Dialogue and Discernment

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Democratic Advocacy for the Sanctity of Human Life

Americans of faith, whether liberals or conservatives, have always wanted to elect leaders who will put in place caring governmental policies supportive of human life, from beginning to end—policies such as people-friendly health care, education, jobs, housing, transportation, and energy; equitability and opportunity; a small-business and worker-friendly economy; environmental stewardship; generosity toward the most vulnerable; representative, transparent politics, government, and taxation; and a peaceable foreign policy. Unfortunately, Republican partisan hacks continually manipulate our natural emotions and sympathies to galvanize us around single values-issues like abortion, and thus distract and divide us into voting against our own (and everyone else’s) best interests, against the very life-supporting and compassionate values we care so much about, values which the Democratic Party has always stood up for. The Democratic Party party is pledged to make abortion more rare, not more dangerous, and to promote healthy childbearing, family planning, contraceptive research, and comprehensive family life education. Look at Republican Party results and you will see that, once in power, they consistently put in place policies that move the bulk of the nation’s money away from the broad middle class and toward a small group of very wealthy people. The Republican Party isn’t what it used to be. This time, I hope Americans of faith will vote Democratic—for a change

New Exciting Commitments, Time Crunches, Beloved Old Ones

My big question today is:  how will I manage to add on another new, time-eating priority (that is, taking mediation training, and then volunteering) while I’m already feeling over-committed to my many other current involvements, which I truly, dearly love and want to support, and continue, and finish?

 

I so love my husband and our life and time together. I love and am committed to supporting my children, parents, sisters, friends. I love inspirational and thought-provoking ideas and conversation, and having a regular spiritual practice.  I want to establish a Department of Peace. I want to get Barack elected, end the war, and help him succeed in achieving his amazing agenda.

 

I want to keep working out, almost-daily. I dearly love writing my quirky personal take on breaking news for this blog (and sometimes for the local newspaper) and I love writing my (coming-along-nicely) “heartwarming, funny, and astonishing” (my words) memoir assessing the various impacts and implications of a military brat childhood upon my life and family (and upon others, and upon culture in general.)

 

I love Master Gardeners and our mission and activities. I love Women in Black and our peacemaking activities. I love keeping up with news and issues, reading about politics, reading non-fiction books and periodicals in all my favorite fields, and delighting in art and culture via Netflix and television. I love my dog, my home, my garden. I want to cook more often, and more healthfully and artfully. I sometimes need (and even fruitfully use) unstructured downtime (and sleep.) I love staying in the present moment, and being available and responsive and supportive to those I love and strangers alike, available to listen and help when things come up. I love sponsoring family visits and happy holidays.

 

I want to be gentle with myself, and to resist picking on myself about spreading myself too thin, about not “being there” when needed. True, I do too many things hastily and half-assed, but why waste time and energy judging myself? I don't want to waste my life feeling like I disappoint everyone, or fretting about health issues, poor discipline, or advancing age.

 

My answer for now? Trust. Surrender.

 

As Popeye says, I yam what I am. I accept forgiveness for myself, as I extend that acceptance to others who are also going 100% to do whatever most needs to be done, whatever most wants to be done.

 

I'll always do my best (which, granted, sometimes ain't so hot.) I'll focus on excellence in each small process, and I'll stay in the present so I won’t have to fret about my results, however wonderful, indifferent, or disappointing.

 

I'll make the time to start my day well, with humility, vision and heart.

 

I'll trust in God's strength and guidance to help me make healthy, loving choices, moment-to-moment, to help me live a good life.

 

I'll follow my love, energy, excitement. I'll remember that this approach generally works, if in characteristic fits and starts. (My husband sometimes kindly reminds me–as he goes, uncomplaining, to work each day–that no matter how many activities and relationships I choose—or how few—I’ll never get any of them “right”—to my satisfaction—because, after all, really, nobody ever gets anything or any relationship, finally, “right,” now do they? 

