Tag Archives: current events

Peace Matters: A Mother Responds to the Call for Action Against Syria

War and PeaceAs I pull my truck up to the local harbor beach, loaded with sunscreened kids, oversized striped towels and inner tubes, John Kerry’s voice breaks in over my radio, tuned into NHPR. “This crime against conscience, this crime against humanity, this crime against the most fundamental principles of international community, against the norm of the international community, this matters to us, and it matters to who we are.”

“It Matters” is an eloquently written persuasive argument in favor of punitive action in Syria for their obvious use of chemical weapons against their own people. And as Kerry pontificates on the necessity of action, I’m mothering my way through the last bits of summer vacation.

Kids tumble out of the truck, doors slam, happy screams pierce, sun shines, and I grip the wheel. How does a peace-seeking person like me feel about this?

I hate war. I hate it. I hate that women who lovingly grow tiny seeds into human beings have to watch as their sons and daughters are sent overseas because the overwhelming majority of men on this planet value power, money and ego over life, love and collaboration.

While I hate war, I do not hate the men who declare it. In fact, the opposite. I love men as much as I love anyone, and I want to see men live long, healthy and productive lives. But as the world turns, I see what men do and what men make and I’m tired of dealing with the consequences of greed, power and competition.

For thousands of years we’ve been deserted by fathers, raped by prom dates, suppressed by regimes, penetrated by uncles, underestimated by brothers, underpaid by bosses, beaten by husbands and ignored by society. For thousands of years we’ve had to stand by while men make decisions about our fate and the fate of our planet. If during these thousands of years, men have not found a way to create a peaceful planet through leadership, it makes me wonder if men truly desire peace. Or are men addicted to conflict and combat? Are they afraid that the end of war will mean the end of their manly value?

Every one of us is hard wired with drive, with the desire to be the best at something, with the need to control our environment. It’s always been this way. But just because this is the way it’s always been doesn’t mean it’s right. History is doomed to repeat itself because we human beings aren’t brave enough to choose collaboration over competition – on a personal level, on a professional level, on a local level, on a global level, on a 1st grade recess level, on a college application level, on an I-got-the-job-now-what level. We’re all at war with one another. All of us. Heck, most of us are at war with ourselves.

We are never happy the way we are, which makes it impossible to accept others the way they are. This seems so mundane, so small. But this is life. This is people. War is people, too. War is one man with a severe sociopathic condition and a powerful following. But the problem of war isn’t THEM. The problem isn’t WHY. The problem is US. You and me. US.

There is so much work to do. And the work doesn’t start in Congress. It starts with you and me. It starts in bed at night when your mind is focused on office politics and peer manipulation. It starts in the kitchen when I stare down a bag of Newman’s Ginger O’s that will only add to my increasingly unmanageable lower belly. It starts on the playground when one sad, confused, pained little boy is labeled a bully because he hasn’t mastered impulse control or feels unlovable and unworthy of kindness. This is where war begins.  With the tiny seed of you and me.

This brings me back to the front seat of my parked Ford truck, simmering in the driver’s seat, white knuckling the wheel, “It matters,” Kerry asserts, “if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens.”

Yes, it does matter, Secretary Kerry. It matters. But peace matters, too. We belong to the most creative human society to tromp the earth. We send rocket ships to Mars, we Skype with our sisters living in Hong Kong, we collect energy from the sun and turn it into electricity. We are innovators. Let’s use this innovation and creativity to inspire peace. There is a way. There is always a way. Peace matters.

No boots on the ground, yes I know. Just a drone strike. But is it ever that simple? Strikes have consequences and I don’t believe for a minute that three-four-shut-the-door will be the result of Obama’s proposed swift and concise action.

More lives, more anger, more more more. How about a little less less less? Doesn’t that sound nice? A little less breaking news? A little less testosterone? A little less shrouded children? A little less worry? A little less tossing and turning? As unlikely as it may seem, peace matters. Peace now.

NYC Marches for Trayvon Martin – 10 Powerful Photos

On the rainy night of February 26, 2012 an altercation took place between 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and 28-year-old George Zimmerman that left the former dead and the latter bleeding from several wounds. There were no witnesses and no apparent cause for the dispute, and Zimmerman was shortly thereafter released on the basis of “self defense.”

