You Can’t Have One and Have the Other

My military family moved a lot, so I went to eight different schools before college. One early casualty of our peripatetic lifestyle was my comfort level with girls, who were sometimes threatened by my abrupt and probably pushy arrival (military brats learn to make new friends quickly, or spend a lot of time alone.) It took me too long to learn how not to barge into new social situations, and how not to upset everyone’s apple carts.


Today I admire and enjoy many women, but I’ve had to work to overcome feeling timid around them, remembering too vividly many times during my youth when girls were downright mean to this frequently “new girl.”


I have since learned something very valuable that has helped me in my relationships with women. Here it is: it’s impossible to both be afraid of and actively care about someone—anyone—at the same time. Try it! It can’t be done. Whenever I choose one, I have to let the other go. When I allow my fears to come up, all my caring stays locked inside, hidden away. When I let my caring reveal itself, my fright disappears.


It makes perfect sense, doesn't it, that nobody warms up to someone who is apparently cold and fearful, who apparently doesn’t like them….


So I’ve learned to actively push away my defunct childhood fears whenever I’m around women. I very deliberately put aside my nervousness, and determinedly replace it by looking for, and focusing on, the good that I know is in every human being. Magically, when I do this, my uneasiness is gone.


Friendships with boys were easier for me. A tomboy raised in a family which valued men more than women, I always liked boys, and later on, men—and most people like people who like them, so men usually liked me back. I don’t remember many boys who were mean to me, although I know many women who’ve had different life experiences. (Incidentally, my insight about caring replacing fear, and vice versa, works just as well across opposite genders as it does within the same gender….)


My first trusted confidante was, predictably, a teenage boyfriend, rather than the usual sister, mom, grandmother, or longtime girlfriend (my family life was rather competitive, so I rarely let my defenses down there). My most companionable early friendships were with men. It took me far too long to admit to myself that, far from being merely disdainful and “uninterested” in women, I was really just self-protective, because I was scared of women, secretly afraid they would legitimately reject me for my many very real shortcomings.


Gradually, though, I had to face the fact that not having close women friends meant I was missing out on half of humanity. I also had to admit that there were indeed many women I liked and admired and wanted to be friends with.


I recently heard someone say (on the radio?) that what men want, even more than a “hot” woman, is a warm one—an affectionate and caring one. Truly, warmth is one of the most important qualities in a friendship.


But it’s hard to be warm when you’re feeling frozen inside a shell of anxieties and insecurities…..


I’ve found that whenever I’m consciously willing to let go of my fears, and opt instead to seek, and then openly share my genuine appreciation for another’s particular gifts, miraculously, all my worries disappear; they are somehow completely replaced by my caring. It seems that there just isn’t enough “space” in my/our little lizard-brain/s for two such opposing emotions to operate at the same time. (Perhaps a more scientific-sounding explanation of this analysis will one day emerge….)


What I’ve learned about fear and caring—that they can’t coexist, that when you choose the one, you have to let the other go—has proved to be delightfully generalizable to many other dicey, uncertain kinds of people and relationships.


Noting that my relationships with women had greatly improved (I’m much closer now to my sisters, daughters, mom-in-law, and old and new female friends) I started applying my new “fear vs. caring principle” to my other intimidating relationships—because I really do want to be the kind of happy person who doesn’t separate herself, or hold herself back from the rest of humanity, but instead, likes everyone, and relates easily and comfortably (and usefully) to everyone.


