Tax Madness

This is a guest column from Lynn Fitz-Hugh.

While you pay taxes today, Bank of America, G.E. and other major corporations dodge. Bank of America, the 9th largest corporation in America, last year paid no taxes while receiving $1 billion in US taxpayer subsidies!  This year they made 4.4 billion and expect again to pay nothing in taxes.  G.E. earned 10.3 billion in pretax income, but paid nothing and in fact received a tax benefit of 1.1 billion!  This is an outrage when Congress is poised to cut all kinds of vital human services because the Federal Government does not have enough money.

black-earth-woman1Bring the Billions home: bring our needed tax monies back from the wars into our communities.  WA state plans to cut schools, healthcare, public safety and other programs by more than $5.7 billion.  Yet Washington voters have paid $28.6 billion to date for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with $3.9 billion projected for next year!   We pay 1.2 million per year per solider in Afghanistan.  Bringing home just 2,083 soldiers would pay for WA's total state deficit.  (To find out how many soliders would need to come home to end your state deficit clink on this great link for the Global day of action on Tax Day the Afghanistan war would pay for every state in the union's shortfall and leave an extra $8 billion for nationwide social spending!  Self serving politicians tell us they must cut the State and national budget because there is no money.   There is plenty of money and over 59% of it is being spent by the Pentagon!  We the taxpayers are fed up.  A poll at the end of March shows 64% of Americans feel the war has not been worth it for the US.

Meanwhile public records show Bank of America has both received defense contracts in Charlotte, NC and has provided debt financing for Cerberus Capital Management to buy out DynaCorp International, a defense contractor.  G.E. directly contracts with the Pentagon and builds weapons systems. So these Mega corporations while paying no taxes is busy making profit off of war, not to mention homeowners, etc.

We want the American tax payer to understand how this works - the middle class are taxed to death.  59% of their money goes to pay for wars that polls show the majority do not support, while Corporate giants skip out on their taxes and continue to show healthy profit dividends for the rich stock holders.  Let's bring equity, fairness and human services back into paying taxes.  Everyone who benefits from US services should pay for them - no free ride for corporations or the rich! Visit Lynn's blog site at

Poseidon & 100 Demi-Gods Swim

paddle-web-2010Would anyone dare swim in the Charles River, the open gutter of Boston? Isn't the water polluted, cold, and filled with blue green algae? Talley ho. In the 1850s Boston alderman called the marshes around the Muddy River a cesspool. Yes siree. Swimming in Cambridge was outlawed in 1950s with the build-up of industrial waste. So sad. It's a disgrace that our oceans are dying. Yes. I plead to the oracles of water and wind, is it safe in 2011 to swim the Charles? Yes and No.

I joined 100 people in swimming a mile race on June 4th 2011 in the Charles. We all survived. We are all passionate about swimming and, all of us, are slightly nuts. The river in May is 58 degrees which is fine for seals and but not human waifs. The race is open water, no feet are allowed to touch the river bottom. The water quality is immensely improved in the last 15 years, but in rainy weather the channel receives excess run off. The floor of the river is caked with heavy sludge. Therefore, the entire swim is done in deep water.

My spouse asked me, "Why would you want to race a mile in muddy water?" I had selfish reasons. I wanted a physical challenge. I love the River and I want to dwell in it intimately. "Rolling in the Charles" is like having a little nooky and "a roll in the hay." Seriously, my body feels alive in water more than in air.

Charles River Basin
Charles River Basin

I started practicing early this spring. I needed to swim a mile in under 40 minutes to qualify for the race. At the end of March I swam a mile in 42 minutes, which was close. Close, but not true. Swimming in open water is quite different. Swimming in a constricted pool you must stick to a narrow lane and every 50 yards you get to push off from the side of the pool. When you get a leg cramp or swallow water you can hold onto the side and declare recess. I needed practice  for 3 full months so as not to embarrass myself.

Since 2006 the Charles River Swimming org has planned the mile race. Weeks ahead of time the water protection gurus measure the bacteria and sediments in the Charles to determine whether it's safe to swim. In 2006 the rainy days increased the storm drainage into the river and the race was canceled.  Bostonians wag their fingers and explain that in the 1970s and 80s if you entered the Charles, you had to get a tetanus shot. Swimming was worse than stepping on a rusty nail. In 1983 MDC claimed the Charles River would never be swimmable.

It appears we need to reverse our position. The tide is changing on water pollution. The new Boston holding tank system stops our sewer pipes from treating the river like a toilet bowl. Since 2006 six annual races were carefully planned and half were canceled due to water quality concerns. The water quality was good in 2007, 2008 and now 2011.I swim in the race for the splash effect to prove that our city's clean-up efforts are working.

I felt unsettled. Maybe I wasn't swimming for splash effect wasn't the right attitude.  I prayed to Osiris, Poseidon, and  Mark Phelps. Then my prayers turned to Moby Dick, and even Mother Goose. I can attest to the power of prayer. FYI, praying with Moby Dick did not help this swimmer. Choose well how you pray.

