"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Music for the (Peacemaking) Journey


One of the wonderful things about the recent celebration of the International Day of Peace at Bellevue College (see my previous post) was the music. And it wasn't just that people played some lovely, sentimental peace songs and we all sat passively listening. NO! Such passivity is antithetical to peacemakers' thinking. We tend to be an active bunch, and Tom Rawson and Dave Perasso, who provided musical entertainment on this evening, brought us all together in a variety of songs to put us in a proper frame of mind.

The peacemaking journey is anything but an easy one, and for each of us to stay the course requires a variety of disciplines. It can include one or any combination of meditation, prayer, contemplation, study, community and music. Yes, music. Just as prayer can have a transformative effect on the person who prays, moving one's heart and mind to compassion and action, music can have much the same effect.

(from left to right: Dave Perasso and Tom Rawson)

While some music can stir us up and help us rise up en masse, other music can help us stay grounded in our path of nonviolence. One of the songs we sang was I Believe, by "singer of stories" Linda Allen. It is a song I learned to sing from Linda not too many years ago, and it has stuck in my head ever since. It is, for me, a sort of anthem for peacemakers. As Tom fired up his guitar, the lyrics flowed out of me, and as they did a sense of peace flooded through me. It's the kind of thing we all need from time to time on this journey.

You can read the Lyrics to Linda's song below, and you can hear a sample of it at CD Baby. Linda's Website has some of her other songs available to hear, and you should really check it out (I'm not getting any kickbacks here). Linda is much more than a singer and storyteller, and I think you will discover that as I did.

I can also tell you that Tom Rawson, besides playing a mean banj0 - as Tom says, "I've got a banjo and I'm not afraid to use it." - is one heck of a peacemaker, and uses music and stories to build a world at peace. Tom is based in Seattle, Washington, and if you happen to be around on October 10 you can catch Tom and others performing in a benefit for the Seattle Fellowship of Reconciliation. Click here for information.

May the music raise our spirits and incite us to (in the words of one of the songs we sang) "Rise up and go where we have not gone." And may we "carry on" without ceasing on our peacemaking journey.



I Believe
©2003 Linda Allen

I believe that peace will come
I believe that peace will come
I believe that peace will come
I believe that peace will come

I believe that hope survives
I believe that hope survives
I believe that hope survives
I believe that hope survives


I believe that love will rise
I believe that love will rise
I believe that love will rise
I believe that love will rise

I believe in humankind
I believe in humankind
I believe in humankind
I believe in humankind (BRIDGE)

I believe that peace will come
I believe that peace will come
I believe that peace will come
I believe that peace will come

Linda Allen's Website: http://www.lindasongs.com/

Tom Rawson's Website: http://www.tomrawson.com/folksinger.html

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

May Peace Prevail on Earth


Monday (September 21) was the International Day of Peace, one day each year designated by the United Nations as an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. Of course, such a day is much more than a "Hallmark" holiday, and it seems a shame that every day is not an International Day of Peace. But I digress. During the General Assembly discussion of the resolution establishing Peace Day it was suggested that:

"Peace Day should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples…This day will serve as a reminder to all peoples that our organization, with all its limitations, is a living instrument in the service of peace and should serve all of us here within the organization as a constantly pealing bell reminding us that our permanent commitment, above all interests or differences of any kind, is to peace."

Our local celebration of Peace Day in Bellevue, Washington brought together local peacemakers, all with a common goal and with many ideas of how to reach it. And that is the beauty of it; we come with a variety of approaches to peacemaking, but with common (or should I say uncommon) grounding in nonviolence and in the committed "service of peace". Whatever our differences, we check them at the door and work together for peace.

The United Nations Association (Seattle Chapter) was represented, and one of its representatives led the Flag Ceremony, in which the names of all the nations of the world are read in alphabetical order, and as each one is read a participant brings that nation's flag up to a table and places it in a stand. The nations are read in groups of ten, and after each ten nation's names are spoken, we say (altogether) a line from the World Peace Prayer: "May peace prevail on Earth."

As the last flag (number 194) was placed in its stand, and I looked at the table filled with these symbols of many nations all struggling to live together on our fragile planet, I was moved by the diversity that exists on this Earth that we all share. The World Peace Prayer Ceremony is a global celebration of the oneness of humanity, and as diverse as we all are around the world in so many ways, we truly are one great human family. And as with any family, we must (even with all our foibles and dysfunctionality) learn to live together. And in today's violent world in which we have developed the tools (nuclear weapons) of our own demise, that is more important than ever before. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "We must learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools."

The United Nations Association is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that supports the work of the United Nations, and among other things encourages public support for strong U.S. leadership in the U.N. If you believe, as I do, that the United Nations provides the best chance for the nations of the world to learn (and work) to live together, then consider supporting the United Nations Association in its work. There are United Nations Association chapters in many cities in the U.S.

