“To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity.” –The Charter for Compassion
You could say I recently received a double dose of compassion. The first came in the form of a friendly reminder from fellow wordsmith Barbara Kaufmann that the founder of the Charter for Compassion movement, Karen Armstrong, was going to be a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday program. The second came in the form of a photograph of the late much-loved actor Paul Walker assisting a group of children. Reach Out Worldwide, the organization founded by Walker, had paired the image with one of my quotes about compassion back in September and it resurfaced on Twitter and Facebook following Walker’s tragic death.
1. Paul Walker
For many, the death of the late actor and humanitarian was a shock as well as a revelation. It was a shock partly because he was so young and partly because people generally prefer Hollywood scenarios where the beautiful heroes and heroines triumph over brutal opposition rather than succumb to it. Most––would prefer that reality were a better respecter of persons. But it––like gravity, time, or disease––is not. Reality as we live it most often takes on qualities like mercy, grace, and yes, dynamic compassion, when we choose to endow it with such powerful elements.
Walker’s death was a revelation in the sense that millions recognized him from his action-hero, dramatic, and comedic roles in an acting career that spanned almost the entirety of his 40-years-long life. What millions did not know was that he did much more than lend Reach Out Worldwide his name. He gave it his living presence in dedicated attempts to alleviate suffering in the lives of others. It is neither a sentimental statement nor an exaggerated one to say that Walker apparently chose to commit as much of himself––not just his money or his time or talents but HIMSELF–– to living as much compassion as he could. Surely that is one of the better ways anyone might wish to be remembered.
2. Karen Armstrong
I first became aware of Karen Armstrong in my days as a bookseller. Her publication of such audaciously-titled works as Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet (1991) and A History of God (1993) were also revelatory. It seemed unlikely that anyone should come up with anything new to say about spirituality or religious practices after centuries of human beings seeking to overcome human tragedies through studied devotion to the ways of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, different schools of philosophy, and other disciplines. However, as a former nun whose writings sidestepped culture clashes to affirm the essential spiritual unity of the major religious traditions (much in fact the way definitive passages in Rumi’s poetry does) Armstrong had a great deal to say.
And she did so even as calls for “holy wars” in the form of terrorist attacks and retaliations in the form of full-scale military battles soaked the opening pages of the history of the 21st century with the blood of men, women, and children alike. Upon receiving the TED Prize in 2008, she shared with the world her vision of compassion as a tool for nonviolent conflict resolution:
“I wish that you would help with the creation, launch and propagation of a Charter for Compassion, crafted by a group of leading inspirational thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect.”
As ironic as it may sound, I was, unknowingly, so immersed in service to a similar vision through Creative Thinkers International and diverse literary endeavors that I remained unaware of the charter for far too long. The really great news is that although the charter itself has already been composed by contributors from across the globe, the perfect time to charge ahead on the “propagation” aspect of Armstrong’s request by sharing and signing it is right now. With that in mind, I consider it not an honor but an extraordinary blessing to add my name to the ever-growing list of supporters for the Charter for Compassion.
Illustrated quote by Aberjhani on the literary genius of Nobel Laureate Albert Camus provided for the author by Postered Poetics.
After kicking off the Text and Meaning Series with an article on Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech in August, the latest installment is on Albert Camus’ classic book, The Myth of Sisyphus. The Text and Meaning Series is one reminder that some of the battles we've found ourselves struggling through in 2013–– as if thrashing while asleep and trying to wake from nightmares–– have been fought before. In many cases it was believed victory had already been won.
I started the Text and Meaning Series largely as a way of introducing classic works into conversations on current topics and events. It presently consists of the following:
1) Text and Meaning in Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech
2) Text and Meaning in Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
3) Text and Meaning in Langston Hughes The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain
4) Text and Meaning in Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus
Employing MLK’s I Have a Dream speech to launch the series made sense because the year 2013, now drawing rapidly toward its end, marked the 50th anniversary of the speech. Focusing on it also provided a way to help amplify dialogues on multiculturalism and race in America. That such dialogues must not be stifled have been made disturbingly apparent this year by several high-profile events, from the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin to the glaring lack of diversity at the Emmy Awards and subsequent reports in Huffington Post on racial divisions in Hollywood.
The article Text and Meaning in Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus takes me into somewhat new territory as an author. Outside of my writings on W.E.B. Du Bois for the Philosophical Library Series and my profile on Alain Locke for Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, I’ve written very little about philosophy or philosophers. However, with November 7, 2013, marking Camus’ 100th birthday, I had to expand the scope of my focus.
