Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Tuesday, November 30

I just don't get it, Bush. I mean, this marijuana thing is totally beyond me. Why would your Ashcroft, presumably a busy man even in these post-resignation days, persist in persecuting a poor, sick, suffering woman in California who, with the approval of a vast majority of voters in her state, grows a few cannabis plants at home to use for medicinal purposes, with the guidance of a licensed physician, to alleviate her suffering? As I hear it, he sent in a couple of his federal goons to drag her off to jail--a fate from which she was saved, temporarily, it seems, in a stand-off between the feds and the California cops. Imagine the scene, Bush! Hard to decide between farce and tragedy.

I mean, come on… What's the great principle to be defended here, that your Ashcroft needs to pursue all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States? The spectacle of those nine robed sages debating the right of one lonely woman in a distant state to grow a few pathetic herbs for her own consumption is nothing less than mind-boggling.

Okay, I can get my mind around the idea that pharmaceutical drugs need to be tested before they're marketed to the public. (See Vioxx, of course--which your FDA continued stubbornly to approve despite dire warnings from the scientific community, beyond even the point where the producers' conscience forced them to withdraw it from the market. Another small irony here, Bush? The multi-zillion drug company gets a more than free pass, whilst a poor little sick lady in California brings down the wrath of the federal government on her? But that's another story.) And yet there are plenty of "medicinal" herbs out there being marketed and self-prescribed, without the benefit of medical advice, without arousing your Ashcroft's vengeful ire. And marijuana, as I understand it, has been used for centuries without dire results as a natural palliative for pain.

So what is it about Mary Jane? Are we still in "Reefer Madness" days? Does ignorance and prejudice trump the experienced judgment of scientists and physicians? And what is it with those meddling "friends of the court" who rush in to gang up with Ashcroft on our poor heroine (sorry, no pun intended)? I heard a woman on NPR (apologies again, for invoking this scurrilous left-wing media outlet) representing a whole organization of busy-bodies out to defend their fellow-citizens from the evils of cannabis. She had lists of facts and figures as long as your arm and spoke at least in the tones of a rational human being. But what kind of self-righteousness, Bush, allows her the presumption to seek in this way to impose her antediluvian views on the vast majority of California voters? I ask you, what business is it of hers what this ailing woman does in the privacy of her home?

So doesn't your Ashcroft have anything better to do with his time? I realize that this is the old parking meter argument, but really… Aren't there a ton of white-collar corporate malfeasants out there, stiffing the public for zillions of dollars? And what about the real illegal drug market, with its sleazy dealers profiteering in the mean streets? My God, Bush, surely your Ashcroft's feds have something more sensible to do than hound the sick and suffering? Isn't there something just a little off-key in this story?

Enough. I'm out of time. I'm catching a plane in a couple of hours to attend the memorial for my friend Sam.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Monday, November 29

…and speaking of market (and television news), I saw the new talking George W. Bush action doll on the news last night! Did they run this one by you, Bush? I know Arnold has a lawsuit pending--or was it settled?--against a toy company for appropriating his image for a similar product. On the premise, I suppose, that his image is his "intellectual property." This George W. Bush has two different costumes, a grey business suit and a flight suit (remember that aircraft carrier?!) and speaks a couple of nice patriotic phrases (in your voice, Bush!) when you push a button. I guess they've brought it out in time to market it for Christmas. Forgive my brevity this morning, Bush. I'm frankly a bit dispirited by all this holiday spirit, but I do have a poem for the day, to celebrate the new arrival.

Here he is…

Well, here he is, neatly
packaged in his small
box, ready for the Xmas
market, the all-new
George W. Bush talking
action figure. Really.
If you don't believe me,
check it out online.
He has two costumes,
his grey business suit
with its bright red tie
and his fighter pilot
flight suit. When you
push his button he has
some nice patriotic
words for your children
to remember. Maybe
George could play with
Ken and Barbie. He could
send Ken off to his war,
and hump Barbie while
Ken is gone. He could
drive Barbie's pink car
and swim in her pool with
her friends. He could
take off in a fighter plane
and land it on the deck
of a US aircraft carrier.
He could climb down from
the fighter plane and say
"Mission Accomplished."

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Sunday, November 28

Did you see any of those television reports on the post-Thanksgiving Day shopping spree, Bush? Did it fill your heart with pride to see all those good folks stampeding through the starting gates to get their "values"--and contribute to the health of the economy? (I recall you did tell us all to go out and buy after 9/11!) Or did it turn your stomach just a little bit?

