Thursday, December 17, 2009

Must Be Santa...

One of the most worn holiday books in my house is Red Ranger Came Calling by Berkeley Breathed.  The extraordinarily illustrated tale - which Breathed presents to us as a true one - follows a young boy as he encounters an old hermit named Saunder Clos who converts the solidly skeptical child into a lifelong believer in Christmas. 

The same thing has happened to me this holiday season. 

It wasn't an old bearded hermit surrounded by tiny, pointy-eared friends who turned my humbug into hope this was an elementary school full of generous teachers. 

The school falls under the watch of  Title1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  This is the provision that ensures all children, regardless of their socio-economic status, will receive "a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education."  In other words, many of the children in the school are poor.

One of the high schools in this crowded metropolitan school district has an annual fundraiser every December to buy bicycles for children in their schools who might not otherwise have a gift under the Christmas tree.  Teachers in Title 1 schools are asked to identify students to receive the bikes, and then to consult with parents of those children to make sure the gifts will be meaningful.  

The bicycles had been promised this year.  But the fundraiser fell short of the promises.  The teachers at the school received an email late Monday filling them in:  "We need 10 more bicycles.  They cost $75 each.  Let's try to raise the money."  

Before dawn had broken on the next school day, every bicycle had been funded.  By teachers.  You know...the very people who are in the trenches with our children every day.  The ones we expect to mold and shape and educate the next generation.  The heroes who bring snacks to school for children who are hungry, buy coats for children who are cold, give away hundreds of thousands of pencils and markers and crayons to children who never show up with supplies.  The professionals among us who are paid an annual salary to compete with drywall installers, game wardens, and postal carriers ($45,600).  

They gave without hesitation, even though they've already given those children so much.  

I won't overstate the saintliness of teachers.  They are human.  There are good ones and bad ones, as is the case in every profession.  But they are with our children.  They are paying attention.  They are dipping into their own depleted bank accounts at Christmas to ensure "fair, equal, significant opportunity" for every child.  

They know opportunity sometimes comes with pedals and two wheels and a big, red bow.  

...if you ask if I'm not making all this up, I'll say this:  The word of the Red Ranger of Mars should be all you need.  And if you ask if I believe in Santa Claus, I'll say this:  Mind your own business.  And if you ask about that tree on a Christmas morning a lifetime ago, the one holding the last little bit of an old man's faith and the first of a sour-faced little boy's... 
It's from the book.

And, it's from real life, too.  Both make me smile and give me hope.  


Monday, December 14, 2009

Everything You Need To Know...

You can still learn it in kindergarten. 

My sister does the heroic work that is the public school equivalent to a prep cook in a kitchen, or a weight trainer on an NFL team, or a computer programmer for NASA - without whom we would have no Iron Chefs, no Super Bowl winners, no space exploration.

My sister is a kindergarten teacher.

She calls it herding kittens.   I call it tilling the soil of our future.  Because what happens during a child's first year in school is so often the bellwether of success or failure for a student in the circuitous 13-year system that is public education.  Leaders are born and buried in that system.

So I'm eager to relay this story from a kindergarten class in one of the "boom-burbs" of the Dallas-Ft.Worth area...

My sister received an untimely summons for jury duty this week - the last week before the holiday break at her school.  The kindergarteners are receiving some intense hands-on lessons about the holiday traditions of a variety of faiths and cultures. Each teacher is specializing in one particular tradition.  My sister's assignment for the week was Hanukkah.  She was scheduled to teach the traditions of the Jewish Festival of Lights to every kindergarten class on Wednesday - the very day she has been called to court to do her duty as a good citizen of the United States of America.

She contacted her favorite sub to fill in for her.  Then, as she worked on lesson plans for the day, my sister realized she was asking a conservative, head-covered Muslim woman to teach Jewish traditions all day.  So, in the name of  cultural sensitivity, she called the substitute and apologetically confessed that she didn't even know if her question was appropriate. "Do you have a problem teaching Hanukkah to kindergarteners?"

The woman was more than gracious.

"Oh no," she told my sister.  "There is one God who loves all people.  I believe we will all eventually stand together before that God."  Then she added, "And, I also love all people. Of course I will teach the traditions of Hanukkah." 

And so candles of the menorah will be lit this week in a kindergarten classroom in Mansfield, Texas by a Muslim woman, who is filling in for a Christian woman...

It's an example for little children that the rest of the world needs to see.

Whether you light candles for eight days, decorate evergreens in your living room, fast from dawn until sunset for a month, or feast 'round the clock from December 26 'til January 1 - there is one God.  Surely it does not matter how we choose to tell the story.

I believe this kind of lesson is our One hope for peace on Earth.

And we probably learned it in kindergarten.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Have A Great(ful) Day

Christmas is not my season.

First, there's the shopping.  I do hate shopping.  Already I've mistakenly double-ordered from Amazon, over-spent at REI, and dragged my feet too long to get a must-have item on a loved one's list.  Ugh.

Then there's the clutter.  Christmas decorations make sense to me for about two days...then they become visual background noise that ultimately confuses and irritates me.  But, I'll be racing out for a Christmas tree today, because I'm afraid if I let the weekend pass, all the good trees will be gone.  Double ugh.

Stir in the call of the Faithful to set aside time to anticipate and wait with patience for The Holy, throw in the expectation that all human contact will be full of comfort and joy, add a heaping helping of the Martha Stewart inspired dream of gingerbread in every oven and fresh evergreen boughs on every hearth...and, well, I mostly want to cry.

So I walk gently through the days.  I negotiate the emotional expectations to the present reality every day. I remember to sleep and eat. I cling to time to be still and know God...not the babe in the manger, but the Holy Parent who loves me. And, I try to be eager in my resolve to return all kindness with kindness - hoping, ultimately, that goodness will grow beyond grumpiness.

But I find people are generally grumpy this time of year.

"Wanna bag for this?"
"Really?  We haven't had that for two weeks."
"Uh, yeah, you too (have a nice day). Next."
"No, you can't return that without a receipt.  Next." 

Finally this week, I made a transaction with someone who smiled and said with cheerful authenticity:  "Thank you.  Merry Christmas.  Have a great day."

It didn't happen at the upscale kitchen gadget shop, not at the all-natural-eco-friendly retailer, not even at the bookstore where I was purchasing books about saving the world one school at a time. 

