Leonard Roy Frank Has Died

Leonard Roy Frank (1932-2015)

Leonard with books

Monotheist, Vegan, Gandhian, Social Reformer, Writer, Opponent of Involuntary Psychiatry, and Collector of Quotations

He led exactly the life he wanted to lead.

Leonard Roy Frank, my best friend, died suddenly sometime the night of January 15. Though he had suffered with a cold for a few days, otherwise he was healthy. He had apparently fallen after having what the medical examiner said was probably an “event.” The cause of death may not be declared for several weeks.

A large number of tributes to Leonard have poured in and are being consolidated on the Mad in America Tribute page.

The memorial service will be held at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, 2041 Larkin Street (near Broadway), San Francisco, on Saturday, January 31, 10:30 AM. There will be a reception afterwards with a light vegan lunch provided. Please email Wade Hudson <wade@wadehudson.org> if you plan to attend.

Following the reception, we plan to invite his friends to visit Leonard’s nearby apartment, where visitors will be able to take books from his large library. (His books on psychiatry may be donated to a nonprofit.)

Parking in the area is difficult, with a two-hour time limit. The #19 Polk bus that is due to stop on the north side of Market Street near Civic Center BART at 9:50 AM goes to Polk and Broadway. Nearby parking garages are:  Lombardi Sports Parking Garage, 1600 Jackson Street, $12.00 max; Old First Garage, 1725 Sacramento Street, $10.00 max; Ace Parking, 1776 Sacramento Street, $25.00 max.

Contributions in memory of Leonard may be made to: Mind Freedom International and/or the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples.

If you want to buy flowers for the service, you can call Polk Street Florist, 415-441-2868, to order them.

 

A Meditation on Dr. King and his Mentor, Dr. Thurman

One of the individuals portrayed in the film Selma, Diane Nash, spoke at the White House Celebration of Music From The Civil Rights Movement in February 2009. One comment she made there helped to put me on the path to Fellowship Church. She said the point of the movement was “reconciliation.” That word, reconciliation, rang a bell and prompted me to realize that for 45 years I had forgotten that principle and had been driven by anger, not love.

In the speech Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave at the end of the march to the state capitol in Montgomery, which moved me profoundly as I stood in the crowd, he said:

That’s what happened when the Negro and white masses of the South threatened to unite and build a great society: a society of justice where none would prey upon the weakness of others; a society of plenty where greed and poverty would be done away; a society of brotherhood where every man would respect the dignity and worth of human personality…. And so I plead with you this afternoon as we go ahead: remain committed to nonviolence. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.

Unfortunately, it seemed to me, the film Selma did not capture that philosophy, which Dr. Howard Thurman helped shape.

In Dr. Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited, a brilliant self-help manual for activists that Dr. King reportedly carried with him when he traveled, Dr. Thurman writes “To love such an enemy requires reconciliation… It involves confession of error…. To love those of the household he must conquer his own pride.” And Dr. Thurman points out that “too much pride on either side [makes it difficult] to make amends…. The underprivileged man must himself be status free. It may be argued that his sense of freedom must come first…. Love is possible only between two freed spirits.” By “status free,” he meant transcending our social roles and relating person-to-person.

Thurman insists we need “an overall technique for loving one’s enemy…, a discipline, a method, a technique, as over against some form of wishful thinking or simple desiring,… a technique of implementation.” The technique he proposes is “the attitude of respect for personality,” which requires us to “put aside the pride of race and status which would have caused [us] to regard [ourselves] as superior….[and declare] ‘I am stripped bare of all pretense and false pride. The man in me appeals to the man in you.”

When “we emerge into an area where love operates,” we say, as did Jesus, “Neither do I condemn you.” We judge our own deeds and confess our trespasses. “[We] must recognize fear, deception, hatred, each for what it is,” Dr. Thurman states. “Once having done this, [we] must learn how to destroy these or to render [ourselves] immune to their domination.”

Yet, as we saw indicated here at Fellowship Church last week in the film about Grace Lee Boggs, most political activists don’t engage in that kind of critical self-examination, which is essential to nurturing the nonjudgmental humility that Dr. Thurman affirms. Most activists are too busy trying to mobilize others to do what they, the activists, want them to do. They focus on the outer world and neglect the inner world.

