Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hum, Hum, Humming Along

I'm sitting in front of my TV earlier this week and one commercial catches my eye. The voice over tells us of heroic citizens risking their own necks to help others during "natural disasters", specifically Hurricane Katrina. Faded headlines of calamity fill the screen and then we view damaging winds and rising flood waters.

And who are these private citizens? Owners of Hummers!

The underlying message is crystal clear -- "Own a Hummer and you can drive through most any of the ever-increasing climatic events".

There's just one itsy bitsy problem with this faux altruistic theme: Hummers (and all other gas guzzling monstrosities) are helping to create climate change!

It's our John Wayne attitude of rugged individualism and our "Come hell or high water" mentality regarding our pollutant-spewing transportation culture that is leading us down the road toward planetary ruin. In reality, Hummers are NOT part of the solution; they're part of the problem!

It's a problem that won't get much play with any of the front running Republicratic presidential candidates. And this sad fact, more than any other, is why we each need to work hard this coming year to support a strong Green presidential ticket. We need to get this topic front and center on the national political radar screen.

If not, future generations will look back in time to lament the shortsightedness of the current generation -- the one that destroyed their chance for survival. Do we really want THAT as our legacy?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Rite Two Bare Arms

I am not a gun owner. As a teenager, I fired a .22 caliber rifle a few times and it didn't make me giddy in the least. In fact, though I only shot at a few crows and stationary targets, I found the whole exercise a bit discombobulating. I realized at a young age that guns are dangerous and, placed in the wrong hands (people with evil motives or anyone in a foul mood), could easily become implements of death and destruction.

Of course, I realize I'm in the vast minority. Most families have at least one gun and some people own personal arsenals. Any suggestion from folks of my ilk that the world would be better off if we rounded up all the guns in private hands -- and melted 'em down -- is met with cries of "It's my damn constitutional right!"

Technically speaking, this assertion isn't altogether true. The U.S. Constitution only guarantees the right to "bear arms". "Arms" are weapons and a gun is only one of many arms.

We already have a few laws in place that limit what types of armament a private citizen can own or possess. The average person is forbidden from owning/possessing tanks, flamethrowers, land mines, cruise missile, nuclear weapons and a few specific types of guns.

With this in mind, why not outlaw the private ownership of all guns? Remove them from all the Wal-Marts of the world!

To stay in line with our constitution, we'd allow citizens the right to own/possess knives, billy clubs and bows 'n arrows, to name a few. If nothing else, I bet it would greatly reduce our murder rate!

Ever heard of a drive-by knifing?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Falling Down

I've discovered something about myself. I should never attempt to get on AND ride a bicycle at the same time! I attempted this feat today with disastrous results -- I fell off my bike.

I'm certain that almost everyone who has ridden a bicycle (or attempted to) has fallen at some point. Back in my youth, I accomplished this act several times. The main difference between then and now is that my body is far older (50 years and counting) and it doesn't take to falling down as well.

But don't despair! After I picked myself up off the ground, I did something I've never done before. I rode my bicycle from Raymond to South Bend (about 5 miles). There's a lovely bike path that follows the Willapa River and, the pain notwithstanding, I enjoyed the ride immensely.

Of course, I'm now reaping the "rewards" of my spill. My right elbow is swollen and both of my knees are banged up. My neck is also a bit stiff. And I'm fairly certain I'm going to feel a lot worse come morning!!

This is my first entry in almost one month. Though I've had a lot on my mind recently, I simply haven't had the time nor energy to post anything on this blog. I've added two paying gigs to my already busy schedule, so postings here will be sporadic, at best.

I'd write more now, but I need to go find an icepack.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It's Raining Again

The turn of the seasons from summer to autumn means different things depending on where one lives. In the Midwest, the transition is from searing hot temperatures with life-sapping high humidity to a more temperate climate. In the South, it means cooler nights and fewer violent thunderstorms. On the Pacific Northwest coast, it means rain...copious amounts of rain.

In fact, rain defines everything about this area. It explains why we don't enjoy more tourism here. Most people want to visit the beach with warm temperatures and sunny skies, not gale force winds and sheets of rain.

As I was sitting in one of my upstairs rooms this morning -- watching the latest torrent flow from the heavens -- it got me to thinking about all the various songs that have the word "Rain" in their title. The one I finally fixated on, Rain on the Scarecrow by John Mellencamp, really isn't about rain at all; it uses rain as a metaphor.

To view the entire lyrics, go here. Here's the last verse and chorus:
Well there's ninety-seven crosses planted in the courthouse yard.
Ninety-seven families who lost ninety-seven farms.
I think about my grandpa and my neighbors and my name
And some nights I feel like dyin like that scarecrow in the rain!

Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow.
This land fed a nation this land made me proud.
And son I'm just sorry they're just memories for you now.
Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow.
Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bomb Them Back to the Stone Age

I'm always perplexed when people devise beliefs that run counter to human nature. They look at some global issue and treat it as if sterile robots are the main players. They somehow forget -- or ignore -- the fact that people don't behave in such and such a manner during the routine episodes and encounters of our lives.

One such example is encapsulated in a phrase I hear all too often: The way we're going to achieve peace in the Middle East is to bomb the "terrorists" back to the Stone Age.

Violence and strong arm tactics never achieve a LASTING peace. To be certain, one can achieve the illusion of peace, but resentment, revenge and hatred are almost always seething just below the surface. These volatile emotions may not come bubbling up in the present generation, but, sooner or later, they WILL see the light of day.

If you don't believe the above assertion, I ask that you step back to take a look at the routine emotions and behaviors displayed by you and others in the course of daily life. Here are but two examples.
  • You and a colleague are both trying to secure the same promotion. Your colleague, not you, gets tabbed for the position. More often than not, most of us will believe it's because our colleague manipulated the system to his/her advantage and we didn't get a fair shake. A lot of people in this situation will develop a grudge against the promoted colleague and will go out of their way to undermine and embarrass them.
  • Two or more people offer an idea or strategy for their group to follow (church, social club, nonprofit advocacy organization, business, etc.) All of these individuals compete against each other to curry the favor of the majority or the key decision-makers. Typically, one person is more aggressive than the others and so it's their idea or strategy that wins out. The "losers" tend to bear a grudge and wait for the day when they can put so-and -so in his/her place.
Both of the examples cited above clearly illustrate that most of us don't take kindly to being strong-armed. When we believe others have been overly-aggressive or mean and vengeful toward us, a natural response is to want to pay them back in spades. We look for every opportunity possible to get our revenge.

If we then extrapolate everyday experience to the world of foreign policy, it becomes quite clear that bombing our adversaries "back to the Stone Age" will not net the ultimate result our "leaders" so desire. All it really does is create more determined enemies; people whose sole purpose in life is to ensure we pay in blood ten times over.

Far worse, it creates a perpetual cycle. Each time one side strikes, the other feels victimized and so plots out their revenge. They strike and now the other side views themselves as the victims and plots out their revenge. And it just goes on and on and on...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I have moved to an area that has a lot of flying insects: gnats, flies, mosquitoes and several other insects that I can't name. It's not prevalent throughout South Bend, but seems to exist in pockets. Our neighborhood on the hill appears to be the victim of a stagnant pond located below us on Weyerhaeuser property. As if I didn't have enough reasons to despise Weyerhaeuser anyway...

The mosquitoes, in particular, have taken up residence in our 2 bathrooms. This is not surprising since mosquitoes need moisture to survive. Be that as it may, it's quite annoying to climb into the shower and have to swat mosquitoes.

As our weather is slowly turning cooler (night temps are now falling into the low to mid 40s), the blood-sucking insects seem a bit slower and less able to dodge my hands. I've actually become quite adept at smashing them between my index finger and thumb. If that fails, I flatten them against the wall in the shower.

Of course, the act of killing these insects -- who simply are doing what they must do to survive -- does cause me to take pause from time to time. I sometimes ask myself what right I have to decide these life and death issues. Though I'm certainly cognizant of the threat of West Nile Virus and the more benign irritant of itching, I still sometimes feel a bit unsettled about the path of insect murder.

I mean, here's a mosquito simply minding its own business and then WHACK -- it's now nothing more than a tiny red smear on the wall.

So, I was pondering about this predicament the other day and it dawned on me that we are all subject to the flyswatter of nature. We humans often die far too young and under interesting circumstances. Of course, we have coined words to describe these instances: accident, illness, war, crime, tragedy, holocaust, etc.

It's like we're flitting around in the mundane routine of life and then WHACK -- we're dead.

Just like a mosquito.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Everyone wants to a feel a sense of belonging; to be accepted for who they are. A lot of people spend a great deal of their lives trying to force acceptance through unnatural means. They pretend to be someone else so others will like them. They behave in ways that runs counter to their internal nature in the hope of finding a dock on which they can tether their boat.

