In tribute to Colin Kaepernick
I have never before purchased an athletic jersey with a name on it, neither the name of a team nor the name of a player. But now I have. I just recently bought a jersey with ‘Kaepernick’ written across the back shoulders, a red San Francisco 49er’s team jersey with letters and the number ‘7’ stitched in white.
I bought this jersey and will wear it because I believe the action of Colin Kaepernick deserves respect and applause.
Maybe unexpected at the time, Colin’s choice to kneel during the playing of the national anthem before the start of a football game has evoked enormous attention, most notably it being the reason Colin is not playing football anymore. His choice to kneel to signal his concern for the inequitable manner in which people of color are processed in the policing institution and judicial system has revealed another act of discrimination, one apparent in the hiring process of the NFL. Several top players have commented publicly that Colin is more talented than many others who are playing today.
I imagine it took great courage for Colin to kneel during the anthem before an audience of such magnitude. He knew the act would be observed and he was ready respectfully to explain why he had made that choice. And the act accomplished its purpose, to raise awareness of the plight of people of color in the nation’s law enforcement proceedings.
Other professional as well as some amateur athletes have followed Colin’s lead in expressing their protest of the inequitable treatment received by people of color from law enforcement officials. The actions of these athletes are intended to be serious and genuine signs not only of their protest of how people of color are mistreated but also of their call for a revision in the policies that allow this abusive treatment to continue.
Maybe Colin is not playing football anymore, but his courage to protest an obvious injustice continues to play out before a national audience. Most recently the act of keeling during the playing of the national anthem has been mistakenly criticized by Donald Trump as a sign of disrespect for the flag and military service members, an explanation that reveals both his ignorance and his racism. And sadly many fans and other citizens fail to critique the behavior of Donald Trump and blindly rally in support of his misjudgment.
Now that the president has equated ‘standing during the anthem’ with ‘support for racism’ I will not stand for it either. And I am choosing an additional way to honor the courage and concern of Colin Kaepernick inherent in his gesture of kneeling, by wearing an athletic jersey with his name prominently written across the back of it.
I believe it would be a significant and helpful gesture for others to wear a jersey like this as well.
The unreasonable choice for nonviolence
In an age when it seems suspicion and accusation increasingly regulate human conduct it may appear unreasonable to persist in pursuing a defense of nonviolent resistance to aggression. When the hostility of militant groups and the encroachment of occupying forces are intent on using atrociously wicked methods to gain and maintain power over others a case for nonviolent responses may appear audaciously perverse. So given this profoundly disturbing context what will justify a passive resistance to the causes of evil and suffering that characterize the plight of so many millions of humans across the globe?
One could well argue that nonviolent response to disrupting conflict is the ultimate means of respecting life that exists in the earth. By choosing to honor the presence of another person regardless of their behaviors, the individual performs an absolute surrender of provisions that could cause injury and harm to another. Rather than causing suffering for someone else the choice for nonviolent response limits suffering to the self.
And one could also argue that nonviolent response is a genuine attempt to solicit mercy and compassion, a way of appealing to the inner nature of the aggressor. Since within every human being there resides a conscious presence that continually testifies to what is right and wrong, what is good and evil, trying to connect with this mutually consistent testimony recasts the conflict and identifies the activity as a personal transaction between two vulnerable finite people.
These arguments and others may be constructive, yet there is another more fundamental consideration that must be addressed in order to examine accurately the benefit and worth of nonviolent responses to aggression. Discovering the foundational prescription in the activity of the creative spirit is the crucial determinant when deciding either for or against nonviolent resistance.
Is the intention of the creative spirit to establish harmony in the earth or is it to inaugurate strife in the earth?
How an individual understands the intention of the creative spirit controls how they respond to violent acts perpetrated by others. Because a continuous presence is not the intention of human life in the earth, choosing to honor the intention of the creative spirit therefore is the essential task of each individual. The consequence of this decision extends beyond the temporal residence of humans in the earth.
Donald Trump hates colored people
The recent outrage pronounced by Donald Trump against NFL players who elect to kneel during the playing of the national anthem reveals both his ignorance and his racist mentality. These professionals choose to use this action as a symbolic testament of their concern for racial inequities apparent in the nation’s policing institution and judicial system.
Persons who are informed of current policing and judicial practices recognize the discrepancy in the disproportionate manner in which people of color are detained and processed. Donald Trump aims to punish persons who ‘take a knee’ because they are colored people trying to support other victimized colored people.
Yet this behavior of Donald Trump is not the only indication of his racist agenda. This orientation can also be observed on a much larger scale which offers to provide a way for him to punish millions of other colored people. His provocation of leaders in North Korea and Iran regarding their nuclear aspirations amounts to an attempt to find a reason to launch a military assault on these nation states composed of people of color.
That the USA has in its possession a working and superior nuclear arsenal enables the antagonizing behaviors of Donald Trump. That the USA does not proceed to eliminate its nuclear component is a legitimate reason that other countries feel the imperative to develop their own.
If Donald Trump can succeed in creating a reason to order a military strike against North Korea and Iran he will succeed in punishing millions of colored people while being relatively safe from any comparable retaliation. Donald Trump hates people of color and is determined to use any force available to him to maintain the advantage for white people, male white people.
Donald Trump is a white supremacist who cannot tolerate a world where all people share in the same opportunities and cooperate in building a global community. His domestic policies that restrict the access of colored people is witness to a more extensive agenda: Donald Trump wants to destroy as many colored people as he can. A nuclear war with North Korea and Iran will reach far beyond their borders to kill their neighbors who are also colored people. To Donald Trump it seems to be a perfect, workable, even imperative plan.
And at this moment in time Donald Trump is able to take this action. There is nothing in place that can prevent him from ordering such a strike and choosing any option from within the extensive capacity of his military resources. It is time to find a way to remove him.
Wouldn’t you love to see a majority of congressional persons, when Donald Trump makes another disparaging remark, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch out of the White House right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’ I hope they will take this action, but I know what I will do. Now that the president has equated ‘standing for the national anthem’ with ‘support for racism’ I will not stand for that.
Donald Trump is arrogant and egotistical, character traits that cause him to be reckless and self-absorbed. He cannot preserve the long term. Removing him is an urgent, necessary, even essential task.
