Bob Schwartz

Category: Peace

Be Peace

6 Long has my whole being dwelt
among those who hate peace.
7 I am for peace, but when I speak,
they are for war.
Psalm 120, translated by
Robert Alter

Terror in Manchester is one more shattering note in a cacophony of mindless aggression. News of the nation and the world attests to it, from nasty tweets by so-called leaders to torturers and mass murderers. We dwell among those who hate peace.

In Psalm 120, Robert Alter translates the Hebrew ani shalom in verse 7 as “I am for peace”:

The Hebrew appears to say “I am peace,” but, without emending the text, the most plausible way to understand these two words, ani shalom, is that they function as though there were an elided “for” (in the Hebrew not a word but the particle l’).

I dare not take issue with Alter, the great modern translator of the Hebrew Bible, but merely want to extend a thought. If the Hebrew appears to say “I am peace”, maybe that is precisely what it means to say.

Being for peace is a start and an essential part. Being peace is one step beyond this, where there is no space between us and the peace we seek. One step toward that elusive peaceful world, in spite of those who hate peace.

Virginia Peace Medal (1780): Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God/Happy While United

Virginia Peace Medal

The Virginia Indian peace medal was produced by order of Governor Thomas Jefferson in 1780. The obverse side reads: Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God. The reverse side reads: Happy While United

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation says:

This extremely rare Virginia Indian peace medal was produced by order of Governor Thomas Jefferson in 1780. Matchless in the history of relations between the independent Commonwealth of Virginia and the region’s native tribes, the “Happy While United” peace medal was cast in bronze by Robert Scot—later chief engraver at the U.S. Mint— in Williamsburg or Richmond while Jefferson was governor.

Commemorating an unidentified Revolutionary-era alliance between native tribes and the Commonwealth, silver medals were presented to important tribal members, while bronze versions were cast for non-native recipients. None of the twelve silver medals originally produced survive as they were likely traded in for later Presidential Indian peace medals or buried with the native recipients upon their deaths.

At nearly three inches in diameter and more than 2.5 ounces in weight, the medal is based on designs by noted artist Pierre Eugene du Simitiere and New York silversmith Daniel Christian Feuter. A bronze medal, identical to the one acquired by Colonial Williamsburg, was recorded as a gift from Isaac Zane of the Marlboro Iron Works—a patriot munitions factory in Frederick County during the American Revolution—to du Simitiere prior to May 1781.

The medal uses one the earliest versions of the fledgling Commonwealth’s official seal depicting the goddess Virtue standing triumphant over a fallen tyrant—most certainly meant to represent King George III—surrounded by the inscription “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”

The reverse side of the medal incorporates a scene from an earlier medal made in New York during the 1760s and depicts a European-American and a Native American seated on a bench sharing a “peace pipe.” To the right is a tree, shading the two figures, and behind them is a waterfront scene with three vessels under sail. The over-arching inscription reads “Happy While United” with “1780” below the scene.

Sojourners: Time for Healing. And Resistance.

time-for-healing-and-resistance

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, has long been the loudest, most articulate, and most respected voice on behalf of social justice from a genuinely Evangelical Christian perspective. Not “Evangelical Christian” in the sense of those who have made that identical with a right-wing political agenda. “Evangelical Christian” in the sense of what Jesus would have those who claim to follow him do.

His post-election essay, Time for Healing. And Resistance. is so coherent and inspirational that it doesn’t bear quoting from in pieces. Please read it, whatever your religious or spiritual leanings, if any.

Jim Wallis writes, “I just want you to know that I AM IN for whatever this will require of us.” He is speaking to and about Christians, but he is really challenging those of all faiths or of no faith at all to speak out and stand up.

Veterans Day and Operation Unite America

veterans-day

Friday, November 11 is Veterans Day, which this year arrives during the same week as Election Day (you remember that day, don’t you?)

The great Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has organized Operation Unite America:

Veterans Day 2016 is just 3 days after Election Day. Join IAVA’s campaign to do the impossible: bring together all Americans.

After a long, brutal and disgusting election season, everyone’s had it. It hasn’t been a good look for America. Everyone is exhausted–many are outright embarrassed. But Republican, Democrat, Independent, Other…we’re ALL sick of the bickering, the commercials, the debates, the politics, the fighting.

