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Live your beliefs & you can turn the world around.
 
-----Henry David Thoreau,
Unitarian Mystic and Activist

 

The Trees and the Axe, Aesop
Iraqi Minorities Face Eradication
Inanna, Mother of the Iraqi People

GreenViews:  How 1% of us control the Nation, by Lowell McFarland
Why Pagans Need to Come Out of the Broomcloset, by Sophia Pharou
Reaching Left While Holding Onto Our Rights, by Don Chaote
Verbal Weapons for the Democrats, by KC McGuire

If at first you don't secede...
Liberals Reclaim Morality, Wm. Sinkford
Democrats Needed & Need a Religious/Spiritual Left: The Politics of Meaning, By Rabbi Lerner
Protest is Good for You,
By Donna Henes
Is the Market Moral?: A Dialogue on Religion, Economics & Justice
Ralph Reed and the Six Mind-Tools, by Ed Hubbard
I was asked to spy, by Amitai Etzioni
Pagans and Politics, by Michael Urban

 
 

The Trees and the Axe
----- Aesop

A MAN came into a forest and asked the Trees to provide him a handle for his axe. The Trees consented to his request and gave him a young ash-tree. No sooner had the man fitted a new handle to his axe from it, than he began to use it and quickly felled with his strokes the noblest giants of the forest. An old oak, lamenting when too late the destruction of his companions, said to a neighboring cedar, "The first step has lost us all. If we had not given up the rights of the ash, we might yet have retained our own privileges and have stood for ages."

Moral:   We need each other. Support the institutions that support your values!
 



GreenViews:
Pagan Commentaries on the News

 

Iraqi Religious Minorities Face Eradication


Press Release (adapted) from
Minority Rights Group International

Iraqi Minorities Face Eradication

"Minority groups in Iraq are facing "desperate conditions"," a barrage of attacks" and the threat of being "eradicated" from their homeland.

In a report published on Monday, the London-based Minority Rights Group International calls on the Iraqi government to promote the political participation of religious and ethnic minorities."

"They have also faced "forced conversions to Islam under the threat of death, rape and forced marriage".
  
Minorities in the country, including civic leaders and children, have in addition been the target of abductions, ransoming and murder."

"Subject to a barrage of attacks, kidnappings and threats from all sides, some communities which have lived in Iraq for two thousand years now face
extinction."

Minority Rights Group International:
http://www.minorityrights.org/
 
  EDITORIAL:

From Bad to Worse for Iraqi's Religious Minorities

Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was probably the most secular of all Arab/Muslim countries. As the reports indicate, even under his Baathist dictatorship, 2,000 year old communities were maintained.

It is possible that these minorities being referred to include many Aboriginal, Atheist, B'Hai, Zoroastrian, and Pagan Iraqis. We must do more to assist Aboriginals, Atheists and Pagans all over the world to have crucial universal freedom of beliefs (or non-beliefs).

Loch Sloy!
Tuan Today
"Tuan MacCarrill/MacParthalon, Forever the Celtic story!"
Lowell McFarland
<lowell@optonline.net>
 

 

NOTE:

Even though America Broke it and now owns it - to paraphrase former US Secretary of State Powell - America has only accepted about 400 Iraqi refugees out of the millions that are fleeing Iraq and flooding neighboring countries.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2007
7:36 MECCA TIME, 4:36 GMT

Iraq minorities face 'eradication'

About 30 per cent of Iraqi minorities are seeking refuge in various countries around the world [Reuters]

Minority groups in Iraq are facing "desperate conditions"," a barrage of attacks" and the threat of being "eradicated" from their homeland.
 
In a report published on Monday, the London-based Minority Rights Group International calls on the Iraqi government to promote the political participation of religious and ethnic minorities.

It also called on the international community, and not just neighbouring Middle Eastern countries, to share the growing burden of refugees fleeing the war-torn country.
 
The group reports that "chaos has ensued" since a US-led coalition overthrew then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"Iraq's minority communities are living in desperate conditions that are going ignored and unaddressed inside Iraq and in the international arena," the report said.
 
Suffering

Iraq's minority groups have, according to the report, suffered through the destruction and defacement of their religious buildings and the mass murder of their congregations.

 
They have also faced "forced conversions to Islam under the threat of death, rape and forced marriage".
  
Minorities in the country, including civic leaders and children, have in addition been the target of abductions, ransoming and murder.
  
Mark Lattimer, the group's director, said: "Every day we hear news about the carnage in Iraq, yet the desperate situation of minority communities is
barely reported.

"Subject to a barrage of attacks, kidnappings and threats from all sides, some communities which have lived in Iraq for two thousand years now face
extinction."
  
Though Iraq is dominated by three major groups, Sunni and Shia Muslims, and Kurds,
a tenth of the country's approximately 27 million people are religious or ethnic minorities.

"Immediate protection for these minorities and adequate consideration and consultation with them on their future role in the new Iraq is essential if their voices are not to be lost," the report said.

It also noted that a "huge exodus" of Iraq's minorities is taking place, citing figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which showed that
minorities made up about 30 per cent of the 1.8 million Iraqis seeking refuge in various countries around the world.

Source: Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera invites you to e-mail this article.
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/DD9493F7-EE48-4FE9-BB86-17DC3A1770AE.
htm

 
Inanna:
Mother of the Iraqi Peoples
 


Babylon in the land now known as Iraq was once the greatest civilization in the world. Many priceless Pagan artifacts -- some never photographed -- were lost during the days of "shock and awe" because the antiquities were not guarded by American troops.

This was a crime not only against the Iraqi peoples, but against Pagans everywhere.
cl, editor.
 


GreenViews:  Power & Abdication --  How 1% Control the Nation
 
 
How 1% of us control the nation
W.F. Walker Johanson

... How on earth has this small group of 1 percent taken over the country (and much of the rest of the world, as well)?

As Khrushchev said at the U.N. (way back in those days): "We will bury you!"  But he added that it wouldn't come from without . it would come from within.

Ta-dah! He was right. 

These high school friends - and ones just like them from progressive, suburban, upscale high schools up and down each coast - went on to become the college professors, journalists, foreign service officers (at the State Department, the CIA and elsewhere), Capitol Hill functionaries and the behind-the-scene leaders of the Democrat Party.

And while the rest of America has just tumbled along - going to school, getting married, having kids, raising families, going to work, going to church, watching TV, playing sports, enjoying life as Americans - these people have been living in a genuine "parallel universe."

Just consider the following handful of examples:

Look at any of your children's K-thru-college textbooks.

Not only are there not-so-well-hidden messages about how America is unfair to the poor, still racist and bullies the rest of the world, but even the situational examples used in Math and Science problems are about "global warming," or "over population," or "AIDS."

"I can only surmise that in this "parallel universe" in which these old high school friends of mine are living there is no evil.

There is no God.

There is no right and wrong.

They see no value in traditional marriage, nor in being faithful to one's spouse. "

The full article is at

WorldNetDaily: http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=53270

EDITORIAL
by Lowell McFarland:

This article was selected, not just because the writer is from my home town, Westport, CT, or that he a financial manager of the Dumbarton Group (apparently translated as the Parthalon ((MacFarlane)) Fort in Scotland), but because of its seemingly "loser" message relative to current events and the possibilities of a better future for Pagans.

Conservatives, now that the Iraq war has been reduced to its elements concerning whether Saudi Arabia or Iran will annex oil-rich Iraq (Iran is winning!), now that less than 2% of Americans own over 50% of our wealth, now that 12 years of conservative mismanagement has collapsed and the subpoenas are about to fly, now that the election has thrown the bums (many of them) out, conservatives are rushing to blame America's failures on stealthy liberals, progressives and moderates.

Frist and Delay are even claiming that had there been 7 more conservatives in the Senate and 30 more "true" conservatives in the House, America would still be the land of milk-and-honey!

A major problem is that religious/social conservatives and rich fiscal conservatives are at each others throat about who deceived who and caused the crash.