Applause to the whistle blowers and leakers
There is a shortage of public servants in Washington DC. Do you remember hearing the term ‘public servant’–an identification once used proudly as a mechanism for describing the aspiration of someone seeking an elected office in Washington DC, as a congressperson, a senator, or as president? So what ever happened to that distinguishing inclusive designation?
The term ‘public servant’ characterizes the calling of someone who is committed to serve the interests of the public, the entire population of the country, every citizen regardless of their preferences and place. However the term is seldom used any more, and if it is used it is usually used in an insincere attempt for a politician to appeal to voters so that a prejudiced agenda can be promoted if the election is successful.
No figure present in Washington today epitomizes the lack of public servants more than Donald Trump. Donald is an arrogant, egotistical, pompous source of flatulence, continually emitting grossly obnoxiously odious gusts from between his flabby cheeks to those in minority communities in the USA—the blacks and browns and reds and yellows and Muslims and immigrants and refugees and lesbians and gays and transgenders and bisexuals and queers and socialists and handicapped and poor and ill.
Donald is very fond of labels, so here is an appropriate one for him: flatulence-face Donald. Those who are not offended by the countenance of him are those who admire his racist bigoted discriminating pursuits to recompose the United States, to dictate actions to make the country more white and more English. His stench is all too familiar to these. To them the fragrance seems to be normal, even pleasant.
So applause to all you leakers and whistle blowers. You are annoyed by what you learn about the secret maneuvers of our government officials. You courageous people will not be silent and let your neighbors who are at risk of being marginalized by government employees like fart-face Donald be victims of subtle manipulations. You will not submit to their evil sectarian behaviors. You defend what is right and just, often at the expense of personal injury and pain. You dare to expose immoral activities, activities that distinguish between persons who will be served and those who will be pushed aside and left behind. You dare to raise our awareness about actions that will benefit only persons who possess certain attributes officials like fart-face Donald determine to be desirable. You are our true public servants.
Whistle blowers and leakers, you are our best defense against actions that work to disintegrate the American community. Whistle blowers and leakers, we thank you. …And we really need you now.
Take your place on the Great Mandala
Take your place on The Great Mandala
As it moves through your brief moment of time. –Peter Yarrow
The wheel of life continues to turn. One generation follows another generation, coming into the path of the wheel and recording their presence on it. Since continuous life in the earth is not the reason for our being here, to think of the process of taking a place on the Great Mandala may be the most beneficial (and accurate) way to envision a human life-span.
So what does it mean to take a place on the great mandala? Many of the circumstances that fashion the life of an individual cannot be controlled; they cannot be altered. Therefore every person must find a way to incorporate these unavoidable influences into their pattern of living. However, other factors affecting our personal life depend upon what we choose to say and how we choose to act. The choices we make determine the life we will live.
The choices we make determine the life we will live. This then is the manner in which we take a place on the great mandala. We take a place on the wheel of life according to the reasons why we choose as we do. Our motivations and aspirations determine what we choose; therefore these factors work to position us at a particular place on life’s moving wheel.
To simplify what might at first seem to be a confusing mystical progression, perhaps it will be helpful for us to recognize that in reality only two places exist on the great mandala. These two places are defined neither by some area of the interior of the wheel nor by somewhere along its edge. Rather they are defined by the sides of the wheel. By using this imagery we better realize the nature of which place, or more fundamentally, which side of the wheel we will choose as ‘my place’ on the mandala.
Two basic orientations are possible for each human individual in their brief time in the earth. While alive every person will be required to consider how they will live in relation to the other things they are aware of in the creation. In the course of this process and regardless of the circumstances they must observe, each individual will eventually make a choice either to honor the presence of the others or to seek to gain and to maintain an advantage.
To live while honoring the others is to believe that everyone has an equally important purpose for existing. Every person in the creation is present for a reason, whether or not that reason is evident. Just because we do not understand why others exist is not a reason to dishonor them, to consider they are expendable. To honor the others means treating the others as you want them to treat you.
To live while seeking an advantage is to believe that one individual or group is more important than the others. This belief will result in the individual treating the others in ways that serve them self. How this action affects the others is not important. The others may be harmed and suffer because of it but that does not matter. All that matters is that the individual maintains a privileged standing in relation to the others.
These two lifestyles are the two sides of the wheel. And as your choices determine the life you will live, they also determine which place you will take on the great mandala, which side you will be on.
Therefore, carefully, deliberately take your place on the Great Mandala as it moves through your brief moment of time. This choice might be the most important one you ever make.
Why the Nakba
Recently for the 69th consecutive year the Palestine community has recalled the destruction of homes, villages, and the forced removal of persons and their ancestors from residences that had for long time been their homelands. In 1948, the British mandate over the territory known as Palestine expired and the increasing Jewish population there declared the formation of the state of Israel, and Nakba–catastrophe–began. During this process more than 700,000 people were displaced, many of them loaded into trucks with only the resources they could carry, and then they were driven outside the boundary of Israel and dumped out, thrown away. Over 500 of their communities were destroyed by order of Jewish officials before some movement toward reasonable orientation was caused to set in.
Immediately after the proclamation of the existence of a Jewish state, the Jewish community began a systemic procession to clear from their designated land all persons who were not favored, persons who were not Jewish. Those carrying out this purging agenda intended to establish a land that was occupied only by persons like themselves. Israel was to be a theocratic state inhabited solely by persons of a specific religious philosophy, that of historical Judaism.
At first consideration this initial act of statehood seems to be harsh and barbaric. Yet it is not an isolated incident. As far back in time as can be researched, groups of people have methodically intended to cast out other people who were deemed to be undesirable, persons who were seen as an obstacle to some predetermined objective. And in the case of the purely Jewish conquest of Palestine that initiated Nakba, there is a fundamental principle that enables it too.
Within Jewish sacred documents that were first established in written form about the 8th century BC–at a time of an extreme disruption of and serious threat to their existence–there was composed a foundational privileged presence of a particular formative clan of persons. The initial scribes in concert constructed their writings so as to portray this specific ban of people as entitled to exceptional status by the creator of heaven and earth. These persons are presented by both divine designation and natural phenomenon as being singled out, proven to be a divinely chosen group of people. And as chosen people they are entitled to singular privileges not granted to everyone else. The consequence of this descriptive superiority is to fashion the argument that to resist the inherited right of the Jews is to resist the Almighty Creative Spirit.
