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Father John Dear on his new book, “Lazarus, Come Forth”, the Necessity for Active Nonviolence, and an End to the Culture of Death

Thursday, 19. April 2012 6:06

The heading on this post doesn’t do the video below justice.  And, honestly, if you want to skip this little intro of mine and go straight to the video, I wouldn’t blame you.  (So really, go ahead – it won’t hurt my feelings…. I promise!)   But if you’re still with me, I’d just like to mention that I find myself watching this video (or simply listening to it) again and again and the more I listen, the more I feel touched by the spirit of Christ’s nonviolence, by the gift of our shared humanity, and by the opportunity that we as inhabitants of this earth have been blessed with to offer our lives and our love to one another.

I saw Father John Dear speak at the United Church of Christ here in Casper last week and haven’t been able to stop thinking about the experience since.  His message of active nonviolence, the active nonviolence that Christ not only taught but lived, was so powerful, and delivered in such a positive, humorous, captivating, honest, humble and profoundly serious presentation was one of the most life-affecting talks I’ve ever heard.

In speaking to NMV groups about the injured children from Iraq, I’ve so often brought up the fact that these little Muslim children, these forgiving innocents, whose lives and families our country has so devastated by bombs, provide us with a most jarring and tangible reminder that we are one human family.  But, Father John reminds us of our shared humanity so powerfully that what should never have been possible for us to lose sight of but that we so easily and often do, becomes truly unforgettable and simply a natural part of our daily thought and our daily connection with one another.

If we are family, how can we kill or torture, bomb or bully?   How can we do anything but love?

So grateful for his sharing of his life and his words.  Thank you, Father John.

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Thanks for the Invite, President Obama

Wednesday, 15. June 2011 23:11

Today I got an e-mail from barackobama.com asking me to donate $5 or more to his campaign.  With my donation, I’d be eligible to win a ticket to dinner with him as one of four lucky “supporters”.  He said he wanted my stories and ideas and invited me to share them with him if I was one of the four winners.

I didn’t donate, but I did go on the website to send my reply and share some of my ideas with him, anyway.  Thought I’d share them with you, too…

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for the opportunity to win a dinner with you.  It was so kind of you to invite me, however, I don’t have $5 to spare.  I lost my job and haven’t had much luck finding a new one.  Of course, with the job went my insurance.  Which makes me wonder if we really want to be the only industrialized country in the world that allows tens of thousands of our fellow Americans to die each year simply because they can’t afford health insurance?    Have you read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights lately? 

My mother is currently on hospice with terminal cancer.  She’s a beautiful, positive person and I enjoy every minute I’m able to spend with her.  Without Social Security and Medicare, she wouldn’t be with us today.   As President of these United States, Mr. Obama, why aren’t we hearing you speaking out against this insanity of cutting Social Security and Medicare?  Do you really want us all spending our twilight years searching for that elusive empty park bench or clean, quiet spot beneath the overpass?    

WE the people are not exclusively the top 1% of the population with all the money (and apparently, all the cards.)

And, why are our soldiers still killing and being killed across the globe?   Bush was undeniably a war criminal and should be behind bars for his crimes, but YOU, winner of the Nobel PEACE Prize for goodness’ sake, have outdone yourself in striving to surpass his bloody legacy.  Since you took office, US drone strikes in Pakistan have more than quadrupled.  We’re killing civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya.  And, over 6,000 of our own young men and women have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan – and with you keeping them there, this number will continue to rise.   

I could go on about FBI raids on the homes of peace activists, people being jailed without trial, and our loss of civil liberties and basic human rights but I know you’re busy trying to convince us that dropping bombs on Libya doesn’t violate the War Powers Resolution because it’s not REALLY a war – we’re just killing people again.  Nothing new, really.  Iraq wasn’t really a war, either – it was an occupation, so I can certainly see your point.  (I’m sure the Iraqis and Libyans would agree.)

We thought you’d bring change but it seems to be headed in the wrong direction.

Anyway, I guess you didn’t actually request an RSVP but I thought I’d take you up on the opportunity to share some of my stories and ideas since you asked. 

Oh, and thank you for the “invitation”. 

Sorry I didn’t have the $5 to accept it.

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Nonviolent Insistence!

