Hello? Is anybody out there? I've been so good about posting lately, but no one, except for Cheryl :) is "talking" back.
I don't have much to say today . . . Anyone else have anything they want to talk about? Please?
"People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character." --Emerson
"Pace is all. Rhythm is master. Consistency is your friend."
Hello? Is anybody out there? I've been so good about posting lately, but no one, except for Cheryl :) is "talking" back.
I don't have much to say today . . . Anyone else have anything they want to talk about? Please?
No commentary. Just a reprint of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" circa 1963.
1963? Really? It reads like it's from 2006:
Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks
You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly
Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain
You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud
You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins
How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul
And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead
Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music
Lt. Ehren Watada is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq because he believes it is an illegal war and his participation in it would make him a war criminal and I applaud him.
I am publishing the statement he issued to the press in early June in a show of support for him and other officers who may be thinking about refusing to fight in this illegal war. I also believe that our soldiers' refusal to participate in what is now an occupation may be the only way to get the U.S. out of Iraq.
For more information or to show your support for Lt. Watada and others who are refusing to fight in Iraq, follow the link at the bottom of the post.
Thank you, Lt. Watada. I hope that many of your comrades will follow your lead.
Statement of Lt. Ehren Watada
(June 7, 2006) - Family, Friends, Members of the Religious Community, Members of the Press, and my fellow Americans—thank you for coming today.
My name is Ehren Watada. I am a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and I have served for 3 years.
It is my duty as a commissioned officer of the United States Army to speak out against grave injustices. My moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not those who would issue unlawful orders. I stand before you today because it is my job to serve and protect those soldiers, the American people, and innocent Iraqis with no voice.
It is my conclusion as an officer of the Armed Forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law. Although I have tried to resign out of protest, I am forced to participate in a war that is manifestly illegal. As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order.
The war in Iraq violates our democratic system of checks and balances. It usurps international treaties and conventions that by virtue of the Constitution become American law. The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people with only limited accountability is not only a terrible moral injustice, but a contradiction to the Army’s own Law of Land Warfare. My participation would make me party to war crimes.
Normally, those in the military have allowed others to speak for them and act on their behalf. That time has come to an end. I have appealed to my commanders to see the larger issues of our actions. But justice has not been forthcoming. My oath of office is to protect and defend America’s laws and its people. By refusing unlawful orders for an illegal war, I fulfill that oath today.
I was driving to work this morning, listening to NPR as usual, and I heard an interesting little news story. Apparently, the Milwaukee school district has decided to sell naming rights for areas within its public schools in order to raise money for strained and underfunded school budgets. They're selling the rights to everything from auditoriums, conference rooms, athletic fields and cafeterias. In Milwaukee, acquiring naming rights can run anywhere from $25,000 to $500,000 with pricing dependent upon the "visibility" or public foot traffic of any particular area. Businesses get advertising and the public schools get much needed money. So why am I not sure how I feel about this?
I understand where it comes from. Those of us who stay up on town politics know that there always seems to be a shortage in the annual school budget. Often times the deficit is so large that administrators can't cover the gap and then must go to the taxpayers of the town and request more money in the form of a Proposition 2 1/2 Override vote. The greatest obstacle to such a request comes when the majority of the population is older and doesn't have children in the public school system. In other words, why should my taxes go up for a service I don't use?
So many educators see selling naming rights as the answer. Opponents call the move "lazy" and state that it is the school committee's and the superintendent's job to convince the town's taxpayers to OK the request for more funds. I agree. But what if you can't get the money year after year? Should the kids suffer and go without? My gut says "No," but something still doesn't sit right with me.
I mean, I'm one of those people that cringes every time I hear the words "Gillette Stadium" and "The Staples Center" and "NOKIA Sugar Bowl" or "Tostitos Fiesta Bowl." It just feels so wrong! We are already bombarded daily, in what seems like every moment of our lives, with advertising telling us to buy this and consume that and our lives will be better. Now, I'm not naive - I know professional, and even college, sports are all about the money, so selling the naming rights to stadiums, while NIKE and Reebok provide uniforms and sneakers as sponsors seems to follow the marketing plan. But is that what we want in our public schools? Or is it maybe what we need seeing as how our public schools are failing? Should they be run more like corporations? I don't know.
Obviously there would need to be certain guidelines put in place. Would you allow McDonald's to buy the rights to your cafeteria when we all know that fast food isn't good for you and kids get enough of it when they're not at school? How about a company who has bought the naming rights to say, an athletic field, and then is involved in a scandal? Would the money for the naming rights have to be renewed annually or are these one-time deals? If they're one-time, is it really an effective answer for the long term? If it's an annual contract, then should we be concerned that the superintendent's job would shift to becoming a salesman in order to secure that money each year?
I don't know. I guess that's why I'm asking. I never would have thought of it myself, but apparently that's where we're at. This isn't a "If the time comes ..." It's happening now and I'm inclined to be cautious. I mean, what ever happened to charity? Why is the prevailing notion that we all deserve something in return for what we give? Why can't we go to area businesses and say that we need help in funding our public schools? Afterall, those schools will provide said businesses with workers in the future? Shouldn't said businesses want to invest in quality education to turn out quality potential employees? Besides, donations can be written off on said businesses' taxes, right?