It is indeed ingenious what happened in the historical incident of putting into documented form oral traditions and accumulated narratives of the presence of the Hebrew clan in the earth. These writings were deliberately shrewdly and cunningly crafted to give an apparent and devised superior basis for the entitlements they sought and continue to seek. By describing historical events as divinely inspired and orchestrated, the Hebrew people created a predetermined status for themselves that they and their descendants have appealed to for vindication of their self centered and egotistical pursuits ever since: ‘Since what we desire has been ordained by divine pronouncement, who are you a mere creature to dispute it.’
That this progression has taken place cannot be distinguished as the reason self centered Jewish claims and behaviors have been perpetuated. The claim of divine favoritism cannot be ruled as the ultimate reason for promoting such atrocities as the conquest of Canaan or the incitement of Nakba or the ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank as well as those still inside Israel. That the global community has not condemned such an aloof egotistical claim but rather enables its consequential behaviors is the reason such selfish pursuits continue. This along with the reality that many religious minded persons affirm and generate substantial support for the selfish pursuits of Jewish officials because of a preconditioned divine duty, an elementary flaw and bewildering betrayal of their proclaimed quest to follow the example of their Christ who declared arrogant Jewish behavior as hypocritical and offensive to divine nature.
It is not only the selfish pursuits of Jewish officials that must come under the scrutiny and judgement of the world nations. Nakba is an annual remembrance that reminds us of other similar incidents of forced displacement and active elimination of undesired persons. In the semi-enlightened present time of human presence in the earth we have means to recognize the mutual dignity and equal worth of every individual. Any national activity or sectarian objective that assaults any other human being is a blatant violation of the universal innate right of human survival. And no amount of religious argument or pioused claim can justify it. We do not need a divine directive to know that such action is wrong. It always has been and it always will be.
Our combined presence in the earth demands relationship, and relationship demands mutual respect–no preferred status, no exceptional entitlement. Any other perspective is selfishly induced.
On the killing of good people
During this passion week persons across the earth have been caused to remember the brutal reality that good people are intentionally killed. They are killed for no other reason than daring to live with integrity. We recognize again that through the ages of history the lives of people who have devoted themselves to living the truth that arises within them become a threat to their societies. These courageous persons do no harm to others, rather they live and speak in a way that judges the selfish and discriminatory behaviors of others. And this exposure becomes the reason they are executed.
On the surface this kind of retaliation toward someone who persists in living a vision of doing what is good and right makes no sense. A casual consideration of such a consequence for authenticity seems to be an unreasonable response. Yet beneath the surface there will be found the cause.
Have you ever thought about what lies behind the resentment and condemnation that arises within certain people when they see or hear about someone living a good and righteous life? Why would the innocent witness of someone who persistently chooses to honor what they believe is the purpose of human life in the earth be considered a threat? What would cause the mere presence of such an individual to be so offensive that others want to kill them?
Societies develop patterns of interaction designed to provide security and survival. These patterns are prescribed by the powerful and dominant individuals within the community. As such these patterns do not serve all persons in the community with equal benefit. Whether because of physical strength or mental capacity or wealth advantage or educational leverage or some other surpassing influence certain groups of people are favored by prevailing patterns, patterns that eventually become laws for regulating individual behaviors. Although these laws are beneficial for designated classes of people they do not always promote what is good and right. When someone dares to live in a way that honors good and right, the inequity latent within the laws of the society becomes revealed. This dynamic disturbs those who want to maintain control. Anyone who reveals the inequity in the prevailing patterns prescribed for human behavior is a threat to the privileged welfare of the elite. And threats must be eliminated.
One would believe that over time class division among the human population in the earth would become obsolete. One would believe with increased experience and further maturity humans would recognize the fundamental equality of all persons. One would believe that eventually we would realize how actions that discriminate and suppress groups of persons always cause disruption and distress for everyone. And yet, in spite of learning and growing the pattern of maneuvering for dominance and control by certain person continues to be incessant.
The enduring need within certain individuals to maintain control results from fear and suspicion. These persons are afraid of what would happen if everyone were given equal status, equal access to the resources of the earth. And they are afraid that they too would have to contribute an equal measure of labor and commitment to the well being of the community. So the favored classes forever maneuver to maintain control over others in order to be served by them.
The fact that good people are intentionally killed is a gravely disparaging commentary on the presence of human life in the earth. Without some foundational and encompassing reformation of the human will, this scenario is destined to characterize human interactions. It seems no amount of individual witness to good and righteous living has the capacity to initiate this degree of change. So those of us who desire such a transformation keep looking for a saving grace.
The killing of a good person does not warrant a ‘Good Friday’ designation. Rather it is a sad and horrific tragedy.
On choosing to be an anarchist
It is becoming more obvious to all of us that the global community has entered into an era when governments have become more likely to use their powers to cast suspicion on those members within its society who they consider undesirable. Whether because of breed or birth or race or religion, certain groups are increasingly uniformly targeted as being the cause of challenges that demand responsible governance.
Blaming an entire category of persons for conditions that cause difficulty and hardship for the favored others has become a popular method of cultivating passionate followers. Persons who are not able to recognize their individual essential role in composing community are easily attracted to incompetent leaders who project blame toward some discounted minority group as being the cause of an uncomfortable and dangerous situation.
Many of us observe this tendency toward governmental transition from general oversight to specific condemnation and wonder what can be done to cure its excessive application. Well intentioned, courageous, hardworking persons are discriminately caught up in the web of authoritarian accusation and caused to suffer because of it. Loss of respect, loss of job, loss of resources, loss of family, loss of safety, all these result from such sanctioned biased discrimination. We watch this pattern unfolding in our communities and although we disagree with its application, we struggle to find a way to intervene. We see what is happening and believe it to be wrongfully unjust. Yet the actions of persons carrying out these prejudiced directives result from civil servants following lawful orders established by both entrenched rulers and elected officials.