It came from the toothless, shivering, under dressed-for-the-weather man standing on the corner near my house with a sign that read, "Good Karma for you.  Anything helps."  I gave him one dollar.  One measly dollar.  And I said, "I hope you have a warm place to go to soon." 

He was cheerful.  He was grateful.  He said, "Thank you for caring, m'am.  Thank you.  Merry Christmas."  And as I drove away, he smiled, waved, and shouted,  "Have a great day!" 

I now have a stack of dollar bills in my car.  It's my investment in Christmas sanity.

To those among us who need so little from us to be gracious and kind this holiday season...
Thank you.

You have increased my joy and made me mindful of goodness in the crazy world that is Christmas. 


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Let There Be Peace

Dear Mr. President, 
We lit the second candle of Advent this morning in our Christian worship service.  The candle of Peace.  Our prayers were focused on waiting, patiently, for the celebrated birth of the Prince of Peace.  Our scripture texts reminded of us journeys in the wilderness.  Before the gathered parted company for the week ahead, we sang:  Let there be peace on earth.  Let it begin with me.

The words stuck in my throat.  What, I wondered through tears, do peace and justice oriented people of faith do now,  in the midst of escalating war, to begin peace? 

We thought we were beginning it as we registered voters, walked neighborhoods, and voted in 2008. 

Now, as we have done for the last eight years, we have to imagine peace starting with us in some other way.  A dollar to the homeless woman on the street corner?  A donation to a microcredit fund?  A bowl of soup served to a hungry child?  A candle lit in the window?  Prayers for people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Israel? 

We’re doing all that – we’ve never stopped.  Perhaps you can imagine how it all seems like not quite enough. 

What would you have been thinking today if you’d sung these words?

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me? 

Why can’t the leader of the most powerful , best resourced, most envied nation of the world … the man who will receive the Nobel Peace Prize this week … stand up and say, “We’re finished with war”?  Do we have no allies for peace?  Would our economies all collapse if our war industries went idle?    Is there no real good to be done on this planet with one million dollars, multiplied by 140,000 soldiers, multiplied by 1.5? 

What happens if peace begins with you, Mr. President?  Will no one else follow?  Are there not enough people in the world who will stand in the name of peace with us to face our enemies? 

They do seem to be growing weary of standing alongside us in war.

How, Mr. President, do you suggest peace begins?  Not “disrupt, dismantle and defeat.” 

Any chance it can start with you?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Don't I See?

A dozen years ago I sat my pacifist self down across the table from two teen aged boys who were temporarily in my care.  They had been in a fight, and I do not approve of fighting.  Not between teen aged boys.  Not between nations.

I told the boys a racial slur was not worth a fist fight.  I reminded them that they - both black - were bigger than that.  I told them nothing was ever solved with violence, and that they gave away their power the minute they engaged in it.

It's what I believed with all my heart.

But - I have never been called a nigger.

That day I wondered if my pacifist perspective was a bit sheltered.  Tonight, I'm wondering the same thing.  Are some things worth a fight?

What about "disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future?"

President Obama thinks that's a perfectly good reason to fight.  He's sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan based on that argument:  We must beat the bad guys.

But, it seems to me the bad guys win if we continue to deplete our deeply-indebted financial stores to the tune of $1-million per soldier per year to continue a war that's been depleting our stores for eight years.

It seems to me the bad guys win when the locals (Afghanis) blame poverty, corrupt government (US supported), and interference from other countries for the war in their land before they blame al-Qaida.

It seems to me the bad guys win every time another flag draped coffin is pulled from a plane at an Air Force Base on US soil.

Did you study the faces of the cadets tonight as President Obama delivered his plan to the West Point audience?  To say they were solemn would be an understatement.  Many of them will go to Afghanistan as soon as the last verse of "Silent Night" is sung in a few weeks.  They know this.

Some of them have already been.

Surely a good number of them have lost a friend to the battle.

I'd love to know how they feel about the worthiness of the fight.

Because I have never trained nor taken an oath to defend the constitution of the United States.  Nor have I read through daily security briefings with information like the President divulged tonight: "In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror."

Maybe there is something about our ongoing quagmire that we call war in Afghanistan that I just don't see.

But if it's peace and stability we're after...I sure don't see it at the end of a gun.  


Thursday, November 26, 2009

On Giving Thanks

 The question was asked a few days ago: What are you thankful for this year?

I looked around the table at friends gathered.  We all seemed a little embarrassed and put on the spot, which is awfully weird for church people four days before Thanksgiving at an annual event called the Agape (Love) Meal. 

"I guess I should have known that was coming,"  I said.  Everyone laughed.  Then we made a few jokes about what we are not particularly thankful for: conservative TV pundits, the economy, the extra pounds headed to our waistlines in the coming days.   

It was a table of eleven well-fed, highly-educated Americans.  We had all driven cars to the event.  We were wearing clean, weather appropriate clothes, and sat in a candlelit room full of 120 people, any one of whom would have walked a mile or more with any one of us on his/her back, if that were necessary.  

Why were we so squirmy?

I can only speak for myself.

It seems I'm so drenched in the good life I can't even formulate an honest response to the question.  I guess, truth be told, I'm a little self-conscious about the utter blessedness of my days...

I have had nothing but opportunity this year - to write, to refresh my soul, to rediscover deep joy, to connect with the sweetest little amazements of this life; things like:  rain falling off my roof, babies smiling at me from their car seats, a full moon over the ocean, fresh greens in baskets at a local farm stand. 

I will sit at a table later today with my mother, who eight months ago had a heart attack after chopping down a tree in her front yard.  Today, she is cooking a turkey.

I have never been hungry.

I have always been loved.

I have stayed out of hospitals and chemo facilities and a myriad of scary sounding diagnostic machines.

I have not bailed a child out of jail, a husband out of rehab, a family member out of financial ruin, or a friend out of an abusive marriage.
The question is just too easy.   

So, please let me take a moment to say thank you...

To those of you who help keep my eyes open to the fact that life is, indeed, very good.

To those of you who trust me with your stories of brokenness and heartache when it comes your way.

To friends and family who struggle, alongside me, with the absolute abundance that defines our American lives.  Thank you for teaching me, reminding me, leading me to see the big hurting world that lives outside my warm and cozy upper middle-class window.