What do you think?
I've talked about this movie a couple of times before, but now I'd like to give my personal review. I saw it on Friday night at this little theatre about 20 minutes from my house - and I have to point this out because it's such an anomaly these days - We bought two tickets, two sodas and a pretty big tub of popcorn for UNDER $20!! I think the last time that happened to me I was probably 13. So I will confess that I was riding a high even before we walked into the dark theatre. But back to the movie . . .
It's running time is less than two hours and it runs much like the lectures Al Gore gives when he travels the world educating people about global warming. Because of this format it is VERY informative, yet speaks to a general audience. In other words, it's obvious that Gore has done his homework to the point that he can "dumb down" the scientific jargon so that those of us who had a C average in the high school sciences can easily understand and follow him. This was a definite plus for me since I already had some basic knowledge of the subject matter, but was able to gain more in-depth information.
Gore also uses dramatic photographs, excellent sound effects, easily understood and effective graphs and most of all a well-written, emotional and dramatic script to get his point across. The sound was so incredible that someone I was with pointed out afterward that the sound of a glacier breaking up in the arctic, which was preceded by Gore's voiceover about the dangers of such melting, so touched him that in that moment he paused and truly felt a sadness about the destruction of our Earth. Now that's what I call "Mission Accomplished."
Woven in between segments of Gore's seminar were these personal vignettes that took moments from Gore's personal life - a professor from his college days that first sparked his interest in a theory about global warming, a car accident suffered by his six-year-old son, the death of his sister from lung cancer which stopped his father from growing tobacco on the family farm and of course the 2000 Presidential election - all give the audience some insight into Gore as a person with a passion to make a difference and helps us to relate to him not just as a politician. In fact, while there are mentions of his political career, I didn't see this as a film starring a politician - past or present - but about a man who truly believes that we are destroying the Earth and he has taken it upon himself to try and do something about it. Believe me, this is not an Al Gore for President in 2008.
Now, for anyone who reads this blog, I make no bones about the fact that I am a liberal, progressive leaning thinker and tend to vote Democrat in any given election. In fact, I believe that I will never vote for a Republican again. (Yes, I have in the past - read Mitt Romney - but never again will I be duped.) Having said that, I didn't go to see this movie because it was "Al Gore's movie." I went to see it because I believe in what he's talking about. I believe that we are headed down a path of even greater destruction and if we don't do anything about it - well, it would mean the end for all of us.
So while he points out all that is going wrong in the environment right now, he also gives the audience a lot of hope. There are things that we can do to try and reverse this catastrophe lying in wait. We can all begin by conserving whatever energy we can, we can become carbon neutral, we can write to our Congress men and women and ask them to push for more research into renewable energy sources, we can walk more and drive less and most of all we can educate others on this most urgent problem. Afterall, there is no conflicting evidence that global warming is happening. The temperatures are rising on land and in the sea, the rainy seasons are lengthening, the storms are intensifying and the CO2 levels in the atmosphere are increasing at an alarming rate - the highest in all of recorded history. That is not up for debate.
What some would like us to believe, however, is that it is not humans who are causing the problem; That this is some natural, cyclical occurrence and we are powerless to stop it, and so, let's just go about business as usual. I, and 99 percent of the legitimate scientific community, don't agree.
We are consuming things at an astounding rate and it's that consumption of goods that is the biggest contributing factor to CO2 emissions. Once again, the United States is leading the pack - we release 30 percent of the world's total CO2 emissions. And, as is too often the case, we are leading the world in a BAD direction. So it is our responsibility to lead the international community in showing how we can change such destructive behavior. The number one way we can do that is to be aware of how the things we buy are produced and stop rewarding those corporations who aren't environmentally responsible. Using our financial power as consumers would have the greatest impact on this problem and if we replace our lightbulbs with more energy efficient ones, if we walk to the corner store instead of take the car, if we buy cars that get better gas mileage when we have to drive them - we can end this crisis.
I mean, what have we got to lose? So we have to adjust our lives a little bit. So we have to educate ourselves about the environment and how our behavior impacts the Earth. Is that so much to ask in trying to save the lifeforce that sustains us all? It could be "inconvenient" at the beginning, but once you know the facts you can no longer, in good conscience, ignore them. Afterall, what's the alternative? If we do nothing, then we WILL lose EVERYTHING. The choice is yours.
Oh yeah, and go see the movie. Five stars in my book.
During the past few weeks the media has reported on several incidents of violence involving U.S. military personnel and Iraqi civilians. As more and more stories surface, the public is left to wonder whether the U.S. military is out of control. Whether leadership is doing its job in preventing such incidences and is the training of personnel sufficient for the stresses and situations they face on a daily basis in a time of war. Many are already comparing the actions of a military minority to the incidents documented in civilian villages during the Vietnam War. Still others are using these incidences to support the idea that this war has gone sour (isn't all war sour?) and it's time to withdraw from Iraq and let the citizens of that country stabilize and support their own government.