While seeking acceptance from the external world consumes so much of our time and energy, the greatest journey in our lives is seeking acceptance from the being closest to us -- ourselves.

If you think that family members, friends, bosses and colleagues can be hard on you, the harshest critic in most people's lives is the one you see in the mirror. Because we each know the most intimate emotions and secrets of our own lives, these are the ones we examine, re-examine, rehash and pull our hair out over.

Why did I say such and such to him or her? Why did I behave in this or that way? Why do I feel empty? Why do I always thwart myself? Why am I not the person I set out to be?

I don't care who you are, how many friends you have, how much money graces your bank account or how much fame you've acquired in your lifetime. Each one of us struggles under the yoke of self-doubt. It's part and parcel of this journey we call life. From a Taoist perspective, each of us gains a measure of wisdom when we can slay the dragon of self-doubt and learn to accept ourselves -- with all our imperfections -- as we truly are.

I have been fettered with the chains of self-doubt during most of my life. It was particularly acute in my teens, 20s and 30s. I knew from an early age that I was different from most all of my contemporaries. I felt like the proverbial duck out of water.

My school years were extremely difficult in that I was NEVER a part of a clique or group. In fact, it was so bad that even the outcasts -- the dregs of the teenage hierarchy -- shunned me. You know, it's a bad state of affairs when even the nerds hold you at arm's length!

As I look back now, I think it's fairly easy to see why I never fit in. Even at a very young age, I was a very principled and philosophic sort. I simply was not motivated nor interested in any of the chic trappings of adolescence. While my contemporaries seemed all caught up in superficial appearances, I was far more concerned with what lay beneath the surface -- a facet of my personality that continues unabated today.

Though I was never a member of a group, a funny thing happened during my senior year in high school. The facets of my personality that had, for so long, made me a social outcast, all of a sudden thrust me into the limelight of popularity. Everyone seemed to like me and wanted me around. So, while I remained unattached from any of the cliques and groupings, I was one of the few people in my school who could move fluidly through and among any group I desired.

This new station in life carried through college and beyond. While it was certainly more favorable than being shunned, it still filled me with a sense of isolation and loneliness. I was now able to connect with a wide variety of people, but the connection didn't go very deep. People still viewed me as being very strange indeed, albeit in a benign way.

Always feeling like I was on the outside looking in is what fueled the bonfire of my self-doubt. And, at times, this bonfire almost consumed me. At times, I tried desperately to fit in, but I'd always fail clumsily because I wasn't being me.

I can't pinpoint when the break came, but, somewhere over the past decade, I came to accept myself for who and what I am. Put in the popular vernacular, I'm a philosopher and philosophers went out fashion a few centuries ago.

I no longer struggle with all encompassing self-doubt. To be certain, there are fleeting moments of it tied to particular circumstances or situations, but it no longer defines my existence. I still feel isolated from most of society, but it no longer rips at my soul. I've come to realize that we all tread different paths in this life and, for better or worse, this is my path. So, I've learned to accept it for what it is and to embrace it as my own.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Ultimate Pollutant

As the world's scientists tell us that we're edging ever closer to environmental catastrophe, it's become chic to argue about which variables are the biggest culprits. For some, it's our dependence on oil. For others, it's the combination of coal and nuclear power that we use to heat/cool our homes and keep the lights burning. Still others will tell us it's styrofoam, aerosol cans or dioxin.

Personally, I think they're all wrong to varying degrees. From my perspective, the greatest pollutant of all is humanity!

This is not to say that humans as biological entities are more dangerous to our planet's survival than any other species, but our consciousness and ability to manipulate the environment on a grand scale is what makes each of us the most dangerous.

While other species take the natural world as it is and meld their lives into its fabric, we take the world as it is and reconfigure it to meet our needs, wants and desires. And, far too often, it is this process of reconfiguration that wreaks havoc on the laws of nature.

We drive cars and fly in planes because we want to get to wherever faster than we naturally can. We eat foods that come from far away continents rather than accept what are local environs have to offer. We communicate via telephone and computer because it's much easier than visiting each person's house.

Almost every routine action we take on any given day is polluting something. This statement is just as true for the fat cat who eschews the notion of global warming as it is for the most steadfast environmentalist! As Janisse Ray writes today at AlterNet, "Can Environmentalists Live up to Their Own Standards?", the choir isn't all it's cracked up to be. Here's a sobering excerpt:
Many times I have attended some gathering or other to speak about environmental issues, and when the final word has been delivered, the final question debated, refreshments are served on plastic plates and in plastic cups. I prepare my remarks. I take a deep breath, step in front of the crowd. I rant, I rave, I weep and open my heart. I preach fire and brimstone, and the punch is served in plastic cups. I cannot tell you the horrible feeling that envelops me.
We each rationalize our decisions in terms of our impact on the planet. For every positive or beneficial action we take, we concurrently take far too many others that are based on crass desires, not simple needs.

In the end, none of us fully embrace the natural world that we are but a small part of, the Tao. It's this rampant disharmony that most threatens our planet and ourselves.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I'm a Sentimental Sap

Back when I was growing up, it was sort of understood that boys and men don't cry or, if you did, you didn't allow anyone else to see it. While the male gender has made some strides in the past few decades, too many men still cling to the vestiges of the "unemotional rock of humanity".

Of course, I've never come close to this stereotype. I wear my heart on my sleeve. If I'm happy, you know it. If I'm sad, you know that too.

Truth be known, I'm what you might call a sentimental sap. I've never had a problem with crying. Tears can pop up in my eyes at any time for numerous reasons.

Dramatic music often leads me to tears. I don't mean I start bawling, but they easily drip down my cheeks. Two pieces that come to mind are Tchaiskovsky's 1812 Overture and Handel's Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah. The latter has had this affect on me since I was young and it's even more pronounced now since it was played at my mother's funeral (my choice).

Movies also are prone to lead me to tears. Though I've watched Dances with Wolves numerous times, the last scene ALWAYS chokes me up. There are two different parts of ET: The Extra-Terrestrial that are guaranteed to open my tear ducts and I'm certain to go mushy watching The Wizard of Oz, Brian's Song or Titanic.

One movie that really gets me going -- and I'm sure it will surprise most of you -- is Harry & the Henderson's. I know it's not a top-rated film and the story is kind of hokey, but the emotions of separation still tug at my heartstrings. I just finished watching it on HBO and I had a good, healthy cry!

One of the things I really like about the latter movie is that -- like ET & Close Encounters of the Third Kind -- it turns the human tendency of the fear of the unknown on its head. We don't refer to the folk legend of a being in Loch Ness as an animal but as a "monster". In this same vein, the folk legends of Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yetis tend to depict evil ape-like monsters ready to kill and dismember unfortunate humans.

Do I believe that Sasquatch genuinely exists? I'm highly skeptical. But do I want to believe it? Yes, yes I do. And that's what this sentimental sap holds on to.

Friday, September 7, 2007

From Small to Tiny

This has been a most interesting -- and stressful -- summer. When it began, my wife & I lived in Aberdeen (Grays Harbor County) and as it winds down we now live in South Bend (Pacific County). We've gone from a small city with most routine services to a little hamlet with few services.

For example, I've been to both grocery stores in the area -- one here in South Bend and the other in Raymond. Neither store carries ANY organic produce. None. Zilch. Nada. They also don't carry frozen yogurt nor fresh bagels -- not even at the progressive bakery in town.

There is no curbside recycling. In fact, there's very little emphasis on recycling at all. The two local recycling centers -- places with giant bins -- listed on the county website aren't there anymore. The two have been consolidated into one location that isn't even listed.

And the meager recycling available is nothing to write home about! There's no place to take greyboard nor mixed paper (i.e., junk mail).

Far worse than the above inconveniences, I've learned that the largest owner of property in Pacific County -- owning almost 80% of privately-held land -- is none other than the mighty Weyerhaeuser timber barons. They've spent the last century destroying the fragile Willapa basin!

This rural county is interesting as it has only 2 major highways (other than on the Long Beach spit) -- US 101 that skirts the northern and western edges and State Highway 6 that goes east to Chehalis. On a typical map, it looks like the vast majority of the county is undisturbed wilderness.

Aah, but general maps can be so deceiving!! It turns out that this county is carved up with roads -- logging roads. They cover hundreds of miles, winding hither to yonder. And what might we find near many of these such roads -- clearcuts!

Yes, the proverbial clearcut is alive and well here. It seems to be the preferred method for "harvesting" trees. There's one fresh clearcut that can be seen across the Willapa River from our little downtown area. It's hanging there on the side of a hill directly above the road that leads to Tokeland & North Cove. It's a landslide waiting to happen.

