Thursday, January 29, 2009

Name Calling

My oldest son tells a story about me that I'm sure can't be true. He says when he was four-years-old, he was dragged into the house by his little elbow and taken to the sink to have his mouth washed out with soap. He had called his best friend a name, he tells anyone who will listen... It was Slowpoke. Oh, surely I was not that maniacal over our number one non-negotiable rule, which was: No name calling. Then again - perhaps I was. Nothing good ever happens when we start calling people, or groups of people, names. Ever. Have you heard of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis? It was formed in 1937 by a team of social scientists, educators and journalists who were concerned that increased amounts of propaganda were decreasing the public’s ability to develop its own critical thoughts. The organization went belly up in 1942. Analyzing war propaganda in the throes of war (WWII) was not profitable. But, take a look at what the IPA published in 1938 on the subject of name calling:
"Bad names have played a tremendously powerful role in the history of the world and in our own individual development. They have ruined reputations, stirred men and women to outstanding accomplishments, sent others to prison cells, and made men mad enough to enter battle and slaughter their fellowmen. They have been and are applied to other people, groups, gangs, tribes, colleges, political parties, neighborhoods, states, sections of the country, nations, and races."
Name calling is bad. Given that, what do we make of the U.S. State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs)? The government came up with a number of terrorist qualifiers in 1997 - detailed reasons groups might make this frightening list of FTOs. In summary, if a group is foreign and hijacks, assassinates, harbors, or otherwise engages in "any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place where it is committed (or which, if committed in the United States, would be unlawful under the laws of the United States or any State)" then it is an FTO. This list of 42 organizations (current number) is designed to "play a critical role in our fight against terrorism and is an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business." Not surprisingly, the democratically elected Palestinian government, Hamas, is on the list. So is the Palestine Liberation Front, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. No Israeli organization is on the list. But, then, injuring seven Palestinian school girls in an air attack in the Southern Gaza Strip doesn't specifically make the list of qualifiers. Israeli military troops did that yesterday. They were trying to hit a suspected Palestinian fighter who was on a bicycle. Trying to take him out with explosives from the air. Here's what that looks like, in case you're wondering: I don't know about you...but this would terrify me if I lived in Gaza. My children would not be going to school. In fact, we would not be leaving our underground bunker for any reason. And I might be calling Israelis terrorists. "The name caller is feeling weak right now," is the advice my parenting book gives me for talking to my kids about making a response to being called a name. Another "useful self-thought" say the experts, is this: Whatever people say about you really says nothing about you, but it says a lot about them. So, what about that FTO list? Peace.

