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.

Should the U.S. Fear, Antagonize, Denigrate, Irritate or Embrace China?

This anonymous post about anti-China perceptions in the West is viral on the internet. I found it fascinating and thought-provoking. I think you will too…. 

What Do You Really Want From Us?

When we were the sick man of Asia,

We were called the yellow peril.

When we are billed as the next superpower, we are called “the threat.”

When we closed our doors, you launched the Opium War to open our markets.

When we embraced free trade, you blamed us for stealing your jobs.

When we were falling apart, you marched in your troops and demanded your fair share.

When we tried to put the broken pieces back together again, Free Tibet, you screamed. It was an invasion!

When we tried communism, you hated us for being communist.

When we embraced capitalism, you hated us for being capitalist.

When we had a billion people, you said we were destroying the planet.

When we tried limiting our numbers, you said we abused human rights.

When we were poor, you thought we were dogs.

When we lend you cash, you blame us for your national debts.

When we build our industries, you call us polluters.

When we sell you goods, you blame us for global warming.

When we buy oil, you call it exploitation and genocide.

When you go to war for oil, you call it liberation.

When we were lost in chaos, you demanded the rule of law.

When we uphold law and order against violence, you call it a violation of human rights.

When we were silent, you said you wanted us to have free speech.

When we are silent no more, you say we are brainwashed xenophobes.

Why do you hate us so much? we asked.

No, you answered, we don't hate you.

We don't hate you either,

But do you understand us?

Of course we do, you said,

We have AFP, CNN and BBC….

What do you really want from us?

Think hard first, then answer…

Because you only get so many chances.

Enough is enough, enough hypocrisy for this one world.

We want one world, one dream, and peace on earth.

This big blue earth is big enough for all of us.


Please send your comments to Thank you! 🙂


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Thank you…. 🙂


Nancy Pace




















































































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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Please send comments and email to . Thank you! 🙂  Nancy Pace


Justice and Peace Are One Path

Peace and justice nourish one another, sharing their hope for non-violence and their concern for the interests of others. Wherever exploitation and oppression are ignored, peace and justice are illusive; wherever respect and support for human life become priorities, peace and justice are reborn.


Rule-of-law and justice are not always the same. Hopeless citizens who despair of working out their life-and-death issues within unjust legal, economic and political frameworks sometimes turn to crime, terrorism, and war. What goes around comes around. Those who work for equal opportunity and peace lift up their own lives with the lives of others, growing in understanding and acceptance of human difference, and increasing the sum of peace and justice.


The Golden Rule, the historical foundation for all moral and legal systems, and the basis for the “liberty and justice for all” to which we pledge allegiance, works so well because treating others as you wish to be treated becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Peace and justice are among the highest ideals and values enshrined in our proud founding documents, which extend equal protection for the peaceful, equitable goals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” even to “the least of these”—children, the elderly, sick, needy and handicapped, and all who struggle to rise from historical discrimination.


Angry media xenophobes and demagogues try to scare us into believing that the world is divided into a tiny deserving few of “us” vs. a vast faceless, threatening, undeserving “them,” urging us to abandon the goal of peace and justice for all, and to put power and wealth in the hands of a few self-interested fear-mongers who guilefully “guarantee” safety through militarism. Offering the opposite message are the great leaders of our past and present, urging us to love and help one another, to give and forgive, to risk peace instead of war, and to work together for respectful, supportive conditions valuing the sanctity of human life everywhere. Truly, we cannot avoid all injustice, but we can avoid adding to its sum.


Justice implies neutrality and fairness, but no judges are completely unbiased. We all see the world uniquely, based on our different backgrounds. In the face of the same legal arguments, natural, unavoidable bias is evident in the many disagreements among even our rigorously-selected highest justices.


Our current justices’ life experiences are for the most part grounded in privilege and wealth. A more balanced Supreme Court would include justices whose lives reflect struggles against prejudice, poverty or disadvantage, since, in common law legal systems like our own, justices at times “make the law” by overturning precedents, regulations and legislation, with immense implications for future generations.


Clearly we need to appoint judges with sterling records of excellence and impartiality. President Obama hopes also to nominate Supreme Court justices with a sense of what real-world folks go through, who know what it is to be a teenage mom or to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old, to have the system not work for you, to be vulnerable in the political process—an outsider, a minority, someone without a lot of clout.


In the five percent of hard cases where the legal language is not perfectly clear, and where legal procedures alone can’t lead to a rule of decision, President Obama believes that the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in a judge’s heart. May we find the peace and justice we seek there, and together with our good president, continue to nurture peace and justice in our own hearts, in our families, communities, businesses, schools, courts, churches and government, and in all our relationships with others throughout the world.



Please send questions and comments to Thank you!

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! 🙂

Throwing Good Taxpayer $$$ After Bad

It’s too late to stabilize markets using taxpayer money. The world has legitimately rejected as unreliable our current corrupt economic system and currency (read Paul Craig Roberts, among others.) No amount of taxpayer money spent by crooked politicians picking ultimate winners and losers in this crash can restore international confidence. 

Prices won’t fall indefinitely; in today’s small world, international buyers quickly snap up values. Self-serving government bailouts complicate and postpone the day markets correct and we begin our arduous climb back to national recovery.


We’ll need all the FDIC and charitable money government must print to pay its bills, insure citizen trust in local banks, and prevent daily suffering—unemployment, starvation, freezing, homelessness—when the inevitably ensuing inflation has shrunk to pennies the hard-won dollars of  middle and lower-class wage-earners and savers.


When this crash finally hits its natural bottom, we will begin again, sadder and wiser, to build a better, more stable, caring market system. Hopefully, Barack Obama, with his characteristic thoughtfulness, pragmatism and vision, will lead us capably through this terrible time, and back to greatness.