Here is a list of some potentially uncomfortable relationships with formidable “types of people” that anyone (myself included) can apply my new practice to:


People of other races, genders, and age groups; uneducated people; educated people; poor people; rich people; people with different religious beliefs and practices; people from rival schools, towns, teams, businesses, cities, states, nations; people who’ve made completely different choices in life than mine; grieving people; people from different ethnic groups; foreigners; people with different political views; people with different personal styles, values, or linguistic styles; people who (I imagine) don’t like me; people who (I imagine) won’t like me; people who (I imagine) I don’t or won’t like; strangers; really smart people; dumb ones; alcoholics; addicts; “bums”; criminals; people I’ve heard gossip about; mean people; people who seem “stuck up”; quiet people; loud people; popular people; marginalized people; grouchy people; shy people; sad people; lonely people; fat people; slim people; disabled, sick or disfigured people; dying people; confused or misguided people; troubled or needy people; crazy people; “different” people; socially clueless people; rude people; ugly people; klutzy people; angry people; family members; in-laws; people who listen to, read, watch, express, or believe different things than I do….


How often during my life will I appear in one or more of the above categories, from time to time? I can’t imagine any situation, though, in which I would prefer to be treated coldly and distrustfully, rather than with kindness and acceptance….


Learning to love my neighbor as myself is a hard challenge. It’s too easy to make exceptions, too easy to forget the golden rule of treating everyone as I would wish to be treated–and thus to miss all my opportunities to learn to be relaxed and helpful to everyone (or anyone).


Will Rogers once said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” The thousands who admired this delightful humorist knew that his most-famous assertion was completely true to his character. I used to find his statement amazing and enviable. Now I aspire to it every day.


I’m pleased to finally be learning this trick of replacing fear with caring, I’m glad to feel so much more comfortable with, and interested in, so many different people, and I’m happy to share this insight with my internet friends—each of whom, I have no doubt, is every bit as lovable, unique, fallible, worthy of respect, and downright scary-weird as I am.


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The Best and the Dimmest

The other day, changing clothes at the YMCA, I chatted with a delightful stranger, a twin in her fifties who apparently has never competed with her identical twin sister (and best friend) in anything. Not during their childhood, not as teenagers, not as wives and mothers, not even now since their kids had grown. I was flabbergasted.


In brutal contrast, I grew up in an extremely competitive household. My three sisters and I spent considerable youthful (and later, adult) energy attempting to best one another in every arena, whether trivial or significant. We carved our egos, our veriest identities, out of what shreds were left after thoroughly wrestling and wringing out every possible family title.


We gambled madly for the unpredictable prize of my parents’ attention and approval, and they thus unwittingly encouraged our many rivalries, although they also greatly wearied of our constant bickering. Probably they encouraged us to compete because they thought competition would make us strive for excellence. Or perhaps they generalized that, since competition in capitalism and on the athletic fields of battle was considered so wonderful, surely family competition must be good, too.


It isn’t.


Whether I “won” or “lost,” my sibling rivalries always left me feeling cold, mean, and alienated. When I triumphed over a sister in some area, I felt a little smug, and very guilty. When I came up short—much more often—I felt inadequate, resentful, defeatist, and again, lonely.


I’ve always been fascinated with twins and twin studies, so I peppered my new acquaintance with questions. I insisted that at the very least, she identify some little, unimportant area that she was now “better” at than her twin—some divergent hobby or lifetime interest, some skill so minor as baking a cake, for instance. No. She was adamant that she could think of no examples. None. Neither she nor her twin were superior in any achievements or endowments.


I concluded that either these twins had always eschewed comparisons as hurtful and unpleasant; or that their minds just didn’t work in these terms; or, perhaps, that competition was just not particularly interesting to them. Gwen ventured to guess that maybe it was a combination of all three. In any case, no, they had never competed, probably never would, she had never thought about it before, and had never been asked about it, to her knowledge.


Wow. In my family, identical twins, on exactly equal genetic starting lines, would have relished the challenge and competed at absolutely everything. I wonder how happily that would have turned out?


Either way, Gwen and Jackie’s delightfully mutually supportive and sharing relationship has to be preferable to whatever unfriendly rivalry we would have come up with in our family.


Now I’m wondering if perhaps all competition is a bad thing….