But the story, and the pain and anger and debates, did not end there. Almost overnight there arose a pubic outcry over the event, calling for justice on what was largely seen as a racially-motivated event. Had Trayvon not been black would Zimmerman have perceived him as a threat? Would Zimmerman have been initially let go? And now, after this weekend’s verdict, would he have been acquitted of all charges? It’s a troubling line of reasoning to go down, but one that many can’t help consider.

Reactions to the verdict have been heart-wrenching, as many feel not only the tragedy of the teenager’s lost life but also anger toward a system that seems to value some lives more than others. New York City held one of the largest rallies on Sunday, with thousands convened in Times Square to protest the jury’s decision.

Here are 10 powerful photos from NYC’s protest, reminding the country that Trayvon Martin lives on in the hearts of many:

What are your thoughts on the Zimmerman verdict? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Bombs Go Off in Boston on Marathon Monday

bh6fwfvcuaa-pwbAccording to reports on social media, several bombs exploded today near the course of the Boston Marathon. Full coverage has not yet emerged on the incident, as reporters are apparently “in lockdown at race headquarters.” According to the New York Times, though, a considerable number of runners and spectators were injured in the blasts, which went off roughly four hours after the men’s race began. The New York Daily News has reported that at least three people were killed in the explosion. By the looks of photographs that have surfaced from the morning’s events, the scene was chaotic, smoky, and even bloody.

The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world, held every year on Patriot’s Day. The event hosts over 20,000 runners each year, with more than half a million spectators gathered to cheer the athletes on. It is sobering that such at attack would occur at an event that celebrate human athleticism, as well as American independence. Though perhaps that it the message intended by whomever is responsible for the bombs.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in Boston today, and to everyone affected by the attacks. Our intent is to create a space where people may grieve, discuss, and continue working to build a society free of such hateful violence.

 

Update: The Associated Press are now reporting that two people were killed in today’s explosions.

Unarmed black teenager shot down by neighborhood watchman

On February 26th, a seventeen year old boy was gunned down by a self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer for being black and looking “suspicious.” He was apparently walking back to his home after stepping out to buy Skittles at a corner store during the NBA All-Star Game.

via Color of Change:

Three weeks ago, 17-year old Trayvon Martin was gunned down by self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. Despite Zimmerman admitting to following, confronting, and killing Trayvon, he has yet to be arrested or charged with any crime. Just minutes before Trayvon was killed, Zimmerman had called police stating that Trayvon looked “suspicious.” Please join us in calling on the Department of Justice to investigate this crime, prosecute Trayvon’s killer, and hold the local police accountable for mishandling this case.

After weeks of relentless pressure, the Sanford Police have finally to released recordings from the 9-11 call:

The case has sparked national outrage and protests, prompting the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI to investigate the case. Nearly half a million people have signed a change.org petition urging law enforcement officials to arrest and charge Zimmerman.

My heart hurts. Would Martin have been considered “suspicious” if the color of his skin was white? How can a man who hunted down and ruthlessly shot another human being without cause be let off the hook for acting in self-defense?  What’s your take?

Depression’s Upside? Let’s Rethink That

Here’s where I sound very, very bipolar. I wrote an article a few weeks ago on"10 Good Things About Depression" and now I’m supporting psychiatrist Ron Pies’s viewpoint that we should not perpetuate what he calls "The Myth of Depression’s Upside."

Here’s where I think articles like Lehrer’s (and you can include my 10 Good Things if you want) are most dangerous: they forget that, for some, depression means trying every single day to stay alive and to thwart all thoughts and energy going into ending their lives. In his Psychcentral post, "The Myth of Depression’s Upside," Pies writes:

Pies, who is Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatric Times and a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine, gives a much needed response to Jonah Lehrer’s essay "Depression’s Upside" in the Feb. 28, 2010New York Times Magazine about all the wonderful tasks depression can do for you … foster creativity, sharpen analytical skills, improve problem-solving skills, yada yada yada all the way to the psych ward.

