A Generic, All-Purpose Letter, Ready To Send Out To Your Political Representatives

Dear Sir (or Madam):


The America I see around me is no longer recognizable. Our political and governmental systems are unresponsive to the needs of U.S. citizens, and unrepresentative of their views. Government at all levels seems powerless to resolve present or future challenges. America is increasingly feared, despised, and distrusted around the world.


In hopes of clarifying and simplifying your job, I’m asking you to work and vote in the following ways, whenever possible:


Against secrecy;


Against greed;


Against polarization, whether between individuals, organizations, governments, or nations;


Against fear as expressed in anger, pain, hatred, war, violence, vengeance, despair, and cynicism;


Against blaming anyone, including yourself;


For acceptance, support, and respect for the quality of human life everywhere;


For social and economic justice for individuals and families;


For environmental stewardship;


For the strong promotion of positive values and healthy lifestyles and attitudes, especially via school programs and the public airwaves;


For easing the day-to-day burdens of working people;


For embracing the changes and technologies necessary to make our government once again responsive, representative, wise, and capable;


For generously alleviating suffering, in the present and future;


For treating every person in every nation as we would wish to be treated;


Please give special consideration, in each decision, whenever possible, to its impact upon all children and all small localities, everywhere.


Thank you very much for your well-intentioned and devoted service.


Yours sincerely,


A Concerned Citizen


Please send comments to epharmon@adelphia.net






Media (of the People, by the People) for the People

I just watched an old movie popular in the thirties—the William Powell/Myrna Loy version of Dashiel Hammett’s The Thin Man, which later became a television series starring Peter Lawford. My mom and dad often mentioned how entranced they once were by this movie and its follow-ons, how they idealized these suave young couples. They also often talked about Kate Hepburn and Bing Crosby in their respective versions of The Philadelphia Story and High Society.


Watching these old movies today, I am once again astonished at the power of the media to impact culture. Rightly or wrongly, these movies glamourized and legitimized—no, actually promoted—social choices considered quite extreme at the time (divorce, choosing a spouse without regard for family opinion, frequent at-home and social drinking of alcohol, associations with people from different classes and values systems, smoking….) 


They influenced many young moderns (my parents among them) to eagerly embrace their advocated lifestyles, for better or for worse. I know that my parents found the courage to take such counter-cultural steps from the illusory weight and seeming solidity of the airy fantasies presented in these and similar movies, although I also know that both of them had been well-inculcated from very early on with every reasonable argument against such decisions. Their children (me included) were further influenced by their defensive insistence on the reasonableness and superiority of their choices.


How much more are today’s young people influenced by their day-long forced feeding of heavily-marketed television (both programming and commercials,) music, books, games, magazines, movies, consumer goods, etc? The only thing that surprises me at all anymore is that we still recognize our children as “ours,” considering they live in a completely “other” world than ours, a brave new world of tomorrow which, as Kahlil Gibran said, “we cannot visit, not even in our dreams.”


All Americans profit when our children grow up in strong families to be good, responsible adults. And we all suffer—and pay—when our youth make poor choices. Nevertheless, we let our public airwaves run amok in their promotion of unhealthy attitudes and lifestyles, while we barely scratch the surface of their potential to promote wise choices.


On one sad level, Americans today are relegated to living in the land of the free-to-make-a-buck and the home of the brave-but-stupid, which is too bad, because I don’t remember voting for any such peculiarly modern-American mantra.


When we-the-people finally get around to taking our politics and government(s) back out of the hands of big money, I’m confident we’ll find excellent ways to tap into using all the public airwaves for the common good.


The Iranian movie industry, currently severely constrained by their reigning theocracy to produce only non-violent, non-sexual movies, has responded with a lovely array of internationally recognized award-winning values- and family-based films which are  poignant, gripping, and thought-provoking. Someday, a responsive and representative government of, by, and for the American people will surely find ways to preserve our most-cherished freedoms, while supporting visionary media output that promotes the great diversity of healthful and positive values, lifestyles, and choices.


Please send comments to epharmon@adelphia.net






Wanted: New Leadership, New Vision, New Courage

I believe that our future safety and political freedoms will largely depend upon Americans recognizing, hopefully sooner rather than later, that our traditional approaches to national defense usually don't work very well. They alone cannot keep us safe from terrorism or global thermonuclear war. Furthermore, I am convinced that adversarial strategies may actually provoke attacks on our country and our planet. Sadly, the actual effect of pursuing these aggressive counter-terrorism strategies is to increase the likelihood that our worst nightmares will become realities.