They say that your election was won on the basis of "values", and I suppose by that they mean "moral values" and not "mall values"--only a slight phonetic shift. But the spectacle of the malls reveals another of those uncomfortable ironies, as I see it: the confusion between the values you hope to cash in on at the superstore and the values you take home with you to the dinner table--the ones we all hope to live our lives by. The way I was brought up, mall values have to do with me-first concupiscence and, yes, sometimes, honestly, sheer greed. Moral values have to do with generosity and selflessness--the ability to stand back and put others first. Forgive me, but I don’t see much of the latter in the stampede for post-Thanksgiving bargains.

Am I belaboring the obvious here, Bush? Am I getting preachy in my senility? I started out, earlier this morning, thinking to write about religion, and now look what happened. I got sidetracked. I should take my wife's advice, and watch less television news...

A reminder: the "Comments" button can now be used without having to register. Just click, then click on "Anonymous"--you can still identify yourself if you wish.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Saturday, November 27

I heard yesterday that my friend Sam Grolmes died on Thanksgiving Day, the same day as his mother. This seems like a good time and place to tell the world that Sam was a gentle, decent, thoughtful, honorable man. He devoted his life to his beloved wife, Yumiko, and to poetry. Together, they are chiefly responsible for making the work of the great twentieth century Japanese poet Ryuichi Tamura available in English. This work, along with their other important collaborative translations, was, as they say, a labor of love--a quality that Sam had in no short supply. The world is poorer by one gifted man without him.


Otherwise, today, just a little business: my blog site just got a little more sophisticated yesterday with the help of my trusty computer genius, Scott. I'm hoping that today's entry will include at least one link (above: we'll see in a moment if it works!) And, Bush, you'll be happy to hear that you can now comment or respond without having to register, as I believe you did before, when you hit the "Comment" button at the end of the entry. Now, when you hit that button, you'll be able to click on "Anonymous" and simply write in your response--though you do not need to remain anonymous: you are still at liberty to sign it. That comment will be available to blog readers by clicking on the "Comment" button if it indicates a comment has been made; and will be forwarded to me at PeterAtLarge@cox.net. Another way to respond is to connect with my profile and click on my "Email" link there.

Here's hoping all this sophisticated stuff will work, and wishing you a wonderful weekend…

Friday, November 26, 2004

Friday, November 24

How's this for a laugh, Bush? Last night I dreamt I was President and stopped the war. We packed up all our tanks and helicopters, our automatic weapons and artillery, our night vision goggles and body armor, and came home. Oh, I know it's all a lot simpler in dream than in real life. But sometimes I have to wonder how "real" life is for you, Bush. You, who think your Rumsfeld is doing "a superb job" when he has so obviously bollixed the whole thing up. Who seem to think the war is going great.

And then I also have to wonder what kind of judge of character you are. Numerous examples there, too, for anyone who looks. But I remember particularly that time you looked in Putin's eyes and saw the goodness of his soul, and now look what has been happening in his Russia of late: the summary justice, the return of political repression, the encroachments on basic freedoms… And now your chum is siding with the ancien regime in the Ukraine, despite what seems to be indisputable election fraud. I'm afraid you might find yourself head-to-head with your soul-mate one day, maybe soon. Another Cold War? Brrrr…

Did you eat too much yesterday, Bush, like I did? (I know you didn't drink too much: you gave that up, right?) I have to say, though, it was a marvelous feast. I was the lone ex-Brit amongst a family American enough to make you proud. Good people, sound to the core, with great, big, open hearts. Though I sometimes wonder, on Thanksgiving Day, if you-all hadn't done better to stick with us Brits.

The Artist

He lay down
on a bed of dry
pebbles. Then the rain came.
When he got back up
he left behind
the light gray shadow
of his body
on the dark, wet stones.

He walked through the village
gathering dandelions
in a bucket
at the roadside,
in the hedgerows;
then took them out
to the river. Finding
a round pool in the rocks
he filled it up
with dandelion heads,
revealing at once the surprising
receptiveness of rock,
and the brilliant, golden
beauty of the dandelion.

A movie to see, Bush: "Rivers & Tides", about the work of the British artist Andy Goldsworthy. Such small and simple gestures in the natural world, and yet so filled with depth and grandeur. You can rent it out on Netflix

Thursday, November 25, 2004


Thanksgiving Day, Bush, and I don't know about you, but I have a lot to be grateful for. I'm thankful, above all, simply to be here. In August, I started my sixty-ninth year of this present existence (still hoping for others!) and am grateful for my health, the strength of my body, my breath, for the slowly increasing clarity of my mind--all of which allow me the joy and the privilege of continuing this great adventure.

I'm grateful, too, for the love I am able to share with my wife, Ellie, and with my wonderful family; for the generous love I receive from them, and for the love I am able to give them in return.

I'm grateful for my friends; especially, this year, for my friend Sam, for the example of his courageous and mindful journey toward death; and for my friend Michael, for his example of courage in adversity. They are both inspirations to me.

