Saturday, November 25, 2006

No pleasure in "I told you so"

There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans....Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost.

So says Nebraska...or rather Republican senator Chuck Hagel from Nebraska.

After the loss of how many Iraqi many American lives: military personnel who went to Iraq with the conviction that they were somehow making their loved ones safer here at home; contractors --in some cases out of work-- lured by six-digit salaries....

After how many admonitions, how many analyses...after weapons inspector Scott Ritter's affirmation that Iraq had destroyed over 90% of its weapons of mass destruction...after the point-by-point demonstration by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that invading Iraq did not meet the criteria of a just war, after warnings by Jesse Jackson, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and pleas from writers such as Barbara Kingsolver, James Carroll and others....

While the Rumsfeld's of the country trivialized the violence and disorder infecting Iraq because, after all, "democracy is messy" (but who cares when you don't have to get bloodied by it yourself?) and the Rice's blew smoke in our eyes by conjuring up a Saddam-sent mushroom cloud, and the Coulter's accused Democrats and leftists as a group of treason....

After Abu Ghraib...

After all the lies and more, a Republican senator finally stands up, says that although we invaded Iraq with the best of intentions, it's time for an "honorable" exit...

I can only echo the words of Fr. Andrew Greeley:

God forgive us for the war, especially those who voted for it in 2004, and especially the pundits, the commentators, the editorial writers who supported the war until almost the last moment and are still willing to accept more casualties so this country and its president can escape with some dignity.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Do They Know It’s Thanksgiving? (with apologies to Band Aid)

It’s Thanksgiving
pumpkin pie’s in the oven
we celebrate abundance
while watching the elves dance
as Santa arrives on a float

But say a prayer
pray for the other ones
whose mush
won’t be topped
with cranberry compote

It’s hard, but when you're feasting
there's a parallel world out there
a world of dread and fear

Where the only water flowing
gags them
till they spill the beans
and the only carols ringing
will be rap music zinging
in their ears

then they'll chant a sura
and dream of seeing their ma

And there won’t be candied yams
in Guantanamo this year
where they live in pens
like turkeys
and drink fermented despair

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
whose stern, impassioned stress…
a network of rendition beat
in covert wilderness

Here’s to you and your dear ones
here’s to them, the disappeared ones
Do they know it’s Thanksgiving today?


I love days like today ...but only every know and then...days when I stay in the house the whole day...I especially like not going to a store, not making any purchases, not getting into my car and driving on the road. Of course, a lot of ingredients went into making today such a special, peaceful, abundant day, a day to be thankful.

  • I was born in the world's only superpower with it's superpowerful economy. I was born into privilege. My mother would say that's a lot of sh__. She would say that Italians came to this country and worked hard for whatever they have. But that begs the question. People come from impoverished countries with politically oppressed societies and thrive in the U.S., while others whose ancestors were brought here centuries ago are still struggling to climb the ladder of success. And I won't even go into what became of "native Americans." Other writers have spoken of white privilege more eloquently than I, so I'll let them speak.
  • I'm also thankful for the family and home my husband I have have managed to found. The ambiance is a lot more harmonious and tranquil than in the home I came from.
  • I'm thankful for the education I've had and most especially for the opportunity to study two languages besides English. Reading authors in the original has really opened my mind. Immersing myself in two other linguistic systems has helped me walk in others' shoes, even if I haven't been able to travel much.
  • I'm thankful for the gift of perceptiveness heightened with a pinch of intuitiveness, which makes painfully aware of my country's faults. I love the U.S. and just can't seem to shake the illusion that we can actually live up to the ideals of our Constitution.
  • I'm thankful for the Internet, where I met two of my favorite friends with whom I've been corresponding for almost 10 years. We've talked by phone and on Skype (oh, yeah, I'm thankful for Skype) and, God willing, we'll meet in person some day.
  • I'm thankful for my Catholic background -- if not so much for the upbringing. I wouldn't be able to appreciate music, literature, religious thought, and much of European culture without having first absorbed Catholicism's rich traditions. That said...
  • I'm grateful for having found the Religious Society of Friends...and to think they were in my own backyard all the time! Although Friends can be as tepid and apathetic as members of any other denomination, when at their best they are rigorously independent thinkers (comme les Français justement), passionate spiritual practitioners, and dedicated activists....and while I'm at it, I'm grateful for all my personal and activist friends (with a small "f').
  • Finally, like St. Francis of Assisi who was grudgingly grateful for his mortal body, which he humorously called Brother Ass, I'm thankful for all my past physical and psychological sufferings. I'm grateful to skilled and empathetic therapists who supported me through the harrowing journey to emotional strength and wellness, helping me to find that place of spiritual and emotional tranquility that I inhabit today.
OK, so much for all that Thanksgiving jazz...time to get ready for the rest of the day!

Friday, November 17, 2006

...wherein Liberata is oh so tired of war talk

I'm having a very difficult time comprehending the message that the President was trying to send to the people of Vietnam ...or to the world...or maybe just to the American people when he said, standing under a huge bust of Ho Chi Minh in the former palace of the French governor in Hanoi:

...that the American experience in Vietnam contained lessons for the war in Iraq. Chief among them, he said, was that “we’ll succeed unless we quit.”

“We tend to want there to be instant success in the world,” Mr. Bush said after a lunch with Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, “and the task in Iraq is going to take a while.”
As someone pointed out on another blog, it sounds as though the President regrets that the US did not stay in the war longer and kill more Vietnamese. A strange statement to make when you are the guest of the current president of the country...