I'm sure I'll be reporting on a landslide there this winter when the rains return.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Heading South

When my wife and I realized our dream of living closer to the ocean -- by moving to Aberdeen & Grays Harbor County in December 2005 -- we thought we had set down permanent roots. We didn't expect to move to a different community. However, the rhythms of Tao don't always flow in the direction one expects!

This Friday we will close on a our new home in South Bend, the county seat of Pacific County. While the Aberdeen area is small by urban standards, it's a metropolis compared to South Bend. More people reside in the Aberdeen-Hoquiam-Cosmopolis area (about 26,000) than in the entire 600 square miles of Pacific County (21,000). South Bend has 1,800 residents and no stoplights.

Over the next month or so -- after we get this move finished -- I'll tell you about our ordeal in trying to find a home to purchase and why we ended up buying a home 27 miles south of Aberdeen. For now, you'll just need to Google "Pacific County".

Sunday, July 29, 2007

When Encountering a Bear, Your Silence Will Not Protect You

If you're out hiking in the wilderness and you encounter a bear at a close range, wildlife experts have a few words of advice for you. First, avoid direct eye contact with the bear as this might elicit a charge. Second, make yourself seem larger than you are by waving your arms or, if wearing a coat or jacket, pull the sides of the garment to the fullest extent on each side. Third, make a lot of noise by talking and yelling -- In this instance, your silence will not protect you. Fourth, if the bear attacks you, fight back aggressively. Finally, do NOT run from the bear as this will cause it to chase you and bears are a lot faster than you might think.

While pondering this information the other day, it dawned on me that this guide describes the current political landscape in our dear nation very well. In essence, the entire country has become a vast ideological wilderness. The Bush administration is a giant bear and the Democratic-controlled Congress represents a team of intrepid hikers.

These hikers keep running into the beast and they aren't following the advice of experts. Every time the bear bluffs a charge, they take off running, ceding more and more territory to the bear. After awhile, they stand their ground timidly and make a little noise, only to take off running again. In time, the bear will corner them and, when that happens, there won't be many options left.

Coming at this scenario from a different direction, we can also liken the American public to the hikers. We too keep crossing paths with the bear. Far too many of us -- like our elected representatives -- aren't heeding the tried and true advice of wildlife experts. We stand before the bear frozen in fear, arguing about what to do next. Instead of making ourselves appear as large as we truly are, we hunker down so as to appear smaller. Instead of screaming and yelling, some talk in a normal tone, while others whisper. And, far too many of us are ready to run at the first hint of danger.

The bear has become more and more emboldened because of our conjoined silence. If we ever hope to scare the bear away, we as a group must find the courage to yell and scream at the top of our lungs at this hairy beast. At that point, the bear may well realize that we're too great of an adversary and decide he will be better served to go off and eat berries.

As our nation is under assault by forces from within; silence will not protect us.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

If I Was Running for President in '08

If I was running for the office of President of the United States, my campaign platform would look far different than the ones being touted by the many candidates vying for the Democratic and Republican Party nominations. Here are some of the planks.
  • Immediate withdrawal of US troops from both Afghanistan & Iraq.
  • I'd go to the United Nations, with hat in hand, to apologize for US-led aggression and work with the nations of the world to place a team of peacekeepers in both countries. The US, of course, would supply troops for both missions, BUT they would be under the control of the UN, not the US.
  • I would work with Congressional leaders to develop a reparations package to both nations to aid in reconstructing their countries.
  • I would go before the UN and the citizens of the US to declare that our nation does not believe in preemptive military aggression nor the use of torture.
  • I would immediately shut down Gitmo and send all prisoners currently held there to federal prisons. I would provide each prisoner will full access to legal counsel, including the release of information as to why each person was arrested in the first place.
  • I would also immediately shut down the School of the Americas in Athens, Georgia and pardon anyone who was/had been charged with a crime for protesting at the site.
  • I would submit a budget to Congress that reduced military spending by 25% and would use some of the savings to establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace.
  • I would scuttle the Department of Homeland Security.
  • I would work with Congressional leaders to introduce legislation to broaden the Endangered Species Act, develop universal health care, end all subsidies to the oil and nuclear power industries and use these savings to better fund research into alternative energy sources.
  • I would promote the use of Instant Runoff Voting and would encourage states to move away from paperless electronic voting systems.
  • I would encourage Congress to repeal the No Child Left Behind Act and NAFTA.
These are but a few of the planks of what my platform might be. What would your platform look like?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Heaven Is A Place On Earth

In this world we're just beginning
To understand the miracle of living
Baby I was afraid before
But I'm not afraid anymore

Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth?
Ooh heaven is a place on earth
They say in heaven love comes first
We'll make heaven a place on earth
~from "Heaven Is A Place On Earth"~

If you read a description of socialism penned by conservatives -- particularly conservative Christians -- you quickly get the idea that it would represent the kind of society few would want to live in. They characterize it as life where the many take from the few and this is all accomplished through the brutality of the state.

I've always found this critique to be both laughable and ironic. The irony is that the socialist society envisioned by Karl Marx closely resembles the fundamentalist view of the Christian heaven. It is a place where all basic needs are met, everyone lives in harmony -- no war or crime -- and people are afforded the opportunity to develop their love for beauty and poetry.

In other words, it's a world view based on cooperation and community which is in direct opposition to our current society which focuses on competition and individualism.

Since both the Christian heaven and socialist ideology appear to embrace the same concepts, why are today's conservatives so dead set against the latter?

The answer is tied up in the neurotic nature of competition.

Competition is predicated on the idea of winners and losers. If one person or group is to be victorious, then another person or group must be vanquished. The embracers of competition don't want all boats to be raised at the same time, only the "worthy" ones and, of course, they have a very narrow definition of what is or is not worthy.

So, while heaven and socialistic society seem to share common themes, there is one crucial difference: in socialism, the utopian paradise applies across the board, while, in heaven, it ONLY applies to the chosen few -- the true believers.

Consequently, the truth of the matter is that conservatives are terrified of a socialistic society precisely because it applies to each and every person equally. If it could be attained in human society, it might well turn throngs of people away from religion as we would each be able to see that heaven could be a place on earth.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Terrorism -- In the Eye of the Beholder

Pick up a newspaper in the United States and it's very obvious who the "terrorists" are. It's those radical Islamic zealots!

Pick up a newspaper in the Arab world and it's very obvious who the "terrorists" are. It's those soldiers, predominantly from the United States!

That's one of the key problems with the word, terrorist. It's always aimed at the folks on the other side of the equation. No nation looks at the terror they may be responsible for; it's always the "other guy" who gets slapped with that highly emotive label. Heck, the folks on your side are freedom fighters!

We're all so used to hearing or reading the word "terrorist" that we often forget that it's not a word that was used much before the latter half of the twentieth century. It's certainly NOT the kind of word you see used in terms of the American Revolution.

If it had been used during that time, our founding fathers are the ones it would have been used in reference to.

The British occupying forces had superior firepower and numbers in comparison with General Washington and his rag-tag army. The English had professional soldiers who had honed their teeth on wars in the European theater.

Faced with these kinds of obstacles, the new Americans knew they couldn't follow the standard military protocol of the day by lining up face-to-face with their adversaries. Too many battles like this would mean the end of the American dream of independence.

So, what did they do? They employed a new military strategy -- guerilla warfare. They'd take a few potshots from the woods, picking off a few of his majesties finest, and then disappear back from whence they came.

From what I've read, after awhile, this tactic terrorized the British army. They never knew when or where the next shot would come from. Consequently, if the word "terrorist was used back then, I'm sure the English press would slapped this label on the American Minutemen.

Another group who most assuredly would have called the Americans terrorists is the various native people who resided on the their/our lovely territory. There are numerous examples of the US Cavalry swooping into an Indian settlement and shooting anything that moved (e.g., Custer's slaughter of unarmed Indians on the Washita River).

Not only did the soldiers gun down woman and children, but they burned villages to the ground, slaughtered thousands of bison and destroyed crops. Like the current Islamic zealots, religion -- this time Christianity, not Islam -- was one of the driving forces behind this wanton desire to exterminate "infidels".

So, just remember, who the terrorists are is in the eye of the beholder.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Words of a Christian Martyr

I just finished watching the 2003 documentary Bonhoeffer. It details the life of German theologian and pacifist Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was hanged by the Nazis in 1945 for his role in a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Earlier in my life, when I had flirted with attending seminary to become a Presbyterian minister, I read some of Bonhoeffer's works. His words spoke to me then as much as they speak to me now. And though the inspiration for his steadfast beliefs in peace, love and goodness spring forth from A Christian perspective, I still appreciate the clarity of his call to believers of all faiths and philosophies.