The next big terrorist attack on the United States will determine the direction of our political future. As 9/11 demonstrated, Americans will support leaders who offer them reassuring security plans without demanding to know if they really are effective, reliable, cost-effective, or violate our democratic traditions.

To my mind, rubber-stamping endless homeland defense expenditures primarily insures only an illusion of security, since our “homeland” is very difficult to defend from all possible attacks. Likewise, sending our young adults off to fight un-winnable pre-emptive wars is morally unconscionable and fiscally reckless. Creating unwieldy spy bureaucracies oftentimes undermines the very freedoms such actions are meant to save. Focusing media attention on the weaknesses of our perceived enemies, and rattling our sabers self-righteously in their direction, only heightens dangerous tensions. None of these strategies will keep us safe in the long run, and none can truly solve the problems of the 21st century.

What we need to acknowledge is that there is no sure-fire way to provide safety for any single nation, or group of nations, no way to guarantee peace for only U.S. citizens and their allies. There are no constructive pathways to safety if protection is withheld from some–or any–group or nation on this unpredictable globe.

So what's the answer? Only a universally inclusive path of international cooperation and non-violence can offer any long-term safety to one and all. Before the next terrorist attack, we must embrace the ancient wisdom inherent in all religions–that violence engenders only more violence, that war creates new problems without solving old ones, and that hatred begets more hate.

People everywhere want to live their lives in liberty, and to pursue their individual and collective dreams uninterrupted by violence. The only path to the very peace we all want is a path we must all walk together; the path to peace is the path of peace. There is no way to peace; peace is the way. If we want peace and safety, we must teach it, live it, and offer it to all, just as if we lived in a world where everyone is thought of as “next-door-neighbors.”

The night before his death, Martin Luther King Jr., said, “The choice is no longer between violence and non-violence. It's non-violence–or nonexistence.” The world can learn peaceful ways without facing the devastation of terrorist attacks or nuclear annihilation. We can open our minds and hearts now to the practical promise of non-violence, before greater tragedies befall our world. Non-violence has come of age; it is an idea whose time has finally come.

Which path to safety will we choose during our next elections? Will we choose a police state or a peace state? Will we choose a violent, power-based path, or the path of non-violence–Jesus' path, Gandhi's path, Martin Luther King Jr.'s path–the gentle path of all those around the world who are now peacefully resisting tyrants? Either way we will be vulnerable, and will suffer some injustice; however, we need never add to the sum of injustice.

In the past, we elected many representatives based on the old politics of fear and aggression. During our next election, we hopefully can turn away from demagogues who pander to our worst fears, turning instead to leaders who show us peaceful pathways to greater global safety.

Nothing matters more than that our new leaders embrace the universal, timeless, and essential spiritual values of faith, hope, and love….

Here are a few practical suggestions for applying the principles of non-violence in our response to terrorism. We can build new peace initiatives within our Defense Department. We can develop a volunteer force of unarmed citizens to monitor violent conflicts at home and abroad. We can establish a U.S. Peace Academy, equivalent in honor, distinction, and service to our proud military academies. We can found a cabinet-level Department of Peace, to influence policy, conflict resolution, and decision-making at the highest international levels, as well as in our home towns. We can apply cutting-edge peace research to the transformation of our combative diplomatic, justice, welfare, and education systems.

Why do these things? Because I believe that:

Only faithful leaders trust in God's redemptive love for every one of earth's children, and in international dialogue and peaceful cooperative efforts, disavowing the politics of exclusion, polarization, and dehumanization;

Only hopeful leaders join with like-minded light-bearers of other nations, stand with them, work with them, and lift all nations and peoples up, leaving no one behind, and;

Only loving leaders forgive, and let go of the past–and past blame–accepting, supporting, and respecting human life everywhere, instead.

Please send your comments to epharmon@adelphia.net





The Weather Changes But We Don't

My father's delightful response to thunder-and-lightning storms and big windstorms was to pour himself a drink, pull a chair up to the window, and watch all the excitement of nature's beautiful fury! My mom always told me to look for the good and beautiful in weather, because you can't do anything about it anyway, so why let it spoil your day?

My husband (a runner) responds to the wind and cold and snow and ice (which used to keep me indoors on such days) by dressing properly so he's never cold; he's taught me how to run every day and not be cold either. (I draw the line at biking below 50 degrees, however!) 

Having lived in Texas for many years, I resist sameness in weather; I want different weather every day, which is what I get living in Maryland. The weather in Wisconsin, Texas, and even San Diego and Hawaii wasn't varied enough for my picky tastes, but many people love those places…. Give me four distinct seasons! Even the kinds of snowy, windy, rainy, warm, cloudy…days in Maryland are each different.

