Fort Hood's Nidal Hasan – or – Why Today's Soldiers Go Crazy

The tragic recent murders by Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood are part of an epidemic of suicides, violent crimes, and shooting sprees among active-duty and former soldiers which stem in great part from their understandable moral and ethical confusion about the nature of war and the uses of power and violence. Women soldiers newly serving in combat positions often struggle with their uncertainties about adopting formerly-despised “male” traditions of violence and dominance, especially since their use of such power—as male soldiers have always known—can and does often lead to a sense of separation from the human race, to feelings of isolation, aloneness, difference, wrongness, fear, inadequacy, failure, loss and rejection.


Add to these moral conundrums of conscience the fact that soldiers are expected to behave in uncivilized and dominating ways while “at work,” and then nimbly revert back to behaving civilly and helpfully at home, flexibly “getting back in touch with their feminine sides” and working in equitable partnerships, building family affection, connections and wholeness. Clearly, twenty-first century soldiers have their hands full to be all they can be.


Military trainers work very hard to try to turn selfless, idealistic, caring young recruits into good soldiers who can be both safe and effective in war zones, prepared to perform as knee-jerk killers, to instantly shoot down complete strangers—often innocents themselves who are protecting their own homes and families and comrades-in-arms—and to carry out the cold-blooded duties of snipers, bombers, interrogators and other executioners who must kill with no hesitation or trace of due process random members of any population demonized as “the enemy,” “others”—i.e., people it’s OK to treat as non-humans.


Good soldiers are offered a fuzzy kind of contextual logic to (temporarily) ethically “cover them” and their bloodiest actions, for at least as long as they can believe that their killing and dying serves a worthwhile purpose—that is, to protect their friends and families and fellow-citizens, or to serve their country in some way, or to further its noble ideals and purposes. Soldiers can often do their duty if they can cling to some hope that their “jobs” are generally positive ones, that they are necessary, valuable and moral, that their terrible personal losses and cruel sacrifices were not in vain, and that they wasted neither their own lives nor the lives of others.


Unfortunately—or perhaps, fortunately—it’s much harder nowadays in the age of media for us to continue to see complicated human instances of violence in simple black-and-white terms. The rapid pace of change, the continual clashing of conflicting old ideas and emerging new ones, our own American biggest-kid-on-the-block mentality, and our often-thoughtless, retributive, greedy habits of government policy-making with respect to war, empire and militarism—added to our too-violent and vengeful culture—together create a mentally and emotionally combustible, dangerous, crazy-making conundrum for even our best, most well-intentioned and professional soldiers.


“Schizophrenic behavior” is defined as behavior which is motivated by contradictory or conflicting principles, or which results from the co-existence of disparate or antagonistic activities. In other words, when your ideals frequently conflict with each other, and when your actions feel equally conflicted, it can drive you nuts. Fallible human attempts to live up to one’s ethics, values, standards and goals can make even the best soldiers feel schizophrenic.


Growing up on military posts, I believed, just as most citizens of most countries are taught to believe, that our military forces were always a force for good, an organization that helped people, supported peace, promoted freedom and democracy. Since then, I’ve learned that military forces everywhere—like violence of all kinds, from abuse to crime to terrorism—usually harm many more people than they help. I’ve also learned that peace, freedom and democracy cannot co-exist with war, because wherever war goes, anything resembling peace, freedom and democracy quickly disappear.


Even the best-trained soldiers—those convinced that military actions are all about duty, honor and country, taking care of one another, following orders, and serving with excellence, integrity and honor in order to further the protection and interests of loved ones and the best nation on earth—in the midst of war, wonder whether their actions are truly helping or hurting people, whether they are on the “giving” or on the “taking” “side.” Every soldier prays that he will someday look back and believe his life and work have served the best interests of humanity—and heaven forbid that they have served on the side of darkness, pain, grief, and cruelty. In the midst of actions far from their homes, all soldiers wonder at times whether their devotion to military ideals and country may not conceal larger, deeper, sadder contradictions about the nature and missions of militarism and war.


When soldiers from any nation come home from their wars, of course they have trouble rectifying all they've participated in, with their peacetime ethical, spiritual and religious beliefs about what it means to be humane, caring, good—all the many understandings parents and teachers carefully taught them about what makes relationships work, and what make life worth living. Many returning war veterans basically go insane for years. Others are unstable or crazy for the rest of their lives.


Everyone insists that training and fighting animals—cocks, dogs, bulls—is an outrage. We wouldn't, they say, we couldn’t, we shouldn’t do this to a dog! So why do we keep doing it to people?


