LIGHT OMEGA

Sept. 6, 2004Articles and commentary regarding world events
In Pursuit of Truth: Examining Definitions


"Full Text: John McCain's Speech" (Aug. 31, 2004)

     For those who want to understand more of the Republican party's perspective on the 'war against terrorism', and as an example and practice for us of how to discern truth from political rhetoric, this link will take you to Sen. John McCain's moving speech at the Republican Convention.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3613206.stm

Well-written, impassioned, and eloquent, it calls us to uphold the patriotic ideals that lie within the heart of America, while unequivocally supporting the reelection of President Bush as the upholder of those ideals. Sen. McCain's speech portrays George Bush as a 'war-time President' who can meet existing challenges with courage and leadership. The emphasis here is on 'war-time' and its necessities. The speech leads us from the premise of the necessity for war, to the conclusion that George Bush is the leader who is best equipped to fight it.

     In pursuit of truth, and because Sen. McCain's clear perspective offers us an equally clear opportunity to go beneath campaign generalizations, we need to examine how a premise becomes an unstated reality, and how we, the public, can be led to conclusions we would not make if we did not accept the premise.

     As we read (or hear) John McCain's speech, we are being called to whatever lies deep within us that loves America and its ideals, that stands with those who deem themselves to be patriotic. But what is patriotism? Is it as Sen. McCain defines it, or can it be defined differently? Put another way, to be patriotic, must we view the present 'war against terrorism' as one between "good and evil," between us and "the adversary," or can we look at the world through less polarized lenses and see a gray zone that draws us closer, even to those who presently act against us? The unwillingness to polarize the world into 'us' and 'them' is one of the chief characteristics of those who oppose the present administration's foreign policy, including its 'war on terrorism'.

     The need to question assumptions we are being presented with and the truth of these assumptions is of utmost importance not only when fighting a war, but also when called upon to face any challenge, make any sacrifice, support any cause. We must care enough to want to know what is true, and be wise enough to not be swept away by emotion so that we can question the definitions we are being offered. Sen. McCain's definition of American patriotism is shaped by a 'war-time mentality'. Is this the same as being shaped by an actual war, or is it shaped by the thought of our present circumstances as 'war-time'? Is it possible that a 'war-time mentality' is a construct, used to redefine what patriotism is really about?

     Here are some examples of phrases taken from Sen. McCain's speech that appeal to our emotions and that are connected with American ideals. These phrases are, however, based on the un-questioned premise of a 'war-time mentality'.

The awful events of 11 September 2001 declared a war we were vaguely aware of...

We are engaged in a hard struggle against a cruel and determined adversary...

It's a fight between a just regard for human dignity and a malevolent force that defiles an honourable religion by disputing God's love for every soul on earth. It's a fight between right and wrong, good and evil.

     There is another unstated premise that needs to be looked at. This concerns our need to 'defend freedom' above all else.

All of us, despite the differences that enliven our politics, are united in the one big idea that freedom is our birthright and its defense is always our first responsibility. All other responsibilities come second.

     It is probably true that all Americans would support the 'defense of freedom' as it allows us the maximum leeway to live our own lives. Yet, what does this phrase actually mean? Is the need to 'defend freedom' such a high priority that we are, paradoxically, willing to jeopardize the freedoms of people in this country while claiming at the same time to defend them? And is the 'defense of freedom' to be pursued even while we disregard the cost to human life as we have done in Iraq? Perhaps the banner-waving phrase, 'defense of freedom', is not so simple after all. Though it appeals to our deeply-felt desire to uphold the precious liberty which is at the core of our American ideals, it neglects to point out that the means of upholding liberty is open to discussion. John McCain's speech would have it be that there is only one way.

     Banner-waving aspects of political speech and rhetoric, especially at a venue such as party conventions where high-sounding generalizations abound, are the tools which activate emotion. They present themselves as unassailable truth so that we can strongly feel their emotional impact and admire the ideals to which they point. But whose truth are they? In general, but not always, they represent truth for the speaker of the words. However, for the rest of us, we must strive to discern whether definitions that someone else offers of reality are the only definitions that exist, or whether we can choose to define ourselves in a way other than the one being described. When someone speaks strongly and with conviction, this becomes increasingly difficult to do. And when we doubt our own intuition, then we fear being found lacking in something - in this instance, we may fear to be found lacking in adequate caring for freedom or for America. For example:

So it is, whether we wished it or not, that we have come to the test of our generation, to our rendezvous with destiny.

There is no avoiding this war. We tried that, and our reluctance cost us dearly. And while this war has many components, we can't make victory on the battlefield harder to achieve so that our diplomacy is easier to conduct.

     Perhaps as Americans we do have a "rendevous with destiny," but perhaps it is not the one defined by a war-time President and the inevitability of a 'war on terrorism'.

     In the next example relating to Sept. 11th, the idea is put forth that America did not do anything to warrant this attack, and that it was democracy itself that was being attacked because of hatred for its ideals.

Then, in recognition, we were attacked not for a wrong we had done, but for who we are a people united in a kinship of ideals, committed to the notion that the people are sovereign, not governments, not armies, not a pitiless, inhumane theocracy, not kings, mullahs or tyrants, but the people.

