Peace Can’t Happen in the midst of Poverty!

September 29, 2008

This is a short rant about the cruel, obviously corporation supporting priorities of the current financial bailout proposal just hammered out with the complete cooperation of the Democratic leadership in the house and senate. Can you believe it? Unfortunately I can.

Yet again the people of the United States are being stampeded into unnecessarily rapid passage of a large re-distribution of the wealth of our nation. This is how the Iraq attack and occupation was authorized and the Patriot act that diminshed human and civil rights was passed and how the plan to attack Iran is being pushed.

Cause fear and panic, and then ride roughshod over the will of the majority of the people. The Bush administration is doing the exact opposite of what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did to turn the economy around in the face of the stock market crash of 1929. Instead of imposing regulations that would stop financial abuse and providing infrastructure, affordable housing and other economic programs that would help the middle class and working poor of our nation, this “bailout” removes huge amounts of money from the public coffers and hands it over to Secretary of the Treasury Paulson, a banker with current financial ties to Goldman Sachs, and President Bush to hand out to private companies who can then continue to gamble with it without real restraint or regulation or even the need to pay it back!

So what should we do instead? We need to slow this process down. Assure the world financial markets that we will act to stabilize the economy, but in the meanwhile hold hearings and craft a bill or several bills based on the idea that people, their homes, jobs, health care, communities, their streets, schools and all of the other things that they need to live decent lives come first. Corporations are not living entities. They can be changed and replaced. Men, women and children cannot be.

So here is an open letter to our Congressional “leaders” and to all of our representatives. Don’t be fooled, don’t be bullied, don’t believe the lies, don’t act out of fear or greed. Say NO to this huge, highly flawed giveaway to Wall Street. Let the corporations buy up failing banks at fair market prices and then regulate their activities stringently while meeting the needs of real, everyday people. Let the people have new bankruptcy judgements that allow them to keep their homes. Let them have healthcare and job training and unemployment benefits and guaranteed retirement benefits.

While 1 percent of the people own 90 percent of the wealth and are being offered free money on a silver platter there can be no peace in our nation or anywhere in the world. We could do a lot worse than to follow the example of how Roosevelt handled a large financial crisis in 1933. It worked and the United States economy and its people survived and thrived.

Perhaps we can’t have another “bank holiday” although it’s an interesting thought to close and individually evaluate the behaviors of each financial institution before deciding which can or can’t continue. But we can certainly have a Congressional legislative pause for reflection. Then we can have a meaningful national discussion about just what our priorities are.

This would also be very meaningful before the upcoming Presidential and Congressional elections. We could force some true examination of how our social and economic priorities are going to be determined and acted on. Then maybe we would find out more about the kinds of attitudes each candidate really holds and just how they might affect our lives and the lives of people throughout the world. That would be useful instead of staged uninformative “debates” where candidates try to put each other on the defensive and spout “qualified support” for unknown deals being worked out behind closed doors while blaming others for the results.

Whew, feels a little better. Now to call my Representative and Senators yet again and beg them to vote NO on this so called “compromise” financial bailout. Haven’t even mentioned the ugly, war affirming Defense Authorization Bill just pushed through both houses while we were mesmerized by the Wall Street catastrophe.

If you want to call Congress, here’s a toll free switchboard number: 1-800-473-6711. But act now. Tomorrow could be too late.



August 21, 2008

Soon after the recent conflict in Georgia began,  I saw an on line headline that said the price of oil has just gone up again as a result of escalations of conflict in Georgia.

Thus I wonder.  Those who wish, like the Bush administration and like Senator McClain, to escalate the conflict seem to be working at cross purposes.  These are the forces that have said we must do all kinds of things, including further boosting of oil companies and accompanying degradation of the environment in off shore drilling, to reduce the price of oil to the American consumer.

I wonder, then, why they would not want to utilize all means to deescalate the conflict.   We have aggravated Russia by many policies, including putting unneeded missile sites near its borders.  We have encouraged (at least George Bush and John McCain have) Georgia to aggressively take back its breakaway regions.

De-escalation of conflict would involve having honest talks with Russia and Georgia about all these issues and would involved any number of possible suggestions for solving the problems peacefully over time. 

The oil markets would stay calmer, prices might continue to come down, and many lives might be saved.

I wonder.  What do the Republican hawks really want?  Do they want to appear macho?  Do they want oil profits to go up despite what they say to the American people regarding the interests of the public?  Do they want to fuel the profitable industrial/military war machine?  Do they not even know what they want but are inclined to act impulsively and say what comes to mind, what they think sounds good at the moment?

Linda M.