Now, as I said in my "10 Good Things" post, I verify that many of my strengths arrived in my black night, or with the arsenals that blew up my living room: I care less about what people think of me because I now know that there is a tenacious strength within me that doesn’t have to yield to or depend on daily opinions, I’m no longer afraid to die (if fact, some days it’s desired!), and I can better identify what’s real from what’s false … especially in relationships, and acknowledge a blessing before it’s gone.

However, this is a basically an exercise in squeezing the hell out of a couple of lemons to extract some juice. Had I been offered just plain, straight-up lemonade … or even a lemon with a peppermint stick, I would have gladly taken it and saved myself the effort. And, as such, I think it would be ludicrous for a person suffering from major depression or another severe mood disorder to forgo treatment in order to better access the creative genius hiding inside the limbic system. Hell no, take the drugs and get your butt in therapy. Because then you will be able to hold the paintbrush without tremors.

Lehrer is a thoughtful writer, but in this article, his conflation of terms like "depression," "sadness," "melancholy," and "low mood" produces a kind of conceptual tossed salad. Some of the studies he cites, in which subjects are tested under transient, experimentally-induced states of low mood, have evidently befuddled Lehrer, who assumes that these brief, artificial states are somehow comparable to clinical depression.

Pies then challenges the assertion by Lehrer and others that since depression is so highly prevalent in our population, that "this must mean that the condition confers some kind of evolutionary advantage, or represents a useful ‘adaptation’." Meaning, we are supposed to be depressed … it refines us as a human species, and so therefore, let’s not give it the bird.

Continue Reading At Beyond Blue

Illustration Image by Ben Weeks.

PHOTO: Flickr / bhollar

 

 

We are Connected to the Pirates in Somalia

Believe it or not, we still have pirates in this day and age.

If you have a hard time believing me, read this news article from the Los Angeles Times. Somalia pirates attacked an American cargo ship heading to a port in Kenya. While the American crew were able to overtake the pirates, the pirates escaped on a lifeboat and took the American captain hostage.

That’s scary stuff.

The waters surrounding the country of Somalia is one of the most crime-infested waters in the world.

The last African pirate attack on an American vessel was over 200 years ago.

The ship was carrying humanitarian food aid to Africa on behalf of the World Food Program: 4,000 metric tons to Somalia, and 1,000 metric tons of vegetable oil for refugees in Kenya.

A colleague tipping me off to this article made me realize the deeper global implications of this incident. Pirates taking an American captain hostage in Somalia is a microcosmic representation of the bigger troubled picture of the region, the country and the world. Pirates in Somalia are a symptom of a disease of the global poverty that is particularly prevalent in Africa.

What doe this news article about pirates in Africa have anything to do with us? 

It means that though we may have complaints about America’s government–whether it is the poor quality of healthcare, the never-ending bipartisanship, or the current recession–we should always consider that there are countries that don’t even have functioning governments. Somalia has been lacking a properly functioning government since 1991, and is also plagued by civil war and poverty.

Our country may be in a recession, but we still have so much that we can do for the rest of the world. As a first crucial step that cannot be skipped, we can take the time to educate myself.

I am tempted as many of you to nit-pick at everything that is wrong with this country (and don’t get me wrong–there’s always room for improvement when it comes to the American government). But when I consider that we have many rights, privileges and luxuries that other people of other countries do not even have, then I am charged with a determination that I can use my privileges as an American citizen to do something right.

I can take advantage of the freedom of speech to access all the newstories that I want in print and on the internet. I can choose to read the latest international news, and I can choose to read trashy celebrity gossip. Not every country can do that.

I can take advantage of my freedom to vote for the highest elected official in the entire world by educating myself on city, state and nationwide initiatives that have implications for the country and the world at large. Not every country can do that.

I can take advantage of how much an American dollar can still buy in this world by sponsoring a child in Africa or donating my money in other ways, such as buying a First Aid kit to an impoverished village or giving a micro-loan to a Third World citizen to start their own business. Not every country is rich enough to do that.

The pirates in Somalia actually have everything to do with us. We are all interconnected, and we are all powerful enough to do something. We can be the butterflies that set off the storm of positive global change. 