     What if we were to say that America has done something wrong to warrant this attack? Our policies for years in the Middle East have inflamed many, and our alliance with Israel has inflamed many more. Without justifying terrorism in any way as a tool of protest, and without legitimizing hatred and rage, does acknowledging American error in Middle East policy mean that we are unpatriotic?

     As we listen to those who seek to represent us and to define U.S. policy at home and abroad, we must consistently look for truth beyond the presentation of the author, writer, or speaker. We must look to our own hearts and to our own sense of rightness to see whether what we are hearing is the only way to view things. Prayer and meditation can help us go deeper with issues of great importance. They can shine a light within our consciousness and illuminate what our intuition is telling us. But in order to hear the voice of our intuition or to see this light, we must be willing to stand alone - to discern truth from falsehood within our own consciousness, even when no one else seems to be doing so. This practice can help in all areas of life, but it is especially important now that our military commitment to the 'war on terrorism' has grown, and now that so many lives are at stake.

     In concluding, Sen. McCain says:

We fight for love of freedom and justice, a love that is invincible. Keep that faith. Keep your courage. Stick together. Stay strong. Do not yield. Do not flinch. Stand up. Stand up with our president and fight.

     To this one can only say, war is not the only way.



A Global War: Many Fronts, Little Unity (Sept. 5, 2004)
   Archived 7 days post-publication and no longer free-of-charge. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/05/weekinreview/05cohe.html

"What Does America Have to Fear From Me?" (Aug. 31, 2004) http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0831-07.htm

"The Truth will Emerge." Comments by Sen. Robert Byrd (May 21, 2003). http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0521-10.htm

     A stinging indictment of the Bush administration's representation of reasons for invading Iraq. Despite the fact that there is a gray zone between deliberate deceit and misrepresentation of facts due to faulty and grandiose perception - a matter that Sen. Byrd does not address - his comments invite us to look at 'definitions' as they apply to the presumptive 'necessity' for our military engagement in Iraq.


WORLD COUNCIL OF NATIONS: A Planetary Perspective


The following perspective is one of great importance to hold at this time, as it points to an aspect of the future on the other side of the world's present difficulties. "However, far or near this goal may be, we need to hold it in our hearts and prayers, so that when the time is right, it can manifest upon the earth."


* * * * *

     The earth is one, as are its inhabitants - one people, one planetary family, one destiny, one need to survive. We have more to do with each other, more in common, than what separates us into nations, cultures, and societies. We are human beings, souls, longing for the same ultimate rights and freedoms - the right to exist, to share love, to earn a living, to find happiness, to live in peace.

     This planet requires of us a 'globalization of consciousness', a redefinition of what and who we care about, an extension of our own personal boundaries to include an identification with life everywhere so that we cease to focus simply on our own good or bad fortune, and become more concerned with what befalls others as well.

For as long as we cannot find within ourselves the heart to share in the suffering of others and to identify with that suffering, for as long as we cannot find the willingness within ourselves to share the resources of the world with those who have less, for as long as we refuse to acknowledge and authorize an international authority to represent the world of nations - the world of the human family - we prevent, through our actions, the oneness of that human family from coming into existence.

     We, who seek peace and unity, must seek it both in word and deed. We must seek peace by making peace. We must seek harmony by allowing national self-interest to be placed in the service of world self-interest. For the world has a 'self', equally real as the 'self' of a nation, and this 'world-self' is the greater body of which each nation is a smaller part.

     We are far, yet, from recognizing this reality, far from a willingness to surrender our self-protection in favor of the protection of all. But in order to create peace of a lasting kind, not strategic peace based on military might, but the peace that comes from the underlying experience of love, we need to institute those structures and policies that establish and maintain the protection of all. We need to subject ourselves to a criterion of what is good for the world, to replace the high priority that we presently place on our own concerns.

     In order for this to become possible, a World Council of Nations is needed, one that can arbitrate among nations and is given authority to do so, one that can provide a court of appeal in disputes, one that can oversee and participate in the distribution of the earth's resources and wealth, one that can negotiate how this shall take place, one that can enhance the communication between peoples so that education and familiarity with the diversity of cultures removes threat in the presence of difference, one that can monitor the world's health needs and adjudicate a fair means for the sale of drugs and the dispersal of knowledge and services in order to maintain the health of all. We need to understand in word as well as in deed, what the brotherhood of man is about, and this understanding must take place through education and familiarity, through exchange of views and voices, as well as through negotiation.

     This World Council of Nations could only be modeled after the United Nations in certain limited respects. Its aims, as stated in a founding charter, would probably be very similar. But the consciousness that would create it must be very different. The noble ideals of the United Nations charter have not been given power or authority in many instances to manifest in action. The veto-power of select countries on the Security Council have ensured that certain issues could never move forward or be healed. The United Nations has had noble ideals and purposes, but it has had no real power to institute its aims, except by the selective consent, varying in time and place, of individual nations.