Here is your mission (if you choose to accept it!), JOIN US:

Tag your Veterans Day activities on social media with #veteransday

Donate $11 to IAVA to help us support veterans

Attend a #veteransday #VetTogether

 

tammy-duckworth

In the wake of Election Day, it is happy news to report that Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois won a seat in the U.S. Senate. She is an Iraq War veteran, awarded the Purple Heart after losing both her legs. She joins a number of women warriors in Congress, which needs more women and more experienced warriors who know how to choose our wars carefully. And who will take good care of other warriors when they come home.

Readings for the Day of National Healing

Medicine Buddha Mandala

Here are readings for the Day of National Healing from Ocean of Dharma: The Everyday Wisdom of Chogyam Trungpa, a recommended collection of very brief excerpts from his talks and texts. The image above is of the Medicine Buddha.

THE FUTURE IS IN OUR HANDS

We hold the threshold of the future of the world in our hands, on our path. When we say this, we are not dreaming. We are not exaggerating. We hold a tremendous hope, maybe the only hope for the future dark age.

We have a lot of responsibilities, and those responsibilities are not easy to fulfill. They won’t come along easily, like an ordinary success story. They have to be stitched, painted, carved, step by step, inch by inch, minute by minute. It will be manual work. There will be no automatic big sweep, or solution.

When something good is done in the world, it is usually difficult. It is manual, rather than automatic. When something bad is done, usually that is automatic. Evil things are easy to catch, but good ones are difficult to catch. They go against the grain of ordinary habitual tendencies.

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE

Humans are the only animals that try to dwell in the future. You don’t have to purely live in the present situation without a plan, but the future plans you make can only be based on the aspects of the future that manifest within the present situation. You can’t plan a future if you don’t know what the present situation is. You have to start from now to know how to plan.

CONVERSING WITH OUR NEGATIVITY

You can always count on the fact that our aspect of viciousness or apelike quality will reflect back to us. Then we can either project it onto somebody else or we can reflect and realize the situation within ourselves. Quite precisely, when you are in that particular state of mind, there is a kind of conversation going on. You may try to tell yourself to calm down and not worry. But then the undercurrent of the force of the projection tries to pierce through again and again. There is always this conversation going on with one’s own negativity. The neurotic aspect of mind is always willing to fall into either the extreme of left or right. The right extreme is anger, the masculine extreme. The left is passion, the feminine extreme. This symbolism is true and universal—a cosmic symbol, which happens with all of life. These symbols are not based on Indian, Buddhist, or Tibetan stories at all. These are utterly cosmic principles, as far as the symbolism is concerned.

WORK WITH THE PRESENT SITUATION

The buddhist tradition teaches the truth of impermanence, or the transitory nature of things. The past is gone and the future has not yet happened, so we work with what is here—the present situation. This actually helps us not to categorize or theorize. A fresh, living situation is taking place all the time, on the spot. This noncategorical approach comes from being fully here, rather than trying to reconnect with past events. We don’t have to look back to the past in order to see what people are made out of. Human beings speak for themselves, on the spot.

Day of National Healing: November 9, 2016

Day of National Healing

Day of National Healing

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And all the world will live as one
John Lennon, Imagine

I declare November 9 a Day of National Healing.

Please stop snickering. Or pitying my naiveté in the face of so many unpleasant realities.

Our need for national healing is massive. Huge. We are literally sick and tired of this election. The thought going around, and it is not ridiculous and I’ve said it myself, is that things may actually get worse after the election.

Another thought, also not ridiculous, is that we might still want to find a way through this. In fact, we have to. If we are sincere about getting on with our lives, personal and national, we have got to start somewhere, sometime. The day after Election Day seems as good a time as any.

I am inspired and informed, as I often am, by the I Ching. Here is what the text says to us today:

Hexagram 38
Kui/Diversity

Diversity.
Little things:
Good fortune.

All beings diversify,
But their functions are the same.
Great indeed is the time and significance of diversity.

The superior person seeks common ground on major issues
While reserving differences on minor ones.

“In the course of diversifying, there is still similarity—this is the unique wisdom of the I Ching….Diversity is natural and unavoidable. The key is in seeking harmony. To the Chinese, all diversity can be harmonized, no matter whether it is between members of a household, or members of a society, or between nations of the world. The clue lies in one’s attitude. If both sides are willing to come together in sincerity and truthfulness, no problem cannot be solved.” (Alfred Huang)

In one sense, it is hard to see how the day after the election will be an unconditionally good day for many people. Millions will celebrate having avoided whatever horror they foresaw, millions of others will plan ways to deal with the horror they see taking place. That is not a formula for healing.

We have got to try something, something else than what we’ve been experiencing. A new way on November 9 can’t come soon enough.