I am about to watch the sun rise outside that very window. A clear and beautiful morning is emerging.  I am huddled around a good cup of coffee and a day that will be filled with the comfort of family.

I will pause in these moments to give thanks - and to pray for a sunrise like this in the days of each of your lives as the next year miraculously unfolds. 

Give thanks.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On Paying Attention

I am haunted by images of an adorable child in my past who was always eager to tell me his stories and share his unique view of the world  - with little or no implore on my behalf. 

(I told you he was adorable.) 

The images of this my kitchen, in the backseat of my car, in my bedroom before dawn's earliest light and long after the last dish was washed in the evening...haunt me for one simple reason - I wasn't listening. 

I was busy.

Busy doing what, I cannot tell you.  Making the beds?  Baking the cookies?  Organizing the fundraisers?  Taking soup to the sick?  It is beyond anything worth searching for in my junk drawer of a memory, I can promise you that.

There is one scene that comes in loud and clear, though...from 13 years ago.  I was in the kitchen - busy. My storyteller was talking, and I was paying enough attention to say "uh-huh" and "really" in response. Exasperated, he stood up, looked me squarely in the eye and said, "Mom, you're not even listening."

He was right.  And he stopped talking.

That boy is 23 years old today.  His view of the world is now bigger than mine - so much more studied and wise and complete. He's traveled Europe, lived in California on his own, read hundreds of books I've only talked about reading, worked alongside the homeless, written music, played in orchestras and rock bands and church ensembles, loved deeply, lost painfully, and lived - always - authentically.

I am very lucky.  This boy still tells me his stories (although he usually waits to be asked).  It is one of the most significant measures of grace I have ever received.  I try not to think about the things I must have missed when I was too busy to listen.

We think they'll be 3 forever...and then, poof, they're 23.  Pay attention.

Happy Birthday, Travis! 

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Stepping Out

According to Google Analytics linked to this site...which I endearingly refer to as my Google Voodoo because it seems like magic every time I log on and find pie charts and graphs telling me more than I can possibly understand about visitors to Thinking in Peaces...about 600 of you honor me with a read of these ramblings every month.  So it seems I should post a preemptive apology.

I will not be writing here in November...although I will be writing.  Like a fiend.

I have accepted the annual challenge from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month) to finish 50,000 coherent words between midnight tonight and midnight on November 30. 

Writers from 90 countries step up to the plate every November, ready to take a swing at the story burning within.  There is no prize for finishing - and only 18% of the 100,000+ folks who commit actually do - it's just a deadline.  And most of us need a deadline.

I've started writing no less than a dozen books in my life.  I figure it's time to get past page 25. I go, into the great wide open - now 12 hours 'til the kick off, and still unsure exactly which story I'll pull out of the shadows of my imagination.  Will it be the Martini Chronicles?  the Letters from Africa?  the Neighborhood Mosaic?  the Organic Mixed Nuts?  the Bracelet?  Or will something entirely new pop from brain to page over the next 30 days?

I'm excited and afraid.

Strategy #1 for completion, say the experienced NaNos, is to tell all your friends you're writing a novel in November. it is friends.  Feel free to hold me accountable.

I'll be posting one sentence from the writing every day at my other blog, Just Six Journal.  So reset your bookmarks, and take a peek from time to time.  I'll also let you know how I'm doing on word count each day - to stay on target, I'll need to write 1667 words a day!


Of course I won't stop thinking about this big ol' goofy world we live in every day - that thinking is likely to emerge somewhere in a character that shows up at my desk in November.  I only hope he/she isn't too boring...

Thanks for the encouragement - which is the time you take to read here.  I'll be back in December.

Peace all. 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Meeting Planes

I logged onto my favorite flight tracking site early yesterday morning so I could keep an eye on the plane that was bringing six young musicians I know and love back to Texas after a three week tour of Europe. 

My youngest son is one of those musicians. 

I hit the refresh button no less than two dozen times during the day, and got so much pleasure out of seeing the little plane icon ooonch slowly across the world toward home.

AA2491 40 minutes from Austin

We met the weary travelers at the Austin airport a little before midnight.  It was a happy reunion with hugs, celebrations of luggage/instrument arrival, quick stories about pizza box lids and the Fall colors of Germany...and then home to familiar showers and beds and facebook. 

President Obama met a plane late last night, too.  At Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.  It was carrying 18 passengers - all in flag draped coffins - from Afghanistan. 

President Obama salutes the coffin of Sgt. Dale Griffin of Terre Haute, IN

The dead were this week's "fallen" in Operation Enduring Freedom, which has seen the biggest loss of US life this month since the war began in Afghanistan in 2002.  These troops and DEA agents died in two separate incidents on Monday of this week:  Ten in a helicopter crash, and 8 in a vehicle struck by an "improvised explosive device." 

The families of these sons and daughters were at the air base to meet their loved ones' plane, too.  They had a few minutes with the President, who I imagine heard their stories, offered his condolences, his gratitude...and, perhaps, his promise.

His promise that as long as he is president, no more Americans who seize the opportunity to serve in this country will be sacrificed to an unclear purpose.  A promise that men and women of America who willingly give their talents to the service of our defense will no longer be left to wonder, "Why am I here?" or "What are we doing?"  A promise that he has paid attention to the resignation of US Foreign Service Officer Matthew P. Hoh, who wrote in his resignation letter
(we are)...encouraging an ideology and system of government unknown and unwanted by its people

I crawled into bed last night just before 2 AM, knowing my son was safely home...looking forward to hearing his stories and seeing his pictures in the days to come. 
President Obama landed on the White House lawn just before 5 AM this morning, knowing - I hope - that real people with real hopes and real dreams and loving families are sloshing through a quagmire that is in his hands to fix. 


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Equal Opportunity Evil?

I've had reason over the last couple of weeks to ponder the question:  What if women ruled the world?

It all began with the film Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which tells the inspiring story of the women of Liberia who stood - quite literally - for peace in their country and made it happen. The film ends with the promise that the Liberian Women for Peace are ready to mobilize on a moment's notice if their families and communities are ever again subjected to the terror of war. 

(The woman who began that movement in Liberia...Leymah Gbowee...will receive the Gruber Women's Rights prize this week for her "demonstration of courage and commitment to a fundamental shift in culture in the face of significant obstacles.")