Having been reared in a family (and culture) which greatly values competition, I never really considered how harmful it might be for me, for my family of birth, my own children, or even for American citizens and other “competing” nations. I’ve never thought about how useless competition really is, especially considering its costs, considering what is lost. Yet few other cultures, many far more ancient, value competition in the way Americans do. Certainly, for that reason, if for no other, we should question the value of competition.


If I were raising my own children again now, I would frown on any hint of competitiveness “against” one another, and make sure they understood that friendly competition was a kind gift from someone else who was helping them in their struggle to better themselves. I would do my best to guide my kids to strive for their own personal bests, reserving their comparisons and judgments only for their own goals for self-improvement. I would try to help them see how harmful competition can be to relationships, and how it can also be mutually supportive (as when one encourages others in their striving for self-improvement) or really unkind and hurtful (“besting” or beating someone.)


I’ve even come around to wondering whether the loftily unassailable idea of competition-as-intrinsic-to-capitalism, is harmful. We must work hard to convey the message that the only moral competition is the friendly kind that is mutually supportive in helping one another strive for excellence, because the fruits of unfriendly competition are always sad ones—envy, anger, resentment, even for the “victor,” who must also contend with dangerous feelings of overreaching, pride, and arrogance.


Here’s what I’ve decided: whenever we compete “against” another, whether as individuals, groups, or nations, that competition works against our highest goals, ideals, and purposes. Any time we move away from simple, personal or cooperative effort, towards something as mean-spirited as hurtful competition, we move toward erasure of mankind’s highest ethical standard, the “golden rule”— treating others as we would like to be treated—and move instead toward “all’s fair in love and war,” a smarmy slogan which conveniently discards morality and ethics as low-priority whenever something newly urgent feels at stake.


If U.S. capitalism has worked well in the past, it’s not because of business competition, but because people with freedom and opportunities and resources have pursued excellence, which springs only from friendly competition, which springs from cooperative values such as caring, fairness, and honesty, and personal virtues like hard work and perseverance.


Abuse of the idea of competition provides us with a too-handy mask, an illusion of moral nobility or superiority, for the times when we want to feel good about running roughshod over someone else, to get what we want.


Our most amazing athletes and athletic competitions are so wonderful because unique individuals like Lance Armstrong and Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods surround themselves with other great athletes in order to challenge themselves—to continually strive for excellence, to achieve their own personal bests, their own highest standards—not to conquer or best someone else.


Since I’ve met the twins, I’ve withdrawn my support from any competitions—whether in families, sports, business, or politics, whether local or global—that divide, separate, or polarize relationships, organizations, or nations.


Because such unfriendly competition, apparently, has never improved anything—not a single relationship, not a single enterprise on this tiny, fragile, interconnected planet, where every thing we do impacts everyone else, where every thing we think touches every other mind, and where we share the very air we breathe and every drop we drink.


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I Have Seen the Future of Latino Immigration—and It Is Good

The hair on my arms stood up as I tuned in my car radio to the raucous enthusiasm of the immigrant protest rally aired recently on C-Span. It was “déjà vu all over again” as I recalled my own youthful experiences with immigrants and racism in the very hispanic city of San Antonio.


For I have seen the future of Latino immigration in America before, and it is good.


My military family moved to San Antonio during the late 1950’s, my middle school years. We had already moved eight times before, and I spent five of those years learning in overseas post schools along with a multiracial and multiethnic group of classmates all living middle-class lives. Transferring now into a San Antonio off-post public school situated in a sharply divided socioeconomic setting, I was surprised to be suddenly thrown in among a very large number of poor latinos, and shocked to see how unkindly they were treated by my anglo classmates.


My youthful ideals and sensibilities were greatly offended by such discrimination, but like many—perhaps most—youthful innocents, I was confused and easily led by the mean immoral majority, who quickly taught this eager new girl that “we” didn’t “like” “them”—and certainly didn’t mix with them.


My parents weren’t much help either. When I protested the injustice I saw so clearly at school, they lamely agreed with my moral indignation against racism, but also strongly registered their preference that I not choose to socialize with children who weren’t “like us”—i.e., clean, educated, privileged, advantaged.