     A World Council of Nations would have a different kind of authority, because it would be based on a different consciousness. Not only would it distribute resources to help those in need and in crisis, it would monitor this distribution so that the earth's energy resources, for example, would not be used up disproportionately by those who can afford the highest level of consumption. It would regulate the statutes concerning greenhouse emissions so that the world would not be polluted by those countries that would, under other circumstances, choose personal comfort over environmental necessity. It would establish a high court of appeal in which the national self-interest of more powerful nations would not create an ongoing impediment to progress through the veto of actions that such a body would seek to take. And most importantly, it would foster and create the kind of planetary consciousness which would be both spiritual and cultural, a consciousness that would engender within all of society a desire to understand and to care for the peoples of the earth. Such a Council would engender and celebrate the creation, everywhere, of a sense of unity amidst diversity.

     It appears that we are a long way from this happening, both in time and space and in consciousness. And yet, the circumstances conducive to the creation of such a world body may be close at hand, for the need is great, and the requirement that we begin to think of ourselves as one people, manifesting as different nations and cultures, is never greater than at a time of strife, conflict, and discord among nations. Therefore, however, far or near this goal may be, we need to hold it in our hearts and prayers, so that when the time is right, it can manifest upon the earth.


* * * * *


     In light of the above, it is particularly important to note how U.S. policy has, in recent years, moved us further away from such universal goals, toward the creation of a unilateral international policy that is dominated by a 'force of one' - a policy created and maintained by the aims of national self-interest and by U.S. military might.

Attacks Against World Court by Bush, Kerry and Congress Reveal Growing Bipartisan Hostility to International Law, Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF), Aug. 2004)
http://www.fpif.org/papers/0408worldcourt.html

     For those concerned about the movement of the United States away from international collaboration, this article documents recent movements within Congress and by both President Bush and Sen. Kerry, to reject the jurisdiction of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice when it comes to rulings about Israel.



Beslan, Russia


     Three days of siege. For the families, as well as for the estimated twelve hundred hostages, anguish, fear, desperation, despair. In the end, more than 330 dead, at least half of them children. In the presence of such an atrocity, committed by human beings against other human beings, our hearts cry out in pain at the slaughter of innocents. This pain is a healing pain. It is a gift to Life for us to feel deeply aligned with those who suffer everywhere, but most especially with those who suffer at the hands of others. For the betrayal of innocence strikes deeply within the human heart, convincing both heart and mind that this is something that should not be, that must not be. It must not be that there is a justification for the slaughter of innocents, for the massacre of children. Pain is the primary response to such an event. Anger is a response to this pain. Despair is a response to this pain. But pain comes first. If we can bear this pain without turning it into despair and loss of hope, or into the desire for revenge which only breeds more violence and more tragedy, we can stand with others, everywhere in their suffering. We can lend them our light and our caring, so that though invisible, we convey a line of support to them across the many miles that separate us. For the heart there are no distances, and so sharing the pain of others and holding it, wrapped in light, allows us to offer help to those we so long to help, even though we are far away.

     The grief and pain at the immense loss of life in Beslan calls us to stand with those who grieve, and because what has happened is a human tragedy that is easy to identify with, this is both simpler and also harder to do. For these could be our children, our mothers, our fathers. Yet our contribution to life requires of us that we not abstain from bearing with the pain of others. In order to participate in life, we must feel identified with it. Rage is one form of identification, but it is not the best form. Rage is a secondary response to pain. It is understandable, but it is not the pain itself. And if acted upon, it can give rise to more pain, more loss of life, more tragedy.

     'Moral outrage' is another aspect of identification, different from rage. Its essence contains purity, nobility, and truth; its source is peace; its heart is linked with compassion for all of life. 'Moral outrage' is something that the deepest heart and soul in each of us can feel because that deepest heart instinctively seeks to uphold what is good and true in the world, just as it seeks to protect those who are innocent. These are the purposes of 'moral outrage' - the desire to do all that is possible within God to protect innocence and to help the helpless. The desire to do all that is possible, within God, to stand against darkness that seeks to justify its own ends, whether these are Chechen ends, or al-Qaeda ends, or Hamas ends, or the ends that are justified by the American military. The desire to stand for the Light and with the Light, and to do all that is possible to support life - all life - and most especially the life of innocents.

     Such a stance causes us to become stronger and clearer as vessels of Light. Purer in our motivation to do what is right. In this sense 'moral outrage' cannot justify the kind of descent into anger and darkness that rage leads to, nor the taking of life that is its frequent outcome. Its desire is to uphold life in all circumstances. To express and stand for the purposes of Light in relation to darkness.

     Let us pray for those who are lost in Beslan and for those who remain. May God uphold them all during this very difficult time, and may God uphold us, too, as we seek to enlarge our hearts in order to stand with those who suffer and mourn. Amen.


"Eyewitness: School siege bloodbath." (Sept. 4, 2004) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3627406.stm

"Town overwhelmed by grief." (Sept. 4, 2004) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3628426.stm

"Analysis: The hostage takers." (Sept. 5, 2004) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3627586.stm

52 hours of horror and death for captives at Russian school. (Sept. 5, 2004) http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/05/international/europe/05scene.html


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