, but to share the grief.
Be mindful. Do bee a world thinker.
Peace comes when people are fed.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Kindergarten Thinking

Remember the kid who showed up for school every day ready for a fight? He/she targeted certain kids...the ones who were usually the easiest shots. They were often the biggest or the smallest or the oldest or the youngest or the richest or the poorest. In our kindergarten minds, this kid was cunning and popular and powerful. In our adult minds, we know this child was probably sad and insecure and, mostly likely, treated very badly at home. I believe we've discovered Austin's schoolyard bully (or bullies). He picks on open-minded people (aka "libbos"). Email is his playground. The Letters to the Editor page in our daily newspaper, his classroom. If you read Papa de la Paz' guest entry over the weekend, you know he got some nasty responses to a letter that was published in the paper Saturday. I mean, before he even knew the letter was on the editorial page, he had responses. As in, before 7 AM Saturday morning. And...ooooo...they were ugly. Interestingly, they had a familiar tone. Where had we heard that "don't bother writing me back, I've read enough drivel today"...? Oh yeah...it was September 21. The day I had a letter published in the Statesman. Three emailers... jim_karp@fastmail.fm rongoodwine@gmail.com jjandbevo@yahoo.com ...apparently make it part of their daily routine to send hate-email to people they don't agree with who have been allowed brief platform space in the newspaper. Another friend, who has letters published regularly (usually on the subjects of disease and poverty in developing nations), says he receives the same love notes from the same sources. Don't spend too much time pondering the emotional baggage people like this might be lugging around. It's unsettling. It's probably enough to realize these are not happy campers. They wake up mad. They go looking for a fight. They swing at the kids who have been taught to NOT hit people. They walk away snickering "ha ha" like Nelson Muntz from The Simpsons. Maybe emailing newspaper letter writers is the latest anger management therapy...get it all out on strangers before you have to deal with people you know. Maybe it's activity driven by the loneliness of a homebound person with a debilitating illness. Or, maybe it's someone's paid job to try to keep us "libbos" from actually feeling sane. Does Rush Limbaugh subscribe to the Austin American-Statesman? Enough said. I've reached a new (low) level of thinking when I include Rush Limbaugh's name in a blog entry. Let's live with our lessons from kindergarten today, shall we? Peace.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Free Prize with Every Letter to the Editor

Hi all, DC here making a guest entry to the blog. My letter to the Statesman about my experience at the State Board of Education (or perhaps it is actually the State Board of Dis-Education) meeting was published today. It said:
I attended my first SBOE meeting recently, mainly to speak against the creationists' attempts to corrupt our science curriculum. As a bonus, I got to hear the board vote to take the steps necessary to treat athletics hours like academic hours so they can count for up to four of the state's required graduation credits. I must admit it is a creative end-around on the Legislature, which has tried valiantly to raise the bar in Texas education. The inmates have taken control of the asylum. David Chapman mailto:davidc@austin.rr.com.rr.com
Well, guess what happens when you put your email address in the paper? People write to you. I got one good letter and a smattering of fruitcakes...enjoy. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- From: John King [johncon2007@yahoo.com] Sent: Saturday, December 06, 2008 8:38 AM To: davidc@austin.rr.com Subject: Letter to editor A noted astronomer, Fred Hoyle, remarked: "Would you not say to yourself, 'Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be miniscule?' Of course you would." In a similar vein, Albert Einstein wrote: "Something deeply hidden had to be behind things." You want to forbid a teacher from repeating such statements in a public-school classroom. Which is to say, you're not defending science but rather advocating censorship. Cordially, John King From: David Chapman [davidc@austin.rr.com] To: 'John King' Cc: 'David Chapman' Subject: RE: Letter to editor John, Thank you for your thoughtful response. As a huge fan of Einstein (a large photo of him is the only decoration in my office) I find it fitting that you cite his philosophy. And as a Christian I agree that the most basic identity of our God is "Creator". The record is very clear that the path of Einstein's scientific work was directed, or some would say misdirected, by his theology. Specifically, he refused to pursue Quantum Physics in the later years of his life because he considered the apparent randomness at the base of Quantum Physics incompatible with the character of God. Isn't it interesting that it was Einstein's inability to accept the possibility of God being larger than was circumscribed by his own perception of God that, in the end, blocked Einstein from making any significant contributions to science in the last 30 or 40 years of his life? That is going the long way to say that I do hold that for better or worse every human endeavor is underpinned by some sort of philosophy, point of view, assumption, belief...and biased by the limitations of our ability to perceive or even to imagine. I have no problem with that concept being taught in literature, philosophy or even religion classes…and have no problem with exposing students to the diverse range of beliefs people have held over the span of human history and across the world’s cultures. However those beliefs are not science and are no substitute for science or the scientific method. There is nothing in the first draft of the Science TEKS revision that suggests science is any substitute for religion or philosophy. However it is highly inappropriate to corrupt our science education by attempting to substitute religion for science or to suggest that the two are alternative, equivalent competitors to the same objective. When I was in 9th grade Biology class a fellow student asked our teacher about Creationism. She suggested that we imagine a chocolate cake sitting on her desk and her husband standing at the front of the room with her. She suggested if we asked how the cake came to be there he would say "My wife, who I love very much, made it." On the other hand she would describe an elaborate process involving a list of ingredients and her oven...but went on to point out that both of them would be 100% correct despite having given radically different answers...because he addressed Who made the cake and his love for her while she described How she made it. There is nothing in the first draft of the Science TEKS that would prevent any Texas science educator from making a similar response to Texas students. There is no censorship involved. In fact it is imperative that Texas students learn the difference between what is and what is not science and scientific method. Our science educators are responsible for teaching our students about How...and more importantly, about how we discover How. Our literature, philosophy and religion teachers address our search for knowing Who. Our churches, for the most part, are communities who profess to know Who. I want to keep it that way. Thanks again for your thoughtful response. It was worlds different from the rest that came in. (see below) - DC --------------------------------------------------------------- From: ron goodwine [rongoodwine@gmail.com] Sent: Saturday, December 06, 2008 7:55 AM To: davidc@austin.rr.com Subject: letter to the editor Well, it appears that you have intimate knowledge of the other inmates. Did you help in the take-over, or were you just blindly and mindlessly led by the other inmates? Best guess from here is that your favorite drink is obama kool-aid. Because of email-borne viruses, I never open email from unknown sources. Or from idiots, so don't try. RG ----------------------------------------------------------------- From: horn fans [jjandbevo@yahoo.com] Sent: Saturday, December 06, 2008 7:58 AM To: davidc@austin.rr.com Subject: Statesman letter This is your lucky day. Each week The Stateman gives an award for Drivel of the Week. Congratulations. First place goes to you. Gotta be proud to be a published celebrity. Going to frame it? Show it to others in the welfare lines? Your libbocrap buddies are going to be soooo proud of you. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- From: jim_karp@fastmail.fm Sent: Saturday, December 06, 2008 7:51 AM To: davidc@austin.rr.com Subject: statesman "The inmates have taken control of the asylum". Well, maybe, but one thing is for sure. The Statesman will still publish letters from lunatics. Gotta be thankful for that, Davieboy. And don't bother to reply. Wouldn't open/read anything you send jim_karp@fastmail.fm --------------------------------------------------------------------

