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Meeting notes 10/27/01
We met at Associated Ministries and Ursula facilitated the meeting, Jude took notes. Thank you both. The next meeting will be at the Associated Ministries, Saturday November 3, 10 am until noon - 1224 S. "I" street. PLEASE COME!
Announcements: VIGIL this week will still be Wednesday, Oct. 31st, 12:30 to 1:30 in front of the Federal Bldg as usual, please come and bring a friend. Starting Wednesday November 7, the vigil will move to 5pm and will be a one hour candlelight vigil (bring a candle in a glass and signs). Same place, bring a friend!
We have created a fund to support a large, public event. Anyone interested in making a donation, please see the last page of these notes.
The meeting began with introductions and check-in, and these are some of the comments shared:
One of last week's plans for this week's meeting was to discuss non-violence, so we did a second 'go round' on that topic, without any goal or task orientation, but just a discussion about it. Here is much of the content of those reflections:
Having gone to the UPS presentation on non-violence by Professor Mott Greene (a Macarthur Fellow and Professor of Science and Values) he mentioned the Gandhi book by Merton written in 1963 and Gandhi's message: "use the least amount of violence necessary", I've been reflecting on what the US had done and that it has done more that using the least amount of violence; reflecting on a sense of a 'range of response', and how framing it that way seems more doable.
Reminded of an incident in Boston on a dark rainy day and in a bad mood, trying to cross a street on foot when a driver passed so close to me. I was angry and I smacked his car, and he stopped and got out and was threatening to me, and I decided to let him yell and then say what I needed to say, but not to be violent or angry, and so then he stopped his angry response and just got back in his car and drove away. That incident is a reflection of feeling and then letting go of it and changing direction and energy.
I work with my own emotions of anger and a discipline that teaches me to allow them rather than repress them, experience them but not abuse others with them, allowing anger to come and to go. But I feel sympathy for all those who are pushed beyond what they can stand. I am so lucky that I've never watched my child murdered in war or had any of those horrors perpetrated on me or on those I love. I have no idea how I would react. So I feel there are no entirely 'good guys' and completely evil people. These things are not black and white, or all right and all wrong. I am grateful for what peace there is in life.
I have been reflecting on the foundations for non-violence in my own life. Non-violence calls for creativity, for thinking so outside of what we've lived and trained in. I've hung out with lots of folks who are radical Catholics and so believe "all life is sacred" and are thus both anti-war and anti-abortion. I do not believe in that radical way; for instance, I find that I hope for the death of someone so ill that it would mean the end of her suffering. I believe there is an integrated system that we are all a part of, and that we are not outside this system. And I believe in non-violence, because violence doesn't work - and non-violence would work. But I know that with a faith-based system of belief, it's always -there to turn to through thick and thin. Without a faith-based belief in non-violence, you could lose the belief in it, it's open to doubt. I am reminded of what Amon Hennessey of the Catholic Worker once said. It's a statement which really calls me to reflect on my own stand and beliefs:
I have been thinking about and focusing on self-destructive behavior, which is violence turned inward. But dealing with that, I then see it turned outward again. The situation in the world right now is so complicated. There are decades of history here. I wonder, has the U.S. tried some of the non-violent options and have thus been pushed to the brink? Can I trust our government to act in our best interests? I come from living for 5 years in Cuba in a basically non-violent society. Cuba has not offered a violent response to the aggression of the United States, and has a leader who has led his country through a non-violent response. I look at that and reflect on that.
Reflecting on trusting the government: why don't we? What is that about? If we can identify it, maybe we can do something about it. My Buddhist practice of sitting on the cushion and being present with feelings is powerful for me. I feel enormous gratitude. I am grateful for what I have and what other people have. Non-violence has to begin with each of us as individuals. I think of the image of a pebble in a lake. It has a ripple effect, our talking and sharing with others to support non-violence.
