A Very Good Save-the-World Software Development Idea. Please Help Yourself! :-)

Will some brilliant programmer please step up and design a google-type software program that can linguistically analyze and determine a speaker/writer’s cooperative tone and intent?


Your new program could identify and distinguish among those writers/speakers whose communications promote a sense of division, partisanship, negativity, polarization, blame, attack, incivility, rudeness, destructiveness, unfriendly competition, bickering and hate—and those promoting a sense of positivity, creativity, life-affirmation, support, harmony, acceptance, forgiveness, productivity, civility, courtesy, equality of opportunity, caring, cooperation and unity.


Your software could have endless useful and profitable applications. For immediate profitability, please consider using your product for security purposes, to helpfully ward off unfriendly attacks and attackers (of whatever kind) upon individuals and enterprises (of whatever kind.)


Imagine leaders young and old in every field vying for their communications to be screened and certified via your software. Why not simultaneously award a “Truth-bearer” (or some other such logo) “gold seal of approval” identifying individuals and organizations as positive communicators, healers, light-bearers?


Your prestigious and desirable software “accreditation” could motivate many people to investigate and understand the important distinctions between peaceful and contentious communication purposes, and to recognize and encourage humanity-unifying goals as non-threatening and potentially beneficial to all earthlings, while discouraging communications with adversarial, hostile ends. Your software would also surely stoke national dialogue, while heightening awareness about the many distinct (although often confusingly-disguised) differences between helpful and harmful human communications. Your software would take care not to exclude any gentle, friendly, cooperative practitioner of any ideology, religion, political party, nation, organization, affiliation, etc.


One important goal of your software would be to educate. Hopefully, everyone would eventually become enlightened enough to merit universal inclusivity (by acting as good, positive communicators) according to your accrediting software, which might also be developed Wikipedically, or perhaps Amazon-style—i.e., open-sourced, by inviting motivated reviewers and voters opportunities not only to build your site, but also to offer feedback opportunities and provide needed talent to shape and debug upgrades and develop next-generation software.


Recipients of your approving nods (such as Nobel prize winners and mild-mannered third-graders) could proudly display and announce their cherished new affiliation and certification on their websites, on Facebook, business cards, in TV commercials and advertising, on coffee cups, tee-shirts, shopping bags….


Additionally, your software could assist web surfers to more-judiciously select helpfully-screened websites, products and opinions as the very ones they will most benefit from investigating. Perhaps your software could also eventually include a function which would recognize and refute inappropriate co-opters of your symbol of acceptance and stamp of approval—an iterative process that would call out abusers while encouraging more awareness and discussion.


Your software will stimulate lively dialogue; increase the impact and number of creative, thought-provoking, and controversial-but-civil exchanges; reduce (by virtue of indifference and neglect) the quantity and influence of divisive communications arising anywhere in the world; universally improve facility in verbal and mental processing of complexities, innuendo and nuances; and inspire us all to pull together cooperatively to resolve our common personal, local and global problems.


While you're programming, please give extra points for humor?


And if you're not a programmer, but merely a earthlinged, godlinged promosapient like me, please pass this idea on to any similarly-inclined programming/software folk or foundations, or to whomever might be interested!


Thank you…. 🙂


Nancy Pace





















































































Daniel Craig As Evolving, New Age James Bond “Everyman”: Hey, It Works For Me

I went to see Quantum of Solace because I liked Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale, and because I always take my husband to opening weekends of all good new action movies. I’d already heard reviewers complain that this new Craig/Bond was insufficiently Bondish—i.e., not enough jokes, too much heavy emotion, too many similarities to other, un-Bond-like traditionally-vengeful action heroes, not enough Bond-techy gimmicks and vehicles, too few glam locales. And what to make of the movie’s weird politics? And of Bond’s lack-of-sex with his sexy new love interest? I went to see for myself.


I liked the movie very well. I thought it was very effective, violent, destructive, action entertainment, for those who enjoy this genre. I thought it was definitely worth the price of admission. Even if it was only part of a to-be-continued movie, it was a very complete and satisfying part, setting up well the Craig/Kurylenko movie(s) to follow, which will tantalizingly develop Bond’s budding romance with this particularly ravishing new heroine.


I thought Olga Kurylenko was great. She reminded me of what I love about Catherine Zeta-Jones. I hope she will endure as an unkicked-aside Bond sidekick for many films to come. How much more can Bond evolve, than to stick with one woman?


I liked this movie’s (admittedly undeveloped) politics. I was glad the writers went to the trouble to imply that good and bad actors can be found in every nation and every endeavor, and that all of us will have ample opportunities to participate–or not–in increasingly rampant opportunities for corruption, greed, crime, terrorism, hypocrisy, war, cruelty, espionage, exploitation, backstabbing and wanton violence, especially as enhanced by the global contest for dwindling resources—oil, water, money, what have you….


I also enjoyed the side-talk references affirming vengeance as both a very powerful and tempting human motivation and an unsatisfying one, and forgiveness—of oneself and others—as essential to sanity and peace. Very un-traditional un-Bondian stuff. Very New Age perspectives. And also very true.


This Bond movie didn't disapoint my expectation for novelty, either. I don't think I'm alone in my curiosity about life in desperately poor third world locales like Port au Prince, Haiti, or about glamourous off-the-beaten-track cultural events like traditional bareback horse racing in the public square, and exotically-staged modern operas.


I also loved the new holiday Coca-Cola commercial which preceded the movie. Taken together, the new commercial with the new Bond movie, I got a heady whiff of what our millennial creatives are all about and up to these days: philosophical acceptance of an imperfect “what is,” along with real commitment to making “what is” better, through positive, ideologically indifferent, large and small, person-to-person, moment-to-moment, choice-by-choice contributions in gray areas and complex moral situations, in whatever way they can.


