Vote in this 21st Century Multicultural USA

My husband and I watched “Bowling for Columbine” on HBO this week. This Michael Moore documentary examines root causes of the Columbine High School tragedy on April 20, 1999. That day two students came to the school with guns and killed 12 students, one teacher, wounded many, and killed themselves. The school is located in Littleton, Colorado the home of Lockheed Martin, a leading missile arms manufacturer. Moore’s movie examined gun use in the USA, and the lack of adequate controls on gun sales. The movie also showed how media and politicians exaggerate and create a fear of violence even though actual acts of violence in this country have declined. One of the most heart wrenching parts of the film was a montage of interventions by the USA government in the overthrow of foreign governments which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people from Iran to El Salvador.

In my research I also found an article printed in Slate which presents a very interesting psychological analysis of the Columbine murderers which may be of interest to some readers. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/assessment/2004/04/the_depressive_and_the_psychopath.single.html#pagebreak_anchor_3

I was working on my introduction for this week’s post and seeing Moore’s movie brought me back to my roots. For many years I lost faith in the American dream. However, being a pacifist, I was not in support of any ill fated violent revolution. However, I did not vote and felt that U.S. politics was a sham and a lie I did not want to participate in. My husband, Brian Payne, a child of Iowa, changed my mind and I began to vote. I recognized the legitimacy of his argument, if we don’t vote, we have no basis in which to complain. So I vote.

In 2005, I participated in the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by presenting a storytelling performance. My research for that performance led me to appreciate what the ability to vote means, not only for black Americans, but for all Americans of different cultural and language backgrounds.  The laws now being passed in states attempting to hinder individual’s rights to vote are a travesty and should be opposed by all who recognize that thousands, throughout this country’s history, sacrificed their lives to secure this right for all citizens.

Now, in this 21st Century, the USA is entering a new era. No longer is this a country in which white people can claim to be the majority. People of color are having more children and are becoming the majority in states in the Southwest. The USA is a multicultural nation, of diverse religions, colors, and national heritages. This is a fact. No amount of bigoted rhetoric can change this fact, no number of bigoted laws can stop the forward progress of citizens whose first language is not English.

So, I ask you to listen to my story, which is part a dream of a USA that I intend should manifest, even though some would call it a utopia. When we, this diverse population, recognize that we are the power. We must unite to overcome the force of monied interests and create a true democracy that practices equality and freedom of expression and opportunity to all regardless of race, cultural background, or religion.

Click link to hear the story of my dream of what a united multicultural USA can accomplish.

http://storytellingtheater.com/storytellingtheater.com/PERFORMANCE/Entries/2012/5/11_AMERICAN_PIE_-_A_DREAM_FOR_THE_USA.html

CELEBRATE VISIONS OF FREEDOM AND EQUALITY

Before I began looking at my e-mails I was contemplating how I was going to write this Friday’s story because I wanted to write about the big day coming up, July 4th. Fortunately, I received an e-mail which gives an important message and have decided to share it in its entirety below.  As we gather with family and friends for barbecues, beach trips, and to watch colorful fireworks, I think it is very important that this year we reflect on exactly what the celebration is about.
July 4th is the day in which the new Congress formed of 13 Colonies approved its Declaration of Independence from rule by Great Britain. The Congress actually approved its act of independence two days earlier, on July 2nd. But, that decision was made in a closed session. The approval of the Declaration was a public act and document. The opening words of its second paragraph are the most important words of the document: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
It seems that many have forgotten those words in this politics of division and selfishness.  When we as individuals, communities, and country remember that everyone is equal and everyone wants happiness then we can honestly celebrate July 4th. Ironically, this basic tenant that all are equal and all desire happiness is basic to Buddhism and most religions. So, despite all of the short fallings of this country’s history and changing governments, it actually wrote down in its founding document a basic spiritual truth.
While we celebrate this uniquely American holiday, we should contemplate how wonderful it would be if we lived on a planet in which everyone recognized the value of equality and everyone’s right to happiness. In my twenties I first encountered the concept of Planetary Citizens. Simply, it was the idea that we are all citizens of this one planet and should be able to travel freely to any country. Of course, with the current continuing geographic and political battles going on around the globe, we need a global epiphany before people are allowed to travel anywhere freely. However, we can recognize the concept of universal equality as explained in this article from The Bridge, written by Tony Burroughs, founder of  The Intenders.