Violence in The Military Comes Home to Haunt Us

August 12, 2008

     As I think about going to hear retired Colonel Ann Wright this evening knowing that she wrote a definitive book about why the war on Iraq was wrong, and further sacrificed her own military career to protest US military policy.  I’m thinking about the domestic and sexual violence that has come home to affect the families of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, while they suffer from the violence that they have been forced to inflict and to witness in those conflicts.  Sometimes the violence takes the form of self-termination when the PTSD and inability to readjust to civilian life become too much to bear.

     But what I’m thinking most about today is the sexual violence that our young women soldiers are experiencing while they are fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan or stationed in Kuwait.  And sometimes in addition to being raped and assaulted they are also being murdered by their brother soldiers and by US military contractors.

Ann Wright has also documented this situation in an article, “Is There an Army Coverup of Rape and Murder of Women Soldiers?” Published in April of 2008, on the Common Dreams Website.
I became interested in this issue after reading and hearing about the rape and murder in Iraq of a beautiful 19 year old soldier named Lavena Johnson but in reading the article I discovered that a similar scenario may have played a part in the death of another lovely young woman whose picture I carried in the 2007 Albany event called Remembering the Fallen.  Her name was Melissa Jennifer Hobart and she died in Iraq at the age of 22, in June of 2004, leaving behind a 3 year old daughter and many other people who loved her.

So I’ll be going to hear what Ann Wright has to say tonight about the mistake of invading Iraq and the consequences of bringing the war back home, literally and figuratively.  If you want to read more about this you can visit the blog on the Times Union Website at and read more about what the training to kill other humans can produce, when it breaks down the social bonds that begin with mother and child and take years to nurture and develop.

This is a very troubling topic because it deals not only with the visible and direct consequences of war but with the pervasive and destructive results of teaching our young people to hurt and kill others without protecting them (and us) from the consequences of such programming.

Just one more reason to try to solve our conflicts through negotiation, diplomacy and other non-violent means.

Why Use the Word “Waging”

August 11, 2008

Sometimes when people see the phrase “waging peace,” they say it sounds too much like “waging war.”  They suggest we should find a phrase like “practicing peace” that doesn’t evoke the idea of war.  Good point and well taken.  Women Against War often uses the phrase “peace work” to describe events, particularly the annual cross-generation conversations we have around the time of International Women’s Day in March.  I like “peace work” because it can also be heard as “piece work.”  “Piece work” evokes a long history of women’s work and art.  We think of factories, of women who did piece work for factories in the home, of quilters.   It reminds us of the oppressive conditions under which many women worked and still work, but it also reminds us of women’s tenacity in the face of oppression and of the spirit that could not be denied some expression in art. 

But I also support the use of “waging peace” and here’s why.  So many times when I talk to people about my peace testimony, I get a response that goes something like this:  Sure, peace is possible, some time some day, maybe, when we have solved all the problems that make people fight each other.  In other words, peace is possible when no more work nees to be done.  In this view, peace comes off as passive, a kind of Sunday rest time, a laying around in the sun and lolling about — nice to think about but really kind of impossible to imagine we would ever get there. 

Personally, I see peace as hard work.  I often say to people, sometimes don’t you think it would be easier to hit someone than to have to sit down at the table and work out your differences?  What is the hardest work you have ever done?  Maybe it was that conversation you had to have with someone you disagreed with but also needed to collaborate with.  And it takes amazing strength to listen to a person whose views are hard for you to take and not to demonize them.  Creating monsters is easy; seeing the human side of your enemy takes courage.

So if “waging peace” can begin to help people see that peace is an active verb, I am all for it.  Now that I think of it, maybe we should start using “peace” as a verb in the way we use “war.”  How about “peacing nations” to describe those countries that actually get along?  Let’s hear more about how they do it and devote less time and energy to those who are “warring.”

Trying to stop a US military attack on Iran

August 5, 2008

It seems as if this week so far has been filled with activities aimed at preventing our current administration from carrying out a wild plan to use military force against Iran just when there are openings and calls for negotiations leading to a diplomatic solution coming from statesmen in both nations.  Unfortunately that doesn’t include either our President or theirs.