 

Continental Flight 3407

Late yesterday evening 50 lives were lost when a Continental airplane crashed into a home in Buffalo, New York. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of flight 3407. Each individual leaves behind a unique life and loved ones who will miss them everyday. Beverly Eckert lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks. She has been an advocate for the families of 9/11 victims since then. Just last week, Obama commemorated her hard work. Eckert was killed in the crash on her way to visit the memorial of her husband. Her positive contributions will be missed, as will the contributions of each of the other 49 lives that were lost.

This event should make us all remember to show our love and appreciation for those we care about each day. Remember how you treat your loved ones this Valentine’s Day and continue to show them that same love and respect all year around.

Dear Frank Rich

Frank,

The moral to be drawn here is not that "human nature is unchanging," but that the nature of Government, since the beginning of civilization, is unchanging: They do not exist to serve and protect "the people" They exist to take advantage and plunder the people. This is not passion talking. This is science talking. Read any anthropological book on the study of civilizations, societies, and governments, and find me one example of a Government that existed for the benefit of the people? There are none. And there never will be. You liberals who believe in Government are like hopeless romantics who keep thinking the next guy "is the one" "is different" No he’s not. And he never will be. Get over it.
"Why do we keep ignoring what we learn from the black boxes being retrieved from crash after crash in our economic meltdown?"

Because Frank (this is like breaking the news to a jilted lover) They do not care, and they never will. They do not exist to care, and it is not their intention of ever caring. Sorry.

Every government from the beginning of time until now and forever will, has had two bureaus: A bureau of Internal Plunder, and a Bureau of External Plunder. (This is taken from the Anthropological work, "Cannibals and Kings") The purpose of government is not to care, its not to protect the people, and its certainly not to learn lessons. The purpose of government is simply and solely this: plunder. It does not give any service back to society in terms of regulation or protection of the people. It’s sole purpose is to line pockets of the priveleged few. Once you come to terms with this, you’ll stop being let down, find peace, and understand why some of us are libertarians. It’s not that we don’t want Government to work for us, we really do. Just like we would like sharks not to attack swimmers, lions not to eat Gazelles, Tornadoes not to attack Oklahomans, or Hurricans Carribean islands and American Coastal Cities. But those things are never going to happen.

 

(In response to his column today "Who Wants to Kick a Millionaire")

How to See Through Political Lies Perpetrated to Persuade You

Frontline recently had a show exploring the life of Lee Attwater, who was the mentor to Karl Rove in how to win at all costs in the arena of politics.  It was a fascinating show revealing how dirty politics get in the pursuit of power.

Politicians and political operatives know that perception is reality.  He who molds public perception controls what the public thinks is reality even when it obviously is not.

Through this historical look back many political operatives admitted the outright lies and manipulations they knew of, instigated, or were a part of  that were promoted to the public, you and me, to blindly influence our perceptions in service to their personal and political goals.

Before I go further, it’s important to acknowledge that this is not a demonization of Lee Attwater, the Bushes or the Republican party.  Your brain probably went to a “Republicans bad, Democrats good” or vice versa conversation.

Drop the illusion of an “us versus them” mentality.  That’s another result of blind influence from PR campaigns and the hard wiring of your brain looking to compare and be on the side of the “best team” when there isn’t a “best team.”  We’re all living creatures on the same planet who have to live with the results of our actions.

Humans of all shapes, sizes, colors and political affiliations act out versions of what is exemplified by the life of Lee Attwater.

He’s just an extreme example of a political operative like Madonna is an extreme example of a musical entertainer.  They both possess a lot more drive, charisma and chutzpah than your average human so they stand out with their over the top success in their endeavors.

This legacy lives on in tactics created by Lee Attwater that have been improved upon and are used today:

– Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat talking points, whether they are truths or lies, ad nauseum to promote your agenda and mold public opinion (Iraq has WMDs, mentioning 911 and Saddam Heussein together to link them, mentioning that Heussein is Barack Obama’s middle name, talking about Barack Obama being connected to Roy Ayers, mentioning that Sarah Palin has a pregnant daughter, etc.

– Use symbols like American flag lapel pins or call out Obama for not having his hand over his heart while the national anthem plays. For example, Attwater had George Bush Sr. pull up his pant leg at a press conference to reveal that he was wearing cowboy boots wih the Texas flag on them to send a message that he wasn’t a WASP from Connecticut, but a salt-of-the-Earth Texan.