Here are some of his thoughts for you to chew on, pray about, contemplate or meditate on.
  • To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge.
  • The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.
  • The followers of Christ have been called to peace. . . . And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by such methods. . . . His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break
    it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they over-come evil with good, and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate.
  • Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.
  • Our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility… As a Christian I am called to treat my enemy as a brother and to meet hostility with love. My behavior is thus determined not by the way others treat me, but by the treatment I receive from Jesus.
  • Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others, we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as ourselves.
  • Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time they are the very source of anxiety.

Die Gedanken Sind Frei

Over the past decade, I have been on many a front line protesting our military incursions in Iraq & Afghanistan. While many Americans applaud the efforts of war protesters, there are many who castigate us for exercising our constitutional right of free speech. One of the arguments many of this ilk have tried to shove down our throats is that we are only entitled to our freedoms -- including the right of speech that we are criticized for using -- because of the bravery and dedication of American soldiers who have fought wars to ensure these freedoms are our birthright.

There's only one problem with this sentiment -- it isn't correct. It is patently and categorically false.

More often than not, wars are waged for economic or geopolitical purposes. While the rhetoric employed is often bathed in patriotic or nationalist prose, few wars have ever been fought solely for the sake of personal or collective freedom.

As the following German folk song clearly indicates, the ultimate freedom is possessed by as all.
Die Gedanken sind frei, wer kann sie erraten,
sie fliegen vorbei wie nächtliche Schatten.
Kein Mensch kann sie wissen, kein Jäger erschießen
mit Pulver und Blei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Ich denke was ich will und was mich beglücket,
doch alles in der Still', und wie es sich schicket.
Mein Wunsch, mein Begehren kann niemand verwehren,
es bleibet dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Und sperrt man mich ein im finsteren Kerker,
das alles sind rein vergebliche Werke.
Denn meine Gedanken zerreißen die Schranken
und Mauern entzwei, die Gedanken sind frei!

Drum will ich auf immer den Sorgen entsagen
und will mich auch nimmer mit Grillen mehr plagen.
Man kann ja im Herzen stets lachen und scherzen
und denken dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Ich liebe den Wein, mein Mädchen vor allen,
sie tut mir allein am besten gefallen.
Ich bin nicht alleine bei meinem Glas Weine,
mein Mädchen dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dust in the Wind

The other day my wife was watching a program on VH1 concerning someone's compilation of the 100 most popular rock ballads. Somewhere in the top ten -- I don't remember where as I wasn't paying close attention -- was the song Dust in the Wind by the group Kansas.

Commentator after commentator talked about how this particular song was sad and melancholy. One fellow made it sound like he felt like crying every time he heard the song.

Personally, I've always found it to be a beautiful song! If Taoists had anthems, I'm sure this would be one of them.

I suppose how one views the song is tied up in a person's view of dust. If you think of dust as unimportant specks of debris that get in your eyes and tends to make everything dirty, then I can certainly understand how you might interpret a song of this nature as being a bit of a downer.

In your mind's eye, the lyricist is telling you that you are as unimportant as dust.

On the other hand, if you view dust as being as important as any other thing in this life, then dust in the wind is sheer poetry. The message of the lyric is that, no matter how large or small a thing is, it is all part of the one reality, the Tao.
Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do
Crumbles to the ground
Though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Life in the Wake

Who hasn't stood at the edge of a lake or river and thrown a large rock into the water. It lands with a kerplunk on the surface and kicks up a splash. It also causes a ripple that begins at the epicenter of the water's displacement and moves beyond in all directions.

Life is a lot like the rock and the water. Every action -- proactive or reactive -- that is wrought by humankind or Mother Nature causes a ripple effect. It affects not only what is in the immediate area but things that seem separated by vast distances or time.

This is the point that confounds humanity again and again. Because our frame of reference viz-a-viz the universe is so small, we continuously fail to recognize the complete arc of the ripple that emanates from our own epicenters. We fail to recognize the cause and effect of our every action.

In present society, there's a great debate over the existence and causes of a phenomena called Global Warming. Some people discount its existence entirely. Others accept its presence, but believe it is part of the natural cycle of atmospheric conditions and that humans have had little effect on its occurrence. Still others believe it is the direct result of human tendencies to think short-term instead of long-term.

Regardless of where one falls on this continuum -- I fall in the human activity-induced camp -- I would hope that we could all agree that something has caused our atmosphere and climate to change somewhat to some significant degree. It is the result of a ripple from where somewhere or some time.

The film It's a Wonderful Life deals with this same premise. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), facing a personal and professional crisis, wishes he had never been born and contemplates suicide. An angel provides him with a glimpse of what his sleepy little town would have been like without his life lived.

In dramatic and not so dramatic ways, the town of "Bedford Falls" doesn't look anything like he expects. Of course, since this IS a movie, it illustrates ONLY the positive aspects of his life and how -- had it not been lived -- many negatives now exist. In actuality, were any of us to get to view how our communities and loved ones dealt with a life sans us, there would be a great mixture of both positives and negatives!

In essence, each and every thought we think or breath we take influences the actions, behaviors and consciousness of the entire universe. We can't escape it! And this goes to the heart of why Taoists believe we aren't genuinely independent actors and that we are all part of one reality.

As we go, so goes the world.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Siphoning Gas!

For the third time in less than two months, gas has been siphoned from our truck leaving our gas gage on empty. The first time it happened I chalked it up to youthful pranksters. I didn't think much of it, but it's happened twice more. After the second such theft, my wife and I bought a locking gas cap; it turned out not to make ANY difference at all!

After the first incident, we've phoned the Aberdeen Police Department to report these thefts and the local police response has been negligible. Both times we've been assigned a case number and nothing else.

I realize we have a small police force and there are bigger fish to fry, but I was rather dumbfounded that the police wouldn't stop by to do something as small as dust the gas cap for prints. What if they catch a gas thief in the coming weeks? If they had fingerprints from numerous other such thefts, wouldn't they be able to match up the thief with a lot of crimes and thereby strengthen their case?

I suppose I'm more than a little irritated because, during the week of the port protests, I seemed to pick up a police tail every time I left my home. It seemed like within two or three blocks I'd find an Aberdeen police cruiser following me around town to such exciting destinations like the grocery store or the bank!

So how is it that the police had time for me when I wasn't doing ANYTHING illegal -- unless you consider free speech to be a criminal offense -- yet, when I'm the victim of a bona fide crime, they can't be bothered?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

I find it ironic that, though we live in a world predominated by roundness, cycles and circles, most westerners view life in a linear fashion with definable beginnings and endings. The primary reasons for this apparent contradiction are borne in the fact that western civilized society is characterized by two dominant perspectives: Judeo-Christian belief and rationalism.

In terms of the former, the very conception of life is viewed in terms of the God story as told through the Christian Bible. The first 3 words of this work are "In the beginning" and the last installment -- Revelations -- describe the "end times". Consequently, in no uncertain terms, Christians are fixated on the concepts of first and last or beginning and end.

Yet, as we gaze out into the world in which we live, we don't find this dichotomy afoot at all. Far from being characterized as fixed points along a straight continuum, the natural processes of life are bound into never ending cycles.

Consider for a moment the roundness of our universe. All of the planets that make up our solar system are round. Each rotates in a circle on its axis and each rotates in a circle around the largest star, the sun.

Beyond this roundness is the cyclical aspect of nature. The four seasons form a circle. Each day is a circle. The life process itself is representative of a circle. Everywhere we look there are circles and yet we construct belief systems, philosophies and ideologies that run counter to nature.

For me, this represents one of the chief reasons that humankind tends to feel estranged from the world. Every other aspect of reality operates within this natural rhythm of life, while we vainly try to operate in a manner that is counterintuitive and at odds with everything else. It's no wonder so many of us feel alienated, isolated and stressed.

For centuries Taoism has been locked away inside the Far East. Slowly, as more and more people look for avenues outside the Judeo-Christian perspective, people from all walk of life are turning to Taoist philosophy to come to a better understanding of humankind's place in the overall scheme of things.

Taoists do not see the world in a counterintuitive fashion. We recognize and celebrate the cyclical nature of all things and it is our purpose to try as best we can to move with and in the stream of life to flow with all creation.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

We Need a "Special" Military Draft

Regardless of the type of group one might speak of, the best group leaders are those who lead by example, not word. It's far easier and more effective to convince the gaggle to accept all forms of hardship and sacrifice, IF the leader is "in the trenches" with the rest of the team.

In regards to the war in Iraq, our elected national representatives in Washington, DC are leading by word, NOT example. While both the Bush administration and the US Congress continue to execute the war on Iraq, few, if any of them, have members of the own family in harm's way.

To remedy this deplorable circumstance, I have a proposal for a very "special" military draft. (This draft would also be advantageous for our troop numbers as recruitment has been way down as of late.)