So this weekend we worked to update the wonderful leaflet called Iran Next? No War, No Way! Myths and Truths about Iraq Iran.  There’s been a change in focus of the alarmist rhetoric from our government.  Now that the NIE of 2007 has agreed that there has been no evidence of a program of making weapons grade uranium since 2003 in Iran and now that Iranian diplomats and the Foreign Minister of Iran are considering allowing an EU and US consortium to work on enriching uranium for power generating purposes within Iran, it’s more difficult to justify the use of force or even of cruel sanctions that will cause suffering for the most vulnerable people in Iran, (very old and very young civilians and the women who care for them).  Since that tactic of scaremongering is coming up against some facts and findings that are slowing it down the Bush administration has been ramping up another set of fearful accusations that Iran is sending fighters, explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) and all manner of other weapons and munitions.  Never mind that there has been no evidence that the EFPs were made in Iran and no Iranian fighters have been captured.  But I digress.The updates to the leaflets deal with the new myths and with updates to the truths that can counter them.  If you want to read the old (2007) leaflet you can visit Then click on the Iran section and click on Iran Resources

So that’s one form of work and then there’s lobbying and legislative work.  Last Thursday, July 31st we got the chance to meet with our local Representative Mike McNulty’s Chief of Staff, Charlie Diamond.  We were lobbying against a terrible bill in the House of Representatives HCR 362 that contained language setting up a likely blockade of Iran.  There was lobbying of all of the co-sponsors but we were pleasantly surprised when we got a chance for a follow-up meeting on Monday, 8/4/08 with Mike McNulty himself.  He had read all of our materials and, at our request, had signed on to a second bill that advocates multilateral peace negotiations in the region to bring about an end to the Iraq occupation and includes Iran as one of the regional key players.  That bill is HCR 321, if you’re interested.  So yesterday he told us that he had spoken to the author of HCR 362 and said that he would not support the bill unless clause 3 with the blockade like language was removed.  And Representative McNulty along with Charlie Diamond came to a media conference after our meeting and said so!

I know, remembering these bill numbers is kind of like remembering which cholesterol, HDL or LDL is the healthy one.  But never fear, help with Congressional bills is available at an outstanding website

Iran vigil, 8/6/08

No War on Iran Vigil at the I Love NY Food Festival, 2008

 And the other form of media work that we’re doing is vigiling in a public place when a big local food festival will be going on and thousands of people will be walking by us during the lunch hour.  We have large dramatic banners, amazing photos of Iranian people, and informative leaflets to hand out.  We’ve been working with these props for about a year and a half and we’ll keep doing it until we think that diplomacy with Iran and not military force is the path that our government will follow.  I’d be overjoyed if we could move on to another area of peace and justice.  There are so many choices.


Friends in Iran

July 24, 2008

Iran is mentioned frequently in the news these days, and usually in the same sentence with the words “nuclear” and “threat”.  However, for me, the mention of Iran brings back memories of the warm and friendly people who welcomed our group of citizen diplomats.  Last December, our group of ten visited five cities in Iran.  Everywhere we went, Iranians told us enthusiastically that they love Americans, but not George Bush.  They understand that we, as ordinary citizens, do not necessarily share the opinions or values of our President.  Many Iranians with whom we spoke expressed clearly that they do not like the views or rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad.

I continue to speak to small groups, sharing my photos and stories of my experiences in Iran.  Our two countries share so much in common.  It seems we are divided by what we do not know and the rumors.  My hope is that our new leadership uses the time honored art of diplomacy.  We have so much to gain.


This photo shows Masoumeh, on left, speaking with me about our visit.  This was in Qom, outside a holy shrine.  Masoumeh asked me if I was Muslim.  I explained that I wasn’t but that we were there to learn about Iran and meet Iranians so we could share these experiences with other Americans.  We spoke about various things.  When she left, she asked that I pray for her to my god in my own way.  This total acceptance by a devout young Muslim that my beliefs were different and that that was fine left a very positive impression on me.

Our two countries have so much to share and learn from each other. 


Peace Ingredients From the Community Pantry

July 19, 2008

Grannie and Daughter cooking up peace

Grannie and Daughter cooking up peace

Remember these ingredients for cooking up peace in Washington Park during Mother’s Day weekend of 2008? In the soup pot were some of the basic ingredients that Grannies for Peace thought would be necessary to lead to peace in the world instead of the world in pieces. Peace is so much more than the absence of war. It requires that every human being have access to the basic necessities for sustaining life as well as human rights and the possibility to express her full potential. Only then can struggles to survive give way to peaceful co-existence.



Peace On Earth; Peace Is The Way

Hope; Harmony; Truth; Honesty
Non-Violence; Respect; Tolerance
Love; Wisdom; Generosity

Empathy; Kindness; Goodwill Towards All

Justice; Living Wages

Food for All; Feed the Hungry

Water Rights ~~~~~~~


Development; Positive Change; Sustainability
Diplomacy; Global Treaties

Listening! Reconciliation; Unity

Civilian Peace Reserve Corps
United Nations; World Court; Peace Keepers

No Nukes!