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Bolivian Quakers-Escuela Emmanuel de los [email protected]

February (summer) class Emmanuel School
11th graders at Emmanuel School February (summer)

El Alto is perched 1,000 feet above La Paz, the capital or Bolivia. When the sun glitters you stare down into a cascading spiral of lego-like houses. Once your lungs have adjusted to less oxygen, El Alto seems like Kansas City. Except everyone speaks Aymara or Spanish. Except there's no SUVs. Except instead of greasy hamburgers, open markets sell quinoa drinks and fish soup. And another extraordinary fact: teenagers in Bolivia are eager students. Education is fresh to them.

I fell in love with the Aymara students at Emmanuel Friends school. I met Flavia, Marta, Estevan, and Eduardo in 2011 when I volunteered for 6 weeks. Some classes had 7 students but most classes had 18 students. In high school Bolivians study English twice a week. It's usually their 3rd language and they can start it as early as 6th grade. Their class load is immense, and even 8th graders study philosophy and technical arts.

The K-12th grade Quaker school has 4 stories, standing tall between the Santidad Iglesia de los Amigos and the sports field.  Avenues are wide in 40 year old El Alto, known for its robust political activism and Bolivian modern music scene. Have you ever heard hip-hop in Aymara? Can you pronounce tuqitpachwa qillqanipxstani?

The students eagerly shared their stereotypes about the US and asked me lots of questions. Eduardo showed me his science project on "el Medio Ambiente." In 10th grade he was preparing to give a poster presentation on green energy. Before class, Flavia sang me the Bolivian national anthem and was learning to site read. I answered her question about the US national anthem by singing "Oh, say can you see..." wondering how I could turn the "Star-Spangled Banner" into a useful English lesson. Bolivian history, like the US has been a series of battles and domination. Nor did I want to tarnish my country as being the evil empire. I wanted to be a Quaker ambassador speaking even-handedly in English class about the positive and negative aspects in the US.

Did I feel that teaching English was difficult? Sometimes. Did I feel confused? Yes. Sometimes, classrooms would switch and as the bell rang I walked into the wrong group of students (They were polite enough not to laugh). Plus, I had to decide what kind of classroom discipline to use. I wanted students to use the Internet, dictionaries, and libraries. Emmanuel students had none of those, not even an English textbook. Was teaching a positive experience? Definitely!  I learned so much about myself and what Bolivians see as valuable. The students liked learning English lyrics from Mylie Cyrus and 50 cents on their MP 3s. But I was still puzzled as to whether teenage Quakers would understand the peace testimony when Northamericans sing.

"Oh,say does that star-spangled banner still wave,

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

Bridging the Charles River

river daffodil
admit it. The Charles River is a gem. I have been living in Cambridge for 25 years and the river is an effervescent, sentinel part of our life. We have River festivals and wildlife; cruisers and duck boats. The river is an artery cutting through Cambridge much older than Mass Ave. It's as royal as any wedding fruitcake.
Some lack an appreciation for the 129 km river. It starts in Hopkinton (just like the marathon),snakes through Waltham and rolls out broadly as it enters Cambridge.
Although not in tip-top health, the River is beauty queen material. I run 4 miles along the Charles River several times a week. I'm not an engineer, nor a Greenpeacer, nor a Harvard professor. Any foot soldier can enjoy the Charles in infinite ways. You can kayak along its shores, without falling overboard  (my son at 14 did this after a dare). Instead of bemoaning the dirty water , you can take litmus tests of Charles' toxicity every month. Harvard students jump off Weeks bridge into deep water after exams. Or go goggle-eyed watching Mallard drakes paddling against the current and geese laying eggs. Did you see the rare spotted turtle by the boathouse? Wave to our new neighbors: two swans like twin towers have moved in near the Western bridge.

What did original settlers call it before the royalists named it Charles? Boston was founded on Indian land:  a slinky little Shawmut peninsula jutting into a deep water harbor (1630). I say founded, but not without homage to the Algonquin people, Pequossettes and Wampanoags who thrived along the waters. The first name for this scarf of water was Quinobequin. Although no one knows how to pronounce this word, it means meandering river. With some shame and deep honor I remember the peoples that cared for the river 4 centuries ago.
When the Europeans first set anchor near the Shaumut peninsula; the South End, Fenway, and the Back Bay were mere tidal pools behind the expansive river. Boston in 1775 was a scrawny isthmus with a big lopsided head (789 acres). The peninsula's Neck was merely 100 yards wide, about twice the width of the street at high tide. This was so remarkable: imagine a goose's slender neck with head perched on top the size of a bear.  Boston was blanketed with forest.  Mr. Winthrop, Mr. Dudley and early settlers scrambled from Fort Hill, over to Charlestown and upstream to Cambridge looking to find clean water. The Charles River was slow-moving brackish sometimes with a distinctive fragrance.
The water was the beacon. Maybe the world watched Winthrop who settled in 1630 in Watertown near the Perkins School of the Blind. But the river was the attraction. Governor Winthrop, a pioneer and an aristocrat, Read more

Living with Anger, Never out of Anger

autum-lobsteryes-09I am angry every day.