Thus, I saw variously flawed and well-intentioned players in the movie and the commercial persist in acquiring the necessary wisdom and clout to act well their parts and support one another when and where it mattered most—that is, when push came to shove. These creatives and the crowds they are playing to believe in the power of acceptance, forgiveness, inclusion, diversity, and best of all, in one person’s ability to make a difference and find a quantum of solace within such caring moments.


I liked watching Daniel Craig’s Bond try to do his best with his very limited but amazing personal resources. I enjoyed watching him courageously try to make some sense of a morally chaotic world, and seek meaningful ways to contribute and endure. Craig’s Bond is a unique and powerful Everyman perfectly suited to today’s audiences.


I don’t miss the grand old Bond clichés. That was then. This is now. Welcome back, Mr. Bond.



Please send comments to njcpace@gmail.com. Thank you. 🙂






Ironman (the Movie) Offers Good Entertainment and Good Politics

It's hard to find an action movie that both my husband and I think is wonderful, but Ironman has proven once again that it can be done. I loved the characters, humor, romance and politics in Ironman, and my husband especially enjoyed the heroism, computers, robotics, stunts, jets and action. The whole theatre, filled with middle/high-schoolers and adults, cheered and clapped when the movie ended. Amazingly enough, we hadn’t even been exploited or insulted by stupid politics, graphic sex, or gratuitous violence masquerading as entertainment….
You can tell that the whole world is changing when a big-box-office action movie has as its major theme the evils of war profiteering and global weapons proliferation. Ironman simultaneously entertained and enlightened the whole crowd. Multi-faceted Robert Downey Jr. and classy Gwyneth Paltrow were at their most charming.
Ironman is a sweet, funny, exciting, well-made, fast-paced action movie I recommend to all who enjoy high-quality movie-making in this genre….

(Please send your comments to njcpace@gmail.com and I'll post them here. Thanks. 🙂

Everyone Says We Wouldn't, We Couldn't, We Shouldn't Do It To A Dog…. So Why Do We Keep Doing It to People?

I just read Sally Jenkins' sports column in the 8/22/07 Washington Post, about Michael Vick and his dog-fighting choices…. Jenkins said that people who train animals to fight, and then make them fight, are “brutal…sleaze…wallowing in gore by choice…out of sheer dumb meanness…punishing…torturing…battering…killing…enslaving and tormenting…with unnerving ruthlessness…. (Fighting animals is) a bloodsport…barbaric…a gratuitous form of cruelty…a calculating, deliberate and sustained cruelty….” 

If anyone did such things to people, Jenkins says, we would call it genocidal fascism.

No. We would call it military training, and war, and we would perpetrate such crimes without thought, everywhere, every day. We would take innocent, gentle, ethical young men, and put them through military (or terrorist) training, and then throw them into combat, to kill and maim or be killed and maimed, along with their buddies.

We would condition and indoctrinate our soldiers into forgetting everything they’ve ever learned about how to treat other people. We would turn them into knee-jerk mental, physical and emotional monsters, so that they can efficiently “do their jobs” without thinking of their victims as human beings.

After excruciating training, we would turn them loose upon strangers, many of whom are themselves innocents protecting their own homes and families. We would make our young heroes into snipers and bombers and interrogators and other cold-blooded executioners, to do “work” they can do only because they’ve been brainwashed into thinking of whole populations as demonized “others,” as “the enemy.”

Wars are about powerful, misguided leaders taking for themselves whatever they want—resources, power, money, land—by killing large swaths of people. But soldiers are carefully taught a very different kind of morality, a kind of contextual fuzzy logic that ethically “covers” their bloodiest actions for as long as they can believe that they’re fighting, killing, and dying to protect their friends and families, and to further their country’s noblest ideals and purposes. Soldiers cling to the illusion that that their jobs are necessary and valuable and moral, in hopes that their losses and sacrifices are not in vain, that they have not wasted their lives–and others'.

Unfortunately, when soldiers come home from wars, few can morally rectify the gore they've participated in with their peacetime ethical, spiritual and religious belief systems about what it means to be humane, caring, good—all the understandings which make relationships work, and which make life worth living. Many veterans basically go insane for years. Others are unstable or crazy for the rest of their lives. 

Everyone says training and fighting animals is an outrage. We wouldn't, we couldn’t, we shouldn’t do this to a dog. So why do we keep doing it to people?

It's time to reconsider the inevitability of our centuries-old practice of solving problems through violence.  Human conflict is perfectly natural and unavoidable, since people will always have competing interests, misunderstandings, old grievances…. In fact, conflict is very beneficial, because it nearly always points to inequities or confusions which need addressing.

But violent resolutions of conflict only make things worse.

We can teach all people to resolve conflicts peacefully just as easily as we can raise them to respond to problems violently. It's time for America the beautiful, the once and future leader of the free world, to take the first step toward committing to building a world culture of peace.

Here's A Blogger's Theory on Our War That's Worth Giving Serious Consideration To…Thank You Corvuswire

Date: 7/8/2006 10:56:04 AM
Subject: It's the damnedest thing I've ever, ever seen in my life.

It's the damnedest thing I've ever, ever seen in my life.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about how most Americans have been brainwashed into believing Muslim terrorists are mindless, soulless subhumans who have no legitimate complaint against our government. Who has brainwashed Americans into such untruths?

The American-Zionist pro-Israeli media and the Bush administration have been working triple-overtime to make Americans believe bin Laden and Muslim terrorists have no legitimate complaint against our government, and that the only solution is: “……. to hunt'em down and kill'em all.” Of course, Americans don't approve of the methods bin Laden and Muslim terrorists have used to air their complaints – violence – but the fact remains: 99% of Americans DO NOT KNOW WHY BIN LADEN AND MUSLIM TERRORISTS TARGETED AND CONTINUE TO TARGET AMERICA FOR TERRORISM!!