Each and every member of the Bush Cabinet (and their subordinates) plus each member of Congress would have one age-appropriate member of their immediate family drafted to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. If no individual in the immediate family meets the specification, then the pool would be widened to nephews/nieces, uncles/aunts, cousins and on down the line.

Because of his devout support of the "War on Terror", George W. Bush's would send both of his twin daughters.

At this juncture, I could fathom several war hawks saying, "Sure, we'll go along with this plan." (wink, wink) "No problem!" Of course, these wily folks would be thinking that they'd get their family members assigned stateside or in a cushy position inside the protected "Green Zone".

But my proposal takes these high jinks into consideration. Each "recruit" from the special draft would start out at the bottom rank. They would each be assigned to platoons that conduct daily excursions into Sadir City, Fallujah, Basra or the hundreds of other cities and towns in Iraq or Afghanistan.

They would have no special standing. They would be outfitted like other foot soldier. They would sleep in the same tents, eat the same food, run on the same schedules and drive the same vehicles.

If this proposal were adopted, then I think a great many more Americans would stand solidly behind the war. They would understand that our elected leaders weren't asking average citizens to sacrifice something they would never dream of sacrificing.

Our leaders would be leading by example and we would gladly follow them to hell and back.

The S is Gone

I've decided to revert this blog back to its singular sense. For the past few months, I've listed my brother's name along with mine as authors of this blog. In reality, however, brother Sean has NEVER posted an entry. He HAD intended to do so, but he's simply not a prolific writer like his elder sibling.

So, for all of you who have checked out Sean's profile and wondered which entries were his and which ones were mine, they have ALL been mine. Each and every one of them.

My brother is a really neat fellow, but it's become obvious that he's just not at the point in which writing on a blog is one of his priorities and that's quite okay.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Disassociated American

As a group, we Americans don't seem too care much about the hows and whys of modern life. As the chief consumers of consumables, what matters most to us is that the price is right, the service is good and the product arrives on time. In other words, we are a superficial people. Not only do we not care what lies just below the surface, we seldom even glance beyond the surface sheen.

We drive our vehicles like there's no tomorrow. We slurp up petroleum like a thirsty man guzzles water after being lost in the desert. We don't seem to care that oil is a finite resource and that most of it is found under the soil of other sovereign nations. We need it to fuel our insatiable appetites, so we have few qualms about murdering others to get control of it. Hey, it's our God given right!

We gorge ourselves on foods produced by the sweat and toil of others. Who cares if these workers are paid less than a subsistence wage which forces them to live in squalid conditions? Who cares how many rain forests are plowed under or how many peasants are thrown off their land to make way for corporate agriculture? Who cares how many tons of pesticides and other toxins are used to increase the crop yield?

All of that is unimportant to us. All we care about is that price of apples, bananas, potatoes, sirloin and whatever else is within our reach.

The same can be said about our clothing and other creature comforts. We don't worry about the poor who toil away in sweatshops for pennies a day so we can purchase our Nike shoes or Martha Stewart cooking gadgets for $89.95. It's not our problem that the people who make our cherished possessions don't earn enough in a week, month or year to buy the product for themselves.

A lot of pundits have predicted that the American empire is on the wane. They point to our imperialistic tendencies and nonsustainable policies as the chief culprits. While I share their belief in the bottom line prediction, I believed the one variable that will do us in is our disassociation from humanity.

Until we, as a society, learn genuinely to understand the true ramifications of cause-and-effect, we will continue down this road to eventual ruin.

At the end of the day, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Topsy-Turvy World

Words are curious things. Without them, written communication would be near impossible. With them, communication often is ambiguous, at best. It's not that words necessarily are imprecise; it's more the way each person hears words and individually or collectively comprehends each one.

Descriptive words -- whether adjectives or nouns -- frequently cause all sorts of confusion. Take the words far and long. What is far or long to one person may be quite near or short to another.

Then there are words that seem to indicate one thing when they really indicate something altogether different. A ground hog is not a pig but a rodent. A pineapple doesn't grow on a pine tree nor is it an apple. And what is it it that conservatives are attempting to conserve?

To conserve means to protect from loss or harm; preserve; to use carefully or sparingly, avoiding waste. Yet, it is political conservatives who tend to favor policies, laws and strategies that harm and use up our finite environmental resources. It is many of these same individuals who castigate the science behind global warming.

Contrast this position with political radicals (e.g., tree hugging environmentalists). It is the radicals who desire to protect from loss or harm and preserve our natural world. This is the group that opposes clear-cutting of forests, nuclear energy and its concomitant waste, defiling of our air and war, and promotes such ideas as alternative energy initiatives and reining in urban sprawl.

Consequently, when it comes to environmental issues, we find that we live in a topsy-turvy world. The so-called conservative favors a radical and nonsustainable approach, while the so-called radical takes the conservative position.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Unwinnable Solution

If you've read anything on this blog, my columns on Grays Harbor Online or my quotes in The Daily World, it should be quite evident that I believe this bloody war in Iraq is immoral and ethical. However, for this brief moment, let's set my personal sentiments aside.

Let's say we accept the notion that this war is neither immoral nor unethical. Heck, let's even say that the best way to achieve "victory" is to send enough soldiers to get our troop numbers up to 250,000 and we arm them with as much munitions and supplies as they could ever desire, including nuclear weapons!

Will all this guarantee a resounding US victory bathed in the flag, mom and apple pie?
In a word, no. We will still lose.

The only surefire way to root out a faceless enemy is to shoot everything and everyone in sight. You never know when that one innocent face in the crowd might later turn out to be the next suicide bomber. So, we would need to lay waste to the entirety of Iraq and, while we're at it, we might as well decimate Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Palestine too.

The chief problem with this kind of strategy is that, no matter how many people you kill, more enemies will keep cropping up. So, you'll have to kill them too, only to find there are now more and more of them.

You see, whenever a nation or people start indiscriminately slaughtering both the guilty and the innocent, it causes others to react with revulsion. The allies of the group being slaughtered both will seek revenge AND, since they may well figure they're next in line, they'll take the offensive.

In time though, the problem will hit much closer to home -- it won't be the allies of the vanquished that we'll be most worried about, it will be our OWN allies. They will begin to worry that we are becoming too powerful and ruthless. They will worry that we are getting too big for our britches and may well become a threat to their economic survival.

You see, this is the chief problem with war. It begets itself over and over again. Today's victory leads to tomorrow's defeat and, sooner or later, ALL empires fall under their own blood lust and weight.

So, from a rational standpoint, this drive by some to utterly defeat Iraq and/or global terrorism is really the first step in annihilating America. Yes, we might claim victory now, but down the road we will receive our comeuppance for it.

Don't take my word for it. Grab any world history book and read it for yourself.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Working Class Anthem

As we marched through the streets of Aberdeen & Hoquiam protesting the military shipments through the Port of Grays Harbor, I thought that besides the chants and shouts, we should be singing. But sing what?

Years ago I heard "The Internationale" written & performed by folk singer Billy Bragg. If the progressive movement ever adopted an anthem, I think this should be it.
The Internationale

Stand up, all victims of oppression
For the tyrants fear your might
Don't cling so hard to your possessions
For you have nothing, if you have no rights
Let racist ignorance be ended
For respect makes the empires fall
Freedom is merely privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by one and all

So come brothers and sisters
For the struggle carries on
The Internationale
Unites the world in song
So comrades come rally
For this is the time and place
The international ideal
Unites the human race

Let no one build walls to divide us
Walls of hatred nor walls of stone
Come greet the dawn and stand beside us
We'll live together or we'll die alone
In our world poisoned by exploitation
Those who have taken, now they must give
And end the vanity of nations
We've but one Earth on which to live


And so begins the final drama
In the streets and in the fields
We stand unbowed before their armour
We defy their guns and shields
When we fight, provoked by their aggression
Let us be inspired by like and love
For though they offer us concessions
Change will not come from above


Words: Billy Bragg
Music: Pierre Degeyter

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Representing the Big Doughnut

Legendary professional football coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers has been quoted as remarking, "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing". Our society has taken this sentiment to the extreme. We live in a world in which almost everybody strives not to be reliable, ethical or competent, but to be #1. We're told again and again that the spoils go solely to the victors and, if the potentiality of winning is not within one's grasp, then there's no reason to even play the game.

Take a look at our consumer-based society. We are beaten over the head with the message that we must drive the biggest and baddest car, live in the largest house or wear the snazziest clothes to be a somebody that matters. If a person doesn't strive for such things, well...something has got to be wrong with you.

Another arena this mantra takes center stage is in the political world. I grow so tired of the widespread belief that one must have a realistic and viable chance for victory or you have no business to enter the fray.