One of the aspects of Cooking Up Peace was a table where community members could write their own ingredients for peace on pieces of colored construction paper. The contributions to our pot of stone soup came from people of all ages including children, adults, elders and some eloquent teenagers. I’ve included them below, basically unedited, for you to cook up your own ideas about what “Peace” really requires



Break it up; Whole (ly) talk with out words! (Master Ha Ha)
World Summit! Equal respect for the rights of all people.
No ownership of property. Stop wanting what other people have
Education; Respect everybody (written by Ajit & Ashnin)
Overwhelming strategic airpower; Love to all creatures
Peace, Patience, Tolerance, Joy; Open your heart & listen
Patience; Love each other
Love and respect each other!
Products for pets should have additional tax added for children of
domestic violence & other peaceful solutions for children
Don’t be afraid to love again! No more Republicans
A dollop of mutual respect; Say Sorry
Charity; Less money for war – More money for the needs of the people of the world to live in Peace.
Love, Life and Laughter; A pinch of common sense & a cup of Love; Sustainable jobs – Living wages – Opportunity for pursuit of happiness; No killing animals; A galaxy full of LOVE
Don’t lose hope; Learn to forgive & be sensitive.
Be compassionate towards others; Do the right thing – everytime
Get rid of BUSH; Honesty
Fire Congress NOW; Please Don’t Fight. (Signed by ME)
Impeach Bush; Police help; Tolerance, listening to all!! And every idea
Talk & Listen, Talk & Listen, Talk & Listen
Love, Joy, Gentleness, Understanding, Kindness, Humbleness, Meekness
Stop and think. Who are you aimed at, is it really worth it? Stop
Shooting without a thought. Is oil really worth countless lives?
Think of others. And accept what others believe. If we could take a
step back, slow down, and think most problems could be solved,
peacefully and with little cost.
(15 years old)

Signs of Peace Blooming in Washington Park

July 10, 2008

Read the rest of this entry »


July 7, 2008

Practicing Peace is all about Hope.  Hope is the flame that keeps each one of us going.  It’s something we need to carry around and to hand out to others to keep it going.  It’s what I have to offer – to those who are in unfortunate circumstances: poverty, immigration struggles, trying to learn English or manage to keep up in school, dealing with family members in prison; – to those who are working to change “The System”:  to make it more fair and equitable for every individual (“the American Dream”), saying “no” to the war machine, “yes” to First Amendment rights, “yes” to human dignity; – and to others who are practicing peace and need encouragement.

Last week I spent an afternoon volunteering to help with Ruth Pelham’s “Planting Flowers, Planting Hope” project.  Ruth, known as “the Music Mobile lady”, organized this amazing project in response to the shooting death of 10-year-old Kathina Thomas.  For three days, Ruth and her volunteers provided an opportunity for children of West Hill neighborhood of Albany to gather and use music, art, and words to talk about Kathina and what their hopes and dreams for themselves and their neighborhood are.  Each child picked out 8 colorful little plants which they planted in a 10 inch pot of rich moist soil, thanks to the City of Albany and sponsors.  Judy Stacey, Albany City Gardener, wearing a big sunhat and big smile, helped guide the children as they planted, and reminded them to water daily.

As I watched the children proudly carrying home their pots of flowers, I was struck by what an amazing act of practicing peace this was.  It planted seeds of hope.  If nurtured, like the flowers, that hope can grow.

Ruth Pelham is like a fountain of hope.  She exudes good energy – it bubbles out of her, just like her music.  She has that knack of making everyone feel invited and included.  She is trusted.  She knows how to listen deeply.  She also knows how to organize a big idea and make it happen – because she has hope. 

She gave me a big shot of hope and energy;  now I want to pass it on.

Peace and hope,


The Dumbing Down of America Caused the Wars

July 2, 2008

Whenever I hear anyone mention “the war,” I’m not sure whether to cringe or roll my eyes.  It isn’t “the war.”.  It’s “the wars”.  Not only have we invaded, destroyed, and attempted to occupy and prop up a US-friendly government in Iraq, we’ve done the same in Afghanistan.  Afghanistan is far away and exotic, granted, but it is a real country with real people in it, too.  There is one difference about the invasion, etc. of Afghanistan.  It was, as the saying goes, pre-destroyed.  Much of the pre-existing destruction was paid for or instigated by the US.

This leads me to how the dumbing down of the US enters into the causes of the wars.  The average American, college educated or not, gets most information frlom TV, and a whole chunk of that from sitcoms, reality shows, and talk shows.  Here we are in a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world (number 15, according to a UN survey), access to unlimited information in free libraries and low-cost Internet access, but few people seem to have bothered to learn the facts about the wars and those profiting from them.

Are you one of the know’s, or the know-not’s?  If you don’t know about these organizations, why not spend a little time searching online and reading about them: PNAC (Project for a New American Century), Blackwater, Carlisle Group, Halliburton.

If you know all about these organizations and are someone who still believes we have a humanitarian mission in either Iraq or Afghanistan, please explain it to me.