The Bridge ~ Reminder 28 ~ Equality – We are all different but equal    
A common thread that runs through all of the Intenders writings has to do with our illusions and how we can extricate ourselves from them. As we have said many times, there is nothing wrong with harboring an illusion; it’s just that when we become aware of its true nature, we make a conscious decision whether to continue to play with it or set it aside.

”Somewhere along the line, you decided to have some fun and incarnate into a body – and before you knew it, certain rules and resistances became apparent. Life on Earth, though abundant with rich feelings and experiences, had its risks. A wide variety of illusions and games presented themselves and you said to yourself, “This looks interesting! I think I’ll play this game for awhile. Why not? Everybody else is playing it. When the time comes for me to set aside this silly amusement and return to the way I felt as a child, it won’t be any problem”

So you jumped in with both feet, started giving names to everything around you (including yourself), agreed that a great many artificial boundaries were real, created false identities and relationships, arbitrarily gave power to other people which allowed them to control you, began making judgments, and so forth. Life went on and as the years passed, you became more and more enmeshed in your illusions. When the time arrived for you to set aside all your games and dramas, it turned out that it wasn’t so easy. You’d been heavily programmed and had developed habits that didn’t want to go away.

Such is the challenge that faces most people today. They’re playing games; some taking life less seriously, while others are passionately putting everything they have on the line. In both instances, however, most people have long forgotten the moment when they chose to start playing. Most are lost in the dramas.”
From The Highest Light Teachings

Perhaps the most insidious dramas we take part in have to do with our identification and allegiance to a particular nation. We identify with this country or that, and in doing so, we isolate ourselves, to one degree or another, from everyone else in the world. We agree upon arbitrary, make-believe boundaries and tell ourselves that we are the good guys, while anyone else who lives outside of our country’s boundary lines is not as good as us, or isn’t as deserving of all good things as we are. God forbid that someday, someone wanders across one of our boundary lines in need of help – but instead of sharing and opening our arms to our fellow traveler, we rally our other misguided countrymen together and run the needy invader out on a rail.

Of all our illusions, nationalism seems to bring out the worst in us. Our allegiance to it somehow gives us an instant excuse to wreck harm or havoc on our fellowman and women. We stumble blindly forward, rarely looking deep enough to see that our allegiance to our nation has its inherent costs to us – costs which are perhaps higher than we know. In its wake, nationalism leaves us living in constant fear, not only for our homes and possessions, but for our very lives and the lives of our precious families. It asks us to set aside all of our noble human traits and align ourselves with those who would kill at the drop of a hat. It makes everyone who believes in it a barbarian, indistinguishable from the pillaging hoards of centuries past. Indeed, none who kill in the name of country can call themselves sane.

Fortunately, the truth is always there to free us from our insanity. The truth brings all illusions to light where they can be seen and acted upon from a higher, more loving perspective. In the case of nationalism, we need look no further than the fact that the Earth is home to all of us. We all live here and have as much right to enjoy our lives as the next person. We may be different in our appearances, our languages, values, and beliefs, but we are all equal – equal in the eyes of God, equal at the core of our Beings.

As we begin to see through the illusion that we are better than someone else, it loosens its grip on us, and we take the first step toward living in a world of comfort and peace. We take the first step back to our sanity.
My intention for today is:
I Intend that I am seeing everyone, everywhere as equal, regardless of our differences.