I'm grateful to you, too, Bush. As I think you know by now, you represent everything I oppose in my life. I sit daily in heavy judgment of who you are and what you do. And yet your re-election has been a great gift to me--the proverbial "gift wrapped in shit." I say this with the understanding that the gift to the rest of the world may be more dubious, and I feel somehow apologetic for that fact. But for me it has opened up a whole new direction and dedication for my writing: for the first time in quite a while, I wake each morning looking forward to the opportunity simply to write down what's on my mind--and in my heart. This blog I have discovered is a joy, entirely unanticipated, and all the more welcome for its surprise. It's an adventure in itself, and I have been looking for adventure…

And there's more. You have become my "great teacher." Your actions, misguided as I believe most of them to be, keep me conscious and alert. I believe and hope that they are making a multitude of minds throughout the world more conscious and alert. My own mind has become sharper, more attentive, more fully responsive to our global predicament. And you offer me a mirror in which my shadows inescapably appear: my fear, my anger… not to mention my greed, my arrogance. (I'm not saying, Bush, that these qualities are yours: only you can judge of that. I'm just saying that you awaken the awareness of them in myself. Otherwise, they remain dangerously hidden.)

So, Bush, there's a great deal to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day. I wish you and your family well. And I thank you for being, for me, the great Opponent. I look forward to our continuing to have it out in these pages…

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Wednesday, November 24

I wish you could have been with me last night, Bush. Ellie, my wife, and I went with a friend to see "The Motorcycle Diaries." I doubt you will have seen it, or that you will, since it's about that famous socialist revolutionary Che Guevera, who was killed back in the 60s for his involvement with the Castro revolution in Cuba--reportedly with at least the tacit assent help of the CIA. As a medical student, the scion of an affluent, loving, and sophisticated urban family, he sets out on a lark with his friend to tour the length of Latin America on a dilapidated motorcycle… and finds a heart and soul he did not know he had, along with a mission that guides the rest of his short life.

What opens his eyes along the way is the incredible suffering of the people he meets. The film is unsparing in its exploration of the multiple faces of this suffering: the impoverished peasant farmers, the Indians evicted from their homes by the insatiable greed of developers and industrial exploiters, those lucky enough to find employment forced to work for below-subsistence wages in dangerous mines, lepers exiled to an isolated colony run by Catholic nuns and a handful of dedicated medical professionals. He's confronted everywhere by hunger, poverty, injustice, exploitation, ignorance, and deprivation. And yet--this is the amazing part, Bush--the deepest lesson offered by these people reduced to bare subsistence is the lesson of human nobility. There's a depth of soul and even, yes, an access to the joy of being human that is profoundly moving: amidst the worst imaginable of economic circumstances, they dance, they sing, they love… And it's the combination of the two that makes the film at once tragic and inspiring. You leave--we left--the theater with a renewed sense of the irreducible value of human life.

Obviously, the effect of this experience on the young Che was to inspire him with thoughts of socialist revolution. I had those same yearnings as a young man, though I lacked the total, unselfish commitment that made of him a leader and--dare I say it?--a martyr to, the cause of social justice. Which leaves me wondering about you, Bush. Did those revolutionary yearnings ever touch your soul? Surely they did. I think they touch the soul of every young person when he or she first becomes aware of human suffering…and who has not become aware of it, in one way or another? And if you did experience those revolutionary yearnings, would they have been for some kind of a right-wing, conservative revolution?

Because that's what I see you trying to realize now, Bush. It's almost a slow Republican coup that has been taking place in this country over the past few years, and this is the culmination of it. You talk about "compassionate" conservatism, as though you really wanted to address the problems of our less advantaged citizens. But your revolution seems to lead only to greater power and wealth for those who already have it, and greater suffering for the less fortunate. I wish you could show me some small evidence to the contrary, but I don’t see it, Bush. I just don't see it. I don’t see the smallest evidence of your vaunted compassion.

That's why I wish you’d been with me last night. Like me, I believe you would have learned something more about compassion. You might even have been inspired.