Thursday, December 4, 2008

7 Years, 14 days...

That's the time left on the international community's pledge to end poverty in the world. The plan was agreed upon and work begun in 2000, with the adoption of the UN's Mellinium Development Goals. This was the plan: The international community will "spare no effort to free our fellow men, women, children from abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty." By the year 2015. Here's an update on our progress from the MDG annual report: "The current troubled climate poses a risk that advances in reducing poverty may unravel." I bring this up only because I'm sitting with news this morning of Detroit's CEOs on Capitol Hill begging for money to keep their businesses afloat. GM, Ford, and Chrysler are asking for a collective $34 billion from the government to avoid financial meltdown. It appears our elected representatives are going to go for it this time around, in part because of the good faith efforts the CEOs have made to restructure business practices that allowed them...those three individual men...to earn a total of $50 million in annual salaries last year (Ford CEO-$21 million, Chrysler CEO-$20 million, GM CEO-$10 million). They say they'll take $1 salaries next year. And, they drove to DC this week (in pricey hybrid cars), instead of flying in on their personal jets. I am not impressed. Thirty-five million people in the United States live at or below the poverty level - $21,203 a year for a family of four...$10,590 a year for an individual. 1.7 million of those folks are living on half that amount. Half of the world's population - 3 billion people - live on less than $2.50 a day. Eighty-percent of all humans in the world live on less than $10 a day. Ford's CEO, Alan Mulally, makes $57,534 a day. A day. Including weekends and holidays. I'm not feeling much love for our auto industry today. The CEO's claims that they've suffered the biggest losses in 26 years and that sales are down 30-40% from last year just make me want to shrug and walk away. Build an affordable car, I say. Stop paying yourselves obscene amounts of money. Go home and figure it out. This is not a taxpayer problem. Poverty, on the other hand, is a human being problem. All of us who are filling our stomachs and sleeping in locked houses and bathing in clean water and seeing our doctors once a year have a moral obligation to care, deeply, about the poor. Every great teacher has told us this. Here's Jesus' summary: To whom much is given, much is required. (Luke 12:48) I can't say it often enough...write your elected representatives in Washington (include Nancy Pelosi). Let them know how you feel about this loony automaker bailout. Feel free to mention the fact that, according to Fortune 500, there are 5 other businesses in the US that have lost more money in the last year than Ford, and Chrysler isn't even in the top 20! Remind them of the Millenium Development Goals. Tell them 25,000-35,000 children in the world die EVERY DAY due to poverty. Let them know you are watching the countdown to 2015 as closely as you are watching your 401K. Use this good line from the 2008 MDG report: "We are still hopeful that an end to poverty can be achieved with unswerving, collective, long-term effort." And, thank them for being part of changing the image of the average American from greedy, self-serving consumer to big-hearted, caring world citizen. Peace.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Are Those Swords I Hear?

I am devouring all articles this morning about Mumbai and Pakistan. Of course, Pakistan. It had to be Pakistan - the country sharing a border with Afghanistan, the one harboring terrorists of all description, the thin-ice ally and politically unstable Pakistan. Condoleezza Rice is headed there (Islamabad tomorrow). She's making sure the people running Pakistan's show understand who's boss: “I have said that Pakistan needs to act with resolve and urgency, cooperate fully and transparently,” Rice told reporters in New Delhi today. “That message has been delivered and will be delivered to Pakistan.” I am chilled to the bone as I imagine what could be next. What if Pakistan doesn't "cooperate fully and transparently?" What if we don't agree on the term "fully"...or "transparently?" Is this an ultimatum? Gulp. Just take a look at the map of the area if you need help envisioning the simmering volatility on this piece of our sweet planet...
Geroge Bush & Co. have 48 days remaining as the captains of this boat. President-elect Obama has no plans to step in, say his people. He's sticking to his "one president at a time" rule. And so, we pray. What else can we do? Read this wonderful poem by Ellen Bass, and pray with every move you make, every breath you take...
Pray for Peace by Ellen Bass
Pray to whomever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or marble or plastic cross, his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the Bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah.
Raise your arms to Mary that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekinhah, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent. Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, Record Keeper of time before, time now, time ahead, pray.
Bow down to terriers and shepherds and siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.
Pray to the bus driver who takes you to work,
pray on the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus
and for everyone riding buses all over the world.
If you haven't been on a bus in a long time, climb the few steps, drop some silver, and pray.
Waiting in line for the movies,
for the ATM, for your latte and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act, each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer. Make the brushing of your hair a prayer,
every strand its own voice, singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping through your fingers, a prayer:
Water, softest thing on earth, gentleness that wears away rock.
If you're hungry, pray.
If you're tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.
Pray to the angels and the ghost of your grandfather.
When you walk to your car, to the mailbox, to the video store,
let each step be a prayer that we all keep our legs, that we do not blow off anyone else's legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle or a skateboard, in a wheel chair,
each revolution of the wheels a prayer that as the earth revolves we will do less harm,
less harm, less harm. And as you work, typing with a new manicure, a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail
or delivering soda or drawing good blood into rubber-capped vials,
writing on a blackboard with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas,
pray for peace.
With each breath in,
take in the faith of those who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered.
With each breath out, cherish.
Pull weeds for peace,
turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds for peace,
each shiny seed that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.
Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path.
Fold a photo of a dead child around your VISA card.
Gnaw your crust of prayer, scoop your prayer water from the gutter.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling your prayer through the streets.
Can we be crazy for peace?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Recession Investing