On Parenting and Peacemaking

I am not a scholar on the Middle East. Not by a long shot. But I have presided over many an ongoing conflict as a mother...and I say ENOUGH! Everyone go straight to time out. You are all terrorists. Hamas - You're like a kid who can't figure out that his big brother is actually BIGGER than he is. If I were your mother, I'd tell you to stop hitting your big brother if you didn't want to get creamed. Fatah - You're the Eddie Haskell friend who talks nice to the parents and then picks on anyone you can to make yourself feel better about yourself. If you came to my house, I wouldn't trust you. Israel - You're the oldest child, so we count on you to be mature, even though you continue to pick on your little brother mercilessly, and bring home friends who do the same. If you were my son I'd be reminding you "to whom much (trust) is given, much (mature behavior) is required." If the world is a big ol' family...and I like to think of it that way...then we need to deal directly with these inappropriate behaviors from the warring siblings (yes, friends, Isaac and Ishmael were siblings, and so are Jews and Arabs). Our US envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, is ending day three of his "listening tour" of the region. It is where any smart parent begins with angry children. Listening. This was the first step Mitchell took in his years of patient shepherding of the peace process in Northern Ireland in the 1990s. "Talk to the men of violence first." That was where he began then. Step two - according to Mitchell's retrospective on Northern Ireland - Don't try to achieve perfection. If older brother is brilliant and popular and bossy and younger brother is scrappy and a loner and reactionary, you can't change that with a set of new house rules. You can draw some lines that create an atmosphere for new understanding so the kids grow into an appreciation of one another. Step three - Expect to perform a delicate balancing act, Mitchell says. Duh. When a compromise is afoot, someone's going to feel like a loser. The job of a good parent is creating a mood of win-win...and that is tricky. Step four - Display patience and scrupulous impartiality. If older brother gets away with saying, "you always take his side," or younger brother continually falls back on, "you love him best," you can't accomplish anything. Step five - Be prepared to set a deadline for an agreement. If you say, "Just think about it, will you?" nothing will ever happen. If you tell the kids, "You're in time out until we settle this...and, as a reminder, we have circus tickets next Tuesday," considering a compromise is much more inviting. Step six - Be imaginative. Take a cue from Dr. Seuss...he's been teaching us lessons for decades:
Then my grandfather said, It's high time that you knew of the terribly horrible thing that Zooks do. In every Zook house and in every Zook town every Zook eats his bread with the butter side down! -from the Butter Battle Book
Do whatever you can to make a point and make peace. Step seven - Get leadership from the top. Really...mom and dad need to be in complete agreement over what has to be done. Please forgive the oversimplification of centuries of unrest in the Holy Land. I have poured over and wrestled with the history of the conflict this week. Finally, today, in search of a real-life perspective, I called a friend. A bright and compassionate Palestinian-American friend. "I don't have much hope...it's been like this forever," she said. I asked her what she made of the bully big brother (Israel), and mom and dad's (US) apparent soft spot for the oldest child. My friend said this: "Any simple person can see the blindness of the US. But it's too emotional and too frustrating to even talk about." Okay everyone...go to your rooms. And no one comes out until you can play nice. Let there be peace on earth.

Monday, January 26, 2009

If You Missed It...

It looks like YouTube removed Rev. Watkins' sermon (and all the videos from the post-inauguration prayer service last Wednesday at the National Cathedral) from its feed. Apparently the only sanctioned version of clips from the service comes directly from the Washington National Cathedral site, which allows us to play the entire 1 hour, 20 minute service. It's all lovely, but if you want to hear the piece of the sermon included in the last blog post, click on "Watch the on-demand webcast," and fast forward the Windows Media player to 42:30. Listen 'til you hear her say: "Tag. You're it!" C'mon...you have 6 minutes for this. Peace.

You're It!

These have become my four favorite words to find in a headline:
Obama Reverses Bush Policy
Close Guantanamo - check. Stop torturing people - check. Resume funding international agencies that help women end difficult pregnancies - check. Allow the application of 14 states to set limits beyond federal standards on greenhouse gases from cars and trucks - check. We are, my friends, off and running. Every day feels better than the one before. I start each morning wondering... "How will the new president make the world a better place today?" Still in the wings wait stem cell research, oil drilling plans for western Utah, the economy, and two wars. Just an hour and a half ago, President Obama stood in the White House briefing room and said this: "The days of Washington dragging its heels are over." I believe it. Take six minutes to watch the first half of the sermon delivered by Sharon Watkins last Wednesday morning at the National Cathedral. Our new President and Vice President and members of Congress were in attendance that morning. Much has been said about Rev. Watkins' evangelist-like presentation...but stick with it. The words are brave and honest. Give the woman credit for standing before a packed house - including God and every power-broker in the land - and having the moxie to say: Tag, you're it, Mr. President. He is. And if you're afraid of getting caught, you'd better get running! Peace.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho...