Here is a recent sampling of reports coming out of Iraq:
---Seven Marines and one Navy corpsman have been charged with murder in the April shooting death of a 52-year-old unarmed Iraqi civilian in Hamandiya. The men are also being charged with conspiracy in that it is believed they tampered with the crime scene by placing a weapon next to the dead man's body and then reported back that the man had been killed in a fire fight and the soldiers believed him to be an insurgent.
---Twenty four Iraqi civilians were killed back in November 2005 in the town of Haditha and it is now suspected that they were murdered by U.S. military personnel without provocation. Although no formal charges have been brought, there is an investigation currently underway that aims to prove whether or not these unarmed civilians were murdered, whether or not a coverup was created not only by soldiers directly involved in the incident, but by senior officials who found out about the deaths and assisted in its being swept under the rug. Due to the sheer number of deaths involved in this single incident, this is the report that began the landslide of reporting the suspected wrongdoings by soldiers in Iraq.
---Three more soldiers are suspected of murdering three Iraqi detainees in May in the Southern Salahiddin Province. It's alleged that the three soldiers released the three detainees to set up an escape scenario and thereby support the soldiers' reasons for killing the men. There are also allegations from a fellow soldier that he was threatened by the three men suspected of the murders that if he went to authorities and said anything to implicate them they would kill him. This incident is also currently under investigation.
This is just a smattering of incidents. It seems like there is a new story everyday involving allegations of deaths of Iraqi civilians at the hands of the U.S. military. In fact, earlier this month, Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki was quoted by the New York Times as saying, "Violence against civilians had become a 'daily phenomenon' by many troops in the American-led coalition who 'do not respect the Iraqi people.'
And this comes from a man who is dependent on the U.S. military and the American government to continue to assist him in stabilizing the new Iraqi government and provide what security they can while the country is in transition. Harsh words, indeed.
While there is no doubt that these incidents are tragedies. The death of anyone caught in the crossfires of war is pointless. I think it is also appropriate that if any of these soldiers are found guilty of a crime they should be punished. That, to me, seems obvious. But two other questions immediately occur to me as well: 1. Why is everyone so shocked that it's happening? and 2. What about the men at the top of the personnel ladder whose responsibility it is to train these soldiers and then report criminal incidents involving soldiers when they happen? What is their culpability in all of this?
The first question comes from my gut. When I first heard about the killings in Haditha and I heard the voices of condemnation and shock I thought, "Well, what's the big surprise? These men have been trained to kill and that's what they've done." Now, I know that not all soldiers kill civilians. In fact, the majority don't and they pull that trigger as a last resort. We are talking about a small percentage of people involved here. But why wouldn't some of these men, who have been trained to kill, who didn't know about machine guns and tanks before enlisting, kill people who also happen to look like the "insurgents." Afterall, we are asking our military to engage in guerilla warfare on a battlefield located anywhere in Iraq. In that split second decision moment, it's hard to distinguish between an "insurgent" and a "civilian." Although many would point out that these particular victims have been unarmed when killed and that's a pretty sure sign of a civilian.
However, put yourself in these young people's shoes. They're carrying guns, often for the first times in their lives, patrolling the streets on a constant lookout for anyone who might try and murder them at the next corner. Any car passing by could be armed with an explosive device. Any person pausing next to a military vehicle could be concealing a bomb underneath his/her clothing. These men and women are afraid for their lives every second of the day and the stress of that is bound to cause bad decisions, even moments of insanity and unexplained aggression, in at least a few if not a great number of soldiers.
Yet I do not excuse these individual acts of violence. Yes, they are in a war. Yes, they have to make tough decisions. No, I wouldn't trade places with any of them for one billion dollars. But I also hold those people in a position of power and leadership responsible, too. It is their job to work daily to insure that these things don't happen. It is their job to train all that sit below them on how to read the signs of extreme stress and what to do when they suspect someone may need to be relieved from duty for a while.
Because the majority of U.S. soldiers aren't going around and killing innocent civilians, it's obvious that things can be done to prevent what has happened in Haditha and Hamandiya. And when our leaders don't prevent these things from happening and when they try to cover them up to save their own skin, or even that of a fellow soldier, they deserve to be prosecuted as well.
And yet, in the theatre of war isn't everyday filled with aggression, violence, stress and insanity? It's a bit of a quandary. The whole which came first ... For me, there's only one solution. These incidents of violence will not end until the U.S. military gets the hell out of there.
I was listening to NPR yesterday and the discussion was about "Gitmo." And the overall consensus was that the Bush Adminstration was in too deep to close the illegal prison even under international pressure to do so. One gentleman's remarks can be summarized as such: I don't think President Bush will close the prison because I don't think there's much of a political push to do so. If the prison were to remain open neither he nor the Republicans would suffer much politically speaking.
Never mind that the prison is illegal. Never mind that they are holding people, guilty and innocent, there indefinitely without formally charging them. These prisoners are being kept in limbo, and reports say they are also being tortured during interrogations, all in the name of national security. And yet it doesn't seem to matter to the powers that be that what they're doing is WRONG on so many levels. Since there is no political price to be paid - Who cares?