This message was sent to you from a friend, you can go to http://www.intenders.org to sign up free for The Intenders Bridge.

The Moon Cuckoo

In this story, from ancient India, we learn that dying before we die often entails a greater loss than physical death. But such sacrifice also brings about lasting rewards.

Just click the link below to hear this inspiring story.

http://storytellingtheater.com/storytellingtheater.com/PERFORMANCE/Entries/2011/4/27_THE_MOON_CUCKOO.html

Memory of My Fathers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my lifetime the idea and image of father has changed. I’m of that generation in which Daddy was the feared disciplinarian, a mysterious but strong and dependable source of stability and safety. He wasn’t my confidant or comfort. So, the memories of my dads that I treasure the most are those as an adult which happened just months before their deaths.
First, I am one of those special people who was an only child but had two dads – a situation more common now than when I was a child. I am the only child of the union of Ann Elizabeth Glenn and Tommie Walker. Even though Tommie had proposed to Ann and gave her an engagement ring, he was not yet divorced. Despite his separation, he visited his wife, after Mama was pregnant with me, and as a result of that visit I have a half sister just six months younger than me. My mother could not handle that betrayal and ended up marrying her high school sweetheart, Willie Alexander. I grew up calling him Daddy and was raised with my three sisters, the daughters of Mama and Daddy.
When I was in third grade, my mother asked me if I wanted to change my last name from Walker to Alexander. Not only did that name change move me from sitting in the back of the classroom to the front of the class, it also meant that my sisters did not know my father was different from theirs . They did not find out until we were all grown and had left home. When I was 24 years old my other sister and three brothers, Tommie Walker’s other children, met me for the first time.
My two fathers had two things in common, both loved Ann Glenn and both were attractive light skinned black men. Growing up, my mother always thought it was funny when people said I looked like Willie, solely because I was light skinned compared to his daughters. But, I look like my father and even though not raised with him, inherited a lot of his characteristics.Tommie Walker was a creative, athletic, and reserved man. He was a lifelong photographer, worked at TV stations, and was a mechanical engineer. His last career was as a teacher. He was athletic, playing tennis into his early eighties with a wall full of trophies. Willie Alexander was very different. He was a partier, drinker, storyteller, womanizer, career Air Force sergeant, and retired from a job in juvenile detention.
Tommie was active, vibrant, and healthy until he got shingles. After that he had one medical problem after another and suffered from a traffic accident. The last time I saw him, he still was not speaking, but he was up, alert, and aware of my presence. Before he went to bed he looked directly into my eyes and I felt a lifetime of love.
I visited Willie after he had recovered from a bad illness. He was up and about, driving, talking, the man I had known all of my life but with a softer edge. We visited my mother’s grave. There, I asked him about the wedding and engagement ring I wore. They were in the box of photos and papers Mama had left for me. I did not receive the box until after she died. Daddy told me Tommie had given the rings to Mama. After that visit I talked to Daddy more often on the phone and we grew closer. He died, unexpectedly, about six months later.
Now, I hold equal fondness in my heart’s memory for both of my dads, Tommie Walker and Willie Alexander.

INTRODUCING – THE FRIDAY POST

Every Friday I will post either an audio or written story. This year my audio stories are podcasts from my Website Series, The Ultimate Wonder. This week’s story offers answers to three questions that have baffled many minds. Just click onto the link below. Listen, ponder, and Enjoy.

http://storytellingtheater.com/storytellingtheater.com/PERFORMANCE/Entries/2011/4/14_three_wondrous_answers.html

American Pie – A Dream for the USA

Good government should be like religion. The core purpose of all religions is to protect and improve the life of their practitioners. The leaders of government should be motivated like bodhisattvas to work for the enlightenment, or in political terms, the betterment of all citizens. Unfortunately, current politics in America, despite constant references to religion, is currently not engaged in efforts to create good government.