Not even faith-based and faith-rooted organizations really talk about the need for critical self-examination. For example, in the call for a strategy conference late last year, Michael Lerner, founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, said nothing about the need for self-improvement rooted in acknowledging mistakes and resolving to avoid them. To the contrary, he said, “Nor are we writing you to suggest personal repentance.” I found that statement shocking, but par for the course.

I’ve discussed this issue many times with faith-based leaders and activists and organized some workshops to promote that commitment. But so far I mainly see a focus on external issues and neglect of internal issues. Some projects train activists to work on themselves individually. But I know of no political organization that facilitates all of their members to support one another in open-ended self-development as defined by each member.

I envision user-friendly, easily replicated templates that like-minded individuals could use to provide mutual support — so that we could better transform our social system. The first step, it seems to me, is to establish a new primary purpose for our society: to “rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society,” as Dr. King put it. Once that new mission statement were affirmed, we could better reform all of our institutions, our culture, and ourselves to serve that purpose.

With that positive thrust, we who are working on so many different issues could better overcome our fragmentation by occasionally uniting to support one another on timely, top priority issues. By uniting, we could accomplish much more together than we can fragmented, focused on building our own organization. That vision seems clear and convincing to me. But so far I’ve found no organization engaged in that kind of holistic work and have been unable to initiate one.

I trust, however, that some day soon holistic politics will crystallize. It may be just around the corner. As James Baldwin said:

A day will come when you will trust you more than you do now and you will trust me more than you do now. We will trust each other. I do believe, I really do believe in the New Jerusalem. I really do believe that we can all become better than we are. I know we can. But the price is enormous and people are not yet ready to pay.

In the meantime, I plan to stop pushing my vision, ask God to take the weight of the world off my shoulders, try to become more humble, take better care of myself, and learn better how to “love [my] neighbor directly, clearly, permitting no barrier between,” as affirmed by Dr. Thurman.

Then, before I die, perhaps I’ll be a foot soldier in a global movement to transform our global society into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of the entire Earth Community.

Thank you for listening.

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Presented as the Meditation at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples Sunday, January 18, 2015

Leonard Frank Has Died

rsz_leonard_croppedDear Friends:

I am sad to report that Leonard Frank died suddenly some time late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. Though he had suffered with a cold for a few days, otherwise he was healthy.

He had apparently fallen after having what the medical examiner said was probably an “event.” The cause of death may not be declared for several weeks.

As executor for his will, I’ve been talking with his sister and her three children about plans for a memorial service, which is tentatively planned for Saturday, January 31, 10 am.

If you want to make a charitable donation, I suggest that you do so to Mind Freedom International, P.O. Box 11284, Eugene, OR 97440-3484 or online at http://www.mindfreedom.org/.

If you want to receive final information about the memorial service, please let me know.

Please share this information with people who loved and appreciated Leonard. He will be deeply missed.

With love,
Wade Hudson
415-722-5852

Reform the System with Love and Power: A Call for Action

NOTE: The following is the latest draft of a work-in-progress. An earlier version was “Changing the System: A Proposal for a National Conference (10/17/14 Draft).” I always welcome your feedback, but I would especially appreciate your comments on this draft, which is particularly important to me. The latest draft will always be at http://goo.gl/3zkOoP.

Reform the System with Love and Power:
A Call for Action

Power without love is reckless and abusive,
and love without power is sentimental and anemic.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The system is broken and we know it. On the surface it appears to benefit a few. But their gains are superficial, most people are excluded, and the whole system may collapse soon as society becomes increasingly top-heavy and destructive to the environment. The need for a nonviolent movement to transform our society into a compassionate community is urgent.

When love is not backed by political power, it is severely limited in what it can accomplish. But if we base political power in love, we can promote justice and democracy.

A broad range of activist organizations do good work on a wide variety of important issues. Those efforts are grounded in similar values, and the problems they address are rooted in the same cause: a destructive, self-perpetuating social system that must be reformed fundamentally and comprehensively. Yet those organizations are largely fragmented.