Now, with wide understanding that things are going to get much rougher for all of them in America's more populist mood, articles like this, blaming some stealthlike eastern high schoolers, etc., for taking over the country, abound.

While these revisionist articles will continue endlessly, the sudden change of America into more of a populist mood, with religious conservatives losing so badly, with Pagans being one of the most populist religions in America, has to benefit us.

But, there will be little direct benefits to Pagans, if we continue to deny our numbers, avoid national congressing and refuse to promote national and regional public spokespeople.

PS. Westport now does not seem to be the Westport he describes. It now is highly conservative with property values ruling all. Police, firemen and town workers cannot afford to live in town. Westport was made famous by its artists, but no young artists can afford to move here and no nude art is allowed in the town's art collection. Westport's artistic tradition will permanently end with this generation. Many question what the Westport schools are teaching, beyond "...how to be a millionaire by thirty!"

Loch Sloy!
Tuan Today
"Tuan MacCarrill/MacParthalon, Forever the Celtic story!


 

This essay was originally published in July '95 and even more relevant now. Sophia deserves the Crystal Ball award!
Why Pagans Need to Come Out of the Broom-Closet
by Sophia X. Pharou 

In the last few years, and since November in particular, the Religious Right has gained a great deal of influence over our lives in America. In their wake come new laws -- ones restricting access to birth control and HIV information, anti-welfare resolutions that seem to target women specifically, and restrictions on electronic communication. These laws were all passed on the basis of needing to protect 'morality' and the American family. Emboldened by their success in Washington, fundamentalists now are pushing for amendments to allow prayer in the schools and `vouchers' that will funnel tax money into parochial schools. On May 17, Newt Gingrich stood next to Ralph Reed on national television in the Capitol - yes, the Capitol - and promised that the Republican Party would push the Christian Coalition's ``Contract With the American Family'' through Congress. Claiming that America is a ``Christian Nation'', Pat Robertson has said on more than one occasion that his goal is an America guided by Christian values - values he himself has defined.

These extremists do not represent the opinion of mainstream Christianity - but they have been allowed to wield a great deal of power, mostly because of the apathy and ignorance on the part of voters. Unlike most American citizens, unlike many Pagans, fundamentalist candidates can rest assured that `their' people will go to the polls to vote for them. The result, if allowed to go unchecked, will be a nation where fundamentalist Christianity is a state-sanctioned religion, and opposing lifestyles will be penalized, if not outright illegal!

The Case of Iron Oak

I will make this summary brief, since the case is well-publicized in the Pagan community. The High Priest and Priestess of Iron Oak, a legal church with a separate building for public activities in Melbourne, Florida, had their celebrations at home interrupted repeatedly by the officials in Palm Bay, the city where the high Priestess lived. They were accused of violating zoning laws, running a church in an area not zoned for church activity. All for celebrations held six times a year on their own property! The zoning officials tried to hold the regulations over their heads, even when local Christian ministers defended them, saying that they had held weekly services at their homes unmolested for years. The zoning board, once it heard all the evidence, decided in Iron Oak's favor unanimously. The officials involved, however, threatened to appeal the decision, but subsequently backed down. Iron Oak, afraid that such tactics will be used on it again, is now in the process of taking the city to Federal Court for what it rightly views as harassment on religious grounds. Even if they win in federal court, the Priest and Priestess have suffered financial losses. They have had to mortgage their home, and are over $20,000 in debt due to legal costs. How many of us could suffer such a blow?

Laws were selectively, and not even deservedly, enforced on a group that the officials involved disapproved of. In many cities, especially those in conservative areas or the Bible Belt, the law is dished out with a biased hand where minority religions are concerned. `Freedom of religion' will only exist for Christians in a fundamentalist-dominated America.

Custody Battles

Pagan parents have often been threatened with the loss of their children. At the time of the initial decision of the city zoning board in Florida in Iron Oak's favor, there were four pending custody cases reported in Florida involving Pagan parents. In Ohio and Rhode Island, two women had their foster children removed shortly after it was learned that they were Pagan.

The 'public stigma' argument the Virginia Supreme Court recently used to relieve lesbian Sharon Bottoms of her son lends an even more chilling tone to to such cases: will other courts, following Virginia's lead, soon use the same argument to justify the removal of children from Pagan parents?

Attacks on Sexual Freedoms

Since the fall of the `Evil Empire' (i.e. the USSR) in the late `80s, fundamentalist leaders have had to find a new way to generate fear in their followers to ensure a continued flow of cash and devotion. Their new scapegoat? Homosexuals! With the release of the now-infamous film The Homosexual Agenda, it became good business to paint gays as the greatest threat to the American family - and ``God's people''. Robertson even blamed the earthquakes in San Francisco on the tolerance offered homosexuals there! Portrayed as child molesters, diseased, and mentally disturbed, hate crimes have risen dramatically against gays in the last six years.

The threat goes deeper, however. Initiatives have been filed in states like Washington and Colorado to recriminalise sodomy and deny Lesbigays any sort of protection against discrimination! These actions have succeeded in some places - striking down legislations already in place. Lesbigays have lost protections they once had!

Other targets involve a push on the Coalition's part to penalize adultery and premarital sex. Pagan handfastings would not count in their reasoning, and polyamory would definitely be an offense. Public information and funding for birth control and HIV protection would be cut off, to enforce that sex they did not approve of had `consequences'. Finally, in their `Contract With the American Family', buried inside the `Privatizing the Arts' section, they call for the Legal Services Corporation (legal assistance for the poor) to be funded by private donations rather than tax money, because it assists poor couples in divorces. Thus, private organizations (such as church charities) could deny funding for legal assistance when they disapproved of its goal, and the poor would have no recourse. This would sentence battered women to abused lives, enforce loveless relationships, and deny the people involved the right to direct their personal lives.

There is no danger to civil harmony in these activities - they are merely 'sinful' by Judeo-Christian standards. But our religion does not share these standards. The majority of Pagans view all forms of love, sexual or otherwise, as a gift from the Goddess and the God, sacred and to be respected. They also view personal relationships as a private matter, with adults capable of deciding for themselves what is right for their lives. Making one religious group's moral standards into American law is a violation of the separation of church and state. And there is no other excuse for these proposed laws and penalties but the fact that these activities are considered wrong by Judeo-Christian standards.

The Power of Pagans

Many mainstream and eclectic Christians also support equal rights and fair treatment for Pagans and Lesbigays, but the Christian Coalition and similar groups have ignored voices within their own faith in their quest to impose their punitive views on everyone. As Pagans, however, we can make a difference: by challenging these impositions on the grounds that these laws reflect the governmental sponsorship of one religion's standards, and that our religion does not have the same values! Furthermore, the persecution of Pagans, or other non-Christians for that matter, constitutes religious discrimination! By calling attention to cases of harassment and asserting our rights as Pagans and followers of a valid religion, we can benefit not only ourselves, but non-Pagans as well.

What's the Problem, Then?

Unlike the members of the Christian Coalition, however, we Pagans have few national ties. In fact, the energies of many Pagan groups are wasted on internal squabbles, rather than being used to protect our way of life from people wanting to reintroduce Christian prayer into the schools under the pretense of "student-initiated'' group prayers, cities like Palm Bay breaking up Pagan celebrations, and groups trying to strip us of any protection against discrimination by claiming it is "freedom of religion" that justifies individual employers and landlords, not just churches, in their denial of jobs and housing to Pagans and Gays. We have stood apart from political action, believing that politics is a "game" to be avoided. This belief must be discarded for our very survival. The players of these "games" are using our lives as bargaining chips.

Unfortunately, our people are often viewed by society at large as a group of  'kooks,' because, as a group, we are so rarely visible. We do not back our spokespeople when they address the public, and we do not publicly come out in support of other Pagans when they are threatened. Most of us hide what we are, and thus the public continues to consider Pagans as people who worship the devil and sacrifice babies. Anti-abortionists have even claimed that witches view abortion as a form of child sacrifice! When no one publicly challenges such assertions, should we be surprised that the public at large mistrusts us?