Oh, and I wrote this poem for my friend, who's dying. I wanted you to have the opportunity to read it. It's called:

"A Slow Man"

Sam, she said,
is a slow man.
He does things
slowly. For months
now, he has been
dying. Slowly.
Meticulously. Out-
lasting all professional
predictions, and with full
attention to the detail of
that process. This week,
she said, he has been
declining, slowly. Just
yesterday he slipped
quietly into a coma;
they thought he would
not last the night.
But then this morning,
he opened his eyes
again, and smiled
at the touch of her
fingers on his face,
and nodded at her words,
content to wait yet
another day, content
to leave us

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Tuesday, November 23

Yes, Bush, I am deeply
sickened by those images
now emanating from
your conquered Falluja:
the torture cells, the blood-
spattered walls, that black
mask like those we saw
worn by those terrible
assassins, standing indifferent
with automatic weapons
behind their victims. Yet
I confess I would be more
deeply disturbed had I not
seen those images emanating
from your Abu Ghraib:
the bleak, feces-covered
cells, the naked prisoners
subjected to sexual mockery
and piled in pyramids for
the pleasure of the guards
with their leering grins
and their victory signs.
So are there degrees
of inhumanity, I must ask
myself? I suppose perhaps
there are: still and all,
I find it hard to summon
much in the way of self-
righteous indignation, given
the crimes we have committed,
you and I, Bush, in the name
of freedom. I do not wish
to seem unduly sarcastic
or facetious, and yet I feel
compelled to ask, How do you
square this, Bush, with the one
you claim as your personal
savior Jesus, when you pray
to him? Because I remember
we tortured and killed him,
too, didn't we, gruesomely,
and with maximum cruelty?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Monday, November 22

I feel clear enough this morning, Bush, to make a prediction. And my prediction is this: that you will not win this war you have chosen to fight. You will not win it because we know from history that wars of this kind are no longer winnable.

I have been reading a great book called "The Unconquerable World" by Jonathan Schell. If you have the time I wish you'd read it, Bush--though I'm led to understand that you're not so keen on reading. But this book's author shows, persuasively, how the Clausewitz concept of the "ideal war"--great nations pitted in end-game conflict against great (or smaller) nations with the application of overwhelming force--was proven obsolete by the experience of the 20th century; its two great wars to end all wars led only to more wars: WWI to WWII, and WWII to the Cold War... Nothing was resolved by either of them.

And Schell argues further--as I understand him--that great nations are fated to lose the small wars because they bring with them the now empty concept of the great, winnable war as they embark on the small war; whilst the small war warriors bring with them first and foremost the political concept, their nationhood, their independence, their freedom from tyranny--even the tyranny of those who would save them from themselves. The American Revolutionaries did no less.

And the powerful idea of these small war warriors is more powerful than all the military power of the great nations that oppose them, whose governing idea is the practice of power through military means. Thus, over the past several decades, the success of the colonial wars against the great colonial powers. Thus Algeria against France, the Afghans against the Soviet Union, Viet Nam against America. And on and on…

So here we are, Bush, a great power in a little country, mindlessly repeating the mistakes of the past. Your general, last week, told you that the assault on Falluja had "broken the back of the insurgency." But those troublesome insurgents keep popping up with renewed strength in other cities. Their idea may not be a palatable one to you--nor even to me--but look at how powerful it is in the Arab world. Freedom from occupation for the Muslim world. Not freedom to be democratic in our American mold, Bush, but freedom to be Muslim in a Muslim world.

You will not win this war, Bush, because the war is unwinnable. As the old song has it, in its perhaps sentimental way: "When will they ever learn?" And the "they" is us. The nature of war has changed. We have not. We are the oak. Our "enemies" are the willow. They bend before the hurricane. They know the strength of weakness. We know only strength. And when the hurricane winds blow hard, it is the oak that falls.

My question to you is this: how many more must die before you come to understand that the only way you can win--as in Viet Nam, Bush; yes, as in Viet Nam--is by acknowledging the superior power of that hurricane over your strength?

Your Rumsfeld derided the weakness of those countries of "Old Europe." But this was a lesson those countries learned the hard way, even the "superpower" Soviet Union. They lost their empires, all of them, to forces far inferior to their own. Unless we prove capable of change, we will all too soon become "Old America" as the empire of our democracy-turned-oligarchy capitulates before the power of the ill-equipped, the under-armed, the impoverished, the weak… As your Jesus said, Bush: "The meek shall inherit the earth." And, "Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword."

I wish you'd think about it. That's my clarity, this morning. Have a good day.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Saturday, November 20

Not much to say today, Bush. I'm worried about Myanmar. Are you? I heard a BBC World News report suggesting there's another Darfur developing there, with government forces chasing villagers from their homes into the hills, burning villages, the old story... I've been browsing through the weblogs I'm familiar with, and have found zilch to date. Am I imagining this? Please let me know if your Rice has this on her to-do list. And what is she planning to do to help out with the situation in Darfur? Thanks for any information you can give me. And have a good weekend. Your good friend, PeterAtLarge

Friday, November 19, 2004

Friday, November 17

My friend Margaret makes an impassioned case for a thorough-going investigation of the November elections: "i am becoming convinced that there was widespread fraud or at least such failure in our electoral system," she writes, (Margaret doesn't bother with a capital I for herself,) "that for me puts the results very much in question. i don't think this is wishful thinking or being in denial. It is a very deep gut feeling that all is not right… Most of the halfway legitimate sources that have debunked or dismissed this story have done so based on the modified exit polls which were changed to agree with the results. Nobody knows why, as they are supposed to be predictive and are used for fraud analysis around the world."