And in an even curiouser remark, Mr. Bush credited his hosts with saving veteran Sen. John McCain's life by pulling him out of the lake where his plane had crashed nearly 40 years ago ... never mind that they kept him prisoner for five years and tortured him as well.

War sure makes people do and say strange things.


On a more inspiring note: had a great conversation today with one of our Italian professors about Cesare Beccaria and his opposition to torture and to the death penalty.

We should be so advanced!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

If our Speaker-Elect of the House asked me what she should do first...

(Note: This letter was published in a somewhat abridged and edited form in yesterday's Inquirer ... but Ms Pelosi will get the original version.)

Open Letter to the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker-Elect, United States House of Representatives

Dear Madam Speaker:

Allow me to congratulate you most sincerely on your hard-won victory. Looking forward to the day when you will take your place at the rostrum, I beg you to remember that there is a serious wrong to right, a shameful stain on our nation’s honor to cleanse.

To your credit, Madam Speaker, you voted against the heinous Military Commissions Act of 2006. Unfortunately, the bill was passed by fear-mongering representatives and senators who chose to cast aside universally recognized standards of human rights. According to its provisions, our President can now authorize “enhanced” interrogation procedures such as sleep deprivation, hypothermia, and water-boarding. Prisoners will continue to be held indefinitely without the right to challenge their detention in federal court, and information obtained by coercion and the infliction of physical or mental pain can be used against them. Furthermore, by its loose definition of “enemy combatant,” this law jeopardizes the civil rights even of American citizens.

As Speaker of the House of Representatives, it will soon be within your power to initiate the process of repeal, thus demonstrating to the world that the United States still upholds the principles of liberty and justice for all.

Madam Speaker, tear down this law.

Monday, November 6, 2006

You know you've been working too hard when...
                you have visions of xhtml code in your dreams

That's right. I tossed and turned last night while visions of deprecated html and the latest industry-standard xhtml tags, as well as CSS (cascading style sheets, for the hypertextually mark-up-challenged) selectors and declarations danced in my head. Correction: whirled around in my nightmares.

It all started when I registered for a 5-week online course in CSS. I thought it was time I caught up with modern Web page authoring methodology. What I thought was a basic course turned out to be advanced. I was lost from day 1. Not that our online instructor wasn't understanding -- he just didn't understand that he was talking way above our heads. After feeling as though I'd never catch up, I spend about an hour in my local Barnes & Noble on Saturday sampling CSS books until I found one that explained the hyper-creatures in language I could grasp ... and better yet, the authors even had a sense of humor! If you're ever in the mood ... or maybe I should say, if the madness ever overtakes you... to learn CSS, get yourself a copy of

Elizabeth Freeman & Eric Freeman. Head First HTML with CSS
. Sebatopol, CA: O'Reilly Media, 2006.

Lots of humorous examples, lots of puns (e.g., Starbuzz Coffee), great explanations. The Freeman team is going to get me through this course!

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Quakers, queries, and torture

Friends have a curious, countercultural practice called the query. In a world where we are quick to blame others for anything that goes awry and even for our own mistakes, queries serve as a vehicle of self-examination and self-criticism. And that's what makes them countercultural.

When meditating on queries, usually presented in the form of groups of questions on a particular theme or topic, we ask ourselves how
we can change, not how we can change others. We seek out those shadowy recesses in our own heart where the Light has yet to penetrate, and we ask ourselves how we can truly be God's instruments for healing and for good in the world.

Stephen Grellet, the 18th century Quaker pastor (or perhaps it was William Penn...the attribution faded off into legend long ago) might have been responding to a query when he said:

I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
From the QUIT-L (discussion list for the Quaker Initiative to End Torture) I received a message written by a Friend about queries that some members of her meeting (not sure where it's located) composed concerning war and torture:
1) How does my country’s embrace of the “War on Terror,” the war on Iraq, torture and indefinite imprisonment, and the threat of attack on Iran affect my spiritual and emotional life?

2) What support do I need to help heal these spiritual wounds?

3) (for those who felt ready) Knowing that right action can be a
spiritual practice, what might the action I take on these issues look like?

The Friend went on to describe the process:
We split into groups to consider our queries, and came back to report on what had happened. The groups were relieved to have a forum to discuss their feelings. My group talked a lot about what I think of as the 5 d’s: disbelief, disconnect, disgust, disillusionment, and depression. Many felt that their sense of their country had changed from one that upheld values of morality and freedom to one that advocated fear and dissembling. We talked about the need not to sit in our individual places of despair, but to reach out and talk to others about these issues, to draw strength from one another. Some remembered other struggles and declarations of war that continued for years, and one person acknowledged that some struggles—for example, those of slavery and suffrage—went far longer than the lifespans of those who started them. Some spoke of the inspiration of those people who fought so hard for the freedoms we have now. We talked about how many are silent because we do not think others will listen or agree.

The group wanted more. More discussions, more opportunities to explore what to do next. And I was heartened that I was not alone in my pain. And I want to encourage you not to be silent. I know there is a lot to work on, and we have to marshal our resources, each one of us, to live and do the most important things for us. But if torture, or our war in the Middle East, is making you uneasy, consider speaking out, or taking one more step than you have. If you have a faith community, perhaps engage them in your concern. Talk to your friends, singly or in groups. Let your elected officials know what you do and don’t want done in your name...
I can't add much to the Friend's witness, except to say that whatever "right action" someone might take will proceed not from anger, outrage, or revulsion (all normal, natural feelings, but which need reflection before being acted upon) but out of a prayerful heart.

If you're interested in joining QUIT-L,visit
the contact page.