Bin Laden, Ramsey Yousef and other Muslim terrorists have explained why they targeted America for terrorism PRIOR TO 9/11 and AFTER 9/11. Basically, only two reasons:

1. U.S. military occupation of Muslim land;

2. U.S. financing and arming Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine.

These are the two reasons why Muslim terrorists target America for terrorism. bin Laden has repeatedly stated such over the years, yet Americans don't hear him – what they do hear is the American-Zionist media emphasizing everything BUT the true reasons Muslim terrorists target America for terrorism. Why? Because the American-Zionist media has undying allegiance to Israel, instead of the best interests of the American people. The Bush administration and Israel has vested interests in convincing the American people Muslims have no legitimate complaint against our government; that instead, Muslims are just crazy religious extremists who are so jealous of America's freedom, hot dogs, apple pies and Chevrolets, they simply want to destroy America.

Americans are so blinded by the terror caused by 9/11 and the subsequent media fear frenzy, most Americans simply do not care WHY bin Laden attacked us on 9/11, nor do most Americans want to entertain the idea bin Laden may have legitimate complaints against our U.S. government. The death and destruction of 9/11 has blinded most Americans from being able to objectively understand and realize our government's activities and deeds PRIOR TO 9/11. You ever heard of, “What goes around, comes around?” It's called “blowback.”

The bottom line is, our government would prefer to fuel and exacerbate terrorism against America than to withdraw our U.S. military from Muslim land and cut off funding to Israel. Our government obviously believes it is worth keeping America in the crosshairs of Muslim terrorism than to withdraw our U.S. military from Muslim land and support Israel's illegal occupation and genocide of Palestine and Palestinians.

Americans need to remember: the reason Bush cheerleads so hard for the continued occupation of Iraq is because if the U.S. military is withdrawn from Iraq, who is going to protect the fatcat American contractors (Halliburton, etc.) in Iraq? Would not a U.S. military withdrawal effectively terminate those fatcat contracts? Would not a U.S. military withdrawal curtail the construction of Bush's half-billion dollar palace in Baghdad? Yes, it would.

Most Americans do not realize, that for the Bush administration and their fatcat contractors, there's no profit in peace – only in war.

Nothing has changed for decades in America. President Eisenhower warned Americans of the fact the U.S. military industrial complex has grown too strong and too powerful.

What has happened is, Israel's interests and the U.S. military industrial complex's interests have coincided. This is the danger which has been created. Israel's desire to destroy, debase and occupy Muslim nations has intersected with the U.S. military complex's desire for more profit and power. These are the two things bin Laden and Muslim terrorists know.


Is it worth it?   (of course not)


Despite the American-Zionist media and the Bush administration's best efforts, some Americans are beginning to realize why 9/11 happened and why Muslim terrorists continue to target America for terrorism.

It's time for Americans to ask themselves, “Is it worth it? Is it worth occupying Muslim land so American can continue to be the targets of Muslim terrorism? Is it worth occupying Muslim land for Israel? Is it worth occupying Muslim land so our sons and daughters can die in Muslim lands? Is it worth occupying Muslim land so Bush can keep building his half-billion dollar palace in Baghdad? Is it worth occupying Muslim land so Bush can keep his fatcat buddies in multi-billion dollar contracts to rebuild what Bush destroys in Muslim lands? Is it worth sending four and a half billion of our tax dollars to Israel each and every year?

 The answer is, of course not.


Litmus Test 

What can you do about it? Ogre W. Bush and Dick Cheney have both repeatedly chanted, “Terrorism and the War On Terror will not end in our lifetimes or our children's lifetimes.” Well, bullcrap. Yes we can end terrorism in our lifetime – that is, terrorism against America – not Israel. It is essential that Americans realize that ending terrorism against America and ending terrorism against Israel is two different things entirely. First of all, because immigrant Jews decided to occupy and build a state on Muslim land back in the forties, Muslims will always target Israel for terrorism BECAUSE Muslims absolutely, truly believe immigrant Jews have no right to implant a Jewish state on Muslim holy land. This is Israel's problem and Muslims' problem – it should NOT be America's problem; but no, thanks to our greedy Congress and U.S. military complex, it has NOW BECOME America's problem. Pro-Zionists writh in glee at this long, sought-after goal.

For years, Israeli Zionists have dreamed of making Israel's problems, America's problems – now they have succeeded.

Therefore, Americans should begin electing representatives to Congress who act in the best interests of the American people, instead of the best interests of Israel – they are NOT one and the same!!!!!! Americans should begin asking Congressional candidates for Congress whether or not they support continuing to give four and a half-billion of our precious tax dollars each and every year to Israel and whether or not they support the continued U.S. military occupation of Muslim land. These are the questions Americans should be using as a litmus test in deciding who to vote for office in Congress. That is, if you're interested in ending Muslim terrorism against America.

As long as Israel occupies Muslim land, that's how long Muslims will continue to target Israel for terrorism. That's Israel's problem. They made their bed, now Israel must sleep in it.

But this should not have to be true for Americans. America needs a policy of disengagement from Israel. It is extremely dangerous for America to support and arm Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine – just ask the widows of 9/11. Not to mention, it happens to be against our U.S. law for our Congress to fund, arm and support any nation in multiple violations of 65 U.N. resolutions, such as Israel has been for over 36 years now. In this regard alone, we should immediately STOP the flow of billions of U.S. tax dollars to Israel.


.r o n    d a l l a s , t e x a s   corvuswire@verizon.net


Another War for Oil?

The Darfur/Sudan dispute is primarily over who will control the newly-discovered oil-rich lands of Darfur, in western Sudan. As often happens, the indigenous poor there have been ruthlessly pushed aside by voracious corporate and national interests in a typical no-holds-barred international competition for scarce valuable resources.


China’s respectful diplomacy toward the legitimate Muslim government of Sudan has given the Chinese an “in” which they are very profitably exploiting. The bumbling U.S. strategy of arming Sudan’s neighbors has won us only suspicion and resentment.


A mysteriously (well) funded “Save Darfur” media campaign has legitimately excited the sympathies of people everywhere to help the innocents, perhaps also to “justify” future aggressions. Historically, many illegal invasions, occupations, and wars of greed have been “sold” as rescue missions.