Angerr. G r owl ing. I am. Grr ow ing.

Anger.  An' grrrrr.

I am not angry all day, but every- EVEry,  e-very-day.
This is not a rant, so hear me out.

Anger is a spiritual teacher but can be poisonous.  I can't live out of anger, and I can't live without anger. Anger is confounding and usually a compound like asphalt not a simple element like copper.

I am striving to create peace more than anyone I know. So every day I meditate to carve myself into a vessel of peace. Still I'm furious. I'm mad at the soda and water bottles that blow onto my front yard. I'm pissed that for centuries women are second class citizens. I'm rip-roaring angry that the US car industry keeps designing gas guzzling cars.

Should I point the finger at Mitt Romney, a supreme capitalist? Should I blame the parents for trash in our streets? The kids? I had a beer last night, so should I be angry at the plastic cups I use? Yes we all recycle plastic, but it isn't sustainable, is it? Many mornings I see 6 or 8 rovers sleeping near bridges along the river. My father calls them tramps. Their brown bags and dirty paper is an eyesore. I'm disgusted we can't offer them a house. I'm angry at the tornadoes, at the endless war blitz, at the discrimination against immigrants,  the tragedy in Haiti, and the war authority act in Congress. I'm hyperventilating.

Golly gee willikers. Can rage be healthy?  At least my anger staves away depression. I'm serious. Women get depressed in this country and men get aggressive. And me? I refuse to be aggressive nor will I allow myself to slip into depression.

What's a Quaker to do with anger? Praying to stop anger is banal. Of course I seek to live out of Loving Mystery. Anger and love must become like the inhale and exhale of the same breath.  James Nayler, the eminent Quaker, explains how to pray when angry. "Art thou in the Darkness?" or in other words are you consumed with fury and confused by negativity. I'm defining Darkness as hurt and anger. He says, "Mind it not. But stand still and act not and wait in patience, til Light arises out of Darkness and leads thee." Anger motivates, anger points to injustice, anger is righteous. But when it comes to how to respond to anger, Nayler  says be patient and act not out of the Darkness.zach-gaprideyes-091

I work and give money to groups like the Homeless Empowerment Project. More than giving money, I spend a day a week teaching immigrants, half of these adults only have a 4th grade education. More than volunteering, I meet with others who have spare time and legal rights, to discuss how to change our behaviors in these cataclysmic times. More than organizing people of privilege to work for a just world, I ask our Higher Power to show me the way. So channeling anger uses these steps: giving of yourself, teaching the illiterate, organizing to stop injustice, and praying. I'm looking for ways to create what followers of MLK call the Beloved Community.

To me the Beloved community includes Pat Humphries, Desmond Tutu, Lady Gaga, Dennis Kuchinich, Melinda Gates and Rupert Murdoch. In this community we want Pete Seeger singing This Land is Your Land, this Land is My Land.

Who is the Beloved Community? My older brother tried to trip me as a child going down the stairs. I need to include him, the people who hurt me. And definitely we belovedly reach out to Barack, Michelle, Michelle's mother and the two girls living at the White House. But would we be willing to live next to Muamar Quadafi and his family? The Community has many doors and is welcoming to all. I know that. Accepting even those I'm upset with as children of God, as worthy, as my brother is so elementary but important. Maybe I've passed to 4th grade in the peace achievement test scores. Anger and peace aren't opposites, but they sure are painted to be enemies.nanc-niagrayes-091

Horses on Wings in Libya 2011BC-2011AD

This March, the US and Europe entered into the Libyan civil war. Western civilization has a long history with Libya and only a pittance is studied in classrooms today.Libya plays a stellar role in ancient mythology. Does Libya play the dark cousin to Greek and Roman philosophy?

Five thousand years ago, Libya was covered by lakes, forests, and grasslands.pegasus Now it’s 90% desert with nomadic Berbers. Eastern Libya in 500 BC, with its famous 5 cities (near Benghazi), was a magnificent mecca for fine arts, learned academies and medical schools. Can we appreciate the magnificence of this civilization where we currently drop cluster bombs? During the Roman Empire, Tripoli reached a golden age about 200 AD. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were part of a cosmopolitan state with language, Roman forums and legal courts. Libyans exported olive oil, wines, horses and ivory to European cities. Libya has been ruled by Greece, Rome, Turkey (Ottomans), and Italy. Finally in 1952, the UN declared Libya to be a sovereign nation.

