The year is 2009, and with a new year comes a new Memorial Day. To many, this is a day to show their gratitude to all of those that have lost their lives in support of these United States of America. Some show their gratitude, but only after they first mourn the loss of one or many close to them. I am one of those people.
On June 10, 2007, a childhood friend of mine, Adam G. Herold lost his live in what was called Operation Iraqi Freedom.
I mention this only to show that I am not detached from such sacrifices. I mention this only to show a well-rounded perspective. I am not an agitator simply to get a rise out of people, I am not necessarily a die-hard pacifist and I am certainly not unpatriotic. However, I am 100 percent against the “wars” in Iraq and the now escalating “war” in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I know I am not alone in this matter, but it seems to be that no else remembers what happened the last time we marched into war. Few seem to remember what a lack of critical analysis and dissent among our media elite can do. They are supposed to question the policies of our government and force the truth out. They are supposed to ask—and ask critically—is this the right solution to the problems in Afghanistan?
Instead, the war drums are again blaring. All the major media outlets have again fallen into line. They agree that we should increase the military budget, again. They agree that this war is “necessary,” like the Iraq War, and they believe that the United States government and their private war mercenaries are the proper solution to all of our threats overseas.
As in the lead-up to the Iraq war, there is no historical perspective, there is no foresight and there is no substantive dialogue. Instead of bringing in voices against the escalation of war in Afghanistan, the pundits—at the behest of their superiors—are bringing in the same “analysts” who—according to David Barstow, investigative reporter at the New York Times and winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for his articles Message Machine: Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand and One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex.—are directly benefitting from such war policies. Why?
On a day—Memorial Day—when we are supposed to show gratitude for the sacrifices of the fallen and give thanks for the freedoms for which they historically have sacrificed, let us not do forgotten yard work or go to the lake or fire up the grill.
Let us, instead, use this day to create a dialogue and frank, open discussion of the escalation of war in Afghanistan.
Start a conversation with your brother, your mother, your father, your friends, your neighbors, your pastor, your rabbi, your boss, your co-worker or even with yourself through reading. Or, like myself, start this conversation through the use of the Internet and allow anyone curious to engage in a new direction of thought.
Let us show our gratitude for one of the freedoms most taken for granted—the freedom to speak your mind openly and without persecution. What better way to show gratitude for those who have sacrificed for our freedom to speak than to utilize that same freedom? Only through dialogue can the truth be known.
UNO's William Brennan Institute for Labor Studies will host a discussion of workers' rights and the need for economic justice at home and abroad on May 1st from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. in the Council room of the Milo Bail Student Center.
May 1st is known around the industrialized world as International Worker Solidarity Day. It is unlike our Labor Day because it is dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of organized labor rather than a holiday which, while dedicated to workers, is primarily thought of as a day off from work. It is like our Labor Day because it was inspired by events that happened in the United States.
Participants include John Kretzschmar and Edgar Moore from the Institute staff, Henry D'Souza of the School of Social Work, a Honduran worker/leader with experience in working in a sweatshop, and a representative from Students against Sweat Shops.
All matter contains within itself a drive toward consciousness. The mistake that Plato and Descartes made was in claiming that there was something "other" than matter that had to be infused into it for it to live. There is no such duality.
Matter itself is the miracle that gives us life and consciousness. There is no separate "soul", but each of us participate in the creative act of existence that matter has brought to fruition in our very material bodies.
Matter is the foundation of life and soars to the heights of consciousness in certain places and at certain times, if the conditions are ripe. Our planet has found itself favorably situated for the seeds of matter to bring forth a rich harvest of consciousness.
And who are we to say that we are the final fruit. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin speculated, there may be a "noosphere" like a primordial sea out of which a consciousness or linked consciousnesses beyond our wildest imaginings will arise, all still based in the Holy Matter which is the womb of us all.
Or perhaps we will lay waste to ourselves and to the planet and allow all to fall back into unforgiving emptiness. We have that power; we have that choice.
Contrary to some Eastern religions, matter is not illusion. And contrary to the Christian Fundamentalists, neither is matter evil. Matter is the source of the Godhead; the Cosmos is the Creator and Love is a fundamental attribute of Holy Matter.
It all lies within. It is ours simply to love and do our best.