I looked up the term "recession" this morning to try to understand what particular economic imbalance I should have been feeling since this time last year, when the experts say our economic recession began.
Wikipedia tells me it's a "decline in a country's gross domestic product (GDP)"...or, more simply, "reduced economic activity"... or, speaking on my level, we have less - so we spend less. The most dramatic impact recession has on us Main Street dwellers circles around our employment. When business owners feel the economy slowing, they are less likely to be generous in hiring, promoting, and giving raises. So, for many of us, that means we're working more hours for no more pay to get work finished without adequate resources. Or, we're fearing our jobs will end soon. Or, we're searching for jobs without success.
If you can pinpoint when these concerns began...you can locate the beginning of the recession in your life. Mine began in early April.
Class over.
There are some bonuses for folks who feel their jobs are secure in spite of the financial slowdown. Prices are dropping on everything from homes to bread. I heard someone say recently that what we're experiencing economically is "the ceiling on greed." It seems we may be watching the fall of unfettered money grubbing, which ultimately (apparently) insists on a new way.
If that's the case, I'd say the name of this recession is God. But, I wouldn't want to be accused of being a religious goofball, so I'll leave sweeping conclusions for you to ponder.
So, let me tell you what I did last weekend with my tight recession dollars. I invested in two small businesses. One in Paraguay...and one Ghana. In truth, it was my graduate student son's very tight money I invested, via a gift certificate at Kiva.org.
This was the coolest gift certificate redemption ever!
With $50 credit, I was able to peruse the Kiva website and read the stories of hundreds of microcredit applicants, hoping for very small loans to fund their dreams. I settled on two beautiful, hard-working people: Joyce, in Ghana, who operates a small tailoring business in order to pay for her brilliant young son's school; and Marcos, in Paraguay, who runs a street clothing kiosk to earn money to pay for college.
I am amazed by how little these people need...and by how much can be accomplished in the big, wide world with $25. I didn't completely fund Joyce or Marcos in their endeavors, but am part of a collaboration of "loaners" who participate in small ways to make these incredible, life-giving loans. And here's the best part: these are loans. When I'm paid back (via Kiva) I can re-invest the cash in another small business!
It made me feel rich...very rich. And ridiculous for carrying any grief at all over diving 401Ks or declining stocks. It's my current prescription for Recession depression - kiva.org.
Check it out. Breathe. Give thanks. Give money.
You'll feel like a millionaire.
Peace.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Oh, The Humanity!

Herb Morrison spoke these words over WLS radio in Chicago on May 6, 1937, as he watched the German airship Hindenburg burst into flames over Lakehurst Naval Air Staion in New Jersey. 95 people were on board the rigid airship, 37 of them died in the disaster. We borrow the broadcaster's heartbreaking words these days, usually to mock what's been presented to us as serious news.
The phrase crossed my mind when I opened my newspaper this morning:

That's the front page...with 30 column inches of sports disaster spreading above and below the fold. It seems, my world-minded friends, the University of Texas football team was edged out of the Big 12 Championship game, to be played next weekend, by a computer calculation that gave the University of Oklahoma a .013 point edge over the beloved Longhorns.

In fairness, I do live in Austin where people bleed burnt orange and teach their babies to "get your horns up" before teaching them to walk or talk. So, the news is big here...and bad. Consequently, it sprawls across my daily like an earthquake, a plane crash, or a declaration of war (watch your backs, BCS officials).

What luxury to think on these things before all else...

Before the latest from Mumbai. Before news of 32 killed yesterday in Iraq. Before word of today's military and financial rampage in Zimbabwe. Before the worst flood in Venice in 20 years or the worst economic downturn in 30 years or even the news that those antioxidants we've all been consuming won't actually keep us from aging.

How lucky we are to be able to turn our full, front page attention to disappointments over the end of a football season.

I do not begrudge anyone a day or two of football angst. I ask only that we stay in balance with issues that need our intelligent attention. We cannot "be the change" unless we know the news. I worry about being lulled into a kind of drowziness that could allow us to believe we are untouched by anything more disruptive than who will play in the Big 12 Championship game. When we fall into that dream, we become the self-centered Americans the world has come to expect to show up on the Big Stage of global awareness.

Stay on top of the world. Oh, our humanity - depends on it.

Peace.

Friday, November 28, 2008

HO! HO! HOld On A Minute!

Say it isn't so. A 34-year old employee at the Valley Stream Walmart store in Long Island, New York was trampled to death by shoppers at 5 AM this morning. What has happened to us? According to reports, "a throng of shoppers surged into the store, physically breaking down the doors" and stomping through people...including the man who was killed, and a 28-year old pregnant woman who was injured...to get to the price-slashed-values on every must-have Christmas widget, wide screen TV, wrapper, whatever. I've been to Walmart. There's nothing inside worth dying for. Or, killing for. What has happened to us? Why do retail employees have to be at work in the middle of the night so we can shop at 2, 3, 4, and 5 AM? What are we thinking we need so badly that we embrace combat mentality as we pick up our GIFT (may I emphasize the word GIFT here...this is not the last cup of rice in the village) list? Where did we leave the Spirit of the Season and exchange it for the Insanity of Seductive Advertising? When did we decide to succumb to the repetitive pounding of frantic friends, relatives, retailers, and economists that drives us to place consumerism above all else on this weekend of giving thanks? How do we stop this? Who will hold us accountable for such debauchery? These are the kinds of actions I cannot remove myself from, even though I was safe and warm in my home this morning...not out shoving a child to buy something. I cannot extract myself from the psyche of a society in which I participate with enormous consumptive pleasure. I cannot, this afternoon, get over the fact that I am part of a compulsive acquisition-oriented-culture that kills a person for a $19.96 item at Walmart. Forgive us, Creative One. I'm certain this is not what you intended.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Cutting Edge

Thinking in Wednesday's kitchen...

I'm cooking today. Who isn't? Those of us fortunate enough to have an abundance of resources, food, shelter, and family are busy making our lives crazy trying to out-do our sisters, mothers-in-law, aunts, and grandmothers with our culinary bravery. Forty-eight hours from now, the cycle of the season says there will be jeers and curses over the lingering leftovers and the extra tight jeans. But, today it's fun in the kitchen, all of us still able to imagine the magazine cover holiday gathering with oooohs and aaaaahs and mmmms over plates full of what I call "comfort gourmet."

The term seems to cover a menu that includes green bean casserole and pumpkin creme brulee, doesn't it?

I'm working on the feast components today with a new knife. At this point, I'm really delighted to still have all ten fingers...although I do have a couple of big bandages already, and there is still much to chop, slice, and dice. Every knife in my drawer is too dull to cut cold butter, so I opted for a couple of relatively inexpensive, but sharp, knives available at an upscale kitchen supply store that also sells the pumpkin butter that I must have every year (or the holiday will be ruined). I picked up the knives when I went for the pumpkin butter - knowing full well that I'd probably lose a finger. Oh, the sacrifices we make for the cause...(so far, only a little blood has been given up, but watch closely for typing errors after the holiday weekend to determine the result of my reckless finger roulette).

