Archive for November, 2011
At the end of October I learned that Eileen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, along with 2 other women, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman. Johnson Sirleaf is the first elected female African president and Gbowee from Liberia is active reconciling fighting factions. Karman,a 32 year old, Yemeni journalist inspired thousands of Yemen women to speak out. Karman called the award “a victory for our revolution, for our methods, for our struggle, for all Yemeni youth, and all the youth in the Arab world.”
I find myself singing Handel’s Aleluja chorus when I think of these three women at work in this tattered world. Go Madam Eileen. Give your heart, Gbowee. And Karman, speak the truth. Thank Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Abraham and especially Sarah. Finally we can hear some women’s voices. Thank you ancestors and the Living Spirit. In Liberia after the November 7 elections, Johnson Sirleaf appointed Gbowee to head a National peace and Reconciliation Initiative. “Reconciliation is a personal, internal, collective journey that people must decide they are going to take,” says Gbowee. Without a country addressing national grievances, no healing can occur. Liberians are still divided over the 1985 presidential elections and problems of unemployment and disempowerment rise up like a dusty whirling dust storm. During Liberia’s civil war, Gbowee brought together several dozen Christian and Muslim women who rose up to stop the war.
Sirleaf is affectionately known as Africa’s “Iron–lady”, due to her iron determination. She was awarded the Peace Prize for her “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” There have only been 12 previous female Nobel Peace Prizes in 110 years, one was Wangari Maathai in 2004. Here on this October day speckled with yellow leaves falling like stars, we say goodbye to Maathai recently deceased and hello to Sirleaf, who will continue to inspire us to the higher calling of unity. Turn away from petty disputes toward healing.
Dear ancestors, Ishtar, Sarah, Hecate, Shekinah, Kali, Mary and Sophia. Give us guidance. Thanks be for all the women warriors who carry the torch of truth and compassion across the weeping land.
Henry David Thoreau Civil Disobedience 1849
Abby Kelley Foster/Susan B. Anthony/Elizabeth Stanton
Mock voting booth for women suffrage 1872
Mahatma Gandhi started satyagraha in India 1910s
Salt march 1940s
Rosa Parks Civil Rights in Alabama 1961
MLK Freedom Riders in south 1960s
Robert/JFK US Peace Corps alternative service to military1960s
US Academia recognizes need for peace Departments 1968
Lentz Institute; Colgate; Manhattan Universities in forefront
Cesar Chavez Dolores Huerta United Farm Workers in CA 1970
Robert Hunter Greenpeace 1971
Seabrook NH and Antinuclear Movement 1979
Berrigan brothers Plowsharers Nuclear Disarmament 1980
Elise Boulding Culture of Peace 1980s
Jim Corbett in AZ 1982
Sanctuary Movement and Civil Initiative
Churches Sanctuary Movement in TX,AZ Chicago 1984
Peace Brigades International 1981
Pledge of Resistance against contras in Nicaragua
Act UP in NYC 1985
Gay rights and stopping unfair medical practices during AIDS epidemic
Kathy Kelly Voices of Creative Nonviolence 2003
Nonviolence Peaceforce International 2003
I love the idealism of this country. The Declaration of Independence is a creed as much as it is a manifesto. In 4th grade I studied the launching of this nation. We believe in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Americans proclaimed in its violent birthing pangs. US history converts children into the American dream. At 8 years old, I saluted the flag with wide starry eyes. My spine stood ramrod as straight as any Marine. My hair hung in pigtails. My mouth said the Pledge of Allegiance “one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all,” My young mind was thinking “freedom to do whatever I want to in order to be happy.” By 6th grade I refused to recite the Pledge, because I knew better. The truth was more important than my country. I silently saluted the flag and spoke to my heart up my own promises. Is the American dream about aspirations or more about economic prosperity? What pledges can each of us make to each other? Where in the American dream is being compassionate? Where is taking responsibility?
Pride in my nation depends on the dignity of the people. I need this country to continue its pilgrimage in acting justly. I want us to talk openly about the 1st amendment. Does the Patriot Act passed in 2001 corrode our freedom of speech? Is creationism still taught in schools as an alternative to evolution and do school children debate freedom of religion? As a child growing up in US schools I wanted liberty to do whatever I want; but now I’ve grown up. I need justice for all to feel national pride. I heard what fascism did in 1939, my freedom doesn’t mean I can take wantonly.
There needs to be fundamental change in tax structure. We can’t have rich Americans hoarding obscene amounts of money. Corporations aren’t beings, they are money machines. We need decency towards immigrants and generosity to the poor. However charity is not structural change. Galtung, a peace researcher, calls structural nonviolence positive peace. Negative peace is the absence of war, positive peace builds the peace movement. We, the 99%, need to refrain from personal violence and find a reform that includes structural change. This change is not just protesting injustices. Does the protest movement voice discontent, it’s one step toward peace. Are the US Occupiers morally persuasive? Let’s each join in knowing that nonviolent democracy has many growing pains. Find a way to help the dispossessed. So as Eldridge Cleaver says, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Dear readers, you who are hungry, curious or piqued, keep reading for synopses on Occupation, Nobel Peace winners, and the wily fall weather.
I spend a night during the week at Occupy Boston. (more…)
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