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





















































































The Best (and Only) Way to Solve Our Terrorism Problem

As a history major, I know about what western corporations and governments have done to Muslim (and other) nations—exploited resources, manipulated politics, set up friendly regimes, assassinated opponents, and armed and funded those willing to serve our interests. So when Thomas L. Friedman, in his 4/7/07 New York Times column, “At a Theater Near You…” (copied below) wonders how Americans have grown so “numb to just how crazy” scattered Muslim suicide bombing attacks are,” I wonder in turn how we in the west can be just as numbly indifferent to the horrors we’ve perpetrated upon Muslims.


One member of Congress after another argues for withdrawal from Iraq so that not one more American life will be added to the number lost, without a word about the millions of Iraqi lives already lost or maimed or ruined, and the hundreds dying daily–those same Iraqi lives President Bush so often claimed we had come to rescue.


Mr. Friedman wonders, how could a doctor ever become a terrorist? Many Muslim doctors in London and elsewhere have been dealing for five years and more with the tragic effects upon almost everyone they know of the western occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. These doctors are educated humanitarians, knowledgeable about the histories of western aggression and oppression in their countries of origin, histories we certainly don’t teach or discuss here at home. They are doubtless grief-stricken, paralyzed, and hopeless enough to prefer dying to doing nothing at all. I think they intended to terrify the British into feeling their heightened vulnerabilities more personally, without harming them, hoping they would urge their new Prime Minister Brown to address Islamic concerns and stop the carnage.


Consider: what if an imagined, vastly more powerful Muslim alliance had invaded and occupied the United States five years ago? We wouldn’t be “generating vigorous, sustained condemnation” about an occasional American suicide bomber way over in Iraq, consumed as we would we be already, here at home in America, with simple day-to-day survival, with burying and mourning our million dead brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, with caring for five times that million beloved wounded, with desperately fleeing the violence along with the millions of our fellow Americans abandoning childhood homes and trying to pick up the pieces of shattered lives and dreams anywhere else….


Just who is it, Mr. Friedman, who is “erasing basic norms of civilization” by terrorizing—Islamic suicide bombers, or our own invading and occupying armies?


Both, of course.


I have no doubt that many extremist Muslims are every bit as crazy as some of our very own home-grown terrified fundamentalist Christians and Jews who stand ready to nuke whole Islamic nations right now with no more questions asked. Yes, there are violent, ignorant, vengeful people everywhere, and this is a big big problem. And adding more violence, suffering, anger, and fear to all of their lives is being done to what good purpose?


Islam and Christianity, as practiced by their most devout and informed followers, are both peaceful religions. To be sure, the Koran requires believers to protect Muslim lands from those who would attack, occupy, and impose different traditions upon them, just as American Christians and Jews alike pledge to defend the Constitution even to the death from all enemies foreign and domestic. That doesn’t make either of us crazy. Yet Mr. Friedman implies that crazy-fanatic-Muslims are “the problem.”


Surely he can’t mean to compare the terrible 9/11 attacks perpetrated by misguided young mostly-Saudi Arabian radical intellectuals, with the American government’s own calculated five-year attacks and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have resulted in the deaths of a million people, the wounding of five times that many, the loss of 3,600+ of our own precious youth, the blighted hopes of millions of refugees, and the transformation of vast swaths of culturally-rich Muslim home towns and cities into bullet-ridden ghost towns?


Surely Friedman can’t be comparing the current outbreaks of desperate suicide attacks, however horrific, here and there in the west, with the deliberate, incalculable damage done to Muslim countries by western governments and corporations over the last several hundred years? Only the biggest, comfiest bully on the block could get away with making up such comparisons.


Mr. Friedman believes Islamic countries are benighted because they haven’t embraced western modernity, and it is true that the west and the east have much to learn from one another. But if only we would get out of their way, Muslims would have a better chance to embrace what they admire about western culture, as the Japanese did after WWII. Maybe when freed of western interference, Muslims, like the Vietnamese, will amaze us not only with their productivity, but with their generosity to former enemies as well.


The last thing Americans want to confess is our culpability in the Middle East, so painful is it to see our own shortcomings clearly, and so comforting to chalk disastrous policies up to Muslim backwardness….just as we’ve chalked everything bad happening in China up to Chinese backwardness, until now, when, whoops, here they come too, industriously going about doing things in their own way, and the bigger and stronger for it. In fact, they’ve succeeded so well that many in the west are working to boycott attendance at the Beijing  Olympics on various pretexts, not wanting to risk letting the west see how well the Chinese are doing.