It is well known that Camus generally considered himself more of a novelist than a philosopher. The extraordinary power of The Stranger and The Plague have led many people to agree with him and to think of him more as a serious author whose works in fiction and drama were heavily influenced by his study of, and passion for, philosophy. What I appreciate the most about him is what I tend to appreciate the most about all writers who achieve the levels of mastery and accomplishment that he did. I respect the way he gave such huge chunks of his life to his art. I admire the way he structured his art as a form of service to humanity. And I treasure the enduring excellence of the example that he fought, endured, and labored to provide.
4 November, 2013
“We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
of eternity. We are pain
and what cures pain, both. We are
the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.”
--Jalal al-Din Rumi (as interpreted by Coleman Barks in The Essential Rumi)
War is an addiction to chaos that shreds human souls into tattered rags of trauma. In acknowledgement of Rumi’s 806th birthday, I’m all for Syria, Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, and all other countries and organizations at war with each other to exchange their guns and bombs for poems by Mevlana. Replace tanks and drones with open mics and let everyone brave enough go at it. Whoever spits the most verses, quatrains, long poems, or quotes by Rumi wins the right to proclaim peace and throw a feast in honor of sanity, brotherhood, sisterhood, and childhood.
Is that likely to happen? No, not very, but the ecstatic beauty and soulful grace of Rumi’s poetry inspires human hearts to believe in possibilities beyond the predictably fatal. So does the Herculean effort it took for him to produce the works for which the world now reveres him: the ever-astonishing Masnavi, his discourses, the Divan of Shams of Tabriz, and various letters and sermons.
Portrait of Jalal al-Din Rumi by Haydar Hatemi.
As one of his most celebrated translators, Coleman Barks, has noted with amazement, Rumi seems to have composed no less than a dozen poems every single day for the final 12 years of his extraordinary life. Within that incandescent corpus are works that address nearly aspect of what it means to be human and what it could mean to embrace life with a sense of divine co-creation. This last idea, in modern terms, is much less mystical than some might think when considering the environmentalist concept of people as stewards of the earth rather abusers of it. (continues below after video) Rumi’s legacy is one of many that remind us there are options to giving violence control over our individual and collective destinies. Moreover, life- and history-altering transformations can take place when we least expect them to occur. One such transformation in Rumi’s life was when he met Shams of Tabriz, the man whose influence is generally cited as the catalyst that caused Rumi to evolve into a whirling light of divinely-inspired creative genius. For those who daily discover and rediscover his work, it sometimes happens with the sudden realization that the idea of “us versus them” may be less accurate––and far less important–– than the idea that not only are “we also them” but “they are also us.”
Sept 30, 2013
Quote by Aberjhani with original digital MLK poster: “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was a manifestation of hope that humanity might one day get out of its own way by finding the courage to realize that love and nonviolence are not indicators of weakness but gifts of significant strength.” --Aberjhani
Different roads provide diverse routes to freedom. For many, the path is an interior one. It first requires an individual to the clear from the landscape of inner beingthose areas overgrown with woody thickets of doubt and trauma or buried beneath swamplands of self-imposed limitations.
There are others––like the Americans who struggled for civil rights in the 1960s, and citizens of the Middle East and various African countries currently battling for basic human rights–– who take a more public journey to freedom. Their sense and experience of liberty is defined by interaction with the external dictates of history, evolving cultural persuasions, and dominant political trends. Individuals such as these inspired the article Text and Meaning in Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech.
Whether the journey is undertaken within or without, the impulse to demand, claim, and exercise freedom ––not just as a politicized human right but as a fundamental tenet of human existence–– is as automatic as gulping air when first leaving the womb. It therefore is not particularly surprising that the King Center in Atlanta has chosen to conclude its 50th anniversary commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech with a “Let Freedom Ring” international bell-ringing event at 3 p.m. on August 28.
“We are calling on people across America and throughout the world to join with us as we pause to mark the 50th anniversary of my father’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech with ‘Let Freedom Ring’ bell-ringing events and programs that affirm the unity of people of all races, religions and nations,” said King Center C.E.O. Bernice A. King in a news release from the Center.
“My father concluded his great speech with a call to ‘Let freedom ring,’ and that is a challenge we will meet with a magnificent display of brotherhood and sisterhood in symbolic bell-ringing at places of worship, schools and other venues where bells are available from coast to coast and continent to continent.”