'Coming out of the broom-closet' may sound scary, but it is the only way to ensure our survival in a country teetering on the brink of theocracy. Unless we act now, we will have no voice at all when the Congress debates the measures Ralph Reed and the Coalition have proposed, nor in the 1996 presidential election, with a large percentage of the candidates involved seeking the CC's endorsement. They recognize the CC as the political powerhouse it is, with a guaranteed group of voters that will vote for whomever Reed and Pat Robertson tell them to. Our pleas will be ignored, regarded as invalid and unimportant at best, and with with hatred and opposition at worst.

The result? A society where our children can be taken from us with little recourse on our part, where we will be forced to listen to Christian prayers in silence at public events, where our tax money will go to schools run by the very people who oppress us, where, unless we are reasonably well-heeled, we will be unable to obtain birth control or legal aid in leaving abusive spouses. Instead, we will have to turn to Christian-run charities for the latter, who will have the power to decide if they approve of our actions. It will also be one in which sexual practices viewed as 'immoral' by a small but influential group will be made illegal for everyone. And, as the case of Iron Oak demonstrates, charges of religious discrimination will be upheld for Christians only in many places.

Things you can do:

  1. Write your local legislators and state senators, expressing your disapproval of measures promoting public or school prayer, and vouchers of tax money for parochial schools. Most politicians want to please their voters, and many think that the public wants these things. How will they know any better if you don't tell them?

  2. Write letters to the editor of your local paper, criticizing legislations and policies that favor one specific religion. If you are in an area where such expression might prove personally dangerous, find the paper of the nearest large city and send your letters there. If you still feel unsafe mentioning Paganism, use examples involving religions that are better known, like Buddhism.

  3. Start educating the people around you about Paganism and Wicca. This doesn't mean standing in front of the local fundie church decrying Christianity, although I do know one courageous woman locally who went to the Ichthus festival held this May at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, KY and handed out pamphlets about paganism to the celebrants! Begin your education program with individuals who know and like you, ones who trust you not to be involved in harmful acts. When my father, now a Christian missionary, found out I was a Pagan, he said that while he didn't know much about Paganism, he knew that I personally would never do anything evil. I was able to give him material about our religion (Scott Cunningham's The Truth About Witchcraft is a good book for such purposes), which he read. Rather than driving us apart, it enlivened our future conversations.

  4. Recommend that your city and university library order books on Paganism so they can become available for others. Books and periodicals on the Religious Right are doubly helpful, since many Christians are equally alarmed at their actions and would find the information helpful in their own efforts against the Right. The Freedom Writer and Church and State are excellent periodicals, while books like Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State by Robert Boston are also good, especially for people wanting to make a constitutional argument against people like Robertson who claim that the United States was founded as a "Christian Nation."

  5. Unite with fellow Pagans in your area to discuss action against the Right and educating the public about Paganism and Wicca. Set aside infighting where these important matters are concerned and coordinate your letter-writing efforts and information gathering. If some of the people in your group are talented (and many Pagans are), you may want to start a newsletter or write pamphlets to ensure that this information gets out, even if the local press is sympathetic to the Right or fundie-controlled. Form coalitions with other concerned organizations, such as feminist groups and gay rights advocates. You will make new friends, and will probably get along better with your fellow Pagans when you all learn to work together.

I hope that these suggestions will give you some good starting-places to fight against the Right. The most potent action you can take, however, is standing up publicly as a Pagan. Many people have never attached a human face to their ideas of witches and Pagans, relying instead on the media, the 'traditional' images Christianity has fostered in our culture, and the efforts of the Right to portray us as devil-worshippers. Once they know someone who is a Pagan, they oftentimes change their notions. Studies have shown that people who know that a friend or relative is gay tend to be more supportive of gay rights than people who claim to know no one personally. The same hold true for us. Good luck, and blessed be!

(From the July '95 issue of Rainbow Wind Magazine.)
Used with Sophia's kind permission.  Check out her splendid site by clicking this icon:




Reaching Left while Holding on to our Rights
by Don Meinshausen

Many of those who know my background and previous posts have noticed my strategy on working with the Greens and other non-authoritarian progressives. While there is much to be accomplished here, there is also much to do with the conservative movement even if just to maintain balance.

Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess who together were the mind and soul of the early libertarian movement worked with both. Murray went even further than I would have gone, working with communists in the 60's anti-war movement and then working with paleo-conservatives toward the end of his life.

Political dexterity or ambidexterity is a virtue in our movement. It has also been called political cross-dressing. Be careful of pretending to be something else for too long or you could lose your identity or integrity. Since our numbers are so small it is important to make numerous single-issue coalitions with other points of view not just to prove our worthiness but also to protect our rights.

After many years of attending both leftist and rightist political conferences, conventions, demonstrations, chat rooms, etc., a few observations are in order. The first is that it is always easier to communicate with people out of power. Maybe this is why conservatives (up until recently) have been easier. Maybe being in the Northeast where conservatives will always be outnumbered explains this in my own situation. Liberals are out of power and won't get many jobs out of this administration and go into the private sector. Then there is the observation that people who work for the government are rarely happy and know a lot of inefficiency, waste, and other horror stories that they would like to share.

So where does one go for converts and conversation? Right or Left? Many people are so libertarian they refuse to identify or even talk about politics. This happens a lot in New Age circles and I talk about spirituality, religion, psychology, film, business or technology all of which can be given a libertarian spin. It's usually best for others to bring up politics and to give not too much information so that you leave the person curious to look up more information. It is not good to be authoritarian in your libertarianism.

If you like some aspects of the left go to those left events where you will meet them. Ignore authoritarian types, crazies, or people that even if you could convert them you wouldn't want to be around them. Know when to move on to another group or person. Complete agreement is not essential. A sense of humor is a sign of sanity.

Some people are good to know in that they come up with good information from their own sources that actually buttress libertarian arguments. They might not even realize they are doing this. Ask them what do they know or think of libertarianism, CATO, Reason, or Liberty magazine and you might get some interesting observations from an outsider's point of view. Ask this before you identify yourself as a libertarian. All of this advice is good for rightist events and others. Don't be surprised that their groups have the same problems that we do.

Attend salons, fundraisers and parties where people are people are inclined to be off guard and open to networking. Use OPH cards after you get the conversation going. Dress and act to blend.

Are we having fun yet? If you aren't having fun with them then it's probably true that they are not being persuaded by you. Know what you are looking for and what you will tolerate and remember that it's good to be surprised once in a while. Don't bullshit or accept it but appreciate playfulness. Throw events of your own and ask for help on getting people to attend (entertainment, speakers that appeal to different groups venues, etc.)

Remember that the political process is designed so that it will discourage you. At the very least if you can persuade people that they should not respect politicians, bad laws, or the media that support them you have done something. Encourage tax avoidance, jury nullification and optimism in pursuing liberty. Let us know of your successes or how you became aware of liberty.

Please contact me with your comments.

"Don Chaote" is a 3 way pun.  Don Quixote is a classic romantic tale of an anachronistic (anarchronistic?) hero and fool. "Chaote" is a contraction of chaos and tea. Many psychedelics are served in a tea and chaos theory is well respected in science.  Coyote is known to the American Indians as a trickster spirit who brings wisdom and amusement.

Back to Don Meinshausen's Page
 

Who is Don Chaote?

Don Chaote is otherwise known as Don Meinshausen.  In the June 2005 issue of Liberty magazine there is an autobiographical article in which he describes how he invoked the libertarian movement by ceremonial magick. He is currently seeking correspondents while serving a sentence for drugs.
He can be reached at        

Don Meinshausen # 08196-050-FCI
Fort Dix  Box 2000
Fort Dix, NJ  08460

Verbal Weapons for the Democrats
by KC McGuire

One of my favorite pastimes is figuring out how the Democrats can effectively combat the unsubstantive sound-bite attacks that are apparently so effective in swaying voters toward the Republican party (because it obviously isn't their principles why so many otherwise Freedom loving individuals would vote for them). 