I wish our government would stop creating enemies out of everyone “different,” and stop encouraging well-paid radio demagogues like Rush Limbaugh to keep up their steady drumbeat of xenophobia (“fear of outsiders.”) Demonizing and colonizing distant oil-rich nations does guarantee big profits for oil and for military/industrial corporations which thrive in a political atmosphere of fear. Regrettably though, capitalizing on America’s abysmal ignorance and fear of the rest of the world will never unify or save our nation, or our planet. We are young, brash, and powerful, and we want to “be right” about everything, want to “settle” conflicts “quickly” through violent means. Both goals are fantasies. Instead, we could choose to work to befriend everyone on the planet, accepting all nations and peoples as-is along with their weaknesses and mistakes (including our own), extending a welcome hand of caring and assistance to all….


But unless we voters suddenly get a lot smarter before the 2008 elections, the U.S. government will continue to be run by politicians elected by money from big corporations whose only interest is making high profits for their stockholders, and with no interest at all in changing the aggressive foreign policies which so successfully fill up their bank accounts.


And why should such corporations care if Muslim or American innocents are killed here or there? Why would corporations want to stop endless wars, when they can reinvest their gargantuan war profits into more government lobbying, a strategy which has successfully created for them a safe, lucrative niche within this nation of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations, which may yet perish from the earth. Few politicians disproportionately influenced by corporate donations will risk their powerful status to educate voters about the U.S.’s abysmal history of empire-building.


Friedman seems blissfully unaware of the two clear and oft-repeated “concrete political demands” which Bin Laden and his violent cohorts have stated time and again: in order to stop Islamic terrorism, the west must withdraw military forces from Islamic lands, and must stop arming and supporting Israeli anti-Islamic aggression.


The strategy of beating weaker nations into submission through gunboat lack-of-diplomacy and war has not proved robust. The west will be far more effective at spreading the best of our culture when we first offer generous support for popular cherished Islamic projects and problems.


No matter how far we fling our military forces in attempts to resolve east/west political conflicts, “our” dangerous and costly “terrorism problem” will only become worse until we withdraw our military forces from Islam, and offer generous support only to those Israeli leaders working for peaceful co-existence and equal rights for all ethnicities and religions. Until that time, grieving, patriotic, angry, jobless Muslim youth with no national military hope of prevailing against western oppression or against regional enemies newly armed and militarized amidst the lawlessness and chaos of life in a rapidly spreading war zone, will keep on choosing to throw in with terrorist/insurgent bands and militias.


If we continue to insist upon our American right to impose upon distant cultures our own “superior” political and economic values, multinational corporations profiting from war and terror will continue to misuse our ideals to serve their own greedy purposes:  to drive ever-deeper wedges into foreign lands, and to buy and sell (or take) whatever they want at criminal prices.


Friedman argues that it’s up to Muslim leaders to “remove this cancer” of terrorist violence. No. It is up to western leaders to remove this cancer of military-backed hegemony, this cancer of “might makes right,” this cancer of trampling the rights and traditions of smaller and weaker peoples.


Unless Mr. Friedman and I can somehow agree upon which of our children and grandchildren we’re willing to trade for a steady flow of cheap Middle Eastern oil, and which of our cities we’ll willing to exchange for bigger earnings for American stockholders, we should support leaders capable of shifting our nation and the world into to a new era of non-violent global cooperation, for the sake of all in both the east and the west.



Please send comments to Nancy Pace at njcpace@gmail.com .




July 4, 2007

Op-Ed Columnist

At a Theater Near You …



I knew something was up when I couldn’t get a cab. Then there were sirens and helicopters whirring overhead. I stopped a passerby to ask what was going on. He said something about a car bomb outside a disco six blocks from my hotel. A few hours later, I finally found a taxi. The driver warned me that it was nearly impossible to get across town. Another bomb had been uncovered in a car park. Next day, more news: a suicide bomber had driven his Jeep into an airport and jumped out, his body on fire, screaming “Allah! Allah!”

Where was I? Baghdad? Kabul? Tel Aviv? No, I was in England. But it could have been anywhere. The Middle East: Now playing at a theater near you.

But this movie gets more confusing every time you watch it. When you watched it on 9/11 it was about America’s presence in the heart of Arabia. And when you watched it on 7/7 it was about unemployed and alienated Muslim youth in Britain. In Jordan not long ago it was about a wedding at a Western hotel. In Morocco recently it was about an Internet cafe. And two days ago in Yemen it was about seven Spanish tourists who were killed when a suicide bomber drove into them at a local tourist site. Wasn’t Spain the country that quit Iraq to get its people out of the line of fire?

Because these incidents are scattered, we’re growing numb to just how crazy they are. In the past few years, hundreds of Muslims have committed suicide amid innocent civilians — without making any concrete political demands and without generating any vigorous, sustained condemnation in the Muslim world.