This new knife thing has made me think a bit about our ruts and what happens when we venture into those moments that require a little closer attention to things that have been routine. What happens when we stretch just a bit to incorporate a new person, place, thing, or idea into our otherwise rote daily experience? When we've been cutting with dull knives for years, a sharp one thrown into the drawer poses a bit of a threat. I'm here to confirm that for you.

As we sit on the brink of a season that is ripe with tradition and expectation, and the stress caused by tradition and expectation, I'm wondering what might sharpen the holiday for me and my family. It seems every idea for something new comes with a bit of fear and trembling over the wave of uncertainty that could result from tangling with tradition. Will there be slicing pain and blood over suggestions to spend less money, eat less food, sit more attentively, breathe more deeply? What if we say no to shopping altogether this Christmas? What if we conserve trees and electricity and energy by resisting the urge to deck our halls with the usual Norman Rockwell grandeur? What if we really sit with the story of Jesus for a while and ask ourselves, each day, "How is my life like his?" Or like Mohammad's? Or Buddha's? Or Krishna's? Or even that guy's downtown who's been getting up at 4 AM every morning for 15 years to make soup for the homeless (in my town, this is Frank Deutsch)?

Ouch. The cut is a little too close to the bone. We love our ruts. There is comfort in using the same knife to slice the carrots, or buy the gifts or dress up the house...we can do it without even paying attention...no worries.

It's more fun with a new knife though. I promise. You'll like the new result.

So, spend a day or two thinking about your dull holiday ruts. Sharpen the focus, if nothing else.

May I suggest - for starters - that Christmas does not come from a store? Try that sentence around the turkey leftovers. Let me know what develops.

Peace.

Monday, November 24, 2008

On Birthdays and Bombs...

Today is my birthday. I share this birth anniversary date with Zachary Taylor (12th president of the US), Pete Best (Beatles original drummer), William F. Buckley (journalist), and Jack Hello (great human being I know). For fun this morning, I Googled November 24 birthday...and located a plethora of information about me and the aforementioned bunch based on astrology, numerology, and cartomancy. It's a little creepy, actually, how well these theories describe me. Here's a bit of the good news: Your opinions are strong, and you enjoy sharing them with others. Your imagination is powerful, and you can use this strength creatively in your career, but you may tend to make mountains out of molehills on a personal level. You are an entertaining conversationalist and your mind is active, alert, and interested. Although stubborn at times, you are warm with your loved ones and you are generous with your time. Anyone out there want to argue with that description of me? I am in the middle of the decade marked on one end by a milestone birthday and on the other by a "wow, you're old!" birthday. The number is absolutely insignificant to me. I can still do anything I want to do, still love new ideas, new foods, new thoughts. I enjoy sharing an evening with young people and with old people. I have not given up on tackling the list of things I hope to be able to do someday (play the piano well, speak Spanish fluently, write a sitcom). I still have my good health, my solid circle of friends, and my beautiful family... But life over the last couple of years has made me ever so aware of what really ages us. Whatever the number on our year ticker, the ride on this Journey's road can become so rough we feel the ache in every bone and the creak in every joint. The celebratory nature in the core of our beings can be kicked into a dark corner by loss and fear and hopelessness. The youth that sits gracefully weathering on our faces can quickly turn to old faces of pain and worry. The years don't matter. The fears do. Which brings me to this morning's news from Baghdad. 20 dead in two explosions...one of the blasts touched off by a female suicide bomber standing at the entrance to the US Green Zone. The majority of the dead are civilians who were trying to get to work. The violence comes as Iraqi lawmakers prepare to vote on a deal with the United States that will allow American forces to stay in Iraq for up to three more years. Three more years. How would that feel if you lived in Baghdad? As I sit here in my reflective birthday mood this morning, I am keenly tuned in to the privilege I have to feel young. I have never begun a day wondering if I might lose a friend or family member to a random bombing in my city. I have never had to walk alongside an armed soldier to buy my groceries. I have never buried a brother or husband or son dragged out of my house by militants who believed they posed a threat of some kind. I have never had to ponder war much beyond the front page of my newspaper. War is not the only thing making us old these days, to be sure. But it seems to be the one thing we can actually stand up to and say: Stop the madness! Remind President-elect Obama today that we expect to be out of Iraq in 16 months. While you're at it, let him know how you feel about war. Consider it a birthday card to me. Then breathe deeply, hug your children, smile at your spouse, let someone move ahead of you in traffic, hold the door open for a stranger, give the homeless woman on the corner a dollar. Celebrate this life of peace and comfort that we enjoy. Do it for your beautiful face. Peace.

Friday, November 21, 2008

'Tis the Season....?

I find I run with over-achieving shoppers. I've already begun to hear, "Have you finished your Christmas shopping?" as I gather with friends. Just as I take a breath to expel some primal sound of horror and disbelief that's connected to the psychological disruption the question evokes in me...someone in my crowd usually says, "Almost. I just have my dog's gift left to buy." Aaaaack. I do not like shopping. The crowds, the over-stimulation in stores, the struggle between what to give, what to eat, what to wear, what to put on the mantle, what to tie on top of the package...well, it's just too much consumer thinking to cram into a few weeks, isn't it? To add to the Christmas gift anxiety, those of us with consciences are compelled to find alternative routes to the traditional giving, while never sacrificing our ultimate goal of making everyone on our list feel great comfort and deep joy. It's enough to make you lean toward the liquor cabinet before 9 AM. I do love to give. And that saves the season for me. If you haven't finished your shopping yet (for heaven's sake...I haven't even finalized my Thanksgiving menu yet), let me add to the possibilities for meaningful gifting this season. Please add your own in the comment section. We'll collaborate here to create a Peace Full season. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time - this is an inspiring story of one man who answered the question we all ask..."But what can I do?" Perfect peace-minded gift for the book lover on your list. Throw in a tea cup (recycled from the antique mall) and your favorite herbal tea. InvisibleChildren.com Bracelet - my personal favorite this year. Every $20 bracelet comes with the video story of a child in Uganda whose life has been torn apart by civil war. The bracelets are made by villagers in Uganda...the DVD is made by this great organization. A donation to Kiva.org - connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty in the world. This is a person-to-person micro-credit operation. Microcredit is working! As little as $25 can make a difference. Check it out. There are lots of online gift sites that support women and artisans and farmers throughout the world. I like SERRV because it's been around since the end of World War II. It's original mission was to help refugees in Europe recover from war. Now the mission is to eradicate poverty wherever it resides. Other similar sites include: worldofgood.org thehungersite.com thepeacecompany.com Finally, if you just love to be in the stores this time of year, (I hold nothing but reverence and awe for you) please take a look at http://www.ethicalshopping.com/ before you put your purchasing power behind a company you'd rather not support. None of us have enough cash to throw money into the buckets of businesses with questionable practices. May your days...all of your days (even the shopping ones) be merry and bright. Peace.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In the Beginning