Prohibition was a useful way for The Establishment to control dissidents in the early 1900's. The dissidents at the time were largely immigrants, Italian and Irish especially, plus others from Eastern Europe who differed from the WASP establishment by appearance, religion, language, customs and morality. They were muscling their way into electoral politics, labor unions, criminal organizations and other important sectors of the economy that the WASP Establishment of the time wanted kept under their control. Most of these dissidents did not have the Puritan taboo around alcohol.
What could be more convenient that to pick up a troublemaker for possession of alcohol; if they were arrested for their politics, they might get more support. But alcohol, thanks to Carrie Nation and other Temperance Crusaders, was known as the Devil's Friend; causing wife abuse, child neglect and a whole assortment of similar evils. The Temperance Crusaders chose to attack the symptom rather than the more politically charged causes: long hours, employer maltreatment, low wages, and miserable working conditions.
Today's Prohibition, called the War On Drugs, is slightly more sophisticated but serves the same purpose. About half of all drug arrests are for possession of marijuana. And a huge portion of all drug arrests are minorities and young people. What a wonderful way to keep them quiet! And what a wonderful way to remind them of who's in charge, since they can be stopped almost anywhere, anytime by the police for a drug search!
And the best part is: since police work has no effect whatsoever on reducing the flow of drugs and police departments make a profit by confiscating the perpetrator's property, it is a self-perpetuating cycle.
Of course, if drug abuse were treated as a health problem as in many European countries, all these benefits to The Establishment would disappear overnight.
I do not think we need to worry about this in the near future.
Let's keep in mind that all it took for the more liberal of the two parties to win this time around was:
1. A magnificently organized campaign
2. More money than had ever been spent on a presidential election
3. An incumbent conservative president with the lowest approval ratings ever recorded
4. An unpopular war
5. The biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression
6. Consensus that the country is moving in the wrong direction
7. And a charismatic, brilliant candidate for president
In other words, we lucked out. We even made a serious dent in the historical racism of this country. Now we have four or at the most eight years to make some more major cultural changes so that human values have a chance against corporate values.
The times call for people with civic spirit to create artistic and cultural events that express the ideals of Democracy, Human Rights, Universal Love, Respect, Non-Violence, Humanism and the Search for Truth. Artists, poets, musicians, theater people and all sorts of cultural workers who express these ideals in their works weaken the power of corporate propaganda.
And in our social connections among friends and family, at church, in work groups, we can stand up for these same ideals - primarily by living them, and then also by explaining them in conversation and discussion. We can make a point of making sure we have a community to fall back on that agrees with these ideals, that provides a sounding board and support group. And we can make sure that we exclude no one from our expressions of Love and Truth-Searching, not even the self-proclaimed enemies of liberalism. We will often find that these self-proclaimed enemies agree with us on particulars but will enthusiastically argue for hours about generalities.
We can also practice "Active Listening". "Active Listening" means listening for the feeling behind the words. To let someone know that we have heard what they meant but did not know how to say can be a powerful way of connecting with them. Any of us can do this; it does not require some advanced education or esoteric knowledge.
Often it seems that staunch conservatives are simply members of a different community and it is that fact of the support that they receive from that community that reinforces their convictions. To the extent that they feel supported by us in Love, Listening and a Search for the Truth, they will feel less need to defend their convictions so strongly.
The times call for people with a civic spirit to also invest time and energy into running for public office. We don't all need to run, but we can all become a little more knowledgeable about the structures that run our lives. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have the time can attend public hearings, city council meetings, school board meetings; we can serve on committees, participate in our neighborhood associations, in our PTAs, and become educated about what the real problems of governance are so that we can speak knowledgeably about them when called upon.
As long as the United States has "first-past-the-post" elections, where whoever wins one more vote than the other guy or gal wins all the marbles, there will always be two major political parties. And each of those parties will be a coalition of interest groups. Some of these interest groups try to make themselves heard by making the most noise around a given issue.
But People have grown used to shutting out the loud voices; rather the quiet, understanding voice is the one that gets heard. Shouting and bullying are the ways of the Dominator culture - the Bullies. A centered calm and respectful attitude are such a refreshing change that others are drawn to people who have them. This is how we can be heard through the dull roar of the media, through the wails of rage and disappointment.