Two trends are at work here: humiliation and atomization. Islam’s self-identity is that it is the most perfect and complete expression of God’s monotheistic message, and the Koran is God’s last and most perfect word. To put it another way, young Muslims are raised on the view that Islam is God 3.0. Christianity is God 2.0. Judaism is God 1.0. And Hinduism and all others are God 0.0.

One of the factors driving Muslim males, particularly educated ones, into these acts of extreme, expressive violence is that while they were taught that they have the most perfect and complete operating system, every day they’re confronted with the reality that people living by God 2.0., God 1.0 and God 0.0 are generally living much more prosperously, powerfully and democratically than those living under Islam. This creates a real dissonance and humiliation. How could this be? Who did this to us? The Crusaders! The Jews! The West! It can never be something that they failed to learn, adapt to or build. This humiliation produces a lashing out.

In the old days, you needed a terror infrastructure with bases in Beirut or Afghanistan to lash out in a big way. Not anymore. Now all you need is the virtual Afghanistan — the Internet and a few cellphones — to recruit, indoctrinate, plan and execute. Hence, the atomization — little terror groups sprouting everywhere. Everyone now has a starter kit.

Gen. Michael Hayden, the C.I.A. director, recently noted in a speech that during the cold war “the enemy was easy to find, but hard to finish,” because the Soviet Union was so big and powerful. “Intelligence was important” back then, he added, “but it was overshadowed by the need for sheer firepower.”

In today’s war against terrorist groups, said General Hayden, “it’s just the opposite. Our enemy is easy to finish, but hard to find. Today, we are looking for individuals or small groups planning suicide bombings, running violent Jihadist Web sites, sending foreign fighters into Iraq.”

I’d go one step further. The Soviet Union was easy to find and hard to kill, but once it died, it was dead forever. It had no regenerative power because it had no popular base. The terrorists of Iraq or London are hard to find, easy to kill, but very difficult to eliminate. New recruits just keep sprouting.

Of course, not all Muslims are terrorists. But it’s been widely noted that virtually all suicide terrorists today are Muslims. Angry Norwegians aren’t doing this — nor are starving Africans or unemployed Mexicans. Muslims have got to understand that a death cult has taken root in the bosom of their religion, feeding off it like a cancerous tumor.

This cancer is erasing basic norms of civilization. In Iraq, we’ve seen suicide bombers blow up funerals and schools. In England, seven out of the eight people detained in the latest plot are Muslim doctors or medical students. Doctors plotting mass murder? Could that be? If Muslim leaders don’t remove this cancer — and only they can — it will spread, tainting innocent Muslims and poisoning their relations with each other and the world.



Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company










Putting On and Taking Off the Pretty Face of War

The heartrending recent news coverage about the ghastly deaths of defenseless civilians, mostly children, in Qana, Lebanon, tells the real story of the mideast wars: random slaughter, and the relentless ruin of the loves, livelihoods, work, and hopes of thousands of innocent civilians on all sides. Nevertheless, true believers in the necessity, efficacy, and morality of war still churn out article after article arguing war's fairness and positive aspects (“Israeli Military Service Unites Generations;” “'Disproportionate' in What Moral Universe;'” “For Troops, A Sense of Moral Clarity.”) For, in order to sustain the important illusion that war is moral, and to divert public attention away from war's inevitably bloody means and ends, pro-war propagandists shamefully exploit every one of the heart-swelling, toe-tapping, chest-beating moments which arise in the midst of horrific wars—all the gentlemanly charitable acts, the selfless patriotism and bravery, the beauty and idealism of youth….


Although “might” cannot make right, fear and influence can be combined fairly successfully to shape public perception to thinking that “our” wars are primarily about camaraderie, adventure, skill, professionalism, physical prowess, pride, and masculinity…and to thinking that wars can be fought cleanly, judiciously, even kindly, in order to rescue the downtrodden, promote democracy, and protect our homes, families, and way of life.


Even well-intentioned efforts to ameliorate war’s devastating effects, such as banning nuclear weapons and landmines, and instituting war crimes trials, can be exploited, and held up as proof that war is just and humane.


But the fact that war has moments of fineness and decency should not lull us into deluding ourselves that repeated indiscriminate acts of violence against one’s fellow man are anything except wrong. As in Qana, ninety percent of the victims of modern wars are civilians. Soldiers, politicians, and private citizens alike must choose to abandon their consciences for the duration of wars, because war itself is a crime against humanity.