Well...that was fun. I spent about an hour last night listening to citizens concerned about science curriculum in Texas speak to the State Board of Education. The basic requirements for science instruction (the science portion of the Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills) apparently have not been reviewed in TEN YEARS. They have not changed, substantially (according to one SBOE member) in TWENTY YEARS! I'm wishing I could rewind the clock and put my children in private school. At issue is the inclusion of what half the SBOE (7 of the 15 memers) call "educational freedom"... more clearly stated as the introduction of information in science classes that would question the theory of evolution. Those critical of that idea (and there were almost 90 signed up to speak) think our public school science classes should stick to data borne of a methodical scientific proof process. Crazy, wild-eyed, liberal academics... You see, when we bring non-scientific ideas about the origin of the species into the classroom, it seems we open up a huge can of non-scientific worms. A quick Google this morning of creation stories has turned up scads of ideas on the subject, including: So...pick one. Which of these do you hope comes up in your child's high school SCIENCE class? Or, if you're a traditionalist...which of the Genesis creation stories do you hope is pondered in 9th grade Biology? The first one (Genesis 1:1-2:3) or the second one (Genesis 2:4 - 3:22)? Let me know what you're thinking. Even better...let the Texas State Board of Education know what you're thinking! Peace.

Standing Up for Science

I dropped the Peace Papa off this morning in front of a downtown office building. He's taken a day off work to sit amongst state bureaucrats because he is determined to stand up for science. Which, amazingly, needs to be done before the Texas State Board of EDUCATION! Can you say Kansas? The 15 elected folks on the SBOE are discussing new curriculum standards for science classes in our great state...the outcome of which determines the kinds of textbooks our kids will use, the kinds of teachers our kids will have, the type of information our kids will be accountable to know when our beloved standardized Texas tests come along. A team of Texas science teachers has proposed good curriculum. A faction of the SBOE seems determined to undo that good work. At issue, of course, is evolution...which our state education board chair has deemed a theory full of "weaknesses." The path Don McLeroy (R-Bryan) is walking leads, ultimately, to the theory of "intelligent design"... which scientists critical of the theory have called "creationism in a lab coat." Proponents of ID say introducing evolution with its weaknesses introduces students to a critical thinking process. Folks against ID, like the Peace Papa, say it puts science teachers in the business of being Sunday school teachers. You see, there really is no inconsistency in believing in a God who created the universe and believing in natural selection. At issue for the pushy right-minded Christian forces is the fact that evolution provides a non-theistic explanation of the origin of species. Hmmm. I thought that was what this country was founded on - a separation of our church thinking and our state thinking. Apparently it's what a federal judge in Pennsylvania remembered about the US Constitution, too. In 2005, when the Dover, PA school board voted to mandate the introduction of intelligent design in 9th grade science classes, parents took the board to court. Judge John E. Jones III heard the evidence from both sides, and then issued a scathing 139-page opinion in which he described the school board's efforts to promote intelligent design as "breathtaking insanity." I believe I have a new favorite phrase to describe the thinking of the religious right. Fortunately the Peace Papa is a bit more diplomatic than the judge and I. Here are a couple of great sentences from his brief statement for the board: Science is a methodology for slowly chipping away at the unknown to make it more known. Faith is the province of Truth that can only be proven in the human heart. To corrupt either Faith or Science by attempting to apply the methods of either to the mission of the other cripples both. Then, he sums it up with this beautiful zinger: My wife and I and our church are taking care of bringing up our children to a life of Faith. We are doing our jobs. Please do yours….and let our Texas science educators, who have given us this fine curriculum, do theirs. If you'd like to join the discussion, you can sign Texas Freedom Network's Stand Up for Science petition. Or, sign up for another board hearing date on the TFN website, and speak your own mind. Feel free to use my new favorite phrase! Peace.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Inauguration Dreams

I'm a dreamer...so against all reasonable facts, I have been imagining an historic trip to Washington, DC in January. I mean...who hasn't thought it would be the ultimate life experience to be present when Barack Obama takes the oath of office as the 44th President of the United States on January 20? One of the first things I did on November 5 was check hotel availability in the DC area. HaHaHaHaHaHa! Some crazy people think ahead about these things. Waaay ahead. There's not a hotel/motel room within 45-miles of the steps of the US Capitol, January 18 - January 21. There are 250,000 free tickets to the swearing in, distributed - officially - by our elected reps in Congress. I hear many of them have stopped taking calls from constituents asking for a ticket. If you are lucky enough to get one of these prized seats (and you were smart enough to secure lodging in advance), here's what you might see. Not exactly what you'd see on your HDTV... Still...how cool would that be? (And when I say cool, I mean COLD...average January high temperature in DC is 42-degrees!!) But today I read in the Washington Post that DC officials are preparing for FOUR MILLION people to crowd the National Mall on Inauguration Day. If you're wondering, as I was, how much 4-million is...well, it's at least 4 times the number of people who've ever officially gathered on the 1.9 mile x 300' Mall.

And if you're wondering, as I was, what kind of human crush that might be...here's what 1-million people (unofficial count for the 2004 March for Women's Lives) on the Mall looks like:

So, just multiply that by four.

In case you've never been to DC...let me orient you to the National Mall. It stretches, basically, from the Lincoln Memorial on the West to the steps of the Capitol on the East. The stretch, as I mentioned, is almost 2-miles and covers 146 acres. (the east/west green strip on the map below)

Still...perhaps, like me, you are strong of spirit and believe just catching the vibe of the day might outweigh the distractions of cold weather, human stew, and street sleeping. If you've worked on the story that history like this comes around only once in a lifetime and watching it on the flat screen in the living room just won't do it justice...I share one last image. This is the one that changed my mind.

Here's what your view of the day is likely to be - only you should fill in the blank space with 4-million heads.

Who wants to meet at my house?