Every soldier I have known, at one time entered the military with selfless ideals and the best intentions. Sadly, military training and war often work subtly against soldiers’ best interests, leaving them confused about what power and leadership really mean, as well as poorly-prepared for the peaceful, productive civilian relationships they spend years dreaming of forging, at war’s end.


Unfortunately, the many sad, lingering side-effects of military training and war include a heightened tendency to polarize even small conflicts into black-and-white situations requiring a quick, habitual adversarial or violent response to conflict—habits which later work insidiously against both the soldiers and their loved ones. Quickness to violence—while perhaps an asset in effective soldiering—is a terrible emotional burden in civilian life. Recent public-safety statistics indicate that too many soldiers attempting to re-enter civilian life—having spent their impressionable youth on high alert, in kill-or-be-killed situations—have become habituated to violent, lawless behavior, and continue to pay huge, never-ending psychic prices for their previous military involvements after their return to “civilization.”


The number and types of military resources America should maintain may be a matter of reasonable debate, but what is not arguable is our need to develop more thoughtful and deliberate processes for deciding when and why to send our soldiers into war.


The great writers and filmmakers who have told their stories of past wars have consistently described war as “insane.” Insanity is also the only word that most reasonably describes any future war, since humanity has the knowledge and the means now—if only we develop the will—to resolve conflicts peacefully and prevent the holocausts which the law of unintended consequences, along with our ghastly weaponry, inevitably spiral us into.


Ethical soldiers like my father relive the remembered insanity of war for the rest of their lives, alternating between waves of the deepest humane compassion, pride and camaraderie, to long periods of dark, impenetrable, self-protective anger, fear and cynicism.


The cruelly gruesome extremes of war sometimes contaminate and twist even the highest traditional military values into thuggery. Professionalism can be turned, at times, into barbarism. Selflessness can be turned into greed. Idealism can become cynicism. Courage can become savagery. Strength can become dominance. Love of country can turn to jingoism and chauvinism. Obedience, leadership and respect for authority can be warped by exigency into a numbed conscience and momentary group-think. Loyalty can become a destructive “us/them” mentality. Integrity can become a morally confusing paralysis, while duty can be pushed into rote obedience.


However admirably motivated, however morally unambiguous in the midst of a firefight, violent military actions still have the look and feel of chaotic lawlessness. No matter how patriotic or mentally-prepared soldiers may be, the act of killing complete strangers goes queasily against soldiers’ moral teachings about how to treat other people.


The ideal of freedom itself—the dream comprising healthy, productive human lives spent in peaceful pursuit of individual dreams—can feel, during war, quite unrelated to the specifics of what soldiers are often asked to do, because serving the freedom of one group often entails dominating and killing another, something which feels less noble in practice than what most soldiers hope for, particularly when their personal boots-on-the-ground experience has already offered clear evidence that many—perhaps most—of war’s victims are as innocent as the soldiers who kill them. Soldiers don’t sign up to defend moral ambiguities. And yet the first victim of war is truth, followed closely by moral clarity, and, too often, by despair.


However high-minded the justifications given during a soldier’s training, the actual waging of war—the killing, the maiming, the brutalizing—feels more “against” than “for” humans. Unless “the enemy” has successfully been completely dehumanized in the minds of soldiers by war propaganda, military fighting too often seems rather more against than for human value and worth, human liberty; love, individuality, uniqueness; against the highest religious and moral traditions, against human ideals, values, beliefs, against the teachings of history’s great moral teachers, against humanity itself.


Soldiers schooled in war fortify their emotions against moral confusion by coldly dehumanizing and demonizing their enemies, but such temporary moral adjustments don’t serve nearly as well at war’s end, when all the former “non-humans”—the Vietnamese, Germans, Irish, British, Russians, the terrorists, whomever—experience a miraculous rebirth, having been rediscovered somehow to be human beings after all. Soldiers who wisely shut down their feelings against tragically ambiguous memories unfortunately also become emotionally unavailable to their children, parents, and spouses. This happened in my family.


Soldiers who have followed orders to loose destruction and death upon “combatants” and “noncombatants” alike in someone else’s country, often become cynical later even about their own country, about the human capacity for goodness, and the worth of people in general.


“Human” values which specifically exclude certain portions of humanity—Muslims, for instance, or Christians, or certain races or ethnicities —ultimately prove uncomfortingly weak and useless. Nations claiming a constitutional and traditional embrace of “human ideals” and “human rights”—who then insist upon them only for their own citizens and at the expense of citizens of other countries—rapidly lose not only their allies, but also the loyalty and pride of their own citizens; while patriotism which rests shakily upon chauvinism and exceptionalism breaks down quickly into partisan bickering, and too-easily collapsing into division, bigotry, political hatred and violence, and even civil war.


