Stopping Violence

Salt and Light- Quaker World Gathering

When I first read about the 6th World conference of Friends in Nakuru Kenya in April 2012, I was mostly excited. My heart palpitated. Then as I heard the theme a cloud descended: Being Salt and Light. Being Salt? What does that mean? Salt wrinkles the skin and all those potato chips causing stomach rolls. As a dyed in the wool Quaker I understand God, the metaphor of Light works for me.

I love Quaker expressions such as Inner Light, Children of the Light, Seed, magnifying, illuminating. But salt ? Sailors are ‘old salts’, and Massachusetts is known for Quaker shipmasters in the past. Paul Cuffe was a venerable Quaker Salt. Salt comes in the form of potato chips; nacho cheese; cholesterol. I wasn’t thrilled about it, so I returned to prayer.

I waited and studied before going to Kenya. At the foundation of our faith, salt was a symbol of the eternal nature of God’s covenant. “The Lord gave the kingdom of Israel to David (and his sons) forever, by a covenant of salt.” 2Chronicles 13:). Salt preserves a relationship just as it preserves food. With salt food tastes better, and salted meat won’t putrefy. For 1,000s of years, salt was wealth. salt was used as money: Soldiers and servants were paid in salt. I know salt, like light, has multiple uses and has been invaluable to humans. The tough part was Being Salt: if you lose your saltiness, what use are you? Matt. 5:13. After months I felt clear, expecting more Light out of the conference than Salt.

As it turned out jettisoning myself, and 70 pounds of luggage to Kenya, was hard work.

I dragged the weight around sweating through airports and buses. Sore muscles and sweat salted my arrival.  Nairobi is a western city with skyscrapers, Barclay’s bank, Cadbury chocolate, therefore despite my Kenyan hosts, I had to keep alert.  I was thirsty to know what Creator had in store for me. I hungered. Here I am Lord, use me. I didn’t just come to eat ugale (type of millet polenta) and goat meat. Some inner saltiness spurred me to Kenya, now what?

Before the world conference, I traveled around Kaimosi, Chwele and Lugari yearly meetings with beautiful days of brilliant sun and sudden downpours. I had a mission to encourage peacebuilding skills. I’ve been teaching peace through Friends Meetings for 20 years; I’ve worked stopping domestic violence. Kenyans have an amazing amount of groups working for peace. I witnessed their power despite family members dying from AIDS and parents walking miles for clean water.

In 1992, in 1997, and recently in 2007 there was much violence as factions vied for the presidential election. In 2008 about 1,500 people were killed, many raped, houses burned and 600,000 internally displaced persons.  How can Friends respond faithfully with another presidential election this year? Many Kenyans Quakers lost their farms (livelihoods) and some lost family members.

In 2009 a program Healing and Reconciliation in our Communities (HROC) was introduced in Kenya by Friends. I participated in a 3 day HROC workshop, altogether there were 20 of us, some Westerners, many Kenyans. Our guest facilitator was Theo Bizimana from Rwanda. The workshop is based on trauma healing so that the first day is building safety and trust. The second day we spoke the painful stories, and mourned.  In 2007 one woman watched her family including her husband killed by a group called the Land Defense Force near Mt. Elgon. They were about to kill her, but a phone call interrupted the killing and the murderers changed their course. Other stories ensued of hiding children in sheets, burning houses and stealing cows and land. I heard someone say, “I called to God day and night and only saw machetes in my dreams.”  It was heart-breaking.

The third day we looked at reconnecting and rebuilding our communities. We were asked to name a person that we trusted and why. We drew a tree of trust. What elements do we need to nourish the roots? People spoke of what steps they could take in the community of trust. One neighbor paid for a child’s school uniform. Someone had extra seeds, and shared them. Children from different tribes played football together.

As a witness to the healing, I stayed curious and encouraged as much as I could. It seemed that as the shameful stories were exposed, the light burned brighter. HROC is a quiet way for those who suffered to take their light out from under the bushel basket.