China has much to teach the U.S. about win-win diplomacy and trade, just as the U.S. has many important and wonderful things to teach China. May we generously support peaceful international humanitarian efforts to assist the victims in Sudan, and may we use the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing to further mutual peaceful understanding, dialogue, and good will with our trading partner, China.


(I wrote the above letter-to-the-editor in response to the following letter-to-the-editor in our local newspaper:)


Local Physician Who Volunteered at Torino Won't Be in Beijing


I was a physician volunteer at the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Several people have asked me if I was going to go to Beijing in 2008 for the summer games. As I'm more of a fan of the Winter Games, and as Beijing in the summer is probably very hot, I told them, “No.” Recently, I discovered a much more compelling reason not to go and to encourage everyone to boycott those games.


In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Ronan Farrow and Mia Farrow (he a Yale law student, she an actress) made assertions which, if accurate, should cause a renaming of the Summer Olympics in China to the “genocide games”–and compel all moral people to boycott them. They state that China is “pouring billions of dollars into Sudan,” and that “they,” the Chinese, “purchase an overwhelming majority of Sudan's oil exports.”


With this money, the Sudanese buy bombers, assault helicopters, armored vehicles and small arms, most of Chinese manufacture. These arms are used by the brutal Janjaweed militia. The airports that are used by the Chinese, who have repeatedly used their veto power in the U.N. to block efforts to bring in peace keepers to stop the slaughter.


To date, more than 400,000 people have been killed and 2.3 million have been displaced from villages by the Chinese-backed Sudanese government. Efforts by our government have been unable to convince the powers that be to stop the killing. To his credit, President George Bush vows to go it alone to take action against Sudan if the other countries of the world will not.


A reasonable, moral person would likely conclude that, if the assertions above are accurate, he or she would have nothing to do with these games. What are some prominent people doing? Well, let's see:


Steven Spielberg, who founded the Shoah Foundation to allow the testimony of survivors of another holocaust to be heard, is preparing to help stage the Olympic ceremonies in Beijing. Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, General Electric and McDonald's are some of the high-profile sponsors of these games. If accurate, these assertions should cause these people to rethink their positions. Maybe with some forthright action, the Chinese can be embarrassed into changing their ways to allow the killing to be stopped.


Specifically, of Steven Spielberg, I would ask: “Is one holocaust worse than another?” And: “Would you have helped stage the ceremonies for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin?” Rabbi Akiva, of biblical times, said, “Where there are no men, Be thou a man.”


Hopefully, there are still some men who will do something to stop this tragedy. Anyone who would like a copy of the article can call me.


(The author left his name and phone number.)





Please send comments to njcpace@gmail.com. Thank you! 🙂








Sanctimonious History Overthrown in Stephen Kinzer’s OVERTHROW: AMERICA'S CENTURY OF REGIME CHANGE FROM HAWAII TO IRAQ

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Sanctimonious History Overthrown in Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq
People like to feel good about themselves, and Americans are no exception; so only a relative handful of scholarly Americans are even aware of their government’s direct historical responsibility for a century of violent regime changes in fourteen countries from Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Honduras, to South Vietnam, Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Kinzer offers a compelling case that, without exception, all this violent meddling has worked against the overall best interests of Americans, and—with the possible exception of Grenada—against the citizens of all these exploited nations.
Kinzer’s brilliant decision to summarize the colorful particulars of who-what-when-where-how leading up to, during, and following each overthrow, give range to his best journalistic talents, while reducing his biographer’s breadth and historian’s bounty of facts, figures, places, and times into fourteen short, lively, memorable tales of derring-do, intrigue, overreaching, ignorance, prejudice, greed, and mayhem.
Reading Overthrow brought to mind the darker aspects of Margaret Meade’s assertion, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” while adding credibility to the mounting evidence that the tragedy of today’s Middle East is indeed directly traceable to the benighted machinations of a few dedicated, powerful, and sorely misguided neocons in Washington, D.C. For each case of regime change, Kinzer implicates a small group of daring individuals usually acting for corporate interests, and always acting with presidential authority.
Kinzer’s reasonable-length history is backed by over twenty pages of end notes, as well as an impressive international, multilingual twentieth-century bibliography of nearly five hundred on-the-spot memoirs, biographies, government documents and news accounts, and a twenty-page index. Kinzer definitely entertains, but more importantly, he connects the dots and fills in the necessary details of significant historical events which many would prefer to erase, to our nation’s peril.
I’m very grateful for the years of persistent and generous scholarship necessary to produce this readable summary which surely deserves wide consideration. Overthrow fills in the many gaps and blanks left by incomplete reporting-at-the-time, and offers an opportunity for synthesis, analysis, and reconsideration of the patterns, results, and morality of our past violent involvements in the political, economic, and social lives of people in faraway nations, as well as their implications for the present and future:
“There is no stronger or more persistent strain in the American character than the belief that the United States is a nation uniquely endowed with virtue…. This view is driven by a profound conviction that the American form of government, based on capitalism and individual political choice, is, as President Bush asserted, ‘right and true for every person in every society.’…By implication, it denies that (culture) changes only slowly, and that even great powers cannot impose their beliefs on others by force…  For more than a century, Americans have believed they deserve access to markets and resources in other countries. When they are denied that access, they take what they want by force, deposing governments that stand in their way. Great powers have done this since time immemorial….When the United States intervenes abroad to gain strategic advantage, depose governments it considers oppressive, or spread its political and religious system, it is also acting in its commercial self-interest….Most American-sponsored ‘regime change’ operations have…weakened rather than strengthened American security. They have produced generations of militants who are deeply and sometimes violently anti-American; expanded the borders that the United States feels obligated to defend, thereby increasing the number of enemies it must face and drawing it ever more deeply into webs of foreign entanglement; and emboldened enemies of the United States by showing that despite its awesome power, it has a soft and vulnerable underbelly….Most of these adventures have brought (Americans), and the nations whose histories they sought to change, far more pain than liberation.”
These are important lessons we need to learn, and Kinzer has assembled the foundational stories, facts, and figures necessary to establish their credibility.
Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent with reporting experience in more than fifty countries on four continents, including service as New York Times bureau chief in Turkey, Germany, and Nicaragua. He has previously written four well-received histories focusing on Iran, Turkey, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
Kinzer prefers patient diplomacy to violent regime-change, pointing to the efficacy of our productive continuing dialogues with China, the former Soviet Union, South Korea, and countries in South Africa. While he asserts that nations always act in their own self-interest, I wish he had also concluded that, on today’s tiny, interconnected, fragile blue planet, everyone’s national self-interests are irretrievably tied to the interests of everyone else, everywhere else. Pragmatically, we can no longer afford to think in terms of “them,” but only “us.”
I pray that President Bush will soon decide to become presidential, Christian, politically astute, humble, and visionary enough to boldly shift from a doomed-to-fail, self-centered foreign policy based on international competition, to one of enlightened, self-interested global cooperation. Neither approach is simple, obvious, or guaranteed, but only one has any chance of succeeding.
   Please send your comments to epharmon@adelphia.net