Although “wars of self-defense,” a highly ambiguous and arguable term, are still considered to be legal, all that is legal is not necessarily moral. Wars are fundamentally about the use of force to achieve political goals, not about morality. But moral or not, all fighting must relentlessly be made palatable to its funding and fighting public. Any politician or general worth his pay-grade knows well how to drape war in the colors and images of respectability and tradition. Yet no gallantly waving flag, no proud anthem, pledge, nor crisp salute can ever promise that war’s processes or outcomes will be representative, humane, or moral.


Every soldier who ever shot, tortured, or pushed a captive out of a plane in order to obtain information necessary to protect his own knows that the cruel reality of war makes a mockery of the prettified versions held up for public viewing, the ones giving lip service to human rights, morality, and a rule of law which rests on due process, presumption of innocence, the right to legal counsel, and a fair and speedy trial..


Any soldier who ever fought in a real shooting war knows that legal and moral niceties are suspended during the life-and-death situation that is war, hauled out only as convenient for public viewing. Snipers, for example, act instantaneously as judge, jury, and executioner to their random, anonymous suspects. Bombardiers, and missile and rocket launchers unleash hell, raining fire down equally upon all their anonymous, hapless victims.


To hear tell, war crimes are rare aberrations perpetrated by atypical rogues, stray criminal elements within otherwise pristine organizations. The truth is, crimes against humanity happen all the time, on both sides, during all wars, a direct result of the bloody training, means, conditions, and ends of war.


When top military leaders find themselves irrevocably trapped in the unwelcome spotlight of undeniable war crimes, they immediately stage a big show of fairness and due process. Military defenders make feeble attempts to drum up sympathy for the scapegoats, calling attention to inadequate training and terrible conditions of battlefield stress, while prosecutors demonize the poor sad crazy grunts who were so foolish as to get caught tarnishing the honor of their noble units, and promise harsh punishments for any freakish renegades who may have mysteriously insinuated themselves into their otherwise holier-than-everyone-else squeaky-clean corps.


Officers always protect themselves and one another, limiting, placing, and holding blame as far down the chain of command as possible, leaving a poor few marginalized dupes to twist publicly in the wind. In every war crime trial, the viewing public—soldiers especially—must be newly convinced once again that “our” wars are conducted honorably, that our soldiers are unusually fine and pure, and that the rights of all civilians and combatants alike are protected by doily-white-gloved military justice.


Anonymous military judges always announce shockingly lenient sentences, horrifying victims’ families and their countrymen, but comforting fellow-soldiers who require reassurance that they, too, when forced into similar or worse acts, will not be abandoned. Other leniencies are later quietly extended under the table to prisoners who gallantly lie, or who fall upon their own swords to protect the honor (and butts) of comrades and superiors.


Although soldiers' advocates repeatedly plead for clarity in Rules of Engagement, Geneva Conventions, and so on, top government and military officials prefer to keep all military rules as fuzzy and vague as possible, not wishing to be handcuffed during wartime. But no amount of “clarity” will ever change the fact that real war is always immorally indiscriminate in its victims. Generals don’t aspire to leading a band of ethicists; they want naïve, malleable young recruits, trainable into lock-step killers able to withstand the moral confusion necessary to blood-letting, troops who will follow any order, march into any hell, and do what they’re told, which is to win wars by remorselessly killing vast swaths of human beings. To prevail in war, soldiers must believe that all is fair, that anything goes, if necessary to accomplish their mission and protect their buddies.


Signatories of the Geneva Conventions hope to receive equivalent courtesies when their guys fall into enemy hands. But reciprocity has no value when rules are always discarded as inapplicable during every new war, just because this new latest incarnation of a monster-of-the-moment—whether Kraut, Jap, terrorist, whatever—is touted to be the coldest, least reasonable, most dangerous enemy ever to threaten anyone, deserving of torture, murder, in fact complete annihilation from the earth, along with their families and other similar scum, as quickly as possible by all available means including chemical, biological, and nuclear.


After war’s end, forgotten conventions prove once again useful in punishing the losing side and propping up the flagging resolve of a public weary from manning and funding the last war. War crimes trials help portray war’s most recent victors as the most legitimately aggrieved, gentlemanly, and honorable—and not just the most effectively brutal—while urging new spending on military rebuilding against the next, greater foe as once again sweet, necessary, and good.


Respect and support for the quality of human life everywhere is the highest value we can hold. This value reinforces every other precious value we may embrace—all conceptions of God, duty, honor, country, organization, mission, brotherhood, freedom, democracy, justice. The business of indiscriminately maiming and killing human beings for profit and power (under however many pretty guises) can never stand up to close moral scrutiny.