Thus, this year’s elections from the local to the federal, offer the opportunity for this country to move forward by electing people motivated to protect American values of equality, justice, and providing means for advancement for all citizens. True, every group of people in this country has literally had to fight to receive these protections, from the original property owning white men rebelling against England to the continuing struggles of women, people of color, and gay people.

While I continue to sign petitions and send e-mails for causes and issues I support, as a storyteller, I knew I had a story to tell and this is it. The story came to me from my collection of dolls, drawn by me above. After I had written my story I received the League of Women Voters e-mail newsletter and discovered they have a website in operation very close to the one in my story. Below are a few links to organizations that are engaged in efforts to create the perfect American Pie.

To listen to my story click here: (Some browsers may take several minutes to download)

http://storytellingtheater.com/storytellingtheater.com/PERFORMANCE/Entries/2012/5/11_AMERICAN_PIE_-_A_DREAM_FOR_THE_USA.html

To read my story scroll below the links for you to check out.

Make sure you are registered and VOTE!

Links to Organizations to Help you Register and To Vote Wisely

http://vote411.orghttp://www.lwv.org http://www.rockthevote.comhttp://emilyslist.org

http://www.nclr.org  – http://www.naacp.orghttp://www.victoryfund.org http://www.naacp.org/

American Pie

Some say life never changes. Some say life always changes. Some say time does not exist. Some say the past, present, and future are just a floating tide. Once, it is said, in a time when change arose unexpectedly like a rainbow on a sunny day, a storyteller named Windsong Walker made her Grandmama’s dream come true. This is her story.
I washed and peeled the fruit while Grandmama’s strong hands kneaded the dough. Every spring break I came home and we baked. Since I was little I loved helping Grandmama Emma make pies.
She often said  “Life is like a pie. You have to take time to gather all of the right ingredients. The people you choose to be with, the actions you choose to pursue must be mixed with love and care to bake a good life.”
Now she was talking about her class of eighth graders and the stories I should tell them to  help them understand why civil rights and voting were important, as important for us Hopi people as for the rest of Americans.
“I’ll approach it like you always say Grandmama, like I’m making a pie. I’ll show them that ensuring the American dream lives is like baking a good pie.”
Using that approach, I succeeded in holding the students’ attention, moderating a lively discussion, and ending while I still held their interest. Thirty pair of young trusting eyes listened to my conclusion.
“The U.S. is a work in progress like every country. What is important to remember is that ideals and visions only succeed if people continue the hard work that keeps those ideal visions alive. We must always remember that our ancient traditions teach that all life is sacred, and only through the daily practice of kindness, patience, generosity, humility, and courage can any government or people flourish.” Their applause made me smile.
The next morning I woke up and Grandmama was sitting at her desk writing rapidly. When she finished she turned to me and said.
“I had a very strange dream last night. Jesus sat at a table with the 12 disciples, except most were women. It changed to a round table with a sword in the middle and the knights around the table were mostly women. The sword changed into a pen and paper. Then I was standing at the head of a long table on top of First Mesa beating a drum, chanting, ‘Valiant ones transform events, valiant ones transform events, valiant ones transform events.’  You appeared and stood next to me and began chanting with me. Then one at a time other people appeared, stood around the table, and joined in the chant. The first woman was an Asian-American, then a couple that looked Arab-American, then a Latino couple, two white women, two black women, a Hawaiian woman, an east Indian-American woman, a blonde man without arms or legs, and a young black man. We stood around the table chanting, ‘Valiant ones transform events, valiant ones transform events, valiant ones transform events.’ Then the Corn Princess appeared, carrying a tri-colored corn cob. She walked up to each of us and touched us on top of our heads with the corn cob. We became beams of light bursting over the mesa in all directions. Then I woke up.”
My body tingled as I listened to Grandmama. I didn’t know how but I knew this was a special dream. But, dream interpretation was not one of my talents. So I called my friend Penny Cho. She was a professor of Asian Studies and always able to assist me in any research I needed.
“Penny, my Grandmama had a terrific dream last night. You were in it. I really need someone to interpret it for her. Do you know anybody?”
The line was quiet for a few seconds, then with excitement Penny said. “Yes, Aisha and Jamal Hafiz are doing their doctorate on dream interpretation. Can you e-mail me the dream ?”
“Of course,” I said.
I was surprised to receive an e-mail from them that evening. They said the first letters of the chant, “Valiant Ones Transform Events,” spelled VOTE. They interpreted Grandmama’s dream as a guide to organize all of the diverse communities in this country to vote. They ended with the note, “We are not organizers or political activists, but we feel we are the Arab-American couple in your Grandmama’s dream. So, if you are able to create a vehicle people like us can use we will join your effort. We’ve also forwarded the dream to Socorro and Manuel Hernandez. They are professors and political activists in the Latino community and could help you find some of the other people in the dream.”