Not a fist was raised, a face slapped, or a bullet fired by these women in Liberia.  Good things happened.

And then there was the story of Jodie Evans, co-founder of CodePink: Women for Peace - who stood face to face with President Obama two weeks ago, wearing a pink t-shirt that announced "End the Afghan Quagmire," and handed him the signatures of thousands of women in Afghanistan who want to be part of making peace in their country.

As Jodie told the president, if good is going to come in Afghanistan, "the women need to be involved."  

And finally, there was the book on my nightstand, loaned to me by  my friend Karen, titled If Women Ruled the World:  How to Create the World We want to Live In.  The book is a product of the White House Project, the non-partisan, non-profit organization that exists to advance women's leadership in this country, "up to the U.S. presidency."  Among the 95 essays included in the book are works titled:  "We'd Put a Compassionate Face on America," and "We Would Walk a Mile in Each Other's Shoes," and "Bullying in All Forms Would Be Unacceptable."

Good things, it seems, would happen if women ruled the world.

Then came the headline this morning:
Bosnian War's "Iron Lady" Freed From Prison

...and I was compelled to investigate what happened when Biljana Plavsic ruled the Serbian world of Bosnia in the mid-late 1990s. 

Good things did not happen.  Horrible, terrible, nightmarish things happened to Bosnian Muslims who Plavsic deemed "genetically deformed."  She considered the torture, murder, rape, and displacement of Muslims a "perfectly natural phenomenon."

When it came time, in 2002, for the Iron Lady to stand trial for her crimes against the people of Serbia, she was, at least, clever enough to bargain with prosecutors.  She pleaded guilty to one count of crimes against humanity in exchange for seven counts of war crimes - including genocide - being dropped.

Then when her day in court came, she blamed Slobadan Milosevic for the whole thing and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.  She served less than seven before her release today.  

And so, Biljana Plavsic has pushed me out of my bubble of belief that if women ran the world, the relational nature that seems so inherent in our genetic make up would make world peace a walk down Easy Street. Take a look at this Plavsic quote from 1994:
I don't have much faith in political negotiations.  One good battle would settle this war.

So much for the kinder, gentler face of leadership.

Biljana Plavsic - Bosnia's Iron Lady

It was a wise man - Lord Acton - who said in 1887:
Power tends to corrupt.  And absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men.
And - sigh - bad women? 


Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Young" Inter-Nut Genius

...that's me.

At the end of most days, I find myself wondering if I forget things because I have crammed so much information into my head in one day, or if I forget things because the electrical depolarization of the membrane around a handful of my presynaptic cells has gone awry.

Wow! It's startling to me how quickly I can sound brilliant on any given the synaptic processes in the brain. You should be afraid.

And encouraged.

According to a new study discussed last week in Chicago at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, I'm keeping my brain young when I engage in the curious exploration of a topic on the internet. Yep, the "use it or lose it" thinking behind brain functionality has gone high tech. It's not the crossword puzzle keeping old brains firing anymore - it's the internet. Scientists have hooked "old people" (55-78...gulp) up to MRIs and put them in front of computers to prove the theory: Web Surf to Save Your Aging Brain.

Since I spend no small amount of time each day surfing the web for information about everything from: the current time in Asse, Belgium; the current mood of women in Afghanistan; the best recipe for gumbo, I am thrilled to run across this research (online, of course).

Now I can worry about wrinkles instead of dementia...

So surf on, friends. It's good for the brain.

But, make sure you step away from the desk from time to time to blink and breathe and discuss your online discoveries with a real human being. Surely time face-to-face, idea-to-idea, laugh-to-laugh, hand-on-hand with another person is still the delight of being human...and, the real key to aging with grace.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rowdy in Pink

In the days before I had time to blog, I worked at a very cool conference center in Austin that threw some flat out amazing events. As manager of the team that pulled every one of those events right out of a magician's hat, I must honestly confess today that there were very few names more feared than this one when it came time to coordinate a meeting plan: Jodie Evans. She's the co-founder of:

Clearly, I had no complaint with the work of Code Pink and I was beyond delighted to be part of bringing the likes of Molly Ivins and Anne Lamott to our beautiful Texas hilltop when the group of peace advocates gathered. But, I'm here to tell you, as an eyewitness - these are not your laid back peace-niks. These women, lined up behind the energy and presence that is Jodie Evans, are demanding and wild and stubborn and just plain rowdy. Making a 3-day conference plan that fit into the little boxes of my banquet event orders and production forms was just not going to happen with this bunch. I spent the duration of both 3-day events we hosted with Code Pink wondering what had hit me and what was coming next.

Guess who got a dose of Jodie Evans last week? President Obama. And I think he had it coming.

Jodie had just returned from 10-days in Afghanistan, where she talked to people - real Afghans - about their visions for peace. In particular, Jodie wanted to hear from women. She came back to the US with thousands of signatures from those women...all of them asking the President of the United States to stop fanning the flames of destruction that are ruining their lives. You know what she did with the signatures? She bought herself a ticket to a pricey fundraiser...$15,000 for dinner in downtown San Francisco and a photo op with the President. Instead of a ball gown, Jodie wore a pink t-shirt with "End the Afghan Quigmire" stenciled on it. And, she had her moment with the President. It went something like this:
Jodie: The women there (Afghanistan) are really upset that they are not at the negotiating table.
President: What do you mean, I have Hillary?
Jodie: No the Afghan women want to be at the negotiating table.
President: Oh.
Jodie: I am here to remind you to keep your promises for peace.
President: You know we are not going to end the problem in Afghanistan any time soon.
Jodie: Actually you’re not going to solve the problem, they are.
Consider yourself introduced to Jodie Evans.

You know what? The peace movement is - perhaps - not necessarily peaceful. It may not be particularly calm and organized, timid or very soft-spoken. It mostly likely should be unruly...outside the lines and boxes and usual thinking and polite talking. Because peace takes courage. To put aside guns and walk into a place known to be hostile with nothing more than a plan to stay the course until the peace is successfully waged...that takes some guts. Ask the women of Liberia how it goes.

Today, you can log onto the Code Pink facebook causes page and pledge $10 to begin a run at sustainable peace in Afghanistan: $10 will pay for one of these critical services: * Food for one woman for 7 days * Medical care for one woman for one month * One dress for one woman * A young girl's school tuition for 15 days.