I would defend myself, my family, and neighbors from armed enemies breaking down our doors and coming in our windows, and would willingly fund armed local militias well-trained in peaceful conflict resolution for that purpose. Other than that, and rather than risk adding to the sum of injustice in the world by going to war, I would instead risk suffering a certain amount of injustice ourselves (a risk always taken in going to war) by devoting the rest of our current defense budget to building understanding and good will among all the earth’s peoples through proven peaceful and generous methods. My first step would be to pass the very specific and impressive proposed legislation (Bills H.R. 3760 and S. 1756) authorizing and funding a cabinet-level Department of Peace.


Please send comments to epharmon@adelphia.net .









Coulda Been, Woulda Been, Shoulda Been….Sad Lessons in 20/20 Foresight

A few weeks after 9/11, my local newspaper published my “solutions” and comments about “what we should do next/now.” Here is the article as printed then:

If I were the U.S. government, (and, come to think of it, I am!–a person in the government of the people, by the people and for the people) I would figure out which American foreign policies have resulted in so much global hatred and criticism, and change them.

I would use this terrible, tragic attack an an opening to form global alliances based in respect and love for human life, human freedom, and human interests everywhere.

I would stop acting as if American interests and American children and American families and American freedom and American lives are more important than, or in some way separable from, the interests of children and families and  freedom and lives everywhere. People in faraway places feel just as much pain, anger, confusion, frustration, sadness as Americans do, when violence touches them.

I would defend the lives of my family and friends with my own. I would defend our land, our forms of government and economics, our people and cultures and freedoms and ideals and our chosen way of life, but I would not insist that everyone everywhere adopt them.

I would not subvert, and would ardently support, the right of women everywhere to freely choose their roles and work and religions and cultures–whether or not I agree with their particular choices.

I would not use the arguments of “stability,” “American interests,” or “protection of our citizenry” to legitimize unjustly invading, occupying, imposing on, or exploiting any other peoples, or to create or support undemocratic governments favorable to American interests.

I would not send secret agents to undermine others' right to self-determination. I would not assume that everyone wants us to come over and tell them how to live.

I would offer help to others in reaching whatever goals are important to them; that seems to be a good way to win friends.

Sharing our loving American hearts with people everywhere would make good economic and political and military sense. If some of the money we spend on military and intelligence were spent on kindness, diplomacy, and sharing, we'd be a safer, richer, happier country.

I would give no support to government policies and decisions that legitimize treating non-Americans in ways we Americans would not wish to be treated.

That's the golden rule for you–Jesus' rule, Buddha's rule, Confucius' rule, Moses' rule, Mohammed's rule. Treating others as you would wish to be treated is the christian thing, the humanitarian thing to do.

America is a land and a way of life that can legitimately be defended from those who would invade or impose upon us, true. But the America that is most worth defending is not just a land, not just a people, but a noble idea, a symbol, a belief and value system that supports freedom for all (not just Americans), a happy, joyful life for all children (not just American children), democracy for all (not just Americans), equality of opportunity for all (not just Americans), peace for all (not just Americans), freedom from terrorism and tyranny and war (90 percent of war deaths are civilians) for all, not just for Americans.

What we Americans all stand for, what is most worth defending, is the American creed we uphold, our fundamental creed that reminds us that our creator gave us all (not just Americans) inalienable rights.

Americanism is a creed declaring freedom for all, justice for all, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. If not, we Americans are not really about justice, democracy, freedom, rights, at all. By definition, these are inclusive human rights and legitimate pursuits, or they mean nothing at all.

How can we be responsible for everyone else? Well, we can at least make a small start by making sure that we're not part of the problem for anyone else.

We can look and see where we have burdened other people or countries, where we have taken unfair advantage, where we have supported an unrepresentative system of government for our own convenience or comfort or gain, where we have taken advantage of unjust conditions and governments and situations and workers to reap an inequitable, unkind benefit–and stop doing that.

Would I be willing to give up some of my comforts, some of my privileges? Yes, gladly, and so would most other Americans. We would give up a great deal, for freedom, for justice.

We must actively insist that our government act only in ways that express and uphold the values we believe in.

Capitalism does not have to mean unfair exploitation, unbridled selfishness, uncontrolled greed, blind materialism. Capitalism isn't a system designed to protect the rights of everyone to take whatever they want however they can get it. Capitalism is not about allowing the rich to exploit the poor. Capitalism is about open, ethical markets among free peoples. Capitalism is about creating and protecting fair economic systems which work to support the interests of all people, everywhere in the world.

If the idea of America is about anything, if it's worth anything, it's about justice, fairness, kindness, support for true freedom and democracy and abundance for all.

If we allow America to be about freedom, justice, and abundance–but only for Americans–how can we say we value human life itself? How can we be angry with others who don't seem to value human life, who take it away senselessly in terrorist acts?