 

Oh, what a relief to not have to worry about that.

 

True, I do let people down sometimes, and I hate failing others' expectations. Sometimes I collapse in a familiar heap, and sometimes I run away and hide for awhile.

 

But I’m not going to kick myself anymore. I'm just going to keep making the best choices I can, moment-to-moment, keep doing what I do, and adjust, as needed, and let that be enough. I'm going to remember to love me too, by letting me be me, and not beating me up. (And mediation training would be such a nice present to me….)

 

After all, I wasn't getting as much done these days as at some other times in my life, probably because I’m currently feeling bogged down and overwhelmed and uninspired and unsure how to juggle my already-competing priorities. Probably an exciting new involvement, by its nature, will synergistically fill in important blanks, open new mental doors, create missing links, help me integrate, energize and prioritize all my beloved activities–inform all of them, support all of them.

 

Because, just as army brats must (eventually…somehow…) learn excellence, loyalty, perseverence, and FINISHING STUFF, we musn't forget meanwhile that we also simply thrive on jumping into new opportunities, taking risks, enjoying novelty, adventure, new learning, new friends, excitement, expanding our spidery souls by ceaselessly venturing, seeking connection, tirelessly unreeling our threads out of ourselves, casting filament after filament out into the universe, 'til they catch somewhere, O my soul*….

 

See? My decision to take on mediation training (which I've longed to do for ten years) has already inspired me to write this new blog! 

 

* inspired by and adapted from Walt Whitman's “A Patient, Noiseless Spider”. 

 

 

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

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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anti-China Bias in Washington Post: A Letter to Their Ombudsman

One of the joys of blogging is that I can respond more quickly with letters-to-the-editor on breaking news, because I have already been writing/thinking about them on my blog. Here is a letter regarding anti-China bias which I sent today to the Washington Post's Ombudsman, Deborah Howell. (I will post any response I receive in my blog.)

Dear Ms. Howell:

I must once again protest The Washington Post’s relentless editorial bias against China and China's favorite current project, the upcoming Beijing Olympics (see “Saved by China,” May 14.) For several years, whenever China has made the news, The Washington Post has jumped on all such occasions to write strongly negative editorials portraying China in the most unfriendly, unfavorable light. This negative bias is not apparent in your great newspaper toward any other nation or ethnicity. My letters-to-the-editor and my calls to you questioning this pointed hostility have been ignored. I hope that no single individual in your organization is so powerful as to feel free to disseminate his or her personal racist, belligerent perspectives toward this powerful, influential and important nation, because such attacks are unworthy and unrepresentative of your otherwise admirably balanced, objective news organization.

A loyal and concerned customer,

Nancy Pace

(Please see below, a letter I sent in October 2007)

To the Editor:

Who gains from your relentlessly adversarial, competitive slant toward China, except a few fear-mongering demagogues and their greedy, war-profiteering kin (see your mean-spirited editorial about the problems of the Three Gorges Dam, Oct. 15th.) Please consider adopting a friendlier, more open-minded editorial tone which treats all others everywhere the way we in the U.S. would like to be treated by foreign journalists. Salute and learn from others’ achievements, empathize with their failures, celebrate commonalities, accept differences, bear with weaknesses, enlighten and support one another.

Sincerely yours,

Nancy Pace

Also below is a pre-Olympics comparison of Chinese and American human rights' records I recently posted on my blog, www.epharmony.com (which offers commentary on breaking news at the intersection of politics, peace, culture and spirituality.) This post also objects to widespread American media bias against China, currently led, I believe, by the Washington Post.

http://www.epharmony.com/blog/_archives/2008/4/22/3654378.html

Thank you very much for your interest. I would welcome a telephone discussion with you.