The Hernandez’s e-mailed me, and said they would like to join in our effort. They also gave me contact information for Adam Stewart, whom they saw as the blonde paraplegic in the dream. He was also a professor, software developer, and gay activist.
After I e-mailed him the dream, the Hafiz’s interpretation, and my phone number, Adam called and said, “Your Grandmama’s dream is very inspiring. I have a student named Javon Taylor-”
“The football player,” I blurted out.
“Yes, but he’s also a computer whiz and has been looking for a project. Even though I’m a Republican and he’s a Democrat, he said he’d like to work with me to set up a website that will provide people in every state with all the information they need to register to vote with resources for assistance, from transportation to translation. We’ll also include links on how to run a campaign for political office, from the local to the federal level.”
“But, how much. . .”
This time he interrupted me. “I know you’re a storyteller and teacher, so we won’t charge to set it up. Javon said he knows a singer and he’s going to get her to do some fund raising for you. I’ve also told my friend Amita Jaya, she’s an East Indian American, active in her community and is a Buddhist, that’s how I know her.”
When I got back East I met with Javon for lunch. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Terry Bowers sitting next to him. I had just bought her latest CD.
Terry smiled and made me feel at ease. “Javon shared your Grandmama’s dream with me and he swears I’m one of the black women. I’ve talked to my friend Sherry Paul. . .”
My eyes grew big.
“Yes,” Terry smiled,” the actress. We went to school together. I’ve already talked to her and she’s agreed to do a fund raising tour with me. So you’ll have money to pay for the website and to pay voter organizers.”
When Amita communicated with me, she gave me Hannah Zubinsky’s contact information. She’s a Jewish lawyer representing unions and women’s issues.
Hannah helped us find the remaining people in Grandmama’s dream. She knew Francine Bordeaux, a black social worker and organizer from New Orleans and Lolana Kaikala, a Hawaiian artist and organizer. With Amita, these four women set up the organizational structure for VOTE, taking care of all of the accounting and legal issues, as well as recruiting and paying organizers around the country.
Most of us never thought we’d be involved in politics. Nor did those who were community organizers think they would end up running for political office, but that’s what happened.  A momentum began Grandmama never imagined. That summer and fall record numbers of people across the country registered to vote. In the following elections, more people than in recorded history voted.  And most importantly, more women and diverse people participated.
The four women who organized VOTE, along with Adam and Javon would not let VOTE fade away. They had a contest and the name was changed to The Septima Clark Highlander Center, named after the black woman who influenced many civil rights activists and taught at the mid-1900’s civil rights Highlander Center in Tennessee. But our virtual center was maintained by volunteers with rotations of paid political science student interns around the country coordinating information, educational, and organizing events.
Each year we saw political change evolve from the seeds of Grandmama’s dream. States passed legislation for publicly funded elections, allowing more diverse people to run for political offices. Within five years, publicly funded elections became Federal law and this vast country saw that democracy could truly manifest when money was no longer the major factor influencing who ran for and won elections.
After decades of decline, within ten years, the United States of America once again served as a shining example of what a government by the people, of the people, and for the people looked like. Nationally, the halls of  local, state, and federal legislatures around this country reflected this nation’s diverse population. Everywhere, fifty to seventy-five per cent of  elected offices were held by women. Legislative sessions reflected a rainbow of skin colors and their halls were filled with musical accents of representatives and staff who grew up in households in which English was not the only language spoken. Our environment improved with a flourishing of alternative energy and conservation of natural resources and habitats. The economy was stronger than ever in our history with poverty on a steep decline. Our health care system was developing into a wellness promotion system available to all citizens, and prisons were closing for lack of inmates. Our Defense Department now assisted our citizens and people around the world experiencing natural disasters, mediated peace negotiations, and coordinated refugee relocations. Finally, our country was taking the lead in nuclear arms reduction and enforcing the pursuit and prosecution of illegal arms sales.
On the tenth anniversary of  Grandmama’s dream, all of us finally met on First Mesa. In addition to all of the national changes, I married and had a baby. We gathered for our group photo in the setting sun standing at the center of the universe, the Hopi nation. Our gathering was a reflection of the composition of city councils, state governments, the federal legislature, and halls of justice. Our group was predominantly female, and included individuals from the different ethnic heritages, races, religious beliefs, and political parties that make up the United States of America. Sure, politics remained politics, people aren’t perfect. But now politicians worked together for the greater good of this diverse nation.
I smiled as I looked at Grandmama, beaming in the midst of the manifestation of her dream. Once again, she had combined a variety of ingredients and spices mixed with patience and care to bake the perfect American pie.