When considering in 2013 the horrendous number of people who have died in Syria’s civil war over the past several years, those who have lost their lives to domestic gun violence in the United States over the past several decades, and writers and artists who are persecuted daily in different countries for “speaking truth to power,” the idea of ringing bells in the name of freedom might strike some as ludicrous. It is, however, this insistence upon liberty in the face of weighted oppression that has always given self-determination its strength and value.
Freedom rings bells because throughout history silence has too often served as an accomplice to genocide, slavery, and other forms of barbarity.It rings bells to remind humanity that the most precious gifts in life––like children and love and time––must never be taken for granted. Freedom rings bells to wake us from the comfort of beautiful dreams and empower the efforts that turn them into reality.
While considering which quote to share for my #MarvelousMonday Twitter tweet this past week, I felt instinctively that it should come from I Made My Boy Out of Poetry. What wasn’t so clear was whether it should be taken from a specific story or poem. That this particular #MarvelousMonday also happened to be my birthday seemed inconsequential so far as the quote was concerned.
Flipping through pages and skimming through lines, the final stanza of “Crossing the Bridge of Bones” volunteered itself with a subtle flash:
Just above our terror, the stars painted this story
in perfect silver calligraphy. And our souls, too often
abused by ignorance, covered our eyes with mercy.
It spoke well, I thought, to both the cataclysmic nature of our era and the enduring persistence of the human spirit to survive the roaring sound and fury of these very same times. The odd thing was that I paid almost no attention to the poem from which it was taken until after the quote had been posted.
Poems are sometimes born of a perspective, or a singular blast of sudden heated awareness, indigenous to a specific moment. To a degree, “Crossing the Bridge of Bones” is such a poem. At the same time, however, it transcends that description in that it stands as a parable gleaned from memoir. But the surrealistic imagery, bordering on the phantasmagoric, evokes a kind of nightmare experience with which many might identify and then happily abandon at the poem’s more luminous conclusion. What moved me the most upon revisiting it was seeing how the central image of the poem and the presence of the angel prefigured the images, themes, and characters that would give form to The Bridge of Silver Wings, which later would evolve into The River of Winged Dreams.
Crossing The Bridge of Bones
(from I Made My Boy Out of Poetry)
Just beyond our boiling hunger the sun
gleefully pushed a smoldering nose
between the ash-blue breasts of the horizon.
And night whipped us like mules toward
sorrow. With each step across the bridge
of bones our songs wept louder and light spilled
helplessly from the body of the angel curled up
like a leaf made of dreams in your hand.
Mirrors made of stone and old water
stared quietly down the tunnels of our past.
Skeleton fingers rose up from mud
to grab at flies and long lost poetry,
bones clicking and breaking like petrified lust.
“Is this your dream or mine?” someone asked.
The moon turned inside your eyes and opened his eyes,
cleared a throat made of pearl and said it was his.
Reflected at our feet were scenes of you in a white
nightgown, mopping up the blood of what had died.
Together our eyes hurried elsewhere and reached
the rotted carcass of an elephant. Stepping through
the bones of the beast a smell like honeysuckle
and shit inside a dead man’s pants rose and shoved us
forward, blasting our steps with insane love and fury.
The angel nearly dropped from your hands as we stumbled
across the end of the bridge and fell before the gates
of a city neither of us had ever seen before.
Just above our terror, the stars painted this story
in perfect silver calligraphy. And our souls, too
often abused by ignorance, covered our eyes with mercy.
Syrian children behind a barbed wire fence at the Ceylanpinar refugee camp in the Sanliurfa province of Turkey. (Photo by Reuters)
At the heart of Creative Thinkers International’s operational philosophy has always been a core belief in the ability of positive creativity to help inspire nonviolent conflict resolution. This is not a romantic notion; it is a crucial alternative.
The blood-and-bone-splattering spectacles of war have come to command most news headlines in the modern world. The maniacal brutality that was 9/11 engraved in the world’s collective consciousness themes and realities intensified by perpetual chaos, terror, and death. It is a chilling prospect, and yet an observable phenomenon, that humanity at this point in history too often defines itself by how efficiently it destroys itself.
Love, it seems, is valued most when violence or disease threaten to annihilate the life that would serve as a channel for it. Men and women discover the deeper nature and beauty of their characters by exposing them to man-made insanities that threaten not only human beings, but the nonhuman forest-, ocean-, jungle-, and mountain-dwelling species that also call the Earth home. Such an inclination is not one that supports notions of sustainable communities or advances based on peace rather than war.
