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




















































































My Local Newspaper Slammed Terrorism, But Did Not Condemn War

In reference to your February 18th editorial, “Terrifying Reminder,” war harms millions more innocents than terrorism does, so can we save some of our righteous indignation for war, too? Grieving victims of all forms of violence, including war, always ask the same sad questions without answers: “What was my son’s fault? What did he do? What kind of belief system do these people have?”


To all war’s victims on all sides—dead soldiers and their broken-hearted families, the maimed and their caretakers, all whose love, energy, money and talents are wasted on destruction—war is as senseless and cruel as terrorism. Mayhem that destroys and terrifies cannot be justified by any political or religious ends, and is something that all people everywhere should be deeply suspicious of and resistant to. We cannot prevent all injustices, but we can avoid adding to their sum.


Please, instead of terrorizing us into putting our faith in violence, tell us about the many around the globe working selflessly to uphold our highest values through difficult and courageous interfaith, humanitarian and diplomatic efforts.


Global cooperation isn’t simple, obvious or guaranteed, but it is the most thoughtful and safest political course, and the only one with any chance of succeeding.


(To the many later letters that arrived online reminding me of how naive and stupid I was to write the above letter, I responded online with the following:)


I am not yet a pacifist, but I have observed that, too often, politicians who see conflicts primarily in terms of military solutions are elected with the money and support of those who profit from war. I hope to persuade voters to elect/support leaders who understand and consider the tragic costs of war for all involved, leaders who are less likely to abuse great power, and who have a record of seeking peaceful win-win compromises, accepting different points of view, and maintaining positive relations. My letter was intended to emphasize that we must consider war just as bad, in its effects on human beings, as terrorism (which is true), and because of the numbers involved, even worse…and so, equally to be avoided.


We have forgotten what it is like to have war in our own land. Sadly, during this century, many U.S. leaders have used war/our military forces to further perceived national interests, offering flag-waving rationales, and have not used war as a last resort, for defense only.


I love my country, so I work hard to promote peaceful viewpoints, not wanting us to lose our global reputation, acquire more deadly enemies, spend ourselves into disastrous economic situations, or blight the lives of millions here and elsewhere on unneccessary wars that achieve little.


Read Obama's courageous pre-Iraq-war speech against the war (or mine, published in the weeks after 9/11 in the Frederick News Post, listing similar arguments, if less eloquently) and you will see that many protesters and leaders DID know, even if you didn't, exactly why it was not a good idea to go to war….


There were better solutions, but not ones as profitable and attractive to those making the decisions (like Cheney). Some well-intentioned leaders, like George W. Bush, were convinced by bad intelligence combined with simplism (simplisticism? I'm trying to make up a new word that is the opposite of complexity. Simplixity?) that they had no choice, but many of us never believed that particular “intelligence” to begin with, for innumerable good reasons, and we wanted more questions asked. Unfortunately, our fellow-citizens elected and listened to hair-trigger, militaristic and misguided politicians.


All I'm saying is–let's not do that anymore! Let's elect thoughtful, informed leaders…. And let's not do anything to any other country that we, were we a less-powerful country, would not want done to us; even if we think such approaches are in “our interest,” they are immoral. Nobody likes having their country invaded and occupied; nobody likes outsiders telling them how to live. That's why we have our military forces, and only for that reason–to defend our country.


In all conflicts, we need to be careful of using double standards–one standard for what's OK for the U.S. and a different one for “the rest” of the world.

Dialogue and Discernment

President Obama’s recent disclosure of secret memos has stirred up national debate on torture, just as his previous openness to honest dialogue inspired widespread discussion—and enlightenment—on such prickly subjects as racism, patriotism, hope, secrecy, enemies, extremism, power, culture, diplomacy, and faith.


Obama’s courageous commitment to transparent government, and the inevitable media discussions that ensue, will only deepen our national appreciation of the intricacies and nuances of crucial, complicated subjects too often seen in simplistic, black-and-white terms.