People who don't like to sweat, or who don't sweat often, usually have a hard time with warm temperatures, whether inside or out. A good cure for broadening one's comfort range in temperatures is to exercise/sweat often; sweating gets your cooling system working more effectively.

I see rain as pennies from heaven…..

I'm slowly learning to accept that people's reactions to weather are learned pretty early, and are hard to change, like deep-seated childhood fears, and try to remember that many people are ill, and “bad” weather makes their life that much more burdensome. My goal is to reprogram myself to enjoy all weather and temperatures as much as possible…. 

I hope this comic strip reinforces how important perspective is. We can see the good or the bad–because our minds will put whichever one we tell them to, “out there.” That different people enjoy and dislike so many different things about weather is proof of the importance of attitude….  Weather is one of those “what is” things we can't control, so it seems a waste of time and energy to expend negative energy on it. Good and bad weather is much more about how we are than about what the weather is…. I hope everyone enjoys today's beautiful snow!

Please send comments to epharmon@adelphia.net






Zzzipppiddee Doooo Daaahh….

What a difference perspective makes…. Whenever I'm feeling blue or resisting something that just “is,”  I try to remember to ask God for another way of looking at the person or situation–and I always receive what I ask for (it helps to pay attention and be ready for the answer.) I drew this comic strip soon after one of those happy moments when I'd received such an answer to a prayer. I remember feeling resentful, feeling like an old ugly lonesome drudge, about some housework I had to do, and praying, as I looked out the window, for another way of seeing my present situation. Suddenly I focused on a bird “working” for her brood, but nothing could have been more natural, beautiful, purposeful, or right than that little brown bird doing her thing for her family. Renewed with my wonderful answer to my prayer, I went back to work–this time joyfully.

Please send comments to epharmon@adelphia.net






(Two) Scenes We'd Like To See

(Two) Scenes We'd Like To See….





Both George Bush and Osama Bin Laden are vilified in various cultures as inhuman heartless killers, while other cultures hero-worship them as charismatic and patriotic leaders whose just causes “force” them to manfully take up arms—whether by terrorism or military force—to achieve their political aims.


Popular media in all nations dehumanize public enemies, and often turn around and just as thoroughly and miraculously restore them to dignity and respectability during political détentes. I recall my astonishment, moral conflict, and deep embarrassment, when the evil Russians I’d been so carefully taught to indignantly and self-righteously hate and fear, magically became our homeboys overnight. The same thing happened, of course, with the “Krauts” and the “Japs,” who, just as we were assured by our government after a terrible war, turned out to be, really, just like us. I’d like to think the same thing will happen, sooner rather than later, between Islam and the West.


I wish these two particular men (Bush and Bin Laden) could learn to resolve their differences without violence. They remind me of unsocialized playground children, throwing sand in each others’ faces, playing with their war toys, acting like swaggering thugs and cowards in turn, always foolish and hurtful to all around them. I wish they <?xml:namespace prefix = v ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml” />would grow up and solve their problems like civilized adults.


So many innocents have endured so much tragic death and destruction, on both sides, for so many years. For what…?!


Of course, both men have legitimate grievances which want airing and remedying…but nobody ever listens to anyone. Probably both sides were too proud or stupid or politically corrupt to listen before, and now everyone’s too mad to even think about the needs and sorrows of the other side. As the Buddha has said, “Hatred never ends through hatred. Hatred ends only through love.”


I do think President Bush is a patriot who means well. I also think he’s misled, misinformed, and dishonest with the American public. I think Bin Laden is also probably well-intentioned, although equally tragically violently-disposed. Both are a little crazy or they wouldn’t be acting like that.


Bin Laden repeatedly and clearly has stated his political aims  at every opportunity–he wants the empire-inclined U.S. out of Islam, not to return until invited, and then, only as well-behaved, courteous guests. Bin Laden certainly achieved an impressive political bang from his small PR buck (a handful of airborne terrorists, compared with our $500 billion spent in military retaliation) considering that his goal was to force the U.S. public to become informed about and reconsider its Middle East policies. But neither “price” begins to describe the total costs to both sides. There has to be a better way to resolve conflict….


I’m not exactly sure what President Bush has accomplished, his recent clumsy conversion to nation-building notwithstanding. Indeed he loves democracy and freedom, but he struggles with complexity (please read my other blogs on this and other related subjects at www.epharmony.com ….) Both men should have tried to understand one another’s culture before they started knocking heads and throwing weight around. For the future, we need to legislate some mechanisms that insure that seasoned statesmen and other experts inform and influence the foreign policy decisions of presidents and other popular politicians.