I channeled the spirit of James Carville (...wait... he's not dead...) so that the typical 2-hour thoughtful Democratic candidate "sentence" could be condensed into the emotionally charged Karl Rove / Ann Coulter style soundbite.

I present to you:
Christian McGuire's "verbal weapons" for the DNC.  (Would Derrida consider these Weapons of Mass Deconstruction?)
===
Regarding Bush's "Swagger", "straight talk", and "eyesquint":

"George W. Bush is like John Wayne in that as a Hollywood actor,
he wants the privilege of being a veteran without having to serve as one."
 

Re: the constant charge of flip-flopping -- levied by those who do not critically research the actual records of legislators. 

Hand gesture (make a fist, extend only the middle finger so that it faces the ground)
then say: "Hey buddy, Flip-flop this."
 

Re: A play on the NRA's slogan about guns killing people --- in reference to complaints about government bureacracies, even though treatment is no different than private corporation "help-lines"

"Bureaucracies don't annoy people.  People do."
======
"Support Our Students (or Scholars) - Knowledge is Freedom's Foundation."
=====
"If French Fries are now 'Freedom fries' and French bread is now 'Freedom bread',
does that mean the France is now 'Land of the Free'?



Re: those Sunday morning Televangelists who preach against "The Lies of Evolution":

"If Evolution is a myth
then why did I waste all those summers detasseling in Iowa?"


"Even a fundamental reading of text is STILL a personal interpretation."
 


Re: anyone who endorses the soundbite of "Judicial Activism"

"Judicial Activism is the rallying cry
of those who do not understand Constitutional Law."

"The WANTS of the MANY
should NEVER outweigh the NEEDS of the FEW."

"When courts become subject to the desires of the majority,
rather than the spirit of the law, Freedom is lost."

"Wouldn't a "strict reading" of the Second Amendment
deny the rights of the people to carry arms unless they were part of the Militia? 
After all, it was those "darned activist judges"
who allowed ordinary citizens to carry weapons in the first place."

"I would no sooner want my plumber conducting brain surgery
than have a populist legislator manipulating the Constitution."

Printed with permission from Tikkun
Democrats Needed & Need a Religious/Spiritual Left
November 3, 2004

By Rabbi Michael Lerner

For years the Democrats have been telling themselves "it's the economy, stupid." Yet consistently
for dozens of years millions of middle income Americans have voted against their economic interests to support Republicans who have tapped a deeper set of needs.

Tens of millions of Americans feel betrayed by a society that seems to place materialism and selfishness above moral values.  They know that "looking out for number one" has become the common sense of our society, but they want a life that is about something more-a framework
of meaning and purpose to their lives that would transcend the grasping and narcissism that surrounds them.  Sure, they will admit that they have material needs, and that they worry about adequate health care, stability in employment, and enough money to give their kids a college
education.  But even more deeply
they want their lives to have meaning -- and they respond to candidates who seem to care about values and some sense of transcendent purpose.

Many of these voters have found a "politics of meaning" in the political Right.  In the Right wing churches and synagogues these voters are presented with a coherent worldview that speaks to their
"meaning needs." Most of these churches and synagogues demonstrate a high level of caring for their members, even if the flip side is a willingness to demean those on the outside.  Yet what members experience directly is a level of mutual caring that they rarely find in the rest of the society.  And a sense of community that is offered them nowhere else, a community that has as its central theme that life has value because it is connected to some higher meaning than one's
success in the marketplace.

It's easy to see how this hunger gets manipulated in ways that liberals find offensive and contradictory.  The frantic attempts to preserve family by denying gays the right to get married, the talk about being conservatives while meanwhile supporting Bush policies that accelerate the destruction of the environment and do nothing to encourage respect for God's creation or an ethos of awe and wonder to replace the ethos of turning nature into a commodity, the intense focus on preserving the powerless fetus and a culture of life without a concomitant commitment to medical research (stem cell research/HIV-AIDS), gun control and healthcare reform., the claim to care about others and then deny them a living wage and an ecologically sustainable environment -- all this is rightly perceived by liberals as a level of inconsistency that makes them dismiss as hypocrites the voters who have been moving to the Right.

Yet liberals, trapped in a long-standing disdain for religion and tone-deaf to the spiritual needs that underlie the move to the Right, have been unable to engage these voters in a serious dialogue.  Rightly angry at the way that some religious communities have been mired in authoR.rianism, racism, sexism and homophobia, the liberal world has developed such a knee-jerk hostility to religion that it has both marginalized those many people on the Left who actually do have spiritual yearnings and simultaneously refused to acknowledge that many who move to the Right have legitimate complaints about the ethos of selfishness in American life.

Imagine if John Kerry had been able to counter George Bush by insisting that a serious religious person would never turn his back on the suffering of the poor, that the bible's injunction to love one's neighbor required us to provide health care for all, and that the New Testament's command to "turn the other cheek" should give us a predisposition against responding to violence with violence.

Imagine a Democratic Party that could talk about the strength that comes from love and generosity and applied that to foreign policy and homeland security.

Imagine a Democratic Party that could talk of a New Bottom Line, so that American institutions get judged efficient, rational and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power, but also to the extent that they maximize people's capacities to be loving and caring, ethically and ecologically sensitive, and capable of responding to the universe with awe and wonder.

Imagine a Democratic Party that could call for schools to teach gratitude, generosity, caring for others, and celebration of the wonders that daily surround us!  Such a Democratic Party, continuing to embrace its agenda for economic fairness and multicultural inclusiveness, would have won in 2004 and can win in the future.

(Please don't tell me that this is happening outside the Democratic Party in the Greens or in other leftie groups--because except for a few tiny exceptions it is not!  I remember how hard I tried to get Ralph Nader to think and talk in these terms in 2000, and how little response I got substantively from the Green Party when I suggested reformulating their excessively politically correct policy  orientation in ways that would speak to this spiritual consciousness. 
The hostility of the Left to spirituality is so deep, in fact, that when they hear us in Tikkun talking this way they often can't even hear what we are saying -- so they systematically mis-hear it and say that we are calling for the Left to take up the politics of the Right, which is exactly the opposite of our point -- speaking to spiritual needs actually leads to a more radical critique of the dynamics of corporate capitalism and corporate globalization, not to a mimicking of right-wing policies).

If the Democrats were to foster a religions/spiritual Left, they would no longer pick candidates who support preemptive wars or who appease corporate power.  They would reject the cynical realism that led them to pretend to be born-again militarists, a deception that fooled no one and only revealed their contempt for the intelligence of most Americans.  Instead of assuming that most Americans are either stupid or reactionary, a religious Left would understand that many Americans who are on the Right actually
share the same concern for a world based on love and generosity that underlies Left politics, even though lefties often hide their value attachments.

Yet to move in this direction, many Democrats would have to give up their attachment to a core belief: that those who voted for Bush are fundamentally stupid or evil.  Its time they got over that elitist self-righteousness and developed strategies that could affirm their common humanity with those who voted for the Right. 
Teaching themselves to see the good in the rest of the American public would be a critical first step in liberals and progressives learning how to teach the rest of American society how to see that same goodness in the rest of the people on this planet.  It is this spiritual lesson-that our own well-being depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet and on the well-being of the earth-a lesson rooted deeply in the spiritual wisdom of virtually every religion on the planet, that could be the center of a revived Democratic Party.

Yet to take that seriously, the Democrats are going to have to get over the false and demeaning perception that the Americans who voted for Bush could never be moved to care about the well being of anyone but themselves.  That transformation in the Democrats would make them into
serious contenders.

The last time Democrats had real social power was when they linked their legislative agenda with a spiritual politics articulated by Martin Luther King.  We cannot wait for the reappearance of that kind of charismatic leader to begin the process of rebuilding a spiritual/religious Left.

Respectfully sent to you by Rabbi Michael Lerner. 