For instance, thanks to our current civic dialogue on torture, we now realize that the decision to torture, like the decision to go to war, only seems “simple” when we see “others” as “not-us,” “different,” and in terms of “us/them;” the decision to torture is infinitely more complicated when we view all people as valuable, “us,” “ours,” one community. We’ve also learned that torture undermines founding American principles of respect and support for human life, is often counterproductive, ineffective, unreliable, and misleading, endangers our own imprisoned soldiers, weakens our alliances, and creates endless new enemies.


Future Obama revelations and their associated public conversations may again leave us chastened, but newfound humility is a small price to pay for a priceless understanding of complexity, values, and peace.



I sent this letter-to-the-editor to the Frederick News-Post a few weeks back but it was not printed…. 🙂

U.S. Right-Wing Extremists Say “Bring It On” To Terrorists

From the looks of the many recent letters to newspapers, U.S. right-wing extremists plan to win back the presidency in 2012 by politiely offering voters a false dichotomy: we citizens will “be forced” to choose between safety and good government—i.e., “Since Bush protected us from terrorist attacks, if there is an attack on Obama’s watch, it will be Obama’s fault, so we'll have to fire him—regardless of his achievements for the people.”


The truth is, terrorist attacks are quite likely nowadays, being relatively cheap, easy to carry out, and hard to prevent; examples of such atrocities are 9/11 (which occurred on Bush’s watch), the London train bombings, and the Mumbai attacks.


Obama will defend our borders, go after terrorists, and work with all nations to confront and ameliorate the conditions which produce terrorism—lawlessness, violent cultures, lack of opportunity, political oppression and repression, poverty, inequality, easily-available weapons, and ongoing conflicts. But Obama’s job has not been made easier by Bush's disastrous economic legacy, nor by his ill-advised Iraq war, Guantanamo, and his record of torture, all of which have left Obama with an Al Qaeda far bigger, stronger, richer, and more dedicated than Bush ever inherited from Clinton.


None of these facts matter, however, to faithless demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, who trust in lies, fear—and a timely terrorist attack—to rescue themselves and their ilk from present ignominy.         




I welcome your comments! Please send them to . Thank you! Nancy Pace 🙂         


Ps. I am working on a memoir of my years as the military brat daughter of a highly-decorated war hero (and career officer)–about the implications of those experiences for me, my family, other military families, my country and the world in general, and about my difficult transition to peace activism.


I will return to full-time blogging as soon as ever I can, and until then, I know I will keep blogging sporadically because sometimes I simply cannot not write about reactions I have to things I read in the newspaper, like the above commentary….


I love blogging, and will post again soon…. Thank you for your patience to all my readers! 🙂

Lincoln Gathered INTELLECTUAL Rivals in his Cabinet: Can Hillary Match Up for Obama?

Not that Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t smart as a whip. Indeed, she emerged from college a cultural visionary. But is she, right now, really one of our country’s great intellectual visionaries, who can offer sound prescriptions for America’s future within a fast-changing world? Is she today one of our great leading political and social global thinkers?


Or is Clinton more a powerful partisan wonk, a good DO-er (and do-gooder) on behalf of her constituents, as well as her own political ambitions and legacy ? Because, if she is 'merely' a powerful, well-connected political operative, then an Obama decision to bring her into his cabinet at Secretary of State will be greatly at odds with, and indeed, will work against accomplishing what Doris Kearns Goodwin, in Team of Rivals, said that Lincoln himself achieved by gathering his own “team of rivals”–help in thinking through, in advance, the implications of his weightiest decisions.


During those pre-Civil War days, politicians gained national political stature through public speaking—that is: by composing speeches and then publishing them in the nation’s newspapers. These thoughtfully-wrought, persuasive intellectual arguments concerning the issues of the day included valuable original personal perspectives and prescriptions for appropriate responses to breaking conflicts and topics. Barack Obama himself has certainly fulfilled all such requirement for visionary intellectual leadership, having personally written two best-selling books during his relative youth, and having personally planned and executed an unparalleled national campaign that bent and shaped the ideas of the world through the sheer force of his intellect.


Unfortunately, Clinton’s previous particular strengths have not been in this department—with the exception of her global work for women and children.