"The actual unadulterated exit polls," she continues, "are now becoming available, more just posted on the web today and the major moves in the numbers are said to be far beyond the margin of error expected in the swing states where double the sample size was used. There is a consistent major swing (i think of it as switch) in states without paper trail as opposed to smaller changes in states with paper trail. But 47 out of 52 states show a discrepancy from the exit polls in Bush's direction. It should show discrepancies in both directions. And swing states and paperless trail states should be no different than the others in terms of discrepancies or size of same. Discrepancies of this size are difficult to explain away and nobody is buying the weak offerings. Increasing numbers of statistical experts are speaking out on the odds of these switches happening without something being amiss."

I'm with Margaret, Bush (except that I do claim the capital.) You were far too cocky on election evening, when you called in the press to gloat--yes, Bush, you were gloating-- while Kerry's numbers were still in the ascendancy. You seemed to KNOW what the result would be. Given your special relationship with a higher authority, of course, you might have got your certainty from that source. Even so, the truth is I do NOT trust the likes of Diebold, who made no bones about his loyalties earlier this year; nor do I trust the election procedures or results. A sorry situation for a country that presumes to sell its democracy in supposedly less enlightened countries.

* * * * * * *

But I really set out to write something different today. I was struck by a discrepancy in the TV news last night, when BBC World headlined with news of a UN report--nowhere mentioned on the CBS national news nor, that I could find, in this morning's LA Times--that the opium poppy business in Afghanistan grew by two-thirds last year, and now represents 60% of the country's gross national product!

So now, after the "free and democratic" elections that you touted so delightedly during your own campaign, we have come to this?

Do I detect another sad irony here, Bush? We rush in to liberate the country from the evil Taliban, and end up fostering (whether or not by intention) the evil trade that we spend millions fighting back here at home? From the newly liberated Afghan fields to the heroin-addicted back streets of our cities… Was this what you had in mind? I'm sure not.

And here I confess to a certain ambivalence. In the wake of 9/11, I did support your invasion of Afghanistan. I saw no other option than to attack the killers where they lived and trained. (Though I also thought, at the time, that we should go in there with weapons other than those that kill: with education, medical care, compassion, understanding, a respect for cultural traditions…) And I watched with approval as our armed forces seemed to sweep aside the terrorists and their Taliban patrons.

But then… I woke this morning with the problem of the rats in my house. Not that I wish to compare human beings to rats--except in that we are all living beings on this planet. But I have been setting traps. I have killed three of them this week, because they invaded my house, chewed on whatever food they could find, and left their turds for me and my wife to clean up. So I set traps and killed them. Some of them. Others will return. I still have not resolved my problem, and I have their deaths, however small, to carry with me to my own grave and--if Buddhist philosophy is correct--into the next life.

So when I look at you, Bush, I look in the mirror and see myself. We are both killers--though I on a slightly small scale than you. We are both cleaning house of our invaders. We both accept killing as an appropriate means to solve our problems. And I have to tell you, I do not feel good. I don't feel good about either one of us at the moment, Bush. I do not.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Thursday, November 18

Well, we're slowly gathering readership, Bush. And response. From Wales, UK: "Your blog has become part of our daily reading." Wow! That's wonderful. From Malibu, CA: "I have perused it a few times and was touched by it today"--that was yesterday's poem. From Sierra Madre, CA: "Your writing has a maturity that doesn't care about itself, only the urgency of the message. You don't try to please. You don't back down. You beat the drum until there is no longer breath." Can't beat that for a comment. And I read the Margaret Hassan poem last night, at the meeting of one of the artists' support groups that my wife and I facilitate, and was thrilled with their response. I want to try to get it on the rqadio.
I know you'll be pleased to hear all this. Along with the numerous personal contacts I've had, these wonderful compliments feed my enthusiasm to keep our one-sided dialogue going. Today, I'm wondering what you're thinking about your House Republicans? Nice trick, no? To change the rules so that your hatchet man, Tom Delay, can keep on hatcheting even if (I wanted to say when) he gets indicted? But a bit of an irony, you have to admit, in view of the "moral values" issue on which they say you got elected. Sounds more like E-Bay values to me. Buy and sell. Except that E-Bay does work hard to keep things honest.
Sorry to be so cynical today, Bush. Sometimes it just gets me that way. At least you'll be happy with my brevity.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Wednesday, November 17

Wednesday, November 17

So, Bush, I have a poem for you today:

These words...