According to the Pelasgians (who are early Greeks), the goddess Athena was born in the womb of Lake Tritonis in Libya. How fascinating. I found that Athena, Medusa and the magical horse Pegasus all were born in Libya. Athena was raised by three nymphs there. Tritonis means Three Queens or the Triple Goddess. Was she Libyan? According to an ancient tradition (Herod, Apollon), a nymph of Lake Tritonis in Libya and Poseidon were the parents of Athena.Later Greeks claim Athena sprung full-grown out of Zeus’ head, after Zeus swallowed Athena’s mother, Medea aka Medusa.

What about Medusa? She also lived in Libya, which in Homer’s time meant the land west of Egypt. We are taught only that she was a fearsome gorgon monster who turns men to stone. She was a power house and a ravaging beauty. Medusa means “royal female wisdom” in Sanskrit. Libyans worshiped Medusa and Athena. The earlier stories from Libya show Medusa with snakes curled around her waist, in a sacred knot. Snakes refer to healing like the spiral snakes formedicine Athena was a warrior and also a symbol of wisdom. Athena punished imedusa-snakeMedusa. Her dred locks turned to snakes, her beauty to a hideous face according to Homer. All who look at her directly turned to stone (as happened to enemies of White Witch in Narnia).

Perseus, on a quest, beheaded Medusa and bags her head as a trophy. But the myth has 2 interesting births from her beheading. First, at her death, the winged horse Pegasus is born. Second as Perseus flies over Libya, blood drips from Medusa’s severed head. Drops of blood become poisonous snakes infesting the Mediterranean coast of Libya. The horse, white with bright wings, carries off Perseus who delivers the head to Athena. Death does not defeat Medusa. She retains the power to paralyze others (stonewall them); even in death she gives birth (a horse).

Fast forward 3,000 years. In 2011, NATO has entered into the fight of a desperate dictator with Tomahawkmissiles and GPS guided bombs. Why? We are not on a humanitarian issue, there is no threat to the US. Obama says, “We are answering the calls of a threatened people” and he claims that “it’s for the good of all.”How can I believe such pig slop? It’s clearer every day that our stage entrance 6 weeks ago in Libya ago was to wage war against Muammar al Gaddafi. Gaddafi has been in office since 1969. Many Libyans want him to exit. But under what authority can NATO bomb a proud leader, a senior citizen, and the father of 8 kids. We have bombed his compound several times, and killed his grandchildren. We bombed his compound again in May 2011 with the death of his youngest childSaif al-Arab.

Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser warned against the assassination of Gaddafi. "The narrative we want to come out of this is that the Libyan people overthrew a dictator – not that the UN toppleda despot," he told CNN.

My plea is that the US let go of bullets and bombs. I plead for respect. I plead that we stop turning our children into murderers of strange people. Can the US stop dropping blood which turns the land into a place of plague. If Libya is filled with writhing snakes, it’s the snakes of European missiles. England, Italy and France sell millions of weapons to Libya. Now we are sending troops to Libya to be killed by those exact same weapons. NATO is strapped alongside its own weapons, rather like suicide bombers.

The US and its allies are re enacting a long battle of murder. We are not under Athena’s orders to kill any monster in Libya. We have spilled blood in the dessert. Our moral compass is lost in the Libya and the Middle East. The people cry- Get NATO out of Libya. We are not rescuers in Libya.  Let’s fly out of there. Let's transform our venomous weapons into winged horses. Like Icarus NATO has too much hubris flying so close to the penetrating North African sun.

EU Arms Exports to Libya

Value of export licenses granted. ---- All figures in €m. SOURCE: EUROPA




















































Weeping After bin Laden's Death

As a Quaker I vehemently disagree with Obama's killing of bin Laden. It is immoral and believe it or not, illogical. Barack Obama said on May 2, "The world is safer; it is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden. ...Today, we remember the sense of unity that defines us as Americans."

First, the world is less safe now. Was it a death? No. It was murder, even an assassination. Secondly, there is no unity." I and thousands of other Quakers cry out, "Stop. Treat your enemies justly, even if you do not follow Jesus' example of loving your enemy." Venomous violence against anyone contributes to a world living by vengefulness. If blood has been spilled by bin Laden, why not take him to the world court for justice? The Pentagon is not just nor do its actions speak for me. I as a person who yearns for justice I see no fairness in the furtive killing of a charismatic leader. By knocking off him with his wife, son and associates, I only see more pain. First of all, his loved ones witnessed the bloodshed, his followers have more reason to hate the US, and our country is continuing the chain of violence. If Al Queda kills US citizens, our Navy can't unilaterally kill Al Queda. That's the law of thugs and gangs. Our killing gives Al Queda more reason to retaliate. Is that not obvious? Bin Laden is not the anti-Christ. Vipers and moles act with more moral courage than the Navy Seals and its generals."