Can you imagine what all that wasted money might have bought, on both sides, if it had instead been earmarked for cherished goals dear to the hearts of citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States?


I hate politics.


Historians get to write the history books, so tend to salute bloody victors as heroes, while labeling bloody losers “crazed maniacs.” But shouldn’t we all be past all of that now? For goodness sake, it’s the 21st century and we should all know better by now. There are so much better ways to achieve political goals and solve differences than through violence. It’s time to put away childish things.


Mad Magazine's section called “Scenes We’d Like To See” inspired the frame of this satire. Although it is unlikely that these two particular men will overcome their personal and political differences and lead their followers to peace, it would sure be nice if they did. Someday, somebody will, you know. The only question is, how long will it take? And how many more ruined lives will it cost, on both sides, before that day comes?


Somehow we must get testosterone out of politics.


Only peaceful dialogue and patient listening can bring East and West together in mutual understanding, appreciation, and support.


Kipling’s “The Ballad of East and West” was a childhood favorite of mine. I first envisioned a satirical retelling of this poem set in the wild mountains bordering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, substituting Bush for the Colonel’s son and Bin Laden for Kamal, the Border Thief, letting these two silly, self-important, reckless, macho guys go at it, chasing each other “up and over the tongue of Jagai as blown dustdevils go…” until Bush’s horse falls “at a watercourse, in a woful heap fell he, and (Bin Laden) has turned the red mare back and pulled the rider free.”


He has knocked the pistol out of his hand–small room was there to strive

“‘Twas only be favor of mine,” quoth he, “ye rode so long alive:

There was not a rock for twenty mile, there was not a clump of tree

But covered a man of my own men, with his rifle cocked on his knee….”


 (But… no. I’ll let you read the original yourself, reprinted below.)


I decided, instead, to play with the idea of these two men generously agreeing to a campout retreat at Bush’s beloved ranch. One can always dream. I’ve always been deeply moved by the final courage evidenced by the Colonel’s son and Kamal, the Border Thief, in pledging to respect one another’s strengths and common humanity.


I didn’t mean to pick on the New York Times or AlJazeera, both wonderful, principled  newspapers; their names were just convenient symbols for media-in-general, and I apologize if this satire unintentionally insulted them.


I also abused the current popularity of Brokeback Mountain to make my political points. However, while I’m sure that a week of roughing it alone/together in the mountains would create dialogue, understanding, and maybe even camaraderie between these two men, I’m confident that they’re both firmly and happily set, by now, in their hetero ways. Although, to be sure, nothing surprises me anymore. Maybe someday we really will see these two happily mountain biking together in Afghanistan. As I said, nothing ever surprises me anymore.


You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one….


Only deeply spiritual leadership can unify the planet’s five polarized cultures—Africans, South Americans, China, the Muslim world, and the West. Only idealistic leadership can inspire each of these cultures to achieve its own unique ideals, hopes, and dreams, while respecting and supporting the quality of human life everywhere. Only non-violent leadership can address the century’s most urgent problems—the ravages of disease, injustice, hopelessness, greed, hunger, environmental degradation, natural disasters, ignorance, addiction, prejudice, nuclear proliferation, crime, poverty, war, terrorism, and yes, violence, itself.


Reprinted below, as I promised, is the lovely original Rudyard Kipling adventure ballad….



The Ballad of East and West

By Rudyard Kipling



Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face,

tho' they come from the ends of the earth!


Kamal is out with twenty men to raise the Border-side,

And he has lifted the Colonel's mare that is the Colonel's pride:

He has lifted her out of the stable-door between the dawn and the day,

And turned the calkins upon her feet, and ridden her far away.

Then up and spoke the Colonel's son that led a troop of the Guides:

“Is there never a man of all my men can say where Kamal hides?”

Then up and spoke Mahommed Khan, the son of the Ressaldar:

“If ye know the track of the morning-mist, ye know where his pickets are.

At dusk he harries the Abazai—at dawn he is into Bonair,

But he must go by Fort Bukloh to his own place to fare,

So if ye gallop to Fort Bukloh as fast as a bird can fly,

By the favour of God ye may cut him off ere he win to the Tongue of Jagai.

But if he be past the Tongue of Jagai, right swiftly turn ye then,

For the length and the breadth of that grisly plain is sown with Kamal's men.

There is rock to the left, and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,

And ye may hear a breech-bolt snick where never a man is seen.”

The Colonel's son has taken a horse, and a raw rough dun was he,

With the mouth of a bell and the heart of Hell

and the head of the gallows-tree.