These words are written
for Margaret Hassan, friend
of the Arab world, born in Ireland
married to Tahseen Ali Hassan, citizen
of Iraq, a woman who gave
the best years of her life
to caring for the less fortunate
in Iraq.

They seized you
they held you hostage
in dark cells for days
then they knelt you down
they hooded you
and put a bullet through your head
in the name of Allah

Allah Akhbar!
God is Great!

These words are written
for the murdered and the murderers
for the wounded insurgent who, on that same day,
elsewhere in Iraq, lay wounded, unarmed, powerless
on the bloody floor of the mosque;
and for the young United States Marine
who walked in on him, scared, deranged, yelling:
"He's fucking faking he's dead, he's faking
he's fucking dead"; and raised his weapon
and shot him point blank in the head.

Allah Akhbar!
God is Great!

These words are written
for the killers and the killed
for the women and children of Darfur,
chased from their homes, raped, their villages
razed and burned, and for the Janjaweed
who kill them. These words
are written for the men and women and children
on those Israeli buses and in the market places
and restaurants of Israel, and for the Palestinian boys
who come with explosives wrapped around their waist,
and blow the innocent
to kingdom come.

Allah Akhbar!
God is Great!

These words are written
for six million Jews;
for all races exterminated
out of ignorance, and fear, and rage.

These words are written
for those two thousand seven hundred and twenty six
human beings who died in the World Trade Center
September 11, 2001, in the name of Allah;
they are written in sorrow
and anger for the vengeful, demented
band of brothers who destroyed them.

These words are written
for those tens of thousands of innocents in Africa
cast out from their dwellings, beaten, murdered,
driven from one bleak, unwelcoming refugee camp
to another, big-bellied with malnutrition,
their children starving to death before their eyes.

These words are written
for the victims and the perpetrators;
they are written
for us all.

"Father, forgive them," Jesus said,
"for they know not what they do."
Know not.
They know not.
They know not what they do.

Rage, rage drives the world.
Savage, unconscionable, self-righteous
as we go about the business of our lives
and overpopulate this earth we are given to live on;
as we crowd in ever closer on each other,
each of us wanting, wanting, needing,
needing the wherewithal to stay alive,
each one of us the one
who deserves to live, who deserves to thrive,
we rage.

We rage because we do not receive our due
while others receive theirs. We rage
out of fear. We rage
out of frustration, desperation. We rage
and kill out of righteousness, because our need
is greater than the other man's need,
because our God
is greater than the other man's God.
We rage and kill.

These words are written
for all of us who rage and kill.
These words are written
in prayer that we may yet learn
to know. To know what it is we do.

Because it will take that consciousness,
that knowing what we do, to save the world.
It will take the consciousness of, first, a few,
then a few hundred,
then a few hundred thousand.
It will take the consciousness of millions
to save the world from ourselves.
It will take knowing what we do.

It will take not acting out of rage,
not acting
out of unconsciousness. It will take
not following the orders of unconscious men
who act out of their own inner rage. It will take
knowing those men for who they are, men
without consciousness or conscience.

These words are written
on behalf of those who can no longer
speak them for themselves. For the dead.
For the killers and the killed.
For all of us. Let us pray.
Let us know
what it is we do.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Tuesday, November 16

I'm sickened by the murder of Margaret Hassan. Sickened.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Monday, November 15

Well, Bush, we have news this morning that your Powell has resigned. I'm hoping you're as disappointed as I am, but if you plan to keep going with your Rumsfeld and your Rice (not to mention your Cheney,) I guess you're probably relieved to see him go. He must have been a bit of a thorn in the side of the Bush war program, even though his opposition seems to have been easily quashed by the louder voices of those others. I myself wish he could have followed his gut and spoken out more strongly: "You break it, you own it" was a caution that proved prophetic, though obviously not persuasive. While I have no idea, of course, what went on between the two of you, I wish he could have found a way to make the point more forcefully. On the other hand, to make a point, you need to be talking to someone who's prepared to listen, and I'm not at all sure that you, Bush, were ready to listen to contrarian views. According to everything I've learned, you had your mind made up, and heeded only the advice that supported your conclusion. More's the pity, given the terrible loss of life lost, the goodwill squandered, the monetary debt incurred.
I can see why you picked Powell in the first place. He has a vast army of admirers in the United States--and throughout the world. He projects the powerful image of an honorable and compassionate man, and has a general's leadership credentials: he led your father's Iraq war, and made it look like the slam-dunk that you were promised for yours. He added an image of distinction to your scrappy gang. As my wife said this morning when we heard about the resignation, he was the only man in your close entourage who seemed to possess a little sanity. Still, eventually he disappointed me, along with many others: from our vantage point, he did seem to capitulate too easily to the bellicose voices of your war promoters.
So I wonder, with some trepidation, who you'll chose to replace him? Please God it will not be another yes-man to the Bush agenda. They say there are more resignations due very soon. I suppose Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Ridge, and Wolfowitz would be too much to hope for?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Sunday, November 14