But that's another discussion for another day. What it made me think about is the real power of the vote. Politicians like their positions of power and they don't want to lose their cushy job in D.C. But they only get to stay if we, the people who vote them in or out, allow it. We make the decisions. And the above statement proves just how powerful the vote can be.
The following link came across my email today and I'd just like to pass it on. If you feel so moved, check it out. I know some of us are feeling quite disenchanted with our current situation, we're feeling powerless to do anything about it - but we can make a change. And it starts at the ballot box. The elections in November are important. VERY IMPORTANT. Unfortunately, we may actually have to suffer through Dubyah and his cronies for another two years (unless my prayers are answered and he Cheney, Rumsefeld, Condie ... all of them are put behind bars where they belong), but we can at least slow down their aggressive, I'll say it, evil, corporate welfare-friendly agenda by voting out Congress people who also support it. Change is slow, but let's not throw in the towel. We can do something.
So check out the link. Make the pledge. We do have the power to stop the killing and begin to set this country straight. Thanks for listening . . .
This is an open letter to anyone seeking elected office in any race in which I may vote. I have a few suggestions for you if you want my endorsement.
First of all, in a national race, I will not vote for any candidate who does not clearly offer an exit strategy for Iraq. This does not include the standard, "I want the troops home as soon as possible, but for the time being we have to keep towing the line." No. I want a concrete plan. I want to know when you plan to end the U.S. occupation and I want to know when I can expect to see celebrating in the streets as our brave men and women rejoin their families once again. And I won't support an exit that begins to bring the majority of troops home two or three years from now. While I would like immediate withdrawal, I understand that won't happen. So I'm thinking that drawing down needs to begin by the end of 2006.
I want a public commitment from you that if elected you will make it a top priority not only to bring the majority of U.S. troops home, but you must vow not to support a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq. Why such a concept is even on the table I have no idea. Are they smoking crack in the Pentagon? Just what the Iraqi people need - the U.S. military on one side of the street and the "Insurgency" on the other with no end in sight. Oil or no oil - permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq are not the answer. We started this war on false pretenses, we claim that we will leave the country upon a stable government being established - let's not show the world we are liars once again.
Second, I will not support a candidate who does not pledge to make creating a national living wage a priority. I think it is appalling to expect people in this country to live and support their families on $5.15 an hour. Are they crazy? It's really easy to bitch about the welfare system when you're sitting in an office bringing home $100,ooo a year. Welfare pays better than a minimum wage job! Where's the incentive to work? I believe that if given real opportunities for employment, jobs that provide healthcare, good pay, subsidies for daycare and the chance for advancement - the majority of people would choose to work. It's good for the soul to feel like you're accomplishing something. While some of us say it would be nice to just sit around all day and do nothing, what we really want is to have a job that we love, that we can put our heart into, that we can be happy about going to day in and day out and a job that doesn't require us to ignore our families in order to make any kind of promotion.
Which leads me to my third condition - I will throw all of my support and work for any candidate who makes the well-being of families a top priority. Things are so backward in this country. We work our fingers to the bone so that we suffer from heart disease, ulcers, fatigue, stress disorders - doesn't it seem like everyone is taking a pill for something these days? And yet all of this work is done not for the betterment of our loved ones, but to try and satisfy the greed of Corporate America. Where are the benefits? Paying obscene amounts for healthcare? Having retirement plans go belly up when we're ready to retire? Women, who bear the responsibility and the sheer joy, of bearing children aren't guaranteed any kind of paid maternity leave. In fact, mothers are guaranteed three months of unpaid leave and if you don't come back after that - well, no one has to hold your job for you and if you do come back there are no concessions made for your new status as a parent. Considering that more than 90% of industrialized nations have some kind of paid maternity leave laws on the books that often include both parents, this is one area in particular where America lags far behind. And why? Because CEOs and Boards of Trustees and stockholders demand more money. Why invest in the future when you can get your cash now! How about because without your employees you don't get anything.
Fourth, I would like to see a candidate who has a realistic plan for a national health care system. As it currently stands, the private insurance sector is a mess. Patients are being nickeled and dimed, hospitals are charging obscene amounts for their services and doctors are caught between giving their patients the treatments that are most beneficial and providing what is covered by their insurance plans. Every human being has the right of access to medical care without suffering the fear of putting themselves and their families in debt for the rest of their lives. People shouldn't be forced to choose between going to their doctor when they are initially feeling sick and waiting to go to the emergency room when the pain becomes so excrucationg that they can't stand up. I have personally experienced what it's like to make medical decisions based upon financial considerations - it SUCKS! And it shouldn't happen. Anywhere.
Fifth, I want a true pro-environment candidate. We are bankrupting ourselves by being so dependent on oil for example - a resource that won't last forever. And yet, as gas prices rise and rise and rise, we aren't concentrating on finding newer, more efficient, renewable energy sources. There's a lot of talk and little action. In the meantime, the oil companies are getting richer, our pockets are getting lighter and the environment continues to deteriorate.