Day 1 of our New Deal. It began with overnight road work on Pennsylvania Avenue, as crews replaced, bolted, re-wired, and re-timed the stoplights that had been removed from medians for yesterday's inaugural parade in Washington, DC. By dawn's early light, 300 city workers in DC were picking up 100 tons of paper, plastic water bottles, newspapers, food wrappers and hundreds of tiny American flags left in the path of yesterday's revelers. By 9 am, our late-night, ball-attending president and his wife were sitting in a pew at the National Cathedral for a prayer service with the country's Right/Most/Very/Primate Reverend community (just check out the titles in that program!). The day will likely end with Senate confirmation of several cabinet members...including Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. We may even be thanking Senator John McCain for that. He showed up for work this morning in Senate Chambers saying, "Let the popular president get to work." And so should we all. Party's over - it's time to get to work. Time to tighten our belts, turn up our thermostats, tutor our children, trade in our gas guzzlers. Time to speak peace, share the wealth, stand firm by principles of liberty and justice for all. Time to put aside party politics, self-righteousness, racial prejudice. Time to offer grace and compassion to a world in dire need. Time to be the good Americans our new president needs us to be. It wouldn't hurt to pay some attention to what's going on on Capitol Hill, either. This is no time to step away from the newspaper and let the world in Washington DC turn without our involvement. In two short weeks in session, the 111th Congress has introduced over 500 bills in the House and 200 in the Senate. Here are a few: H.R. 15 creates a nationalized system of free health care. H.R. 346 repeals the automatic payraises Congress receives. H.R. 390 addresses "college football playoff games." H.R. 187 says let Cubans play American baseball. H.R. 227 states that human life begins at fertilization. H.R. 87 says "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is," and invites those who like to pay taxes to voluntarily pay extra taxes. :-) S. 213 would create an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights. S. 147 would require the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and limit the use of certain interrogation techniques It's important for each of us to stay informed (www.congress.org), and for each of us to let our elected representatives know we are awake and aware. This, my friends, is now the WE in "Yes We Can!" Peace.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My America

I'm reconsidering the flag today. My husband wanted to put one in front of the house on November 5, but I said absolutely not. He argued that he was awfully proud to be a citizen of the country that had elected Barack Obama president. I argued that I was really not interested in being identified with the kinds of citizens who put flags in their yards. That was that. Flag waving has represented something akin to wearing gang colors for me since September 11, 2001. After the tragedy at the World Trade Center, everything suddenly had a flag in front of it, on top of it, or sewn into it. My son's high school football jersey was temporarily recalled so a flag could be added just above the numbers. One of my neighbors turned his entire double garage door into a painted flag. When I showed up for a meeting of the community board I served on, I found a flag pin at my chair. I was the only board member who didn't wear that pin to every subsequent meeting. It was as though showing our red, white, and blue was synonymous with flexing our muscle or drawing a line in the sand or saying, "Don't even think about it!" I wasn't interested. That's not what peaceniks do. We peace lovers cry, and pray, and light candles in the aftermath of violence. We read about suspected terrorists and try to figure out why they hate us enough to kill us. We think about the women with husbands and children who live in the terrorists' lands. And then we cry some more. And we know when the gang colors come out, nothing particularly good is going to happen. May I site the war in Iraq as a case in point? I'd like to suggest that President Bush might not have been so blindly certain a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq was the will of the people if the people had not already put on the bandannas and the colored shoe laces, and rolled up one pant leg. We fell into a flag frenzy. Which turned into a war. But I have to admit that the flag looks awfully good when Barack Obama stands in front of it and says WE are the United States of America. It looks beautiful in the hands of young Americans who believe in their contributions to making this land their land. It looks more and more like a symbol of hope and freedom to me than it does a double dog dare. And so, as I sit here at 3 AM, unable to sleep...anxious as a kid at Christmas over today's inauguration of the 44th president of the United States...I am reconsidering the flag. I am, after all, an American. A mighty proud one, too. Watch the video of America's Song, if you haven't seen it. Enjoy the glory of Old Glory. And if you haven't seen Michael Franti's tribute, take a look here. Crank up the volume. Dance. Happy Inauguration Day! And, peace.