Rabbi Michael Lerner is national co-chair (with Cornel West and Susannah Heschel) of The Tikkun Community, an interfaith organization that seeks to build on the political vision articulated above and more fully explained in our Core Vision which you can read at www.Tikkun.org; editor of TIKKUN, a bimonthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture and Society, author of Spirit Matters: Global Healing and the Wisdom of the Soul, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco.
www.tikkun.org  RabbiLerner@tikkun.org

To understand it more fully, we urge you to read and then create a study group with friends on the book The Politics of Meaning or the book Spirit Matters: Global Healing and the Wisdom of the Soul. 

************ We are up against a very difficult period ahead.  There will be struggles to end the war in Iraq and to protect us from what is likely to be very scary moves to limit civil liberties, decrease social supports for the poor and the powerless, increase militarization and even new wars.  If we face all this with the kind of liberal and progressive movements that we've been relying on the past, we are likely to continue to be very ineffective.  That's why taking the Tikkun ideas and building a new kind of social change movement is such a pressing priority. 
We are not asking people to become religious or spiritual if you are not; we are asking for a new sensitivity to this arena, and new ways of talking to people and new ways of framing progressive ideas, and a new sensitivity to awe and wonder to replace a narrow utilitarian way of approaching other human beings and nature (an idea already accepted in many ecologically sensitive circles).

In peace, Rabbi Michael Lerner Tikkun Magazine
email: rabbilerner@tikkun.org         phone: 510-644-1200 web: http://www.tikkun.org
 

This is Your Story -- The Progressive Story of America. Pass It On.
by Bill Moyers

Text of speech to the Take Back America conference
sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future
June 4, 2003, Washington, DC


In one way or another, this is the oldest story in America: the struggle to determine whether "we, the people" is a spiritual idea embedded in a political reality -- one nation, indivisible -- or merely a charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others.

Let me make it clear that I don't harbor any idealized notion of politics and democracy; I worked for Lyndon Johnson, remember? Nor do I romanticize "the people." You should read my mail -- or listen to the vitriol virtually spat at my answering machine. I understand what the politician meant who said of the Texas House of Representatives, "If you think these guys are bad, you should see their constituents."

But there is nothing idealized or romantic about the difference between a society whose arrangements roughly serve all its citizens and one whose institutions have been converted into a stupendous fraud. That difference can be the difference between democracy and oligarchy.

Look at our history. All of us know that the American Revolution ushered in what one historian called "The Age of Democratic Revolutions." For the Great Seal of the United States the new Congress went all the way back to the Roman poet Virgil: Novus Ordo Seclorum" -- "a new age now begins." Page Smith reminds us that "their ambition was not merely to free themselves from dependence and subordination to the Crown but to inspire people everywhere to create agencies of government and forms of common social life that would offer greater dignity and hope to the exploited and suppressed" -- to those, in other words, who had been the losers. Not surprisingly, the winners often resisted. In the early years of constitution-making in the states and emerging nation, aristocrats wanted a government of propertied "gentlemen" to keep the scales tilted in their favor. Battling on the other side were moderates and even those radicals harboring the extraordinary idea of letting all white males have the vote. Luckily, the weapons were words and ideas, not bullets. Through compromise and conciliation the draftsmen achieved a Constitution of checks and balances that is now the oldest in the world, even as the revolution of democracy that inspired it remains a tempestuous adolescent whose destiny is still up for grabs. For all the rhetoric about "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," it took a civil war to free the slaves and another hundred years to invest their freedom with meaning. Women only gained the right to vote in my mother's time. New ages don't arrive overnight, or without "blood, sweat, and tears."

You know this. You are the heirs of one of the country's great traditions -- the progressive movement that started late in the l9th century and remade the American experience piece by piece until it peaked in the last third of the 20th century. I call it the progressive movement for lack of a more precise term. Its aim was to keep blood pumping through the veins of democracy when others were ready to call in the mortician. Progressives exalted and extended the original American revolution. They spelled out new terms of partnership between the people and their rulers. And they kindled a flame that lit some of the most prosperous decades in modern history, not only here but in aspiring democracies everywhere, especially those of western Europe.

Step back with me to the curtain-raiser, the founding convention of the People's Party -- better known as the Populists -- in 1892. The members were mainly cotton and wheat farmers from the recently reconstructed South and the newly settled Great Plains, and they had come on hard, hard times, driven to the wall by falling prices for their crops on one hand and racking interest rates, freight charges and supply costs on the other. This in the midst of a booming and growing industrial America. They were angry, and their platform -- issued deliberately on the 4th of July -- pulled no punches. "We meet," it said, "in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political and material ruin....Corruption dominates the ballot box, the [state] legislatures and the Congress and touches even the bench.....The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled, public opinion silenced....The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few."

Furious words from rural men and women who were traditionally conservative and whose memories of taming the frontier were fresh and personal. But in their fury they invoked an American tradition as powerful as frontier individualism -- the war on inequality and especially on the role that government played in promoting and preserving inequality by favoring the rich. The Founding Fathers turned their backs on the idea of property qualifications for holding office under the Constitution because they wanted no part of a 'veneration for wealth" in the document. Thomas Jefferson, while claiming no interest in politics, built up a Republican Party -- no relation to the present one -- to take the government back from the speculators and "stock-jobbers," as he called them, who were in the saddle in 1800. Andrew Jackson slew the monster Second Bank of the United States, the 600-pound gorilla of the credit system in the 1830s, in the name of the people versus the aristocrats who sat on the bank's governing board.

All these leaders were on record in favor of small government -- but their opposition wasn't simply to government as such. It was to government's power to confer privilege on insiders; on the rich who were democracy's equivalent of the royal favorites of monarchist days. (It's what the FCC does today.) The Populists knew it was the government that granted millions of acres of public land to the railroad builders. It was the government that gave the manufacturers of farm machinery a monopoly of the domestic market by a protective tariff that was no longer necessary to shelter "infant industries." It was the government that contracted the national currency and sparked a deflationary cycle that crushed debtors and fattened the wallets of creditors. And those who made the great fortunes used them to buy the legislative and judicial favors that kept them on top. So the Populists recognized one great principle: the job of preserving equality of opportunity and democracy demanded the end of any unholy alliance between government and wealth. It was, to quote that platform again, "from the same womb of governmental injustice" that tramps and millionaires were bred.

But how? How was the democratic revolution to be revived? The promise of the Declaration reclaimed? How were Americans to restore government to its job of promoting the general welfare? And here, the Populists made a breakthrough to another principle. In a modern, large-scale, industrial and nationalized economy it wasn't enough simply to curb the government's outreach. That would simply leave power in the hands of the great corporations whose existence was inseparable from growth and progress. The answer was to turn government into an active player in the economy at the very least enforcing fair play, and when necessary being the friend, the helper and the agent of the people at large in the contest against entrenched power. So the Populist platform called for government loans to farmers about to lose their mortgaged homesteads -- for government granaries to grade and store their crops fairly -- for governmental inflation of the currency, which was a classical plea of debtors -- and for some decidedly non-classical actions like government ownership of the railroad, telephone and telegraph systems and a graduated -- i.e., progressive tax on incomes and a flat ban on subsidies to "any private corporation." And to make sure the government stayed on the side of the people, the 'Pops' called for the initiative and referendum and the direct election of Senators.

Predictably, the Populists were denounced, feared and mocked as fanatical hayseeds ignorantly playing with socialist fire. They got twenty-two electoral votes for their candidate in '92, plus some Congressional seats and state houses, but it was downhill from there for many reasons. America wasn't -- and probably still isn't -- ready for a new major party. The People's Party was a spent rocket by 1904. But if political organizations perish, their key ideas don't -- keep that in mind, because it give prospective to your cause today. Much of the Populist agenda would become law within a few years of the party's extinction. And that was because it was generally shared by a rising generation of young Republicans and Democrats who, justly or not, were seen as less outrageously outdated than the embattled farmers. These were the progressives, your intellectual forebears and mine.