A Fog of War Movies and Books

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A few months ago, I decided to watch some of the best-received war movies that came out of the Vietnam era—The Deer Hunter, The Killing Fields, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, and Coming Home, as well as some recent and older ones—The Battle of Algiers, Crimson Tide, Saving Private Ryan, The Enemy Below, and Black Hawk Down.
Although I’m definitely a quality-movie buff, I’m not easily entertained by violence, which explains why I avoided all of these movies when they first came out, despite a deep childhood curiosity about (and fear of) war.
I’m currently writing about the immorality of war, so feel compelled to watch such movies to help fill in my (fortunate) experiential gaps. I also watch them out of respect for their creators’ passion, dedication, and achievements in uniquely sharing their own war experiences.
Despite the fact that my father was a war hero and bird colonel with thirty-three years in the service (Silver Star, Purple Heart, and many more) he always firmly refused to share with us his sad or frightening WWII memories.
So after I left my military-brat life on-post, I dipped my toe into the vast body of quality literature coming out of Vietnam and other wars, admiring and enjoying Fields of Fire (go Jim Webb!), Dispatches, The Things They Carried, as well as War and Peace, Silent Flows the Don, and All Quiet on the Western Front. More recently, I loved Cold Mountain, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Blowback, An American Requiem, and the wonderful Patrick O’Brian Aubrey/Maturin series.
I found amazing agreement in all these books and movies in their moral conclusions about war, even as each offered me a unique personal perspective and story unlike any other.
Over and over, every work expressed or implied the point of view that “their” particular war had been insane, cruel, hard, sad, misguided, and stupid, and that it had seemed to create far more problems than it resolved. Their actual acts of war—the killing parts—were consistently experienced as pointless, chaotic, numbing, unreasonable, inhumane, confusing, wrong–and often thrilling, in that the pointy end of the sword had actually gone into the other guy.
Each work of art also revealed war’s most appealing reality:  war, like any other deeply challenging experience from marriage to sports, offers stirring opportunities for revelation and nobility, compassion and achievement, faith and idealism.
The “highs” of war remembered in these works were based in youth’s vitality, resiliance and resourcefulness, in the belongingness, common cause, and humor of bands of young brothers, and of course, in the bittersweet exhilaration following survival in battles in which, although others died, you didn’t.
Nearly every work used war’s bleak, terrified, often mutilated children to emphasize the meaninglessness and tragedy of war. And they all made the point that fear for oneself and for one’s friends drove them to acts of cruelty and immorality unimaginable during peacetime.
War, in these books and movies, turns out to be not at all what was expected, nor what they were trained or prepared for—although with works of art like these, perhaps the next generation will be better informed.
None of these soldier/artists, with the exception of O’Brian, ever found a way to make killing feel psychologically acceptable, although they all killed as necessary, “doing their duty” and protecting one another; their childhood moral conditioning in human compassion too strongly resisted killing other people. (Jack Aubrey’s disciplined and enthusiastic patriotism and militarism overruled his compassion, as happens sometimes with seasoned soldiers, if less often, with artists, but Maturin’s disgust with war offered a thoughtful foil.)
All authors implied how indelibly their training in the hate and fear which is necessary to kill enemies in cold blood had carved black chasms in their psyches, changing them (and their families) forever in ways they could not express to anyone who hadn’t shared similar experiences—mixed as war memories are with both pride and shame.
When at war, every soldier longed for home, and when finally back home, missed the “highs” mentioned above.
Most celebrated the rare beauty of the foreign lands being fought over, and condemned the  environmental and human waste, and the high costs of war.
Another interesting commonality was how universally fascinated all were with how soldiers react to fear, and, most specifically, with how they would perform under fire. (Although I didn't care much for The Red Badge of Courage, it merits attention primarily for this focus.) Much consideration was given in each of these works to the fact that every soldier reacts differently to fear, and to the impossibility of hiding one’s unique sensibilities during war. Like vocation, parenting, friendship, scholarship, accident, disease, death, and every other peacetime human trial, war reveals much too clearly the best and the worst in each person’s character and personality, while offering, as all difficult challenges do, ample opportunities for growth and wisdom.
I feel deeply privileged (and emotionally gutted) to have read and watched these great works, and will continue to see and read more. Some of the war-related books I want to read (and review) next are: Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq; Carroll’s House of War; Ambrose’s Citizen Soldiers; and perhaps Keegan’s The Second World War. The movies next on my list are, first, war documentaries: Why We Fight, The Fog of War, The War on Iraq, Hearts and Minds, and Protocols of Zion, followed by Foyle’s War, The War Within, and Casualties of War.
Do you have any other suggestions for quality war movies and books? I’ll gladly share them with my readers.

Who’s Enlightened, How You Can Tell, Who’s To Say, What Is It, and What’s It To You?