The Colonel's son to the Fort has won, they bid him stay to eat—

Who rides at the tail of a Border thief, he sits not long at his meat.

He 's up and away from Fort Bukloh as fast as he can fly,

Till he was aware of his father's mare in the gut of the Tongue of Jagai,

Till he was aware of his father's mare with Kamal upon her back,

And when he could spy the white of her eye, he made the pistol crack.

He has fired once, he has fired twice, but the whistling ball went wide.

“Ye shoot like a soldier,” Kamal said. “Show now if ye can ride.”

It 's up and over the Tongue of Jagai, as blown dustdevils go,

The dun he fled like a stag of ten, but the mare like a barren doe.

The dun he leaned against the bit and slugged his head above,

But the red mare played with the snaffle-bars, as a maiden plays with a glove.

There was rock to the left and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,

And thrice he heard a breech-bolt snick tho' never a man was seen.

They have ridden the low moon out of the sky, their hoofs drum up the dawn,

The dun he went like a wounded bull, but the mare like a new-roused fawn.

The dun he fell at a water-course—in a woful heap fell he,

And Kamal has turned the red mare back, and pulled the rider free.

He has knocked the pistol out of his hand—small room was there to strive,

“'Twas only by favour of mine,” quoth he, “ye rode so long alive:

There was not a rock for twenty mile, there was not a clump of tree,

But covered a man of my own men with his rifle cocked on his knee.

If I had raised my bridle-hand, as I have held it low,

The little jackals that flee so fast were feasting all in a row:

If I had bowed my head on my breast, as I have held it high,

The kite that whistles above us now were gorged till she could not fly.”

Lightly answered the Colonel's son: “Do good to bird and beast,

But count who come for the broken meats before thou makest a feast.

If there should follow a thousand swords to carry my bones away,

Belike the price of a jackal's meal were more than a thief could pay.

They will feed their horse on the standing crop,

their men on the garnered grain,

The thatch of the byres will serve their fires when all the cattle are slain.

But if thou thinkest the price be fair,—thy brethren wait to sup,

The hound is kin to the jackal-spawn,—howl, dog, and call them up!

And if thou thinkest the price be high, in steer and gear and stack,

Give me my father's mare again, and I 'll fight my own way back!”

Kamal has gripped him by the hand and set him upon his feet.

“No talk shall be of dogs,” said he, “when wolf and gray wolf meet.

May I eat dirt if thou hast hurt of me in deed or breath;

What dam of lances brought thee forth to jest at the dawn with Death?”

Lightly answered the Colonel's son: “I hold by the blood of my clan:

Take up the mare for my father's gift—by God, she has carried a man!”

The red mare ran to the Colonel's son, and nuzzled against his breast;

“We be two strong men,” said Kamal then, “but she loveth the younger best.

So she shall go with a lifter's dower, my turquoise-studded rein,

My broidered saddle and saddle-cloth, and silver stirrups twain.”

The Colonel's son a pistol drew and held it muzzle-end,

“Ye have taken the one from a foe,” said he;

“will ye take the mate from a friend?”

“A gift for a gift,” said Kamal straight; “a limb for the risk of a limb.

Thy father has sent his son to me, I 'll send my son to him!”

With that he whistled his only son, that dropped from a mountain-crest—

He trod the ling like a buck in spring, and he looked like a lance in rest.

“Now here is thy master,” Kamal said, “who leads a troop of the Guides,

And thou must ride at his left side as shield on shoulder rides.

Till Death or I cut loose the tie, at camp and board and bed,

Thy life is his—thy fate it is to guard him with thy head.

So, thou must eat the White Queen's meat, and all her foes are thine,

And thou must harry thy father's hold for the peace of the Border-line,

And thou must make a trooper tough and hack thy way to power—

Belike they will raise thee to Ressaldar when I am hanged in Peshawur.”


They have looked each other between the eyes, and there they found no fault,

They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on leavened bread and salt:

They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on fire and fresh-cut sod,

On the hilt and the haft of the Khyber knife, and the Wondrous Names of God.

The Colonel's son he rides the mare and Kamal's boy the dun,

And two have come back to Fort Bukloh where there went forth but one.

And when they drew to the Quarter-Guard, full twenty swords flew clear—

There was not a man but carried his feud with the blood of the mountaineer.

“Ha' done! ha' done!” said the Colonel's son.

“Put up the steel at your sides!

Last night ye had struck at a Border thief—

to-night 'tis a man of the Guides!”


Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face,

tho' they come from the ends of the earth!



Please send comments to epharmon@adelphia.net