Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Will We EVER Sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement?

Every manner of behavior or policy that exists on the global, political, and personal scale is doing so only because there is sufficient quantity of the belief in it to continue its existence in whatever manner it is thriving (or not). True, some things may only be holding on due to emergency CPR being administered, but breathing they are, often as the shadow image that appears and wakens new and unsettled old feelings alert.

So, what's to be made of the controversy mounted by pundits and media regarding John Kerry's military record in Vietnam, as well as the not so well run or successful campaign to unearth/denounce the Vietnam era National Guard records of non-Vietnam serving present President George W. Bush? Why do the media and members of the populace seem interested in discussing it, investigating it, and rehasing the "truth" and "values" of it over and over and over?

I'll offer a few observations on that score (other than that the news agencies have no clue what real journalism is anymore) that you may not have heard elsewhere:

  • On one physical level and nationally, the US. nation - as an incarnated "group" of individuals - has largely never come to accept an understanding of its political manipulation into that war. As the Pentagon Papers so clearly demonstrated, there was no attack on a U.S. vessel justifying a commitment of such a vast invasion, and, even if there had been, it would not have justified the years of pains done to the citizenry there and to U.S. soldiers and citizens. Vietnam was a bloody war of (par for the definition of war) much waste with no clear vision of redemptive value for all the carnage created in it. Rout and loss could gain no one anything substantial except as a touchstone to the conscience. Yet, it's not easy for any one or any people to accept they'd being misled.

    Fear draws people close and protective. People may mourn the dead of that war, but not yet accept the consequences nor the potential good of that conflict. There is some level of hurt that exists that many people protect with a "justification layer." It's true in small and large situations. After receiving a massive personal shock individuals overwhelmingly seek sustenance in "how things had been." It's security people seek at such times, and mistakenly believe that "how things had been" is the secure way.

  • Second: Odd, isn't it, how one aspect of the battle that is now really playing out is physically as well as metaphorically regarding security. It's taken shape in a new way for us to look at. Today, it's security that individuals now choose to either "confront" and uphold or "face" and reshape. Questions regarding Vietnam, such as, "How could we have done that or allowed that?" is not a question easily accepted. It is easier to say, "We were justified. We had to do xyz. How dare a future presidential candidate have denounced us."
  • It is time to forgive. A new war is a tell-tale sign calling forth our attention. It is easier to fall back on tradition and myth and what has always been a tried and true understanding of how the world is "supposed" to be. It's easier still to not talk about it, but few people were silent while the killing spilled from Vietnam into our livingrooms during the 6 o'clock news. People either justified it and dug their feet in or denouced it by stepping out marching in the streets. The polarization in expression is just as clear, though less visible, now. It is time to forgive - because we're at war again.

  • Third: Yet every act of violence is a touchstone to our conscience and a gauge of what we believe and will or will not continence in our lives. In calling up, searching out, judging, the standard of military service for Kerry and Bush, the people (symbolically) come face to face with whether or not we fought hard enough (or at all), suffered sufficiently, and really deserve to be whom we say we are. Then people gauge the level of "suffering" or "cheating" of both men and decide who is more trustworthy and strong. It's hard to see where you're going when you're turned around.

  • Forth: The political chat about it all is a manipulative cycle coordinated by other agencies and a waste of individual energy until individuals distance themselves from the politics and see the metaphor and potential good, step away and understand the benefit of this for the good it brings to our conscience:To decide whether we desire to continue fighting old wars again, and again, and again in new and different ways and places. A RADICAL PEACE calls for us to detach ourselves from the malaise, promotion, and commotion, and stand on the rock of our soul's knowing to which no news agency or "spin doctor" can truly appeal or appreciate.

  • Fifth: It's pointless to blame a decorated soldier of cowardice . It's pointless to blame a man for avoiding fighting. Each managed their path so as to be placed here today on the center stage wheree they can bring their experiences into view so that people who have bits of either or both within them might understand the many paths potentially in front of us, and have opportunities to forge the futures we desire.

Despite the fears and warnings raised by both political parties, on many issues neither of these two men truly hold (or state) a vision of exceptional change, and perhaps the reason is because they each represent (or are held back by) the ambivalent conscienceness of the people of the nation; because they each represent to some degree symptoms of old ways in different ways as well as differing visions of what shape their new world will take. It is choice. Perhaps, too, any credence given to aspersions cast upon a new candidate for leadership (symbolic) is due to a percentage of people still believing in blame and judgement (because, as noted earliar, people frequently accept behaving in ways we least like to be treated) and being too fearful to step out and chart truly new paths of behavior and care and constructive creation.