–  – –

The Inspiration of Yoga

I’ve entered the above photo in a yoga pose photo contest in the magazine Yoga Journal. Just click on the following link and you can “like” the pose as many times a day you are able. Your “like” is a vote for my photo.

http://talentsearch.yogajournal.com/view/1384?sort=recent

Yoga inspires me to consistently engage in spiritual practice. Almost two decades have passed since I was initiated into Babaji’s Kriya Yoga. This complete yoga encompasses kriya hatha yoga, kundalina pranayama (breathing practices), kriya dhyana yoga (meditation), kriya mantra yoga (chants), and kriya bhakti yoga (devotion and service).

Babaji’s Kriya Hatha Yoga provides a full body massage externally and internally. These poses quiet my mind and relax my spirit to experience my work and relationships with equanimity and patience.

Although I am not an athletic hatha yoga practitioner, I can attest to the enduring benefits of continuous and consistent hatha yoga practice. Babaji’s kriya hatha yoga has given me a healthy body, purified my heart, and stabilized my mind for meditation.

Hatha yoga poses unite me with earth’s grounding energy that flows through my chakras like an invisible pulse connecting me to the eternal emptiness that binds us all.

Offerings of Light – In Memory of Tibetan’s Hero Martyrs

Click on Poster to enlarge.

Exactly three years ago, February 27, 2009, a young Tibetan monk named Tapey left Kirti Monastery and walked to the crossroads of the market in the town of Amdo. He had showered his body in oil, lit a match, and set himself aflame as he waved the Tibetan flag with a photo of the Dalai Lama on it. His was the first Tibetan sacrifice – an expression of spiritual courage, a cry against decades of unendurable oppression, a plea for recognition and assistance from the world. The Chinese call these brave souls terrorists.

Buddhism emphasizes the preciousness of human life and the karmic weight the destruction of life carries in future rebirths. However, sacrificing one’s life for the benefit of others is also acknowledged as an act of compassion. I recently watched the movie “Joan of Arc,” with Ingrid Bergman, and immediately thought of these Tibetan martyrs. Below is the poem that came from these juxtapositions in my mind.

For continuous information on the continual struggle of the people of Tibet and to contribute to easing their suffering, join the International Campaign for Tibet – http://savetibet.org

Offerings of Light

Flames flood flesh
searing pain
soon ends.

