Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Sad But Necessary Moment

I am a recently joined member of a Jewish Peace Group locally which already means a lot to me. Recently we had a much needed mediation effort related to difficulties primarily between an "older" member, who founded the local group and (basically) the remaining core of the leadership of the group (who are much younger).

At the meeting it became clear to me that the three (of 12 total) attendees who appeared to be over 70 had a totally different vision of an activist group which was incompatible with the rest of us who were there.

My activist awakening came in the 1980's struggling (at first) with a men's anti-rape group as we built ourselves into a wonderful, successful group. Building trust, working by consensus, and learning to respect each other (as men) took time and a lot of work. Through the hard internal work we did together, we were able to do incredible work for quite a few years. We built the respect first of the local feminist community and later many others locally and nationally.

Now, twenty years later working primarily with younger women, I can see tinges of what we faced before in my past life as well as new, welcome, but difficult challenges.

The strong, wonderful "older" woman has now decided to leave our Group. We hope that she will share her incredible knowledge and contacts with us as she intends to do.

To be an effective group we need to both work together cohesively and to struggle with issues that divide us. Reluctantly I feel that this woman, despite her warm heart and love for so much that we believe in, could not work effectively with us.

Fortunately, her activisim will continue, unabated. Now unhinged from the constraints we, of necessity, tried to begin imposing, she, hopefully will find an easier and more fulfilling path. Now we, as a group, can begin learning our lessons from what happened and move forward on our desired path.

It is sad, but I think necessary!


Friday, August 25, 2006

Iraq - "Have a Plan to Kill Everyone You Meet"

1.) Be polite,
2.) Be professional
3.) Have a plan to kill everyone you meet

These are words from the wall of the Marine base in Barwana, Iraq (NY Times Magazine, August 20, 2006, page 37).

How can anyone say that we are the saviors of Iraq, when everyone is a potential enemy?

What gives us the right to intervene now in the struggles for power there?

How benevolent are we?

We certainly help create a more extensive terrorist network throughout Islamic Communities in many countries by consistently alienating many through our actions in Iraq, in Lebanon-Israel-Palestine and elsewhere.

Our "benevolence" seems strangely tied to "strategic interests" - e.g. oil in the Middle East and the money to be made by many U.S. and multi-national business interests. "Democracy" as I think of it seems irrelevant when what it really means is how can we and our allies profit generally at the expense of the poor of Third World Countries as well as the United States.

We are destroying the lives of many in the Middle East through our actions and inactions. We also are destroying the lives of many idealistic young people and their families in our country who are killed, injured and traumatized by their experiences in Iraq.

I try to trust everyone I meet. I try to be supportive of everyone I meet.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

US Politics and Change ?

I am not alone in welcoming the first bit of optimism in years with the November, 2006 elections coming up. It appears that finally the domination of the Republican Party may be over.

At the same time it seems that the Democrats don't seem to "get it" that staying in power will require them to convince many voters that they can bring real change to the U.S. Obviously election reform so that congresspeople can avoid the need to constantly raise huge sums of money might be a logical first step. Absent real reform, it will be very hard to bring about substantive change.

Democrats will also need to face serious issues such as:

1.) Tax reform
2.) Deficit reduction
3.) Iraq
4.) Minimum Wage legislation

as well as helping create an environment of cooperation and consensus building.

I hope that Democrats will defy their past and really be successful. I'm not optimistic though!


Monday, August 21, 2006

Honesty and Integrity

Several days ago I listened to a talk show on National Public Radio which talked about cheating in school. The "expert" stated that where students cheat including selectively where they deem it "necessary" or "ok" it leads them in later life to be more prone to cheat. He talked of integrity, honesty and how things are in schools, work environments and elsewhere.

It was sad to hear one caller talk of how in his wealthy high school environment things were "bad" for the students and most cheated. They then got into "excellent" colleges and didn't continue their cheating. Does the end justify the means? Doesn't it seem unfair that poorer kids obviously might have been subject to much harsher penalties if caught cheating than these poor little rich kids.

Another caller talked of how she cheated in high school, but now in college didn't cheat because IF she was caught, the penalty would be too great.

I'm happy to be a little less driven or whatever it is as well as simply wanting to live comfortably within myself in a world where I strive to be "Very Honest" and to avoid being where I might judge myself as having been "bad" in any such way. It doesn't feel like a "guilt" thing, but rather a source of pride that I earn what I get and take my lumps if I'm not prepared or in the right situation.

As I get older I try to be generous to others, letting drivers get in front of me, not being so rushed and seeing more of how I can be supportive of others. I wouldn't want it any other way!


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Recognizing our Gifts of Life and Those that Others Have (and Don't Have)

Today our houseguests will leave our house after a six day visit. Their younger son is autistic. Being around him is instructive in so many ways. His world is very different from all of the rest of us. I was with his father and him inside a live butterfly exhibit yesterday at a science museum. He was scared when the butterflies came towards us. Telling him that they couldn't and wouldn't hurt us at all wouldn't mean the same thing as it would to a "normal" child.

We often don't recognize the gifts that we may have by being "normal" as well as "exceptional" in so many parts of our lives. Seeing and feeling the gifts that this young boy has is also important.

How often in our lives we don't take the time to see and feel important parts of ourselves. We often also are impatient and overly judgmental. We were driving up a large hill behind a fairly large motorcycle yesterday with 3-4 large parts of it intended for holding possessions. It was a touring cycle. Its driver was going quite slowly and finally we passed it.

We looked back and the driver was a perhaps 75 year old man. We smiled and talked of how our image of the driver had changed as well as our acceptance of how slow he drove.