Sunday. I was planning to keep quiet today, Bush, so that you could have a quiet day with your Jesus. But then I saw a column in the NY Times (Maureen Dowd--I understand she's been banished from your White House) about how the evangelical Christians who clinched your re-election are demanding payback and hounding those whom they judge to be heretical to their causes. And I had to say it, Bush, at the risk of disturbing your Sunday: their Jesus, your Jesus, is not my Jesus. My father was a minister of the Church of England in a small country parish. The Jesus he taught me about, as a child, was the Jesus who said "The meek shall inherit the earth." I have to tell you that at this point in my life I'm more with Buddha than with Jesus, but the Jesus I continue to honor is a good deal like my Buddha: he preaches peace, compassion, tolerance, a fearless hearing for the views of others, understanding… and the constant questioning of faith. That was my father. The Christians who are shouting loudest now are the most un-Christian Christians I have ever heard of. Are you going to listen to these people, Bush? Are you going to let them define your place in history? I hope not.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Saturday, November 13

Saturday. My wife tells me I should take a rest from these diaries at the weekend. Maybe so. But, briefly…
An article tucked away toward the back of today's newspaper, about the increasing reliance of European museums on corporate sponsorship, reawakened this thought: that what you, Bush, tout as "democracy" is far from what I think of as "government by the people," etc. You're driving us, in fact, toward an oligarchy. When the big corporations have their hands in everything from the military to the arts and entertainment and even sports, it's hardly a stretch to think that they exercise a certain control over politics and government, too. Sometimes I wonder if this is inevitable in a world whose population is approaching the unmanageable. Still, I find it deeply troubling. I was brought up in a good socialist family long before I discovered, on arriving in the U.S., that socialism was a dirty word. Call me a wide-eyed idealist, but I continue to believe (and hope) that government has more to do with the common good than with power and profit for the wealthy. So much for Saturday, Bush. Have a good weekend.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Friday, November 12

So much to talk about again today, Bush, it's hard to know where to start: top of the list would be the continuing battle in Fallujah and the flight of many of the insurgents to other parts of Iraq, where they'll resume their struggle against what they see to be your occupation of their country another day. I read at least two contradictory comments by American soldiers in the newspaper. One high-ranking officer said, "The enemy is right where we want him. He's coming to us, and we're killing him." Another soldier, of lesser rank--and perhaps closer to the fighting--was not so optimistic: "The enemy is like camel spiders," he said. "You try to squash 'em and they crawl to the next spot." I fear very much that the monster you have unleashed will not be easily slain.
I want to tell you what I feel about that monster. I imagine you were probably as troubled as I was by the television images this morning, of that helicopter landing with Arafat's coffin in Ramallah, and the sea of mourning Palestinians that greeted his arrival. It was an incredible sight, to see this flood of human bodies swamp the big military chopper and sweep the coffin off into the roiling, screaming chaos of the mob. I mention it because this is just another limb of that same monster, the rage of Arabs and Muslims against an image of the West which you, Bush, have helped to foster and done nothing to alleviate. I know just a little bit about that rage, because I experienced it personally a couple of years ago, in Berlin, at the time of a Palestinian street demonstration against the Israeli state. Miles long, the march was a wall of sheer, implacable, disempowered fury; its searing power was something I shall never forget, and I believe that power of this kind will not be pacified by your attempts to put it down by force. It will not be quelled by the imposition of your peculiarly American vision of democracy.
And by the way, before I close, I heard you declare solemnly at your press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair (now vastly distrusted by his people) that relations between Britain and the US have never been stronger. Oh, Bush! Such unblushing lies! Such distortion of the simple truth! I just got back from England, Bush, where I was visiting my son and his family. I have to tell you--though I believe you already know it--that the vast majority of the British people have come to despise the United States for what they judge to be our stupidity in re-electing you. They think we're out or our minds. And, Bush, they may be right.
A disturbing afterthought. My daughter, Sarah, suggested that you had become my Muse. And what a wicked irony in THAT perception!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Thursday, November 11