How can we expect the rest of the world to give a damn about the 6,000+ beautiful lives that were lost in America on Sept. 11, and about the thousands of family and friends who are suffering today because of those losses, if we ourselves don't care, moment-to-moment, day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year whether our own economic and military and political policies contribute to the long-term suffering, starvation, disease, and death of millions everywhere in the world, and in our own country?

If we don't care about the millions of Afghans who died and/or are currently refugees from the last decade of war? If we don't care about the Iraqi children, 5,000 dying every month? If we don't care about these things, then we're not Americans, we're…I don't know…something else…hedonists?…some other entity that doesn't deserve to win, to be powerful, to thrive, to speak proudly of our rights and values and ideals and heritage, to people everywhere.

If we value human life at all, if we expect others to value American lives, then we must examine our own economic, military, diplomatic, intelligence and foreign policies, and hold our government responsible to insure that each of our policies and decisions reflects value and respect for human life, not just American life. Whenever we make policy that affects anyone anywhere, we must ask if we would want that policy directed towards ourselves.

Nothing can excuse this terrible, violent act of terrorism, or ever make it right. It has opened a Pandora's box of hatred and anger which will increase for a long time, and I pray in the name of its most direct sufferers that their memory will not be disrespected by using them as an excuse to start World War III. They know more than anyone else right now how much human suffering another war would create. Instead, I look for some kind of silver lining, some hope that some good can come of senseless tragedy, some understanding, some growth,  some meanings, as all things can work together for good.

I hope this disaster will impel us to finally open up global money tracking so criminals, terrorists, and drug dealers of all stripes cannot have a free hand. I hope we will finally track down all the weapons ever made, and make no more. I hope we will strengthen our highest-minded global alliances, create more, and continue to reach across national, racial, ethnic, historical, age, gender and religious boundaries, person to person, to further our highest ideals.

I hope we will support representative, responsive governments everywhere. I hope we will all listen, and talk, and share, and learn, and act in ways that respect human life and freedom and dignity, that alleviate human suffering. I hope that we will make decisions which reflect the highest beliefs of Christianity, of Islam, of Judaism, of Buddhism, of humanitariansm.

Only when we work together internationally in love, will we be able to begin to save our planet from the ravages or man's fear, greed, ignorance, and selfishness.

We must make choices from now on that are worthy and honorific of our beloved dead.

(Postscript, written on 12/19/05):

I never thought WMDs in Iraq probable (although possible.) My reasons for this opinion were generally rejected, though, by “average Americans” (people relatively unsophisticated about politics who trusted a narrow, steady diet of  conservative news outlets) with whom I spoke on the subject at the time—so enthralled were they with the booming Saddam-As-Evil-Incarnate pro-war propaganda machine as to be unreceptive to any alternate probabilities.

The reasons I thought Saddam probably didn't have WMDs were: (1) He was unlikely to have been able to conceal WMDs throughout so many years of U.N. sanctions and scrutiny; (2) he was unlikely to respond to the imminent U.S. threat by admitting he had no defensive capacity; (3) U.N. inspectors were very clear about the fact that their expensive and expansive searches had not as yet found any such weapons; (4) all the U.S. pro-war hawks had already embraced sufficient motivations for invading Iraq–a list including cockiness, dominance, militarism, oil, power lust, ideology, fear, religious convictions involving protection of  Israel, U.S. strategic and commercial interests, a desire to test and use their fancy new weapons and troops, “because they could,” and so on….) So I distrusted what they said about WMDs (along with everything else) as likely being just another part of their long dubious list of overblown, panic-inducing manufactured justifications for going to war; and (5) I knew enough about the U.S. government's history of setting up and supporting tyrannical thugs throughout the world in the past, not to buy into any newly convenient shrill indignation about how suddenly dangerous to the U.S. Saddam Hussein had become, how he'd gassed his own people, etc. It was the U.S. (the CIA) who originally set Saddam Hussein up as Iraq's leader, who financially supported him in exactly that type of thuggery for many many years, in order to protect “our” cheap and steady flow of Iraqi oil from an Iran-like oil industry nationalization. (For annotated and documented history of such repugnant U.S. actions, read he-whom-conservative-demagogues-most-fear-you'll-read: MIT's Noam Chomsky. For starters.)

Although I didn't write critically about the WMD speculations post 9/11, a lot of very informed and interested people who opposed invasion did. I wish someone would take the (considerable) research trouble to compile an “I told you so” expose, listing all the thoughtful people who, before the war, accurately predicted in U.S. daily newspapers, exactly what happened later in Iraq.