A few of my teachers treated all students respectfully, but the general consensus about “meskins” in my school was a sweeping generalization that they were, as a race, all dirty, poor, immoral, violent, sneaky, and “too stupid” to know how to speak English. The convenient filter of race soon blurred my eyes to the many differences among these children, and eventually I clumped them all, even the occasional middle-class and native-English speaking exceptions, into the same rejected bunch I thought of as “mexican.”


Through whispered conversations, I soon “knew” what my schoolmates “knew”—that all these kids were children of “illegals” who had snuck across the river, and were now sneaking around in bushes and backrooms doing filthy jobs our parents wouldn't dream of doing, living in hovels, and probably stealing and breaking other laws too. We exchanged warnings about their poor side of town: don’t go near the San Antonio River unless you want to get knifed by a “mex”…. The wealthiest among my friends claimed to “own a ‘wet’ (‘wetback’) or two,” whom their parents kept hidden away on distant ranches in shacks stocked with sacks of beans, to chop cedar and clear brush in the searing sun, at the cost of pennies a day.


My classmates generally viewed the influx of Mexican immigrants with suspicion and disgust. Sometimes we sneered at them, even fought them as they grouped together defensively—but mostly we ignored them. I went, too quickly, from feeling righteously indignant, to apathy, to feeling more “in the know” about the “appropriate” way to feel and act—that is, prejudicially.


Of course, I knew nothing about how hard it can be to get ahead when you’re poor, or the immense barriers of linguistic disadvantage, or the challenges of a new life in a different culture, especially an illegal life. I saw without recognizing only the commonalities of poverty; indeed, many of my Latino classmates were very dirty, their clothes were smelly, they did seem ignorant, and they spoke English poorly.


I’m especially sad when I remember how kind many of the Latino children were to me when I first enrolled. Many seemed friendly, attractive, and fun to this lonely new girl. Too quickly, though, I “knew better” and pulled away from them, frightened by the strong social prohibition against socializing with “mexes.” I had already begun to make friends with some who were probably pleasantly surprised to be greeted initially with no prejudice; I’m sure my transformation and confused withdrawal hurt many feelings.


Fast-forward now forty years, to the year my family returned to San Antonio to care for my dying father. To my delight, I found San Antonio completely changed, a bright, working city ornamented by a proud Hispanic cultural heritage. During that difficult year of family losses, all of my childhood prejudices were firmly replaced with admiration and deep gratitude, as I worked my way through a long line of outstanding care-giving and service professionals, nearly all native-English speaking, educated, middle and upper-class Latinos.


From that ragtag bunch of schoolmates of yesteryear, no doubt themselves largely parented by penniless, ignorant laborers who dared their way across the border, had come this impressive line of smiling, capable, courteous, faith-driven professionals. Where “mexicans” had previously been relegated only to San Antonio’s lowest social classes, now they were the home-care aides who tenderly washed and fed my father, the capable nurses who treated him, the orderlies who gently attended him in hospital, the capable doctors who set his broken hip, the hospice workers who comforted us, the owners of the funeral home, and the directors who helped us plan his funeral.

Latinos now ably ran much of the city, blending in with the anglo minority attractively—and patriotically. As I hurried through busy days, helpful Latino faces sold me groceries and hardware, delivered our packages, repaired our dishwasher, patrolled the streets, and repaired phone wires. My father’s accountant was hispanic, as was his attorney.


I remember my childhood astonishment when I overheard comments about a local “mexican,” Henry B. Gonzalez, was became an influential national politician. Later, I learned that another “Chicano,” Henry Cisneros, had worked to transform the whole city for Hemisfair, refurbishing the San Antonio River Walk, which later became one of the world’s safest and most colorful international tourist draws. A multitude of Hispanic civic and political leaders followed in their footsteps. As an ignorant young girl, however, I found it all much too confusing. How could these apparently benevolent leaders possibly be drawn from that same lowly pool of apparent lowlifes which I had tragically learned to exclude from my own personal repertoire of “nice people”—or, perhaps, “human beings?”