Friday, 18. March 2011 0:04

Many, many thanks to my friend, inspiration, and guest author Beth DeLap for this important post.  Please read, watch the attached video, and join us on March 19th!  Below is Salee Allawe (read “Salee’s Got New Legs” for more info) and author Beth DeLap enjoying some time together in Greenville, South Carolina – March, 2011.

Salee and Author, Beth DeLap

Cooler weather means more time in the house, and that means more time on Facebook with its myriad links and videos and soundbites.  You can “Facebook” for hours, and that’s exactly what I did this evening.  Now I should be going to bed, but not until I get this down. 

Somewhere on someone’s Facebook commentary, I found the link below and felt inspired.  The young man is so real, with his soft face and the uncertain movements of the camera, the din in the background, together with his credentials as a military person.  He’s suggesting that we, like the people of Egypt, really CAN make a difference by demonstrating with our whole heart, and he invites us to join him March 19th to insist on the end to what he calls “endless war.”  To insist upon it.  Nonviolently, like the Egyptians. 

He suggests that maybe that is really not such a fantastic fantasy… that we might bring about the end, or the virtual end, of the collective mental illness we call war. 

Reading and watching the video journals of ordinary Iraqis you see how disenfranchised they feel from their new “democratic” government.  The “democracy” that was violently forced on the country continues to be government-by-force… which is not a democracy, no matter how loudly you proclaim it to be so.  The Iraqi people still live (and countless die) not under democracy but under the “law” of brutality and injustice, the law of “might makes right” upon which W. based his illegal and brutal invasion.  The fact that Obama’s presentation is less hateful and pugnacious than W.’s does nothing to take away a parent’s grief at the loss of his child in uniform, or a Pakistani child’s grief at the loss of her mother to a drone attack.

When our strong nation’s example to the rest of the world is  “might makes right,” why wouldn’t others aspire to the same?  Is it not a miracle when they don’t… for example, in Egypt, where a peaceful revolution was accomplished by the collective effort of ordinary citizens.  It’s for us to stand up and notice their good example.

I don’t think of myself as a left-wing nut.    But because I thought this youtube was useful and worth sharing, there are some who will think I am.  I have something to say about that.  Over my years I have been privileged to engage in hundreds of conversations with many different people, good people who have polar opposite ideas about God, politics, how people should act.  But no matter how opposite, we always have one thing in common–our amazement, horror, and indignation that other people don’t see it our way.   In our country, more and more, we Republicans and Democrats are like that.  We call each other right wing, left wing, nut, fanatic, etc.  Bottom line is that we want to live, and that means we don’t want our identity/culture taken away by someone stronger, some bully who insists that they, not we, are right.  If I want to read the New Yorker, let me.  If I thump my Bible, let me.  And let me raise my kids to do the same.  That’s not so difficult, and it’s actually the story of humankind, getting along in spite of differences, sometimes huge differences. That’s the foundation for a healthy democracy, that’s what makes for a vibrant community–our differences.   America will continue to be a wonderful, hot, bubbling melting pot.  At the moment we’re giving birth to Reform Islam, among so many other things.  People come here to change, whether they know it or not.  It’s the story of our country.  We learn and change together. 

The threat isn’t that others will come here and change us!  The threat is that we will do to ourselves what we fear–we will close up our minds and become rigid fundamentalist violent scaredy-cats, whether on the left or the right.

I really have to scratch my head, wondering what is it that gets us so fired up–so feared up–that we forget how easy it is to get along, and begin wringing our hands and pointing our fingers and grabbing our guns and hopping around like a band of wild monkeys?  I suppose at the end of the day (the year, the century, the millennium)  it’s the same old culprit.  The escalation to war is about money, the greed of a few people who are super good at manipulating the rest of us.  It’s an old scam.  “Let’s you and him fight.”  Politicians are salespeople.  The W. Bush “commercial” about weapons of mass destruction ran continuously on our tv screens until we were sold the war that enriched all of W.’s good friends, but left our country as broke as it’s ever been financially and otherwise.  We ordinary citizens, here and in Iraq, will be paying for their bounty for generations to come.

But we are decent beings and more and more of us are doing away with the television, the soundbites, the commercials, the STUFF.  We are curious, smart, and by nature designed to grow and learn.  War is becoming old-fashioned in the age of information.  We  can’t help but insist that together we will create superior methods for solving our problems and bridging our conflicts.   The life-saving strategy of our world family’s future will be one of “endless diplomacy” and patience and reaching out to each other.  Soon war will look like cave man days.  “How can I explain it Susie?  It was totally self-destructive, but people used to do that.”  What a peculiar thing to do to each other when there are plenty of other options, endless options.