I wish this researcher would list who and when and what each critic wrote at that time, to answer all those who now say, “Everyone worldwide thought there were WMDs.” This assertion is simply blatantly false–“everyone” did not believe that. A multitude of spot-on pre-war critics wrote frantically, both in the U.S. and in international periodicals and newspapers, offering scholarly, articulate, and perfectly reasonable rationales against WMDs and for not going to war—although by then most Americans were so terrified by the steady drumbeat of pro-war, pro-fear propaganda that they had already made up their minds—including, unfortunately, many in leadership roles in our government who never even bothered to read about or consider the warnings. 

Anyone who was the least bit skeptical about the logic, trustworthiness, and veracity of the Bush administration's blustering could have read all such arguments in many daily U.S. and international newspapers, and certainly they were rampant on the web. For example, most of such arguments against WMDs and invasion were right there in black-and-white, as plain as day (if sometimes in small print and at the ends of articles) in The Washington Post—the daily newspaper I read—tied up with string, for me and all others willing and capable of looking past the pro-war lies and hype.

Please send comments to epharmon@adelphia.net.





Against the Politics of Terror

A few days ago, I stopped at a neighborhood lemonade stand to sample the wares of three young girls raising money for the Red Cross. With love and idealism in their shining eyes, they shared their excitement about a rumor that some of Hurricane Katrina’s victims might even actually be coming to their very own (upper-middle class) elementary school! Each child shared her warmest intentions for reaching out to any such newcomers with open arms.


Later that day I read a story about a poor, young black man who had made the decision to leave Louisiana forever for his new home of Michigan, where so many generous people had offered him job opportunities, housing, possessions, counseling, training and friendship.


How is it that we fall all over ourselves to help victims of distant disasters, when daily we overlook or shy away from the sad, disaffected children already in our midst, or from our own hopeless, desperate fellow-citizens living in hovels just miles away?


Catastrophes like Katrina force us to recognize that we are all the same, and that we must all pull together in our unpredictable, leaky little boats or drown separately. Katrina lifted us all over the many carefully-constructed barriers we have erected to defend ourselves against the unfamiliar and the frightening, and once again allowed our fundamental humanity to emerge.


Like people everywhere, Americans are at heart deeply caring, idealistic and generous. We believe in equality of opportunity. We want to help the poor. We welcome interracial harmony. We hate war.


Yet as soon as media coverage of 9/11 died down, as soon as the deadly tides of the tsunami subsided, all our self-serving demagogues and warmongers jumped right back onto the public airwaves and the net with their steady drumbeat of political hatred and shrill argument, once again stirring up all our doubts and fears. 


They'll be back again, after Katrina, drumming up new terrors.


Confused and afraid, we repeatedly elect leaders who accept the status quo of separate and unequal neighborhoods and schools and services and pay and health in America. Confused and afraid, we wring our hands and mumble something about the poor always being with us, crossing our fingers that there but for the grace of God we won’t go down right along with them. Confused and afraid, we spend hundreds of billions of dollars yearly to send our armies to every corner of God’s once-green earth, to shoot complete strangers in the face beside their families, in the homes of their ancestors, in order to “protect our national interests”—leaving our citizenry bereft, with less than no money to spend on our own domestic challenges.


Every available statistic has shown that the chasm between rich and poor and black and white in America has widened and deepened. Yet many other countries have found very good ways to strengthen their economies, and to equitably distribute their wealth, goods, security, opportunity, education, health and jobs. Such exemplary nations have relatively inexpensive little militias which tend to stay home and mind their own businesses; not surprisingly, terrorists leave them alone in return.


Perhaps we need to let our own raging national terrors subside long enough to notice the enviable results of these other more peaceful nations. Perhaps we might reconsider adopting some of their social, economic and political approaches. Maybe we should reject all the clever, self-serving fear-based religious and political arguments we continually listen to, the ones that serve mostly to frighten us and separate us all further and further from one another. Maybe we need to spend more of our tax money lifting humanity out of poverty and racism, rather than wasting it on pushing distant cultures around and telling them how best to live their lives. Maybe instead of using bullets and bombs, we could create our own good example, for other nations, of what a compassionate and just democracy might look like.  


America will someday once again be a proud land of peace and equal opportunity for all, but only when we commit to working together in faith, hope and love—and not in fear—to find compassionate political solutions to all our challenges both at home and abroad.

Hurricane Katrina – A Convenient Scapegoat Arrives Just in Time to Rescue President Bush

I’m frustrated. And not just by the tragedy that past political indifference has exacerbated in New Orleans, or by the obvious fact that the U.S. is as ill-prepared for serious trouble at home as it is anywhere else in the world, or even by the fact that–well before Katrina–the U.S. economy was, if not on the verge of disaster from gross mismanagement, then at best, going to hell in a hand basket.


I’m frustrated because I thought all of President Bush’s chickens were finally coming home to roost.


