Saturday, November 28, 2015

Peace Sign...

I was wondering just what to blog about next when I came across an article in The Guardian about the designer of the peace sign.  He was Gerald Holtom and the design was first used in an antinuclear march in 1958.  He never copyrighted nor profited financially from the design.  According to the article, "he wanted the design to be freely available to any group who fought the same cause."  There's a link to Mr. Holtom's Wikipedia page  given as well.

Some folks or groups have mixed feelings about the sign it seems.  But I like it.  It's simple which does a lot to makes it the iconic symbol it has become.  It also lends itself well to being "dressed up", as in the cosmically decorated one above.  It has power to remind us of what we all should wish, hope, and pray for.

So thank you, Mr. Holtom for your contribution.  May you Rest in Peace, of course, but keep praying for Peace here on Earth; we need all the good vibes we can get!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Re: Refugees

Oh, my, has there ever been some hateful rhetoric about allowing in Syrian refugees since that attack in Paris.  It's been even worse than a lot of the previous rhetoric on immigration.  And CNN suspended a reporter for a tweet criticizing the recent House vote.  (Oh gee, do you think they were upset that she - gasp - criticized the government ) ?

Anyway, it seems to me that we have a memory failure here:

Reminder Needed

We forget that we are a country of immigrants
That many hands of diverse ancestry built this country
And continue to do so
It seems we forget when someone whispers, "The terrorists are coming."

We forget things such as "Chinese Exclusion",  
The stain of Japanese incarceration,
Those against admitting Jewish refugees from the Holocaust
Have we not learned from our history?
But it seems we forget if someone intones, "The terror threat is high."

We forget that we face risks everyday
We forget that liberty should not be sacrificed for security
But it seems civil liberties and even common sense
Seem to be discarded if someone pronounces, "We just want to keep you safe."

We forget, but there's a certain statue in New York harbor
Which should be a reminder to us
She stands as a token of friendship and a becon of liberty
So will we stand with her?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

For Paris...

... and for Mali, as well. What is there to offer in the wake of these attacks but our prayers? Prayers for the victims, their families, the cities.

A candle for those prayers...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Shape of Things

Greetings - I hope real people are reading!!!

I read the article in The Guardian about the long lost poetical essay from Percy Bysshe Shelley, entitled The Existing State of Things.  The only known copy is on display by the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.  It has been digitized and you can read about it and read the actual essay here !

Reading about it, I was certainly intrigued, as one if its themes is being anti-war.  Well, I finally got to read it and have to absolutely agree with The Bodley Librarian, Richard Ovenden, that: "The themes addressed by Shelley in Poetical Essay - the abuse of press, dysfunctional political institutions and the global impact of war - remain as relevant today as they were 200 years ago."  In some ways, it also reminded me (although written many, many years before) of Bob Dylan's Masters of War.  I wanted to see how Shelley handled the topic(s) and felt I was going to write something myself.  After reading it, I HAD to write.

So, not for comparison, please, but here is my own offering with nods to Shelley and also Dylan.  Read kindly, folks...

The Shape of Things

The shape of war

In contours of ominous fear-mongering clouds
In shadows of drones
In specters of tanks
In billowing gray smoke and spray of orange flames
Blood and tears result,
A tidal flow of grief

The shape of propaganda,
Seeking to mold minds
Seeking to still the mind’s questions
Seeking to numb the vision of eyes
As its lullaby cradles the public to sleep

The shape of surveillance
Shifting behind the security veil
Intent on reaching its tentacles into everyday lives
Seeing, knowing, analyzing
Sharing all its nebulous web can ensnare
While refusing to drop its cloak,
Its form only known from fleeting glimpses

The shape of shame
The convoluted logic of leaders who bend the law
And advisors who justify abuses
Faceless ones behind the scenes
Who give orders that lead to destruction and the loss of innocents
The glad hands and smiles
Which mask the role
Of those deceitful ones who supply war machines
Or enable surveillance

The shape of Freedom
Strong tree it has sometimes been
Can it stand against the winds that are supposed to keep it safe,
The rains of disbelief the tree could fall?

The shape of Peace
Battered and bruised
Outstretching a hand
Desperate for a healing touch
Only desiring ministrations enough
To resume ministering to others

The shape of the future
We cannot see as yet
We see shadows and pray
We pray the shadows will dissipate,
That the times still unfolding
Will be shaped with care (not cunning)
And we pray The Deity
For Wisdom, Grace, Protection
As the coming days take shape

Monday, November 9, 2015

Equality Begins With Respect, And... (with update)

Will we ever get there?

Have you good readers been following events at the University of Missouri?  The African-American football players are striking and they and others are demanding that the President Wolfe resign over nonresponse to a climate of racism.