Wars’ costs go far beyond blood and treasure.


All the war books and movies I’ve “enjoyed” shared similar conclusions about their experiences of war. Over and over, each artist expressed the point of view that their war had been insane, cruel, hard, sad, misguided and stupid, and created more problems than were resolved. The grisly killings aspects of war were consistently experienced as pointless, chaotic, numbing, unreasonable, inhumane, confusing, wrong—and sometimes thrilling, in that the pointy end of the sword went into the other guy, and not them. Soldiers throughout history have been urged by their leaders to keep such stories to themselves, or share them only with other soldiers who were there, so as to avoid bringing harm or shame to a unit, or turning the next generation against war itself. 


In nearly every war book and movie, bleak, terrified, mutilated children emphasize the meaninglessness and human tragedy of war, while fear for oneself and one’s friends drives soldiers to acts of cruelty and immorality unimaginable during peacetime.


War never turns out to be at all what anyone expects when they join up, and not much like what they train for either. When at war, every soldier longed for home, and when finally back home, they missed having friends they could talk to, buddies who understood them and their experiences.


All these artists told how their necessary training in hate and fear had carved a black chasms into their psyche, changing them (and their families) forever in ways inexpressible to anyone who hadn’t shared such experience—so mixed are war’s memories with guilt, pride, and loyalty.

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




















































































With Friends Like These…Let's Love Our Enemies (Ourselves)

President Obama is such a loyal friend. But with friends like his, who needs enemies?


I would like to particularly encourage all powerful old black (and white, etc.) men (and women) Friends Of Barack’s to please park your egos and pride, and try to stay humble and yes, forgiving. And meanwhile, I trust that the Cambridge Gatesgate fracas will remind the rest of us to do the same.


First Jesse Jackson stabbed poor Barack in the back (and then rightfully cried at his inauguration); then Jeremiah Wright stabbed him (and no doubt regrets it); and now here comes Henry Louis Gates, behaving in ways Barack couldn’t have imagined. Yes, power does indeed corrupt, and all who achieve greatly, greatly fall at times; we’re all human, even Barack.


Barack’s failures were partly a matter of his own very legitimate, very personal indignation at the terrifying and tragic history of his own race’s interactions with corrupt, brutal and powerful law enforcement individuals and organizations.


Barack’s other failure was a lapse in judgment. He spoke out too quickly, assuming that his experienced, wise and thoughtful friend Skip Gates was incapable of acting like such a fool. Well, now you know, Barack. Everybody plays the fool sometimes…. There’s no exceptions to the rule…. J


I do hope the current media frenzy results in a national dialogue which teaches America how scary, emotional and risky it is to be a minority member in America, unpredictably facing powerful, fallible, human, and sometimes consciously or unconsciously prejudiced law enforcement individuals and organizations which always circle the wagons to protect themselves; and also, how scary, emotional and risky it is to be a conscientious police officer trying daily to do a thankless job, by selflessly and repeatedly putting him or herself into deadly, confusing, volatile—and often, degrading, no-win—situations.


I hope the promised new documentary stars President Obama, Officer Crowley, the good professor and his other new friends at the Cambridge police department, all ignominy, anger and hubris reconciled. Their joint efforts to clarify and address this complex American problem would add much to their heroic legacies of service.


Why don’t police officers all wear video recording devices at all times? This requirement would protect both the police and all citizens by encouraging all participants to always be on their best behavior. This approach would serve justice, and would save a lot of money in court costs and legal fees.


I recently humbly “donated” money to my community after having been caught red-handed on a camera which showed me running a red light I would have sworn before a judge I never ran. That camera saved both me and the court system a lot of money. Memories are faulty, but cameras and recorders are less so….


President Obama, thank you for always doing your best, and for taking on so much so generously, and for putting yourself out there daily, so vulnerably and riskily. Please go easy on yourself. And you too, all you courageous and well-intentioned police folk, we’re so grateful for your courageous service. And you too, Jesse and Jeremiah and Skip—please don’t forget about all your many brave and invaluable contributions. And as for the rest of us little folk, may we too seek humility and forgiveness as we go about our very human daily business of fallibly flinging ourselves about our own small universes trying to do some good, and making our own big mistakes in much smaller, less-public, less-dangerous venues.


Please send comments and email to . 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 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 and I'll post them here. Thanks. 🙂

Are Hiroshima and 9/11 Morally Equivalent? Obama and Wright Disagree.