That very dangerous realization is an extremely important one to note. The reason is because the natural and social forces that combine to compose what some call “the human story” are developing in such a way that, like it or not, more and more people you may once have thought of as strangers or foreigners are now becoming neighbors, co-workers, classmates, bosses, employees, and in-laws. Between extreme weather events and more prolonged climate transformations, plus cross-cultural merging caused by man-made atrocities and inter-cultural interactions facilitated by advances in technology, the boundaries that once defined notions of community are dissolving as steadily as shelves of ice breaking off the Antarctic.
Cultural migrations and evolutions are not new. Some have occurred because of genocide or war, such as the almost two million refugees who have fled the pandemonium in Syria to resettle in Turkey and other neighboring countries. There is no shortage of examples of people who have escaped persecution in one nation to rebuild lives in another. There are also opposite examples: such as those African-Americans who left the American South, and natives of the Caribbean who ventured forth in the 1910s and 1920s to settle in New York and other areas of the Northeast and Midwest. It was their hunger for opportunity and adventure that launched the Harlem Renaissance.
The Talk in 2013
In 2013, a lot of talk in the United States focuses on shifting demographics. Commentators point out the increasing business and political savvy of women, the more expansive and inclusive values adopted by the Millennial Generation, Gays’ non-retreating battle for marriage equality, the increasingly diverse population of the United States, and the borderless connections made possible by social networks.
Creative Thinkers International stepped out ahead of the crowd and the curve when the community formed in September 2007. Members then and now recognized that whatever barriers had restricted practices of cooperation and communication in the past need not do so in the future. As with the tumbling of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the time had come to work around divisiveness rather than maintain monuments to hopelessness.
Whatever tomorrow does or does not bring, the artists, authors, teachers, poets, photographers, mentors, videographers, students, and creative others who comprise this online village will always be able to take some pride in knowing one particularly important thing. At a time in history when so many in the world chose to exhibit the worst of what human beings might become, they at least tried to demonstrate the very best of what human beings might become.
29 May, 2013
Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, first published by Facts On File in 2003 and through Infobase Publishing in 2010, is now available as a Kindle Edition on Amazon and that is big news for a lot of good reasons.
For one, 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance’s publication and a new edition of a new edition of a modern award-winning classic is always a good way to celebrate such occasions.
Secondly, advances in technology proved a powerful component of the Harlem Renaissance just as it has in the contemporary era. During the 1920s and 1930s, important developments took place through the growing radio and the recording industries. Those advances not only allowed African Americans to showcase and preserve the marvels of black music such as jazz, ragtime, and the blues. It gave also them a foothold in an industry that allowed many to earn a living (though just barely for some) and a few to attain wealth.
Another significant development during the period was the growth of the publishing industry in New York City and other urban locales. Without that expansion, the odds of authors such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Claude McKay, and Zora Neale Hurston becoming as well known to readers as they are today would have decreased considerably.
The Kindle story is one of the defining chapters of the digital era. In many ways, it represents the same kind of growth in publishing that the establishment of important literary houses did during the Harlem Renaissance Jazz Age. It has helped make more titles available to more readers while simultaneously increasing opportunities for more authors to publish their books. It has not––and should not––replaced the print industry but it is now an integral part of publishing overall.
The Harlem Renaissance as a whole meant forward movement in regard to the practice of democracy in the United States and astonishing social and political progress for the generations of African Americans who, with substantial cross-cultural assistance, made it happen. A Kindle Edition of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance means forward movement of different kind: for this specific book and toward the 100th Anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance.
“Sometimes the words came like ecstatic utterances, sometimes like songs whispered from another time, like actual angelic possessions, or like mental files that had been downloaded while I slept and then printed via my pen as soon as I got up.”
--from The River of Winged Dreams
I was thoroughly convinced a month ago that by the time World Book Day (April 23) rolled around I would have finished selecting material for my proposed book of quotations. That did not happen and I came close to getting frustrated over it. But I consoled myself with the thought that the next best thing to greeting readers and signing books at an event on World Book Day was working to complete a title already in progress.
My chomping-at-the-bit anxiety was also tamed by the kind of special gifts that almost always turn grown writers into overjoyed hand-clapping babies. One was a corresponding website for the book in progress, which has now been given the title Journey through the Power of the Rainbow. The reasons for the switch are noted on the site. The second reason my disquiet took a back seat to humility was an unexpected new book cover.
