December 2004

An abiding dilemma for Humanists who are in the “ecumenical” position of working closely with people of all faiths, is how patient and understanding we need to be in our relationships with the rest of the world. There is the especially perplexing dilemma of how tolerant to be of other’s intolerance. An old and reliable admonition that flashes in my head like neon, simply states: Do not alienate those whom you might persuade!

Those of us who are working toward a goal with other dedicated activists, are often in the position of censoring our own comments so as not to blow away our colleagues. We understand so very well that the only way that this old world is ever going to improve at all, is through cooperation and respect among those of all beliefs, cultures, and traditions, so simply out of respect for these differences, we may find ourselves limiting our own exercise of free speech. I say to myself: Try not to criticize! Be constructive! You know, the old…don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater routine. Do the Mommy-thing: encourage others to become aware and involved in the project or activity at hand. This is all well and good for the shared goal…up to a point!

But what can we say or do about those practices and beliefs that are completely beyond comprehension? How long to ignore or look away, or bite your tongue, and wish that you didn’t have to know or feel this shame or anger. How can we contain our anger at those who refuse to acknowledge and respond to whatever “emergency” we may be dealing with. I picture some of us bailing frantically in our sinking ship, while some of our fellow passengers are outright denying that the water’s even rising, and treat our concern with contempt, while still others feel there’s no need for them to worry because god will save them. Yet we can’t simply write-off those whose beliefs clearly endanger us; we share our sinking lifeboat with them! Not only will they not bail, some are even shooting more holes in the boat!

No wonder we get frantic and impatient! They’ve got to come to their senses! How can we get them to come around to the logic of our way of thinking? How can we get them to recognize the real danger that we’re in, instead of their mistaken constructs of how to deal with world problems? How can we persuade the powerful to relinquish a portion of their power? How can we intervene to stop the inhumane militarized mentality that prevails on this Earth? How to stop bullying, hatred, murder, torture, ignorance, greed? Then how to stop fear and hunger and homelessness?

Our expectations that those in power will recognize their errors and set about correcting the horrible mistakes that they’ve set in motion are continually dashed in disappointment. What a shock it can be to learn that those whose opinions you might once have valued, no longer meet your standards or your expectations. You can shrug off the stupidity of a stranger, but what an extra shock when a member of the clan or the club fails you. That really angers you; how could they be so stupid? Perhaps it’s human nature for us to expect those closest to us to think and behave “normally” as we do; they, of all people in the whole world, should know better!

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the several Humanist Manifestos say it all! What more is there to ask than respect for all human beings and life on Earth? So then we’re back to the issue of needing to respect our differences: a principle which is essential to our own integrity and our own code of ethics.

We feel the urgency for making changes, but this heavy responsibility is indeed fraught with complex dilemmas. When shall we be courageous and uncompromising? When shall we be patient and conciliatory? Speak-up! Shut-up! The ideals of freedom of speech and democratic participation are precious and need to be fostered and protected, but unless they get a lot of exercise, they’re going to get flabby. We will no longer be able to protect these freedoms.

Those of you who recognize this syndrome of self-censorship may remember that in your first declarations of independent thinking you drew negative responses, even shock or derision from more traditional relatives or co-workers. You gathered courage over a period of time to begin to articulate the logic of your point of view more persuasively, and perhaps learned that some even agreed with you in your Humanistic values. And what a joy it is to connect with like-minded truth-seekers! To find others who reject the so-called authority that is thrust upon us, and who acknowledge that the universe is indifferent to us and that it is up to us humans, ourselves, to create our own purpose and our own peace!

In the arrogance of my youth, I had pasted onto my old typewriter these marching orders: Words that might help to create Peace on Earth are trapped inside this machine! Get them out!


Faithful supporters of the Peace-People’s favorite candidate, Dennis Kucinich, went to Boston to try to be helpful in influencing the platform that we hoped was being hammered out by the delegates who had gathered there from across the nation. Little did we know that all the deciding had already been done!

We handed out leaflets, we participated in all of the demonstrations, we stood in line outside the entry to the convention hall with our posters, chanting slogans and trying to greet, and shake hands with the delegates as they entered the hall. We were promoting: immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and ending the war; getting out of NAFTA; health care for all Americans; establishing a Cabinet Level Department of Peace; equal rights for all persons; and support for the UN and the International Criminal Court. Was that too much to ask?

Well, obviously, it was! We spent the evenings watching TV programming of the day’s proceedings, and groaning in disbelief at the total disregard for any of the planks that we Peace-People were advocating for the Democratic platform. Although many of the delegates nodded affirmatively and appeared to agree with our appeals, some on the streets scowled at us with disdain, even contempt. One said: What are you guys? A bunch of Commies? We were too lefty. We were too socialistic. We were too liberal. We heard criticism of our “Un-American” attitude. We were not properly supporting our troops that were fighting for us, and fighting to preserve our freedom…even our freedom to criticize the government, one person scoldingly reminded me.


And that was it; with sadness we trekked homeward to close ranks behind the Democrats, even though our hearts were heavy with our failure have our voices heard, and truths that we told went unheeded.

The lightest moment of the whole Boston saga, for me, was the sighting of a T-shirt that had me howling with gales of laughter, and that seemed to sum up our collective experience succinctly!

This was a drawing of two cows, standing up, facing each other, you know the way Gary Larson does his hilarious cartoons. I do not know if was originated by him, but it definitely was his style. And I’m improvising on the dialogue, because by now, I’ve told the story so many times and embellished it so, with my own emphasis and exaggeration, that I can’t actually remember just exactly what the T-shirt really did say, but this is the gist of it:

First cow says, “I just learned how they make hamburger!”