Whenever we find ourselves agonizing over this insensitive occupation, we do well to remember the words of Marilyn Manson. Whenever we know in our spirits and our hearts that some legal action applied toward another human being is unjust, we can find a way to respond because we realize that “the law is only what is popular. Not what’s right or wrong.”
There is a reason for the evolution of the concept of “anarchy.” In its purest form anarchy means acting on the percepts that arise within the human conscience, putting more value on the dictates of human conscience than on the demand to follow orders. Intentionally placing the counsel of conscience as the highest authority means disregarding orders that contradict with what a person knows to be good and right. The argument of Leo Tolstoy if honored—that the individual knows innately what to do—would give rise to a way of life that supersedes a prejudiced pattern of living dictated by a governing authority.
But there is only one question for a man, and on it is impossible to evade: “Will you, a rational and good being, having for a moment appeared in this world, and at any moment liable to disappear — will you take part in the murder of erring men or men of a different race, will you participate in the extermination of whole nations of so-called savages, will you participate in the artificial deterioration of generations of men by means of opium and spirits for the sake of profit, will you participate in all these actions, or even be in agreement with those who permit them, or will you not?”
They are mistaken only in thinking that anarchy can be instituted by a violent revolution. There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one: the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself. On Anarchy, 1900
Tolstoy conceived of the possibility of a personal discipline that could reform the inner nature of the individual so that the counsel of the human conscience would take priority over the rule of government. Can you imagine participating in such an adventure, or as Tolstoy would describe, such a revolution? Can you imagine that the actions of an individual could be dictated by human conscience when the law required a contradictory behavior?
Can you imagine someone ordered to deport an immigrant to instead follow the counsel of conscience and treat the condemned person the way they them self would want to be treated? Can you imagine someone ordered to demolish a home to instead follow the counsel of conscience and treat the condemned person the way they them self would want to be treated? Can you imagine taking any action that would contradict a law because you knew in your spirit and your heart that obeying the law would be the wrong thing to do?
Every person who inhabits the earth eventually comes to a place when they are required to make a choice: will I uncritically accept the executive orders of a superior official, or will I take seriously my presence in the earth as a reason to witness for right and good? Will I methodically obey orders, agree with those who follow them, or will I follow the counsel of my spirit and my heart in the way I choose to live?
No one can make a choice for the entirety of the earth, or even for their country, or even for their community. Yet every individual can make a choice for them self.
There has never been a better time to choose to be an anarchist.
The person I meant to be
An image of the person I meant to be continues to haunt me. This image has remained in tact through every adverse condition that challenges me. Whenever I have an opportunity to be still, to be silent and let my mind follow a course natural to its composing, I eventually recognize what can only be described as the representation of an unadulterated individual existing in the earth. It is a picture of what I would have been if I had been left to mature in an environment untouched by incompatible forces, foreign pressures and influences that contradict the natural progression and expression of human existence.
Having had a chance to evolve in a setting in which I would have been able to let my life be directed by impulses originating within my awareness of being a living creature, I could have been who I meant to be. I could have discovered the purity of the life I meant to live, the truth about my presence in the earth. Without the impact of external complications I would have been rescued from the plight of being contaminated by sensations contrary to those resonating inside me. If I had been free from having to experience the consequences of situations created by attitudes and actions that are inconsistent with purity and truth, I would have been the person I meant to be.
Perhaps you too have wondered about the reason why you are not the person you meant to be. Whenever you pause in your busy routine, do you also come upon an image of the person you meant to be? If you had been able to grow unaffected by forces outside yourself, how much different would your life be from the way it is now?
Many factors work to cause us to become some person we have not intended to be. These forces move us, change us, confuse us so that we miss the chance to become who we meant to be.
I meant to be a person who would take away the pain of others, a person who would peacefully resolve conflict, a person who would prevent suffering, a person who would give food to the hungry, a person who would shelter those who were cold. I meant to be a person who would enable community, a person who would keep others from being afraid, a person who would cure the sick, a person who would save others from distresses. But I was assaulted by pain, and conflict, and suffering, and hunger, and cold, and rejection, and fear, and sickness, and distress. And so rather than eliminating these they became a part of me, thus I brought them with me wherever I went, to others I was with. Many of them had experienced a far greater measure of distress than I had known, but I could not help them.
If only I could have avoided these external conditions that were incompatible with my intention, lived beyond the reach of them, then I could have been who I meant to be. It is the complication we are born into that fashions who we will become. Regardless of how urgent we may feel about the task of making the difference, reforming the disrupting consequences that humans endure, because of our own compromised condition we find the doing of it impossible. In all of human history no one has ever done it.
The most I can hope for is to never forget, to always be aware of the fact that I wanted to be the person I meant to be, to cherish the image that continues to haunt me.
Being human or just another animal
I sit by the window watching animals sift through the grass where pieces of bird food fall from the overhead feeder. And on the perches of the feeder there is the same scenario at work. Squirrels and various species of birds strive to find morsels that will satisfy their hunger. Yet the dynamic I am most interested in is playing out most evidently along the perches of the feeder.
There is an ample assortment of food in the feeder and an extended measure of positions from which birds can both gather seeds and shuffle others toward the ground below. Yet these facts do not have the capacity to overcome a natural urge to preserve this space for a single guest. One dominating bird eventually arrives and the combative action begins. This one bird seems more intent on protecting the food supply than actually eating any of the seeds. Rather than casually perching and enjoying the exceeding supply of food, the bullying bird positions itself to scan for other birds who may take a run at the feeder. When this happens immediately the resident bird strikes out at them forcing their retreat.
Squirrel interactions on the ground below follow this same pattern. Usually one of the squirrels declares the feeding area off limits to others and defends the territory by chasing others away. Thereafter those rejected diligently search for stray seeds outside the scope of the range protected by the defender.
These two representations of how birds and squirrels compete for food suggest that within animal nature there is an innate and primal urge to insure food supplies are preserved for the benefit of the most powerful agent. This urge becomes most evident whenever there is a sense that the food supply may neither be sufficient nor enduring enough to satisfy the desire of the dominant creature. As far as we know birds and squirrels do not possess the ability to reason among themselves so they can devise a plan that will benefit the entire group. When a food source is identified the pattern of securing a place of advantage and protecting the food supply is the natural activity. Animals do not have a choice about how they act. Each one will always be most concerned with their own survival. Sure, there are cases when animals freely share the food supply yet these are rare and only occur whenever parents feed offspring or whenever another is incapable of finding food because of injury or whenever the craving of the most powerful is completely satisfied.