One of my heroes in all of this is William Allen White, a Kansas country editor -- a Republican -- who was one of them. He described his fellow progressives this way:

"What the people felt about the vast injustice that had come with the settlement of a continent, we, their servants -- teachers, city councilors, legislators, governors, publishers, editors, writers, representatives in Congress and Senators -- all made a part of our creed. Some way, into the hearts of the dominant middle class of this country, had come a sense that their civilization needed recasting, that their government had fallen into the hands of self-seekers, that a new relationship should be established between the haves and the have-nots."

They were a diverse lot, held together by a common admiration of progress -- hence the name -- and a shared dismay at the paradox of poverty stubbornly persisting in the midst of progress like an unwanted guest at a wedding. Of course they welcomed, just as we do, the new marvels in the gift-bag of technology -- the telephones, the autos, the electrically-powered urban transport and lighting systems, the indoor heating and plumbing, the processed foods and home appliances and machine-made clothing that reduced the sweat and drudgery of home-making and were affordable to an ever-swelling number of people. But they saw the underside, too -- the slums lurking in the shadows of the glittering cities, the exploited and unprotected workers whose low-paid labor filled the horn of plenty for others, the misery of those whom age, sickness, accident or hard times condemned to servitude and poverty with no hope of comfort or security.

This is what's hard to believe -- hardly a century had passed since 1776 before the still-young revolution was being strangled in the hard grip of a merciless ruling class. The large corporations that were called into being by modern industrialism after 1865 -- the end of the Civil War -- had combined into trusts capable of making minions of both politics and government. What Henry George called "an immense wedge" was being forced through American society by "the maldistribution of wealth, status, and opportunity."

We should pause here to consider that this is Karl Rove's cherished period of American history; it was, as I read him, the seminal influence on the man who is said to be George W.'s brain. From his own public comments and my reading of the record, it is apparent that Karl Rove has modeled the Bush presidency on that of William McKinley, who was in the White House from 1897 to 1901, and modeled himself on Mark Hanna, the man who virtually manufactured McKinley. Hanna had one consummate passion -- to serve corporate and imperial power. It was said that he believed "without compunction, that the state of Ohio existed for property. It had no other function...Great wealth was to be gained through monopoly, through using the State for private ends; it was axiomatic therefore that businessmen should run the government and run it for personal profit."

Mark Hanna -- Karl Rove's hero -- made William McKinley governor of Ohio by shaking down the corporate interests of the day. Fortunately, McKinley had the invaluable gift of emitting sonorous platitudes as though they were recently discovered truth. Behind his benign gaze the wily intrigues of Mark Hanna saw to it that first Ohio and then Washington were "ruled by business...by bankers, railroads and public utility corporations." Any who opposed the oligarchy were smeared as disturbers of the peace, socialists, anarchists, "or worse." Back then they didn't bother with hollow euphemisms like "compassionate conservatism" to disguise the raw reactionary politics that produced government "of, by, and for" the ruling corporate class. They just saw the loot and went for it.

The historian Clinton Rossiter describes this as the period of "the great train robbery of American intellectual history." Conservatives -- or better, pro-corporate apologists -- hijacked the vocabulary of Jeffersonian liberalism and turned words like "progress", "opportunity", and "individualism" into tools for making the plunder of America sound like divine right. Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was hijacked, too, so that conservative politicians, judges, and publicists promoted, as if it were, the natural order of things, the notion that progress resulted from the elimination of the weak and the "survival of the fittest."

This "degenerate and unlovely age," as one historian calls it, exists in the mind of Karl Rove -- the reputed brain of George W. Bush -- as the seminal age of inspiration for the politics and governance of America today.

No wonder that what troubled our progressive forebears was not only the miasma of poverty in their nostrils, but the sour stink of a political system for sale. The United States Senate was a "millionaire's club." Money given to the political machines that controlled nominations could buy controlling influence in city halls, state houses and even courtrooms. Reforms and improvements ran into the immovable resistance of the almighty dollar. What, progressives wondered, would this do to the principles of popular government? Because all of them, whatever party they subscribed to, were inspired by the gospel of democracy. Inevitably, this swept them into the currents of politics, whether as active officeholders or persistent advocates.

Here's a small, but representative sampling of their ranks. Jane Addams forsook the comforts of a middle-class college graduate's life to live in Hull House in the midst of a disease-ridden and crowded Chicago immigrant neighborhood, determined to make it an educational and social center that would bring pride, health and beauty into the lives of her poor neighbors. She was inspired by "an almost passionate devotion to the ideals of democracy," to combating the prevailing notion "that the well being of a privileged few might justly be built upon the ignorance and sacrifice of the many." Community and fellowship were the lessons she drew from her teachers, Jesus and Abraham Lincoln. But people simply helping one another couldn't move mountains of disadvantage. She came to see that "private beneficence" wasn't enough. But to bring justice to the poor would take more than soup kitchens and fundraising prayer meetings. "Social arrangements," she wrote, "can be transformed through man's conscious and deliberate effort." Take note -- not individual regeneration or the magic of the market, but conscious, cooperative effort.

Meet a couple of muckraking journalists. Jacob Riis lugged his heavy camera up and down the staircases of New York's disease-ridden, firetrap tenements to photograph the unspeakable crowding, the inadequate toilets, the starved and hollow-eyed children and the filth on the walls so thick that his crude flash equipment sometimes set it afire. Bound between hard covers, with Riis's commentary, they showed comfortable New Yorkers "How the Other Half Lives." They were powerful ammunition for reformers who eventually brought an end to tenement housing by state legislation. And Lincoln Steffens, college and graduate-school educated, left his books to learn life from the bottom up as a police-beat reporter on New York's streets. Then, as a magazine writer, he exposed the links between city bosses and businessmen that made it possible for builders and factory owners to ignore safety codes and get away with it. But the villain was neither the boodler nor the businessman. It was the indifference of a public that "deplore[d] our politics and laud[ed] our business; that transformed law, medicine, literature and religion into simply business. Steffens was out to slay the dragon of exalting "the commercial spirit" over the goals of patriotism and national prosperity. "I am not a scientist," he said. "I am a journalist. I did not gather the facts and arrange them patiently for permanent preservation and laboratory analysis....My purpose was. ...to see if the shameful facts, spread out in all their shame, would not burn through our civic shamelessness and set fire to American pride."

If corrupt politics bred diseases that could be fatal to democracy, then good politics was the antidote. That was the discovery of Ray Stannard Baker, another journalistic progressive who started out with a detest for election-time catchwords and slogans. But he came to see that "Politics could not be abolished or even adjourned...it was in its essence the method by which communities worked out their common problems. It was one of the principle arts of living peacefully in a crowded world," he said [Compare that to Grover Norquist's latest declaration of war on the body politic. "We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals -- and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship." He went on to say that bi-partisanship is another name for date rape."]

There are more, too many more to call to the witness stand here, but I want you to hear some of the things they had to say. There were educators like the economist John R. Commons or the sociologist Edward A. Ross who believed that the function of "social science" wasn't simply to dissect society for non-judgmental analysis and academic promotion, but to help in finding solutions to social problems. It was Ross who pointed out that morality in a modern world had a social dimension. In "Sin and Society," written in 1907, he told readers that the sins "blackening the face of our time" were of a new variety, and not yet recognized as such. "The man who picks pockets with a railway rebate, murders with an adulterant instead of a bludgeon, burglarizes with a 'rake-off' instead of a jimmy, cheats with a company instead of a deck of cards, or scuttles his town instead of his ship, does not feel on his brow the brand of a malefactor." In other words upstanding individuals could plot corporate crimes and sleep the sleep of the just without the sting of social stigma or the pangs of conscience. Like Kenneth Lay, they could even be invited into the White House to write their own regulations.

