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

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Model of Speaking Truth to Power

Greetings Friends,

My friend Mary Brown, a retired United Methodist Minister, recently received a political questionnaire from Michael Steele and the Republican National Committee. Mary is NOT a Republican. However, she decided to respond to Mr. Steele, and I thought her letter worthy of sharing as a model for how to reach out to those on "the other side of the aisle", and reach beyond "agendas". Mary IS a person of hope, and she translates her hope (and faith) into action towards a positive future. You can read Mary's letter at the end of this post.

Mary is as active in her retirement (working to build a better world) as she was as a minister. If her experience is any indicator of what retirement can be like, I can't wait! Here's to working for a just and peaceful world every day of our lives.



March 1, 2010

Dear Chairman Steele:

I don’t know why I received this questionnaire because I am not a Republican; however, my parents were. Unfortunately, I think they would be “turning over in their graves” if they were aware of the mean spirited rhetoric expressed by so many of the Republican leaders in Washington today. Many Republicans seem more intent on seeing the present administration fail rather than they do in truly trying to work towards what is in the best interests of the American people in these difficult days. I know that there are philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats; however, I believe that the present rancor and stalemate in Congress is destructive of our democracy.

I recently heard you, Chairman Steele, interviewed on the Tavis Smiley show. Although I didn’t agree with all your comments, I felt like you seemed to be a reasonable person. For example, you expressed a desire to “speak truth to power,” wherever such expression was needed, even if that meant speaking “truth” to the members of your own party. I like that quality!

So I would like to speak “truth” to you, Mr. Steele, from my perspective. In this country, we sometimes speak of “failed states,” usually referring to such nations, as Somalia, or the Congo or possibly Yemen. However, I believe that this nation is on the verge of becoming “a failed democracy.” This nation has been on an “unsustainable course” for many years now, whether in terms of its use of resources, consumer spending, or predatory financial practices, etc. World-wide climate change, global warming, massive poverty with billions living on less than $1 or $2 a day, the coming of Peak Oil, the melting of glaciers potentially affecting the fresh water supply for billions, these are the real “national security” issues which affect people all over the world. The solution to these issues will determine whether or not my grandchildren grow up to live in a nurturing world or a world is no longer able to sustain its inhabitants.

Therefore, I am dismayed at the lack of visionary leadership in Washington. I am dismayed that 41 individuals out of this nation of over 300,000,000 people can obstruct legislation from even coming up for a vote! I believe most politicians do not offer visionary leadership because of their need to raise money for the next election cycle and because of the pressure of lobbyists. Doris “Granny D” Haddock walked from Pasadena to Washington, D.C. in 1999 at the age of 89 to raise public awareness about the need for finance reform for elections! It is ironic that just days before her 100th birthday on January 24th, the Supreme Court voted to allow unions and corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in support of political candidates. Again, money is power!

I believe, Mr. Steele, that millions of Americans, including Independents, Republicans and
Democrats, believe that democracy as practiced these days in Washington, D.C. is failing us. That’s why millions of folks are devoting their efforts to restoring democracy through organizations and movements completely outside of The Beltway, organizations that have a worldwide scope.

For example, in my retirement, I have become a facilitator for a symposium entitled “Awakening the Dreamer: Changing the Dream.” This symposium, developed in 2005 by the Pachamama Alliance has been given in 70 cities in this country and 27 nations worldwide. Its purpose is to help people bring forth “an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just human presence on our planet.” Another worldwide movement is “Give Peace a Deadline,” or the P5Y (Peace in Five Years) movement. Its goal is to end war (not conflict) in five years. People in the Snoqualmie Valley, where I live here in Washington state, are exploring the TransitionMovement started by Rob Hopkins in England. The goal of this movement is to help local communities live more sustainably during this era of Peak Oil.

Perhaps, Mr. Steele, you have never heard of such movements or organizations. Well, that’s because they are completely off the “radar” of the mainstream media, which is controlled by large corporations. However, environmentalist and author, Paul Hawkens writes in his book Blessed Unrest that there are anywhere from 500,000 to 1,000,000 just organizations working worldwide. These organizations are primarily interested in issues of environmental sustainability, social justice and indigenous wisdom. According to Paul Hawkens, it is the efforts of such organizations and movements that will eventually save our planet.

As for this questionnaire, Mr. Steele, I find the same fault with it that I find with similar questionnaires I have received from the Democratic Party. The questions lack complexity and are slanted towards the agenda of the particular party, so it’s very difficult to answer them with a simple “Yes” or “No.”

I thank you, Mr. Steele, for allowing me to speak “my truth” to you, and I hope this gives you a different perspective on what’s happening outside of The Beltway. If my knowledge were only dependent on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. and what I might hear or see through most media, I would be completely despondent about the future. However, because my knowledge is not so limited, I am still hopeful. As playwright and former Czech Republic President, Vaclav Havel has written, “Either we have hope within us, or we don’t. It is a dimension of the soul…Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

Hopefully yours,

Rev. Mary Karen Brown
Retired United Methodist minister

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