This testament from animal nature serves to demonstrate how human creatures will be prompted to act when placed in a similar position that birds and squirrels inhibit on and beneath the feeder. The initial instinct of the human creature is to act with the same protecting and preserving intention as birds and squirrels do when gathering food in the company of others. This activity works to satisfy the primal urge to survive. The welfare of the others does not compare to the innate striving of the natural creature to remain alive.
We can see this familiar dynamic at work in numerous scenarios involving human interactions across the earth. When we observe the actions of other people we easily see that some are acting on the primal animal instinct to care for them self more than they care for others. However the human creature is subtle and crafty, and actions to assure self preservation may escape a casual observation. Some persons will talk about how they want to serve others, how policies must be implemented that will benefit others, but their actions are driven by competition and fear. Still, by careful monitoring and with the passage of time their self serving character is revealed.
To these self grandiose individuals, resources appear to be limited and only acquired by the burden of human labor. And this perspective causes their interactions to be characterized by behaviors driven by competition and fear. The primal innate urge to survive dictates how these self indulging persons compose relationship. The presence of others who also need to obtain resources in order to survive becomes a threat to prevent their individual satisfaction and fulfillment. When humans act solely on basic instinct, strife erupts. Hostile actions result. Defending the food supply becomes the most important objective.
Human creatures differ from birds and squirrels. Human creatures have the capacity to reason. As such human creatures do not have to compete for resources. Human creatures do not have to run the others away in order to be satisfied. Human creatures can choose to plan and to share so that the needs of everyone can be met. But this action requires empathy and self discipline. This action requires that concern for the other be elevated to the same level as concern for the self. And this degree of caring requires courage—believing there will be enough for everyone, …and sacrifice—giving and receiving as need instructs.
Sacrifice is not a word we hear much about today. Sacrifice means opting to satisfy needs rather than to accumulate excess. Sacrifice means caring for others, being concerned for their survival, too. Sacrifice means seeing others near the food supply and not being threatened by them, not letting yourself feel that they will take away from you what you need. Sacrifice involves separating what you desire from what you need. Sacrifice involves letting go of desires so that everyone can have what they need.
Whenever needs take priority over desires then there will be no competition. Whenever needs take priority over desires there will be no fear. Whenever needs take priority over desires there will only be sharing. And sharing is what human creatures are capable of doing. Human creatures do not have to act like birds and squirrels.
It seems that no matter how long some of us live, no matter how much some of us see, some of us never come to the place where enough courage and sacrifice can be generated to make it so that needs take priority over desires. Some of us never get to the place where concern for the others can be elevated to the same level as concern for the self. But no matter what might happen, no matter what the experience of someone might be, everyone has the chance to choose to do it.
Individuals do not have to let their life be fashioned by the actions of others. Even though some human creatures relate to others with actions characterized by behaviors driven by competition and fear—persons who see the presence of others as a threat, others who will prevent them from obtaining what they desire—this does not have to be our way. We can choose to sacrifice what we desire in order that our needs and the needs of others can be fulfilled.
Choose to be a human being, not just another animal.
An executive glimpse
At 6:05 pm EST, on Saturday, January 28, the president went missing. He had gone into the bathroom about 5 o’clock for a shower and to prepare for the evening. When he did not respond to an inquiry about his welfare, his guard waiting outside went into the bathroom to check on him. The president was missing. There was no indication of what had happened to him. No one had been in the room, neither from the inside of the White House nor from the outside. The security personnel checked every possible location searching to find him. They found nothing. The president has vanished without a trace left behind to suggest what had taken place. Nothing was found that would explain how he had been able to disappear from such a secure place. Everyone was bewildered.
A lengthy period of time passed before the president was reported to be missing. White House personnel were all questioned about when they last saw him, what he was wearing, how he appeared to be doing. They wondered if this was a trick, if the president himself had arranged this absence. Everyone was hoping that he would reappear laughing about the practical joke. When he did not come, then there was a kind of panic. What would they do next? How would they explain this event to his family, to the press, to the public? Nothing like this had ever happened before.
Unknown to the senses of human nature, a presence of mystery had intervened to give the president a glimpse of the circumstances of people in the earth who are distressed because of forces beyond their control. Complications caused by poverty, and war, and illness, and occupation, and aggression—all these factors were to be the experience of the president, only no one but the president would know of it. He would know of his past identity but would not be able to talk of it. He would lose his native language and only be able to converse in the local dialect. As such he would gain the fullest benefit possible of living in a repressed society and thus be able to compare his mysterious circumstance with that of his former existence.
The president in his new situation found himself in a valley south of Hebron with about twenty sheep, between a small Palestinian village on one side and a radical settler camp across the way. At 6:05 pm on Saturday in Washington it would be 4:05 am on Sunday morning for the president. He found himself clothed as an Arabic shepherd, with a worn out cloak and sandals. Suddenly from his right came shouts of bigotry and anger, curses and derogatory accusations about this Arab being on divine land. Then rocks hurled by settlers began to fall around him, and one struck him in the chest. His sheep scattered as the settlers descended the hill to further torment him. Before villagers could get to him the settlers had grabbed two of his sheep and were taking them back to their camp.
His neighbors were confused about why he had been out so early. It does get hot in these desert hills and being out early is a natural activity. Yet to be out as the dawn was unfolding certainly was unusual. The president recognized his neighbors and tried to explain that he had found himself out in the hills without knowing why he had gone there. As he returned to the village the president went back to his home, a small one room shack of a sort with mud walls and a dirt floor covered with old blankets. He secured his sheep before going inside. His wife and two young children were still asleep so he did not disturb them. The president went outside and sat on a stone bench, contemplating what had happened to him.
After the sun had risen his neighbors gathered and explained that they were going to call the local Israeli army commander to complain about the settler attack. This was a routine response to a routine problem, yet the villagers believed if they did this every time the settlers molested them, then something might be done about it. The president knew of this proceeding and went along with the others to make the call. After a few hours the army commander arrived. The villagers summoned the president and asked him to tell the officer what had happened. The army commander made some effort to stay interested in the story then said he would look into the incident. As before they never heard any more about it.