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


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

Black Styles, White Racism, and the Barack Obama/Jeremiah Wright Controversy


 
I was raised to think that fidgeting, shouting and mopping one’s brow when speaking in public was unrefined. My mom only meant to teach me how to act, but her instructions left me judgmental of other cultures and styles. I squirmed with her when Elvis Presley gyrated and grunted and sweated. Together we hated Hitler’s rants, and shrank in dismay from Khrushchev’s noisy shoe. Loud, angry, confrontive voices still do nothing for me. They feel rude and threatening. And I’m not alone in this.
 
Maybe it’s my Calvinist streak, but I like my leaders calm, cool, and collected, like my man Barack Obama. To be sure, I would wager that Barack could make any congregation anywhere jump out of the aisles and pour into the streets anytime he wanted, as Jeremiah Wright can. And certainly Reverend Wright, a caring if conflicted Christian, has demonstrated on Bill Moyers's show that he can do scholarly and cerebral analysis along with the best of them.
 
I was also raised to be snobbish about grammar and diction. But people learn to speak however their families speak. Changing one’s everyday speech is an unimaginably arduous, individualized, time-consuming transformation not “covered” in English classes. Nowadays, many pop and sports celebrities who've won fame with colorful urban dialects will hire highly-trained linguistic coaches to give them personalized instruction in accent, vocabulary, grammar, and cultural modifications.
 
Every human being alive would like to be able to switch occasionally into more felicitous professional, business and academic English dialects should occasion arise, especially if one's dialect reflects a limited, impoverished or unlettered childhood. People are just more comfortable being around people who sound like them; fewer doors slam shut, and more open. Unconscious linguistic prejudices may not always be deliberate, but they’re very real and very limiting.
 
I can assure you that if Barack started writhing and sweating and screaming street slang in my face, I wouldn’t be able to focus on his logical argument. No, I’d be too worried about whether he was in good-enough physical shape to let himself get so worked up, or if he might be about to have a heart attack, or fall off the stage, or embarrass himself linguistically, chase somebody around the room maybe, or shoot somebody.
 
And if people around me, black or white, start to sway and wave their arms and call out and fall out? Well, I’m just not used to that. There’s nothing wrong with such choices, but people in my stuffy childhood churches just didn’t do those things. Where I came from, such behavior was considered, dare I say it, uncivilized, primitive, even tribal.
 
But what's so wonderfully “civilized” about a culture with a long sad secret record of exploiting and even obliterating other, weaker cultures? Civilization is as civilization does. I like the way people from so-called “primitive” southern-hemisphere cultures so generously share their time, money, warmth and help with one another. That kind of behavior sounds like pretty advanced-civ to me, more advanced in many ways than the often cold, hostile, lonely, so-called “modern” cultures of today. Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of western civilization, said he thought it would be a good idea.
 
All I'm saying is, there is no one single “way” to “be” that is universally “right.” All cultures, young and old, techy and traditional, have much to learn from one another, and much to teach.
 
I’m finally getting used to all the shouting and signifying so many people delight in, and I certainly know there’s nothing wrong with it. My kids love the loud emotional unity of rock concerts, and even I have a bit of the wild thing in me at times. But my mom’s early strictures insured that I wouldn’t come around easily to accepting other people’s different stylistic expressions. It’s all about what you’re used to.
 
But it’s not, as my mom believed, about what is “nice” or “right” or “correct” or even “appropriate,” because styles vary from culture to culture. It's about different ways of being civilized (and uncivilized.) And it's about holding to the highest standard of respect and support for human life everywhere, the Golden Rule of treating all others as we would want to be treated. It's certainly not about some picky stylistic stuff.
 
I was a military brat, so my far-flung army-post classrooms were racially-integrated long before the civil rights movement nudged America toward living up to more of its ideals. My classmates were pretty much all courteous, well-spoken, middle-class students of a remarkable variety of races, because in those days, the military establishment required cultural, stylistic and linguistic conformity. Non-white families could find reasonable welcome in the military if (and only if) they could demonstrate that, aside from skin color, they weren’t any different from most middle-class whites. All my classmates back then, regardless of race, seemed indistinguishably mainstream.
 