And here are just two final bits of testimony from actual politicians -- first, Brand Whitlock, Mayor of Toledo. He is one of my heroes because he first learned his politics as a beat reporter in Chicago, confirming my own experience that there's nothing better than journalism to turn life into a continuing course in adult education. One of his lessons was that "the alliance between the lobbyists and the lawyers of the great corporation interests on the one hand, and the managers of both the great political parties on the other, was a fact, the worst feature of which was that no one seemed to care."

And then there is Tom Johnson, the progressive mayor of Cleveland in the early nineteen hundreds -- a businessman converted to social activism. His major battles were to impose regulation, or even municipal takeover, on the private companies that were meant to provide affordable public transportation and utilities but in fact crushed competitors, overcharged customers, secured franchises and licenses for a song, and paid virtually nothing in taxes -- all through their pocketbook control of lawmakers and judges. Johnson's argument for public ownership was simple: "If you don't own them, they will own you. It's why advocates of Clean Elections today argue that if anybody's going to buy Congress, it should be the people." When advised that businessmen got their way in Washington because they had lobbies and consumers had none, Tom Johnson responded: "If Congress were true to the principles of democracy it would be the people's lobby." What a radical contrast to the House of Representatives today!

Our political, moral, and intellectual forbearance occupy a long and honorable roster. They include wonderful characters like Dr. Alice Hamilton, a pioneer in industrially-caused diseases, who spent long years clambering up and down ladders in factories and mineshafts -- in long skirts! -- tracking down the unsafe toxic substances that sickened the workers whom she would track right into their sickbeds to get leads and tip-offs on where to hunt. Or Harvey Wiley, the chemist from Indiana who, from a bureaucrat's desk in the Department of Agriculture, relentlessly warred on foods laden with risky preservatives and adulterants with the help of his "poison squad" of young assistants who volunteered as guinea pigs. Or lawyers like the brilliant Harvard graduate Louis Brandeis, who took on corporate attorneys defending child labor or long and harsh conditions for female workers. Brandeis argued that the state had a duty to protect the health of working women and children.

To be sure, these progressives weren't all saints. Their glory years coincided with the heyday of lynching and segregation, of empire and the Big Stick and the bold theft of the Panama Canal, of immigration restriction and ethnic stereotypes. Some were themselves businessmen only hoping to control an unruly marketplace by regulation. But by and large they were conservative reformers. They aimed to preserve the existing balance between wealth and commonwealth. Their common enemy was unchecked privilege, their common hope was a better democracy, and their common weapon was informed public opinion.

In a few short years the progressive spirit made possible the election not only of reform mayors and governors but of national figures like Senator George Norris of Nebraska, Senator Robert M. LaFollette of Wisconsin, and even that hard-to-classify political genius, Theodore Roosevelt. All three of them Republicans. Here is the simplest laundry-list of what was accomplished at state and Federal levels: Publicly regulated or owned transportation, sanitation and utilities systems. The partial restoration of competition in the marketplace through improved antitrust laws. Increased fairness in taxation. Expansion of the public education and juvenile justice systems. Safer workplaces and guarantees of compensation to workers injured on the job. Oversight of the purity of water, medicines and foods. Conservation of the national wilderness heR.ge against overdevelopment, and honest bidding on any public mining, lumbering and ranching. We take these for granted today -- or we did until recently. All were provided not by the automatic workings of free enterprise but by implementing the idea in the Declaration of Independence that the people had a right to governments that best promoted their "safety and happiness."

The mighty progressive wave peaked in 1912. But the ideas leashed by it forged the politics of the 20th century. Like his cousin Theodore, Franklin Roosevelt argued that the real enemy of enlightened capitalism was "the malefactors of great wealth" -- the "economic royalists" -- from whom capitalism would have to be saved by reform and regulation. Progressive government became an embedded tradition of Democrats -- the heart of FDR's New Deal and Harry Truman's Fair Deal, and honored even by Dwight D. Eisenhower, who didn't want to tear down the house progressive ideas had built -- only to put it under different managers. The progressive impulse had its final fling in the landslide of 1969 when LBJ, who was a son of the West Texas hill country, where the Populist rebellion had been nurtured in the 1890s, won the public endorsement for what he meant to be the capstone in the arch of the New Deal.

I had a modest role in that era. I shared in its exhilaration and its failures. We went too far too fast, overreached at home and in Vietnam, failed to examine some assumptions, and misjudged the rising discontents and fierce backlash engendered by war, race, civil disturbance, violence and crime. Democrats grew so proprietary in this town that a fat, complacent political establishment couldn't recognize its own intellectual bankruptcy or the beltway that was growing around it and beginning to separate it from the rest of the country. The failure of democratic politicians and public thinkers to respond to popular discontents -- to the daily lives of workers, consumers, parents, and ordinary taxpayers -- allowed a resurgent conservatism to convert public concern and hostility into a crusade to resurrect social Darwinism as a moral philosophy, multinational corporations as a governing class, and the theology of markets as a transcendental belief system.

As a citizen I don't like the consequences of this crusade, but you have to respect the conservatives for their successful strategy in gaining control of the national agenda. Their stated and open aim is to change how America is governed -- to strip from government all its functions except those that reward their rich and privileged benefactors. They are quite candid about it, even acknowledging their mean spirit in accomplishing it. Their leading strategist in Washington -- the same Grover Norquist -- has famously said he wants to shrink the government down to the size that it could be drowned in a bathtub. More recently, in commenting on the fiscal crisis in the states and its affect on schools and poor people, Norquist said, "I hope one of them" -- one of the states -- "goes bankrupt." So much for compassionate conservatism. But at least Norquist says what he means and means what he says. The White House pursues the same homicidal dream without saying so. Instead of shrinking down the government, they're filling the bathtub with so much debt that it floods the house, water-logs the economy, and washes away services for decades that have lifted millions of Americans out of destitution and into the middle-class. And what happens once the public's property has been flooded? Privatize it. Sell it at a discounted rate to the corporations.

It is the most radical assault on the notion of one nation, indivisible, that has occurred in our lifetime. I'll be frank with you: I simply don't understand it -- or the malice in which it is steeped. Many people are nostalgic for a golden age. These people seem to long for the Gilded Age. That I can grasp. They measure America only by their place on the material spectrum and they bask in the company of the new corporate aristocracy, as privileged a class as we have seen since the plantation owners of antebellum America and the court of Louis IV. What I can't explain is the rage of the counter-revolutionaries to dismantle every last brick of the social contract. At this advanced age I simply have to accept the fact that the tension between haves and have-nots is built into human psychology and society itself -- it's ever with us. However, I'm just as puzzled as to why, with right wing wrecking crews blasting away at social benefits once considered invulnerable, Democrats are fearful of being branded "class warriors" in a war the other side started and is determined to win. I don't get why conceding your opponent's premises and fighting on his turf isn't the sure-fire prescription for irrelevance and ultimately obsolescence. But I confess as well that I don't know how to resolve the social issues that have driven wedges into your ranks. And I don't know how to reconfigure democratic politics to fit into an age of soundbites and polling dominated by a media oligarchy whose corporate journalists are neutered and whose right-wing publicists have no shame.

What I do know is this: While the social dislocations and meanness that galvanized progressives in the 19th century are resurgent so is the vision of justice, fairness, and equality. That's a powerful combination if only there are people around to fight for it. The battle to renew democracy has enormous resources to call upon -- and great precedents for inspiration. Consider the experience of James Bryce, who published "The Great Commonwealth" back in 1895 at the height of the First Gilded Age. Americans, Bryce said, "were hopeful and philanthropic." He saw first-hand the ills of that "dark and unlovely age," but he went on to say: " A hundred times I have been disheartened by the facts I was stating: a hundred times has the recollection of the abounding strength and vitality of the nation chased away those tremors."