My lifelong interest in “enlightenment”—or whatever you want to call that enduring wisdom which offers relative equanimity in adversity, and acceptance of the world and its inhabitants “as-is,” began with a childhood reading of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. I loved the gentle monk and his Little-Friend-of-all-the-World. At about the same age, I was intrigued by the cloistered life depicted in the movie, The Nun’s Story. Reading my grandmother’s Bible, I observed the same spirit of love and forgiveness in the gentle teachings of Jesus, and later, in college, marveled at Gandhi’s and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings.


As years passed, I also wondered whether the rare, kind, and imperturbable elders, sick or well, rich or poor, whom I occasionally encountered were also “enlightened” beings, and if so, what wonderful secret, what key to peace and acceptance did they possess?


I think now that, while everyone experiences moments of clarity and vision and contentment—call it enlightenment if you will—probably no one suddenly becomes suddenly enlightened once-and-for-all forever, as did Kim’s fictional monk, and as the Buddha is said to have done, sitting under the bhodi tree. I’ll bet both experienced some unsettling moments even after achieving enlightenment, just as the Dalai Lama readily admits today.


Nevertheless, the Dalai Lama absolutely knows something universal that is well-worth knowing.


Yet no single goal, no path, no pursuit, achievement, possession, relationship or experience, no moment of revelation, awakening or rebirth seems exclusively to offer life’s “answer” to the problem of human suffering. And of course, there is no ultimate solution which can finally cure life of difficulty and heartaches.


Nevertheless, spiritual wisdom can make life easier if not easy, and definitely more joyful, relaxing, rewarding, manageable, lighter, friendlier, and fun, as well as deeper, kinder, more helpful, and far more meaningful.


Enlightened beings are to be found in every culture, religion, philosophy, and walk-of-life. It’s true that they see the world through new eyes, having conquered most of their cultural conditioning that leads to fear, selfishness, guilt, and anger. Spiritual mystics and visionaries really do achieve a remarkably robust internal perspective which consistently supports them in spending more of their present moments awake, aware, and appreciative, undistressed with past or future concerns, and embracing all-that-is, as one, and lovable.


The warm, ecumenical vision of these human and fallible saints and seers (who are often disguised as the kind little lady down the street, or the conscientious, cheerful worker down the hall) is available to anyone who wants it more than s/he wants anything else, because enlightenment is less a closely held secret of an exclusive club or church, and more the result of  the desire, perseverance, and time necessary to unlearn the huge amount of cultural and personal mental and emotional baggage most of us acquire in our youth–not to mention even more time and patient effort to relearn the experience of each of life's many aspects freshly, differently. Enlightenment is a continual, never-ending, and sometimes arduous pursuit, regardless of one's particular chosen path to its achievement.


You might think me enlightened if you caught me in a moment of lucidity. At other times, I struggle mightily with many as-yet-unconquered habits, including habits-of-mind, unexamined beliefs, and the frustrations and impatience that come from comforts, courtesies, and convenience. My longtime friends would agree that I’ve changed, or at least that I’m suspiciously happier and easier to get along with, although I'm still miles away from imperturbable or selfless. Like everyone else, I grew up not knowing what I didn't know, and knowing a lot of things that just weren’t so. However, I’ve begun to do the work to learn and to unlearn, replacing my old eyes and heart with a more reliable spiritual worldview.


The peaceful, positive, and helpful presence-of-mind which I have consistently sought is attainable by anyone–regardless of starting point or particular spiritual path–who sincerely desires and pursues it. It is not magic. It is the same awareness of the unity of God, man, and nature, the same feelings of well-being and rest which everyone experiences from time to time.


Yet such moments of peace, clarity, and oneness occur for me more frequently these days; they last longer, and I can find my way back to them more easily. I don’t know whether that’s enlightenment or not, but I know I'm at least on a clear path to it. As I seek to learn what seems universally true—and as I pursue varied paths to truth and apply that learned truth to my daily life, my understanding broadens and deepens.


Although I spend more time now in peaceful acceptance, I haven’t yet learned to stay humbly (if metaphorically) on my knees. I keep popping back up to proudly celebrate, and stumble, and fall back down to my knees again….


I still waste time struggling with fear, anger, anxiety, and guilt, still succumb to other useless self-created nightmares as I read the daily news and go through my daily tasks. Often I’m oblivious to others’ needs, distracted, defensive, resistant, defiant, sick and tired. But such times are less frequent, and I’m learning to rely more readily upon God’s (as I understand God) strength to help me back onto the path of the seeker of truth.


From one perspective, “Life is not a puzzle to be solved, but an adventure to be lived.” On the other hand, some of us like puzzles. But no, we won't ever “figure God out” or “fix” life–but we can move from miserable ignorance to happy knowing.


Anyone can learn to manage life better, if they deeply desire to acquire better habits and better ways of experiencing and contributing. It helps a lot to be blessed with the knowledge that, step-by-small-step, over time, I can learn anything I'm willing to work at and persevere for.


I find it interesting that the more I learn, the more I appreciate, and also, the harder I work—no longer to keep the wolf from the door—but instead, to take advantage of opportunities to contribute to and enjoy life, opportunities which were always there, even if I didn’t see them before.


I revel in the joys my new spiritual insights provide. One clear difference in “before” and “after” has been a newfound delight in the details of life-as-it-is, particularly an appreciation for people-as-they-are, but also with things-as-they-are. It’s such a relief not to always have to attack, condemn, blame, evaluate, analyze, and judge everything and everyone (including myself) (although sometimes I still do.)


I love the present-moment rewards that come with a commitment to excellence. I enjoy not only better results, but also considerably more enjoyable processes, as I stay within each present moment, and let go of my attachments to end-results. More and more often these days, I focus on the present moment’s pleasure or pain, without adding to it unnecessary heavy loads of negative, past-and-future mental and emotional “stuff.”