I didn’t grow up around many poor or uneducated people, or around any charismatic preachers and congregations, for that matter, although happily, I've had broader exposure to the world’s diversity since then, thanks in part to more representative television programming. I try to remind myself that my own carefully-taught class and race prejudices are limitations I want to remedy, both as a Christian and as a caring citizen of the world. Fortunately for me, I’ve been privileged in adulthood to spend time with good, patient people from all backgrounds, and have become comfortable with a broader range of personal styles.
 
Like everyone else, I acquired my own personal and linguistic styles from my parents, peers, and “neighborhood.” My family was a WASPy, bookish clan which gifted lucky-me (through no particular effort on my own) with a style and dialect acceptable in most circles. But there are many other delightfully valid ways of being an American swirling around me today in this great country—native and immigrant styles from all over, academic and business styles, hip-hop and Hispanic, inner-city and down-home country, Islamic, Asian, Caribbean, and a whole slew of other newly-blended personal styles I can’t begin to keep up with, but my kids can.
 
But the thing about personal style is, nowadays, it’s a positive, fluid thing, individual, unique, interesting, entertaining, and not so tied to race or ethnicity or social class as it once was. And voters are finally figuring all this out.
 
It seems to me that despite all the fuss about the particular words that Jeremiah Wright used, demagogues replaying his sound bites over and over don’t really care what Wright thinks or means, but rather, they're bent on dividing us along prejudicial lines. The small-minded con-men guiding the anti-Obama smear campaigns are absolutely thrilled to jump on any available excuse to show us ad nauseum how Barack once befriended a black man whose personal style makes a lot of voters uncomfortable.
 
The hucksters replaying such tapes are hoping white voters will conclude that “those people” “like Barack” are different from “us,” that “we” will think we have little in common with “them, ” that Barack won’t understand us and can’t represent our interests. Dirty politicians manipulate our unconscious racism so that we will see only difference, separation and error, instead of our many commonalities, our shared American dreams and challenges.
 
Such politics of division, hate and fear have a long successful history of convincing Americans time and again to vote against their own best interests. But as Barack keeps reminding us, American voters are smarter than that now. We’re becoming more enlightened, more open-minded and inclusive, more loving.
 
Smears-by-association can no longer distract us for long from the common pressing issues we all face, the real threats which ignore borders and cannot be solved competitively, but only through global cooperation, like a faltering economy, a culture of violence, costly wars, growing energy demands, poverty, political corruption, inadequate access to education, weapons proliferation, organized crime, infectious disease, poor health care, environmental degradation, mass migrations, crumbling infrastructure, pornography, homelessness, natural disasters, addictions, injustice, hopelessness, hunger, greed, prejudice, civic alienation, and apathy itself.
 
Americans are finally seeing the relevance and possibility inherent in the American ideals which Jesus, Jefferson, Lincoln, Gandhi, King, Mandela and so many other great leaders have urged upon us with one voice. We are finally turning away from the mean-spirited thinking which created all our problems in the first place, and toward the higher shared consciousness of universal brotherhood that alone will save us and our tiny blue planet.
 
 

Please send comments to njcpace@gmail.com. Thanks 🙂
 
 
 
 
 
  

A Feminist for Obama

I love Marianne Williamson (www.marianne.com). Like me, she believes in Barack Obama. We are both feminists. For me, feminism means being able to live your life in integrity with your own values and preferences and perspectives, not according to someone else's belief system about what is feminine or gender-appropriate.

For more insight on Marianne's wonderful take on feminism, read her great book A Woman's Worth. But for now–here's Marianne's endorsement of Barack Obama, a true friend of women and men alike:

“What! You're not voting for Hillary? But I thought you were such a feminist!”

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a hundred times. So let me explain why I'm not voting with my vagina…

As a feminist, I believe nurturing and nourishing a world trying to be born is the most efficient way to counter the malevolent effects of a world that needs to pass away.