Yes, it more than likely was presented to encourage me to move a little faster on the job at hand. But even so, a new book cover for a forthcoming book is the kind of thing that helps give visual form and substance to something that is mostly an abstract idea until it rests in some tangible form within your hands. It also provides additional motivation to keep the flow going and serves to help validate the value of all the long hours spent in solitude to finally get the work done.
Who knows, the pages worked on so diligently during World Book Day 2013 may very well turn into the book that gets frequently signed, discussed, and placed on wish lists at World Book Day 2014.
24 April, 2013
One of the greatest triumphs of the human spirit is the ability to exercise gratitude in the face of grievous adversity. Cultivation of a sense of gratitude under any conditions is advantageous in general because it tames impulses toward delusion-inducing arrogance, soul-numbing indifference, and corruptive malice.
During this National Poetry Month 2013, I have found myself considering all the reasons I am grateful for the presence of poetry in my life and in this world. Among those reasons is the fact that there was a time, in years not so long ago, when I struggled inside a kind of “dark night of the soul”––one that in many ways appeared to reflect an eclipse of the world’s collective soul–– and it was the voices of living poets that called to me from unknown distances and took it upon themselves through their own brilliant writings to reaffirm my purpose and efforts. By doing so, they helped to re-empower the same. Their writings played no small role in motivating the labors required for me to move forward as one chapter of my life ended and another began.
It may be that poetry’s real beauty and elegance is not its finely-chiseled lines or smoothly-rounded ideological concepts at all. The crown of its significance might be––or possibly should be?––its expansive capacity to embrace with equal passion the deadliest failings and the most splendid victories that define human existence. Poetry is less a respecter of individual persons than it is a compassionate witness to the meanings of the secret language that beats inside human hearts, the music that pulses through human cries, and the divinity that shines love beyond the veils of human limitations.
Communities of Present-day Poets
Just as it was for many other contemporary authors, it was ancestral poets––such as Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, John Milton, and Henry Dumas––who first led me to recognize the poet within myself. But it was communities of present-day poets who, simply by being themselves, made some important differences when it seemed my writing pen had run completely dry. Savannah’s Receding Wave poetry troupe, The Poetry Society of Georgia, The Savannah Writers Workshop, and inspired members of online communities fed my faith in what words might accomplish and re-empowered that part of my will which lived inside my pen.
The gratitude I feel toward all of them remains profound. I am especially humbled to acknowledge those who not only provided commentaries on my works in progress but who allowed me to share notes on theirs. Moreover, some actually dedicated poems to my efforts and by doing so lent wisdom and strength from their journey that added a major boost to mine. Listed below are poems which were either dedicated to my efforts, which are always ongoing, or written in response to them, and for which I once more thank the authors for blessing my literary labors with the artistry and genius of their own. It is possible there are other poems which I am unaware of and I thank those poets as well. The list is alphabetical by title followed by author and post/publication date:
Blessings of Literary Fellowship
With lasting gratitude,
- Aberjhani by Eileen T. Waldron (March 11, 2006)
- After Aberjhani by Kate Burnside (Nov 11, 2005)
- Archetype of a Soulsinger by Mari D’India (July 8, 2005)
- Illuminat’d Paths by Karla “Stormspinner” Dorman (July 8, 2006)
- Most Talented with a God Given Talent for Weaving Words of Heartfelt Wonder by Grange Lady Haig Rutan (March 20, 2012)
- Onyx of Savannah by Andre Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU (Oct 23, 2005)
- Royalty by Patricia Andres (circa 1995)
- Savannah Moss by Jerry Pat Bolton (Feb 16, 2008)
- Stranded by Danny C. Sillada (Sept 2010 Occasion of 3rd Anniversary of CTI)
- The Ambassador of Helicon by André Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU (Jan 31, 2008)
- The Gift by Karla Stormspinner Dorman (July 6, 2008)
- The Poet Emerson Wanted to Meet by Andre Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU (Jan 25, 2010)
- The Wild Stallion by Glynn Miles (circa 1997)
- The Young Poet and the Painter --by Carol Phelan Aebby (Jan 9, 2013)
- This Mother’s Son in Starlight by Nordette Adams (Feb 8, 2006)
- When God Doesn’t Make Sense (prose) by Karen Lynn Vidra (Sept 2, 2006)
“A vision of humanity as a unified force for peace had come alive in the form of millions of living breathing souls and an ideal of international democracy had been realized on a small but unprecedented scale. History was not only made––history was tremendously honored.” – from The American Poet Who Went Home Again (Aberjhani)
During this Easter Holy Week 2013, I find myself thinking about the challenges that Peace faces in our world and wonder why humanity seems to insist more on its destruction than its empowerment. From the recent murder of a 13-month-old baby in Brunswick, Georgia (allegedly by a 15-year-old boy), to the nearly two dozen wars (plus two dozen more conflicts of a similar nature) currently devouring human sanity from sunrise to sunrise, the suicidal lust for the annihilation of life on every scale is scarier than any vampire flick around.