I used to think when watching the world news the US had a mob case of ADHD. Like a child with a Christmas stocking of GI JOEs and cowboy holsters, our army invades Iraq, in 2010 it pours in troops to Afghanistan, and then gleefully adds its deadly cluster bombings to Libya. We are mad buffalos tramping over the middle east. Starting in 1950s for 30 years the US stayed in the quagmire of the Korea-Vietnam-Cambodia war bringing poverty and habitat demolition. Now the US bounces around the Middle east firing the first shots and adding fuel to the wildfire. In 2011, we are involved in 3 countries, while supplying Israel annually with $3 billion for its arsenal, the biggest powder keg in the region.  I am angry. I apologize if I'm ranting. I'm not ballistically violent. I'm trying to use words, not Tomahawk missiles.

Didn't Christians in the US just honor Jesus on Easter 10 days ago? Now we want to return to barbarian ways of destroying someone demonized as an enemy. All those memories of forgive 7 times 70  and Thou shalt not kill. Does the bible say, Don't murder except in cases of terrorism? Does killing a murderer repair anything? Nope. It increases hatred and makes the US the murderer.water-drops1

The USA is built on the principals of Life, Liberty and a pursuit of Happiness. This started in 1775 with a group of scattered patriots up and down the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard. The patriots were largely (exceptions like Crispus Attacks) Europeans who were illegal aliens. We were poaching on Algonquin land. In our land grab, didn't we kill and pillage the Indians for decades?  But we weren't terrorists, we were moral citizens. How fickle is history. Do murderers get forgiveness?

I hope so because many Americans seem to think killing is a good punishment. Secondly, Obama implies that all Americans are enthusiastic at this violent act. Really? The murder is wonderful and it's time to celebrate. It seems a bit bizarre almost gluttonous to cheer because of killing. I would like to mourn for all of us, especially for how far we've fallen from our beliefs that all humans are able to pursue happiness, work for Liberty, and LIFE. When there's life, there's hope. Death, like zombies and phantoms, only destroys. What Jesus says is -- attacking the attacker only destroys us. Get it? Please send me your response.

The Keys to the City

I was walking with Juan down into the valley of La Paz. Not really walking, my feet sideways picked nimbly between stones and holes. It was a valley, with the descent so steep in this city 10,000 feet above the sea that I was breathless. Nevertheless I was happy to hike instead of drive cramped in a mini-van with 12 passengers. This Friday the city was awake. La Paz with a million people, was clear of fumes and noisy engines. Bus unions all over Bolivia had called a transportation strike on Feb. 25th. Una huelga firme. A total strike. Schools were closed. The streets were a river of people getting to work. Juan and I edged down the curving roads to the Quaker Education (BQE) office. I wasn't about to stay grounded at home, because I hoped to see Pablo at the office. Juan and I both enjoy our work with copy-of-bolivia-feb-090Friends. The air buzzed with novelty. The cost of living was climbing and the bus fare of 1 boliviano (15 cents) too low. The unions were asking to raise the fare from 15 to 25 cents. The unions made a strong chess move today. How would Bolivians resolve this major problem? People seemed riled up and resolute. I was excited. As a Quaker I was impressed to see people using economic pressure, not military might, to voice their dissent. Bolivians felt empowered and were acting on it.

Juan lives in Villa Harmonia and it takes 25 minutes by bus, and 45minutes by foot. Juan is BQE's business manager with dark eyes behind boxy glasses. Juan exudes the Bolivian delight in conversation. I soaked in every word while pouring out my best Spanish. We chatted about his house (many houses near his street are built on dangerous precipices; the torrential rains (the summer even had several hailstorms); the new Education Law (adding the teaching of native tongues and diversity); the closing of 2 Quaker schools (some of BQE scholarships students spoke with determination to reopen Emma Camaday school). There was so much to understand how a nonindustrial country raises the bar in its schools.

We reached a circular plaza near Plaza Comacho. Juan suddenly pointed out a crowd of men, mostly in dark pants, standing in the street. Two vans flanked them on one side. "There's one of the large unions." Juan explained. I watched a large man in a jean jacket pull off his belt. The shouts were pitched higher, "Si, si se puede. Adelante." Why are they yelling go ahead? What was the crowd was urging? Then the crack of a belt smacking the back of pant legs. "The busdrivers who got caught transporting today are being punished for busting the strike." I was confused and remembered how Quakers always travel in pairs. Well, I needed Juan now. I understood that the beating was shaming the busdriver and was more symbolic than painful. Still I was unnerved by the primitive public flogging. Juan's presence was assuring, "That's not the way the church changes behavior." I saw that we shared a lot. As Quakers we don't hit miscreants. In working at BQE we share the value of reaching agreement, or persuading someone to change. Quakers keep their belts on.