In far too many parts of this country --including right in here in Grays Harbor County -- one political party holds sway. In most of this county, a candidate stands little chance of winning unless a D is listed next to their name. Does that mean that only Democrats reside here?

Of course not! Grays Harbor County is just like every other county. We have people who span the political spectrum from the most conservative conservatives to radical left-wingers like myself.

In the halls of Olympia or the various government bodies throughout the region, we have no elected officials that represent our views and, since we may well be in the minority, when candidates appear that represent our perspectives, they are told to sit down and shut up because everyone "knows" that can't possibly win!

I don't know about you, but I believe there's more to life than winning and/or being on the victorious side. In fact, I dare say there is great worth in standing up for what one believes in even if you know in your heart of hearts that your position or perspective will not win out.

As many of you know, I was one of the local organizers for the recent protests at the Port of Grays Harbor. While I would be lying if I said that one of our goals was not to influence public opinion to come to see that shipping supplies to Iraq only fuels this immoral war, that wasn't the key reason I chose to be involved.

If I had been out there all by my lonesome and had been the ONLY person protesting, I still would have found much merit in my actions. Most of us have bedrock principles that we believe in. It is incumbent upon us to stand up for those beliefs and give voice to them. If not, that bedrock crumbles and we end up standing for nothing.

For me, whether or not a particular perspective or position is popular or is viewed as a potential winner is inconsequential. The losing side of any debate needs as much representation as the winning side. If not, then how can anyone expect new ideas or perspectives ever to gain a foothold.

Look at history. Such novel concepts as the 8-hour workday, social security, a woman's right to vote or equality for blacks (to name a scant few) were unpopular positions when they were each first brought into public purview. People were lynched, arrested and killed for espousing such revolutionary ideas. It was only because there were people willing publicly to stand up and give voice to these "losing" concepts that they are each now part of our culture today.

So, I challenge people, regardless of your views, to stand up for what you believe in, whether or not it is popular. To give voice to your perspective, whether or not you have any hopes of winning. If not, then we all lose.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Me & My "Shadows"

We seem to live in a world in which almost everybody wants to be famous. That's about the only explanation that makes any sense out of the recent spate of so-called "reality" shows, talent contests and Jerry Springer-like clones. People from all walks of life want their moment "in the sun" and they'll try to finagle a way to get their cute little mug on camera by any means possible, be it for something positive OR negative.

I've never desired to be famous. I actually enjoy being just another anonymous face in the crowd. I can putter about my business in my own time on my own terms.

Over the past few days, however, I've seemed to have developed a following -- literally. It seems like every time I go anywhere in my truck, I soon find a member of the Aberdeen police department on my tail. They follow me for several blocks and, on several occasions, almost all the way home.

If I drive to the port, they follow me all over the place. If I'm just moseying around town -- like to the gas station or the store -- I have almost always had an "escort" for some of the time. Today, when I stopped at the bank, I came out to find one of my favorite unmarked cars waiting in the parking lot.

Maybe I'm just paranoid, but it does seem like everywhere I go these past few days, there they are.

In the end, it doesn't make that much difference. I'm not up to anything secretive. I'm not traveling to clandestine meetings. I'm just doing what I usually do each day with my little tag alongs tagging along behind.

So guys, if you want to keep playing this weird game, go ahead. After awhile, I think you're going to become very bored because I'm not headed any place special. I'm just making my rounds.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Books & Their Covers

Amongst the legions of peace activists who participated in yesterday's march, there were around 6 or 7 young people who wore bandannas over their faces and some even worse sunglasses. The police kept a very close eye on this group. Why? Solely because of the way they dressed.

When I was young, my parents taught me a maxim that I'm certain most every other parent teaches their children as well -- You shouldn't judge a book by its cover. In other words, you shouldn't allow superficial observations to color your ultimate judgment of a person or situation. Yet this is precisely what the police were/are doing.

Not jumping to quick conclusions seems to be a hard task for all of us. We take a quick glance at a particular circumstance and immediately formulate an opinion. There's nothing wrong with this UNLESS we allow our partial formulation to solidify into a hardcore final analysis. By doing this, we often cast aside pertinent information and further observation that might very well change our overall attitude about our snap judgment.

I've met many, many people who I initially disliked. The first time I encountered one of my best friends from Salem, he was berating a candidate that I served as campaign manager for. He ranted, raved and fumed about what he thought was wrong with the focus of the campaign message.

If I had allowed my knee jerk reaction to govern my final view of this man, I never would have gotten to know him. I never would have discovered his wry sense of humor, his devotion to his wife and children, his commitment to education (he's a history prof at Willamette University) or his dedication to public service. In essence, someone who has turned out to be one of my dearest friends would have remained a stranger to me!

As our march and rally wound down yesterday, I went up to thank each of these youth for their participation. With bandannas removed, I saw youthful faces not unlike countless other faces in the crowd. These young people were no more a threat to "public order" than any other attendee there.

Still, I will admit to the world that there was a time not so long ago when I made the same mistake as the police. Maybe it's a generational thing. As an organizer with Oregon PeaceWorks, I worked with a lot of the so-called street youth in Salem.

I was initially put off by all these young people with weirdly colored hair, dog collars around their necks, ball bearings stapled in their tongues and piercings and body jewelry adorning almost every inch of their bodies. Fortunately, I was able to cast off my "older guy" prejudices and work with these kids on a daily basis. In time, I realized how silly my snap judgments were. Their piercings were nothing more revolutionary than the long hair of my youth.

In this same vein, bandannas covering one's face both is a social and political statement. No more, no less. It certainly doesn't mean that such individuals are prone to violence anymore than anyone else is.

I'm glad these young people came to help us in this protest and I will welcome them with open arms at any future such event. I also hope that local law enforcement personnel will try to remember the lesson they too learned so many years ago as children -- Don't judge a book by its cover.

Thoughts On Why

Throughout the past few days, the one question many people have asked me is why? Why are you people protesting? What is it you hope to accomplish? Do you genuinely think that a few people with signs marching down our streets will cause the armed forces to quit shipping supplies to Iraq?

We protest simply because it's the right thing to do. If you believe that some action or activity is immoral and/or unethical, you have a responsibility to speak up. The oft repeated phrase is true -- Your silence will not protect you!

Protesting takes on even more importance if you are a person who believes in the worth and value of nonviolence. As a pacifist, I would not countenance storming the port and blocking the shipment with the point of a gun. It would wholly negate our mantra of nonviolent action. We would soon become the very thing we so adamantly oppose.

The act of protest most likely will not halt this specific shipment, but it still serves a most important purpose. As more and more people see their friends and neighbors in the streets, it may well motivate them to get off their butts to join us. At some point, with so many people protesting, it will become politically untenable to continue to support the continuation of this infernal war.

In the end, however, I bet my reason for protesting may be a lot different than many of my fellow comrades. I believe that a person should stand up for what they believe in REGARDLESS of whether or not they believe their actions will have much of a public impact.

In other words, even if I KNEW that these protests wouldn't change a damn thing -- now or in the future -- I'd still be out there. I'm not one of these people who believes that one should only fight potential winning battles; often times the losing battles are just as important.

If you know in your heart that something is wrong and yet you sit by saying nothing, you end up bankrupting your own soul. I firmly believe in the sentiment expressed during much of the civil rights movement of the 60s: If you're don't try to be part of the solution, then you indeed become part of the problem.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Commendations to the Boys in Blue

It had the makings of a really bad scene. On one side of the road was a line of police officers. On the other side of the road stood about 50 anti-war protesters. The police announced that the protesters had 2 minutes to disperse (because they were not in the designated free speech area) or they would be pepper sprayed. Nobody moved and the 2 minutes came and went. What would happen now?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

No one was pepper sprayed. No one was arrested. There was no physical confrontation. The protesters stood their ground peaceably and the police -- in a great example of wisdom -- realized nothing would be gained by attacking the crowd.

I know that a lot of people in our movement have a very negative view of the police. In their eyes, nothing the police do or don't do ever is satisfactory. While I certainly agree that I often vehemently disagree with many police actions, in this case, we need to commend the men in blue.

Our local law enforcement exercised great restraint. They didn't allow their emotions to get the best of them. They kept a cool head and turned a potentiality explosive situation into a very manageable and positive one.

I must say that one thing we often forget is that police officers are people too. I had a really nice chat with a Hoquiam officer before the march got underway. He said that a lot of the local officers are with us in spirit, that many of them oppose the war as much as we do. Unfortunately, they have the kind of job in which they often have to swallow their personal opinions.

I am not naive. While today was a great day and things turned out well, the same may not be true tomorrow. And while I genuinely commend people like Aberdeen Capt. Dave Johnson and Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Meyers for the way they handled the overall situation, we still have had several reports of attempts at police harassment and intimidation.