If they briefly supported one another than they do, while regularly maintaining their primary focus, they could achieve much more united than they can isolated. To encourage that unity, let us engage in an open, participatory collaboration to compose a brief vision statement that responds to the following questions:

  1. How can we best describe and analyze “the system”?
  2. What role do individuals play in maintaining the system?
  3. How do we need to change the system?
  4. What long-term strategies can help build a popular movement to achieve that goal?
  5. What short-term steps can we take toward that end?

With this statement, we could affirm our core beliefs and clarify how our issues are interconnected with a commitment that we could sustain over time.

References to “the system” are common. People intuitively have a sense of what the phrase means. When at the 2012 Democratic Convention Elizabeth Warren declared, “The system is rigged,” she received a standing ovation. The percent of voters who believe the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves increased from 29 percent in 1964 to 79 percent in 2013. Almost four in five Americans are dissatisfied with the political system. That same percentage is convinced that corruption in government is widespread. Most Americans report they’re so upset they “would carry a protest sign for a day” if they could. Strong majorities favor major changes in national policy and believe grassroots, people power is needed to achieve that.

Nevertheless, there is no consensus among activists concerning how to reinvent our social system. We need to fill that void and build broad agreement on those issues.

No one group controls the system. It is self-perpetuating. Our major institutions — including our economy, government, media, entertainment, schools, and religious communities — our culture, and ourselves as individuals are interwoven. All of those elements support one another.

The system’s primary purpose is to preserve the social ladder. As those who prosper pass on their advantages to their children, the pecking order becomes increasingly steep.

The system corrupts our culture and dehumanizes our people. No one escapes its impact and everyone reinforces it. In particular, our hyper-competitive culture encourages harsh judgments of others and undermines our ability to collaborate with others. Instead, we learn to either dominate or submit.

Because the various elements of the system are intertwined, to transform the system we need to steadily change each element of the system. We must change our institutions, our culture, and ourselves.

The first step toward lasting social transformation is to establish a new mission statement for our society that affirms a primary commitment to promote the common good of the entire Earth Community. Climbing the ladder of success is not our highest calling.

Most people would like to be a better person. We want to more fully:

  • Treat others as we want to be treated.
  • Love ourselves as we love others.
  • Avoid both selfishness and self-sacrifice.
  • Respect ourselves so we can better respect others.
  • Be productive and happy, have fun, experience joy, be of service to others, relieve suffering, and advance human evolution.
  • Appreciate intangible spiritual realities, ponder or revere the mystery that energizes and structures the universe, and seek harmony with Mother Nature.
  • Be honest, courageous, humble, free, generous, disciplined, responsible, firm, and flexible.

To “be the change” and strengthen ourselves, we need to honestly evaluate our mistakes and accomplishments, and our strengths and weaknesses, while drawing on mutual support and peer learning. Merely verbalizing the results of our introspection is valuable, especially if we are understood by supportive allies.

And we certainly don’t need to dictate to others how they should change. Individuals can define their own goals.

Self-development efforts are most fruitful when they are intentional and consistent, rather than occasional and haphazard. To facilitate that growth, we need to develop new methods for providing mutual support.

One option is to design formats for soulful conversations that others could use quickly, with little or no special training or expert facilitation. In these groups, members could set aside time to dig deep, acknowledge mistakes, and consider how to avoid them in the future. By developing user-friendly templates that small, member-run sharing circles could utilize easily, these tool could spread widely. Large numbers of activists could engage more fully in steady self-improvement, which would increase our effectiveness by helping us improve how we relate to others.

If we developed agreement on a long-term vision statement, small groups of endorsers could gather regularly to break bread, enjoy one another’s company, share a cultural experience that engages the heart such as listening to a song, and report on both their self-development efforts and their political action. These circles could attract new members with contagious happiness, and occasionally gather in regional, national, and international gatherings.

If we tap our inner strength and courage, we can join with others to leave the world a better place for future generations, in part by impacting national policies in our own country and supporting people in other countries to do the same in their nation. When others suffer injustice, we want to relieve that suffering, prevent more injustice, and correct root causes, which requires changing our nation’s policies.