Juan expertly guided me through the bridges and plazas of La Paz. We reached Plaza Eguino, just 2 blocks from our BQE office. Juan smiled as I sucked in the misty air.
"I know where I am. There's the statue of our patron. She looks like Athena." I said in staccato Spanish. Eguino loomed 30 feet over the vendors, tourists, and children.
Juan looked me in the eye. "She's not Athena. Vicenta deEguino was a real heroine of LaPaz, who fought for Bolivia's liberation from Spain. Her weapon was her elocution. She did fight, and even used her living room to store ammunition back in the 1800s. When captains sank in retreat, this lady rode on her horse and spoke in the native tongue, Aymara to the people. Eguino animated peasants to lay down their despair and keep fighting for their rights. She sacrificed her class privilege, enduring many hardships with the rank and file. When Bolivar, flush with victory, entered laPaz she greeted him at the gates. No words were necessary as she lifted higher than a sword the keys to the city. She handed them over to the Liberator with a flourish and the jingle of keys was heard over the crowd." copy-of-plaza-117
Juan gave a nod to the statue of Equino as he steered me around a woman selling avocados on the road. There was no fear in the streets as people bargained; some children played with dolls; teens sold DVDs (only $2 and pirated).

I met with Pablo in one room while Juan opened his laptop in the adjacent room. Pablo studies at the university agronomy and business. He wants to combine selling healthy foods while helping the Quaker youth. He doesn't want his career to intrude on mentoring his younger brothers from the rural area of Sorata. Juan leaned into our room. He grinned and added, "Pablo, just don't let your brothers become bus drivers."
"Yea. They might get hurt."

I told Pablo about witnessing the whipping of busdrivers. Pablo's response was insightful. "How do we encourage change? Managers need to understand why a busdriver would ignore the strike." Pablo, like many Quakers saw the whole picture. Universities also have angry students who can't pay tuition.

Juan explains that one student last year only had 80 cents spending money a day. He could eat a meal at the cafe (no McDonalds in Bolivia) with enough money to return home, or he could pay for a notebook. He put his studies first. To save money he ended up walking hours home on an empty stomach. This year he was accepted for a BQE scholarship and is studying engineering. BQE students don't even know the word lazy. Now he doesn't have to choose. He can eat and buy school supplies. I could see why Juan was proud of working for the Quaker scholarship program. Juan works hard so 20 year old Quakers can emerge from poverty. This poverty has haunted the Aymaras since the Spanish conquest. Pablo has a dream including meaningful work and helping his generation.

As we closed that day, I sent bouquets of thanks to our Creator. I sighed imagining the steep hike before getting any supper. Suddenly in the air I seemed to hear the stamping foot of a horse. was it the altitude or did my heart flutter? I saw the lady, our patron Equino as a beacon here at BQE. Juan heaved shoulderpack under his arm. Equino like Juan and Pablo threw all their weight into the struggle. We stepped onto Illampu Street and the cacophony of evening sounds greeted us. And I distinctively heard the jingle of city keys.

Does Isaiah's prophecy include Paying for War?

safia2010webOver 7,000 people camped at the SOA watch at Ft Benning in November. 7,000 people trying to create a new social agenda. 7,000 people who are responsible patriots wanting to do their part. 7,000 people of all ages and backgrounds, Colombian mothers; drop-out artists; Rastafarian SEIU workers; college age engineers and 80 year old radical nuns. 7,000 people and 6,000 of them are willing to pay war taxes. How do we persuade them that the 3 billion dollars that we willing give to the Pentagon to spend for weapons and war making is optional? How do we increase the level of risk in the peace movement? How can all these people dedicate hundreds of hours to peacemaking every month and then pay $300 dollars a month into the federal budget military items? Don't they know that NcNamara said, Let them protest as much as they want, as long as they pay their taxes." I know drastic changes will come to us in 2011. How can we prepare ourselves? Can we listen to a new way?


Will someday split you open,

Even if your life is now a cage,

For a divine seed, the crown of destiny,

Is hidden and sown on an ancient, fertile plain

You hold the title to.

Love will surely bust you wide open

Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy.

Even if your mind is now

A spoiled mule.

A life-giving radiance will come,

The Friend's gratuity will come-

O look again within yourself,

For I know you were once the elegant host

To all the marvels in creation.

From a sacred crevice in your body

A bow rises each night

And shoots your soul into God.

By the Sufi, Hafiz  1300s

Most of my friends know that global warming is here; our lifestyle is pummeling the earth with lots of sewage. Many of us would like to change if we knew it would help. A Quaker told me, "We don't mind changing, we just don't want to be changed." In other words we all see change as part of the plan, but could we just change a little please? And is there any way I could be in charge of the type of change?

inflationadjusteddefensespe1Defense Spending 1962-2015 (inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars)
This does not include many military-related items that are outside of the Defense Department budget, such as nuclear weapons, pensions to military retirees and families, interest on debt incurred in past wars, or financing of foreign arms sales. Neither does it include defense spending in the Department of Homeland Security, or counter-terrorism spending by the FBI.