I am sorry that you will have to suffer, Halliburton and the oil industry (war is oil’s biggest customer), but you won’t wither and die when war becomes a thing of the past.  You’ll survive in some less malignant form even as the rest of us refuse to blow each other up.  Don’t dismay, owners of service stations, and Republicans, and Democrats for the war, and war Christians, and peace protesters, and self-righteous writers of letters to the editor, and you career military folks on the brink of retirement, all of you with your strong views and your need to be needed.  We love you.  We’ve bought gas from you, and grown up with you, and marched with you, and voted for/against you.  We have read your editorials and we have written back.  We ARE you.  No need for anybody to be left behind. 

We’ll figure it out together.  That’s what people do — when they don’t have bombs falling on them.

It really is my bedtime so I’ll just say this about March 19th.  Let’s show up, bright and energetic, our best, most beautiful selves, and be counted in just that way on that day.  Let’s be wholeheartedly nonviolent as we insist on nonviolence.  And let’s call it a celebration rather than a demonstration.  We are celebrating our collective intelligence, power, decency and hope on March 19th.  Across the globe, ordinary people have these things in common.  (Even when we appear to be polar opposites, calling God by some weird name for example, or driving on the wrong side of the road.) 

I love my brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters, civilians and soldiers alike.  I love them too much to stay home on March 19th.  I happen to be invited to a birthday party on that day, and I’ll tell you, that’s going to fit right in.

G’night, y’all.  — Beth DeLap, The Whole Salamander

(Here’s the YOUTUBE)             www.youtube.com/watch

(AND HERE’S OUR STOREFRONT)              stores.lulu.com/store.php

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Category:Iraq, No More Victims, Peace, Salee, Uncategorized, US Foreign Policy | Comment (0) | Author:

Slide Over, Sphinx!

Saturday, 5. February 2011 1:45

 

OK, I’m not a historian or a scholar — what I know about Egypt could fit on Sarah Palin’s “palmeprompter” — but I do know that an overwhelming feeling of awe fills my heart when watching the massive throngs of courageous humanity in the streets of its cities. 

I know that at age 7, my son, mystified by the magic of mummies, tombs and pyramids, decided he wanted to be an Egyptologist when he grew up, and dragged me to the King Tut exhibit when it came to our state. He read every word of every exhibit’s placard, enthralled by the history of this great nation.

I know that Egypt is the second-largest beneficiary of our nation’s generosity, our military aid, second only to Israel.  This “aid” has averaged over 2 billion dollars annually for the last thirty-plus years, and when tear gas canisters are thrown or weapons fired upon the protestors, our hands are also bloodied.

I know that Mubarak ruled as a dictator for 30 years, oppressing his people (20% living below the poverty level), and validating heinous acts of torture as routine punishment.  I know that the United States has taken advantage of this disciplinary “option”, sending captives to his “prisons” through our rendition policy with Egypt.

I know that this massive movement, this Revolution, is that of the Egyptian people’s alone.  We can “attend” internet virtual marches, demonstrate in solidarity in our streets, and sign petitions of support, but this isn’t our fight — it’s theirs - and we should benefit and learn from this Egyptian inspiration. With over 50 million people in our nation without healthcare, countless homeless sleeping in our streets (around 82,000 on any given night in Los Angeles County alone), constant cuts to veteran’s benefits, literally millions of US homeowners in foreclosure and threats to cut Social Security, we have reason to join together and mobilize for change.

The events of the past week have truly been courageous and inspirational. 

So, slide over, Sphinx. 

Make room for Egypt’s greatest treasure — its people.

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MLK, the DoD and the Good Samaritan

Saturday, 22. January 2011 4:36

I’d seen the headlines but simply didn’t want to read the articles. You know the ones I mean?  Where the Defense Department’s general counsel claims that Martin Luther King would have “understood” our need to invade and occupy other people’s countries, terrorize their citizens, and kill their children?  What a way to commemorate this man of peace and love, but to say that if he were alive today, he’d realize he was all wrong, that he’d turn his back on his moral and religious values and decide that violence and hate were the solutions after all.