That is why I support Obama.

As a feminist, I believe inclusion is more powerful and life producing than is exclusion.

That is why I support Obama.

As a feminist, I believe tending and mending is a more effective way to deal with the world's stress points than is fighting or fleeing.

That is why I support Obama.

As a feminist, I believe having a vision for what I want the world to become is as important as solving problems that have arisen in the world that is.

That is why I support Obama.

As a feminist, I'm more concerned with creating a world my great-great-grandchildren can live in than in trying to make things better for me right now.

That is why I support Obama.

As a feminist, I am convinced that building authentic relationships is a more lasting, creative way to build peace than just strategizing to destroy enemies and manipulate alliances.

That is why I support Obama.

As a feminist, I relate more to the honest sharing of a wife who sometimes misses a note, than to the too-scripted sharing of a woman who never does.

That is why I support Obama.

As a feminist, I look forward to voting for the first woman president; but when I do, I want her to be one whose positions and policies reflect a feminine worldview.

That is why I support Obama.

As a feminist, I get that masculine armor is not our strength, our ability to love is our greatest power, and our urge to repair is our greatest calling.

That is why I support Obama, pray for him unceasingly, work to strengthen his chances….and will support whoever wins.

– by Marianne Williamson, February 2008, www.marianne.com

And on another note….
The Philadelphia Daily News (www.philly.com/dailynews) wrote a very smart endorsement of BarackObama a few days ago…

VOTE FOR BARACK OBAMA

THE CHOICE in Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary is not only the one between a white woman and a black man. It's a choice between the past and the future.

More specifically, the nation must decide how to face the future racing toward us in the form of slumping home sales, unstable financial markets and increased joblessness – and staring at us from the Green Zone in Iraq and the beds at veterans hospitals.

Should Democrats choose someone who will employ hard-won – even bitter – experiences gained in a past Democratic administration, or reach beyond political truisms toward a new (and untried) model of governing?

Neither choice is obvious. Perhaps that's why the race has gone on for so long.

But the long slog through 44 primaries and caucuses has confirmed for us that Sen. Barack Obama's vision of change – and the way he plans to pursue it – is what we need right now. Badly.

This is a campaign that really began six years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001. Not only was the U.S. attacked and seriously wounded, it did not bounce back the way “the land of the free and home of the brave” should have. In fact, it still suffers from post-traumatic stress.

That day and its aftermath cried out for a revolution of values: a clear-eyed shared vision, a cooperative effort, a unified purpose. It cried out for a recognition that conventional warfare and conventional responses to domestic challenges in an era of globalization were not enough.

That cry was not answered.

Instead, the Bush administration embarked on an unconscionable plan to exploit the fear we all felt that day for political gain. It lied us into a disastrous war in Iraq, a staggering, record deficit at home, a weakening of the constitutional structure on which the country rests, and poisonous lines of division among Americans. It led us to a place where 81 percent of Americans say we're on the wrong track.

Contrary to Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign slogan, we believe Barack Obama is more likely to be “ready on Day One” to lead us in a new direction. Because of his experience.

Sure, Clinton has more “experience” of a sort. For one thing, she has 14 more years on earth. How much of this experience is directly applicable to the job of president is, at best, debatable.

We are frankly troubled by her assumption that her husband's administration and accomplishments were her own. And if her equation holds, that the first spouse is an equal partner in the administration, then the reappearance of Bill Clinton in the White House is a prospect we have a hard time reconciling with the work that needs to be done.

THERE IS a way to match Clinton's and Obama's performances on a relatively equal playing field: their campaigns.

A candidate's campaign may be the best indicator of how she or he will govern. If so, an Obama administration would be well-managed, inclusive and astonishingly broad-based. It would make good use of technology and communicate a message of unity and, yes, hope.