Can we understand far more complex and important things around us in our day-to-day lives?


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Respecting and Understanding Others

As children we are often raised in a gender and age based world. As boys, for example we now live in a video game world, augmented by tv and movies. This world immunizes us from significant parts of the larger world around us where old foggies like me read a lot and have a very different vision of reality.

Our children learn in specialized worlds of soccer and other activities meant to keep them busy and supposedly happy.

It is unclear to me how we are taught in such worlds how to understand and respect the many traditional cultures around us including that of the many Muslim and African peoples of the world.

In the United States our world is often extremely insular. We don't know the geography of most of the world. We confuse the politics of others. We falsely believe that things in the United States are "better" than everywhere else, when we don't despair about our crime rates and other problems.

I think it important for us to do things differently! Raising boys and girls more together, while recognizing that there are gender differences is important. Beginning to bridge the class and race differences in our own country in a variety of ways is important - through our schools and in other ways.

As adults we need to learn through volunteer work and in other ways how to better understand people whose lives are very different from ours. Ironically, as media consolidations and the politics of divisiveness push us apart, we also have things like the internet which allow us to learn much more.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Using Force - or "My ___'s Bigger than Yours"

As the Israeli military forces pound Lebanon causing incredible destruction and the Hezbollah rockets cause significant, though lesser damage in Israel I am reminded of the U.S. Government in Iraq - as our government fails repeatedly to "win" what increasingly appears to be an "unwinnable war".

In both cases there is a combination of a:

1.) We're right - "God is on our Side as well as the power of our Military" and

2.) IF we just show our military strength enough we will show "the enemy" and teach them not to defy our "superior" country they will give in and let us live in peace.

Lebanon's population is roughly 3.8 million. Israel's population is about 6.2 million of which roughly 4.6 million are Jews.

There are problems with this "macho logic". People who feel cornered and oppressed fight back and act "irrational" as has happened with suicide bombings in both Israel and Iraq. As the U.S. and Israel push their causes increasing numbers of Muslims are radicalized and start working against Israel and the United States.

As men - we can bully women and children and other men. Sometimes they will "fight back" killing us or simply pushing us outside of their lives. We lose the Whole!

Hopefully someday Israel and the U.S. will both learn that though making peace is difficult and dangerous, fighting wars and continuing to act in ways that in part are oppressive to others hurts all of us far more than it can possibly help.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

As a Man - Getting Older

I am a 55 year old White male. My father died of stomach cancer at age 46 when I was 13 and my brother was 11. I recently retired.

I am very conscious of getting older. When I was younger I could easily deny issues relating to getting older (when that meant something potentially negative). My body was strong and most things I did or tried to do I succeeded or failed at them unrelated to "being older".

I have increasing reminders of what it means to be "old", though I don't feel "old" (yet). Sometimes when I get out of the car, my body is stiff an feels immobile for a few minutes. It can be hard to move onto the ground or to get up from the ground. My back aches at various times. My vision is clearly weakening. Now I have trouble both with things close up and far away. My eyes can be blurry at times and things can seemingly "get in the way" when I look at things.

Over the past 13 or so years I have had increasing issues with getting and maintaining an erection. Viagra helps in one way at times, but I don't like it. My sexuality is not defined by my penis, but my partner is not happy with this limitation in our sex life (though she's never experienced me without this limitation).

I am also in well above average physical shape. I rode my bicycle for three hours at a good rate last Sunday and could have gone several more hours easily. I lift weights and do plenty of aerobic exercise.

As a man I have learned that I should "be in control" of myself. Learning to live with aches, pains and simply the knowledge that I'm "going downhill" isn't easy. I can laugh at some of it, but at other times my mortality is a reminder I can't ignore. I used to be extremely driven in the moments of my life. Now I appreciate taking some things slower and allowing myself to enjoy individual moments I didn't experience before. This also gives me time to think of my own limitations and the fact that I won't live indefinitely in the future.

I believe that it is different getting older as a man in some important ways from the experiences women have. I'm not sure that I fully understand the differences. Because I've not emotionally taken care of the needs of others in important ways that many women do, I am different in looking at myself. Physiologically it is also different not having the hormonal cycles and the potential of bearing children. Women seem to have more of a sense of "surviving" and living through things that they can't control than men do.

Getting older isn't easy! I am enjoying my life more now than I did when I was younger.


Friday, August 04, 2006

"Guard dog goes on a tear..."

"LONDON - A guard dog ripped apart a collection of rare teddy bears, including one once owned by Elvis Presley, during a rampae at a children's museum.

'He just went berserk,' said" .... "where hundreds of bears were chewed up Tuesday by the 6-year-old Doberman pinscher named Barney."

Oy- Vey! - I guess that even dogs may be affected by the stresses we face~


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Allowing Space - for Those We Care About

For my partner B how we appear in public is generally very important. Looking "bad" may mean that others will judge us negatively. For her, being Black, Female, and Large Bodied are all givens. Not being noticed (further) is important.

For me walking out with my shirt tucked in or half-way in is almost never an issue. I try not to make waves, but if others don't like the way I look, for me that's their problem.

Living with and around others requires me to try to be aware of and sensitive to what is important to them. Whether I think that pet peeves should be significant or not is not the issue. Sometimes I may choose to do things "my way" and sometimes I may listen and feel what others may want or I think that they may want.

I think that in most trouble spots in the world today the United States looks foolish or worse because we generally don't see the Space that others walk in and we insult people and otherwise are inconsiderate of their worlds of honor and respect.

Listening and hearing others is important!