I am grateful for the gutsy women dressed in pink who are not afraid to speak their minds with congressmen/women, presidents, generals, or people in war weary countries. And I'm looking over my shoulder in hopes of finding Jodie Evans, in a wave of pink, stirring up life all around us.
Jodie Evans

Monday, October 19, 2009

Paying Attention

I am looking away from the Balloon Boy stories today. The Heenes are tragic, no doubt. Having your family drama - fabricated or not - beamed from sea to shining sea just can't be fun. I know they're reality TV veterans, but when your lawyer is asking the sheriff to resist the spotlight and let you quietly turn yourself in for creating a nationwide panic...well, reality begins to suck. So, I'm looking away from Richard and Mayumi Heene today. I find the rest of us more interesting to ponder. What is it we find so fascinating about this story? I guess it's that we love a happy ending. The tale of a lost and found 6-year old provided that for us last Thursday. We also seem to love juicy gossip. The continuing saga of this offbeat family has fed that hungry animal in us every day since the happy ending was upended by the balloon boy saying to his dad, "I thought we did it for the show." Kids. They'll make us look like fools every time, won't they? What I can't explain about this story and our collective response is all the outrage I've heard over it. People right here in Texas suddenly know exactly how many dollars it costs to put a Colorado National Guard helicopter in the air for an hour, how many Ft. Collins law enforcement dollars can be wasted in one afternoon, and exactly how much a family makes as part of a reality TV show. Waste like this is, apparently, despicable. But, ask the same people what we spent last Thursday on lingering war in Iraq ($720-million) and you'll be lucky to get a shrug. Why aren't we outraged over muddy answers to strategic questions about ongoing war? Ask them how many children in the world died from hunger last Thursday afternoon (16,000). Why aren't we incensed over the disparity between the never-satisfied American consumer and the barely-surviving third world child? Ask how much money was spent last week ($3 million) trying to tell us what to believe about health care reform legislation. Why can't we get a hackle raised about that? I am weary of the low-consequence Balloon Boy story. Let Ft. Collins sort this one out alone. Leave the family to manage its own fame or shame. In the meantime, can we get an eyebrow raised for a costly war or a hungry child or an expensive media propaganda blitz? Peace.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Believe in Blue Skies

I lived in the Silicon Valley of California for two years in the early 1980s. I was young, and research like Google was not available, so I went to the far-away land of Cupertino, California somewhat uninitiated. For starters - I didn't know the place was an actual valley. Imagine my surprise on the second week there when the haze cleared enough for me to see where I was. Once rich in orchards, flowering trees, and every kind of plant a valley soil near the Pacific Ocean could the time I arrived in Silicon Valley, the high tech industry had taken 20 years off the life of the place. The tiny piece of paradise I had moved to, nestled between Mount Hamilton on the North and the Saratoga foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains on the South, looked like this: ...on a very good day. Most days we were unaware hills and mountains existed at all. A blue sky was a very rare occurrence. I tried to hold my breath for two years. And I grieved over the color of the sky, wondering if there would be a blue sky left in the United States by the time I had children. Here's the good news. I've been back to California recently. Look at the view of Mount Hamilton from the valley today: So, cheers to the State of California, which has spent the last 20+ years aggressively enacting legislation designed to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds, and carbon dioxide released into the blue-sky air of the Golden State. The air regulatory board in California has also taken on dry cleaning fluids, second hand smoke, and outdoor residential waste name a few. Up next on the contentious US Senate agenda is Cap and Trade legislation. Another fight of health care proportions is expected. We can expect corporate lobbies to take a vested interest in the outcome. I would imagine we can also expect hours and hours of "less government is better" rhetoric designed to to persuade us we are not ruining the earth with our polluting industries and modes of transportation. Study the issues now. Be ready for the conversation. Setting controls on pollution works. The evidence is in California's blue sky. I believe in blue skies. Do you?
Declare your own support for blue skies. Feel free to copy the logo above (I have the copyright) and announce your plans for saving our skies on your own website/blog.
Peace. And happy Blog Action Day!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Avoiding Stress

There's an article on the front page of my newspaper today about some hard working psychologists at The University of Texas who are studying Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in soldiers. Let me disclose right off the bat that I have nothing but the highest regard for scholarly research in the field of psychology. My oldest son does it at Indiana University. He learned to ask questions like: What were they thinking? and, Why do they do that? growing up in a house where those questions were regularly pondered. Still, today's story on the work of Dr. Michael Telch and his staff with the Texas Combat PTSD Risk Project created no small amount of stress in me. The UT scientists are running Ft. Hood soldiers through a battery of tests before, during, and after battlefield deployment in an attempt to "provide important new insights into the causes of combat PTSD and ways to prevent it." If researchers can pinpoint risk factors for the disorder, says the article, perhaps it is possible to "inoculate" service members before they deploy to a war zone. Really? At Dr. Telch's UT website, he says this:

Fear can be a good thing.

Being afraid makes us heed severe weather warnings and keeps us from running across busy freeways. It is a survival mechanism.
I like the idea of fear when it comes to war. Should human beings really be "inoculated" to manage this fear? Is there a reason scenes like these should NOT terrify us? Perhaps the best answer to PTSD is to subject every politician pondering war to some real-life war scenes, in hopes that a fear response - which is embedded in each of our souls - will take the lead. End war. End combat PTSD. Peace.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Eight Years on the Beach