Clinton has proved herself a very successful, bright, capable political fighter. Her greatest abilities have been in adversarial relations and political in-fighting. With Hillary as political strategist-in-chief, Bill could always outmaneuver his opponents. She has also done interesting work on her own political behalf, as well.


Admittedly, Clinton has evolved to becoming a global fighter for women and children on the world stage. Certainly she has met with many foreign leaders. But her global background and perspectives, and frankly, her previous interests in foreign relations have mostly been limited to improving life for her favorite two-thirds of the world’s population—women and children—along, of course, with their husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, grandfathers and male friends.


Hmmmm. Come to think of it, if Clinton will serve Obama wholeheartedly and loyally from this pro-family global perspective—and that’s a big if—maybe she’ll turn out to be a good choice for State after all, past ghostwriters be damned.


Clinton’s very loving heart could be wonderfully put to use in the very important role of new Senate Lion during the Obama era. Congress needs her many talents to negotiate the details and fight for passage of the coming torrent of new legislation so necessary to bring real change to America.


But Secretary of State? We definitely do not need a parochial street fighter in that role. What we need is a global visionary who will approach the world non-adversarially—not as a defensive women up against a world of men, not as an advocate of the interests of the United States 'against' the interests of 'the rest,' but as one with all others.


If Clinton has indeed evolved enough to work patiently with (and not against) all comers; if she can bring the world together to cooperatively solve our many common global problems; if she is ready to make the necessary evolutionary jump away from adversarial relationships toward cooperative ones; if she can come from her caring rather than her fears; then she could indeed be the right kind of rival for Obama’s cabinet team, and the right kind of U.S. Secretary of State to the world.


Actually, I had Al Gore in mind for Obama's Secretary of State, because of his green, global, cooperative vision and personality, and his demonstrated intellectual leadership through speaking, writing, and other political venues. But if Obama does offer State to Clinton, then I hope she will consider his offer with real humility concerning her motives and abilities perhaps gained from her recent hubris. And if she accepts, I hope she now comes from that so-necessary intellectual bandwidth which alone will determine whether both their decisions will look good to posterity.

An End to Holocausts, Hiroshimas and 9/11s?

Two survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb recently came to my fair city to share their stories and plead for an end to nuclear weapons. I now am more persuaded than ever that powerful leaders who order the bombing of civilian populations are as misguided and ineffective in furthering their causes as are terrorists who set off suicide bombs in crowded marketplaces.


In the past, I believed that bombing civilian targets was sometimes necessary to end war and save lives, but now I see that Americans would never accept such a double standard if nuclear bombs were dropped on our cities.


We only ever have two choices in any personal or global conflict: We can choose never to give up trying to find positive solutions, or we can claim to have no choice but to accept negative ones. We can opt for unity, or we can retreat into defensive separateness. We can bravely reach out to come together as one—one couple, one family, one organization, one polity, one world—or we can retreat from the hard work of reaching agreement.


Proponents of “just wars” assure us that violence sometimes offers quicker, surer ways to prevent injustices and insure the survival of the “right” side. Yet this same moral argument is proffered equally fervently by terrorists, who also believe in the “rightness” of their causes. To both of these, I contend that to be “right,” whether individually or nationally, is to be in continuously valiant struggle to live up to the highest, most positive, peaceful, loving universal humanitarian ideals and values.


Sadly, many of us excuse our double standards and immoral choices, both at home and abroad, because “we’re right.”  But we’re not “right,” regardless of our politics, religion, or history, unless we, our families, friends, organizations and nation resolve our conflicts generously, cooperatively, and non-violently. If our solutions to human conflict are violent, harmful and hurtful, we are no longer “right.”


Our justly historically proud and idealistic nation now controls most of the world’s nuclear weapons (making us by far the greatest weapons proliferator and threat to others around the world) yet we see no problem with that, because, after all, “we’re ‘right’.” We even justify a nuclear attack upon Iran, fearing that they may develop, use or proliferate such weapons—because we’re “right.” As the Bruce Ivins / anthrax case and the Air Force’s case of “misplaced” nuclear warheads have taught us, even well-intentioned weapons research and maintenance can be too easily sabotaged. Deadly bioweapons and nuclear devices quickly fall prey not only to human greed and guile, but also to weakness, illness, error, and confusion about the politically “right” thing to do. All this, while fueling ever more danger, fear, more arms races, and more likelihood of proliferation.