Peace.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Exodus

...in the original Greek, it means departure. A quick Google of the word brings up everything from a Thrash Metal Band to a "ministry" that helps guide people through "leaving homosexuality." Sigh. For North American church people, the word usually conjures up the second book of the Old Testament...the one full of wild stories of Moses and God's chosen ones leaving Egypt. It was the source of inspiration for my young, soulful friend Ashlee, who I heard preach yesterday (although I believe she'd call it a talk, not a sermon...which I like). The text of the day was Exodus 32 - the golden calf chapter, for those who know their Bible stories. For a quick visual yank of our ever self-righteous "Who-me? I-have-no other-gods-before-God" cords, Ashlee shared this photo: I am, apparently, the last blogger of faith to see this picture, which was taken on October 29 in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. Who knew there was a bronze statue of a bull there? And that Christians would ever be caught praying with their hands on the thing? It looks bad. Especially in light of Exodus 32. I checked out the stated intent behind the gathering. The call to pray for the globe's economy at the NYSE was issued by a group known as Generals International. The lead "prophet" of the bunch is Cindy Jacobs. She's had a vision from God regarding "achieving societal transformation through intercession." On this particular day - October 29 - she issued a prayer guide for her troops with ten "prayer points." Please indulge me while I innumerate:
  1. The market must hold.
  2. Pray that the credit gates will open up.
  3. Intercede for fiscal policy changes
  4. Pray the media will become a source of hope.
  5. Repent for the Baby boomer generation
  6. Intercede for new wineskin strategies.
  7. Pray for business people to be able to implement what they have planned for in the transfer of wealth.
  8. Ask God to help you be at the right place at the right time to reap what God has stored up for you.
  9. Pray for wisdom and a strategic path.
  10. Intercede that great wealth will be released during these times for the "corporate Joseph" shift.
Oh my! I've been a churchgoer for 35 years, and I can't crack the code on a few of these sentences. In general I'd say it appears Ms. Jacobs was suggesting Christians gather worldwide at key financial institutions to pray that said Christians would come out of the current financial holocaust unscathed. And, unchanged (unless richer somehow). And, unaware, still, of the disparity between people who have money tied up in the stock markets of the world, and the rest of the world's population (85-90% of the rest of the world, to be exact). I saw no mention of unbalanced household economies of the world. So, here are some prayer points for you, from the World Institute for Development Economics Research:
  1. Adults making $2,138 a year are part of the wealthiest half of the world (top 50%).
  2. Adults making $61,000 a year are in the top 10% of the world's richest.
  3. Adults making $510,000 a year are in the dreamy top 1% of the world's wealthiest.
  4. The richest 2% of the world's adults own more than half of all global wealth.
  5. People in the top 10% are 400 times richer than people in the bottom 50%.
  6. People in the top 1% are almost 2,000 times richer than people in the bottom 50%.
I say it's time for Christians to take their hands off the holy cow and put them in their jingling pockets while they count their blessings and face the One who said...To whom much is given, much is required. Unless Christians are going to pray for our current economic turmoil to somehow create an opportunity to close the wealth gap in the world, I think it's time for Believers in Jesus to make a quick Exodus from the conversation. Otherwise, it's just too embarrassing. Peace.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

GO Tell It On The Mountain

Have you ever seen preschoolers sing this song at Christmas? Typically they've grasped one word from the song...GO!...and they shout it with confident urgency as they stand pointing to an imaginary star in the East. It's the image of urgency that's settled in my head this morning as I look over an editorial by Robert Dreyfuss, political writer and contributing editor to The Nation. The piece is titled, "Obama's Iraq Challenge." In it, Dreyfuss opens the door of political insider pondering, detailing some of the pressure President Obama will face on the matter of troop withdrawal in Iraq. He also introduces the idea that Obama grew less and less vigilant about the promise of peace in Iraq as the run to the White House became more and more focused on economic issues. He says retaining George Bush's defense secretary, Robert Gates, is not a particularly good sign. He says Obama's cautious instincts may push him into low gear in the drive to end the war. I am now standing at my desk, pointing to the East, shouting GO. Go to your phones, your computers, your stationary boxes. Call, email, write. The president-elect must hear from us on this subject. Today. Tomorrow. Perhaps everyday until January 20. And then everyday after. Until the promise is re-issued and we are reassured. Here's what I have sent this morning via the change.gov website: President-Elect Obama, I've just read an editorial by Robert Dreyfuss that suggests the promise to leave Iraq in 16 months will be hard to keep, and that you will be under much pressure to do otherwise. Please know that many of us first got on board with the Campaign for Change because you were the candidate for peace. My husband and I donated regularly to the campaign and spent the last five days running up to the election in New Mexico campaigning relentlessly for this change. Thank you for keeping your promise. Please. GO. http://www.change.gov/page/s/contact Peace.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What Would Hillary Do?

First, may I brag on my political instincts? Last summer, in the throes of speculation over now President-Elect Obama's pick for a VP, I knew it would not be Senator Clinton. Who couldn't read the woman on this? She was clearly aiming higher when she surrendered her candidacy for president. Secretary of State, I said. Look at the news today: Discussions about Clinton, D-N.Y., being asked to accept the post are "very serious," an Obama source says. Asked if Hillary Clinton would consider the secretary of state job, a former official in President Clinton’s administration said, "I think so. What would you rather do -- be senator or secretary of state?” “She's smart, she's strong, she's experienced, she's a team player, she is usually pretty diplomatic, and she also brings some gender diversity to an Obama Team concerned about such matters." "She brings instant stature to the job," said one democrat. "Many world leaders have known her for almost two decades.” (ABC News) The Secretary of State is the United States' cowpoke in the corral of international wrangling. The overseer of foreign affairs, if you will. Secretary of State is also 4th in the presidential line of succession, behind VP (soon to be Joe Biden), Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi), and President Pro Tem of the Senate (Robert Byrd...formerly, yikes, Ted Stevens of Alaska!). It's a cool cabinet position. So, what kind of SoS would Hillary be? Can we count on her to be a peace loving one? I've studied her voting record this morning, and find nothing frightening in it. She votes, historically, with democrats on matters of military funding...although she did break with the party last year when President Bush vetoed a war funding bill with a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, and sent the work back to Congress. When a subsequent bill was proposed without withdrawal mandates, Senator Clinton was among the 14 no votes (along with Senator Obama) in the U.S. Senate. She wants us out of Iraq. Point in her favor. I'd love to sit with Senator Clinton over a bottle of wine and the conversation we've been having at our house this week. The pondering around here has been this: How do we create peace and prepare for war at the same time? How do we behave as responsible world citizens? Who takes care of bad guys and protects the poor and persecuted from evil? Can't we just make new rules that don't include war? Then what happens when someone breaks the rules? It's muddy. War is the invention of the human mind. The human mind can invent peace with justice. Norman Cousins suggested this was possible in 1953...it's a logical enough sounding argument. But the conversation has made me dizzy this week. I hope Senator Clinton has read the work of the New Rule Set Project, a five-year think tank piece that studied how globalization is transforming warfare. Among other data in New Rule, there is this critical discovery: when a country's per-capita income rises above $3,000, war becomes much less likely. Duh. When people can eat and drink clean water and escape weather conditions while they sleep, they are content. I want a Secretary of State who is aware of this. One who believes our country's role in the world is not to prove Might Makes Right, but that Compassion Creates Peace. It's time to turn this corner while the neocons are licking their wounds and regrouping. Can Hillary Clinton pick up this ball and run with it? Will she go the right direction? I hope she is listening to Thomas Barnett, a military strategist with what is clearly a more hawk-ish view of the military than I hold...but, is a reconciling voice nonetheless on the questions that have haunted my house this week. He led the New Rule Set Project, and has a great talk on TED.com (link below). It's a 30-minute piece, and I know most of you don't have 30-minutes to spare. Try to watch the first 10-minutes...at least the first 5-minutes. Hey...it's the weekend. Find the time. And let me know what you're thinking. Peace. http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/thomas_barnett_draws_a_new_map_for_peace.html
Thomas Barnett: The Pentagon's New Map for War and Peace