Barack Obama recently disagreed with Jeremiah Wright’s statements equating America’s wartime efforts with terrorism. Wright had cited biblical passages wherein God condemns (damns) anyone who deliberately kills innocents, whether at Hiroshima or at Ground Zero (9/11).
Although I support Obama’s candidacy wholeheartedly, I disagree with him here, preferring Reverend Wright’s logic. With Wright, I see no moral difference between a weak, fallible organization (or individual) setting off a suicide bomb in a marketplace, and a big, powerful, fallible nation dropping an atomic bomb on a civilian population—except, of course, that powerful nations have more options. Both warriors and terrorists say they’re fighting for survival, and both often choose strategies which collaterally harm innocents over diplomacy and other alternatives because they think such violence a quicker, surer way to attain their goals.
Both soldiers and terrorists justify deliberately killing innocents by the rightness of their causes—the only difference being, of course, that powerful nations have access to huge armies and limitless lethal technologies, while less-powerful groups have weak armies, few weapons and little money. That’s why terrorists, hoping to maximize their impact, focus international media attention on their unaddressed grievances (and harass their oppressors) by strapping on cheap explosives.
Soldiers and terrorists alike feel they are forced into doing the bad things they do to prevent further injustices. Yet this argument for “just war”—that sometimes violence is necessary to prevent greater injustices and harm—is also a perfectly reasonable argument for terrorism.
Mind you, I don’t buy either argument. Positive, peaceful alternatives often work, if one only accepts that compromises, though disappointing, are never final and are changeable later, regardless of the unsavory present trade-offs necessary to prevent further catastrophes.
War doesn’t prevent injustices. War itself is always a grievous injustice to all involved in it. Most soldiers and their families are catastrophically exploited by war. 90% of the victims of war are civilians. Unfortunately, when citizens manipulated into vindictive indignation over present and past injustices march into wars, they rarely consider all the many future injustices which that war will inevitably inflict on both sides.
Whether or not we act violently, injustices occur. Whether we fight wars or rise up together in peaceful protest, some people will suffer unjustly, some will die. The Jews died in the Holocaust despite the war effort and perhaps also because of it. Europe is now united; tyrants come and go. No matter whether we choose peace, terrorism, or war, we cannot prevent all injustices. But we can avoid adding to their sum by accepting compromises, listening to all sides, and steadfastly rejecting the gravest injustice of all—war itself.
I’m not a pacifist. I would defend my family and neighbors from bad guys climbing in our windows and knocking down our doors—a scenario far less likely to happen if my government maintains strong local militias and promotes international good will by working for international justice and against war. I certainly would not travel to another country and throw my weight around, except as part of a globally-mandated UN peacekeeping force.
Violent solutions to conflicts, whether war or terrorism, always make problems more intractable in the long run. Violence sometimes seems appealing in the short-term, but not when both sides of the story are heard. Over time, just as in families, violent solutions stoke anger, resentment and vengefulness, and prevent and postpone just and lasting resolutions and peace.
Although there are always two sides to every conflict, loyal combatants often resist hearing out the ‘other’ side. Powerful greedy nations that initiate wars of conquest against weaker forces often refuse to negotiate with their enemies. Why negotiate when you can get what you want through attrition, slaughter and unconditional surrender?
When wars end, war-weary citizens on both sides, hearing the stories of the victims who bore the tragic consequences of the stubbornness, greed, ignorance, intolerance, hubris, vengefulness, anger and megalomania behind all wars and terrorism, finally realize that it was never the courageous, idealistic grandchildren they sent out to kill each other who were most to blame, but rather the safe, rich, hard-headed old leaders on both sides who failed to keep the peace.
Too often, we prefer being “right” to living and letting others live in peace. We think we have to be right about so many things—about who’s the bad guy, who started it, who’s at fault, what happened, who meant well and who didn’t, who did what to whom, whose ideology or form of government is superior, whose religion is true, who is weird and strange and cultish and backward and disgusting, who gets to be in control, who gets to be the one with the gold who makes all the rules….
The truth is that nobody yet has a clear picture of what human life is all about, what we’re doing here, and how best to look upon the world, ourselves, and one another. Even the leading scholars agree that the more they know, the more they know they don’t know. In every conflict, humility, acceptance and mutual respect are the wisest guides.
When we insist on being ‘right’ rather than making the compromises necessary to live together in peace, we are making the choice of terrorism/war over freedom. What is freedom, if not the freedom to live one’s life and pursue one’s dreams in peace?
Someday, they will give a war and no one will come. This will happen when we stop worrying about being right and in total control (both are foolish illusions in this nuclear age) and instead, hold ourselves accountable to the highest universal standards of treating all others as we would like to be treated, respecting and supporting human life everywhere. When this happens, we will enter a more peaceful, harmonious age.
We will, that is, if some of us are still here. The work of global peaceful transformation is so urgent. As Einstein famously predicted, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
Since we can no longer completely control nuclear weapons, we must work now to transform ourselves and our own violent cultures into cultures of peace. Amish, Quaker and Buddhist families alike learn and teach gentleness successfully; they all enjoy unselfish, peaceful cultures. Why shouldn’t the rest of us learn, too?
Cultures change whenever individuals learn peaceful ways of dealing with their own personal conflicts, and then optimize their cultural institutions to educate others about harmonious relations, diplomacy, and global justice. Institutions such as public media (the airwaves and the internet) as well as private media, educational systems, charitable foundations, political and service organizations, private corporations, public agencies, and international cooperatives can all be exploited to promote peace.
People are realizing that war and terrorism are mirrors of each other. They are merely two forms of culturally-acceptable (in certain circles) violence we inflict on one another. Until more cultural leaders make the paradigm shift away from both war and terrorism—and the rest follow—we and all our children everywhere will be increasingly at risk for more injustices, more wars, more terrorism, more Holocausts, more Hiroshimas….
Someday, Barack too will see that this is true.