Suddenly someone from the village ran toward the others and told them that children walking to school on the pathway beside the settler camp had been attacked with stones and that one of the children had been seriously injured. It was the president’s daughter. She had been struck in the head by a stone and was unconscious. All of the villagers ran to find her, then made a bed in the old truck so they could drive her to the clinic in Hebron. When they reached the road down the hill from their village they found that it had been barricaded. This road block was one of the ways the Israeli soldiers disrupt the lives of Palestinians. Probably because they had complained about the settler action, the soldiers had just afterward set up the road block.
Because the villagers could not take the road that would enable them to arrive in Hebron in only ten minutes, they had to take another road, one that was unkept and would require 45 minutes driving time before getting to the clinic. They made the trip as quickly as possible but just as they were coming into the city, the young child died. There was nothing more to do. The president held his dead child and sobbed as they were driven back to the village. All the neighbors gathered around and mourned the death of another Palestinian child at the hands of settlers. Then they set about to prepare to bury the child. What little water they had available was used to wash and clean the child before they wrapped her in a white cloth and carried her to the gravesite.
The president was forlorn. He thought of the oppression of the Israeli soldiers and their indiscriminate actions that intentionally hinder life for the Palestinians. He knew that if the road had not been blocked his child would probably still be living. He thought of the efforts of villagers to conserve water, how the ground was shaped to catch runoff rain in the underground cistern. He thought about the inconvenience of the random availability of electricity. Then he looked across the valley toward the settler camp and saw water sprinkling their yards and lines carrying uninterrupted electricity to their homes and the smoothly paved roadway leading from the camp to the west. Why had he been born into this poor Palestinian community? Why had he not been born into an affluent community? Even so he was proud of his heritage and gathered again his strength to continue.
In the afternoon a bulldozer arrived outside the village. The officer in charge had papers directing the demolition of a building that had been constructed without the required permit. The villagers confronted the officer but there was no way to interfere. As the villagers stood by helplessly, a small makeshift structure that was used to store equipment at the nearby school was pushed to the ground. There was not even any time to remove the equipment. After the building has been leveled the villagers salvaged what items they could from the debris. Across the valley they stood and saw again the new construction of settler homes that had recently been approved by the Israeli government. Soon many more Jewish citizens would be arriving to further establish their claim that this land belonged to them. Palestinians who claimed the land as a provision given to their ancestors were discounted. The international community complained about the injustice of the Israeli occupation and the inequitable representation from the state of Palestine, but they did nothing to remedy the oppression of the Palestinians.
The insightful day ended for the president. As he sat with his wife and only child, he reflected on his former life, how he had been born into a rich family with many opportunities of self expression and advancement, of the support he had received from others around him, and how he before had never acknowledged this support. He thought of his arrogant attitude and of his insensitivity to the plight of others. He thought of his claim of being very rich and of his celebrity status that had allowed him to participate in activities not permitted for others. He thought of his white male privilege and realized he had no influence in how this advantage had been given to him. Then he wondered about others, why they had been born into the circumstances in which they came into the earth, especially about those who lived in distressed, repressing conditions among which they had no chance of finding relief. What had made the difference in his birth and in theirs?
Very early the next morning the villagers were astonished to find seventeen weary persons standing in their streets. They sounded an alarm and the men assembled to confront the strangers. From these newcomers they learned that they had walked across from Jordan, had passed by the Dead Sea before arriving at this first village they had seen. The strangers told of the horrors of the war in Syria, how their relatives had been mercilessly killed, how everything they owned had been stolen from them, and how they had barely escaped capture. The villagers saw their torment, and how weak were the five children who had come with them. Then they set about to provide rest for these refugees. The villagers agreed on a plan. Each family would offer space in their home for one or two of the travelers. In spite of their limited provisions the villagers eagerly shared what they had with the strangers. After providing a meal of bread and rice, olives and goat cheese, the refugees were given privacy to sleep.
The president again was caused to consider the perspective that had directed his life in the United States. He had been suspicious of persons different from him. He had been careful to not become close to them. He had judged a class of people by the actions of a few. He had regulated his life to be separate from them as much as possible. Then he realized for the first time that he had never really tried to feel what they were feeling. He had never really tried to put himself in their place. He had never really tried to understand how life felt to them and how their history would have caused them to feel about him. The president realized how narrow his life had been, how in spite of his elevated and prosperous status he had failed to experience the reality of life in the earth, of its interconnectivity and its interdependence, how ripples from the actions of one person reach to affect the circumstance of someone else. Then he thought of the actions of the villagers with whom he lived, how courageous they were in dealing with disruptions caused by the occupation, how supportive they were of each other when there was suffering and loss, how generous they were with the limited provisions they had, how empathic they were toward the plight of others who were in need.
And through this all the president discovered an enriching element in life that he had never known. He discovered the precious gift of community, a way of life that includes everyone regardless of their circumstance, how giving and receiving as need instructs is the secret of a fulfilling and joyous life. It was then that the president came to himself and realized he was back there in the White House, still in the bathroom. He looked at the clock and saw the time was 6:06 pm, Saturday, January 28. Everything that had happened to him, everything he had believed was real, it all had occurred in only a minute. The president looked into the hallway and saw the security guard standing casually nearby. “Is everything alright Mr. President?”
Is everything alright Mr. President? We will have to wait and see.
Will we abandon our Standing Rock neighbors?
The challenge for people of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is enormous, and alone they will be desecrated, again. Yet when they are supported by many concerned neighbors they will be empowered. Determining where a pipeline is routed is a small relatively isolated incident. Yet this particular incident will measure how the future of our nation will be determined. As such, this is a tremendous opportunity for us not only to chart the course of the United States away from greed and arrogance and feelings of supremacy but also to continue composing a national identity that includes the welfare of everyone.
As citizens of the United States we are a government of the people, by the people. As such we have an obligation to confront national leadership when they conspire to conduct illegal activities–things inconsistent with prior governmental declarations. That is why I am supporting residents of the Sioux Nation in their resistance of the Dakota Access Pipeline proposed to cross through some of their sacred sites and its threat the welfare of their homeland.