This morning a friend sent me the link to the article  on the Defense Department’s website and I succumbed and actually read it. I was more disheartened than I could have imagined. As if the “If he were alive today” blasphemy weren’t bad enough, Jeh Johnson, the general counsel who made the remarks in a keynote address on MLK for which he received a certificate of appreciation from the DoD, compared today’s troops to the Good Samaritan of the Bible.

Volunteers in today’s military, he said, “have made the conscious decision to travel a dangerous road and personally stop and administer aid to those who want peace, freedom and a better place in Iraq, in Afghanistan…”

Anyone who believes that the Iraqis and Afghanis consider our troops akin to the “Good Samaritan” deserves the Sarah Palin Award for Gullibility, and that special gold (from Glenn Beck’s personal stash) medal with “Don’t Retreat, Reload” skillfully engraved just below that aptly placed surveyor’s symbol.

As many of you reading my blog know, my husband Cole started No More Victims, a small non-profit in 2002,  just prior to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.   NMV pairs war-injured Iraqi children with communities across the country for medical care, in an effort to spread an awareness that will help to educate and advocate for Peace.  We’re currently in the process of bringing 13 year old Salee Allawe back to South Carolina for her third pair of prosthetic legs.  Salee lost her legs to a US air strike while playing hopscotch in her backyard in 2006.  She not only lost her legs, but her best friend and brother, as well.  Somehow, as kind and forgiving as Salee’s family is, I don’t think that by any stretch of the imagination they’d consider the dropping of that bomb on a group of children at play to be a shining example of that touching Biblical parable of compassion.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I simply don’t believe Mr. Johnson’s comparison works, either for Martin Luther King or for our nation’s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. If our government thinks that we are so easily misled that we can believe that destroying other people’s countries and killing their children is an act of kindness, isn’t it about time that we stood up and told them we’re not that dumb!?

Sorry, but we’re not dumb enough to believe that it’s healthy

  •  to have 50 million people without health care,
  • to have a government that cares more about tax cuts for the super-rich than the increasing numbers of homeless lying in our streets,
  • that thinks the solution to a madman’s killing spree is not better mental health care but to arm more madmen with ever more lethal weapons,
  • and that Sarah was really looking for land to buy and those weren’t crosshairs on that map.

We’re not dumb enough to believe that Martin Luther King would approve of our invasions of other people’s countries, our destruction of their homes, our maiming and murder of their children, the torture of their men,  and the suspension of habeas corpus.  We don’t buy it and we don’t believe it. Let’s truly honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr this year and work to make this a more just and peaceful nation.

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“They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love”

Wednesday, 1. December 2010 2:10

Oh, how I wish that were true!

The words of my favorite childhood hymn seem sadly out of place today. The very word “Christianity” has been hijacked by so-called “Christians” who wouldn’t know Christ if they saw Him. They make me ashamed to call myself a “Christian” with their blasphemy. They’ve forgotten that as Christians we’re supposed to see Christ in EVERYONE we see. We can hardly blame our atheist friends when, with an ironic yet justifiable “holier than thou” attitude, they paint all Christians with a tainted and biased brush.

Christ told us simply to “love one another”; he didn’t make clarifications. How have we wandered so far from His message?

Christ always stood with the poor and downtrodden. He was the physical and spiritual embodiment of Peace and Love. If we were to vote as Christians, we’d vote for the poor, we’d vote for the immigrant, and we’d vote for Peace.

If we don’t see Christ in the gay teen being bullied by his peers, in the Muslim man crying as his Holy book is defiled, in the civilians of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan living in fear of our brutality and weapons, in the immigrant who’s fled to our country as a “safe haven” from his own, in the man whose wife is dying of breast cancer because they have no health insurance, in the homeless old woman living under the bridge that we drive by every day pretending not to see, we will not vote as Christians.

If we don’t see Christ in the faces of our most needy, we have no right to call ourselves Christian.

When I vote on Tuesday, I’ll keep Salee’s little sister Rusul in mind.  Rusul, though only a child, has one of the purest and most loving souls of anyone I’ve ever met. One day the two of us were together, driving up into the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Rusul was overcome with joy at being away from the hospital, relaxing in the beauty of nature that surrounded her. She’d just had her foot amputated for she, too, had been a victim of the US air strike that took Salee’s legs and killed their brother.