CNN’s Disappointing Coverage of the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary Election Returns

I was greatly distressed to watch CNN’s coverage of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary election returns. I tuned in when the polls closed, and listened until nearly 11 p.m. when I got disgusted and turned the TV off.


Not a single commentator mentioned the most glaringly obvious outcome, that Barack Obama, a virtual unknown a year ago, had used his time in Pennsylvania to gain from ten to fifteen percentage points on well-known local girl and party-insider Hillary Clinton, an eight-year first lady to a popular president—and thus added to his chances of winning the presidency. As in every other state Obama has campaigned in, people who get to know him, like him, vote for him, and go on to campaign for him. Not a soul on CNN’s political panel mentioned how, truly, in the general election in November, only the math will count.


No one brought up the important point that Hillary has played every card the Republicans will use against Obama later—except the overt hate-and-fear-of-black-people racist card—while principled Obama hasn’t even begun to untie the huge and readily-available bag of old Clinton family footage, quotes, votes, indiscretions, innuendo, mistakes, and general nastiness (think Kenneth Starr’s report, for starters) which anonymously-funded demagogues have no doubt already begun pawing through and honing, with anticipatory glee, to disgusting effect. Bill Clinton survived his campaigns because he was wildly appealing and charismatic. Hillary is neither, and her negative campaigning against her widely-liked and respected opponent only makes her seem smaller, meaner, scareder. Why didn’t CNN’s commentators point out how Barack has survived Hillary’s worst, while she hasn’t even begun to reckon with the evil that will come at her when the Republicans strike up their band?


Several other astonishingly clueless comments were voiced by the CNN bobbleheads-of-the-night. One callous voice commented in passing that, if super-delegates coldly overrule the will of the American people in November, “Sure, the Black people will be disappointed, but…”


“The Black people?” “Disappointed?” If representative government itself, the most sacred and fundamental premise of democracy, the promise of one-person-one-vote, is arbitrarily overturned…?


And only black people? What about Barack’s white multitudes? His youthful supporters? His devoted older ones? Rich and poor, women and men, party regulars and otherwise, Obama’s passionate followers are rapidly increasing in number, putting aside their long-held political cynicism and warming themselves at his bonfire of hope, a hope grounded in cherished American ideals and in trust in his character, vision and leadership.

CNN’s team did somehow manage to mention Hillary’s promise to “obliterate Iran” if Iran attacks Israel with a nuclear weapon. That’s just great; now two of three presidential candidates have casually threatened instant global thermonuclear war (see McCain’s earlier “bomb bomb bomb Iran”) in the Middle East. Not a single mouse-like CNN voice squeaked a word of protest. No one pointed out that Iran (unlike Israel) has no nuclear weapons, or that such an action would automatically condemn millions of innocent men, women and children to instant death, or how Hillary’s knee-jerk reactions automatically elevated Israel’s interests over America’s.

Hillary later would expound on her plan to return to the long-discredited cold war era. But why not bomb Iran all the way back to the stone age right now, as Rush Limbaugh has already argued? Obama’s thoughtful comment was, “One of the things that we've seen over the last several years is a bunch of talk using words like 'obliterate….  It doesn't actually produce good results. And so I'm not interested in saber rattling.”