I'm just thankful that cooler heads prevailed and a tense situation did not blow up into a major fiasco.

Monday's Event
We will gather at 7:00 p.m. at the Aberdeen City Hall, 200 E Market St, for a 1 hour or so vigil. There is ample on street parking around City Hall.

I'm sure we will talk about what further actions to take as long as the ship remains docked at Terminal 4 at the Port of Grays Harbor.

Twelve Hours

In the overall scheme of things, 12 hours is like one grain of sand on an endless beach. It's a speck on the celestial radar screen. It's one raindrop in a barrel overflowing with water. Twelve hours ain't nothing...

...unless one speaks of a day. At this juncture, 12 hours takes on far greater significance. Twelve hours is one-half of one calendar day. In the workaday world, 12 hours takes on even greater meaning; it's one and one-half days of work.

For those people who toil away for a 40-hour work week, 3 12-hour shifts almost is comparable to 5 8-hour days. Five consecutive 12-hour shifts is the equivalent of 7.5 regular 8-hour shifts and, for most people, those 7.5 days are broken up by a 2-day weekend.

The reason I'm focusing this entry on the number 12 is that, according to the assigned police officers I'm working with regarding the ongoing protests here in Aberdeen, all local law enforcement are working 12-hour shifts with all vacations and leave put on hold.

Just about anyone can put in a 12-hour day without it causing too much of a problem. In fact, if called upon by extraordinary circumstances, most of us could work 2 or 3 such shifts without too much ill wear. However, once most people pass the 3 day mark, 12-hour shifts begin to take a toll.

When people are overworked -- particularly when it involves high pressure situations -- nerves begin to fray. People begin to get crabby and crotchety. Little frustrations that normally would go unnoticed get magnified. Simple disagreements can blow up into major imbroglios. And overworked individuals simply don't think as clearly and rationally as well rested ones.

It is for this reason alone that I hope the current situation at the Port of Grays Harbor doesn't drag on for several more days. Our small town is filled with a battalion of overworked and overstressed men (I haven't seen ANY female officers in several days) who happen to have a small arsenal of weaponry attached to their belts.

I don't know about you, but I don't think that frayed nerves and loaded guns are a good mixture. I realize that law enforcement personnel receive lots of training on how to deal with situations of this manner, but human nature tends to take precedence and it's these elements of basic human nature that worry me.

We've got probably 100 or more officers who have been told repeatedly to expect trouble. They've been putting in long hours day after day and the "trouble" they are so prepared to encounter hasn't materialized at all. Almost any person will find themselves in a difficult personal situation if they are all keyed up for a confrontation and then nothing happens.

You combine this overarching anxiety with a lack of sleep/down time and you've created a volatile mixture, one that could explode over the tiniest perceived incident.

Today will, undoubtedly, be a most interesting day. I hope it's not an explosive one.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

A "Slow" News Day

As I was standing amongst a crowd of about 3 dozen demonstrators talking to a reporter from the local newspaper, she asked me if we were going to DO something. "Would you like us to storm the fence around the port," I asked. Smiling, she said that would be okay. It would make the protest more newsworthy.

Needless to say, we didn't storm the fence. We stood near the side of the road with our signs and banners in hand.

For the last two days the police have made an emphatic point that we must stay within the bounds of the public demonstration area. Of course, as our marchers neared this area, what do you think they found? Counter-demonstrators who were NOT in the designated area. No, they were lined up on the shoulder of the road.

Despite the overwhelming police presence, it appeared the police were allowing the pro-war faction to avoid the zone. To be fair, once we arrived, many of our folks took to the shoulder as well and we were not ordered to move. So, I can't complain that we were treated unfairly.

All in all, it was a good event. In keeping with the location and time of year, it drizzled for most of the afternoon. However, if you live in western Washington, you don't think twice about a little -- or a lot -- of rain.

Initially, I thought the police were doing a better job with not flooding the area with officers and troopers. Unlike Friday's event, we weren't continually surrounded by men carrying loaded guns. However, as I left the field to head towards my truck, I discovered that an entire fleet of state troopers were stationed behind a building next to the field. Still seems like gross overkill to me.

Sunday's Event
We will again meet at 2:00 p.m. at the 28th Street landing in Hoquiam. We're expecting a rather large contingent from out of town. Because of the expected larger numbers, many of you will be directed to the overflow parking area.

By the way, if haven't heard, the ship has docked and we expect that the loading of the military supplies has commenced.

My Other Two Fears

As noted below, the huge police buildup in Aberdeen makes this peace activist very, very nervous. However, I don't want to give readers the impression that I believe that the police are the ONLY ones to blow situations out of proportion. There are other groups that worry me just as much -- Counter demonstrators and violently-inclined anarchists.

There always seems to be at least one group of individuals who believe fervently in the cherished right of free speech -- that is, free speech that agrees with their stated point of view! If you happen to hold an opinion that does not meet their favor, then your free speech is of absolutely no concern to them!

Since those who support this immoral war don't want to hear from ANYONE who disagrees with them, many are apt to create a situation that can have a propensity to turn violent. They will try to use all forms of intimidation to provoke a reaction and, if someone gets fed up with their hate-filled message and even ends up yelling back obscenities at them, many either will resort to fisticuffs or go running off to the police swearing they've been threatened with severe bodily harm.

In either case, the police are prone to move forward in an aggressive manner and, at that point, all bets are off. A lot of peaceable people will try to protect themselves when someone is swinging a nightstick at them and the police will often perceive these instinctual movements as further evidence that the nonviolent person is attempting some act of violence.

The other group of individuals that really worries me are those violently-prone individuals who show up at peaceful rallies and put others in harm's way to satisfy their own twisted personal agendas. While I happen to be a pacifist, I would at least be lukewarm toward these sorts of individuals if they didn't use peaceniks as their human shields.

What happens too often is that a group of the violently-prone will start throwing objects or destroying property on the edge of a peaceful march or rally. When the police move forward to halt these activities, the instigators dart into the crowd which often makes it next to impossible for law enforcement to figure out who's guilty and who's innocent.

This is one kind of situation in which I bet I differ from many of my compatriots. While I do agree that the police tend to be overly aggressive in these sorts of circumstances, I concurrently understand the predicament they are placed in.

The destructive actions have stimulated their adrenalin. Their job is to stop the behavior. Since they can't be sure who is at fault in this massive sea of people, it's very hard to discriminate between the peace-minded and the violently-prone. It's almost inevitable that many innocents will be caught up in a frenzy of anger-fueled chaos.

So, if you have an idea that you want to attend our nonviolent rallies in order to turn them into violent melees, I have 2 words for you: STAY HOME. Don't play the coward's role by utilizing the conscious strategy of using peaceable people as your human shields.

If you're bound and determined to hold an event that includes a violent confrontation with the police, do it on your own time, not ours.

A Police State of Mind

Driving around Aberdeen, one might think we were gearing up for a Hell's Angels convention! At almost every turn, there's a police car. Not only are there a lot of them, but they come from all over the place. Aside from more unmarked cars than I can ever remember seeing in one locale at any given time in my life, I have seen patrol cars from Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Ocean Shores, Montesano, Elma, Grays Harbor County and the State Patrol.

I've even heard that there are some law enforcement people here from as far away as Tacoma and Seattle!!

Tonight, after picking up my wife from work, we drove over to the "designated" free speech area, if for no other reason than to see if the police presence was as high at night as it has been during the day. As soon as we turned onto the Port Industrial Road, we found an Aberdeen patrol on our tail.

It followed us as we made the turn into the Pride Oil driveway that passes by our designated marsh. As we slowed, so did the patrol car. We looped around to the nearest street to go back down the Industrial Port Rd from whence we came. The patrol car was still behind us. In fact, it followed us almost all the way home, only turning off one block from our house.

And why is this armada of law enforcement circling in and throughout this rural small town? Because of scary peaceful protesters.

(At Friday's rally, I'm not altogether certain which there was more of -- protesters or police officers.)

Having this many cops in one place at one time makes me more than a tad bit nervous. Whenever you have a large group of people EXPECTING trouble, they are more likely to be the ones to cause it. I don't say this because of inherent dislike for the police; it's human nature.

I'm fairly certain that all the various officers have been warned that big time trouble is brewing. Since police officers are human beings just like the rest of us, waiting for this supposed inevitability to happen assuredly is breeding much anxiety within their ranks.

It's very much like having a battalion of soldiers with itchy trigger fingers. As soon as one sees anything they perceive to be out of the ordinary (even though their perception is highly colored by their unreal sense of anticipation), the natural impulse is to shoot first and ask questions later.