Global warming anyone? If we're not careful it won't even matter what we're using in our cars because there won't be any cars, there won't be any people because we will all have perished in massive floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, lung cancer - all because we were too busy to stop for a minute and take a look at the damage our lifestyles are doing to our one and only sustaining life source. We all like to believe that we can survive no matter what, but if the Earth gets too hot, if the water is undrinkable, if we can't grow food . . . Catastrophe isn't even the word for it. Try extinction of the human race. Don't you think human extinction should be a top priority?
Now I understand that I have put forth quite a tall order. Some would call me an idealist, even naive, but I say why not aim high? It's those who aim high that get things done and I will endorse any political candidate who aims high as well. I realize that my views are not the views of everyone. It would be difficult to find one candidate who encapsulates all that I wish to see change. So I'm willing to endorse several who make it their priority to work on one or two of my issues. Afterall, there's strength in numbers, right? The more the merrier!
But I will not vote for anyone who is in opposition to my list. I will vote, even without an official alternative on the ballot, but I will vote for someone I believe will make a change even as a write in.
It's time we let the politicians out there know what we want. How can we expect to have our needs met if we don't broadcast them to those who say they want to help. Write to your representatives, your senators, your mayors, your governors, your city councilmen - anyone who has the power to help you in making a change. Visit their offices if necessary. Make them listen! Things have gotten so out of whack. Our priorities are poisoning our children and our planet. The time to make a change is now. So make your demands and support those who are committed to meeting them. For those who don't - vote for someone else in the next election.
We have the power. It's there for our taking. Do we all have what it takes? I don't know. I don't know if I do, but I'd like to try. I want you to try, too. Please. For yourself, your kids, your neighbors, for anyone who wakes up in the morning and wishes things were different. It's time to tear down the walls between genders, races, economic classes - it's time we started thinking of one another as fellow humans who have the same basic needs and a right to have those needs met. A tall task, but with time and a lot of hard work, definitely doable.
So I've moved on from my Emerson readings to another Transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau. Most notably known for going out into the woods and staying there for two years and two months, then writing about his experiences in the famous essay "Walden," Thoreau was also a man with an opinion about everything. He was very vocal about his opposition to slavery in the U.S., he was critical of the U.S. government and government in general and most of all he spoke of the need for people to simplify their lives. (What would he think of 2006? He'd probably die of shock upon witnessing a scene at an airport where busy commuters are talking on their cellphones and typing on their laptops while listening to their iPods. While a human doesn't get much more isolated than that - there is no connection with anything "real" at the other end as Thoreau experienced in the woods.)
Well, since my blog (and my mind) has been lacking in political conviction as of late, I decided to start my reading of Thoreau with his equally famous essay "Civil Disobedience." Written after he was jailed for not paying his taxes, this piece was written with a very critical eye of government. " 'That government is best which governs not at all;' and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have." That's just the second sentence.
I have not even finished the essay. I started it late last night before falling asleep and could barely keep my eyes open through four pages, but there was one passage that kept rolling over and over in my mind. It reads:
"The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure."
Wow. Just take a minute to let that sink in. It's as if Thoreau is speaking about the occupation in Iraq, isn't it? And yet he's speaking about a war that started in 1846 - 160 years ago. Now I know we've all heard about the lies of WMDs by the Bush Administration. We've all read about the falsified connections that were made between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. And let us not forget about the bold faced lies surrounding Bush's claim in the State of the Union Address in 2003 where he stated that Iraq had made attempts to buy enriched uranium from Niger in order to pursue a nuclear weapons program. I know. All of these lies have been talked about to death (and yet Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld continue to run the show), but it is important not to forget. These men need to be held accountable for the thousands of lives that have been lost by their hands, if not directly, then most certainly because they are the men who have put so many in the line of fire.
But I digress. Sort of. Had it not been for the "intelligence" that Colin Powell shared with the world, had it not been for the cheap trick of tying Iraq to the worst terrorist attack this country has ever seen while feelings were still very raw, had we the people of the United States been given factual information instead of emotional dynamite which we were led to believe was about to explode in our hands - We, the people of the U.S., would not have given our OK for a war in Iraq; Easily illustrated in the majority of citizens who today do not support this crime against humanity now that they have the facts. So how does it happen over and over again?
For Thoreau it was the Mexican War, for my parents generation it was Vietnam and sadly we now have Iraq. So why are we so complacent? Why are we so willing to ingest whatever garbage our government spits out at us? Where were the questions three years ago? Where were the voices of dissent? How is it that the media, trained to investigate every statement given to them as fact and prove its truth, failed us and became a PR machine for the White House?
Why do we not learn? How can we teach our children so that they do not make the same mistakes? Does the majority trust in government because, since we have no viable alternative at the moment, not believing in such an institution is too frightening? We live in denial because it is easier? Because we are too busy with our cellphones, our laptops, our Blackberrys and our iPods?
Wake up, America! Until we learn the lesson, the consequences will continue to get worse. And what can possibly be worse than to be engaged in a war with an ideology - aka the "War on Terror?" There is no solid strategy that can be developed against an unknown enemy in an unknown land. And yet people are dying everyday in this war. All death and no real progress because we don't no who the "real" enemy is.