If we all (both citizens and nations of the world) work to build up the one organization that is capable of bringing the nations together, perhaps future generations will be able to live together in peace.

May Peace Prevail on Earth,


P.S. - The theme of this year's International Day of Peace was Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation. Learn more at the U.N. WMD-We Must Disarm Web page. You can also find a list of many organizations working for nuclear weapons abolition at my Nuclear Abolitionist Blog.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What if America WAS America???


On this day in 1787 the United States Constitution was adopted, having been ratified by two-thirds of the colonies. Although a grossly imperfect document, - it can be argued that it was designed by the founding fathers, who were by and large lawyers, land owners and slave owners, to preserve their influence over the nation's political economy. - it created the possibility of something beyond the absolute power of hereditary sovereigns. One might say that the U.S. has gone through a long learning process that has resulted in various amendments along the way, as well as divisive Supreme Court decisions on subjects ranging from slavery to abortion.

As I consider the meaning of this day, I find the words of Langston Hughes' poem, Let America Be America Again ringing in my ears. Hughes speaks of a fundamental truth about America; that it is in essence a yet unfulfilled promise: "The land that never has been yet-- And yet must be--the land where every man is free."

At the end of the poem Hughes reminds us that it is up to us to capture the promise of America. "We, the people, must redeem the land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain--All, all the stretch of these great green states--And make America again!" For those of us living in the U.S., that means never letting up the struggle for equality for all people, and pushing back against the powers that seek to make an elite few rich at the expense of others while plundering the resources that should be enough to sustain everyone if only they were used wisely.

So I leave you in solitude to read Langston Hughes poem, and consider where we have come 222 years since the Constitution was adopted, how far we still have to go, and how we can "bring back our mighty dream again".



Photo Credit: http://youthincontrol.wordpress.com/2009/03/14/589/quotes_langston-hughes1/


Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Peace - Where to begin?


Father John Dear just wrote another thought provoking column in the National Catholic Reporter Online. If you haven't read Father Dear's column (On the Road to Peace) before - and don't forget Sr. Joan Chittister's From Where I Stand or Bishop Gumbleton's Peace Pulpit, also at NCR Online - I highly recommend it. I get nourishing food for the journey every time I read the words of this dedicated peacemaker.

I had just been working on plans for my participation in the upcoming United Nations International Day of Peace (September 21) when I read Fr. Dear's column, and his discussion of Jim McGinnis, who died recently, helped me focus inwards regarding the daunting task of peacemaking in this violent world. Among Jim's many achievements is a Pledge of Nonviolence that he developed for young people and families; but it is a pledge to which everyone can commit because, after all, nonviolence and peacemaking is something each of us develops and brings to the world.

Here is Jim's Pledge; I have changed it to first person, singular for those in non-family circumstances (you can click here for the Family version). I plan to take one point each day (before September 21) and contemplate how I can apply it in my life every day, and then work to apply it in my home, in my community and in the greater world. It is my hope that through this discipline I will prepare myself to be present in the proper spirit not only on the International Day of Peace, but in every day of my life.

Pledge of Nonviolence

Making peace must start within ourselves and in our family. I commit myself as best I can to become a nonviolent and peaceable person:

To Respect Self and Others: To respect myself, to affirm others, and to avoid uncaring criticism, hateful words, physical attacks and self-destructive behavior.

To Communicate Better: To share my feelings honestly, to look for safe ways to express my anger, and to work at solving problems peacefully.

To Listen: To listen carefully to one another, especially those who disagree with me, and to consider others' feelings and needs rather than insist on having my own way.

To Forgive: To apologize and make amends when I have hurt another, to forgive others, and to keep from holding grudges.

To Respect Nature: To treat the environment and all living things, including my pets, with respect and care.

To Play Creatively: To select entertainment and toys that support my family's values and to avoid entertainment that makes violence look exciting, funny or acceptable.

To Be Courageous:To challenge violence in all its forms whenever I encounter it, whether at home, at school, at work, or in the community, and to stand with others who are treated unfairly.

This is my pledge. These are my goals. I will check myself on what I have pledged once a month so that I can help others become peaceable people."

You can find the unedited Family Pledge of Nonviolence and other resources at the Institute for Justice and Peace (co-founded in 1970 by Jim McGinnis, and originally called the Institute for the Study of Peace).



Friday, September 4, 2009

ENDING The Business of War!


Have you ever thought that if we could somehow take the business out of war, we would end the vast majority of reasons for making war??? Yesterday's New York Times, which covered President Obama's difficult consideration of sending additional troops to Afghanistan, said that, the political climate appears increasingly challenging for him, leaving him in the awkward position of relying on the Republican Party, and not his own, for support. Perish the thought - Might the Republicans actually pull the plug???