Revival of the denied routing of the pipeline comes from an order of the executive office recently given by the president. This action allows another pursuit by Energy Transport Partners to construct under the Missouri River and Lake Oahe a pipeline to pump crude oil from North Dakota to a transfer point in Illinois. The route of this project across government land had previously been prohibited in part because of a choice to respect prior national mandates for preserving Native American rights to protect what is left of their heritage sites and homeland.
Through the years when the United States was expanding toward the Pacific Ocean, the native people of this land were systematically abused and displaced. These docile persons became the object of a deliberate effort to eliminate their presence on land desired by settlers of European descent. Various tactics were used to overpower them and to maintain an advantage that would allow the newcomers to prevail against them. Government acknowledgment of the need to honor their established presence was documented in numerous treaties but afterward treaty provisions were violated as interest in settling broader sweeps of western areas became more pronounced. This combination of actions to remove the native people was nothing less than a genocide of their numbers across wide ranging tribal identifications. Eventually those that did survive were corralled into less desirable cramped portions of wasteland causing their natural way of life to be stripped from them. Today the people native to North America are forced to adapt to a pattern of existence that vastly differs from their own sense of reverent residence in the earth.
Now yet another attempt to desecrate further their provisions for preserving the token of their heritage that is left has been turned toward them, those native persons who inhabit the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in southern North Dakota. Their need to affirm the innate respect they possess for both their homeland and the healthy preservation of the earth is in jeopardy. There is an immediate danger of their interests being trampled upon by another economic provision advanced by persons of European descent. Arrogantly ignoring the concerns of native persons occupying the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, plans proceeded to route a pipeline through territory that has before preserved their sacred sites and their source of clean water. Viable alternatives for rerouting the pipeline along another less contaminating course have been disdainfully rejected by Energy Transport Partners due to the same supremacist attitude that caused the desecration of native populations and habitats in the early stages of American history: “We can do this. We don’t care what impact it has on these savage people who are occupying land that is ours for the taking. What right do these barbarians have to be using resources on our land anyway?”
So the prior pattern of white nationalist agendas prevailing to disregard the concerns of native Americans for their life and the welfare of their homeland again threatens to further disintegrate the core of what has been constitutionally inaugurated as an inclusive vision for establishing a democratic republic. May we learn from past mistakes, decisions made and actions taken solely for the sake of expediency. Just because something can be done does not in itself become the reason that it should be done.
Greed and arrogance and feelings of supremacy are powerful forces that advance the interests of a select group of residents at the expense of those outside. These selfish impulses can be nationally regulated by enforcing provisions in existing treaties and laws. And whenever they are not, then these decisive attitudes and their consequential actions must be publicly disciplined. Let defenders of freedom and democracy unite to affirm the right of native Americans to protect their homeland and preserve their sacred sites.
What can be done? The U.S. Army Corps has been tasked to conduct an impact study to determine the effect the proposed pipeline route adjacent to the Sioux reservation and through native sacred sites will produce for the environment. The Environmental Impact Statement for the Dakota Access Pipeline is open for public comment from now until February 20, 2017. You can quickly write a comment by finding sacredstonecamp.org/take-action with your internet browser. There you will find a button by which you can easily send your statement. Also, residents of Standing Rock are sponsoring a campaign to defund construction of the pipeline. Seventeen banks that are providing loans for the construction have been listed on this same website and information is available about how you can assist in bringing success to this project.
The challenge for people of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is enormous, and alone they will be desecrated, again. Yet when they are supported by many concerned neighbors they will be empowered. Determining where a pipeline is routed is a small relatively isolated incident. Yet this particular incident will measure how the future of our nation will be determined. As such, this is a tremendous opportunity for us not only to chart the course of the United States away from greed and arrogance and feelings of supremacy but also to continue composing a national identity that includes the welfare of everyone.
On the consequence of feeling inadequate and insecure
I suspect feeling inadequate and insecure motivates persons to behave in ways that deviate from characteristics that define authentic human being. Intolerant and disrespectful behaviors result from an insensitivity to the plight of other persons. This attitude and conduct damages relationship and undermines community, the essential method by which humans satisfy their longing to find peace and fulfillment. This corruption of being human creates the obsession to acquire power, to accumulate and to control excessive amounts of wealth because surviving in the earth has become a competition. Its most distinguished example is the fact that a dozen individuals control as much wealth as more than half of the population in the earth—more wealth than that of four billion other persons combined. Reflecting on this reality produces some disturbing concerns.
A simple yet profound image of stability and contentment frequently comes into my mind when I think about how feelings of insecurity and inadequacy influence human behavior. The parable is told in many variations yet it has the same basic instruction in every setting. It goes like this.
A teacher is prepared to present to the student the secret of living a happy and fulfilled life while in the earth. Together they come into a great hall and on either side of the hallway is a wide open double door. Beyond each door is the same display: long narrow tables occupy the large space within. On the tables a generous assortment and abundance of food has been positioned. Chairs have been placed on either side of the tables. Then many people come to the great hall and begin to enter one of the two rooms as they freely choose. There is no marker, no explanation, only an invitation to enjoy the feast that has been prepared. After everyone has been seated the doors are closed.
While the teacher and the student remain in the hallway there begins to arise in one of the rooms a sort of commotion. Sounds of irritation and frustration swell inside that room and soon the noise is almost too difficult to endure. Then the teacher opens the door to that disrupting room and asks the student to look inside. The student is surprised to see the many people seated along the tables angrily fidgeting about in enormous agitation. The student soon recognizes the reason for their distress. Each person seated at the tables has the same problem—their arms are not able to move to the extent that the food in their hands can be placed into their mouths. Although as much food as each of them could possibly desire is there before them, these persons cannot feed themselves because of the limitation in the movement of their arms. No amount of adjustment and motion can overcome the fact that they cannot use their arms to bring the desired food to their mouths. And so they are tormented. As the student turns to go out, over the doorway inside the room these words can be seen, “The consequence of feeling inadequate and insecure.”