And if we can't fight an ideology - like terrorism - then how do we fight the ideology of "patriotism?" The tunnel vision support of a government that lies to us, that continues to make the richer more rich and the poor even poorer and then goes to war in our name, but without our informed consent. We wave the flags without thinking about the truth behind what they stand for because we are patriots ... How do we fight that?
I realize that the official start of summer isn't for another couple of weeks. Maybe I'm just getting antsy because of the five plus inches of rain I've been drowning in over the past week (with more expected overnight!) Whatever the reason, here are a couple of books I've recently read and recommend:
1. The Giver by Lois Lowry - This was a great, quick read. It's set in the future where everything in society is closley monitored and the lives of its citizens are predestined and controlled to the extreme. Of course, since this is the only life these people know the majority follow the status quo. However, there is one citizen who is destined to receive all the memories of the past including those from a past before such control. The person chosen to fill this role is revered as the most important member of the society for his knowledge and wisdom. However, the trade off is that the keeper of the memories also is completely isolated because the information he has is seen as dangerous. I won't say anything else so as not to give too much away. Suffice it to say that it brings up a lot of things to think about (similiar to 1984 by Orwell), but is original in its premise. It reminded me of being back in high school in that it was a book with substance and I could just hear the study questions forming in my head :)
2. A Friend of the Earth by T.C. Boyle - This book is phenomenal!! Five stars. Another novel set in the future and, as expected, it's a very bleak scenario. The earth has been ravaged by global warming, pollution, the extinction of most wildlife, etc. There isn't much of an environment left really and yet humans have somehow evolved to live an average of over 100 years. (I guess that's what we get for ruining the Earth - longer time to live in our mess.) The story centers around a man in his seventies named Ty who in the 90's was an "environmental terrorist" who sabotaged construction equipment slated to tear down forests, participated in a protest that got him arrested and his daughter placed in social services and in 2025 he is the caretaker of some of the few animals left on Earth. Ty is definitely a character who it would be easy to hate, but his passion - as misguided as it often is - and his love of his daughter make it impossible for us to feel anything but sympathy. He makes a lot of BAD decisions. His temper and stubborness is unbelievable and often leads to him making his own trouble while blaming everyone else around him. This book brings a lot of things to the surface. The most obvious being that if we continue the destructive environmental path we are currently on could we live in a world like Ty's? And is someone like Ty justified in his actions to try and get people's attention and save the Earth? And what about the actions of a parent? Should we sacrifice our ideals or modify our actions in order to protect our children? Is it OK to get thrown in prison for a cause even though he has a daughter, whose mother has died, at home to care for? I can't say enough about this book. The writing is spectacular - Boyle's descriptions of the environment are incredible (I can feel the cold rain falling on my face), his depiction of Ty as a complicated character with tunnel vision is amazing and the plot itself brings the reader on an exciting and emotional ride. I will definitely be checking out some of Boyle's other writing this summer because of this one. (Thank you, Shannon!)
3. The Portable Emerson edited by Carl Bode & Malcolm Cowley - Ralph Waldo Emerson that is. Another suggestion by a friend, I have just finished "Nature" and I am amazed again at how wonderful this man was. He was truly one of our greatest American writers. His ability to draw parallels between the natural and spiritual worlds really helps to connect us to our environment and I think if we are to turn this ship around and start treating Mother Earth as we should that's exactly what we need right now. If we can find "God," whoever that may be to you or me, in nature then we will revere her and treat her with respect and a kind hand. And as we all know the Earth's future is that of our own, our children and our grandchildren. Emerson offers a little bit for everyone with his views on writing, religion, self-reliance, slavery and his portraits of other authors/philosophers like Thoreau and Plato. Not the easiest of reading, but that's what I really like about it. You can get so deeply immersed in him that the rest of the world falls away and your mind feels reinvigorated upon finishing any given passage.
"Standing on the bare ground - my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space - all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing! I see all . . ."
4. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz - I've said enough about this one. But I can't recommend it enough. Read it! It will change the way you live your life, as well as the way you see others.
5. Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks - This book is hilarious. It's a travel book of sorts about a guy who accepts a bet to hitchhike around Ireland, coast to coast, with a small, dorm size fridge in tow. I haven't read this one in years, but as I scanned my bookshelf for suggestions this one definitely stands out. The stories are so IRISH! A great, light, humorous summer read.
I'm going to be rereading Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer this summer. Those are two books I haven't touched since high school and I'm looking forward to seeing what I discover now that my perspective is completely different from the last time I read them.
But I'd like some suggestions from all of you. What are you reading? What can you recommend? I'm up for just about anything - so type away! And not just for me. Share with all of us your recommendations so that we can have a great summer filled with reading!!
P.S. Check out the new link I've posted under "Websites I Like" - Astronomy Picture of the Day. I stumbled upon it and the images are some of the most incredible I've ever seen!! My boys were mesmerized and so was I ... Check it out.