Well, the Pentagon and the weapons makers (along with those invested in them) can all rest easy. It is ludicrous to even consider that more than a few Republicans OR Democrats will be arguing against additional troops or calling for pulling out the troops any time soon (or later). There are far too many dollars at risk to their constituents, which include Lockheed Martin, PepsiCo, Federal Express and a host of others (even Krispy Kreme took in $500,000 from the Pentagon in 2006). The fact is that you can name just about any major company out there, and chances are good that they supply some commodity or service to the Pentagon.
It's not just the traditional "defense" contractors building predator drones (General Atomic) or the infamous V-22 Osprey (Bell Helicopter), but companies like Walt Disney, Heinz (think Ketchup), Nestle, and Kraft Foods (at nearly $600 million in 2006, that's a lot of Mac & Cheese).

This is truly a Military-Industrial Complex that even Dwight Eisenhower could not have imagined; it has become more of a massive Military-Corporate Complex, involving nearly every type of product and service imaginable. We are in DEEP, way deep!!!

And beyond the effects on Congressional (corporate) constituents, the Los Angeles Times reported that a review of 2006 congressional financial disclosure statements by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics found that lawmakers have as much as $196 million "invested in companies doing business with the Defense Department, earning millions since the start of the Iraq war." The same article noted that not all companies in which members of Congress invested were "typical" defense contractors. They included "IBM, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson." IBM took in nearly $292 million from the Pentagon in 2006 - not exactly chump change.

The Military-Corporate Complex is now so deeply embedded in the U.S. economy that there seems to be no way out of this tangled web of militaristic commerce. Indeed, it is a daunting task, but there are a number of ways to begin. In Left and Right Against the Military-Industrial Complex, John Basil Utley lays out a 10-point plan for taking on the military-industrial complex. Click here to read Utley's article; he believes that there has never been a better time to take on the military-industrial complex, and makes a compelling case for it.

If you think you are ready for a challenge, take one of Utley's 10 points as a focus and work on it, either individually or with your organization or religious community. Stay with it, and see what interesting and creative ways you can come up with to bring people together from both sides of the political spectrum to break the choke hold of the military-industrial complex on the nation, and particularly its control over members of the U.S. Congress. Good luck and good wishes.



G.O.P. Support May Be Vital to Obama on Afghan War, New York Times, September 2, 2009

War's Shopping Cart
, Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2008

Left and Right Against the Military-Industrial Complex
, by John Basil Utley, April 1,2009, written for Foreign Policy in Focus

Credits: Military-industrial complex flowchart found at Hubpages.com.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bake Sales for Bombers


Here in King County, Washington, people have been wringing their hands over the county's consideration of a plan to eliminate ALL County general funds for human services in 2010 in order to balance their budget? Hey, you have to cut somewhere, right???

While we hold bake sales and phoneathons, and plead with our elected officials to fund everything from education to critical, keep-individuals-and-families-from-falling-off-the-edge, social programs, the floodgates are wide open as our tax dollars stream out in a torrent to those responsible for making war.

War is BIG business. In fact, if the budget of the United States is any indicator, war is the BIGGEST business (see earlier blog posts on Military Spending) of all! As the nation sinks deeper into what President Obama recently called "a war of necessity," the Pentagon is calling for more troops, more drones (and just about every other kind of hardware and software), and lest I forget - CONTRACTORS!!! Do you remember when private contractors outnumbered (and probably still do) U.S. Military personnel in Iraq? According to a new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, "As of March 2009, there were 68,197 DOD contractors in Afghanistan,compared to 52,300 uniformed personnel. Contractors made up 57% of DOD’s workforce in Afghanistan. This apparently represented the highest recorded percentage of contractors used by DOD in any conflict in the history of the United States."

Besides allowing the Pentagon to massage its numbers relating to how many personnel they are sending to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the CRS report also said that, "abuses and crimes committed by armed private security contractors and interrogators against local nationals may have undermined U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan." In a broader context, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace also stated that, "The mere presence of foreign soldiers fighting a war in Afghanistan is probably the single most important factor in the resurgence of the Taliban." There just isn't the same oversight on the scores of private contractors engaged in everything from intelligence to security. It's a veritable three ring circus, and it's also a potential gold mine for private contractors.

We are NOT going to change the fundamental rules of the game any time soon, but we can speak out loudly to end the occupation of Afghanistan that is only killing U.S. troops and Afghans, but also creating more and more animosity towards the U.S. through the endless violence and death.

We can start by urging our Representatives to support an exit strategy for Afghanistan. Send an email through Friends Committee on National Legislation supporting H.R. 2404.

Get engaged with the issue through one of the many organizations doing something to stop the madness, from CodePink to Just Foreign Policy. But don't delay; NOW is the time for ACTION for PEACE.

It's time for the government to fork over the money for essential programs of social uplift, and hold bake sales if it wants to fund war.



Congressional Research Service, "Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis," August 13, 2009: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R40764.pdf. Thanks to Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy for making this report public.

Read Focus and Exit: An Alternative Strategy for the Afghan War, a policy brief published January 2009, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Additional Reading:

Note: Image found at http://mamajustice.blogspot.com/.