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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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A Pre-Olympics Comparison of Human Rights Violations in China and the U.S.

When my book club recently discussed a wonderful novel about China, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I noticed that, like many Americans, most of us tend to think of China as a much greater violator of human rights than the U.S.A. The hosting of the Olympic Games in Beijing has certainly raised our level of questioning, along with, too often, our cultural biases. But the truth is, both countries have serious problems with human rights violations, and in some areas, our U.S. record is far weaker than China's.


Neither of the two governments has yet adequately addressed issues of poverty, racial discrimination, hunger, homelessness, and equitable education and health care among their populations, although China’s recent governmental policies and decisions have resulted in a Chinese economy which has grown more steadily and much faster than ours during the last decade, greatly benefiting their people’s standard of living–while ours has increasingly been failing us.


Among our country's very legitimate gripes about Chinese human rights is China's lack of freedom of the press. The U.S. has serious issues of corporate control over opinion in mainstream media outlets (our big TV channels have never seriously attempted to address the present topic of comparative human rights violations, for instance); even so, the U.S. (with a very free internet and many other independent news media outlets) still remains among the freest countries in the world, as far as freedom of speech and freedom of the press are concerned. We would all strongly wish to see China improve in press and speech freedom. Personally, I hope China finds some way to have a free internet without the hate, lies, and pornography our internet endures, but so far, that’s tricky for both cultures.


China strictly disallows secession from its union (Tibet, Taiwan), just as our own government once bloodily disallowed secession from our own U.S. “union,” of our southern Confederate states (although we wildly celebrated Texas’ secession from Mexico, as well as the breakup of the Soviet Union, so the purity of the principles of union and secession remain pretty arbitrary.) Like China's government, our own government hurries to put down any civil unrest, disruptions, and riots (see Watts and many other U.S. rebellions throughout history…. ) Like China, the U.S. also continues to refuse to consider either sovereignty or separation from the U.S. of many of our U.S. former colonial possessions–for instance, Puerto Rico, and others.


Americans are also legitimately upset about China's one-child policy, about the many who have been coerced into unwanted abortions or punished for their “anti-social” choices. Certainly the availability of abortion itself seems a human rights violation to many Americans. On the other hand, few Americans are aware of the enormity of the Chinese over-population problem (not enough food and jobs, for instance), which the one-child policy has greatly helped to address. Millions in China have been raised from extreme poverty since this program was instituted.


Many also look upon China's one-(communist)-party system as a violation of human rights, and indeed, most first world democracies do boast parliaments with a wide diversity of parties represented across the broadest possible political spectrum. Nevertheless, as in the U.S., most Chinese citizens (not all) consider their government to be not only legitimate, but also representative. In China, as in the U.S., many factions and perspectives contest within their one-party system and our (also very limited) two-party (market economy) system. Dissidents in both countries have attempted to broaden real power to more than the present status of one or two similar parties, but so far both political systems have proven resistant to change.


My point is, both of these two countries have serious problems with human and political rights, freedoms, and opportunities.


What the Chinese find most egregious about U.S. human rights violations are, of course, those areas of human rights in which their country (China) is comparatively far superior to ours. For instance, we have vastly more violent and commonplace civil crime, many more law-enforcement violations of civil rights, by far the world’s largest (in percentage of population, as well as total) prison population, customary brutality to prisoners, serious challenges to workers rights to unionize, significant abuse of women and children living in poverty (rape, prostitution, drug addiction, alcoholism, physical abuse…), and we also have far too much money in politics, threatening our democracy. We have also failed for many years to ratify popular international conventions on human rights, particularly the rights of women and children, as well as international environmental conventions.


We are also a serious violator of the sovereignty and human rights of citizens of many other countries around the world. Consider the civilian deaths and humanitarian disasters associated with our invasion of Iraq, our secret jails around the world, our government-accepted use of torture, Abu Graib, ten+ violent regime changes orchestrated by the U.S. in other countries, Guantanamo Bay…. At least China keeps its human rights violations mostly at home, and in recent history, has not invaded, nor dropped nuclear bombs on civilian populations, nor posted its armies or political prisons throughout the world, as the U.S. has.


The Chinese began issuing their annual “Human Rights Record of the United States” only after the U.S. issued annual scathing reports on over a hundred other countries (but did not critique our own distressing human rights record in the U.S.) The Chinese conclude their report with a statement that I agree with: 


“To respect and safeguard human rights is an important achievement in the progress of human society, and an important symbol of modern civilization. It is also a common goal of people of all countries and races, and a key theme of the tide of progress in our time. All countries have an obligation to make efforts to promote and protect human rights in their own territories, and to promote international cooperation in accordance with the norms of international relations. No country in the world should view itself as the incarnation of human rights, and use human rights as a tool to interfere in the affairs of, and exert pressure on, other countries, and to realize its own strategic interests. The U.S. reigns over other countries and releases “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” year after year. Its arrogant critiques of the human rights of other countries are always accompanied by a deliberate ignoring of serious human rights problems on its own territory. This is not only inconsistent with universally recognized norms of international relations, but also exposes the double standards and downright hypocrisy of the United States on the human rights issue, and inevitably impairs its international image. We hereby advise the U.S. government to face its own human rights problems and give up its unwise practices of applying double standards on human rights issues.”


Here is a link to China's 2008 Report on U.S. human rights violations:


It is my personal wish that every country would treat all other nations as they would like to be treated (the golden rule, Confucius' rule too), that we would all conquer our enemies in the only way that works over time, by making them friends, and by supporting their most cherished projects and treating them with respect, courtesy, and appreciation. Every country has weaknesses and strengths, and every country needs acceptance and kindness in order to improve. We all have much to teach, and to learn from one another.


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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