I sat down at my computer at 9 am this morning. By 10, I'd hit 109 different websites in a quest for bits of information about my world. Today that first hour of internet exploring included: the weather in Switzerland, the possible location of a touring post-rock band, the definition of post-rock, the linkedin page for a former colleague who requested a recommendation, the facebook page of a great kid I know celebrating his 19th birthday, the number of Weight Watchers points in a cup of granola... Multiply the list by 20. It's ridiculous, really, how much I stuffed into my brain in one hour. Ridiculous, but awesome. We're moving across the world at speeds I can't even comprehend. It's described in hundreds of thousands of bits per second - and whatever that means, it's fast. I'm accessing information in one hour that I'd have spent a full year trying (and sometimes failing) to find in a library as recently as 20 years ago. And so I forgive my grandparents for not knowing what was happening to the Jews in Hitler's pre-war Germany. Even after they knew of the persecutions, there was rarely access to photos like these:
Lager Nordhausen, concentration camp where 20,000 are believed to have died.
And I understand that my parents had to settle for Chet Huntley's and David Brinkley's and Walter Cronkite's views of what was happening in Vietnam. There was no way for average, busy Americans to find out about things like the March, 1968 massacre of 350 unarmed South Vietnamese people in My Lai. It was a year before this photo became news in 1969:
Son My village in South Vietnam, March 16, 1968
We people of the digital age have a different level of accountability, I think. With our laptops and desktops and PDAs and 3G networks, we don't have to let Brian Williams or Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann deliver the real world. If we want to know what's happening in, say, Afghanistan after 8 years of a US war - we just log on and, boom! Afghanistan, war dead Afghanistan, daily life Afghanistan, women Afghanistan, children Afghanistan, US To quote John Prine - and I often do - "It's a Big Ol' Goofy World." But it's at our fingertips, my fellow internerds...there for our edification. It's time we got our heads out of the sand and flexed our surfer muscles.
The US and allies invaded our country under fine slogans of “democracy”, “women’s rights”, “liberation” and so on, but today they are supporting and helping the dirtiest enemies of such values in Afghanistan.
Knowledge is power. If we have computers with internet access, we have the power. Shall we use it? Peace.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Who's Happy Now?

I find a lot to ponder in the opening line of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina:
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
I have stretched Tolstoy's assumption a bit today, as I've pored over speculation and specifics about our war in Afghanistan. I'm guessing most Americans would call Afghanistan an unhappy family. It is war ravaged and fear-ruled. Promises of a fair democracy have been broken, women have been setting themselves on fire at frightening rates, children have been starving. Rain doesn't fall. Human services don't arrive. Offers from terrorists continue to look like the best people can hope for. We could talk all day about Afghanistan's long and storied history of misery, I'm sure. But Afghanistan is not the unhappy family that keeps seeping into my analogous thinking today. It is my country...the United States of America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. United we stand. Bedrock of democracy. For starters, we cannot stop fighting about our fighting. Defense Secretary Gates has indirectly rebuked General Stanley McChrystal who has drawn a line in the strategic sand with President Barack Obama who has a Vice President and a Secretary of State singing in two entirely different keys... All while an assortment of "experts" on the subject show up on our television screens with no small amount of hopeless rhetoric to deliver to us in the name of objectivity. And while we're all wringing our hands and saying, "Oh, Vietnam," 65,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines are on the ground in Afghanistan. Yesterday eight of them died there. If the President and his war council (convening tomorrow) decide to stick with the counterinsurgency plan kicked off earlier this year, the number of our mothers and fathers and sons and daughters who are fighting the terrorists, the culture, the climate, and the geography of Afghanistan will climb to 108,000 within a year. And it seems only right for our big, superpower USA family to be reminded that Russia fell to Afghan freedom fighters in the 1980s with 120,000 troops on the ground. I think happy families dance in the streets. Afghan people were doing that as the Soviets pulled out of their country in 1987 and 1988. There is no dancing in the streets for our US family these days. We are mired in a war that is not working. My opinion - which will surprise no one - is that war never works. Anywhere. It creates nothing but chaos and fear and mile after mile of human suffering. A family at war is not a happy family. We are unhappy in our own way. As I read heartbreaking stories about families in Afghanistan today, I came across a website for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. This organization is working courageously, under the most dire of circumstances and conditions, to keep women and children alive in its most unhappy country. Here's what RAWA says of our war:
RAWA believes that freedom and democracy can't be donated; it is the duty of the people of a country to fight and achieve these values.
Let there be peace...and the world family. Let it begin with us.

Monday, October 5, 2009

C'mon People Now...

Love is but a song we sing. And fear's the way we die. I know if I can sing the words to this song, I must be an old hippie (you are too) - but surely there is a load of truth to be heard in every generation's ears in those two simple lines, sung by the Youngbloods in the late 1960s. Fear's the way we die. That's the one that really gets me. Because it's true. Our bodies respond to the way we think, feel, and act. It's often called the "mind/body connection" and it's a medical fact of life. High blood pressure, chronic digestive upsets, lowered immunities - these are the lesser evils of the body's response to fear, anxiety, grief, and anger. I only mention it because bumper stickers are affecting my good health. Does it make folks feel better to put rude slogans on their cars? Is it empowering in some way to display an angry opinion and drive on? Is there anything more to be accomplished by this behavior than some version of a passive-aggressive middle finger in the air? Are you daring me to ram my car into yours? Here are a few back-bumper-wisdoms gnawing at me from the road this week: Here's what bothered me most about that one. This was on the other side of the bumper: I know there are some nasty ones from the thinkers who dig in the other field of thought. I see those too, and - yes - they make me bite my nails, too: What is up with us? Who goes first in the effort to make bumper sticker or me? Can we begin to imagine peace on this Earth if we can't even leave our hatefulness rolled up behind our car windows? How 'bout we all order one sticker and be done with it... C'mon people now, smile on your brother (and sister!) Everybody get together Try to love one another... Right now. If not for peace on Earth, why not for our good health? Peace.

Monday, September 28, 2009

One More Real Person

I have one more story about a real person and health care. This one had medical insurance when he needed it. But, because he is my son, I've spent no small amount of time wondering...

What if?

He is 22-years old, 30 hours from a BA in English, healthy... and a working musician. He plays in a band of notable fame in its genre, and he really does receive some noticeable money doing it.

But the pay is not steady. And there are no benefits beyond expense-paid trips to Europe, venues that provide gourmet food and free beers, and rooms full of wildly happy fans.

Yes, he's living the dream.

But, if his parents couldn't afford to fund a private health insurance policy for him, he might be living that dream with one less foot. Or one less leg. Or - if you'll allow me a dramatic mother moment - not living at all.

On a Sunday evening last February, he returned to his apartment after work, kicked his shoes off at the door, greeted friends who were gathered for dinner, and hurried down the carpeted hallway to his bedroom to change clothes. Before he reached the bedroom door, his bare foot found a two-inch long sewing needle. The force of his step drove the needle completely into the arch of his foot. You could see where it was only because the very end of the needle was trying to push through the skin of the bottom of his foot...from the inside.