Second cow says, “Oh, mygod! You sound like a liberal, leftist, commie-pinko, conspiracy-theorist! Get a grip, Mabel!”

To me, this was the delicious ironic brilliant analysis of our whole truth-telling trip to Boston. It really was…a moooooving experience! So, moove over, Mabel. You’re not the only one; I, too, gotta learn to “get a grip!”

In their postmortem, the Democrats, still staggering from the sucker-punch are trying to figure out what hit them. We could have told them way back in Boston, that it was their betrayal of the principles of ethical, clear-thinking, peace-loving, traditional, down-to-earth Democrats that screwed things up. This, in addition to outright sabotage at the polls, of course. But they still haven’t got a clue! The present leaders of the Democratic Party still think Republican-lite is the way to go. I guess, that in order to be a Democrat these days, if I even wanted to anymore, according to their mind-boggling analysis, I’ll have to get religion, and learn to love the war, and give up the old politically incorrect L-word. I guess the new L-word must be Lite, as in Republican-Lite.

What a shame that the Democratic leadership didn’t heed some of the truth-tellers like Dennis Kucinich. Just imagine! Getting ground-up in all that political machinery! Tsk! What a waste!

It’s worse than we thought! These are not isolated incidents, or impulsive responses by frightened soldiers. We are witnessing WAR CRIMES! By anybody’s impartial evaluation, what we are seeing and hearing, in the videos referenced here, are wanton shocking murders of unarmed civilians. The victims definitely are not in combat mode, or posing any threat to the US military. The killings depicted here are calculated, even approved by superior officers, and appear to be part of the ruthless, unethical violations of international law that are being perpetrated by the US military in Iraq.

A website that shows and describes these atrocities is:


I used to believe that too, but I don’t anymore. Some of the American voices in the video clips are almost gleeful, as though they were playing an exciting video game. There is no excuse for this inhumane mindset. It seems that our service personnel have been brainwashed with the idea that all Iraqis are potential enemies, and that “we must kill them before they kill us.” Did somebody forget to tell them that we went over there to hmmm, let’s see, was it excuse number 2 or 3? I forgot which. Was it to save the Iraqi people and to liberate them from an evil dictator? Should our military be reminded that one of our reasons for going to Iraq was to introduce the Iraqis to freedom and democracy? Pardon my observation, but, what a crock! What a hoax!


And now it appears that the very individual who decided that the United States of America is above international law in general, and has no need in particular, to comply with the “quaint” and “obsolete” Geneva Convention laws that regulate the treatment of prisoners of war, is scheduled to be the new Attorney General of the US! I just cannot understand what is happening to this country! What an irony it is in this land of the Free and the home of the Brave, where we regularly celebrate our Rights to freedom of the press and information, etc. that we usually can’t find the truth in our own media.


Searching out international news can keep us better informed on what our own country is doing on the world scene. Accurate information can even more likely be found on the Internet. How is it that the public can stay so deceived? Many Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, and will even deride those who try to point out the erroneous connection. Much of the US media: print, radio and TV are churning out pure drivel, but even worse than the absence of truthful information, or of a researched, and even-handed presentation, they foist upon the public, malicious lies that constitute a designed deception and can certainly be used to denigrate an individual who has fallen into the disfavor of King George. Witness the plight of Kofi Annan.


Also, the Financial Times of London has a lengthy, in depth and respectful interview with Kofi Annan, in which a very tactful Kofi Annan refrains from responding in-kind to his accusers. He is confident that the UN itself has not engaged in any misappropriation of the program’s funds, and he assures that he has not benefited financially from the handling of the funds. He says the investigation will reveal what went wrong, and the extent to which his son, who is also accused, might be involved.

From most every other media outlet there is a hostile blitz of accusations against the UN and its handling of the program designed to help feed the Iraqi people during the UN imposed sanctions. Some, like the National Review, go so far as to demand the resignation of Kofi Annan, and hold him personally responsible for the mishandling of billions that seem to have gone into unauthorized pockets. Time and patient investigation will eventually unravel the plot and disclose the wrongdoers, but meanwhile Kofi is calmly discussing the need for continuing reform of the UN’s structure.


Actually, if the US has its way, it would be a perfect fit! Here’s how it would work. First, the US identifies the errant nation, state, tribe, nuclear installation, political party, “other” religious organization, movement, suspicious village, etc. Then it coerces the UN into approving a preemptive strike against that body to prevent it from harming the rest of the world. The UN can authorize the US to wage a war of aggression on any offender. The US treats the offender with Shock and Awe to teach it a lesson, and Viola! The UN has taken Responsibility to Protect us all from the wrongdoer! What a perfect solution!

And never mind that there’s a recommendation to expand the UN Security Council. Advocates want to break-up the monopoly that this body has exercised for all of its years. But this will pose no threat to the US in its bid for world dominance, because any nations that are added to the Council will not share the present member’s veto power. Their presence and their votes in the Security Council won’t make a whit of difference. With greater control, the US won’t have to bad mouth the UN anymore or try to dismantle it. It will be completely subsumed under the auspices of the United States. Well, after all, the UN’s right here in New York. How appropriate! Forgive my sarcasm; anger seems to be egging me on.

What an embarrassment for this administration: the head of the organization representing the nations of the world, challenging US policies and daring to warn against attacking Fallujah. The Bush bunch was probably scrambling a bit trying to figure out how to deal with this world leader with the courage to criticize the US, and right here in the belly of the beast. Let’s charge him with corruption! That will work! We’ll watch this suspenseful development with great anxiety. Pitting courage and truth against arrogance and power. Who can guess how it will turn out!

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