The San Antonio of today is a multicultural treat, largely run by courteous, ambitious Latinos. All those I met during that painful year resembled, in their work ethic and attitude, our Attorney General Alberto Gonzales—genial, earnest, hard-working, well-intentioned, people of faith.


Welcome to the America of the future, and more power to it.


Immigrants break no law they ever had a chance to democratically vote upon. Immigrants are doing exactly what any of us would do for ourselves and for our families, were we faced with an impossible present and future—if only we could find the daring and the support necessary to pick up, move on, and start over.


No other country is spending billions to guard its borders from terrorists, although quite a few nations are presently scrambling to arm themselves against our American invasions. No expensive walls are being built to keep terrorists out of Canada, China, Norway, or Sweden? And why not? Each of these countries has a similarly long, porous border, like ours, but unlike the U.S.A., these countries have friendly, cooperative foreign policies—i.e., fewer enemies.


When our politicians decide to create fewer deadly enemies with unkind trade and foreign policies, and focus instead on offering generous, accepting policies which embrace the world’s problems as our own, we won’t waste so much money protecting our borders from terrorists. Maybe we’ll pour some of that money into a better life for ourselves and for the immigrants we need to help make this country great again.


When I turned off my radio, I said a prayer for all persistent immigrants, for their admirable struggle to make a better life, and for the America we will all work to build together. Because someday soon these adventurers will claim for themselves the same bright prize their audacious countrymen have claimed throughout our history, the grandest lottery ticket gamble of all, the chance to win U.S. citizenship.


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Ninety Lives … For What They’re Worth

My favorite news source is newspapers, but every few weeks I get my ironing done with the Sunday weekly news roundup shows on television. Yesterday, watching George Stephanopoulos, Inside Washington, Face the Nation, and Meet the Press, I became painfully aware that not a single mention had been made, even in passing, of the ninety lives lost in a Baghdad mosque earlier in the week.


Reporters and interviewees droned on about “not one more American soldier,” while George Stephanopoulos thoughtfully rolled his register of American lives tragically cut short thousands of miles from home. Hours were devoted to gleeful analysis of what Libby knew and what Bush didn’t. Bernadette Peters made a generous appeal for one of my favorite causes, adoption of America’s homeless pets.


Yet during those three hours on ABC, CBS, and NBC, not a single image or voice was raised to note the horrific loss of those ninety lives in Baghdad.


The American media—and Americans in general—are simply missing the point. The point is, respect and support for human life everywhere, not just for Americans. It’s as if, by example, we somehow imagine it to be in our best interest to urge all nations everywhere to adopt our own peculiar brand of tunnel-visioned “me-first” patriotism.


Apparently, Americans see planet Earth as a tidy jigsaw puzzle where self-sufficient clumps of humanity are divided perpetually into impermeable nations separated by high, immutable stone walls that God himself built, instead of a tiny and fragile living planet where we are all so interdependent that we share the very air we breathe, and every drop we drink.


Nationalism and patriotism are just fine and dandy in their place–a very limited place of proud achievement, unique traditions, and dedication to local civic responsibilities. But patriotism and nationalism go too far when they pander to the illusion that human life elsewhere is somehow less important than the lives of “we Americans”—as if it could be possible that lives in one nation could somehow be of greater value than other lives.


Since when do traditional American values speak only for American citizens? Since when do our philosophies declare all men created equal, with Americans just a little more equal than all the rest? Since when does Jesus love the little children of the world, especially American children?


What does it mean to be an American, a patriot? If it means some kind of Orwellian doublespeak where we turn our backs on the rest of the world, I don’t want any part of it.


Americans couldn’t have been more touched by the international outpouring of empathy when our twin towers fell. Attention was paid. Moments of silence were shared. Candles were lit. Prayers from every religious faith were invoked in every language. Helping hands reached across the waters. Schoolchildren collected pennies for victims’ families.