Moments, hours, even days and weeks of such “enlightenment”—or at least what feels to me like enlightenment (clarity, unity, peace, oneness, vision)—are more frequent, deeper, less elusive. Each radiant aha!-moment, though precious and sufficient in itself, seamlessly flows from earlier insights into later ones, each reinforcing and enlarging the other. Every day I discover new facets of a larger global understanding, of a unified and universal, if distressingly inexpressible, truth.


I find, very often, that doing small, ordinary tasks is completely fulfilling, no one activity more than any other—the primary difference being what I am able to bring to each process on any given day. On some days and at some moments, I bring more energy, love, and presence to various tasks than I do at other times, and that is all….


I accept with relief that I’ll never get “it” “right;” human wisdom and insight is never final. In fact, I’ll never get anything completely “right”—no relationship, no goal, no habit of mind. And no one else will either—at least not in this life, and nobody knows what comes after.


Human beings can experience, learn about, and attempt to express universal, even eternal truths, yet truth will always defy and surpass merely human linguistic capacities. Certainly, no one ever gets any “explanation of life” “right,” because there is no universal “right” for all to get, just as no one ever “finally” achieves balance, nor maintains it over time.  Life itself seems to be one long intricate balancing act.


Spiritual wisdom can be achieved by anyone who aspires to it, with the help of God—or whoever or whatever you personally choose to call that holy spirit, that power-not-ourselves that we each experience uniquely. Enlightenment is to be found along every honest religious and spiritual path, and often along other less apparently spiritual paths as well–certainly through service and daily spiritual practice such as meditation and yoga, and often through scholarship, science, athletics, nature, music, art, literature, psychology, business, parenting, marriage, and other pursuits of understanding and service. Kipling’s Kim and his beloved monk seemed “naturally enlightened,” yet even they had to come to “realize” (as in “realized masters”) the reality of what they had always been, what they could always do, and what they had always known.


I’m not discouraged to find ultimate enlightenment elusive. It isn’t daunting to know I may never “get right” my small hopes for doing my little part in saving the world, or caring for myself and the people in my life. Rather, I feel newly free of the heavy obligation to somehow nail that perfect wisdom. Instead, I forgive myself and others for our many shortcomings and trespasses, and focus instead on feeling good about how far we’ve come, and how far we can yet go.


Not everyone thinks wisdom is a big deal. I appreciate, respect, and support others’ efforts to achieve whatever it is they most want, all the various pursuits and goals various people choose, as uniquely most important to them. Enlightenment  isn’t everyone’s bag. Some people really want to play very good soccer; others want to stop fighting with their families, or to make a billion dollars. It’s a relief to know I’m not here to judge what others choose to do with their lives, but rather, to love and support all of us, exactly as we are, wherever we are on our roads to learning and growing and becoming.


I like to think that, in a spiritual sense, no matter where we begin our learning, we all eventually will learn whatever it is we need to know to return to God. Some people, like me, take a mighty circuitous path. Yet we all need help from one another, and no matter where we began or where we are now on our various paths, we will all arrive together and simultaneously, leaning upon and supporting one another.


When I learn to accept and forgive myself and all of God’s creations, when I consistently choose to think positively, and live fully within the present moment, letting the past and future go, I am taking giant steps toward enlightenment. Far more powerful than any particular achievement or activity is the power of my attitude during each quickly-passing present moment, each “now.” Where I’m coming from during this moment, this “now,” determines what I think, where I am, what I do, what I create, who I am, how I am, what I achieve and contribute, my happiness, my peace of mind, my past and future, and my relationships with my fellow man, nature, and God.


Please send comments to epharmon@adelphia.net






Santa, Horror Movies, Earthquakes, and Other Childhood Religious Experiences

I felt hurt when my childhood friends laughed at me for devoutly believing in Santa Claus, and foolish, when they later scorned me for doubting the existence of my childhood fairytale-God….  

All my omnipotent, omniscient household deities such as Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy–all solemnly attested to by the otherwise scrupulously honest adults in my life–later turned out to be a childish embarrassment, mere games and illusions swallowed only by simpletons. On the other hand, unraveling the mysteries of religion increasingly was deemed a difficult and profound thing, to be accepted now on faith, and puzzled out rationally only by hoarier heads than mine, or perhaps in far off adulthood….   

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” (the circular argument legitimizing the commercialized Santa by equating him with the Christian spirit of love) didn't clear up any of my confusions at all…..

The teachers in my elementary schools poked fun and laughed merrily at all the many varieties of “primitive” religious beliefs (i.e., any religion outside of mainstream American Judeo-Christianity) such as the early Greek and Roman myths, American Indian spirituality (in those days, I thought “native” meant “naked,”) ancestor “worship,” many-armed “goddesses,” etc. My classmates and I learned to confidently pooh-pooh photos displaying what we were told were radically important differences in 'foreign” (i.e., “weird”) religious practices and dress and customs, and of course we concluded that western civilization and enlightened religious rationales and practices, such as credentialed religious leaders saying magic words that turned lifeless-looking wafers and water into the actual body and blood of an historical crucified spiritual leader, and then drinking and eating it, were somehow less weird, somehow intellectually superior. Ick.

I remember asking my Sunday School teacher about the confusing song, “Yes, Jesus loves me: the Bible tells me so.” 

“So how does the Bible know?”

“It just does. God wrote the Bible. Everything in it is true.”

“Oh.” That was the end of my questioning on that subject for about twenty years….

One of my (quite religious) sisters, who was a Mormon convert, admitted at age fifty that she had never even considered questioning that particular teaching (the inerrancy and source/s of the Bible), although she had pored over The Good Book daily for enlightenment and wisdom all her life.

Little kids are so innocent, and their minds so susceptible to cultural influences; they swallow whole all that their cultures teach them, including its radically peculiar particularities.

I'm reading lately where horror movies are coming back now, bigger and scarier than ever, sort of…terror-porn…in all its sadistic gore, reflecting, some enthusiastic critics say, what is really happening in “the real world.” Oh, really? Of all that is happening in the world, this is what we're noticing? This is what we want our children to focus on? This is “the way of the world” that we want to teach our children all about? As if violence and fear and terror were inevitable, and not primarily a matter of what and how we are taught, and later, how we choose to see and traverse this life?