NPR News published two statements, one by a Missou student and another by a faculty member.  I was almost in tears reading them.  These ladies projected both grace and faith.  I was especially saddened to know that the faculty member had been called racial epithets by - other faculty members.  To me that is almost unbelievable.  Please take the time to read their statements here .

This follows revelations such as the OSU racist chant controversy.  There was also an article in The Guardian by a Boston U. Student who detailed some racist incidents at the University and its environs.  All I can think of is: if this is happening in academia, which should be more open to diversity, my goodness what must be happening elsewhere?

I'm continually stunned to think: here it is, 2015 and we're STILL dealing with this?  Have we not grown up?  Did some of us not get the memo about: "all men (and women) are created equal"? Did someone miss the Civil Rights movement, not learn Dr. King's dream?  What's going on here?  Why are we still so eager to belittle others?  I have a suspicion that the economic downturn of the past few years may be playing a part, as folks try to find convenient targets for their displeasure.  I keep hoping folks would look to blame the real sources of economic problems!

That said, if we want to form a basis for true equality, I feel it has to begin with simple respect. Is that really so hard?  Is not calling names and being civil to people really asking so much?  Do most of us not learn the "Golden Rule"?  Hey, it has been taught in many faith traditions!  

To give an example, let me tell a true story.  Now even for the non-Irish, don't most of us learn it's disrepectful to wear orange on St. Patrick's Day?  Well, my late Mother came down to breakfast one St. Patrick's Day in - you guessed it - an orange outfit. Well, she could be stubborn, and it took both me and my late Father to convince her that this wasn't a good and respectful idea; she finally did change before leaving to teach.  Point is:  I'll bet most everyone wouldn't dream of wearing orange on St. Patrick's Day.  So why would we consider or condone hurling a racial epithet at anyoneAnd why allow racist symbols in gov't spaces for another thing?  There was a fine c-span discussion about the confederate flag and two things in it stood out for me:  the one panelist, Prof. Spencer Crew, said that seeing the confederate flag fly on gov't property was to him like a slap in the face, and that those who cling to this symbol need to know that it had been hijacked as a racist symbol.  The other takeway was that the other panelist said that removing things like monuments may not always be the best idea; but supplying other historical and educational stories at those sites might be more productive (I think that was Mr. Rubenstein).  You can view the discussion right here !

Simple acts of respect can mean a lot and can do much to clear the sometimes polarized climate of our society today.  But that's only a start.  We need to start building each other up and stop tearing each other down if we want an equal and just society.  We need to look beyond superficial differences and start seeing common humanity and common citizenship. And then start working as equal partners to address the problems that we as a nation, and a world, face.

I was really stunned to read of the confrontation between the U. Missouri protesters and the press - especially one of their own student journalists!  How sad.  They had really come so far, really shone a light on the problems there, the leadership will be changing, there will be some sort of diversity classes offered there in the future I heard.  Then they spoil their good work by disrespecting the press!  The press they had previously been calling for, according to the commenter in the news video at the following link.  They also have a strong journalism program she noted, so they should have known better (especially the professor).  Didn't they note that Freedom of the Press is part of the First Amendment -- just as is Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Religion? I'm not sure what they were hoping to accomplish with that attitude; I would have thought they would have wanted to be inclusive and show the media exactly that. Actions such as their treatment of reporters will cost them sympathy of those who might otherwise be inclined to be in their corner.  I just hope it doesn't completely undo the good that has been done so far.

link:  Missouri protesters vs. student reporter  

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Making Peace is Like...

...a duet for two pianos and two pianists.
Think about it: 
  • In Tune -- obviously both pianos need to be tuned and in tune with each other; both parties to a conflict must get on the same page and want to work for peace
  • Safeguards --  both pianos must be kept safe, free from things such as theft and vandalism - and of course both pianists must be kept healthy and safe ahead of the performance; both parties to a conflict must foster an atmosphere that will support talk instead of more violence
  • Homework -- the pianists must practice the duet, practicing their individual parts and also practicing together; both parties to a conflict must commit to doing the work of discussing and laying the groundwork for peace
  • Listening -- the pianists must listen to each other in order to coordinate their music (hey, didn't Arlo Guthrie say as much in one of his PBS shows?); both parties to a conflict must listen to each other's concerns and priorities as the details of an agreement are worked out
  • Harmony  -- the performance might seem effortless, but it is the hard work of preparation which pays off in delighting the audience; the achievement of a peace agreement is certainly also the result of hard work and preparation, and pays off in a more harmonious reality for both parties
 Let's begin hoping that leaders take peacemaking - and music - lessons.  With the U.S. saying it will send special forces personnel to Syria; the continued fighting in the Middle East and some other places, I think we'd ALL do well to work for peace. Are you REALLY listening, world leaders?  Get with the program!