She cried out “Jesus”
they shout “Dalai Lama.”

Centuries separate martyrs.
She burned on a pyre.
They burn in squares, at crossroads.
An executioner lashed her to a cross
set the wood aflame.
They anoint their bodies in oil
light the matches themselves.

Their bodies tantric offerings.
Towers of fire
blaze with defiance
suffering of spirt
cannot be endured.

St. Joan, French young woman
responded to voices she alone heard.
Fought oppressors of her people
refused to deny her spiritual guides.

Tapey, Tibetan young man
waved his country’s  flag
with the Dalai Lama’s photo
first to set himself aflame.

Near 20 human candles
lit in three years.
January 2012 Sobha Tulku,
“I give my body
an offering of light
to chase away darkness
to free all beings
from suffering.”

Light offerings of death
to terminate tortured humiliation
to stop sacred sites’ desecration
to end environmental decimation.

Will worlds remain silent
while sons and daughters of the land
take the ultimate stand?

Remember their names
Tapey, Tengyi Phuntsog, Lobsang Kalsong
Dawa Tsering, Kayang
Tsewang Norbu, Sobhu Tulku
Lobsang Kachok, Kelsang Wangchuk
Choepel, Norbu Damdrul
Tenzin Wangmo, Palden Choetso
Tenzin Phuntson, Tsultrim.

Centuries ago
Joan’s body became a beacon of hope
for the French against English dominion.
Now Tibetan monks and nuns
light a path through the
darkness of China’s nefarious night.

With bodhicitta motivation
compassionate wish
to relieve pain
of sentient beings
their flames are alchemy
transforming tyranny
into freedom’s equanimity

Bridging Contradictions – Becoming 21st Century Saints

Once upon a time, a golden skinned little girl knelt on her knees and prayed before her statue of the Virgin Mary.
“Hail Mary, full of grace. . .help me to be good like a saint.” She tried to be helpful to her parents and to be obedient. She tried to be kind and loving to her sisters. But, it seemed almost every day she was plagued by anger she could not stop from feeling. She could not understand why people got into fights, or lied, or stole, or were just bad for the sake of being bad. Most of all she could not understand why young men hunted each other in state supported killings called wars. But, sitting out looking over water, the large lakes in Minnesota or the endless gulf in the Florida panhandle brought her joy and wonder in the majesty of nature’s gifts.

Time hurled her through life and she found her hair beginning to gray while her concerns only grew and her anger now turned to the perplexing question of “How do I live my beliefs in peace, preserving the beauty of nature, and practicing compassion for all peoples?”

Over the past several years, my e-mail has changed from a source of communication with friends and family to an activist’s launch pad. Monday through Friday, I receive from 20 – 50 e-mails informing me of environmental, health, women’s issues, civil and human rights, and political issues – most with a petition to sign or a letter to send. Whenever I do sign a petition or send a letter I feel I am taking an active part in creating positive change. Last year, I actually received several “We won” e-mails. One of them was regarding the XL Pipeline, an environmental disaster waiting to happen, that rears its ugly head again. For years, my husband and I have found ways to recycle our cans and plastics -even living in the middle of the Hopi Nation.

Recently, I’ve taken more steps to decrease the contradictions in my life between what I believe and how I live. The last time I cleaned beneath my kitchen sink, I threw away the Round Up weed killer. Round Up is one of corporate Monsanto’s major selling poisonous products. (A fact I learned from several activist organizations’ e-mails) Also, I quit buying my favorite toilet tissue because it was a Koch Brothers affiliated company. (A fact my husband told me from an internet source.) I opened a new savings account to remove savings from one of the high rolling banks that has been criticized for its predatory mortgage practices. But, I still find myself carrying a sense of guilt that I am not doing enough.