With this approach, we can more completely assure that:

  • Everyone has healthy food, clean air, drinkable water, peace and quiet, economic security, a safe environment, rewarding social interactions, good friends, a healthy family, ongoing learning experiences, and a fair chance to realize their best potentialities.
  • Working-age adults who are able and willing to work can find a good job that enables them to avoid poverty.
  • Private businesses serve the public interest, treat their workers fairly, and refrain from damaging the environment.
  • Workers are fully able to organize.
  • Everyone is treated equally in the eyes of the law, while we preserve law and order.
  • Legitimate authority is respected and when people abuse their power, they are held accountable.
  • Individuals have the right to their privacy as long as they don’t violate the rights of others.
  • Promote nonviolence, reconciliation, empowerment, partnership, cooperation, and collaboration throughout society.

With an equal emphasis on both long-term goals and short-term objectives, and a balanced focus on simultaneous personal, social, cultural, and political change, we can win victories that build momentum, while recognizing that no victory or defeat is final. In this way, we could inspire both concerned individuals who want to do more than “tinker” as well as those who want to see results.

People are passive in part because others are passive, not because they don’t want to act. We must break that downward spiral with an upward spiral. As we steadily mobilize like-minded people, more concerned individuals will participate.

By pushing for realistic, positive change to advance the common good of the Earth Community, we can promote evolutionary revolution, meet neglected needs, build our collective power, and restructure our deteriorating society into a compassionate, truly democratic community.

 

Personal Update

Today I spend the night in San Luis Obispo, so I can commune with the Big Sur Coast extensively before returning home to sleep in my bed tonight.

Sometimes the best way to find an answer is to stop thinking about the question. While watching the Jersey Boys, a key shift concerning the Reform the System project hit me. Then, last night, while watching the college football playoffs, a solution to my taxi medallion dilemma popped into mind. It is probably no coincidence that for the first time ever that I can remember, I woke up with a dream that involved me laughing uproariously.

More than once Mike had suggested starting small, rather than trying to do a national conference right away. But, true to my tendency to try to do too much too quickly, I resisted. Then during the musical, it struck me: start with a “workshop,” like we did with the Solutions to Poverty Workshop, leading toward first a regional conference, similar to what we did with the San Francisco Antipoverty Congress, and then a national conference. It’s like Mike planted a seed that suddenly bloomed.

In discussing whether to sell my medallion with a cab driver, he said, “You can always pay gates [rental fee] and drive taxi after you sell.” I totally ruled the idea out at that moment. Recently, however, I mentioned that option to Mary as one way that I could make up my anticipated shortfall, but the idea did not stick. Then during the game, that idea emerged and I quickly calculated that, even after paying the gates (rental fee), I could fill the projected gap by driving 2-3 two days a month. I could handle that! A viable fall back plan. Quite a relief. My lingering ambivalence about whether to sell evaporated. If no one hires me to do what my heart wants to do or if no other source of income emerges, I can drive taxi 2-3 days a month! I will sell.

If I were a better meditator, perhaps those solutions would have emerged meditating. But musicals and football are another way to stop thinking. This time, that worked for me.

I still feel good about my inclination to help the Residents’ Council do what members want to do “with and for each other” – separate from management. The silver lining is that when residents have complaints about management, we could just say: talk with them one-on-one, as they prefer. That could clear up our agenda for positive activities.  I may still suggest that we agree that we prefer that management engage in public dialog. But at least for a while, I’m fine with placing that issue on the back burner.

When I asked Mike, he said he prefers “Reform the System” to “Changing the System,” as do I. Fortunately, that URL was available, so I bought it. I was surprised. Either we are on the cutting edge, ahead of our times, or we are out in left field. Regardless, we have a tough nut to crack.

The following comment from one support group member helped clarify my thinking on one matter:

Implementation of a new way to handle issues, in my opinion, has to be incremental.  This brings me to the workshop idea of “Systems Change.” Why not think about identifying a particular system which needs change – think of the powers behind the systems. Think of those systems/institutions.  My suggestion would be to identify a system  – e.g., criminal, education, how we work with homeless, hunger, etc.  I am sure you get my flow and know of many yourself.  Make it an institution of care within the system. For organizing purposes there are people who are working on these issue who would benefit from your idea.  And, if you think that is too small, then invite the community leaders of these causes to participate in the organizing of a larger “System of Change.”  I cannot stress enough that small is good.  It is how movements can be built when the anger we feel as a Nation needs tending.