Yet change really happens one step at a time. It's easier to walk any path when we're facing forward.

So, let's just sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement that was placed on the table in 1/27/1973 and move on.


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

To Whom Do We Owe Allegiance?

The foundation of my forthcoming book, A RADICAL PEACE:CREATING LIFE ANEW, rests on this question: "To Whose Authority Do We Each Owe Our Allegiance?" When we choose to follow the directives of physical authority figure such as a government directive, a military leader, a boss, a parent, a spouse, etc over our own sense of what is right concerning the wellbeing and treatment of ourselves or others short and longterm then we have chosen to follow a path apart from our own sense of ethics, value, responsibility, and spiritual guidance.

A Question of Allegiance

The question of allegiance to authority is a question that can be, though it is not actually yet, being pondered regarding the ill-treatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces. AND, this week we have heard that U.S. National Guard troops stationed in Iraq witnessed Iraqi authorites abusing prisoners and rushed in to protect the prisoners -- only to be told to "stand down," that it was not their responsibility (There had recently been a turnover of authority to Iraqi forces). Sadly, EVERY SOLDIER OBEYED.
Why did not one decide to disavow that order? The order wasn't accurate, for while duty may have transferred to these punitive Iraqi personnel, the responsibility for the welfare of the prisoners belongs to everyone witnessing events. To "stand down" in such situations is roughly equivalent to witnessing someone on the streets of a city you're visiting beating someone unmercifully and choosing to do nothing because "it's not your responsibilty."
Ingraining Obedience

The priming for such behavior was made in the preparatory groundwork:

  • Parents and friends of soldiers arrested in the Iraq prison scandel, for example, say the soldiers were just following orders and "that's what you are supposed to do in the military - follow orders."
  • Administration officials continue to attest that these were all isolated incidences despite mounting evidence that it was a wide-spread and condoned practice.
  • Some individuals continue to state that in war "these things happen" or that "you gotta do what you gotta do to get the information you need."

None of the horrors coming to light are truly surprising, though, because this is indeed the type of thing that happens when cultures and individuals choose to "NOT SEE" and accept the precepts and authority of a government and "superiors" over their own better judgement, over their spiritual instructions received from the time of youth, or, indeed, the simplicity of the golden rule's "common decency standard" that we do unto others as you would have done unto you.

Of all the soldiers within eye and earshot of act or photographs passed around from hand to hand why is it only one soldier said "This doesn't look right" and reported the situation. In a moment of such challenging choice, asking "what would God have me do?" levels the playing field. Why, more recently, when the order was given to the U.S. National Guardsmen to "stand down" did they not disobey that direct order?

Disavowing Our Knowing
International organizations spoke out about the Iraq prison abuse months and months before and were ignored by an administration chain that believed it held the sole authority over people and policy. While the media and leadership begin searching for whom to blame, and finding out "what did people know," surely we all know we knew better.
So, instead, a different question needs to be asked of everyone from soldier to general to politician to you and I: "No matter the directive (so far there has not yet been anyone attesting to being "ordered" to do any such thing) received, did it not at any moment strike you that what was being perpetuated in that jail or what you were specifically being asked to do was simply not decent or right?"
It was in that haloed momentous space between directive and action that awareness and choice existed so strikingly. It was then that our points of allegiance were drawn. Do we follow what God would have us do or an insititutionalized "boss?" The what and why of rationales matter little after that instantaneous moment of recognition of what we knew better than to do. We come face to face in the brief silence of that space between directive and act in which we knew "I know better than to do this."

A RADICAL PEACE hastens our attunement and level of service to humanity, as these statements attest:"We are mistaken when we believe that peace is exemplified by a lack of action, or, perhaps, by a personal calm that blithely ignores "reality." Peace is, actually, an energy of creation ..."*1"Peace is in fact feared by those running those institutions because peace undercuts the foundation of their control and profit motivation. So, nothing within our cultural structures motivates us to study peace much less achieve it! Instead we've inherited fears, judgements, assumptions, and attitudes...about the very basics of society and what constitutes order...*2"However, what we focus on expands. When we stand against something, we are focusing our energies upon it, lending our energies to the continuance of the battles, and we are being decidedly ineffective in attempting to live peacefully and create peace. We are also, as is typically the case, pointing a finger at others instead of considering our own culpability for any existing situation as well as our own responsibility for its continuance - and for its solution."*3
We each matter. Our every choice creates the form that the world's "reality" takes on.

Choose higher!
Wishing you peace,


(*1, All asteriked quotations are copyrighted from the manuscript for the book, A RADICAL PEACE: CREATING LIFE ANEW,Copyright 2003, by Claire Krulikowski. All Rights Reserved.)