The group gathered sprang into action. Tweezers, razor blades, and pain pills were pondered. My son's roommate thought she could pull the needle out if she could slice through the skin where the thing was trying to protrude.

Thankfully, before any field surgery was performed, someone asked my son if he had health insurance. When he said yes, everyone breathed a sigh of relief and agreed, "Time to go to the hospital."

An x-ray showed the needle was lodged in one of the peroneal tendons. Ouch.

Oh, and the needle was broken.

ER nurses hooked my son up to IV antibiotic and gave him a tetanus shot before the doctor came in to perform some emergency room surgery: Novocain, incision, tweezers, stitches, bandage - $4,000.

My son could not have paid that bill. Nor could he have paid the bill that might have resulted from his not seeking immediate medical attention. If that relatively minor emergency had gone very far into infection, it is likely that we would not have been able to afford the consequences, either.

According to the American Journal of Medicine, 62-percent of all bankruptcies in this country are the sad result of medical debts. Most of these debtors are well-educated, own homes, and have middle class occupations. They are people accustomed to paying their way and they intend to do all they can to pay their way through a medical crisis.

But, really...who can do that without health insurance?

People you know are neglecting medical problems because they think they cannot afford to pay the bill. I guarantee it. Some of them will get very sick before they see a doctor, which likely means they will have to see a doctor in an emergency room.

Some of them will die.

This is not an Obama issue. It is not a democrats-in-charge issue. It is a national crisis.

We are the only industrialized nation in the world without publicly financed health insurance. The fight against cash-coated insurance lobbies for the right to accessible medical care is as old as I am. Read this article at the Physicians for National Healthcare site.

It was posted FIVE YEARS AGO:

Break the Insurance Lobby Choke-hold on Health Care

Real people. A very real issue. Just so you know. Peace.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

365 Days

By the time Julie Powell of Julie and Julia fame landed on the first anniversary of the start of her blog, she had 403 regular readers and a book deal. She had also cooked through Julia Childs' Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Impressive. I began this blog last year on September 23, motivated by an urge to write and a passion to participate in the campaign to elect Barack Obama. 41 days later, the election was won. Also impressive, America. I kept writing. I am now 168 posts into this blogging thing. Thinking in Peaces has one anonymous "follower" and five regular readers who signed up to receive email copies of each post (up from three when I began!). Google Analytics - added here a couple of months ago just to make me feel better - shows readership is growing ever-so-slightly, with over 200 readers and an average of 500-600 site visits a month. Still...I'm a long way from setting the world ablaze. I am opening my own eyes a little wider to the world every day. I rarely read a piece of news that I let go of without reminding myself there are people just like me affected by the stories, whether it be a war or a water shortage, the death of a baby or the birth of a movement. Every other day or so, I put my thoughts about that here. Thank you for indulging me with your reading. A writer receives no greater compliment than the time given by a reader to share the experience. When I began here, I told friends the blogging was simply an exercise - a writer's warm up. As I review the year I see it was more like a wake up than a warm up - a wake up to the truth that I am one tiny voice in the great wide open....and that I matter. As do you, my friends. Let there be peace on earth. Let it begin with us...thinking together. Hmmmm. Peace.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It Snows...

That's something I know about Afghanistan. And they have kite flying contests. I confess, most of what I actually think I know about real people living in Afghanistan I learned in Khaled Hosseini's book released in 2003 - The Kite Runner. Since most of the book actually takes place in California, I guess I'm about as far from an expert on the subject of Afghanistan's people and culture as a thinking person could be. I've tried to catch up today. In the spirit of peace. Because it is the International Day of Peace. Here's some of what I've learned: 33-million people live in Afghanistan - in a landlocked country of 250,000 square miles, which is divided into 34 provinces. The people are, for the most part, of Iranian descent. 24% of them are urban dwellers. 28% of them can read and write. 66% of them live on less than $2 a day. 99% of them are Muslim. Men spend, on average, 11 years in school. Women spend, on average, 4 years in school. The place is beautiful. And, the people are beautiful. Over the past century, these people have been governed by nearly every system of government imaginable, including: a monarchy, a republic, a theocracy, and a communist state. A democracy, apparently rife with corruption, is now the official system of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The United States military helped that one come into being when it overthrew the Taliban run system in 2001. This democracy is what the insurgents in Afghanistan are currently fighting. They are understandably unhappy with things because the government has yet to deliver on promises to protect, defend, or provide basic human services to the people of Afghanistan. Our military is still there, trying to help the government (GIRoA) resist the insurgent groups. There are, officially, three distinct and independent insurgent operations on the ground waging a mostly silent war of fear, intimidation, and persuasion among the Afghan people. This makes a Taliban shadow government possible. And this is why US involvement in Afghanistan continues to be of interest... Today, The Washington Post released an unclassified, partially redacted, 66-page pdf copy of General Stanley McChrystal's assessment of our war in Afghanistan. I have read the document this afternoon. I encourage you, in the interest of peace, to do the same. Here are a few of General McChrystal's observations:
Better force protection may be counterintuitive; it might come from less armor and less distance from the population. A foreign army cannot beat an insurgency. The insurgency in Afghanistan requires an Afghan solution. Conventional wisdom is not sacred. Security may not come from the barrel of a gun. International forces must redouble efforts to understand the social and political dynamics of all areas and regions of the country and take action that meets the needs of the people. We must change our operational culture - focus on protecting Afghan people - understand their environment, build relationships with them.
US troops have been in Afghanistan for almost 8 years. 837 Americans have died in the war. An estimated 3,000-12,000 Afghan civilians have been killed. We have not learned the people's language. We have not learned their customs. We have not penetrated their tribal mindset. We have not adequately fed their hungry. We have not given them shelter from their enemies. Instead, it seems, we have protected our own forces. In the process of doing that, we've killed some fathers and brothers and sisters and mothers of Afghanistan.
We must put the Afghan people first. The insurgency can lose fighters and leaders...but, it cannot lose control of the population. - General McChrystal
I hear it began snowing today in Colorado. I wonder when the hard winter begins in Afghanistan? May we be people who seek peace and pursue it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Another Real Person