For that one moment, everyone cared—not because of, or even in spite of the fact that the victims were Americans—but because human beings were at one moment peacefully pursuing happiness and the next moment they were dead. Human beings. Not Americans, or Chinese, or Hutus, or Shiites. Human beings, upon whom all the highest moral values of every religious and ethical system have forever been built.


Every day, in every corner of the world, far more people die hourly from the consequences of economic and political violence—curable diseases, starvation, poverty,  war—than died in that mosque, or in the twin towers, for that matter.


But that’s not the point. The point is, it’s not about Iraqis, or Jews, or Americans. It’s about people who are needlessly dying from human violence and indifference, people whose bodies are mangled and lives shattered. People with faces and names, of every nationality, who once had families and dreams and prayers and work that needed to be done. They're all gone.


News analysts have a dual role, to both reflect and create public attitude. This Sunday’s weekly news roundup created and reflected total American indifference to the suffering of human beings in the Middle East. Our otherwise distinguished news analysts were so busy interrupting each other over the fall of DeLay and the immigration gridlock in Congress that they couldn’t spare a moment to mention the fact that last week, the equivalent of a whole Shiite village was blown to hell as they gathered to pray to the very same God America prays to, even if we call Him by a different name.


And Americans are by no means unaccountable. Because no matter how you read the tea leaves, our violent hand has left its mark indelibly on that anguished region. The tyrannical power of Saddam Hussein was an American creation. The nation of Iraq itself was an arbitrary western notion forcefully assembled from three historically distinct ethnicities. The very fact that these three mutually-distrustful factions are at this very moment bristling with high-tech arms they can hardly resist using to annihilate each other in a civil war, out of sheer desperation and despair, is almost entirely due to the generosity of the American military-industrial complex and its imported violent solutions to the region’s problems.


What will it take for the west to recognize and support the majority of Muslims who repeatedly pay the price of decades of violent occupation and interference with almost inhuman endurance, responding stoically with non-violence, forbearance, order, and faith? What does it take to earn American respect and compassion for this vast majority peacefully enduring the fires of hell through no fault of their own?


And what kind of unholy armageddon will it take for George Bush to stand up and say, This is not right. This is wrong. This is evil. This will not stand.


Americans claim to have democratically decided to throw $500 billion of our hard-earned taxpayers’-dollars—not to mention our darling children and grandchildren—toward the goal of bestowing freedom and democracy upon our beloved Iraqi friends. Or has a tiny extremist group of neocon warmongers managed to misuse our democratic processes so as to herd American citizens around like sheep, in hopes that when Iraq is similarly safely “democratized,” we will be able to commandeer Iraqi oil by riding herd on those citizens, as well.


If this is not the case, if we so love the Iraqis that we're willing to put our economy and our progeny's lives on the line, why can’t we manage to come up with just one silent moment of programming time during three hours of major-network weekly news roundups in order to show the minimum of respect for the ninety murdered souls on whose behalf we’re supposedly fighting and dying?


The American media goes absolutely crazy, and the American people spare no expense, when a single American miner can be rescued from an explosion, when an American child is pulled from the rubble of a well or a hurricane, a lost American pilot plucked from the ocean. But we harden our hearts, press our lips together, and look away when the victims are “others.”


Our own violent culture is the one which stands to lose the most from this terrible attitude. What is it with us? Are we getting bored? Have we seen too many damn mosque bombings to move us anymore? Is it like, ho-hum, more collateral damage, another suicide bombing, please change the channel to a good Schwarzenegger movie? Is this the kind of coldhearted, narrow-minded, mean-spirited world that American parents want to leave their bereft children alone in someday, a meaningless, terrifying one that hates each other?