Hillary’s appalling threats demonstrate only that she shares George Bush’s cowboy approaches to diplomacy, and we've seen where that will take us. Such foolishness has become increasingly evident in her other equally-rash and polarizing comments, such as her offhand public description of President Putin, Russia’s popular leader, as, “a KGB agent—by definition he doesn’t have a soul,” which offended Russians everywhere while certainly dashing any hopes Hillary might have harbored of successfully negotiating with Putin during any future presidency.

Hillary also thoughtlessly insulted China recently by advising President Bush to break his promise to China’s premiere to not boycott the Beijing Olympics. In these few careless words, Hillary Clinton managed to alienate one-fifth of the world’s people along with all their leaders, by cruelly dismissing the single project dearest to their hearts. She also displayed an astonishing lack of integrity, shocking in a Senator and inconceivable in a presidential candidate. This is the person we want representing us and running our country?

Marilyn Ferguson (The Aquarian Conspiracy) convinced me years ago that when a nation's cultural and intellectual leaders take hold of an idea (as American leaders have embraced Obama's hopeful message) then soon enough, the rest of the people will follow. Barack may be in a tough race against time, but it is clearly on his side.

Today's Democratic race can be characterized as a long-overdue contest between Obama’s mission to change the destructive game of American politics—a goal we can all only benefit from—and Hillary’s unprincipled insistence upon playing that old same old cynical game oh-so-cleverly. Hillary is in it to win it, and if she does—which is the most she can hope for at such an unprincipled price—then for the American people, her winning may well mean losing—our ideals, our hopes, our freedoms and maybe even our way of life. CNN could have at least hinted at these baneful implications of her supercilious campaign.


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Is Moqtada al-Sadr One of the Good Guys?

I only know what I read in the papers, and I’m nervous about speaking up for someone who is, for the moment at least, being demonized by the Bush administration, especially someone who is currently shooting back at American forces, albeit in self-defense. But I must raise the question of whether Moqtada al-Sadr might not be one of the “good guys,” a strong, spiritual leader whom world opinion should now be ecumenically supporting.


Al-Sadr is apparently a wildly popular leader of the Shiite poor, who, time and again, has demonstrated his commitment to peacefully resisting the overwhelmingly-superior military forces bent upon murdering him. Aside from his courageous refusal to relinquish the ancient homelands of his followers to invaders who would steal and exploit them, and his stubborn unwillingness to be assassinated, what has he done to deserve universal media condemnation and abandonment in the west?


Because al-Sadr’s charismatic leadership is seen by the west’s most powerful leaders as a major barrier to their hegemony in the Middle East, few journalists seem willing to raise this question. Yet several times throughout this conflict, when it has seemed temporarily expedient for the U.S. to leave al-Sadr in peace, he has urged patience and forbearance among his followers even as the wide-scale destruction of his country by foreign occupiers has continued.


Currently, American forces are attacking al-Sadr’s Mahdi army in oil-rich Basra, which is right across the border from Iran. Perhaps Mr. Cheney hopes to provoke just enough Iranian retaliation for this particular aggression to finally justify his own longed-for invasion of Iran’s oil fields? Patriots in Basra and Iran share far more in common with one another than with their American attackers; surely the Iranian government cannot be expected to indefinitely contain the passions of their red-blooded youth, currently standing passively by, watching while their brother-Shiites in Basra are being slaughtered.


Isn’t it time we reconsidered the unquestioned place we have given al-Sadr in our western pantheon of demonized enemies? He is a leader to whom the majority of Shiites in Iraq currently pledge their allegiance, one who has often turned the other cheek even while his beloved followers were being killed. Despite being repeatedly stalked, discredited, attacked, betrayed, and occasionally befriended by President Bush, his millions of followers trust him unreservedly to make their decisions for them. Shouldn’t journalists be speaking out loudly and clearly against the attacks upon him? Who are the bad guys here, and who are the good guys?


How can we expect al-Sadr’s forces to passively turn in their guns when our own country feels free to unilaterally initiate pre-emptive wars, invade, occupy and shoot up foreign country sides and villages and cities, interfere with sovereign nations’ internal affairs, drop nuclear and conventional bombs on civilian populations, disrupt livelihoods and lives, kill innocents, and stockpile armaments enough to end life on earth many times over? Al-Sadr has not invaded America. The reverse has happened.


The Bible does not say “the lamb shall lie down with the lion,” but “the lion shall lie down with the lamb.” In other words, powerful countries must first let their weaker neighbors live in peace. Our own interests, even as citizens of the mega-powerful United States, are served only when our leaders humble themselves to offer good will to all other nations, and treat all our neighbors as we would wish to be treated. It is the traditional moral duty of the military to protect the weak from those who would hurt them, not to push the weak around in order to get whatever a highly unpopular, unresponsive and unrepresentative administration wants when they want it.