"There is just one more agreement, but it's the one that allows the other three to become deeply ingrained habits. The fourth agreement is about the action of the other three: Always do your best."
Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Ruiz isn't saying that you always have to be on top of your game. The world is always changing and so are we. Some days we are energetic, creative and ready for anything, while at other times we can barely get out of bed because of exhaustion and stress. But whatever your circumstance, do your best in that moment. This provides the action, the putting into practice of all the other three agreements because when you always do your best to be impeccable with your word, to not take anything personally and never make assumptions then there is no place for self-judgement and guilt. Sometimes you will be able to follow the agreements, sometimes you won't and that's OK as long as you do your best.
"Doing your best, you are going to live your life intensely. You are going to be productive, you are going to be good to yourself because you will be giving yourself to your family, to your community, to everything. But it is the action that is going to make you feel intensely happy." According to Ruiz, it's the simply act of doing your best that makes us happy. Since we can be without blame and guilt at any given moment we are free to help one another to do what makes us happy simply because it makes us happy and not because we are seeking a reward. For example, most of us work to pay the bills. We have our good days and our bad when it comes to work and although it's nice to get a paycheck for the work we do, our most rewarding days are those when we can say we did our best, when we accomplished something, when we helped a coworker to succees. We take the greatest pleasure in knowing that we are doing something to the best of our ability in that moment and that is inspiring - to ourselves and to those around us.
And doing your best doesn't only apply to specific jobs as in employment or favors we do for others, but we should do our best at being ourselves, at knowing our truth and honoring it - do your best at expressing who you are. Notice all of the verbs? We must not sit in front of the television and waste away the hours of our lives watching reality tv and talk shows. It's time to take action. It's time to show the world who we really are and bring our unique gifts and perspective to the table so that we can all begin to speak our truth and do our best.
"We don't need to know or prove anything. Just to be, to take a risk and enjoy your life, is all that matters. Say no when you want to say no, say yes when you want to say yes. You have the right to be you. You can only be you when you do your best."
So start practicing. You won't always be able to follow these four agreements. They're tough. There are a lot of outside forces (as well there are those negative agreements within ourselves) just waiting for the chance to break us down, to hurt us with their words and actions, but if we do our best to keep these four agreements we will find that over time it will become a habit, a ritual, to keep the Four Agreements. We won't need the daily reminders, written and oral, we will replace our negative agreements with these Four and we will be impeccable with our words, we will not take anything personally, we will not make assumptions about others and ourselves and we will always do our best without hesitation. And as these actions become part of our truth we will not be able to contain the joy and love that is created within ourselves. It will spill out into all of our relationships and at times the joy, love and freedom will be overwhelming.
So make the commitment today to honor the Four Agreements - to believe in yourself enough to begin a new journey. (Unless the one you've been on is working out better than you could have ever imagined.) You will stumble. You will even fall along the way. But when you do, get back up, dust yourself off and renew your commitment to honor yourself and your truth again tomorrow. And know that there are always souls surrounding you who are on the same journey . . .
The third of Don Miguel Ruiz's Four Agreements is Don't make assumptions. (And not just because to assume makes an ass out of u and me. haha) According to Ruiz, making assumptions sets us up for suffering because when we assume we perceive the information we make up as truth and when that truth is challenged we defend it in order to defend ourselves without regard for what the truth really is. "We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing."
This is often the case with our personal relationships. We assume that we know who someone is. We assume that we know how they will react in a given situation even though we have not had the life experience that this person has had. (Yet we perceive everything through our own eyes and assume that others see things the way that we do.) And when that special person in our life does something or reacts in a way unexpected by us - we blame them for not living up to our expectations, our assumptions. This is where a great deal of pain is suffered between those who claim to love one another.
We also assume, often times in marriage, that our partners should know us so well that we shouldn't have to tell them our needs and desires. They should just know. Well, when they don't know we get angry. We assume that our partner doesn't know us as well as we thought. We assume that the problem lies within our spouse. We begin to resent him/her for not taking enough interest in us. But why should we assume that because someone loves us they know what it is to be us? We are all unique. We all bring our own agreements and personal histories into our relationships. No two are the same. Therefore, while we shouldn't assume that our spouse's agreements are the same as ours, we don't want them forcing their agreements and expectations on us. If you love someone, you must love them as they are - here and now. We cannot expect to change someone else. If you can't accept your partner for who they are then you don't love them. In the same respect, if they cannot accept you for who you are they do not love you. When we stop assuming things about others we open up the channels for clear communication - channels through which we can be impeccable with our words and not take personally the reactions we recieve.
Funny, how these things just keep circling back upon one another, huh?
We make assumptions because we are afraid to ask questions. We are even more afraid of the answers we will receive. But all of us have the right to ask any question and in turn we have the right to answer any question with the truth. Once we overcome the fear of asking questions things begin to clear up - we can see everything and everyone for who they really are because there are no more barriers, no more misconceptions, no more assumptions and guessing. This also applies when we ask the tough questions of ourselves. Don't' be afraid. That's where the good stuff is. If you have the courage to ask the questions, then also have the courage to answer yourself honestly. It will be one of the most freeing experiences you will ever have. To be honest with yourself, and with others, opens up the door to happiness and joy because there is no greater fear to overcome.
