happy new year!

Monday 31 December 2007

So here on the east coast, it’s only a few short hours until the new year.

“New Year’s Eve and it’s hard to believe another Zodiac’s gone around.” — Semisonic, ‘This Will Be My Year”

2008 already. I could get all nostalgic on you, I guess, but I’ll try to refrain. To me, it’s sometimes just amazing to look back on a year and realize all that I’ve packed into 12 months, the places I’ve been geographically, mentally, and spiritually, and just how different of a person I am than I was this time last year. But really, when you look back no matter how far, isn’t life in itself pretty amazing? To think how much we all really do in the short time we’re on this earth is pretty crazy. What differences do you see in yourself, and what accomplishments or memories would you not trade for anything?

The new year is a great time for “resolutions” of change, and I think that’s great, though it’s usually just something that we already wanted to change about ourselves and the start of a new year gives us just a good enough excuse to do it. I rarely make them, at least not seriously, as I constantly try to be refining myself and hope to not be dictated by something as insignificant (in the scheme of things) as a new calendar year.

In any case, I do hope 2007 was for you a magnificent year, and I wish for all of you a great 2008, whatever it may bring and wherever it may take you. Peace —

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peace on earth

Tuesday 25 December 2007

You hear about it a lot this time of year, be it on the news or just around the office, but especially if you are or around Christian(s). Some examples:
The book of Isiah — “His name shall be called … Prince of Peace.”
It Came Upon The Midnight Clear — “The days are hast’ning on … when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling.”
O Holy Night — His law is love and His gospel is peace.”
And of course the song Let There Be Peace On Earth

We hear about it, but how much are we living it? We speak of peace, but then what? On my travels in October, I picked up this amazing book called The Peace Book, which gives “108 simple ways to create a more peaceful world.” I’m not quite done the book, but it’s been an amazing resource for me already. The book contains great suggestions, like: exercise your opportunities for democracy; celebrate the heroes and heroines of nonviolence; travel on a peace mission; empower the children; broadcast from the peace frequency (you’ll have to get the book to find out about that one). I highly suggest you purchase or find this book, and maybe even request that your local library purchase it. Find out how you can start living in peace every day.

We live in a world full of hatred, oppression, and violence seemingly around every corner. How can I, as one person, combat this? The Peace Book give what it called the Four Principles of Peace as a basis for transforming your life and the world.
1. Community (we are all connected and deserve mutual respect, appreciation of differences, and equal dignity and worth)
2. Cooperation (we are co-creating our shared reality as partners, whether we like it or not)
3. Nonviolence (love is the power that connects us and heals what violence destroys)
4. Witness (we must become living witnesses to the power and promise of peace)

We all are at a different starting point, but if we actively strive to living a life of peace and nonviolence and witness that reality in our daily lives, we can start to make the waves that will change the world.


question your sources

Friday 21 December 2007

Being off for a few weeks, I’ve been able to do a lot more reading and watching of media coverage of world and current events (and too much Clash of the Choirs, too, I might add). Today I was reading an AP article about pilgrims flocking to Bethlehem for Christmas where I read, close to the end of the article, this sentence, dropped in rather nonchalantly: “Israel is building the [West Bank separation] barrier in an effort to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers.”

Because of the witness of a friend of mine, I’ve become engrossed in the Palestinian situation in the past few months, reading testimonies by peacemakers from groups like Christian Peacemaker Teams and Michigan Peace Team and individual blogs by those currently in Palestine. Thanks to these reading, I was able to take this sentence and other words and comments we come to hear daily for what they really are: falsehoods.

It’s easy to accept this separation wall — 25 feet tall in most places completed — as being about national security. I mean, they want to build a wall at the border of Mexico for that reason, right? Unfortunately, things aren’t always as cut and dry as they seem. Firstly, he wall being built isn’t being built on political borders because, really, there aren’t any other than the supposed border set up in the late 1940s. Because Israel later captured these lands in 1967, there is really no longer an official border.

So one might expect if there were to be a wall to protect a border, you’d at least build it on the border. But as it goes, the wall is being built to encompass land that belongs to Palestinians, in reality illegally stealing land for Israeli settlers.

