May 26, 2011Light In Action
I am angry every day.
Angerr. G r owl ing. I am. Grr ow ing.
Anger. Â An' grrrrr.
I am not angry all day, but every- EVEry,Â e-very-day.
This is not a rant, so hear me out.
Anger is a spiritual teacher but can be poisonous. Â 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,Â the tragedy in Haiti, and the war authority act in Congress. I'm hyperventilating.
Golly gee willikers. Can rage be healthy?Â 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. Â 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, NaylerÂ says be patient and act not out of the Darkness.
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.
by Minga Claggett-Borne
May 18, 2011Light In Action,Stopping Violence
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. Now itâ€™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 Zeusâ€™ head, after Zeus swallowed Athenaâ€™s mother, Medea aka Medusa.
What about Medusa? She also lived in Libya, which in Homerâ€™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 â€œroyal female wisdomâ€ 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 Medusa. 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 Medusaâ€™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, â€œWe are answering the calls of a threatened peopleâ€ and he claims that â€œitâ€™s for the good of all.â€How can I believe such pig slop? Itâ€™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 â€“ 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, itâ€™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 Athenaâ€™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.Â Letâ€™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 â‚¬m. SOURCE: EUROPA
May 4, 2011Light In Action,Stopping Violence
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.Â 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 70Â 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.
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? Â 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.
April 21, 2011Quakers in the Field,30,000 Aymara Quakers?
April 5, 2011Quakers in the Field,30,000 Aymara Quakers?
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 Friends. 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."
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.
January 12, 2011Light In Action
Over 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 Â 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?
Defense 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
HOW THESE FIGURES WERE DETERMINED
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.
December 18, 2010Light In Action
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 Â 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 Motherâ€™s home you all may come, and into the chamber of Her that conceived me, where you may embrace and be embracedâ€¦Love is godâ€™s name; Love is godâ€™s nature, Love is godâ€™s life.