That astute comment led me to the idea that at the first in a series of workshop sessions we could have a panel of individuals, each of whom works primarily on a single issue. Subsequent workshops could maybe have one guest that would participate in a discussion of their specific issue. And all sessions would address how the various single issues are interconnected and the various elements of “the system” reinforce one another. Therefore, our best hope for systemic reform is to have various forces reforming each and every element simultaneously, and occasionally supporting one another in a timely manner. I’ve modified the Proposal and the Declaration to incorporate those thoughts and will do so with the Arguments For essay later.

With regard to the title of the draft declaration, which affirms “love and power,” and Dr. King’s quote: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic,” a support group member commented, “I don’t agree with Dr. King’s words without a richer understanding as to what he meant and in what context he wrote them. Real love is never weak or anemic or sentimental – it has the power of healing. It has to be received.”

I responded:

Webster’s defines sentimental as:

1
a :  marked or governed by feeling, sensibility, or emotional idealism
b :  resulting from feeling rather than reason or thought <a sentimental attachment> <a sentimental favorite>
2
:  having an excess of sentiment

One-on-one and in small groups love can be healing, to a limited degree. So long as our dominant social structures inflict so much suffering, love without power will be very limited in what it can accomplish. As such, it is weak, relatively speaking. To believe otherwise is idealistic and reflects an excess of sentiment. His point is that we need both.

On further thought, it struck me that some adjectives could help clarify the different forms of love and power. So I added the following to the Declaration: “Informal, interpersonal love is not enough. If it is not backed up by political power, it is severely limited in what it can accomplish. This Declaration outlines how we, the signers, aim to root political power in love.”

Here is my current scenario for developing the Workshop(s):

1) Circulate to my 200 blog and listserv subscribers the following:

Dear Subscribers:

I’d very much appreciate your feedback on the following:
A Proposal for a Reform the System Workshop
Changing the System with Love and Power: A Declaration for Action
Arguments for a Reform the System Workshop

Might you like to participate in a workshop of the sort proposed? If not, do you believe that the proposed workshop is potentially valuable?

After incorporating feedback on these drafts, I may seek an organization to plan and conduct the workshop, which could lead later to a regional three-day conference on the same theme. That conference, in turn, could lead to a national conference, which could lead to one or more new ongoing projects to implement the resolutions that emerge.

If I decide to seek a sponsor for the workshop, to strengthen my case, I may  ask you to endorse the final draft and authorize me to quote your comments.

The latest draft of this proposal will always be at http://goo.gl/25Bygd.

Thanks,
Wade

2) Circulate the next drafts of those materials to those subscribers plus some 150 people on my Bay Area List and more than 1,000 other individuals in my Address Book, and post them elsewhere, and ask people for endorsements and blurbs (supportive quotes) for those materials.

3) If the response is sufficiently supportive, distribute those materials and words of support to potential sponsors one at a time, in this order — Fellowship Church, Movement Strategy Center, Center for Spirituality and Social Transformation, California Institute for Integral Studies —  and ask them to sponsor the workshop

4) Ask any potential sponsors that decline to provide feedback and suggestions, including potential sponsors.

5) If no sponsor is recruited  and there are no viable options on the horizon, evaluate the feedback to date at that point and consider whether to incorporate ReformTheSystem.org as a nonprofit (I own that URL) and/or find a fiscal sponsor and do the workshop ourselves.

The full materials are at http://goo.gl/25Bygd

Thoughts?

Comments on “Evolutionary Revolution”

Several interesting comments concerning “Evolutionary Revolution” have been submitted:

Occupy SF posted it to their site at http://occupysf.org/archives/4765

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Bernard Weiner, co-editor of The Crisis Papers wrote:

hi, wade. important insights. thanks.

thought you might want to check out this old essay from 2010: “The Sounds of Silence: Reactions to Political Despair” http://www.crisispapers.org/essays10w/silence.htm. it ends with the following:

My answer, as it always is when dealing with political funks, is to prepare for revolution while fighting for attainable, probably small victories. Democracy is not a spectator sport; it involves pain, rejection, endless struggle, two steps forward and one step back, two steps backward and one step forward, etc. etc.