The situation is much too complicated for me to explain fully here, but I encourage you do to not take my word for it and do your own research. Read stories from the links I’ve posted here and examine other media sources. But above all, question what you read and see on TV, asking if there might be another side to the story or an ulterior motive for the way something is reported. It might take some time and effort to uncover reality, but don’t you owe it to yourself to know the truth?


Christmas Cheer

Wednesday 19 December 2007

That’s what they call the event some of the counties here in NW Ohio (where I’m spending the holidays once again) have which distributes toys, food, and other necessities to people in the county who could use them.  What kind of people?

Well, here are some things I heard during the day:
“It’s rough when you have to decide whether to us that washcloth to clean up or wipe with.”
“We can brush our teeth this month now (though we’ll have to buy toothbrushes).”
“It’ll be her first bike.  She’s never had a bike before.” (loading what appeared to be a bike for a 10-year-old)

I’ve lived long enough now in the city that I’ve started to distance myself from these people I lived along side of for 18 years.  As I looked at the faces standing in line, I saw many that resembled those of classmates I graduated high school with.  I thought about neighbors and acquaintances growing up who worked at factories or in other “blue collar” jobs and realized how far removed I’ve become.  I saw these people and listened (ever so quickly) to their stories, and it hit me right in the heart.

I just heard (again) earlier this week this quote by Joseph Stalin: “One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.”  When we look at things in a personal way, they hit us much more fully than when we distance ourselves.  As Michael Moore showed in The Big One, when he offered to take Nike CEO Phil Knight to a factory in Indonesia and he refused, sometimes the only way we can live with ourselves is if we keep that impersonal distance.  Why don’t we allow ourselves to look at and get to know the people who are truly affected by the horrible policies and doings of our government?

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already  thought about injustice and are maybe doing something about it, either at the voting booth or with your job or life.  But we all must do a better job at actively working to create change so that we can create a country and world where all people may have their needs met and their basic rights upheld.  Is it possible?  I think so, and I hope you do, too, so let’s all work together to create this world we have in mind.


SOA

Friday 7 December 2007

(This was originally written the weekend before Thanksgiving.)As I sit here in a van, using my friend’s laptop somewhere outside of Atlanta, I’m still processing – processing the experiences I’ve had these past 48 hours in Columbus, Georgia. I was part of the contingent from Lutheran Volunteer Corps who traveled to recruit and protest at Ft. Benning Military Base with the intention of closing the School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC). It’s a weekend long event, organized by SOA Watch, that began 18 years ago with ten people and this year again drew over 20,000 people for information sessions, documentary screenings, rallies, benefit concerts, and the Sunday morning vigil and celebration.The event brings together people from across the country and the world committed to peace and social justice through non-violence. While the reason everyone gets together is anything but a happy one, it is quite amazing to witness the community of people working for love and grace in a world so often full of hatred and antagonism. Hundreds of organizations are represented who are doing concrete work to rid our world of injustice – it’s an amazing experience to be in such a place.But why do so many pack themselves onto the small road leading up to a military base just across the Alabama border? In short, it’s because the SOA/WHINSEC is, quite literally, a School Of Assassins. It is a training post for Central and South American military men who have carried out some of the most violent and heinous massacres and human rights violations in history.This is what the SOA Watch website says: “The US Army School of Americas (SOA), based in Fort Benning, Georgia, trains Latin American security personnel in combat, counter-insurgency, and counter-narcotics. SOA graduates are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Among the SOA’s nearly 60,000 graduates are notorious dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia. Lower-level SOA graduates have participated in human rights abuses that include the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the El Mozote Massacre of 900 civilians. (See Grads in the News). “It’s so easy for us to become so in-twined with our own lives that we fail to remember the horrors that are happening for so many people around the world.  Not only is there horror happening in South and Central America, but Sudan, Palestine, Iraq, Burma, Pakistan, and so many other places.  It takes time and energy to become knowledgeable about so many issues, but I think it is important to try and become informed as much as possible.  Let us all strive for knowledge that we can then foster world peace.