Monday, January 19, 2009

An Altered Future

My father died in 1990. He was entirely too young to leave this earth - just 58. He still had banks to save, golf trophies to win, miles of open road to drive, a beautiful wife to see the world with, grandsons to whom we expected he would impart the appreciation of a good book and the thrill of a perfectly caught football pass. A malfunctioning heart re-wrote the story for all of us. In the 18 years since he died, we have often said to our children, "Oh, if your Gramps were still alive..." If your Gramps were still alive you'd play golf, you'd like baseball, you'd love history, and you'd probably want to go to Vanderbilt, even though its football team is not in the Big 12. If your Gramps were still alive, life as you know it might be different. YOU might be different. All the world might be different. Who can't wonder how the world would be different today if Martin Luther King, Jr. had lived to be 80 - the birthday he would have celebrated last Thursday if he'd survived James Earl Ray's bullet in 1968? If Martin Luther King were alive... Have you, like I, wondered if a black man might have been elected president long before 2008 if MLK had lived to see the day? Is it impossible to imagine that a man who drew a racially diverse crowd of 250,000 on the steps of the nation's capitol in 1963...a man who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1964...a man who had the attention of an entire nation as it was beginning to stir from a place of complacency and ignorance about the human race... Is it impossible to think Martin Luther King, Jr. might have been our first black president? Perhaps 30-years ago? And then what? Wouldn't we all be different now? If we'd had 30-years of seeing people as people rather than people of color, wouldn't our sensibilities, sensitivities and sense of realities all be changed? Martin Luther King, Jr. died on April 4, 1968. He was entirely too young to leave this earth - just 39. "Martin Luther King walked so Barack Obama could run," said a child yesterday at 19th Street Baptist Church in Washington, DC. "Barack Obama ran so that all children could fly," said another. Into MLK's future we go...finally. Peace.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The War of Conscience

I'm guessing you might have expected me to be thinking about President Bush's farewell message to America on this site today. It was blessedly brief - about 20 minutes. He began by calling the first years of this decade "a period of consequence" and "a time set apart." He ended by telling us - again - that he made the tough decisions, shunned public approval, and followed his conscience.
Conscience: (noun) 1. the sense of moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good 2. the part of the superego in psychoanalysis that transmits commands and admonitions to the ego
I am wistfully and gratefully pondering the arrival of a new conscience at the White House. I am hopeful that it is one that will make intelligent decisions, will trust the American people, and will listen to many voices...not just the circular swirl of the voices of id, ego, and superego. I am putting George W. Bush out of my mind. That has allowed energy to nurture a bit of an obsession over next Tuesday's inauguration...
  • The number of citizens expected on the Washington mall is a record setting 4-million (wow!).
  • The weather forecast for the day is partly cloudy and 30-degrees at swearing in (brrrr!).
  • There is a 69-page downloadable inauguration guide book (I've downloaded it).
  • There is a site to shop for inauguration commemorative gear (I've looked at it);
  • There are at least 30 inaugural balls scheduled Tuesday night, ten of which the President and First Lady are expected to attend (oh my!).
It seems my higher and better and most peace loving thoughts this morning are wandering around this conscience driven question: What will Michelle Obama be wearing Tuesday night? More specifically: What will it cost? If Google is serving me well today, there has been no leak of information about the First Lady's gown selection(s). In the absence of information, we have had much speculation though, including designer upon designer suggestions for what Michelle Obama should be wearing. Check out the designs at Women's Wear Daily, for one. I'm not sure what designers like Isaac Mizrahi, Michael Kors, and Diane von Furstenberg charge for a ball gown, but I'm guessing I can't afford it. It's probably safe to assume 99.9% of the world wouldn't be able to afford one of those gowns either...even if they were going directly to the Smithsonian. We gave Sarah Pallin a lot of grief over what she spent on clothes. My conscience tells me we can't let ball gown spending go by without comment, either...if we claim to play fair. To date, Michelle Obama has been full of good surprises on the fashion front, spending much less than her counterparts on her clothes. She appeared on The View last summer in a $148 dress she'd bought at White House Black Market. She told Jay Leno last October that the dress she was wearing on his show was off the rack from J. Crew. That's not exactly bargain shopping, but even I would splurge on an outfit for national TV. Which makes me wonder...what defines splurge in our collective shopper's conscience these days? High dollar design houses? Saks? Neiman-Marcus? What would you do? If you were about to be photographed for the cover of every publication in the world, what would you be concerned about? Color? Style? World hunger? What will Michelle do? Does change we can believe in start at the inaugural ball(s), or the day after? Is her superego sending any admonitions to her ego as she looks at what the designers are drawing (and charging)? Has she stopped to compare the cost of her gown(s) to the cost of airlifting food to hungry, war-torn Gaza? Here's hoping the new First Lady shows up in something beautiful, reasonable, and thoughtful. Something that reflects her style, her elegance, and her conscience. Peace.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Waning Moon - Waxing War