I wonder about how it seems we equate violence with force. Do we mean to say that non-violence means not using force? But if I were to come unglued here in the room and start acting crazy in a violent way, I would hope that people would use force to subdue me. So if we use force for justice, that use of force is not necessarily violent. But the use of force for revenge is almost certainly violent. In my Tai Chi practice there's an exercise of 'push hands', and an old master once goaded me into the experience of how there can be an energy of force in a confrontation that can be well used: "an ounce of force deflects 1,000 pounds." I ask "Where is that force coming from? Me? The other? Universal force? So my question is What is the difference between being non-violent and using force?"
I have spent much of my life as a Quaker and as a Democrat, so you can imagine that it's been a hard year for me. I remember Roosevelt as President and how he helped develop democratic processes through a depression and then later for World War II and now that we have both at once. Where is a Roosevelt when we need him? I have felt an anger in me. And now the Post Office! My imaginary Roosevelt would have taken time to thank all the Postal workers in the country. I wonder how I can thank them? They can't display flowers any more. Would cookies be suspect? What can we do to thank them? We've said in this group that we are not just about anti-war, but also about supporting a culture of peace. Can we be eased by doing things like that? Just by being together, we are making a culture of peace.
I have had a hard time embracing non-violence as an abstract principle. I don't believe that if all the violence ended it would solve things. I believe in "no justice, no peace." Much violence comes out of inequality. There is the slow violence of the death rates being higher among the poor and so forth. Though I can't imagine personally killing anyone, I don't feel I am Gandhi-like, I'm just not there yet. I believe we have to create the conditions for non-violence, and to do so we have to look at the conditions for such inequality in the world, and the wide gap between the rich and the poor. The wider the equality gap, the more violence and suicides and so on in a culture, and the U.S. has the widest gap and conditions of inequality. Terrorism is only the tip of the iceberg. We have to look at the rest.
We've mentioned non-violence, but we really need to define our terms. On a personal level, non-violence indicates a maturity of communicating and problem solving, and those who use violence are immature. Then in the big picture, our country solves problems by dropping bombs, and it usually doesn't work. Does anyone feel any safer than they did 10 or 20 years ago? (or 10 weeks ago?) The people in this room have a very deep commitment to non-violence (how many people will spend Saturday mornings having a discussion of non-violence?). But then we can talk of non-violence as a political strategy, and we have to say that it is smart, it's effective, and it doesn't need to have an accompanying moral basis, it's just smart. How do you recruit more people to this kind of group? Would non-violence be a criteria? Or do we just consider this group a forum? Would this be more of a group standing against war?
Lately I've become more afraid of Bush than I am of the terrorists, because our response as a nation is getting more and more violent. I believe non-violence starts with us, and we work on letting go of our own interior violence. I can't even visualize what a non-violent response to today's crises would be. Gandhi defined violence. He said
How do we begin the long, slow process of shifting world view? And our U.S. arrogance and sense of rightness? Violence breeds hate. We are in the richest country in the world - 80% of the world's resources goes to 6% of the world's population. How can we change the attitudes? I don't have the answers. I heard an Indian woman say we have a lot to learn from America, but you have a lot to learn from us. "We have a saying in India:
I am inspired by Gandhi and King. We can have big meeting and small groups, and take small steps, and just keep talking.
I grew up in Boston with Boston drivers, and many might say I have an Italian temper. I do see myself as someone who is quick to anger, but I back off from the feelings when it's time to act. I try to be more thoughtful. On my bulletin board I have a little yellow paper that is "A Pledge to Non-Violence." I don't know what area group sponsored it, but it's been up there for a while. When I signed it, I thought that I should keep it with me, and it is important enough to me that it is on my bulletin board at work. I'll bring it in for anyone who wants a copy. I remember when recycling was a weird idea and only a few of us did it, and now that has changed dramatically. A non-violent response is something that happens on a continuum and takes a long time. Personally, it has to start with me. And maybe, like recycling, one day it will be something we all do.
Violence is overpowering others in any way and taking something from them. It's something you take intentionally, and you don't need it and the others do need it: whether it's taking their life, or their self esteem, or other things they need. This is happening on a large scale in the world today. I feel guilt when I turn up the heat, because I am taking resources that others need. Personally, I grew up in the rubble of Germany after WWII and as a child I played in that rubble and didn't mind it, it was fun, children play. As a teenager in Germany I was shown movies of the violence of the Holocaust, and so I can't watch those movies now, or anything to do with violence. Violence is taking what others need.