The world gathering was a wonderful blend of young and old; programmed and unprogrammed Friends. I learned a lot by the sharing from my home group where we had Brits, Kenyans, Americans, one Ugandan, and one Zimbabwean. We shared respectfully our hopes, our loneliness, concerns of gay marriage and Biblical prophecy. We were kind to each other, and sometimes peppery. I heard more stories of violence from each country: broken relationships, drinking excessively while children go without. We looked at the violence of human greed. Everyday Kenyans carry firewood from the forest, while we collectively confessed our dependence on fossil fuels. I vowed to honor Wangari Maathi’s vision of re-forestation.

I came home exhausted and exhilarated. The best part of any world conference is returning back to your own Meeting, where you are loved and known. Now I need to learn how to transplant Healing and Reconciliation in my own community. And I will plant that pear tree I’ve been dreaming of in my yard. The world gathering starts when you get off the airplane, not when you embark.

Thomas Owen Aotearoa Yearly Meeting spoke in a keynote at the world gather of Quakers attempts to “overcome our divisions and attain unity. The work of the United Nations, Friends’ international peace work, the intergovernmental panel on Climate Change, to name just  a few, are recent international examples of this (peace-building). The African Great Lakes Initiative’s AVP, HROC, and mediation work happening right now here in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi is another – which, to my mind, is some of the most important work Friends are doing right now. It is a privilege to be here to witness it.

Thank God for small salty acts.


Occupy Power :~) Dude!

Occupiers, like our sisters/brothers in the Arab Spring are determined to spring forward with democracy. The Occupy movement is making a difference. We have delayed the XL  pipeline and fracking (hydraulic fracturing). We are shaking down the US oligarchy, the US plutocracy which is no less than a plutarchy. (Don’t you love my newest vocab word?--plutarchy?)  The tectonic plates of the Middle East are changing. I am seeing a surprising Spring in the West.

I go into a General Assembly of OccupyBoston (OB) and see tall, short; curly and straight; pale and dark-eyed. Some, with a smile, are more polite to me, some are bluntly more honest with me. I like it. OB has a friendly grittiness.

I write about OB to focus our lens on 3 issues: decision-making, image, and tactics. As a Quaker wedded to equality, I’m the last to complain about OB’s commitment to consensus.  Occupiers and Quakers use 2 variations of consensus: both are sticklers for process. For instance if you overspeak in Quaker Meeting, the room becomes full of porcupines, with quills about to dart.

What form of decision-making is fair?  As Process Queens OccupyBoston spends a lot of time accepting every proposal (value of egalitarianism), putting 3-5 proposals on the ‘stack’ each general assembly (1st working groups and then individual proposals). Thirdly, Occupiers scrupulously deal with anyone who ‘blocks’ a proposal. Blocking can be mostly an attention-getter for those who disagree. But blocking a well-reasoned and well-seasoned proposal is a serious move.

Blocking isn’t baring your teeth or growling because you disagree.  You block because the proposal is damaging, like a bear trap that will hurt. Examples of blocking consensus is when a march excludes trans gender folks or a proposal asks for money already assigned for the May 1st strike. If I don’t want to participate or I am ambivalent about pouring blood on the floor of a bank, that’s not a reason to block. If 10% or more are on principle opposed, then the proposal is sent back. Then there are clarifying questions, small group discussions, objections, checking to see if there’s a 75% in favor, adding friendly amendments, going back to clarifying questions, and trying again for 75% approval.

At OB General Assemblies, we need to find a less time consuming way to communicate our ideas. Yes, work on decision making, and find ways during General Assembly to anchor our trust and common values.  Consider whether anonymous masked people with black robes at a public hearing on cutting transportation communicates the right message.  Of these values: creative, distrust, solidarity, dead-seriousness, freedom, child-friendly, I don’t think the Direct Action black disguise communicates what we want. The Guy Fawkes disguise at OB reminds me more of Darth Vader than Dan Berrigan.  Guy Fawkes was hung in Britain after trying to blow up the Parliament. Does he stand for revenge and retaliation?