All that money his Republican cronies made off of 9/11 fears, all the profligate sums paid into their friendly war machine’s gaping, indiscriminate maw—on technology and bodyguards and spying and weapons and occupations and war and all the other security approaches that shore up every engine of war profitability and make us all less secure, all that expensive marching off to all corners of the earth to push people around and tell them what to do—I thought all that bad business had finally caught up with them.


They’ve soaked the poor and given gobs to the rich. They’ve neglected the environment. They’ve failed to create good jobs. They’ve exacerbated the energy crisis. They’ve propped up favored industries and neglected others. They’ve endangered our economy by irritating people all over the world, who finally wearily resist buying American whenever they can, and take their vacations elsewhere.


For once, I thought, all their stupid policies were going to land squarely on their own doorstep.


Then along came Hurricane Katrina.


And now all of sudden, none of it is anybody’s fault. Our administration’s hands are tied—by Katrina.


Without a doubt, Katrina has added immeasurably to the many enormous problems that the U.S. already had before the storm turned her wrathful face upon our citizens.


But along with her destruction, Katrina has provided President Bush and his Republican pals the perfect blanket excuse for every failure that was about to be firmly laid to their door.


The budget deficit? Unimaginable government overspending? Blame it on Katrina.


Our ill-conceived war going badly? Sorry—must divert our efforts to Katrina


Dysfunctional international relationships? Too distracted by Katrina.


Health care collapsing? Gotta spend the money on Katrina.


Lack of energy reform and high heating oil and rising gas prices everywhere? Katrina.


Global environmental catastrophes and dangers at every hand? Katrina.


Crumbling national infrastructure? Katrina.


Underfunded education? Katrina.


Terrorism? WMDs and weapons proliferation? Katrina. (Say what?!)


Stock market tumbling, real estate buckling, economy faltering? Katrina.


For years, the Republican administration has neglected domestic problems and aggravated international ones. Now it’s too late to do anything about any of them.


Because, you know. Nature’s power and unpredictability and all that. Shrug shrug. Wink wink. Because…. You know.  



Fire and Rain and Answered Prayers

The morning after our house burned down three years ago, we sat in stunned silence, taking in the wreckage and work that lay ahead. In a weak attempt to cheer everyone up, I joked, “I’d better watch out what I pray for, because my prayers are powerful, and I’m afraid I’ve been praying for more excitement, and more time with my family….”


As our losses faded with time and our lives returned to our various versions of normal, my feeble “night-before-the-fire-prayer” attempt at humor has become family lore, growing to include (retroactively) pleas for time off work, for new stuff, stronger muscles, weight loss, unique topics of conversation, time in nature, novel experiences, interesting stories to tell my future grandchildren, new learning, and more patience…. And yes, I received all that.


The chaos and tragedy on the Gulf Coast can be in no way compared with our relatively tiny little personal loss (no one was hurt, we were insured and financially secure, our neighborhood, jobs and support systems were intact.) Hurricane Katrina’s suffering victims have endured the irremediable and irreparable tragic losses of loved ones—family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers. Many have been injured, and most have lost all they ever worked for, and must begin rebuilding again from nothing. Many lost their jobs and their livelihoods, all their social support, the towns they grew up in, everything they might once have fallen back on. Everything, in fact, except God.


What prayers, the night before such a devastating storm, could possibly have been answered by Hurricane Katrina?


I’ll give it a try.


Dear God,


Help me to appreciate my family, friends, and neighbors, my faith, my character, my education, my memories, and my two strong hands. Help me appreciate all that I have—my home, my possessions, my comforts, my pleasures.


Help me to see with new eyes the good in people, and to remember that the highest value is the value of human life everywhere. Help me to focus on helping, not hurting, and to learn to give as freely as I have received. Help me see clearly that mankind is one family, that we are all neighbors, that we are all, in fact, one, completely dependent upon one another.


Help me to drop my childish barriers toward differences in education, social classes, races, colors, religions, and nationalities, and to see only the face of God in everyone, especially those in need. Help me to support a proud, reliable, world-class American disaster-relief system available anywhere in the world, at a moment’s notice. Help my country avoid adding to the sum of human misery by turning forever away from war and every other form of political violence. Help me to work to build a wiser global energy future, and international and domestic harmony.


Help me become part of creating an exemplary, environmentally-inspired American Gulf Coast, and a safe, modern, compassionate New Orleans retaining all her unique greatness, spirit and traditions.


Help me remember that it’s always darkest before the dawn, to look for silver linings in dark clouds, and to accept that the Lord works in mysterious ways.


Help me to remember that you are my strength, my hope, my ever-present help in times of trouble. You maketh me to lie down in green pastures, you leadeth me beside the still waters, you restoreth my soul. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me.