It is clear and 48-degrees tonight in Gaza. The waning gibbous moon is probably visible - still 75% full and lighting up the evening sky. This is what the people of Gaza will see tonight...if they have a moment to look up. The Israeli military spent the day pushing farther and farther into Gaza - killing, terrorizing, and generally demoralizing Palestinian citizens. Today Israeli troops advanced their war on rocket-lobbing Hamas militants in Gaza by shelling five high rise apartment buildings in a crowded neighborhood. They also bombed a hospital, international media offices...and, the United Nations. Here's what that looked like: UN relief workers had just gathered up 700 people from war-ravaged neighborhoods of Gaza and offered them a sanctuary at the compound to wait for peace to develop. Miraculously, only three of those people were injured in this morning's attack. The refugees have all been moved to a nearby school in Gaza City. A school was bombed by the Israeli military last week. Forty students were killed. I wonder how safe those displaced families feel tonight? Thousands of pounds of food and humanitarian supplies were also being stored and readied for distribution at the UN compound. 80-percent of Gaza's population is now dependent upon international relief supplies to exist. Tons of that food and fuel burst into flames today: Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, says Hamas started it. He claims the militant group launched rockets from the United Nations buildings. A UN official says "nonsense!" Olmert, to his credit, said the consequences were "sad" and "we apologize for it." Unfortunately, international aid workers cannot feed hungry Palestinians with an apology. As the day ends in Gaza, 70 Palestinian bodies have been counted as Thursday's dead. Since fighting began between Hamas and Israel on December 27, 1,100 Palestinians have been killed...at least half of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis have died. It's a clear night in Gaza. The moon over the tiny seaside territory that is home to 1.5 million Palestinians is probably glorious. Step outside at your house tonight. Look up. It is the same moon. Waning gibbous. 75% full. Growing a bit darker every night. And we're the same people. Growing families. Nurturing big hopes. Praying for peace. We are the world.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Adios Senor Presidente

I realize I'm thinking ahead a week...but the website I use to contact my elected representatives has invited me to send a farewell message to the president. So I've been pondering it all morning...wishing I had a vocabulary of colorful words in several foreign languages to sprinkle into my goodbye to George W. Bush. Because the words I have in English are just not working for me today. I do like Rachel Maddow's quackitude. Still on my mind, of course, is the late night re-hash of Bush's last news conference yesterday. The one during which he said not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a "significant disappointment." Does that sound utterly stupid to anyone else? A "significant disappointment" to find out Sadaam Hussein was NOT about to send a nuke wired briefcase into downtown Chicago on the arm of a religious extremist? (Oh, sorry, I'm mixing my threats to humanity. Nukes = Sadaam. Religious extremists = bin Laden. Misguided cluelessness = Bush.) Of course, the no WMD discovery was only a disappointment to George Bush because he is missing the "I'm sorry" gene from his DNA. He seems completely incapable of forming phrases like "we screwed up" or "that was a misstep" or "I acted on the wrong advice." Instead all we hear from him is quackitude. Self-serving, truth-twisted, asininely arrogant quackitude. It's the same on the subject of post-New Orleans Katrina. Torture at AbuGhraib and Gitmo. The war dead in Iraq. The unemployment rate. The crisis on Wall Street. He just did nothing wrong in 8 years. Nothing. Swirling around in the can't-get-it-out-of-my-mind portion of my brain today are fresh images of people begging for water and shelter in New Orleans...US military personnel drowning a prisoner at Gitmo...and this - a photo that cost its photographer her job in 2004... How much of this might have been avoided if George W. Bush had ever learned to say "I was wrong?" Here's my farewell. Dear Mr. President, It takes a man of character to admit his mistakes. Great strength and grace are revealed when a man is willing to say "I'm sorry" as the whole world watches. Gifted intelligence and unwavering courage are at the core of a man who takes the first step past "I was wrong" onto the path of "let's make it right." I regret you are not this man. We have lost much to your arrogance in eight years. Adios.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Not a Just War...just war...