I have another bone to pick with my sister Occupiers. What is this commitment to a diversity of tactics which overrules a commitment to no violence? Why don’t we have both? We can shut down military recruiter offices, start a love-fest in the JP Morgan lobby, and send Scott Brown a gallon of tar sands crude oil for his birthday. There are soooo many tactics. Of course we want diversity. Nonviolence is more of an approach that says, I will not harm another being. I will preserve the sacredness of all life. Is this confining? I think not.

The cliché, ‘God Bless America’ echoes of patriotism and supremacy. The Occupy movement shakes us off the altar of nationalism. I honestly fear that collective patriotism becomes fascism. We have changed the discussion away from butchering public transportation in the MBTA, we have stopped for a while nuclear energy and odious oil pipelines.  We

Mural of OB Vision

Occupiers live in an orchard with exotic seeds and nutty doctors. We are apples and pears; mangos and papayas. I am a nonviolent Quaker, and I want us all to grow. When I tell Dick Cheney or Whitey Bulger you can’t Occupy the orchard because you are evil, then I’m an OB snob. We welcome kiwis and watermelons. If the watermelon rolls over my strawberry, then OB has to restrain the watermelon.  Welcome melons, immigrants, circus acts and donkeys. And an absolute whistle-blowing to any violence committed.

Anarchy arises with the Occupy movement, and has been a vocal voice for centuries. Here’s a poem by Shelley written as a tribute to the British citizens after Manchester massacre. We are all dependent on ‘one mighty mother’ which is the movement, the homeland. Notice the poem names slavery as an echo of our own name. (stanza XL). Are we are slaves to a tyrant today? Isn’t the 21st century tyrant Bank of America, Read more


Occupy "Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Wall Street"

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.Read more


Practicing Peace part II

I’ve been a student of nonviolence since before I cut my 12-year molars. Rather I, and you, have learned about violence since 1st grade.  We get inculcated by violence when we state the Pledge of Allegiance and recite stories of pioneers conquering the American frontier. I learned George Washington and Patrick Henry were patriots, not terrorists. Think about it. Aren’t all wars, including the American Revolution terrorist acts? How do you take up a nonviolent stand in 2011 while living in the bloated gut of a military regime? This great education system never taught me to question the USA’s avarice.  

Have we been programmed to accept violence? Do we need to reboot the computer? We in the USA breathe in ideals like bravery… protection… defense.

I know that your bravery may be my fear;

Your protection may prescribe my poverty;

Your defense may interpret, for me, an attack.

I’ve been practicing nonviolence in fits and starts since at least as long as I’ve heard about Jesus. My Quaker faith community has been my coach, team and referee in the game of life. In public school and in the living room and sports field I ‘ve dabbled in nonviolent skills. I bet you have too.

I’m not a NV saint. Don’t ask what authority I have to teach love and charity.  In fact in my lifetime I’ve stolen, I’ve lied, I’ve cheated and I’ve done drugs. I’m not proud of it. Despite a life of privilege, I’ve had some hard times, sleeping on park benches and hitchhiking across the country. In an earlier post I por trayed AVP, a unique program where inmates focus on Stopping Violence. I can hear my Dad tease me, It Takes one to Know One. But, seriously. Can each of us build a reservoir of stories? The following is a story of violence prevented--

 

Read more


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  https://demilitarize.org/fact-sheets/fact-sheet-state-buEnding 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 https://home.earthlink.net/~totheroots/


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

Country

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Total

Total

72.19

59.03

108.8

250.78

343.73

834.54

Italy

14.97

56.72

93.22

111.8

276.7

France

12.88

36.75

17.66

112.32

30.54

210.15

UK

58.86

3.11

4.63

27.2

25.55

119.35

Germany

0.31

2

23.84

4.18

53.15

83.48

Malta

0.01

79.69

79.7

Belgium

0.21

0.45

22.32

23.02

pegasus-black2pegasus-black1


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.