I'm not convinced that refusing to pay for war is the best strategy. I like paying for WIC, housing and subways. I like federal initiatives for alternative energy. But I won't pay for a federal budget at this point. Our country is already in financial vicissitudes, so how can we rebuild it? I don't pay taxes but I give money to good causes. You do pay taxes and want your money to go for peace. We aren't far apart. I will stay part of society but I cross the fence and refuse to join that which is more destructive than constructive. Now with 2011 and human-caused natural disasters, I ask: what way can we radically work for peace and refused to participate in war? MLK asked us to conquer "the giant triplets or racism, materialism and militarism" to pursue the path to justice.

Total Federal Funds 2009: $2,650 billion
MILITARY: 54% and $1,449 billion
NON-MILITARY: 46% and $1,210 billion


Current military" includes Dept. of Defense ($653 billion), the military portion from other departments ($150 billion), an additional $162 billion "Past military" represents veterans' benefits plus 80% of the interest on the debt.

Is it Open Sky or Empty Nest?

Aunt Sue sees the Light
Aunt Sue sees the Light

Raising children is so much a fabric of our society, but nobody knows how to do it. Now that my sons are in college what have I learned? After 22 years total of raising kids, it becomes 2nd nature to check to see whether everyone’s tucked in beds at night and whether textbooks (ahem, I mean laptops) are ready for school. Parenting not only grows on you, the children as hulking adolescents make me grow. When the kids skiddle off to college or to practice yoga in Mumbai, is the empty nest a syndrome inevitable? Of course saying goodbye causes some sadness. Is it the lonely nest or  the open sky? Am I bereft or liberated?

So physically the children are gone and don’t need care. How best can parents navigate the new canopy without having kids on the brain? There’s so many subtle changes. It’s the ways you have to shift how much food to buy; how many trips to the soccer field, how many violin recitals to make way for. But it’s more insipid than that. The empty next is a psychological state. It’s not buying the food, but the jolt to our memory that we need eggs or cereal and it’s urgent. Then I realize the kids aren’t there for 7 am breakfast. I didn’t forget to pick them up at the shopping mall. So we slowly turn off the panic button to reestablish calm. Sometimes I’ve woken from a deep sleep past midnight to ask whether E. came home only to remember he’s living in Pennsylvania. I often realize that I have let my desires and skills atrophy. Guinea hens need practice to explore outside their territory. This mother hen needs to let go of her pecking. Where the wing spuds are it’s a chance to grow strong eagle wings.

Certainly I fell into some habits in the name of childrearing that I now have to reevaluate. For 20 years I wouldn’t leave the home without thinking about an emergency stash of food. I had Cheerios when they were toddlers and later energy bars. I was so thankful for plastic. Plastic bags are handy for more than scooping Dog poop. Also trash bags, hand wipes. Plastic cups didn’t shatter on the ground. I succumbed a bit to the fast foods, but after one Chuckie cheese party, I’d had enough hi cholesterol cheese. I moved from having a cardboard book available to asking the teens did they remember everything. I was the freshman when I first got to college who lost their dorm key 3 times a semester. Now I’m the harpy who asks, Did you remember a waterbottle, your cellphone? Did you forget your driver’s license? I can recite a litany of the 7 most probable items to forget before going to camp.


What else changes? A new baby is an instant alarm clock. Except the alarm goes off every 2 hours at night. Many night I only got 6 hours of sleep and usually interrupted. Isn’t that part of the Abu Garib torture strategy? I get delirious when sleep deprived and can’t remember what happened 3 hours ago. Our family was generous in sharing germs. I forget who had the sniffles last night, often kids are incubators for passing infections. Do I remember the last time I drank? I was too busy doing laundry and taking the kids out to the park. I’m sure that I peed that afternoon, but it was quick and dirty

. I poured everyone some juice but didn’t have time to drink mine.

Mostly there’s a reorientation of your brain when you are raising children. Really. The hard wiring is changed. It’s connection. You learn with each peanut butter cracker about love. You learn forgiveness. Yielding. A strength you never knew you had.

Oh, love Truth and its testimony, whether its witness be to you or against you. Love it, that into my Mother’s home you all may come, and into the chamber of Her that conceived me, where you may embrace and be embraced…Love is god’s name; Love is god’s nature, Love is god’s life.

Sarah Blackborow 1681

We Will Not Export Killing

So we aren’t such a just society. My childhood dreams have been drained to a trickle. I remember singing with gusto at 9 years old,

You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high-flying flag

and forever in peace may you wave.

You’re the emblem of, the land we love,

The home of the free and the brave.

Our country is a militaristic society bent on destruction. Oil drills flatten wildlife in our bays; road kills deer and teens play with Uzis.The richest Americans evade taxes. Morals seem the least concern.