An Unnecessary War is how Jimmy Carter refers to what's happening between Israel and Gaza on this little piece of the world's real estate. He calls the now 15-day old war the "devastating invasion of Gaza by Israel" and says it "could easily have been avoided." He also calls Israel out as the bully who threw the first swing in this melee - on November 4. Still, on the day former President Carter's piece was published in the Washington Post, the US Senate voted unanimously - by voice vote - to "recognize Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, reaffirming the United States' strong support for Israel, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process." The House passed the resolution the next day, with 90% of our elected representatives voting yes on the measure. Only 5 voted no. Sigh. Just when I thought we were putting on a kinder, gentler face for the world... Apparently there are only 5 of us showing our compassionate side on the international scene. Six if you count President Carter. Who, I ask you, could call Israel's self-proclaimed "iron fist" against Gaza a fair defense? Two weeks into this fight the death toll is reported at 810 Palestinians (mostly civilians), 12 Israelis (soldiers). What, does anyone know, is "the Israeli-Palestinian peace process" our government so firmly supports? Starve, dehydrate, and bomb Palestinians until they scream uncle? Human rights workers in Gaza (Amnesty International, Save the Children, Care International) say the humanitarian situation there is at its worst since 1967. They call Israel's blockade of international relief deliveries, and the destructive raids on civilian areas "illegal collective punishment." Israel says its military action and "other measures" are lawful and needed to stop rocket attacks from Gaza. Apparently the US Congress agrees with Israel. Today, I have read the diary of Hatem Shurrab, a relief worker in Gaza. Hatem says, I sometimes wonder if there will be enough space to bury the dead, as he writes of his personal losses over the last two weeks and the despair that is beginning to overwhelm everyone in Gaza. In one entry, as he attempts to describe in detail the death and destruction he's witnessed, he stops and writes this: I don't think there are any words in the dictionary that can accurately capture what's happening here. Only one: war.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Door War

My husband and I can't paint a door without fighting. First there's the decision to paint/or not to paint the door. Is it a top priority? Should it be stripped and rebuilt or replaced? Do we have the time/the money/the right weather forecast? Then there's the color. Should it be the same? Something new? Will it match the rest of the house? Will the rest of the house be repainted sooner or later? Then there's the work. He does some. I criticize. I do some. He criticizes. And the disappointment we both feel when the project isn't going exactly the way one or both of us imagined gets stirred into the simmering goulash, too. How we manage to get through these things without throwing a gallon of latex enamel on one another is...well...probably a miracle. We throw plenty of colorful splashes of expletives and insults, that's for sure. So how can people like us imagine peace on Earth? How can we even purport to be lovers of peace and willing players in a movement to seek peace and pursue it? Where do people who sing heartfelt verses of "Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me" get off behaving in such uncompromising ways over such minutiae? I am leaning into a very personal view of world peace this morning. My good-thinking pastor friend, Joe, has an op-ed column in today's edition of the Louisville Courrier-Journal in which he ponders some radical ideas for leading the world to disarmament. It's worth reading. Whether you agree with the ideas proposed or not, it's a good list to dream on with "what if" in front of every enumerated sentence. The eye-openers, of course, are in the maelstrom of comments the editorial has evoked. Here's my favorite: First things first, convince the over 100 million Muslim extremists to love everyone then come back after you have accomplished that. I am sure you will not be able to think very well when your head is separated from your body. Their sworn purpose is to kill the infidels and sorry to tell you but you are an infidel to them. Good luck with that beating weapons into plow shares thing, but please start over there. Well..that flies all over me. How dare the commenter assume all Muslims are extremists...how does that make him/her different from a Muslim who assumes all Christians are infidels? How emotionally low of him/her to conjure up an image of my friend without a head. How crass to drag a peace lover's favorite Bible verse (and promise of God) so mockingly into a sentence. How typically shortsighted of the commenter to insist peace should begin "over there." (And until then we should...what?) And then I remembered the ongoing jihad over the front door at my house. And the current terror in Southern Israel/Gaza. And the war in Iraq/Afghanistan. We people are people...whether the fight is over paint brush trails or holy land. When we say "let peace begin with me" it means the same thing, regardless of the context of the war... Peace begins when we forget our assumptions, and begin to listen to people we have believed we understand even though we've never asked them to explain. Peace begins when we stop using "always" and "never" and images of bodies without heads to make a point. Peace begins when we respect one another's holiness and wholeness. Peace begins when WE take the first step toward reconciliation...a step unconditionally motivated by a longing for absence of conflict. I have been a warmonger. I have been more concerned with my beliefs and personal investment and creative feelings about a front door than I have been concerned with comfort and joy in my little bitty corner of the world. How ridiculous is THAT? Let there be peace at my front door...let it begin with me. Then we take on the rest of the world - together. Peace.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

