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.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Follow The Yellow Brick Road...Oh My!

We're off to see the Wizard! Follow these bricks of reason: Obama lead + Talk about a past with Bill Ayers = Barack Obama hangs out with Osama bin Laden (the only terrorist many people know of, so it's an easy jump from the word terrorist in a sentence to Osama bin Laden) Obama lead + TV ads in New Mexico showing Jeremiah Wright damning America + Retired men hanging out at Walmart for coffee every morning = Barack Obama hates white people Barack + Obama + Non-white skin = Weird name/Muslim/not a US citizen Sarah Palin + Questionable clothing expenditures = Attacks on a candidate because she is a woman This is a mile or two of the yellow brick road we've wandered from door to door today in the low income, racially diverse neighborhoods of Clovis, NM. We end the day with a gnawing worry that the road leads to a wizard who's standing behind a blustery facade of smoke and noise and electoral power induced by fear. House after house we've said, "Yes, that would frighten me too, if it were true." Thankfully, in all cases, people have patiently heard us out: You will continue to be encouraged to be afraid by John McCain's TV ads. And you will continue to hear Barack Obama talk about solutions to the real fears we face: accessible health care, war, cost of living, the rich continuing to grow richer on the backs of the poor. Folks begin to nod, and nearly always agree...it's time for change. We have discovered in these doorstep chats why smears and fears work so well. If you can boil an important election down to one emotional issue, you can compel an otherwise wary/weary voter to the polls. As one woman told my husband today, while she apologized to him for having no plans to vote Tuesday: "I'm a single mom. I work hard. I'm too busy to be informed on the issues. So, I don't vote." I have said it before...thanks for bearing with me as I say it again: We who have resources: time, money, education, status, secure(ish) incomes, supportive communities, intellectually challenging friends...we are the ones who stand up and speak for those in this land of justice for all who feel disempowered. We'll be doing that Tuesday. Which is the day after tomorrow, by the way. Yikes. Suddenly, there is so much to be done! Get out the vote, my friends. Don't assume anyone you know is actually going to the polls unless you ask them to go. I've told my own sons they can't come home for the holidays this year if they don't vote. I think they believe I mean it. I'm also considering threatening a chihuahua attack. Those little dogs would make great campaign canvassers. They apparently think they're invincible, they chase you like they're five times bigger than you are, and they are absolutely irrepressible. One of 'em got me today... ouch. The dog of a McCain supporter, too. Double ouch. Peace.

In Clovis...Wish You Were Here

It was about here this morning that I thought...oh, when will they have the technology available to create an embedded link to smells? Odornet.
Please take a moment to give thanks, dear readers, that the technology is not at my disposal.
If it were, you'd be able to click on The Land of Enchantment above and take in the total experience of Clovis, New Mexico. Part oil field, part smoky breakfast diner, three parts feedlot. Can you conjure it up in your olfactory mind? If so, consider yourself with us in spirit.
It's not Santa Fe.
But it is sweet, and old townish, and semi-rural, and...amazingly...hiding behind a thin Blue veil.
The Obama campaign headquarters is housed in what appears to have been an Italian restaurant in a previous life, located in "historic downtown"... between the pawn shop and the crafters market. The 15-year old named Nico who runs the operation (okay...he's probably 25) is a selfless community organizer with a deep respect for every volunteer who walks in the door...including the 11-year old who wanted to make phone calls tonight.
"Hi, I'm an 11-year old working for Barack Obama. I can't vote, but I can ask you to vote," was his pitch. I think he had waaaay fewer hang up responses than I did with, "Can we count on your support for Senator Obama on Tuesday?" He got, "Is this a prank?" I got, "NO!" (click)
There were four of us from Austin today. One young Austinite, John, drove up three weeks ago and decided to stay until the job was finished. One older volunteer from Austin, Tom, caught a ride with some friends who dropped him off in Clovis while they continued on up the highway to work Portales. Tom is 67. It's his second canvassing weekend in New Mexico in the last few weeks. Another woman volunteering this weekend flew in from Palo Alto, California.
There were a few other local folks stirred into the mix...but I'm not kidding when I tell you our Saturday morning canvassing kick off had 7 people picking up clipboards and addresses and heading for the streets. Five of us were from another state. I was so glad we came.
This dreamy, hope-powered, peace mama was not prepared for canvassing, though.
I was given a map of a 10-block x 12-block area with roughly 50 dots on it, each of which corresponded to a potential Obama supporter. Following the tried and true wisdom of good social psychology, I was to connect with as many of those dots face-to-face, on the doorstep, as I could...and then pin that registered dot down. Are you voting? Who will you support? Can I help you decide?
We canvassers traveled alone. We did not have enough human-power to cluster and share maps.
My shoes were all wrong for the job.
The combination of losing the social aspect of the day and the bad shoes made a quick cut into my enthusiasm.
And, I'd been assigned the country club streets...the yard signs did not bode well for an introvert campaigning for the democrat.
I did see some nice homes. And I met a few very nice people who assured me the signs in the yards of their neighbors were not as fiercely partisan as they seemed. They were right to point out there were actually very few McCain signs out. They seemed to be telling me that being republican and thinking about voting for Obama is not as cool as Colin Powell makes it look.
But I didn't come to New Mexico to talk to people who don't want change.
So, after suitcase-diving for new shoes and drinking a gallon of water and sitting for a quick lunch...we headed back to HQ for our afternoon assignments. I asked for a low income neighborhood.
The late afternoon/early evening found me wandering around alone in flip-flops in semi-industrial areas with confusing street numbers and homes flat-out missing from their numbered spots (I guess that's why they call them mobile) and dogs barking at me from behind every chain-link fence. I was "hugged" affectionately by a boxer big enough to get his paws on my shoulders, chased twice by a chihuahua who seemed to believe he could eat me, and treated to the most interesting doorstep lesson on our electoral process.
And guess what? People in that neighborhood were not all that jazzed about change either. They like Senator Obama but that seems to have much less to do with his policy proposals than it does his ability to make these people feel important to the process.
The day was not dull. Collectively, the little band of Clovis Canvassers for Change hit almost 1300 homes today. The best canvassing days of this election prior to today in Clovis reached 500 homes. Our target tomorrow is 1500! Craziest thing is, we believe we can do it with our tired legs, aching knees, and our blistered feet.
Our fearless leader...not Nico...but the really fearless one, Barack Obama...talked to us (12,000 volunteers nationwide) via conference call at 8 PM tonight. He asked us to stay on the job another 72 hours...to take the ball across the goal line for him.
And that's what we intend to do. Yep...we can.
From Southeastern New Mexico...Peace.

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