Another Cool Way to Show Support for Our Veterans

IAVA Lifeline Flex

I’ve written a number of times before about veterans issues and about the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), which last month sponsored a televised Commander-in-Chief Forum featuring the presidential candidates.

It is an old song, but worth repeating. Our treatment of those we have asked to fight is a national shame. If we don’t want to fight and defend, and don’t ask others to do the job for us, fine. Peace is wonderful. But once we ask, we have to provide virtually infinite support for those who answer. This should be at the top of any policy priority list, because it is a moral test, not a partisan talking point. For a grade, I’d consider giving us an E for Effort, but really, it’s more like an F.

If you want to show your support, IAVA has a very cool and inexpensive wearable. It’s the IAVA Lifeline Flex:

IAVA Lifeline Flex
$14.99

Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Lifeline Flex in Night Vision Yellow and Black with engraved logo on a metal toggle clasp. Hand-wound from the same 550 lb tested parachute chord used in WWII to attach men to their chutes, these cuffs give you up to 15ft of usable paracord when unwound. Not just an all purpose survival tool, the 550 cord also looks killer on your wrist. Don’t leave home without one of these killer bracelets.

ITEM DETAILS:
Hand-wound from military grade 550 cord
One size fits all “Flex” interior with IAVA closure clasp

Music: Lady Day and John Coltrane

Gil Scott-Heron 2

They’ll wash your troubles,
Your troubles, your troubles
Your troubles away!

Musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron was unlike any artist of the modern era. He is a jazz artist identified as a “godfather of rap” (he rejected that), his song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is quoted somewhere every day, and his vision of the black experience is as current and insightful as any.

But this isn’t about him. It’s about one of his songs, Lady Day and John Coltrane, that celebrates the power of music to heal and change our lives, especially when we are giving up. If you don’t regularly take that prescription, please consider it.

Lady Day and John Coltrane

Ever feel kinda down and out, you don’t know just what to do
Livin’ all of your days in darkness let the sun shine through
Ever feel that somehow, somewhere, you’ve lost your way
And if you don’t get help quick you won’t make it through the day
Could you call on Lady Day,
Could you call on John Coltrane
Now ‘cause they’ll
They’ll wash your troubles
Your troubles your troubles
Your troubles away!

Plastic people with plastic minds are on their way to plastic homes
No beginning there ain’t no ending just on and on and on and on and on, it’s
All because they’re so afraid to say that they’re alone
Until our hero rides in, rides in on his saxophone.
Could you call on Lady Day,
Could you call on John Coltrane
Now ‘cause they’ll,
They’ll wash your troubles,
Your troubles, your troubles
Your troubles away!

 

Four Freedoms Passover

Four Freedoms - Norman Rockwell

Passover is coming. The first seder meal will be held on the evening of Friday, April 22. Even for non-observant Jews, this holiday is frequently a time for participation. One estimate says that 80% of Jews attend some sort of seder.

This year I suggest we go way back for a Passover theme. Back to FDR’s Four Freedoms from 1941.

The overall order of the seder (“seder” actually means order) has been standardized for centuries—the blessings, the rituals, the symbolic food and drink, the songs, and most of all, the recitation of the events of the exodus from Egypt. But the text and the form and the meaning have been subject to remixing, some of it pretty adventurous.

In the modern era, the freedom embedded in Passover has been extended to all sorts of concerns. During the time of the civil rights movement, the obvious connection was made between ancient and modern oppression, and the struggle to end that oppression.

In 1969 Rabbi Arthur Waskow created a Freedom Seder, making this connection more direct. He explains:

One of my earliest and warmest memories is that of my father reciting the Dayenu, the chant of rebellion, liberation, travail, and the creation of a new law that is the story of Passover. One of my latest and warmest memories is that of working with my wife and children to make of our own Passover Seder something that would speak to our deep concerns about our selves and our world.

Our efforts became sharper and more urgent in 1968, when the Passover came one bare week after the murder of Martin Luther King, the April uprising of black Washington against the blank-eyed pyramid-builders of our own time, and the military occupation of our city. Who in
those days could forget that the prophet King had remembered Moses?– had spoken of how he had been to the mountain-top, had seen the promised land, but might never enter. … And then we realized that in 1969, the third night of Passover, April 4, would be the first anniversary of King’s death.

Since then, Passover has become the platform for seders centered around all kinds of affliction, oppression, aspiration and freedom. Women. LGBT. Poverty. Peace. The Earth. And so on.