The willingness to turn to violence to resolve conflicts, whether through state (military) terrorism or through civilian terrorism, turns out to be the problem itself, and not, as many have tried to persuade us, any particular ideology, ethnicity or religion. The burning question too often overlooked in every conflict is: which side is committed to accommodation, compromise and non-violent resolution of this conflict, and which side isn’t?


In the past, partisans loyally embraced only their own leaders as the “good guys,” regardless of their personal records of using violence or keeping the peace–whether Bush or bin Laden, Saddam or Arafat, Hirohito or Mao or Stalin or Cheney or Eisenhower or Hitler. In the future, we will realize that the “good guys” are those real leaders, found in homes, businesses, communities, nations, and throughout the world, who are committed to resolving difficult conflicts—which are perfectly natural and human—harmoniously and peacefully. On the other hand, those violent soldiers and suicide bombers representing belligerent aggressors and extremist zealots will in the future clearly be identified as “the bad guys” of our time.


All-out war makes sense to me only when people are cornered in their own homes, fighting for survival against overwhelming odds, as al-Sadr’s followers currently seem to be.


More and more people today are recognizing man’s inhumanity to man—whether seen in bulldozed homes, in the shattered bodies of innocent children, or in the maimed and traumatized minds and bodies of young soldiers from every land—exactly for what it is, regardless of context, and despite all the attractive ideological, ethnic, religious, and national colors and flavors violence always comes wrapped in.


Around the world, journalists, activists and average citizens are turning away from the angry diatribes of opportunistic demagogues and ideologues bent upon stirring their fellow-citizens to torture and murder, and instead, embracing the world’s highest universal values: the oneness of all mankind and the sanctity of human life.


Shouldn't we all be supporting those who are upholding these important values, and resisting the use violent solutions in the present conflict in Iraq?


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In Power, Hillary Didn’t Get It Done. Barack Will.

Both Barack and Hillary say they can lead America through sweeping legislative changes, yet only Barack has a convincing plan for getting it done.


Hillary's plan is to do what she always has, that is, to work as hard as she can, and care a lot—a strategy which has resulted in creditable incremental changes, but which promises only more-of-the-same.


Barack’s plan for getting it done is daring, plausible, and perfectly aligned with his uniquely charismatic and inclusive leadership style.


He will begin by bringing in so many enthusiastic new voters during the general election that he will sweep a solid majority of Democrats, like-minded Independents, and Republicans amenable to his agenda into office along with him.


After he’s elected President, he’ll use his remarkable consensus-building abilities to transparently bridge divisions and identify workable solutions to pressing common problems.


Then he’ll eloquently sell his legislative package to a devoted American public, who by that time will know and trust him far more than they’ll trust opposing politicians or special interest lobbies, no matter how much money is spent on media campaigns to the contrary.


Finally, Barack will ask his devoted followers to hound their Members of Congress, and if necessary, turn out in the streets to protest, to get his legislation passed. And they will. And he will.


Hillary is wonderful, but her leadership style just doesn't get it done. During fifteen years of unlimited opportunities, connections, and insider information at the center of power—eight years as First Lady and seven years as a U.S. Senator—Hillary diligently chipped away at the edges of big problems, making praiseworthy differences in many lives, all good stuff, but hardly the leadership America needs now.


We need a widely popular President who can articulate, orchestrate, and legislate the urgent changes mandated by a solid majority of newly-mobilized followers—a President who gets it done.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a similarly-populist President who led the country through sweeping legislative changes cherished by the American working class, told the activists who sought his support, “You've convinced me.  Now go out and make me do it.” They turned out to protest, and his legislation passed. 


All through FDR’s Presidential campaign, detractors had complained loudly that he would prove a flash in the pan, “only” a great communicator, a man of “mere” words.  All such complaints ended abruptly, however, on Day One, a day which, after all, turned out to be far less significant than the many other truly transformative days that followed.