During the twentieth century, every peaceful, diplomatic effort that has ever received anything like the openhanded financial and political backing which war receives has been successful. Such political compromises, however frustrating and dissatisfying they may feel at the time, always seem presciently wise and politically courageous in retrospect.


Wars cannot prevent catastrophes; war itself is a catastrophe, as attested by all those whose lives are touched by war. Soldiers and soldiers’ families are always catastrophically exploited by war. Ninety percent of the victims of war are civilians. We who so proudly march into war have no idea what future injustices those wars will inevitably loose upon innocents on all sides.


The belief that war can prevent injustices is a powerful, well-funded myth. War may prevent a few specific, immediate injustices, but it always creates many more unpredicted and terrible ones. Tragically, we let every generation forget that, whether or fight or not, some great injustices inevitably are suffered, and some people die. Millions of Jews and other innocents died in WWII despite gargantuan war efforts on all sides, and many more died because of them. In wartime as in peacetime, countries come together and apart, tyrants rise and fall. The price of liberty—and its best guarantor—is never war, but eternal, active, courageous, peaceful vigilance. For what does freedom mean, if not the freedom to live and let others livein peace? Our God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—a right shared by all peoples everywhere—rests inevitably upon others’ good will.


War cannot keep us safe. War cannot prevent human injustices. Even under the best of circumstances, human nature being what is it and human conflicts being inevitable, life will always be fragile, difficult, and uncertain. In today’s (and tomorrow’s) fast-shrinking, intricately intertwined, and insanely violent world, life on earth itself is at risk.


The only moral choice about nuclear weapons that any nation has in today’s increasingly complex and violent world is to take the courageous lead in disarming. Such a decision is no different than any of the other difficult moral decisions we make every day. They all come down to one of two choices: whether to live positively or negatively, hopefully or cynically, bravely or fearfully, in faith or in despair.


Regardless of the size and nature of the conflict, whether personal or political, local or global, we can always choose cooperation over competition, unity over division, hope over cynicism, brotherhood over partisanship, and forgiveness over vengeance.


We can always choose faith, hope and love over fear, defensiveness, and retribution. We can choose whether to add to the sum of injustices by fearfully arming ourselves enough to destroy our beautiful blue planet many times over, mistreating our neighbors as they mistreat us, or we can support only peaceful leaders everywhere, seek compromises, listen to all viewpoints, and steadfastly reject that greatest injustice and attack upon freedom, which is war itself.


I’m not brave enough to be a total pacifist; I would defend my family, friends and neighbors from bad guys climbing in our windows and knocking down our doors, and maybe I’m wrong in this. But such scenarios are far less likely if we elect peaceful leaders who maintain strong local militias, and then spend the rest of our so-called “defense” budget redressing local, national and international injustices, and supporting great projects dear to the hearts of our so-called “enemies.” Everyone knows that the best way to get rid of an enemy is to make him a friend.


Albert Einstein famously warned us that no nation on earth can simultaneously prevent and prepare for war. Certainly, maintaining the mightiest military force in the history of the world has not prevented us from being continually embroiled in wars.


We are all conditioned to believe that being “right” about ourselves, our politics, traditions and religions, is more important than living and letting others live in peace. We have to be “right” about so many things—about who the bad guys are, who started it, who was at fault, what happened, who meant well and who didn’t, who did what to whom, whose ideology or form of government or religion is superior….


The truth is, in this confusing world, it’s difficult to find agreement even amongst our best friends and those most “like” us, about what life is all about—what we’re doing here, and how best to look upon the world, ourselves, and one another. Even the greatest scholars realize that the more they know, the more they know they don’t know. This is why, in every conflict, humility, acceptance, mutual respect, support, and yes, forgiveness, are the wisest guides to being “right.”