I, along with  most progressive environmental organizations, use electronics to communicate with the world, yet few people address the devastating effects of used computers and electronic parts. I actually learned of deaths caused by recycled computer parts on a CSI TV show. Guiyu, China is just one of several places in Asia and Africa in which environments and people are poisoned by the waste of our technological excess. Guiyu has the dishonor of being the largest electronic recycling site in the world. Although the population makes money from its recycling,  children suffer from lead poison and the recycling work has poisoned ground water.

Then, at other times I feel that this planet will endure beyond my short life or the actions of the worse corporate polluters.  Even our scientists don’t really know how many millions of years this orb of magma, rock, and chemicals has evolved through space. During all of this time, plants and animals have changed, adapted, and yes, many have disappeared. But, new ones have developed and survived changing climatic conditions for thousands of years before industrialization.

If I were not a Buddhist, I would probably be an extreme radical environmental social activist, utterly insane, or despairingly suicidal, or in jail. But, Buddhism teaches that everything that has a beginning has an end. All of these material objects, from our own bodies, to this very beautiful planet we live on, are as ephemeral as a dream. Yet, all of these ephemeralities are interconnected and dependent upon each other to exist. Our purpose in being alive, as humans, is to recognize that we are all one interconnected vast puzzle that can only be solved with compassion, patience, and wisdom.

So that little girl grew up and learned how to transform her anger into action. People working for positive change, motivated by love and concern for others are the saints living in our midst today.

Living King’s Words in Changing Times

". . .I've been to the mountaintop."

I wonder if Martin Luther King, Jr. had lived would he have endorsed his birthday as a national holiday? Maybe he would have said we should have a Civil Rights Day and honor all of the people whose lives were dedicated to obtaining civil rights for all Americans, beginning with the abolitionists and underground railroad heroes such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. Or maybe he would have suggested a national holiday to recognize the first peoples of this nation and all they have contributed from the Iroqouis concept of true Democracy, to how to grow foods and how to survive in harsh lands. Since this observance exists how should we celebrate this year?

This year, 2012, is a five year, the number of change. Change was the slogan of the 2008 Obama campaign and change will continue with the re-election of this country’s first African-American president. Yet, too many people fear change, particularly those who are invested in the comforts of the status quo. But, change is the natural order of life, from the constant cellular metamorphosis each individual body goes through every day to the cataclysmic upheavals of earthquakes and tornadoes. No corporation, legislative bill, law, or weapon can prevent or control such natural changes.

Likewise, on a social level, social change moves forward not backward in the USA. Economic conditions do go up and down, that is the nature of a capitalist economy. But women’s rights, not only to vote and to work, but also to control their own bodies will not be surrendered. The rights of the so-called “minorities” Black people, Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, homosexuals and women,  are now, taken together, the growing majority, will never again be pushed to the back of the bus.

King emphasized compassion and sacrifice, two qualities largely missing from the political and social discourse of the 21st century. But, now during this year of change is the time to resurrect compassion and sacrifice to bring about a truly democratic society guaranteeing everyone freedom, justice, and the pursuit of  happiness. So, let’s imagine how King, by recalling his words, would answer some of today’s pressing questions.

1.    What do you think about the OWS movement?
        The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood. We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be… The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

2.    How can we improve our failing economy?
        A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on. It is not man. Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think. The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?

3.    How should we end terrorism and the threat of war?
        Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

4.    How would you address the Libertarian and Tea Party positions that oppose social and antidiscrimination programs?
       We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others. All too many of those who live in affluent America ignore those who exist in poor America. In doing so, the affluent Americans will eventually have to face themselves with the question: How responsible am I for the well-being of my fellows? To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.

5.    What do you feel is the most effective strategy for maintaining social and economic justice?
       I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Sources: http://usliberals.about.com/od/patriotactcivilrights/a/MLKWords_2.htm
http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Martin_Luther_King_Jr
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/martin_luther_king_jr.html#ixzz1jB994xBe