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Now Is The Time...

...for all good people to come to the aid of their country. War - What is it good for? In 1970, when this song was released by Motown, high school aged kids like me were cranking up radios, rolling down car windows, and singing the words as loud as we could. Even if we weren't quite sure exactly what the fuss was all about. The college kids were in charge of the real angst on the subject of Vietnam. They were the unfortunate demographic losing friends and brothers and sisters in the fight...we younger kids were just the backup singers. And so, I never really heard the words: War has shattered many a young mans dreams Made him disabled bitter and mean Life is much too precious to spend fighting wars these days War can’t give life, it can only take it away I read yesterday that suicide among our Global War on Terror veterans has reached epidemic proportions (at least 18 per day). Seems like an undeniable reflection of shattered dreams. And evidence that war can't give life...it can only take it away. And then there's the economic impact of funding two wars...billions a week. And the combat deaths. And the collateral damage, aka civilian casualties, that continue to amass at hideous rates. To quote Edwin Starr...GOOD GOD, Y'ALL! We are standing at the door of a new day, however. A fresh administration...with a president who did not support these wars, a president who believes in diplomacy, a president who has promised us an end to this madness...is cueing up in the wings. It is time to meet these leaders backstage for a review of the crucial lines in the continuing drama: We are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, while in the throes of global financial and environmental crises. We need the money these wars are costing us to make life right at home. Withdraw military forces from Iraq ASAP. Follow up with a diplomatic surge to help stabilize the country. Stop deploying the National Guard to wars overseas. These trained professionals are our domestic security. Don't expand the war in Afghanistan. Work with countries in the region to stabilize the area and defeat terrorists without NATO and US forces. Oppose a new war in Iran. Check U.S. compliance with Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty before calling another country to war over it. Now is the time, my friends, to advance an agenda of peace on this earth. Let's not wait until January, when the revved congressional engines zoom away from the starting line. Contact your elected representatives now. Request a report card of their voting records on pertinent legislation. Set up meetings with them during the Congressional recess, if you can. Have a letter hand delivered to their offices. Call their offices. Email. If you're wavering on this subject at all, I invite you to spend the day pondering war. Replay the video above. War...what is it good for? If you come up with an answer more eloquent than "absolutely nothing" please let me know. Peace.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thinking About War...

...and those who fight them. It is Veteran's Day - originally designated Armistice Day, the occasion for remembering the temporary suspension of hostility (until the Treaty of Versailles was signed) that ended The Great War in 1918. The Great War, designated such because no one could imagine one any bigger or more costly. Then there was World War II and Korea - so in 1954, President Eisenhower asked Congress to change the name of the observance to Veteran's Day. And then there was Vietnam and Desert Storm, and then the Global War on Terror. Roughly 41-million Americans have served this country in wartime. Seventeen-and-a half million of them are still living. They deserve a day, don't you think? How many of us made plans to observe this day? Did we load our cars with lunches and kids and head downtown for a parade? Did we plan ahead and adopt a soldier to whom we could send a letter of thanks or a basket of treats? Did we call our local VFW and ask if we could stop by with cookies? Did we find the name of a fallen soldier for whom we could pray or to whose family we could write? Did we even remember members of our own families and circle of friends who have joined the rank and file in wartime and peacetime with a dedication that surpasses our own understanding and our own willingness to serve? I confess I have not given Veteran's Day a moment's thought until now. I have talked about plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas and next summer's vacation...but, I have not thought about this day. I have talked about war and unnecessary death and lonely mothers...but I have not stopped to think about the men and women who put on a uniform bearing my country's flag and board planes to lands they know not of to put themselves in the way of danger. I have not allowed myself to imagine their sleepless nights, their lost appetites, their homesickness, their boredom, or their fear. And so today I will steep myself in their names and faces. I will talk about them with friends and family. I will give thanks for these courageous human beings who agree to protect me from an enemy neither of us really knows or understands. I will put candles in my window for them. And I will pray, as I always pray, that each and every one of our soldiers gets home safely. And soon. Peace.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Children Will Lead - Illustrated

Thanks to my friend, Steve, for sharing these images:
Let the children lead us.
Peace.

A Child Shall Lead

Please allow one last election reflection. Our kids rocked the vote this year! I mention this because I have two sons who fall into the demographic that turned last week's vote into brilliant history for this country. I am a proud mama - proud of my two, and the 23,999,998 others in their age group who lead the nation. I'm excited because I believe they listened to their parents...the very people who were among the first 18-year olds to be allowed to vote in 1972 (when the choice was McGovern or Nixon). They actually believed in the power of their voices, and they took those voices to the polls in numbers not seen in 36 years. They were not motivated by a promise to END something as we were in 1972, but by a promise to BEGIN something. It was called hope - the change we need. They looked up from their studies and video games and fantasy league rosters and Facebook pages and found a country in need of fresh air. Then they showed up to deliver. Despite predictions of record voter turnout this year, the percentage of registered voters who actually went to the polls nationwide was about the same as 2004 (61%). The statistic that changed was the percentage of voters in the 18-29 year old group who cast a ballot (74%). We need these kids to care. They do. Most importantly, they did not see a black man running for president, they saw an inspiring man...a man with a vision, a man with ideas and dreams and something more than political rhetoric. They heard a plan that involved each one of us in a process to restore responsibility and pride and genius to the work of this government. The 18-29 year old voters supported the Obama-Biden ticket 2:1 over McCain-Palin. "Young people absolutely made the difference in this election," said Erika Johannsen, project coordinator at DeclareYourself.com. "Without them, he (Obama) would have lost the election."
(Graphic from Carnegie Mellon University's student newspaper 11/10/08)
How can a student of the Bible not be reminded of Isaiah's words (11:6) as he described a world turned upside down? And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The heading for this section of scripture in my New Revised Standard Version reads: The Peaceful Kingdom. Let it be.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Refocusing...