It would not be content with eking out slim victories by playing to the narrow interests of the swing voters of the moment while leaving the rest of the country as deeply divided as ever. Instead, an Obama administration would seek to expand the number of Americans who believe that they have a personal stake in our collective future – and that they have the power to change things.

It would motivate them to hold their representatives accountable for making it happen. That is, after all, the only way to get us out of Iraq, to address global warming, to make us energy-independent. It's the only way to resist the forces arrayed against providing universal health care, rebuilding our infrastructure and returning our schools to world-class status. It's the only way to give our children the means to compete with children in other parts of the world who are healthier, better-educated and have more opportunities than many of our own.

An Obama administration would be freer of the the corrupting influence of big-money donors and corporate interests. Obama has raised $240 million overall, with half coming in contributions of less than $200. People who contribute to political campaigns can feel they “own” a candidate and so Obama would owe allegiance to the wide swath of America that has financed his campaign.

Based on his experience in running a quarter-billion-dollar enterprise with thousands upon thousands of volunteers, we could expect an Obama administration to be well-managed and cost-effective, with the president choosing forward-thinking advisers committed to his program, demanding that they work as a team and pay attention to details.

He would be steady and calm, given neither to irrational exuberance or outbursts of anger. He would make mistakes, that's for sure, but he could be expected to recognize them, adjust, and move forward.

He would adjust his views to reality rather than trying to adjust reality to his views.

Obama's unprecedented appeal to younger voters is significant not only because it expands the electorate, which is vital. It's also a validation of his promise as a president to be free of the baby-boomer/Vietnam/segregation-era hangups.

Younger people are more egalitarian, more accepting of diversity, and more comfortable with rapid change. They also are less confined by old resentments or regrets.

AND AN OBAMA administration would lower the tone of the rhetoric that separates us.

As New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has said, Obama is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate who has the skill and eloquence to help us raise our eyes and our aspirations beyond individual, personal concerns, beyond religion or region or race or gender, beyond our well-founded fears to a shared destiny.

Most candidates claim that they will change the way business is done in Washington. Barack Obama has made us believe that, yes, he can.

www.philly.com/dailynews

GO BARACK! ROCK THE PENNSYLVANIA VOTE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obama, Like Kipling’s Kim, is a “Friend of All the World”

I wonder if Barack Obama ever read Rudyard Kipling’s novel, Kim, about a half-British, half-Indian child growing up happily, as Barack did, in an amazingly diverse culture; Kim’s world was India, Barack’s Hawaii and Indonesia. Kim’s nickname was “little friend of all the world,” and he, like Barack, drew on his hard-won expertise in navigating a mysteriously multi-faceted childhood world to later become successful in “the great game” of politics. 

 

Certainly, Kipling’s own memories of growing up in British Raj India influenced his own many adult contributions as an eloquent communicator and cultural ambassador.

 

I thought about these many fascinating commonalities while reading Amanda Ripley’s story in today’s Time Magazine about Barack’s anthropologist mother. What adventures she and Barack shared living in the fascinating mélange that is Indonesia—17,500 islands, 230 million people, 300 languages, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Dutch/Christian traditions–and later in multicultural Hawaii, where Barack attended, on scholarship, a prestigious private high school.

 

Among Barack’s many strengths as a Presidential candidate are his openness to different cultural and political perspectives, and his non-polarizing, accepting attitude toward people from all walks of life. No one is ever a stranger to this non-ideological, caring, international rock star.

 

What a fascinating youth compelled Barack Obama, our own young “friend of all the world,” to overcome petty divisions and partisan distractions, offer leadership and service to his own nation, and bring the world together to resolve our most pressing common global problems—the ravages of disease, injustice, hopelessness, hunger, greed, environmental degradation, natural disasters, ignorance, addiction, prejudice, nuclear proliferation, crime, poverty, war, terrorism, and violence itself.

 

Please send comments to njcpace@gmail.com and I'll post them below this article. Thanks – Nancy 🙂