Meet Gaby Duffy. She's the smiling face on the left. I met Gaby in the summer of 2004, when she joined our annual week-long family vacation party at Lake LBJ. She came with her best friend (pictured with her above), brought along her ever-present camera, and left a trail of sparkly fun in her path. We introduced her to real barbecue, boat dock fishing, and magnificent sunsets. Gaby saw her last sunset on May 9 of this year. She died in an Ottawa, IL hospital, where she'd taken herself after several days of high fever that she had tried to beat without the doctors she could not afford. Gaby had no health insurance. By the time she got to the Ottawa Regional Hospital and Healthcare Center on May 7, she had already lost the time needed to diagnosis and treat the fever. Tests were run, to no good conclusion...and on Saturday evening, after a good visit with her best friend, Gaby suffered an acute symptomatic seizure, and died. She was 25. Gaby Duffy was a college graduate with a BFA in photography from Columbia College in Chicago. She was scheduled to begin school in September in New York, working toward a PhD in Art History. She was an extraordinary photographer, the oldest of four daughters, a mentor to at-risk teenagers, and the kind of friend who brought life to the party. She just happened to find herself between opportunities for group health insurance. She was one of 45,000 Americans who die every year because they don't have insurance. That's one death every 12 minutes. But Gaby is not a statistic to me. She is a real person. Her death was shocking. It was tragic. It was absolutely unnecessary. Just so you know. Peace.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Real People

For those of us who live in a world of accessible health care, the phrase "30-million uninsured Americans" does not really compute. It's fairly easy to assign that statistic to the same space in the brain that holds the amount of the federal deficit, the number of Iraq war casualties, or the current lotto jackpot award. If we think about it much at all, it's usually to say to ourselves: "Haven't we been lucky?" Unless we actually know an uninsured American. I have known, and do know, several. I run in a particularly well-funded crowd...but, guess what? Even hard-working, money-in-the-bank people sometimes find themselves in an unfunded health care crisis. My father was one of those. He worked hard his entire life - blazing new trails in the banking industry, providing for a family of five women, rising to the top of the pile in his field of expertise. Then, in his 50s, he found himself with a comfortable life, a solid bank account, and a dusted off resume. The company he'd founded was sold and merged and morphed - and he was looking for a job. He also had a pre-existing condition. He'd had his first heart attack at 53. At 58, he died in a Houston hospital after 10 days in cardiac ICU. He had no health insurance. While the tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills left after his early death did not bankrupt my mother, they did make us all grateful for life insurance.'s not really the bill-paying that haunts the memory. It's the knowing that someone I loved did not seek medical attention as early as he should have because he knew the bill would be high and there would be no resource to cover the cost other than his savings account. The savings account was supposed to fund his retirement, not his hospitalization. My father died before he could retire. Today is Dad's birthday. He would have been...perhaps could have been 78. My father was not a number...he was a real person. There are at least 30,000,000 just like him in America today. Just so you know. Peace.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fighting Weariness

About a year ago, a good friend unintentionally lit a roaring fire beneath my political leanings with this comment: "I like Barack Obama, but I don't believe this country will elect a black president." Before the month was out I was deputized to register new voters, had attended an all-day Saturday volunteer training, and was signing up for door-to-door work in a nearby swing state to spread the good words of "hope" and "change" in America. I also began this blog. There were days along the way - many of them - when I thought I could not bear the words of one more pundit, the numbers from one more poll, or the cheers heard at one more rally featuring the folksy misstatements of Sarah Palin. I am fighting that weariness again. The campaign, this time, is for health care reform. I intend to be tireless on the subject. I plan to remain accurately informed on proposals my elected representatives are considering. I resolve to resist the call of the careless who want me to fear change. I stand by the words "yes we can" - which last year included a bold and well articulated plan for an accessible health care system. Yes we can. Yes we should. Yes we will.
"We provide world-class health care to a certain segment of our population who has insurance and at the same time we make other people go through bankruptcy to get the care they need." - Roy Farrell, MD, past-president of Physicians for Social Responsibility
"We are the only nation on earth that barters human life for money.” - Geri Jenkins, RN, co-president of America’s largest nurses’ union, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." - Apostle Paul in his letter to the people of Galatia

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

For the Love of Strawberries

My husband and I lived in northern California for two years back in the 80s. I have wondered this week, as we've traveled the magnificent coastal highway in this state, how we managed to miss the soul of the place back then. Was it us, or was it California?
Admittedly, life for us in the 80s was urban-focused. We had a weekend "Texas friend tour" down cold that included Ghirardelli Square, Pier 39, the Golden Gate bridge, Napa Valley, and our favorite little Chinese restaurant at the southern edge of the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. If you had an extra day, we could take you to Pebble Beach and Hearst Castle and deliver a very showy piece of the famous Highway 1 in the process. The culinary slice of the tour included the introduction of artichokes (still 10 for $1 this week), white clam chowder in sourdough bowls, red wine with corks in the bottles, and authentic dim sum.
What we missed back then were the working neighborhoods. We knew our produce was fresh and cheap and grown in the state, but - just like home - we never actually saw the evidence. This week, we caught a glimpse.
I must tell you, the sight of ripe strawberries growing on the ground as far as the eye can see is breathtaking. Strawberries...and strawberry stands...mile after beautiful mile.
Pacific ocean on one side of the road, strawberries ripening on the stem on the other. This surely was heaven, not just California.
But guess what? Strawberries don't jump off the plants and into those nice little green pint boxes. They have to be picked. And if you know a strawberry plant, you know a machine could not possibly do the job without ruining the fruit.
So guess what else we saw? Mile after mile of migrant, women, and children...bent over picking strawberries.
I do not assume to know the nationality or the documentation qualification of any of the workers I saw hunched over strawberry plants this week. But I can tell you I wanted to stop the car and apologize to each one of them.
To each who may have cowered in the back of a truck to find the opportunity to pick a berry in the land of the free...
To each who may have left children or aging parents or spouses to travel the California coast following the harvest season for nearly every "grown in the USA" plant I put on my table...
To each who pulls a family from town to town just to do the work many of us never stop to think even exists...
I wanted to say I'm sorry.
I'm sorry if you have felt unwelcome or "alien" in my country...
I'm sorry for the sacrifices you have made in unseen places so I could eat without thinking...
I'm sorry for a lifetime of strawberry consumption with no thanksgiving for the picker...
I never will do it again.
- From the soul of the country's garden...

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