Action can be an effective antidote for despair. Working on behalf of others leads to more care and appreciation of one’s own life-direction. The confusion of depression is a ripe time to build, to explore, to be more creative about our approaches. And above all, to organize, Organize, ORGANIZE so that when the tectonic political plates finally start to shift, the Movement is in place and ready to act.

Copyright 2010 by Bernard Weiner

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Ted Chabasinksi commented:

I wholeheartedly agree with this, Wade. A lot of talk about “revolution” is usually just empty rhetoric. Plus, from an organizing point of view, if people don’t see concrete results, the activists will just drift away.

Didn’t Saul Alinsky say something similar to what you wrote here? That in order to build a movement, people have to see some successes?

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One critical response was from Richard Moore, who wrote:

Thanks for your end-of-year philosophical perspective on social change. Very perceptive, in my humble opinion. I agree entirely with your central formula for transformation: pursue winnable incremental objectives, leading up to achieving your long-term goal. I disagree, however, with your characterization of those incremental objectives:

We need to update their vision by articulating it in contemporary language, and unite behind concrete, winnable demands concerning public policy that help us steadily transform our global society. To be winnable, demands must be measurable. It needs to be clear when we have achieved our objective. Movements build momentum with victories.

For numerous reasons, which I won’t go into now, pursuing changes in public policy is no longer a viable path. Indeed, the state is the player that is most proficient at such techniques, the player that mobilizes movements, ribbon-colored and otherwise, domestically and internationally, online and in the streets.

I suggest that we need to go directly for community itself, and that our incremental steps need to be in terms of community-building, and the viral spreading of community-building. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this perspective:
http://cyberjournal.org/Documents/BuildingTheNew.html

which is part of a larger perspective:
http://cyberjournal.org/creating-change.html

I replied, “Incremental changes such as increasing the minimum wage are clearly viable. To oppose such improvements in others’ living conditions is cruel and morally irresponsible.”

Richard responded, “The thing is Wade that the tide of incremental changes is going very much against us. Yes we might be able to build a sand castle, and hold back the tide for a while in some area or another, but that won’t stop the tide.”

I replied, “Your metaphor reaffirms your claim that any such reforms are worthless, which as I said is wrong, cruel, and morally irresponsible. To assert that the tide will wipe out any such castles is arrogant. The future cannot be predicted that precisely.”

Bob Anschuetz sent a lengthy comment:

In reading how your attitude has changed with respect to the desirable pace of social change, I think you strike a very apt analogy in comparing the evolutionary–rather than revolutionary–change you now favor to the model of biological evolution and the very gradual changes in plant and animal species that ensue through the process of natural selection. In this process, every generation of plants or creatures embodies variations that are advantageous for survival and procreation in the hosting environment. In time, the “selected” variations in a given species can lead to the emergence of an entirely new species that is better–even optimally–suited to its environment.

Dr. King, whom you mention, demonstrates the success of such an evolutionary process as it applies to social change. Despite his enduring dedication to peaceful, and therefore slow—progressive, rather than radical—advances in the civil rights and social dignity of American blacks, for which he was belittled by the likes of Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, the movement he led, based on an appeal to moral conscience, ultimately succeeded in ending institutional Jim Crow in the South.

It’s undoubtedly true that King’s marches and the spin-off demonstrations they spawned failed to soften hearts that had been culturally hardened by prejudice. It also seems plain that racial hatred has continued to be passed on to many in succeeding generations. What is indisputable, however, is that the marches did in time pressure the government to pass laws that gave blacks the right to vote, to have equal access to public facilities, and to eat in any restaurant or sleep in any hotel of their choice at which they could pay their way. In the same way, public pressure ultimately brought an end to the war in Vietnam, though it had little effect in changing America’s imperial ambitions or diminishing the “undue influence” of the military/industrial complex. In the broad scheme of things, the changes wrought by the civil rights and anti-war demonstrations of the Sixties were not transformational, but only steps to an end. Yet, those steps, in addition to their important ad hoc effects, serve as checkpoints on the road to progress. In future debates on issues of social justice and international peace, they will have the continuing effect of broadening the scope of debate.