Rusul’s beautiful smile made me feel so ashamed. I couldn’t hide the guilt I felt looking at the mangled and scarred stump where her foot should have been. I fought back tears, hid behind my sunglasses, and tried to keep my eyes on the road as she looked at me and said in her limited English,

“Oh Ann, I love the mountains! And, I love cats. And, I love you. But Ann”, and here she paused and sighed,

“I love God BIG!”

I learned so much from her, that beautiful little Muslim girl from Iraq.

Yes, on Tuesday, I’ll vote with her (and Christ) in mind.

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Salee Needs New Legs

Tuesday, 30. November 2010 17:51

Salee needs new legs.  Wouldn’t it be nice, you might be thinking, to have new legs – faster ones, stronger ones, more shapely or muscular ones?

Salees 10th Birthday Party

Salees 10th Birthday Party

Of course, for those of you who know Salee’s story, you know that she doesn’t just “want” new legs.  She needs them.

Salee lost her legs to a US air strike in Hasswa, Iraq in 2006.  In 2007 No More Victims brought Salee to Greenville, South Carolina’s Shriners Hospital for new prosthetic legs.  She came back in August of 2009 for a second pair.  Shriners has committed to Salee’s care as she grows until she reaches the age of 18.

And now, Salee needs new legs.

Now that we’ve started fundraising to bring Salee back for her third pair of legs, I can’t help thinking of the first time Salee was here.  She was only 9 when she first came, a victim of war, or more accurately, a victim of the US invasion and occupation of her country.  The only experience Salee and her father, Abu Ali, had had with Americans prior to meeting my husband, Cole, and their arrival in the US, was of American soldiers.  They feared Americans.  Salee’d lost both of her legs to our bombs, her sister Rusul’s leg was twisted and mangled, and her brother Akram and best friend Tabaruk were blown to pieces before her eyes.

Salee and her friends were outside playing hopscotch at the time.

* * *

Salee has taught me so much about forgiveness and compassion.  When she and her father would thank my friend Selena and I for helping to bring them here for her new legs, we could never help but cry.  Thank US?  If it weren’t for us, she’d have her own legs instead of legs made of rubber and plastic and metal.  If it weren’t for us, she’d have her brother.  If it weren’t for us, she wouldn’t live in terror.

I remember Salee pointing to the sky one day when we were driving to the hospital.  She had only a few words in English but she wanted to show me the plane flying overhead.  She tapped me excitedly and with a questioning fear in her eyes, looked up, motioned to the plane and said, “ANN, plane!  ANN!” and made motions with her hands like raindrops falling.  But it wasn’t raindrops she was remembering falling from the planes.  It was bombs.  Fighting back tears threatening to spill from my own eyes, I said, “No Salee.  No bombs in America.  Planes OK.  No bombs in America”!

No Salee, our bombs are in YOUR country, falling from planes.  I felt so ashamed.

* * *

Salee overflows with charisma and joy and love and fun!  She became a household name in the Carolinas and I don’t think that anyone who met her will ever forget her.  She never complained; she was here to learn to walk again – to be able to go to school.  She worked hard toward her goal and, when she wasn’t working on her walking, Salee spread joy and laughter wherever she went.

Salee loved singing and dancing and laughing, most of all.   She joked and poked and tickled and giggled.  She smiled and smiled and smiled.  Salee had to have a revision (partial amputation) on one of her legs prior to her first pair of prosthetics being built.   She went into surgery laughing and joking and came out of anesthesia the same way.  She never could tolerate pity or tears.

The only times that Salee would talk seriously to me back then was when I’d be in a public restroom with her, helping her with her clothes and legs.  One day, she sat, staring at the scars on her stumps and sadly said to me, “Mama and Baba say, ‘What is this Salee!?  No legs???  What is THIS?”  Her sorrow wasn’t for herself but for her parents, finding their beautiful daughter lying bleeding and limbless.

Another time, before she left to go home to Iraq, I was again helping her with her clothes and she said to me, “Ann have two babies.”  I have just one beautiful son so I said, “No Salee, Ann have one baby” and Salee replied, “Salee have two mamas.  Ann have two babies.”

I couldn’t do anything but hug her.

And, both times that she’s left, she’s reminded all of her friends in the States who love her that she does not like tears!  She leaves demanding “No cry!!! No cry!  Salee come back.  Salee loves you BIG!”

We love Salee big, too.

***  For more information on Salee and her story, please visit www.nomorevictims.org .

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