Perhaps some sense can come from this mosque bombing if Americans and all other nations consecrate the ground of these martyrs by insisting that this be the last bombing, the one which finally turns the violence around, that makes everyone realize that enough is enough. Are we waiting for global thermonuclear war to force us into that decision?


It’s time to bind up all nations’ wounds, to care for the widow and the orphan, and to dedicate ourselves to a new birth of freedom from human violence, not just for the people of the Middle East, but for all of us, for all our children, everywhere.


The world is not the economic and geopolitical chessboard of some tiny extremist splinter group, with winner-take-all the unfair object of their game. If Americans care about all people, as I know we do, we need to play a different game entirely, one with a golden rule which treats all others everywhere just exactly as we would like to be treated. The object of the game is respect and support for the quality of human life everywhere. 


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America the Blind … and the Beautiful

I recently tried to explain to a friend why I often stand up with our local Women In Black in their silent vigils of mourning, witness, and solidarity with victims of violence everywhere.


“What violence have you ever experienced?” she asked me, a little accusingly.


“Well, before I was born, my father fought in World War II, and…”


“War isn’t violence!”


Probably my friend was finding it as difficult to articulate her honest beliefs as I was. Hers might go something like this: “America isn’t a violent culture like so many others. We’re a caring and peaceful people minding our own business, and when we fight a distant war, we’re only trying to cleanly wipe out violent individuals elsewhere who would hurt us and others, terrorists who would otherwise bring violence to our peaceful and porous borders. I’m upset that you would protest war, itself, as unwelcome violence, when our brave soldiers are risking their lives to protect us from a war that someone else started. Why aren’t you protesting their violence, and leaving our poor soldiers alone?”


How do I explain myself to privileged Americans like my friend, who, from her comfortable, insulated perch, is persuaded that the violence spreading across the globe is neither America’s fault nor its problem, and that finding a peaceful solution isn’t America’s responsibility?


And how can I begin to share with my friend and others of like mind, the conclusions that I’ve drawn from a lifetime of study, not only of daily news reporting, but also of the broad field of American history and politics—far beyond the local schoolboard-censored, pride-building high school American History textbook summaries of patriotism we are all encouraged to swallow so unskeptically during our innocent, vulnerable years—often the only history many Americans ever study.


I, too, rapturously memorized all the glorious civics-textbook paeans to our truly admirable national ideals and values, during my childhood years on military bases as a “service brat” daughter of a highly-decorated war hero and career officer—and I still hold to all of them, with all my heart.


But I’ve also read, in addition, many carefully-documented public records of another long, sad, and well-repressed history of American exploitation, aggression, and injustice, which only recently (thanks to the internet) has become more widely acknowledged—tragic stories of the greatest nation on earth, built upon, not only our many positive qualities and deeds, but also upon military might, invasion, occupation, political oppression, colonialism, tyranny, torture, murder, and all the complex economics of greed.


And we’re still at it….


And we need to stop. For life on earth itself is at stake.


When the twin towers fell, all of America cried out in confusion, “Why do they hate us?”


To this day, too few Americans understand why so many around the world resent the beloved storybook America of their childhood experience. Gradually, though, many citizens are coming to a new awareness that our unparalleled economic and military might has as often been used for evil as for good.


Americans have wasted a lot of time and lives wallowing in well-intentioned ignorance. We’ve been lied to by politicians and presidents, historians and international tycoons, many of whom themselves were similarly duped. And if we have been too ready to believe them, we can now as willingly move forward, sadder and wiser, to make fewer mistakes.


If God expected Americans—or citizens of any nation—to be infallible, he would have made us all that way. The American nation is certainly not alone in having a mixed history. Every other nation, and all other peoples, are equally susceptible to harmful policies and propaganda by the many who would profit from political and religious distortions. The same god, however, who reserved vengeance for himself alone also sent his son to teach of his infinite love and forgiveness. Perhaps people learn best from mistakes; God in his wisdom apparently has decided to let us all make as many as we need to make, in order to learn what we need to know.