Is there anything more obscene than a non-stop hunger for, and ceaseless indulgence in, the real-world violence that piles up human corpses and mutilates human souls? The answer may be a matter of cultural guerrilla decontextualization. The conscious practice of Peace has been removed from its context as one of the qualifications for nations wishing to be define themselves as civilized and been re-branded as an anomaly indicating defeatist passivity, cowardice, or weakness. The violence of war has come to represent patriotism, heroism, strength, and glory.
We saw on the weekend of February 15, 2003, that it is as possible to wage peace as it is to wage war. For some odd reason, however, while the media frequently reminds people of the anniversaries of wars and other man-made atrocities, commemorations of that worldwide event are so thoroughly ignored that even many who participated in it might doubt it actually happened. The announcement of the Global March for Peace and Unity scheduled to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace September 21, 2013, served as a reminder that what happened in 2003 was both real and significant. The essay “February 15, 2003: The History that Peace Made,” published in The American Poet Who Went Home Again, was written as the event unfolded to honor the strength and courage demonstrated by those who challenged the presumption that war with Iraq was the only useful response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The following short excerpt is shared to acknowledge the legacies of Peace and advocate for its unwavering defense:
(from section V.)
The estimated 8 million people who demanded of the world, from February 14 to February 16, that peace be given a chance were a lot more difficult to ignore than other events leading up to the historical occasion and every major television network provided extended coverage of the worldwide phenomenon. That the world community had spoken so voluminously and unambiguously through so many made it easy to believe that the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines moving toward Baghdad would soon receive orders to execute an about face. It appeared the most indisputably intelligent and democratic course of action available. Only it never happened. History, under the guidance of those clamoring for war, took the road so often traveled in the past.
(CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO)
Statements from the White House regarding the overwhelming strength of the peace movement were at best patronizing; and at worst, patronizing. They acknowledged that the right to assembly––guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in the United States and in many other countries by their constitutions and bills of human rights––was a wonderful, and perhaps amusing, thing to behold. It was pointed out that such an activity was not guaranteed in Iraq and could result in imprisonment or death for those attempting to exercise it. And it was further made clear that such demonstrations, despite the good intentions behind them, were erroneous insofar as their political applications and implications were concerned. The message that came through more than any other was that millions of children had successfully thrown their tantrums and should now be put quietly to bed. Democracy as practiced in the United States during the early part of 2003 had become, apparently, much more a matter of bending and disregarding the will of the people than representing or expressing it.
If the bodies and souls of 8 million people were not sufficient to sway national policy on war against Iraq, what, then, was the meaning of such a massive uprising? Was it truly a matter of nothing more than overgrown misinformed juveniles venting fear and frustration as implied by White House officials? Could it have been part of a terrorist counter-tactic to weaken the United States’ war plans? Or was the international character of the movement an indication of a new form of global democracy evolving out of the fellowship established between like-minded individuals over the Internet?
It may be that the best answer to the meaning of February 14-16, 2003, was offered by the former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, Dr. Robert Muller, later chancellor emeritus of the University of Peace in Costa Rico. Addressing an assembly a month after the massive demonstrations in San Francisco, Dr. Muller observed of the millions marching all over earth that, “This is what waging peace looks like. No matter what happens, history will record that this is a new era, and the twenty-first century has been initiated with the world in a global dialogue looking deeply, profoundly and responsibly as a global community at the legitimacy of the actions of a nation that is desperate to go to war. Through these global peace-waging efforts, the leaders of that nation are being engaged in further dialogue, forcing them to rethink, and allowing all nations to participate in the serious and horrific decision to go to war or not.”
He may have added that these gallant warriors of nonviolence were doing something their countrymen who controlled the popular media had clearly refused to do: they were making peace visible. And by accomplishing that, despite the roar of death and destruction well underway, they succeeded, for a time, in making peace real.