Wow. I'm tired. Tired of walking, talking, breathing, thinking...living Election 2008. Tired of everyone on TV - from Keith Olbermann to Bill O'Reilly. Tired of the etoile du jour of politics - from Bill Clinton to Sarah Palin. Tried of voices telling me what to think about the past and what to expect in the future. Tired of what ifs and what nows. I supported the winning ticket for the first time in a long time, and I'm tired. How do the 56,802,609 (46%) voters who supported John McCain feel today? If I am experiencing post-election drag...losing the long-fought battle to the White House must be coma inducing. I guess I have suppressed the depression I felt in 2004. I hope the 64,538,980 (53%) of us riding our exhaustion with a smile and a collection of champagne corks are not insensitive to friends, neighbors, and family members who feel genuine despair in the midst of the worldwide dance to the tune of ObamaMania. Because I really believe we do our best work together. United we stand, divided we fall...you know? And so, I apologize right now for despising George Bush for most of the last 8 years. Perhaps it was the bitter electoral : popular vote outcome in 2000 that set me on edge. Do you remember that Al Gore won the popular vote that year by 550,000 votes? Maybe it was disbelief that a man who publicly claimed to be "misunderestimated"... who asked, "Is our children learning?" ... who claimed in 2004 that God spoke through him on the subject of war in Iraq ... could be elected to TWO terms as leader of the most powerful nation on earth. Or, maybe I'm just a grumpy old peacenik who can't reconcile the George W. Bush of October, 2002 to the Iraqi civilian body count of 2008. In the Fall before he launched a pre-emptive military attack on Iraq, President Bush said this: America is a friend to the people of Iraq. Our demands are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and threatens us. When these demands are met, the first and greatest benefit will come to Iraqi men, women and children.

Some friendship, I'd say. Explain the truth of that presidential humanitarianism to the Iraqi men, women, and children who have lost at least 90,000 friends and family members to violence brought to their land by a U.S. sponsored war. In October 2008 alone...533 civilians (33 children) were killed in war related incidents. 26 of those civilians were killed by U.S. soldiers. And we are told the violence is winding down.

So, there it is. I have hated George Bush for making Americans out to be oil-hungry beasts who will say anything and stop at nothing to get what we want. I promise to do my best to get over it. In 74 days.

In the meantime, please forgive my long sighs of relief. We have, this week, shown the world our compassionate side. We have just elected a man who never supported our illegal and immoral war...a man who promises to pull U.S. boys and girls out of that mess within 16 months.

I am weary of election talk, to be sure. It is time to imagine a peaceful future and the role we each have to play in making it so. Surely there is abundant energy for that.

A smile and a toast to Peace on Earth.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

He Looks Taller on TV

Just in from Clovis...exhausted, but still ebullient. Listened to some great pieces on NPR on the way home. The whole world seems to be breathing the fresh air of hope. Had to share this photo before taking the aching bones to bed...

The peace mama, the (likeness of the) PRESIDENT ELECT, and the peace papa in Clovis on election night!

Sleep well.

Peace.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We Came, We Saw...

We were part of making history! I guess the rest of you weren't that focused on the 5 electoral votes in New Mexico as the polls closed and began reporting in a few hours ago. Needless to say, the folks we were hanging with in a makeshift campaign HQ in Clovis were. Two minutes after the polls closed in New Mexico, the announcement was made on MSNBC: the state went to Obama! The room erupted. I mean went crazy.

Doesn't that first sign of blue west of the big red block anchored by Texas look cool?

Turns out, the way the declaration calculation is done for these things...the early voting results from Curry county (Clovis) was the indicator election mathematicians were watching. When they saw 35% for Obama in those early results (2004 support for Kerry in the county was 24%), they knew Senator McCain could not win the state. Who knew?

Since I feel I personally talked to 35% of the registered voters in Curry County, New Mexico in four days...I'm taking some credit for the win here.

Truthfully, we were just a tiny bead of sweat on the brow of the real campaign machine here in Clovis, which was mostly a rag-tag band of young and old people, black, brown, and white people, entire families, babies, medical students, diehard political volunteers and first-time, wild-eyed embracers of hope.

It was an amazing group to share this night with: The perfect mix of age and race and economic standing and education. Because none of that mattered at all. We were, so simply and so beautifully as we sat knee to knee in front of the 25-inch TV screen, the united people of America.

I will never forget this night.

I'll bet you won't either. Peace, my friends.

In 16 months.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Warning To People Naming Babies

...and other things from the campaign trail in Clovis. Election eve - the the strings of this presidential campaign are wound to near breaking, and the resulting pitch of opposing discourse has become, frankly, a bit screeching. We hit 175 homes today. The weekend mood of "share your story" turned this morning to the real business of "get out the vote." Most people we met on a doorstep were tolerant of our visit, even if they were slightly annoyed to be seeing us again. One woman said, "You people have come every day for four days...I'm voting!" Fortunately, the accusation that I am nagging rolls pretty easily off my back. I smiled, said, "It's all over tomorrow," and moved on. McCain supporters seemed to be the happiest to see us today. We apparently gave them living, breathing targets at which to launch their latest and greatest fear facts. Did you know, for instance, that if the name "Hussein" is on your birth certificate, you are a Muslim until you publicly renounce the faith? It's a fact, the upper-middle class woman told me. Did you know the Qur'an instructs all people of Muslim faith to kill Jews? Were you aware that there is really no one in this country without health care? That Republicans are Pro-Life and Democrats are Pro-Death? And that I am a socialist who apparently does not value freedom at all? Whew. It's not easy being blue. (Enjoy comparing Kermit's angst to mine-we have all earned a few moments with muppets). You'd have thought living in Texas might have prepared me a little better for this. Ah, well. The sun has now set on the preliminaries of the historic presidential race of 2008. All that's left is the voting, the counting, and the victory dancing.

May the losers not be sore...and the winners not be obnoxious. May we be one nation, indivisible. With liberty, justice, the right to have an unusual name, a diverse opinion, and a privately chosen faith...for all. Sleep if you can. Vote if you haven't. Peace.

Blog Archive