Reflecting on trusting other people, I know that many people I see on the street are people who want the bombing to continue, and so it's a challenge to trust each other.
At a recent movie I was shocked at the level of violence movies today compared with the 40s and 50s. How can we create a culture of peace?
The events of September 11 are very clearly a crime, not a model for war. We do have ways to deal with crimes, ways that are non-violent. If we identified that event as a crime, it would change people's thinking. The moment we started bombing, we lost the moral high ground in the world. Those in the world community who were sympathetic and were with us became appalled by what the U.S. was doing. The 9/11 events were a well-financed act, and knee-jerk responses won't work. And old slogans won't work as responses to our government's actions.
We need new ways of expression and new ideas to express and a new way of thinking beyond war.
I believe in the sacredness of life, and that the highest law is to prevent suffering. Violence occurs when we inflict suffering on others. Some people are vegetarians not to avoid meat, but as a stand against the suffering we inflict on animals. There are ways that end life and don't inflict suffering, as in euthanasia for example. Life is a cycle. There is the Native American approach to a culture of peace coming from one of the two Iroquois creation stories: In the old days, the Peacemaker came from outside the old culture of war, death and even cannibalism. The Peacemaker came and visited the 5 warring tribes and came up with a new way of living they called "The Creation of the League", and we adopted some of this in the formation of the American colonies and their structures. One aspect gave the women the right to choose the leaders, looking to the good of the children to come, the longer, greater good. If ever a trauma was suffered by an individual, they would wear a fetish sign for at least a year so that others would know that their was reason for bizarre behavior.
Right now in our society, most of the people are in this state of feeling trauma. How can the few of us give comfort to everyone else and help take away the poisons?
The committee addressing the large public event met and determined that the event should occur between Thanksgiving and December 14th or so, and might be at the Unitarian Universalist Church (holds 250 people and in centrally located) or Kilworth Chapel at UPS. They are looking into the availability of speakers such as Barbara Lee (a long-shot, she's not doing public appearances and is living with body guards and so on), Jim McDermott, former Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, Madia Benjamin (Executive Director and Co-Founder of Global Exchange), Retired Admiral Eugene Carroll, Tom Donnelly and others. It's been suggested that the event could also be a fundraiser for some relief purpose or organization.
The committee envisioned a panel of speakers (deciding a clear date will depend on speaker availability dates, which will be discovered), and a program committee who could flesh it all out. This even also needs a budget, so a hat was passed and it was agreed to use an account as Associated Ministries.
If you want to help:
DONATIONS for the fund for this event are welcome. Checks can be written to Associated Ministries and you can contact Sallie (firstname.lastname@example.org ) to arrange to send them. Be sure to write "for Tacomapjh" on the memo line on the check
We need MORE PEOPLE to join the committee. Come next week and join it, or contact Sallie at paint@associatedministries. See last week's minutes for other committee contacts.
It was also agreed that each time we meet, if we could, we would donate $1 for the heat and light bill at Associated Ministries.
Several people expressed the desire for there to be some sort of creation of small group interaction after the main speakers' talks. "Sit and get" is a deadly format, whereas interaction supports non-violence and a culture of peace. How can the event include time for people to interact and process? Perhaps just sharing with the person sitting in the next seat would work. Perhaps small groups that could also engender ongoing groups would work.
It was also mentioned that many recent events, such as those at UW, leave one with the feeling that, though good, something is missing, and that something is perhaps hearing from people who actually live in the 3rd world countries. So it's hoped that we might find a way to bring in speakers or media that include this voice and this perspective.
It was agreed that half of the next Saturday am meeting would be dedicated to the entire group talking about this event, and then the other half would allow time for the smaller committees to meet (see last week's minutes for the 4 committees). The usual check in at the beginning of the meeting will also happen.
UW at Tacoma is going to host more events, and notice will be sent to the listserve when dates and times are clear.
It was a good meeting, great people, a good feeling. Come next time! We sang a few bars of "Give Peace a Chance" and went out into the Saturday rain.
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