This Hurts

Have you ever had a sliver of glass make its way into the tough, calloused part of your foot? You know it's there every time your weight lands on that spot. Perhaps you dig around a little bit with needle and tweezers, hoping you'll luck into the invisible source of pain...but mostly you know it's there until it's not, and that you'll just have to endure the discomfort. This is perhaps the most minimizing analogy ever to be written as a preamble to conversation about the turmoil in the New Jersey-sized piece of land we call Israel. I certainly don't mean to equate limping with a glass splinter to the deaths of 30 children in Gaza. I guess I'm just looking for a way to excuse my inability to grasp the source of pain I feel today. I've had the needle and the tweezers out for the last 24 hours, searching every relevant record I can find - from the the Hague Convention of 1907, to the Palestine Mandate of 1922, to the Israeli War of Independence of 1948, to the 6 Days War of 1967, to the Oslo treaty of 1993...or was that the DOP (Declaration of Principles) in 1993, followed by Oslo 2 in 1995? I'm still limping. It's all as mired in politics and personal gain and patronizing phooey as anything you can imagine. Stir in God and the history of genocide and racism on both sides and you have, perhaps, the ugliest pot of human stew ever put on a fire. Suffice it to say, there is no document that seems to hold lasting meaning for Arabs and Jews trying to live together on the tiny strip of geography wedged between the Jordan River, the Mediterranean Sea, and Egypt. In the last two weeks, Hamas militants in Gaza have stepped up the lobbing of their 12-mile range Qassam rockets into towns and villages in southern Israel. 4 Israelis have died. The Israeli army has responded to the Hamas terrorist attacks with hurricane force. 400 Palestinians have died. Most of those in the last five days. So it seems the game of Who's Land is This Land plays with at least one observable rule: 1 Israeli life = 100 Palestinian lives. Collective punishment of a population is a crime. This international law was established at the Hague Convention of 1907. It was reinforced at the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, with Nazi atrocities against the Jews still playing vividly in the minds of peacemakers. Then the Jews won the 6 Days War in 1967, and began their occupying power of the property formerly known as Holy Land. Since then, 18,000 houses have been demolished in the occupied Palestinian territories by Israeli armed forces - explicitly to punish families of people suspected of being terrorists. In the 223-square miles that is Gaza, 1.5 million Palestinians live...sometimes 50 people per home. Half of the population is under 14-years old. Half of the adult population is unemployed because of deliberate Israeli destruction of business infrastructure - including the intentional bulldozing/burning of ancient fruit-bearing olive trees. Since November, the Israelis occupying Gaza have limited food supplies from international relief agencies, which feed a majority of the children there. They have blocked importation of medicines, parts for water and sanitation systems, and have cut the supply of diesel to Gaza's only power station. I heard a UN official respond yesterday to the question, "Are there humanitarian issues that need to be addressed in Gaza?" He said, "The people are hungry, they have no clean water, they are cold, they are sick and can't get medicine, and they are terrified. I'd say it's a humanitarian crisis." The world will be watching Barack Obama for many reasons two weeks from today. It will be his first full day in the oval office as President of the United States. Those of us limping around on this ground-in piece of brokenness called Israel remember the President-elect's last real words on the subject, which were supportive of Israel's fight against Hamas terrorists. Most of us would have a hard time disagreeing with his thinking at that time: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters slept at night, I'd do everything in my power to stop that," he said on the campaign trail. I'm anxious to know: What if somebody was bombing their school?