But I am determined to find a just path. I am American, I am a humanist and I will ask for a world justice from the US which will make my country proud. It’s an oxymoron but it’s true. If we citizens support justice for all citizens we will be prouder Americans. I’m also a Quaker listening to a deeper Voice as to how Friends live in justice. So I was excited to share the SOA Watch on Nov 21 with 7,000 people at the gates of Fort Benning, GA. I am on a quest this year learning how to build community where sisters/brothers have justice in the center.

I went with Mary Reagan, a former Maryknoll worker in Brazil who now educates people in Somerville around housing rights. The two of us joined several others in the movement to stop war by not paying for war. Most of you know that I’ve been a war tax resister for 25 years. I went to either find out how war tax resistance (WTR) can be more acceptable or how to find another way to stop feeding the demon of endless war. At Fort Benning were bushels of convinced peaceniks but only a few resist war taxes. Why?

It was the gathering of the religious and leftist community. It was a great people to be gathered’ (as Jorge Fox said); it was musicians and artists changing the world; it was collectives and college students. It was inspired because 30 years ago Maryknoll sisters were murdered in El Salvador (by those trained at SOA). Father Roy Bourgeois, a founder of SOA Watch came out this year in favor of women priests, which the Pope didn’t swallow well. And many Latinos were taking leadership, because the SOA is training assassins to work in Latin America. It was all day Friday and Saturday with a culminating prayer procession on Sunday. Some people were arrested, some were interested in WTR, many clusters of groups sang music or braided hair. College students came from all over the mid-west. Workshops on nonviolence were everywhere.

I learned in 2 hours that the left, talking about immigration it twists us and gets us to think of illegal people. Instead of immigration, I ask this community to discuss Migration. Because everyone of us through our lives or our parents’ lives has a migration. We need to tell our white, middle-class stories of migrating from college back home or of our grandmother’s migration from country to city. If we just talk over and over about Mexicans migration across the border, then we think of it as tragedy or hardship, add their story to the hardship in our own lives. I migrated to Chad for 2 years to teach English with Peace Corps. I learned of lots of groups collaborating with Central Americans like FOR, WRL, CPT, AFSC, and Emma’s Revolution.

Our time ended with a beautiful solemn dance on Sunday at 10 am. In the prayer procession, led by veterans in uniform, people held up thousands of crosses; 10 coffins were carried by pallbearers, all with names of Columbians, Guatemalans, etc. of all ages. We walked in a huge circle while names and ages were sung from loud speakers. It was a call and response. After each name was offered in song we in the prayer sang back, Presente! Then after 2 hours we put the crosses on the military’s fence with other messages. I was, being a tender heart, in tears.

So why go to the SOA Watch? The Watch is not another anti-war rally. It is the ultimate. It states that the war machine is wrong. It also has more leadership from Latinos than most Justice with Peace events. In 2000 there was 17,000-20,000 attending and thousands of arrests. The Southern Command, responsible for insuring US national interests from Mexico to Chili. More than thrusting our dominance through NAFTA/CAFTA is also the US teaching the military elite in other countries different ways to kill. They train Guatemalans, Columbians, etc. on how to most effectively subdue a people, usurp cooperative government styles and cause military takeovers. They teach coup d’états-- they are responsible for the recent ousting of Zelayain Honduras in 2009. Two military generals Vasquez and Suarez were trained at the SOA.; SOA acolytes are directly responsible for assassinating S. Allende and V. Jara in Chili; and of many others.

In 2001 the SOA reconnoitered and by act of congress became the WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Security) and has trained 60,000 Latinos a year. President Correa in Ecuador, October 2010 had an attempt on his life and the military branch had some connections with the SOA training. Why an attempt to depose this leftist leaning Correa? One clue is that in 2009 he successfully closed of a US air base in 2009. The Ecuadoran government is fully recuperating our sovereignty over the Manta base," said the Ecuador government.

So we place ourselves at Fort Benning where we stand for helping our neighbors. It’s more than just a shout-out bashing the military. It was listening to stories of the victims. We want to offer art, music and cooperation. We are standing against the SOA. OK, truth is that the annual weekend is an anti-war event. However it is religious, lots of music around creating a just world, art and puppets make pageantry, and the solemn procession or the memorial service. It’s high energy, based in Spirit of Truth, and has a Latino element spread throughout.

It was a combination of Spiritual practice, Latin culture and political will. The different groups were colleges, art collectives doing Alterna Ts, huge murals, large number of religious groups like Sisters of Providence, Sisters of Mercy, Maryknolls, Catholic Worker movement. Lots of trade groups with Salvador painted boxes, and Guatemalan colorful crafts. So 26 people got arrested in the streets. They broke the city code, and were released from bail with a stiff price. This is the first time the SOA organizers had offered a coordinated way to make a statement about the SOA and put their lives on the line to break a civil code, not the federal laws. So many got arrested blocking the street leading to the base.

It was a memory that recommits me to work this entire year to stop injustice. Con el poder de dios. Aleluja!

To learn