No solutions to our many current problems can be found in blame, retaliation, or attack. The peoples of our brave new interconnected earth will only move forward together when offered clear moral leadership, strong examples of international unity and forgiveness, and powerful visions of a peaceful future in which people everywhere are free to seek happiness and avoid suffering.


We will never overcome ignorance, injustice, or guilt by adding to their sum, just as war can never conquer war, and hatred always increases hatred. Only the light of non-violent cooperation can put out the darkness hidden in so many corners of the world.


Senate Bill # 1756 proposes a new cabinet-level Department of Peace, which will help us achieve our highest American ideals. Tell your friends and colleagues about this bill, and call and write your Congresspersons….


We can become the world’s greatest exporter, not of war, weapons, and tragedy, but instead, of peace, justice, and the true American way, a way that treats all others as we would wish to be treated, the way of the golden rule, offering acceptance and support for the quality of human life everywhere.


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Condoleezza Rice Says Global Harmony Is Not the Business of Government

At a recent press conference in Great Britain, Condoleezza Rice stuttered uncharacteristically when she was asked about a possible joint commission (of England, Ireland, and Australia) to promote global harmony. Ms. Rice responded that global harmony was not the business of government, but rather, a matter of concern for private citizens.


I always thought that the primary business of any state department worth its salt in the twenty-first century was global harmony. Certainly a “secure, democratic, and prosperous world” as pledged by the current U.S. Department of State’s mission statement, implies global harmony. Surely the highly-specialized, expensive training of our immense diplomatic corps specifically prepares them for careers of building and maintaining strong, positive foreign relationships.


Considering the many conflicts that daily arise around the globe, promotion of global harmony ought to be someone’s job, someone who is well-staffed, well-budgeted, and high profile, like Rice. I cannot be the only taxpayer disappointed to find out that, despite all that money we spend on the Department of State, no one in government is currently in charge of pursuing global harmony.


Perhaps Rice thinks the State Department is in the nineteenth-century diplomatic business of exclusively looking out for only our own nation’s interests, a childishly narrow, anachronistic, and frankly impossible goal that it is time to put away. Unfortunately, Rice still seems determined to strategically split up the world into enemies and allies, and to go about flexing and flaunting America’s fast-waning military muscle to unkindly wheel and deal in patronage, espionage, economic dominance, and power struggles.


Which is too bad, since, as Albert Einstein once observed, “A country cannot simultaneously prepare for and prevent war.” With Rice and others in our current administration busy preparing for war, who is left to prepare for peace?


Rice’s tough-cop, saber-rattling approach to throwing around what little unsquandered moral weight we have left can never promote a peaceful, productive America. The only long-term diplomatic relationship that has ever worked successfully has been one established along the lines of the golden rule—in which all diplomats offer one another the kind of justice which they would wish to be offered, themselves. Unfortunately, although Rice is a smart woman who can surely see no advantage to staying stuck in the past, the golden rule is not in her current play- or style-book. We await her transformation.


Our current aggressive diplomatic approaches are grounded in old thinking—in fear, selfishness, and greed, which produce nothing but immensely costly blowback in the long term, and anything but peace and prosperity for American citizens. A golden-rule approach to millennial American politics and diplomacy would be far more effective, and far less costly in every sense.


Passing the bill currently in Congress establishing a cabinet-level Department of Peace (Senate Bill #1756) will do much to support all cabinet departments in rethinking their roles in terms of global harmony—which is very much the business of government, and of all taxpaying citizens—perhaps even our most important business.




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A Poem About Women In Black by Eppy



Women in black

Witness violence


In vigils of

Silent solidarity

Mourn all victims

All of us


Light candles

For the attacked

Abused abandoned

Tortured murdered


All who hurt



A circle of peace

Illuminating night


No one

Not one

Outside alone

In darkness



Comment: We can’t stop tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, heartaches, disappointments, and death. We can, however, teach and learn peace, and finally put an end to violence, the most preventable cause of human suffering.

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