One example of this concerns a new tradition that is widely practiced. The seder plate contains a number of foods symbolizing the story of the Egyptian captivity and the fight for freedom. Susannah Heschel conceived of one more thing to add:

So how was it that the orange found its place on the seder plate as a Passover symbol of feminism and women’s rights?

Susannah Heschel, daughter of Abraham Joshua Heschel and a scholar in her own right, says that at the height of the Jewish feminist movement of the 1980s, she was inspired by the abundant new customs expressing women’s viewpoints and experiences and started placing an orange on the seder plate.

At an early point in the seder, she asked each person to take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit and eat the segment in recognition of gay and lesbian Jews and of widows, orphans, Jews who are adopted and all others who sometimes feel marginalized in the Jewish community. She encouraged each guest to spit out the seeds in their orange segment to reject homophobia and hatred. The orange suggests the fruitfulness for all Jews when everyone in our community is a contributing and active member of Jewish life. (From The Wandering Is Over Haggadah, JewishBoston.com)

On January 6, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered an historic State of the Union Address. The world was increasingly gripped by brutal tyranny. On top of that, America was still recovering from the effects of the Great Depression. And it seemed almost impossible for the U.S. to stay out of the global fight for freedom.

In the address, FDR summarized what freedom meant—and why we would fight for it, here and abroad. That statement became known as the Four Freedoms–Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

Some will point out the hypocrisies and ironies of the statement. At that point in American history, millions were not free and were under attack because of their race, religion, and economic circumstances. Maybe the biggest irony of all is that the final call for disarmament and the final phrase “crash of a bomb” ultimately faced the reality of a horrific war and an unthinkable bomb to end it.

But as a goal and aspiration, the Four Freedoms still ring out. Maybe we can ring them this Passover.

The posters above are by Norman Rockwell. Maybe more famous than FDR’s speech are the propaganda posters that Rockwell painted based on the Four Freedoms. As with the speech, some complain that Rockwell’s America was over-idealized and far too white. Probably so, and the images themselves may look quaint and, from today’s perspective, backward looking.

To counter that, following are a couple of works from Ben Shahn, an illustrator who was contemporary with Rockwell, artistically his equal, culturally his opposite:

Ben Shahn was born in Kovno, Russia on September 12, 1898 to Joshua Hessel and Gittel (Lieberman) Shahn and died on March 14, 1969. A Jewish-born artist, muralist, social activist, photographer and teacher, he is best known for his works of Social realism…From May to June of 1933, Shahn served as an assistant to Diego Rivera while the artist executed the infamous Rockefeller Center mural. By circulating a petition among the workers to keep the mural on display, Shahn played an important role in fanning the controversy.

Among his many famous works, in 1930 Shahn created a series of watercolor drawings for a Passover Haggadah. In 1965 these drawings were incorporated into a complete haggadah. Here, in an illustration called The Bread of Affliction, the hand of God leads the people out Egypt:

Bread of Affliction 2 - Ben Shahn

And here is a bit of Shahn’s later work, part of a series of union posters urging people to register and vote:

M25958-1 001
Happy Passover! Let freedom ring!

Beyond Anger, Again

Beyond Anger

Almost exactly two years ago, I posted about a free book from Shambhala Publications, Beyond Anger: How to Hold On to Your Heart and Your Humanity in the Midst of Injustice.

At that moment, in March 2014, the most prominent global issue was the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But it was, of course, not the only critical issue or hotspot.

Shambhala had published Beyond Anger the previous year:

In July 2013, multiple bombs exploded in Bodh Gaya, India, in and around the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage site, the Mahabodhi temple that marks the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment. In response, Shambhala Publications offers this free eBook consisting of excerpts from some of our books from a variety of Buddhist traditions that encapsulate values of love and nonviolence, which we can all practice ourselves.

Today there was a suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan. Earlier this week were the bombings in Brussels. Not to mention the other less reported breaches of peace around the world. Not to mention political battles, here and abroad, laced with pointless poison. Not to mention whatever tomorrows bring.

Beyond Anger is a very good little book. And it is free. Please consider downloading it, reading it, and sharing it.

It also helps to recognize that many conflicts will not be resolved in a single encounter. Some conflicts might not be resolved for a very long time. Yet whether or not you succeed in resolving a conflict that you observe or are yourself involved in, you always have options. Whatever happens, you can work on yourself. In order not to become overwhelmed or disturbed while a conflict is taking place, you can cultivate your own inner qualities. If you can develop your qualities and remain true to your own pure aspirations, at the very least you will always be able to take heart in knowing that there is one less harmful person in the world.