I saw your picture on the front pages of the Los Angeles Times this morning--not an unusual event, I have to say. The thing is, always when I see your picture, it strikes me that no matter how tough you pose, you never quite manage to escape that little-boy-lost look. There you were, introducing Al Gonzales, your new Attorney General, and he was upfront in the picture, speaking out, and you were just a shoulder-width behind him, with that not-sure-whether-to-smile-or-or-look-serious expression on your face (the one that all too often turns into that famous smirk) and looking, well, frankly, kind of lost. As though you were in some Alice-in-Wonderland reality of your own.
Which brings me to what really worries me--for us out here, as well as for you: my judgment is that you're way out of your depth, struggling valiantly to keep your head above water in a world that constantly amazes you for not being what you'd imagined it to be. I realize that's a judgment, and whenever I come up with one of those I have to wonder what deep inner truth it has to tell me about myself. And I confess that I have that little boy wandering about inside me, always offended by an unsympathetic and intolerant world. But then, Bush, I'm not the most powerful leader in the world. You are.
While we're on this subject, there's another thing I need you to know about me: I have a daily meditation practice. Following my teacher's instruction, I try to start out each day's sit with the metta practice of goodwill. It's the core of compassion. We spread thoughts of goodwill to ourselves first, then to those closest to us, to those we know and like, and those we know and don't like, before reaching out to all living creatures. I have to tell you, Bush, in honesty, you are the first person who comes to mind in the "don't like" category. Because you and I disagree so strongly, it's a big stretch for me to try to see things from your point of view and exercise compassion, but I do make that effort, every single day.
What terrifies me more than the terrorists is my own judgment that you are so certain about the rightness of your own point of view that you are unable to embrace the point of view of others. This is what compassion is all about. During this past election, you came back to calling yourself a "compassionate conservative." That's what I need to see in you. True compassion.
Just so you know, today's my anniversary. My wife and I have been married for thirty-two years. How's that for family values?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Wednesday, November 10

Not much time today, I'm afraid, Bush. But I didn't want to let the opportunity pass to take note of your Ashcroft's resignation. As you'd expect by now, I was amongst those who were appalled by his cavalier disregard for the civil rights guaranteed by the American Constitution. His letter of resignation, so I heard, contained a "mission accomplished" clause not unlike your own declaration on the aircraft carrier last year. Like yours, his seems to me more hot air than reality: as you so often keep repeating, the war on terror is far from over, and the safety of the American public far from reassured. All in all, I regret to have to say, good riddance. I do very much hope that you'll look for a replacement who will have greater respect for the law than for political contingencies. As I understand it, that's supposed to be the Attorney General's job.
Oh, and I can't resist adding that I'm looking forward to the same from your Rumsfeld, your Rice, your Wolfowitz, and a host of others. I suppose your Cheney is too much to hope for.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Tuesday, November 9

Well, the battle continues. Your Rumsfeld argues that the defeat of the insurgents in Fallujah will herald a consensus amongst the Iraqi people that the American presence in their country will soon lead to stability and democratic elections. Personally, I'm not so sure. I confess that Rumsfeld has more facts at his disposal than do I. All I have going for me is history, and history suggests that the occupation of one's country by a foreign entity is never an acceptable situation to the populace. We ourselves, as Americans, should know that from our history, our insurgents having finally succeeded in booting out the British all those years ago. (Bush, I have to confess here that I'm a Brit in origin, a mere immigrant in this country. But a naturalized citizen nonetheless.) More recently, consider Viet Nam. We mistook their "patriots" for "insurgents." Or look at the mess that Israel is in!
Ten thousand American marines and one thousand Iraqi troops! Hi-tech equipment versus a ragtag assortment of fighters (remember Reagan's "freedom fighters"?) armed with stolen weapons and home-made bombs. Ah, but then the British army, all those years ago, was the arm of the most powerful country in the world. Your Cheney's wife, Lynne, was on the television this morning, arguing that the difference between then and now was that our insurgents had the great cause of freedom motivating them. I wonder what motivates that resistance in Iraq? I suspect it might be their sense of their own freedom: "God is Great!" Like you, they think they have God and rectitude on their side

Monday, November 8

Bush, since your election on November 2 I have been away on retreat. I returned late Sunday, November 7, to find you poised for an American attack on the insurgents based in Fallujah; and today, Monday, Novemver 8, I wake to find the assault already under way. Bush, there's a terrible irony here: you have me rooting for the insurgents. I have to be honest here, but I'm listening to the gut, and this is what the gut is telling me. I don't like myself for it, but I like your war, and your conduct of it, even less. The news reporters tell us on the television that the insurgents in the city are chanting "God is Great!" amongst the explosions. Doesn't that tell us something? Doesn't that tell us that they believe in their God-cause with as much raw passion as you believe in yours?
Bush, I have little time today to say anything further, but I vow to you now that I will find some time each day to talk to you. I acknowledge that I can not expect you to fulfill your side of this conversation, so this practice may not be completely fair. But then, you have the sword. Metaphorically of course. I have the pen. This is just a beginning, to put you on notice that I am implacably opposed to what you seem to believe you are given to do. We will talk more.