I think you’re very much on target, Wade, to compare the right pace of social change to the process of biological evolution. Small changes in various activities can accumulate over time until they reach a critical mass. At that stage in biological evolution, they produce irreversible new species of plants and animals. As for their effect on human progress, we can hope that a critical mass of small changes can at some point make justice and peaceful conflict resolution the irreversible norms of our dealings with other humans at the individual, social, and international levels. What we need to do to get to that point is precisely what Dr. King did: continually organize with the many others who also believe in these norms and, in various forms, join with them to urge those in power to take the next legislative steps to bring them closer to reality. The history of the Sixties shows that demonstrations for specific reforms or policies that are morally right can attract more and more supporters and, in the end, force legislators to enforce them by new laws or actions. By following the same course in our day, we can keep the ball moving toward the ultimate transformative end of a more just and peaceful society and world.

Concerning an issue addressed in the essay, the use of deadly force by police, I posted a comment on Facebook concerning the recent clearing of a police officer in Houston:

I’ve read several stories about this event and none of them say anything about how far away the victim was when the officer shot him, or where the bullet hit the victim. A similar lack of attention to those questions, which seem critical to me, has been reflected in stories about other incidents. In Ferguson, the officer said the victim was 8-10 feet away. Even if that is accurate, is deadly force justified under those conditions? What about a shot to the leg, or the stomach? Why does the media not address that question? Why don’t protesters?

In response, Joan Greenfield commented:

I’ve asking myself (and others) this question many times. The official response is that officers are trained to shoot to kill when their own (or other) lives are in danger. It’s obvious to me this isn’t what’s happening when the victims do not show a gun. A knife? Give me a break. A shot to the leg would bring the aggressor down without anyone dying. And protestors? They have their own issues around violence. How can peaceful protestors rid the demonstrations of the ones who aren’t?

ISIS, Homeland, and Psychology

Yesterday The New York Times ran an intriguing article titled, “In Battle to Defang ISIS, U.S. Targets Its Psychology.” The piece featured the attempt by Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of American Special Operations forces in the Middle East, to better understand what motivates the members of ISIS and other, similar terrorist organizations.

Nagata was quoted saying:

We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it. We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea…. What makes I.S. so magnetic, inspirational? … deeply resonant with a specific but large portion of the Islamic population, particularly young men looking for a banner to flock to.

What struck me most, however, were some of the comments that had been posted:

I cannot help feeling dismayed…we have been at war for over 12 years in the area. We have world class military think tanks and leadership training facilities yet our military is still confounded about the why’s and wherefores of radical terrorism? I suspect that poverty, high unemployment among the target group of potential recruits, failure to thrive in adopted countries, disequilibrium of wealth that stagnates societies, corruption, lack of education (especially for females), all have something to do with the problem.

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So why do they have such success in attracting recruits? I would say that because there is so much suffering, oppression, and brutality in the Arab/Muslim world, ISIS says join us and fight and win a better life. It works.

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The same factors that caused the rise of Fascism in Europe at the end of the first world war causes the rise of ISIS et al. today. A bloom of a large number of youth without any prospects of a decent life and civilian jobs. Combine that with the use of religious symbols that these youth grew up. Next venerate the religion in the supposed good old days, some thousand years ago or so, add a fast talking snake oil sales man; and you have Fascism in Europe just under 100 years ago, or ISIS etc. today.

Indeed, it’s not rocket science and Nagata does not need a panel of academic experts to figure it out. But at least he acknowledges his ignorance. Maybe he will actually learn some simple truths. If he reads all of the comments on that article, it might help.

He could also watch Homeland. For some time, I felt ambivalent about the “guilty pleasure” I experienced watching it. I was afraid I was endorsing jingoistic propaganda. And I haven’t finished watching Season Four, so my appreciation of the series may sour when I do.

I haven’t read any reviews of the show and have discussed it with only one other person who has. So my thoughts about the program may be minority opinions. At the moment, however, it seems that Homeland does a fairly good job of understanding the terrorists, as The Wire did with drug gangs. And it presents the moral ambiguities that are involved, presenting various sides of the issues without telling the viewer what to believe. Rather, it merely attempts to clarify the reality, and leave it to the viewers to form their own judgments.

I say that’s better than sweeping matters under the rug.

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou


Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.