The teacher and student find relief from the loud noises when they are inside the hallway again. Then they move across to the other side and stand in front of that doorway. There they hear no disturbance. Rather they hear soft sounds of pleasure and satisfaction. The teacher opens the door and asks the student to look inside. The student is astounded by what is happening. Just as in the other room people are seated beside the long tables. And these persons all have the same limitation as those persons seated in the other room—their arms cannot move so that the food in their hands can be placed into their mouths. Yet there is no anxiety, no frustration displayed by anyone. Each of them is joyously enjoying the feast. And they are doing so by feeding and being fed by the person across the table from them. When the student turns to reenter the hallway, over the door these words can be seen, “The company of happiness and contentment.”
Feelings of insecurity and inadequacy prevail because some people do not understand nor appreciate how their lives have benefited by things given to them by others. These persons do not care to acknowledge how much they have received from other people before and around them.
All of us have been positioned by factors beyond our control to have an experience of life in the earth. Each of our circumstances is different depending on the mystery of where and when we were born, the mental and physical capacities we possess, and into what context we have been placed. Persons who have lived before us have provided provisions that have sustained us. Persons who live near us and around us have nourished us and protected us so that we have been able to grow and to learn. All of these things have been given to us by another presence, a source outside ourselves. We could not give these things to ourselves. These things have come to us from someone across the table.
According to the wisdom we innately perceive in the parable, the secret of living a happy and content life in the earth is giving and receiving from the company in which we choose to live. Directing attention solely to satisfy ourselves and choosing arrogantly to ignore the dependence we have upon gifts from others causes us to become insecure. We know we cannot protect ourselves from all that threatens human life in the earth. And knowing we cannot protect ourselves causes us to realize our inadequacy. So we can either accumulate as much as possible to detract us from the human predicament of not being self sufficient or we can accept our limitations and use our position and capacities to nurture community.
Acquiring power and accumulating an excessive amount of wealth is a self-indulging pursuit and at most a temporary remedy. This obsession might obscure feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, however it does not relieve these disrupting feelings. Eventually failing to overcome feelings of insecurity and inadequacy will produce disappointment and regret, and a consequential, bitter, inescapable discovery will follow: the quest to acquire power and accumulate an excessive amount of wealth has prevented me from experiencing a happy and content life.
On mandates for violent conquest in Judaism and Islam
Persons informed of the content of their sacred writings understand why serious disciples of Judaism and those of Islam have historically held deep suspicion toward each other. Violent events in the past have sometimes resulted from the interface of Jews and Muslims and other human communities. Directives recorded in the Old Testament, the collection of sacred writings of Jews, and in the Koran, the collection of sacred writings of Muslims, obligate violent confrontation to occur.
Both the Old Testament and the Koran position violent conquest as the principle method for establishing and maintaining the endurance of each of these religious domains. In the initial stages of their development, violence was invoked to eliminate the presence of persons deemed to be obstructing the growth and the institution of their separate territorial realms. Violence was the method dictated, the prescriptive action determined to be necessary in order for each of these emerging religious communities to accomplish their objectives. In order to justify this destructive campaign against other humans, both Hebrews and Muslims declared they had been given divine guidance.
Global disruptions caused by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, have brought extreme condemnation from most sectors of the international community. The brutality used by these warriors–the disdain evident in their exercise of torture and execution; the indiscriminate slaughter of men, women, and children; the pain and suffering produced by their pursuits–these violent patterns of engagement constitute barbaric, evil behaviors justly designated as crimes against humanity.
When the history of the Hebrew conquest of Canaan is studied, the barbaric, evil actions committed by Hebrew warriors in their pursuit to possess their land of promise favorably compare to those committed recently by ISIL fighters meant to establish their caliphate. Many religious scholars in both circles strain to distinguish between the actions of those who participated in the Canaan conquest and the actions of ISIL fighters.
Clerical scholars search for and speculate about purposes and intentions that will justify the aggressive ambition of their chosen group. These scholars explain that the use of violence by their specific religious community was necessary, ordained in contrast to those useless and unreasonable violent acts committed by the other group. However, any impartial observer quickly recognizes such attempts as being totally invalid. The violent actions perpetrated by warriors of ISIL and those attributed to Hebrew warriors are equally cruel, and they have been promoted for the same reason–to acquire and purge by force land inhabited by persons who did not share their particular belief about how life in the earth is predestined to be organized.
The historical animosity evident between Jews and Muslims results from their separate yet similar perspective that in order to preserve their presence and safety, violence has been prescribed in their sacred writings to be the essential method of acquiring this freedom. Until this perspective changes the historical consequence of their interface will recur in any setting. And suspicion and distrust will continue to determine how they respond to the presence of others. Without a foundational revision of the prophetic role of violence, Jews and Muslims will never be able to coexist peacefully together. Agonizing memories from history and corresponding mandates for violence prevent Jews and Muslims from being neighbors.
The conflict between Jews and Muslims that has played out primarily in the Middle East for many centuries exist because of a basic disposition. Behind the determination to use violence lies an assumption of superiority and entitlement. Their comfort in inflicting pain and suffering and death on others who do not embrace their rigid concept of religious belief and human behavior results from a sense of having been divinely appointed, given the right, impressed with the obligation to promote their respective agendas. Merely the suggestion of tolerating contrasting patterns of human behavior in the earth threatens their survival. Theirs is an ordained presence that must be preserved.
That mandates for violence continue to be incorporated in the sacred writings of Judaism and Islam is troubling. This revered association continues to designate these mandates as divine directives that must be honored and appealed to in the presence of perceived threats. Because of the narrative describing the historical interface of these two communities, perceived threats are always present.
A bold declaration by leaders in Jewish and Muslim communities will relieve the tension existing both between these two groups and persons on the outside. By courageously declaring that existing mandates for violent conquest in their sacred texts endorse crimes against humanity, religious scholars can initiate a vital reformation. By unequivocally reinterpreting mandates for violence to be imperfect perceptions of divine intention, religious scholars can resolve the present dilemma.
No other option exists for beginning to bring an end to barbaric, evil behaviors committed by religious groups. Unless this transformation occurs within Judaism and Islam the global community will continue to be plagued by the consequences of their inhuman actions. Even though unbiased members of the international community unconditionally condemn mandates for violent conquest as provoking crimes against humanity and desperately attempt to enforce measures for inhibiting their practice, this source of violence will always be lurking in the shadows, with passionate adherents ready to embrace it and zealous to eliminate those outside their belief system.