So if you have a question, or two or three, ask them! Be clear in your communications with others. And remember not to take the answers personally and remember that your answers to the questions of others are simply that - your answers. You bear no responsibility if the receiver chooses to take your opinion personally. So ask these questions of yourself and of those you care most about: What is it that you really want to do in this life? Are you happy? What would make you happy? What negative influence is it time to rid yourself of? Do you feel that you are living a life that is true and represenative of who you really are?
Meditate on just one of those questions for a while and see what you come up with....I'd share my own answers, but I'm still trying to sort them out.
This is a big one for me. I have posted a short story of mine ONLINE (and I'm more than a little nervous about it.) And I would like to invite all of you to click on the link below and go read it. (I can't believe I'm doing this!) I believe that you can also leave your feedback there or here. I would appreciate it. This feels like running naked down Main Street! The anticipation of judgement is very great right now, but I know I have to do this. What good is my writing if I don't let anyone in to share it? (At least that's what I keep telling myself!)
So I would appreciate everyone's input. I don't have anything else to say at the moment. I've been working on posting the short story for a while now and my boys have completely torn apart my house. And now they're hungry - so WATCH OUT! I will finish the Four Agreements though, hopefully by tomorrow. And then I have several other things swirling around in my head as well.
Have a great weekend everyone! And thank you for supporting me in my latest writing endeavor.
Well, it seems that some wanted me to finish my thoughts about "The Four Agreements" (Cheryl), so I will. The second agreement is "Don't take anything personally," and I will admit that this is most often the toughest of the four for me. I seem to take a lot of things personally. When I was in school I used to cry if a teacher told me to stop talking! I thought it meant he/she didn't like me. I know, very sad. But even as an adult I have a tough time with this one. If my kids misbehave in a store I internalize that it's my fault because I didn't do something right. (I know, maybe they're just being kids.) But it's hard. My mother used to say I was a "backward" kid, that I was very shy. I think I was scared; scared that people wouldn't want to be my friend, so I hid in the corner to avoid the rejection. That fear is with me a lot still.
But Ruiz says that all of this is not necessary. Not only does he want us not to take negative things personally, but the positive as well. If you believe in yourself. If you're comfortable with you are and you allow yourself to speak your truth - you won't need reinforcement and validation from others. Therefore, it doesn't matter if someone tells you you are ugly or someone tells you that you're the smartest person they've ever met. You know who you are and it doesn't matter if anyone else does. Their perceptions are filtered through their own experiences and agreements with themselves and they cannot possibly know you the way you know yourself. In turn, their judgements are useless.
If you are like me and find it difficult to separate yourself from the words of others, then Ruiz says it's because there is some part of us that believes what is said to us. For example, if someone tells you that you look fat and your feelings are hurt - you must think you are fat. If you didn't, why would it bother you? In the same way, if someone tells you that they think you're smart and you suddenly feel elated at their observation, it's because you believe you are smart, too. But taking things personally opens us up for abuse. When we take things personally often outsiders will pick up on that and will use it to try and make themselves feel better by putting us down. Although none of what they may say is true, those of us who can't separate our view of ourselves from what others see will take those words to heart and create false agreements with and about ourselves. And often times we will pass that poison on to our loved ones.
Your ability to not take anything personally is not arrogant or callous - it is in fact the opposite. Because when we take things personally we are saying that everything is about us. It's my fault that my husband is angry with me. It's my fault that little Joey did poorly on his test. It's my fault for not going on that diet. However, other people have not had the experiences that each of us have had. We share commonalities, certainly, but every human being's journey is unique and therefore no one is in a place to judge anyone else because we can never truly know someone's motivations or reasoning. By not taking things personally we are releasing others from judging us, we are saying that we understand that they cannot comprehend who we are and thereby have no influence on the way we continue to experience our own lives. Taking that power of judgement away from others, and from ourselves, is quite a liberating experience and allows us to be happy with ourselves and others. When we do not hold grudges for what people say or do to us we are more able to show them love and understanding when they may make otherwise hurtful comments.
"Whatever people do, feel, think, or say, don't take it personally. If they tell you how wonderful you are, they are not saying that because of you. You know you are wonderful. It is not necessary to believe other people ... As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won't need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust in yourself to make responsible choices." -- Ruiz
Isn't that empowering? It's not that we don't need relationships with others - this is not a solitary action. However, we don't need others to make us happy. We are happy because we are us. And that kind of knowledge and self-satisfaction will open our hearts to all kinds of wonderful experiences, while filtering out needless suffering.
So this is the one I really need to work on. I have made great strides in the last year or so, but I have a long way to go. I like it when others validate what I'm saying or thinking. When I have a decision to make I am often at a loss unless someone else weighs in. But only I can make the right decisions for me because only I know who I am and what I truly want. Others may have great insights, but they don't have the answers. I cannot look to them any longer. Just thinking about that kind of freedom and self reliance makes me happier already and makes me think that I want to instill such independence of thought and deed in my own boys.