Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes,
covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. (Jonah 3:6)

Ever wonder what those Ninevites did that was so bad? What was their collective sin? Their king recognized that the entire community had sinned, and he led the way in repentance. Yes, those sure must have been legendary times! Our leaders do not even admit to making mistakes let alone having anything to do with collective sins. But if they did, what sin should they lead us in repenting?

Here's a hint...These men are non-persons. They are guilty until proven innocent. Indeed, how will they ever prove themselves innocent? They will not get the same type of trial that you and I --indeed even an illegal alien-- would get. They will be tried before something called a "military commission." Any statements extracted from them by torture can be used against them...but their attorneys will be forbidden to use the fact of their mistreatment in their defense.

Just yesterday a Federal Appeals Court ruled that these men have no right to challenge their detention in a Federal court, thus upholding the administration's suspension of habeas corpus.

We have declared these men non-persons. We have taken away their rights.

How many days of penance will wipe out our collective sin?

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Wintry mix, summery dreams

The winter mix had already started falling by the time I left for work. Those big flakes of snow were on a mission. They weren't supposed to make their appearance until "late morning" or noontime, according to AccuWeather meteorologists who, despite doppler radar and satellite tracking, are obviously under equipped. I'm not putting the weather crew down. I know those snowflakes have a mind of their own.

My plan was to leave work at noon to accommodate workmen who were coming to the house. Last evening I was sure I'd miss the snow entirely, but driving to work this morning I wasn't so sure. The flakes grew scarce for a few hours, then returned with reinforce

The workmen gone, I stood at the window watching the exquisitely tiny flecks falling steadily, almost invisibly against the white sky. And then I picked up the Ghost Ranch catalog and flipped through the summer program descriptions...

Spirituality, a poetry-writing seminar taught by an instructor I had studied with before...peace workshops, service corps (you do chores in exchange for room and board, with enough leisure time to explore the ranch)...
Looking at pictures of mesas, creosote brush and cholla, I thought about the summer and what I'd like to do...

A week at Ghost Ranch, maybe the poetry workshop.

But it's been years since I've been to the shore. The Jersey shore is crowded and expensive. Maybe it's worth getting some information on the Delaware beaches, or shore points even farther south...

In the background my new Putumayo CD Paris is playing ...and I realize that it will be 5 years this summer since I spent those 5 days in the City of Light. Time to go back again? A visit to nearby Versailles this time...or Giverny peut-être...

Actually, there's a good chance we won't be able to go anywhere this summer. Still, dreaming of places to go ...just on the outside chance that we a great way to ignore the wintry mix.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Feeling connected again

Went to a training session today with about 20 others (staff, faculty, students) on our campus. We learned how to be empathetic listeners to students who are feeling emotionally confused or who feel hurt, distressed, angry, bewildered, singled out, etc., because of their sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, religion or some other identity trait. We also learned how to suggest to them that they make an appointment at the counseling center if we think they'd benefit from the attention of a professional.

Having undergone the training and signed a pledge, we get to affix a logo to the door of our office indicating that we're part of this safe haven program and that if someone has a concern, we're willing to listen.

I've been so inundated with work that I've been feeling disconnected from people and very phony as far as really being someone who cares about others. Now I feel connected again.

A good way to start the weekend!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Hello...hello...senators and representatives in Washington, this is reality calling...

Deepak Chopra again writes the sober, dismal truth in his blog entry Caught Between a Surge and a Hard Place. He's not the only one, of course. His just happens to be the blog I read today. You know, another plain speaking truth-teller that the Powers-that-be aren't listening to. Or Mr. & Ms America either from the looks of it, or else there'd be some clamoring going on.

I listen to the news coming out of Congress ... or rather the news that's not coming out (unless you want to count the constant stream of slowly rising hot air as news) and feel as though I'm experiencing theater of the absurd. I seriously ask myself if Samuel Beckett or Eugène Ionesco wrote the non-script that emanates daily from the Senate and House.

5 helicopters downed in 2 weeks...a British soldier killed and his comrades wounded by friendly fire...the Deputy Minister of Health arrested...billion of dollars in cash vanished...refugees pouring out of Iraq...

Give the President's plan a chance... Don't cut off funds for the fast or slow a draw-down... capping the number of troops...ultimatums to the Maliki government...blah...blah...blah...

And the Senate could not even bring a modest resolution against the President's surge to a vote on Monday. Heck, "resolution" isn't even a word in their vocabulary. I'm convinced that all the country's senators and all the country's representatives couldn't resolve a 2nd grade math problem.

As Chopra says:
This country paid a price in lives for a huge moral wrong: destroying Iraqi society, releasing age-old demons, and killing civilians on a scale that could be 100 times greater than the losses we have suffered.

We blundered. Period. Why can't we ever admit to being wrong, let alone to having lost?

What's wrong with our national psyche that we can't say "We were wrong?"

Why can't we admit to having done wrong and turn our attention to helping the survivors?

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

No more the Light Brigade!

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:

"It is my duty as a commissioned officer in the United States army to speak out against grave injustices. My moral and legal obligation is to the constitution. Not to those who issue unlawful orders....
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"I stand before you today because it is my job to serve and protect American soldiers and innocent Iraqis who have no voice. It is my conclusion that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong, but also a breach of American law," Ehren Watada, June 7, 2006

Lt. Watada is an officer who dared make reply, who dared ask why. He refused --not to do and die, for he is willing to serve in Afghanistan where he could possibly face death-- but to be party to war crimes. He dared to research the Iraq war. He refused to turn a blind eye to the false pretenses. He concluded that it would be a violation of his oath to protect the Constitution to carry out the illegality that is the war in Iraq. He dared to think rather than blindly follow orders.

Since when does an officer speak up to declare that a war is illegal?


Suppose more officers spoke up? Suppose the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff questioned the political ideologues?

Suppose then Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell had questioned? Who has brought dishonor to our country, Lt. Watada who spoke the truth or General Powell who went before the UN with evidence known to have been concocted?

Suppose more officers cared about where they were being sent and what they were being ordered to do...and refused? The well-oiled gears of the military-industrial complex would begin to work less smoothly...some parts might even grind to a halt.

Some wars might be stopped before they start...

Whatever the outcome of Lt.Watada's trial, he has set a truly historic precedent. With only his words for weapons, he has dealt a blow to the age-old alliance of corrupt governments and military might.

He is willing to pay the price.

He is a man of honor and valor.

Oh, and by the way, what's the Senate's excuse? (And tell me again why I bothered to vote?)
On Monday, the Senate was scheduled to begin the first major floor debate on a resolution disapproving of the president’s war plans in Iraq. But after hours of wrangling, the assembled body of 96 legislators failed to reach agreement on the terms of the debate on Sen. John Warner’s (VA) and Carl Levin’s (MI) bill. Now Senate action may be delayed. The House has scheduled a debate for next week. From the FCNL, see

Verses from "The Charge of the Light Brigade," by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1864.