Some day, they will give a war and no one will come. Each of us will either continue to insist upon being “right” and in control (both illusions in this multicultural nuclear age) or hold ourselves to that highest universal standard, the Golden Rule, which treats all others kindly as we would wish to be treated. When more and more of us make this shift to respect and support for human life everywhere, we will enter a more harmonious age.


In this age of climate change and peak oil, the great work of peaceful global transformation is urgent. Wars over oil already rage in Iraq, Darfur, and Georgia, and other global scarcities such as water threaten increasing conflict. Our mother Earth is sick and reaching crisis. 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.”


Fortunately, researchers have learned a lot about how to resolve human conflicts peacefully. Amish and Quaker Christians and other historically peaceful communities have shown us that peaceful cultures are possible, and now, across the globe, great moral leaders demonstrate the proven arts and skills of peaceful conflict resolution. It’s time we learned what they know, and time to spread that knowledge around.


Hatred begets more hatred; this is immutable law. Until we lead the global paradigm shift away from division and toward brotherhood, exploiting the potential of our great institutions and media in the service of peace and justice, we and our progeny will increasingly be at risk for more crime, more injustices, wars and terrorism, more Holocausts, 9/11s, Hiroshimas and Nagasakis. Neither love nor fear are simple, obvious or guaranteed approaches to resolving human conflict, but at this late date, only one has any chance of succeeding.


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Obama and McCain Tell Us What “Rich” Means

According to John McCain, only those Americans with incomes of $5 million or more a year are “rich.” That leaves the other 99.99999% making only $4,999,999.00 (or less) merely middle-class. It's hard to impress this guy!


Barack Obama thinks that families who makes $250,000 or more are “rich”–one-twentieth of John McCain’s assessment. He's a bit more in touch with reality….


John McCain has made it clear that he will not raise taxes even on the “rich” except to pay for endless wars. Barack says he will raise taxes on the 3-4% of the American people at the top, who need the money less and have already disproportionately benefited from living in this land of opportunity, to fund his plans for change. He’ll lower taxes for families making $100,000 or less.


So, without raising money, how does McCain plan to solve our country’s huge problems, that individuals and private enterprise can’t resolve on their own, the ones that require national planning and support? How does John McCain plan to level the playing field for all Americans, giving those born with disadvantages, deficits, and barriers a chance to lead healthy, productive lives?


The hard sad fact of the matter is, John McCain has no such plans. He doesn’t plan to level the playing field at all, or to solve our critical national problems. His primary business is taking care that the rich stay rich. He thinks the private sector can handle everything necessary if he just keeps government out of the way. His only plan is to use the bully pulpit to inspire us all upward and onward to greater individual achievement. Aside from that, we’re on our own.


Some of the critical national/global problems which John McCain won’t be solving because he won’t raise taxes to fund plausible government-wide national action plans, are: war prevention; energy and other scarcities; lawlessness; poverty; human and workers' rights; educational access; weapons proliferation; infectious disease; health care; environmental degradation; mass migrations/immigration; infrastructure; disaster relief; the national debt, deficit, and trade imbalance; a failing economy; addiction; hunger; a culture of violence; and prejudice.


McCain's conservative supporters put their faith in volunteerism and enterpreneurism by the wealthy cream of American society who they imagine have risen to the top only through their superior moral qualities. Barack will require such fortunate Americans to pitch in disproportionately to find and fund national solutions to common problems, to help their American brothers make it up to the starting line, and to help “the least of these” who are struggling in difficult times.


John McCain’s presidential vision is a fearful, frightening military one. Like George Bush, McCain will spend whatever amount is “necessary” on war and the military to protect Americans—militarily only—from Islamic extremists; beyond that, none of our common problems will be solved, and it’s every man for himself. Barack will work non-violently, diplomatically, and cooperatively to keep us out of harm's way and to prevent and address conflicts.


John McCain’s idea of leadership is to cheer us on comfortably from the sidelines, while using his most familiar tool, the military, to put bandaids on erupting conflicts and force the outcomes he desires.  Barack Obama will organize and galvanize us to take the necessary effective national actions on our problems. He will spend our tax money wisely, keep us out of costly wars, get us working to solve our problems, and get us where we need to go, together.


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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.