If all the world could be raised by enlightened Quakers or Buddhists or Jesuits, in just two generations, all mankind would live in peace. 

(To be sure, all animals experience conflict. Some even feed upon each other. Yet warfare is a uniquely human, cultural invention. The biological connection to war is our very human language-making ability, which makes possible cultural learning and the invention and coordination of ideas, groups, and technnologies. Biology doesn't condemn humanity to war. Just as wars begin in the minds of men, peace also begins in our minds. We who were capable of inventing war are capable of inventing peace. The responsiblity and capability lie in each of us.)

In my girlhood, I worked hard to puzzle out,with my parents, exactly which movie and storybook monsters and dangers might be real; i.e., which were the ones I'd have to look out for and steer clear of? And which were the “made-up” ones I didn't have to worry about?

Grizzlies? Yes. Very real. Very scary.

Ghosts? Well…. Hmmm. Let me think about that one.

Angels? Hmmmm, again. 

Bad angels? Hmmm.

Dragons? Oh, no! Silly girl! Imagine, dragons! No of course they're not real. Whatever gave you that idea?

Dinosaurs? No! Or, well, yes. Or, well, maybe. Sort of, but not, like, you know, any more. (Thanks a lot for clearing that one up!)

The Snow White witch and the Wizard of Oz witch? No. Except of course, the movie star. She's real. (Hmmm.)

Robbers? Well, uh, maybe. They're real, but we don't have to worry about them. (And why was/is that?)

War? Well, maybe there are wars in some other countries, but we never have to fight them in the U.S. (How soon we forget!) (And why weren't they ever fought in the US? Why were wars always something we fought, but only elsewhere? And why didn't all those other people decide to fight their wars elsewhere?)

Death? Yes, death is real. Uh, well, and … well, no. Death is…uh…only sort of real. Don't forget about heaven. Hmmm.

Earthquakes? Oh yes, very real. Where do they happen? Only in Japan, California, and a few other faraway places. But, not to worry…. We don't live in any of those places. Now run along, dear, enough silly questions….

My military family soon got our orders to spend a year in Fort Ord, CA followed by three years in Tokyo, Japan, to my…horror…. (see paragraph above.)

The only earthquakes I knew about were the ones I'd seen in a movie, in which huge, mile-wide-deep chasms opened up and swallowed down whole screaming villages of people, houses, and cattle, all of which went sliding and scrabbling down into the closing gulf to disappear forever…. 

And that was where we were going to live?

My parents dismissed my alarmed, “but…but…but…” with a condescending wave of their hands. “Foolish child. Be a brave little patriot and stop complaining. After all, there are only six or eight real earthquakes in Japan a year. Military brats have to bravely go where they're sent! Now run along …. We're going to get in nine holes of golf before dark….”

Fortunately, the many many earthquakes I soon experienced served mostly just to rattle the tableware.

Although once I crawled across a parade ground nearly all the way to my elementary school, thinking my legs had stopped working. And another time my mother whisked me out of a wildly splashing bathtub and wrapped me in a towel to join the families (and staring friends!) standing outside.

What's really funny is that by the time I had crawled most of the way to school, my legs had “started working again,” so I had already forgotten my troubles (ah, youth!)–when all the teachers rushed up to me, worried about me, and I said, “What earthquake? I didn't feel any earthquake.” I was actually feeling a little aggrieved that I'd missed all the excitement, until I figured out..that…I hadn't.

And sitting in the bathtub during the other big earthquake, silent and still as a stone while the water roiled and sloshed over the sides, all I could think of was how much trouble I'd be in, for making all that water illegally splash so hard and so much with my boisterous bathtub play that it couldn't stop splashing.

Kids have a hard enough time figuring out what's real from what isn't without their parents making their jobs that much more difficult. That is why we parents must often reassure our kids that, “There are no stupid questions” and give them time to follow up on their confusions. I didn't do this very well with my kids–I thought they did have a lot of stupid questions, and felt embarrassed for myself, that I hadn't already taught my very bright children much better long ago…. I'm sure I was worse even than my parents in this…. Consequently, both my children and I often thought many of our questions were too stupid to ask. Now why was that? 

Wouldn't it be nice if children everywhere could get their examples and habits and attitudes and transcendent truths and values and realities from loving adults who held to their highest ideals and principles and didn't meanwhile pollute little minds with opportunistic fables and vague shadowy threatening omniscient eminences and all the terrifying blockbuster media horrors it does no good to think about (which is not to say we cannot add all our loving energy and creativity to the world, and thus help solve many its many problems….)

If I ever have grandchildren, I pray I will teach them all about the highest and best things in life, about goodness and kindness and love. I'm going to equate all that goodness with God/reverence. I'll try to show them how the human need for God and ideals and a spiritual life and a path to God can be found in all the highest forms of all the great religions. I'm not going to be complicit in teaching them distortions and fairy tales about imaginary cultural deities and hobgoblins. The magic and wonder of science and the humanities, indeed, all the wonders of life on earth, will offer them plenty of food for their imaginations, more than enough challenges for their creativity and intellects. Nor will I diss any alternative philosophical or religious expressions, but instead, hope to seek to understand and embrace their highest human and spiritual commonalities.

I will be sorely challenged, though, in this free-for-all world, to protect children from a steady diet of fear–whether political, cultural, media, storybook, or any other kind. But protect them we must–or lose them to a fear-based, instead of a love-based, sense of reality.

Perhaps what we can do best is to help them grow up positively and powerfully, so they can act on every good impulse and shine their lovely lights onto all the dark places in the world.

Perhaps someday, we can together lift ourselves and our loved ones (and that is, everyone) over life's heartaches and losses and disappointments–life's rough and lonely places–and never let anyone fall into feeling lost and separated for very long.



Please send your comments to epharmon@adelphia.net

Thank you!