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Thoughts for Hillary-Voters (of a Certain Age)

Many of my women friends want to see Hillary Clinton elected President so much that they refuse to seriously consider Barack Obama at all. They’re curious about him, to be sure–no one could overlook all the campaign excitement or miss seeing at least a few of his ads. But they would never be so disloyal as to actually listen to one of his speeches or read his campaign literature for more details. They tell me quite frankly, they’ve got a nominee, one who looks a lot like them, so would I please just leave it alone?
I've always admired Hillary’s dignity, and of course, her many achievements. She's a survivor in what many women have experienced as a rough-and-tumble man’s world. We identify with her tragic husband-troubles, and respect her commitment to her marriage. We celebrate her moxie when men have dismissed her contributions and disrespected her ambitions. We’ve waited breathlessly our whole lives for this chance to elect a smart, capable woman President of the <?xml:namespace prefix = u1 />United States, and we know what a strong woman-Presidency could mean to our daughters and granddaughters. As years have passed, as she's won battles for women and children, we’ve smiled with Hillary because we know what she knows, that doing well is the best revenge.
What we are not doing is asking the question that we as patriots, citizens, and voters should ask, are duty-bound, even, to ask: Which candidate would make the best President?
However generously we acknowledge Hillary’s abilities and achievements, we should thoughtfully consider Barack’s as well, if only because our long experience informs us that the next President must be armed with an unusually fine and rare combination of strengths and abilities to successfully navigate the dangerous shoals ahead.
Of course Hillary and Barack are both well-informed about the state of the world. But Barack is truly gifted in human relations—in people skills, diplomacy, and communication. He empathizes uniquely with difference and diversity—with those having different agendas, cultures, perspectives, memories, and understandings than his own. Our next President must be brilliant, but also extraordinarily able to relate to disparate viewpoints and interests in order to arrive at the inclusive solutions which alone can resolve complex global problems.
Of course Hillary and Barack are both experienced public servants. Hillary’s seven years, and Barack’s eleven, of public accountability in elected office are just the beginning. Hillary’s many years as an attorney and as first lady gave her just as much opportunity for growth as did Barack’s years of community organizing, his work as a civil rights attorney, and his professorship in Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago Law School.
Hillary’s whole life has prepared her to be a tough political in-fighter, capable of ramming through incremental changes in the face of almost insurmountable opposition. Barack, on the other hand, disarms both potential and perceived adversaries through his non-polarizing approaches to problem-solving. He seeks, finds, and articulates common ground and mutual goals, disagrees amiably, and steadily builds both consensus and grassroots support through his hard work and clear, eloquent, impassioned communications.
Of course both Hillary and Barack have achieved great things, or they wouldn’t be where they are today. But Obama’s years of greatest productivity and achievement are arguably still ahead of him, while Hillary seems thrilled with her chance to put the finishing touches on her once-aggressive 60’s-era agenda. She has earned her recognition and vindication, but while she’s enjoying it, Barack and his generation, and the next one too, have rocketed past her into a tomorrow Hillary can’t visit even in her dreams.
Both Hillary and Barack are tested and tenacious campaigners and fearless competitors. Hillary has fifteen years of Washington experience on Barack, whose present stature derives mostly from his work ethic, brilliant planning and organizing, and charismatic leadership born of strong character, values, empathy, wisdom, and hope. Barack has risen to every challenge on his path, and he has always emerged ever-closer to a national mandate for leadership.
In their very differently-conducted campaigns, Hillary and Barack have given us new insight into their personalities and character. But Barack has also given those who’ve followed his trajectory a tantalizing taste of what it would be like to have a strong, candid, universally-respected, and visionary President on whom we could rely for trustworthy, respectful leadership, for inspiration, and example.
Hillary is burdened with our nation's collective memory of past nasty campaigns and embarrassing setbacks. Unfortunately, she is a somewhat polarizing figure, distrusted and disliked still by too many voters. Barack, too, has fought difficult campaigns—beginning in Illinois, a state famous for its tough political climate—and has emerged squeaky-clean, greatly loved, and consistently elected in landslides by a constituency mirroring the wide range of backgrounds, interests, ages, genders and ethnicities found across America.
Ever since a skinny guy with a funny name no one could remember took on Hillary’s formidably-organized, well-heeled and internationally-recognized campaign, Americans who have read his books and listened to him speak about his plans for America have begun to write their own hopes and dreams upon the fresh new slate which is Barack Obama.
If nothing else, we’ve learned from our beloved civil rights and feminist leaders of the past that we cannot make good decisions about the best person for any job by considering the color of their skin, their race, or their gender. We must instead carefully weigh the content of their character, and thoughtfully consider their suitability for the job at hand. I think Hillary well-suited to be a Secretary of Health and Human Services, and her husband would be a formidable Supreme Court Justice. Consider, ladies, that a unifying Obama Presidency may be just what we need to help us find our way through today's troubles, toward a future we’ll be proud to leave our grandchildren.
(Nancy Pace blogs on breaking news at the intersection of politics, peace, culture, and spirituality at
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