– Use Orwellian “newspeak” to frame or spin the story where you name something like the failed attempt to call rural dwellers “real Americans” though 80% of America’s population lives in urban areas, calling an increase in the number of troops a “surge,” renaming global warming “climate change,” naming the bill that allows corporations to pollute more the “Clean Air Act” and so on.

Frank Luntz took this to another level.  Read his book Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear for a deeper lesson in this.

Stay on message by answering questions with the message you want to convey, even if it doesn’t answer the question.

“Spin” the story – Make sure the press hears and promotes your version of the story, even when, and especially when, it’s a lie.

There’s more, but you get the picture.  The point is to recognize these tactics so that you don’t get duped easily by them.  Newer tactics keep evolving to manipulate public perception all the time.

The way to be more immune to these tactics is to remember that what’s really going on is at least 3 to 5 steps behind the veil of the perception promoted to the public.

Back to Lee Attwater, what’s amazing is that after having no conscience about destroying people’s lives in the pursuit of building his own power he developed a brain tumor at the age of 40.  His illness caused him to rethink his positions and he apologized to everyone he had harmed before his death soon after.

He also admitted that he felt his deeds in politics had been bad for the country and had hurt America.  Lee Atttwater grew a conscience and made peace with himself, though his legacy of harmful actions are copied by today’s power hungry working on blindly influencing others for personal gain.

You have the power to see through their tactics since you now know more about how they work.

Everything is Great (or Awful)

Recently Alan Greenspan told congress `That is precisely the reason I was shocked because I’d been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”

This is a great example of how we are blindly influenced by the way our brains make meaning in the world.   What we consider to be evidence is just our mental filter looking for agreements to prevailing ways of thinking.

In the best selling book Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, a similar example of this is given.  Every day that goes by with a turkey being fed and taken care of is another piece of evidence that life is good and will only get better. 

But in reality, every day that goes by is bringing that turkey closer to it’s death. Every day is great up until the day before Thanksgiving when all that evidence seems to have been false evidence appearing real.

The same can be said in reverse.  How many times has your life not seemed like it was going in a very good direction, but over time it got much better?  Haven’t we all worked dead end jobs, been in bad relationships or had money trouble?  For most of us these circumstances shifted for the better as time passed.

A friend of mine is a fan of the British childrens book series about Tin Tin.  I’m told that he has a saying about how things are a certain way …until they’re not.  That’s the truth in a nutshell. 

Our relationships, health, emotions, world views, beliefs and finances can turn on a dime for better or worse.  And that’s a reality that we deny in a massive consumer culture where we are told that anything can be had for the right price.

The Alan Greenspan example is interesting because in hindsight regular people like us can tell that allowing people to have mortgages they can’t afford, allowing banks to charge 30% interest that can’t be repaid, allowing investors to gamble by buying short sale stocks betting on which companies will fail, and many other practices that led to the current financial crisis are pretty insane. 

Somehow though, Greenspan and the other expert economists couldn’t see this train coming down the track because everything looked like it was going great…until suddenly it wasn’t.

A great lesson we can learn from this is that everything we believe to be true and lasting may change overnight.  Another friend of mine was in the first September 11 crisis. Yep, the coup d’etat in Chile in 1973. The one that put the dictator Pinochet in power, who is now being mentioned again because John McCain met with him.

My friend was working for the government that was overthrown and within 2 weeks most of his friends were dead and he barely made it out of the country alive because neighbors were all turning each other in out of fear that the military would come after them.  Chilean’s never thought that could ever happen to them just like we never thought tax payer money would ever bailout hugely successful investment banks.

That friend’s name is Julio Ollala and today he is known as one of the grandfathers of the coaching profession, the founder of Newfield Network and is known internationally as a master at helping people transform their lives.  Great things can come out of the ashes of perceived crises.

It’s good to remember that we blindly influence ourselves when we believe that we know how the world is or how the future will play out.  We don’t, and it’s dangerously arrogant and naive when we play that game, as we’re all prone to do at one time or another.  This is one way we practice marketing on ourselves.

In acknowledging that we really don’t know a lot, and what we think we know is liable to change without notice, we move towards the peace that comes from acceptance and gratitude for how today is …until it isn’t.

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