Consequently, history has well documented that the police tend to overreact to nonexistent threats at these kinds of peaceful rallies and generate a self-fulfilling prophecy. They expect violence and, when it doesn't occur as expected, their anxiety causes them to react violently to a nonviolent circumstance and this causes the kind of violence they expected to occur in the first place.

The worst part of this kind of scenario is that, even if the police KNOW that a particular situation was instigated by a member within their own ranks, it's a natural human tendency to come to the aid of your own. So, some hot-headed officer turns a small incident into a major brouhaha and the rest of his comrades will rush to his aid with teargas, tasers and nightsticks ready.

This is my greatest fear and one of the chief reasons I've volunteered to serve as our police liaison.

Saturday's Event
People are asked to converge at the Port of Grays Harbor Public Viewing Tower around 2 p.m. This area can be reached by traveling through Aberdeen to Hoquiam and turning south on 28th Street. Go straight until you run out of road. There is a small gravel parking area there.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Free Speech & Hip Waders

I'm sure that, if you spoke to the staff or commissioners from the Port of Grays Harbor, each would tell you how much they value the exercise of free speech. It's one of those hallowed American rights. It's so important that, they believe, they have gone out of their way to create a free speech "zone" for area residents coming to the Port to protest against impending military shipments to Iraq.

On a superficial level, they would be correct. The designated patch of earth is located across the street from the service road to Terminal 4, the terminal the US military will use to load the shipments. It's in a high visibility area, since it is on the main street that runs through the Port.

If you look a little deeper than the superficial sheen on the top, you will quickly discover that free speech must not be that important to them. The designated zone is in a marsh! What appears to be a level and freshly mowed field ACTUALLY is a choppy piece of land with a lot of standing water throughout.

Working in cahoots with the City of Aberdeen, the Port is trying to make it as difficult as possible for people to gather in the marsh! No Parking signs fill all the side streets within the Port as well as several blocks deep in the surrounding neighborhoods.

I live about 1 mile from the Port and these No Parking signs start only 2 blocks or so from my house. They run all the way down Industrial Port Road to the Hoquiam city limits!

While Grays Harbor residents are treated to a very good county-wide transit system, only 5 buses go to the Port area and none travel that route on the weekends.

So, while we are being granted the right to exercise our constitutional rights in an area of high visibility across from Terminal 4, the zone itself is situated on a marshy piece of real estate that is difficult to get to.

It makes one wonder how differently this situation would be dealt with if a group of people wanted to hold a rally cheering the military equipment being brought in. It wouldn't surprise me if the Port arranged for shuttle buses and housed the rally at the Port offices, replete with refreshments!

Friday Event
If you'd like to come take part in an exercise in free speech, we will hold a vigil today at Zelasko Park from 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. The park is located next to the Wishkah River in the east end of Aberdeen.

If you're coming from the west, once you pass Burger King, you will cross a bridge over the Wishkah River. The park is immediately to your left.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Greetings to the Army!

Blog statistics are an interesting thing. It provides the opportunity to see who and from where blog visitors originate. It seems that over the past 36 hours, The Rambling Taoists has become a frequent destination for folks connected with the US military in Auburn, Washington. Hmm. Could this be a mere coincidence?

For all of you military types stopping by here for your first visit, I say "Welcome"! Hopefully, The Rambling Taoists will provide food for thought and allow you to see the world from a different perspective.

Section 8.08.020

Free speech ain't what it used to be. I stopped by the local police department yesterday to find out where our fine law enforcement people plan to ALLOW protesters to exercise our cherished first amendment rights. They are providing us with a freshly mowed field. What do they think we are? Grazing cattle?

After my little visit downtown, I came home to my computer to take a look at the City of Aberdeen's Municipal Code. Under Section 8.08.020, I found the following:
Public nuisance defined.
Every act unlawfully done and every omission to perform a duty, which act or omission:
A. Annoys, injures or endangers the safety, health, comfort or repose of the citizens of the city;
That's right! You can be arrested for being annoying.

Well, the fact that the military-industrial complex has decided to use my town to ship weapons of destruction to far off lands really ticks me off. In fact, I dare say it ANNOYS me. Do you think that if I tell a local police officer that I'm annoyed, they will go arrest the military?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The War Comes to Aberdeen

When you live in a small town off the beaten path, you watch the world's events unfold from afar. You pay attention to what's going on, but you feel insulated from the effects and ramifications. You continue to feel this way until, one day, the world theater is plopped down into your corner of cornucopia and you realize that all these faraway headlines are now a reality where you live.

Because of the vigilance and dedication of the Port Resistance Movements in Olympia & Tacoma, the military has decided they don't want to mess with those folks anymore. No, they want to find more docile environs from which to ship their machinations of death and destruction.

Since the Port of Grays Harbor is not that far away from Ft. Lewis AND Grays Harbor County is much more sparsely populated than Olympia or Tacoma, they've decided that Aberdeen is now their new home for military shipments.

Here's today's a portion of today's lead article from The Daily World,
At least 24 military helicopters in groups of eight landed at the Port of Grays Harbor Tuesday as part of the first wave of cargo from Fort Lewis bound for Iraq.

Commercial trucks believed to be carrying military equipment also arrived for staging at Port facilities near The Home Deport in Aberdeen. The choppers, which were quickly secured and prepared for shipment after they landed, and equipment are connected to the 4-6 Air Cavalry Squadron that is being deployed to Iraq.

No details were released on how long the equipment would be stored at the Port or when the ship that will likely transport the cargo to Iraq will dock.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Stand By Whom?

My wife & I listen to different radio stations. She favors country and modern pop, while I prefer a weird eclectic mix of 50s & 60s rock 'n roll, American folk, Celtic, bluegrass and classical. You can easily tell who last drove our truck by what radio station pops up at ignition.

This morning I went down to the store for a little grocery shopping. As the radio came on, it reminded me my wife last drove the truck. There was a female recording artist -- I have no inkling who it was -- singing, "I'll Stand By You", a song previously recorded by Rod Stewart and The Pretenders.

The following lines jumped out at me:
When the night falls on you
You don't know what to do
Nothing you confess
Could make me love you less.
Isn't that going a wee bit far? I mean, if my lover confessed to gunning down a slew of nuns, orphans and puppies, I think I might indeed love her far less. Heck, I might not even LIKE my lover anymore.

When I was a young lad, like so many others, I believed in the silly sentiment, "Love conquers all". As I've grown older and wiser, however, I've come to realize that, on at least one level, that's a nonsensical statement.

Love, trust and friendship are built on shared values. While a person can certainly have a strong physical attraction for someone they have nothing in common with, it's near impossible to sustain a relationship with someone you don't really like. Heck, it's hard enough sustaining relationships with people you do like and find common ground with!

Now I know some of you will say something to the effect of "You can love the person, while not approving of the behavior". I don't dispute this at all, but this principle should apply to everyone, not just those one is intimate with.

All people fall short of maintaining harmony within their lives. Consequently, we should look beyond anyone's behavior -- and this includes people like Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Daumer, Saddam Hussein or even George W. Bush -- to love the person.

In essence, "I'll Stand By You" could just as easily be the anthem of humanity. We should all endeavor to stand by each other because we are all of one reality.

Friday, April 27, 2007

We're All Environmentalists!

All throughout my adult life I've heard the term "environmentalist", often in a pejorative manner. For most of that time, I've thought the popular understanding of this word is utter nonsense. How can any living, breathing person NOT be an environmentalist?

If you would each take a moment, What does it mean to care about the environment we all share? We'll come back to this in a minute.

Generally, when we fashion words to categorize a person or a group of people, it describes something unique about them. If you refer to Baptists, you mean to describe Christians who hold to a specific set of beliefs and interpret the Bible in a particular way.

Likewise, if you use the word "Republican", you're referring to an individual or group of people who subscribe to a certain set of beliefs and share the same general world view.

If you say, "Firemen", you are making a reference to individuals who, as a profession, seek to put out fires -- unless, of course, you're speaking in terms of trains, then firemen means something different altogether.

But how does this apply to "environmentalists"? Every person needs a healthy environment to exist. None of us can survive for long without air, water and food. If our environment is compromised, then these essential elements are compromised too.

About the only way a person could not be an environmentalist is if they repudiated the human need for air, water and food. In other words, if any of us GENUINELY didn't care about these 3 things (and a host of others too), then our only alternative would be to kill ourselves -- divorcing ourselves from these things we loathe.

And yet, that wouldn't work either!! Even in death, each of us will continue to interact with the environment. Our bodies will decompose to provide sustenance for all sorts of microbes. Our death will provide life for others.

Even if we choose to have our remains cremated, the ash will take up space somewhere and, eventually, the ash will return to the soil, thereby giving life to other beings.

Consequently, not only can't we escape the environment, we ARE the environment.

So, how can any person -- alive or dead -- not be an environmentalist by default?