What will it take to get back in the fight? Understanding the real interests and deep opinions of the American people is the first thing. And what are those? That a Social Security card is not a private portfolio statement but a membership ticket in a society where we all contribute to a common treasury so that none need face the indignities of poverty in old age without that help. That tax evasion is not a form of conserving investment capital but a brazen abandonment of responsibility to the country. That income inequality is not a sign of freedom-of-opportunity at work, because if it persists and grows, then unless you believe that some people are naturally born to ride and some to wear saddles, it's a sign that opportunity is less than equal. That self-interest is a great motivator for production and progress, but is amoral unless contained within the framework of community. That the rich have the right to buy more cars than anyone else, more homes, vacations, gadgets and gizmos, but they do not have the right to buy more democracy than anyone else. That public services, when privatized, serve only those who can afford them and weaken the sense that we all rise and fall together as "one nation, indivisible." That concentration in the production of goods may sometimes be useful and efficient, but monopoly over the dissemination of ideas is evil. That prosperity requires good wages and benefits for workers. And that our nation can no more survive as half democracy and half oligarchy than it could survive "half slave and half free" -- and that keeping it from becoming all oligarchy is steady work -- our work.

Ideas have power -- as long as they are not frozen in doctrine. But ideas need legs. The eight-hour day, the minimum wage, the conservation of natural resources and the protection of our air, water, and land, women's rights and civil rights, free trade unions, Social Security and a civil service based on merit -- all these were launched as citizen's movements and won the endorsement of the political class only after long struggles and in the face of bitter opposition and sneering attacks. It's just a fact: Democracy doesn't work without citizen activism and participation, starting at the community. Trickle down politics doesn't work much better than trickle down economics. It's also a fact that civilization happens because we don't leave things to other people. What's right and good doesn't come naturally. You have to stand up and fight for it -- as if the cause depends on you, because it does. Allow yourself that conceit -- to believe that the flame of democracy will never go out as long as there's one candle in your hand.

So go for it. Never mind the odds. Remember what the progressives faced. Karl Rove isn't tougher than Mark Hanna was in his time and a hundred years from now some historian will be wondering how it was that Norquist and Company got away with it as long as they did -- how they waged war almost unopposed on the infrastructure of social justice, on the arrangements that make life fair, on the mutual rights and responsibilities that offer opportunity, civil liberties, and a decent standard of living to the least among us.

"Democracy is not a lie" -- I first learned that from Henry Demarest Lloyd, the progressive journalist whose book, "Wealth against Commonwealth," laid open the Standard trust a century ago. Lloyd came to the conclusion to "Regenerate the individual is a half truth. The reorganization of the society which he makes and which makes him is the other part. The love of liberty became liberty in America by clothing itself in the complicated group of strengths known as the government of the United States." And it was then he said: "Democracy is not a lie. There live in the body of the commonality unexhausted virtue and the ever-refreshed strength which can rise equal to any problems of progress. In the hope of tapping some reserve of their power of self-help," he said, "this story is told to the people."

This is your story -- the progressive story of America.

Pass it on.

This speech is also available in audio:

for high speed connections: Bill Moyer's MP3 Audio -- High Quality
http://cdn.moveonpac.org/content/audio/moyer.mp3

for dialup connections: Bill Moyer's MP3 Audio -- Lower Quality
http://cdn.moveonpac.org/content/audio/small_moyer.mp3


Used with permission.

Protest is Good for You
By Donna Henes, Urban Shaman*

 I won't be made useless
I won't be idle with despair
-
Jewel, from "Hands"

The media likes to portray peace, environment and human and animal rights protesters as a fringe element of whining malcontent sickos teetering on the margins of proper society. The truth is that those who step forward to speak their mind are happier and healthier folks than most.

Protesting is not complaining nor is it sending out negative messages. Pro means "for," "in favor of." Test means, "to speak," as in testify and testimony. So, protest actually means, "to speak for." Protest is a completely positive endeavor.

Albert Einstein said, "The world is dangerous not because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it without doing anything.Nothing that I can do will change the structure of the universe. But maybe by raising my voice I can help the greatest of all causes -- goodwill among men and peace on earth."

A new study by John Drury, professor of social psychology at the University of Sussex in England, shows that it is good for you to protest. Even though protesters may be depressed about the state of the world, their physical and mental ailments improve dramatically as a result of taking part in a group effort for change and the betterment of conditions.

Involvement in social causes and participation in political demonstrations banishes sensations of isolation, discouragement and impotence and replaces them with an exhilarating awareness of connectedness, well-being and empowerment.

When people participate in large-scale protests they get swept up in a communal mood of optimism that feeds their feelings of hope. They believe that their actions can help to change the course of history. "Collective action can therefore be a life-changing, uplifting and life-enhancing experience," concludes Drury.


A small body of determined spirits
fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission
can alter the course of history.

-Mahatma Gandhi

So let's get out there this crucial week and shout out our disapproval of the deadly policies of this administration. Let us project, instead, our own healthy, positive vision of the possibility of peace, justice, and the true American Way. And may we each manifest this vision in the purity of our thoughts, words, and deeds every minute of every single day.

Join us in spirit and support from where ever you are.

With utmost blessings of Peace,

Mama Donna


* (c) Permission is granted to copy, reproduce, re-print or promulgate in any manner this copyrighted material so long as correct attribution and contact information is included.



*******************************

Donna Henes, Urban Shaman, is a contemporary ceremonialist specializing in multi-cultural ritual celebration of the cycles of the seasons and the seasons of our lives.

She is the author of The Queen of My Self, The Moon Watcher's Companion,
Celestially Auspicious Occasions,
and Dressing Our Wounds In Warm Clothes, as well as the CD, Reverence To Her: Mythology, The Matriarchy & Me. She is also the editor and publisher of the highly acclaimed quarterly journal, Always In


Email: CityShaman@aol.com
http://www.DonnaHenes.net

http://www.TheQueenofMySelf.com
 

 

Press Release from Pew Forum

New Event Transcript
:

Is the Market Moral?: A Dialogue on Religion, Economics & Justice

The transcript of last week's discussion of the new book, Is the Market Moral? A Dialogue on Religion, Economics & Justice, is now available online. The discussion featured co-authors Rebecca M. Blank (Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan) and William McGurn (The Wall Street Journal), as well as Lawrence Mishel (Economic Policy Institute) and Ramesh Ponnuru (The National Review). An executive summary of the book (in pdf) is also available online.

Is the Market Moral?
is the second volume in the Pew Forum Dialogue Series on Religion and Public Life, published by the Brookings Institution Press. The book focuses on a long-standing debate in religious circles about the moral underpinnings of economic systems and what it takes to make them just.

RALPH REED AND THE SIX MIND-TOOLS

 
By Rev. Ed Hubbard

Ralph Reed is the most dedicated Christian Strategist in the country, working closely with the Religious Right and the current elections. He writes and formulates policies on elections and issues for Christian Organizations and Government Officials. And his decisions comes with millions of dollars of Christian Coalition Special Interest Dollars.


Who is Ralph Reed? Ralph Reed is the protege of Pat Robertson. Brought on as a director of the Christian Coalition, being a position nominally abandoned by Pat Robertson during his presidential campaign, Ralph Reed has become the chief advocate of the Religious Christian
Community.  Currently, he is a campaign consultant to George W. Bush, and openly speaks out about the need to be a religious advocate. Ralph has moved out of pure religious organizations to become director of Century Strategies http://www.censstrat.com, which allows him to work fully in the political field without constraints.

Why am I mentioning Ralph Reed? Because he allegedly commissioned a report recently, on laws pertaining to Witchcraft throughout the United States for the purpose of incremental enforcement of laws on the federal basis. Further, according to sources seeks to denounce Witchcraft as a legal religion through the courts if necessary. He is a long term strategist, and he is only 38 years old. And he sees the Pagan Community as a potential voting issue and media attention attractor. He is just waiting for the right moment and then he will use us to further his cause. Never forget, George Bush Jr. has made promises to eliminate Wicca from the Military, as President. Mr. Reed would assure Bush carries out that promise. I mention him know those who would take from you your rights in the name of God.

How will he do it? Here are the six mind-tools used by social propagandists, political consultants, and governmental officials use to incite the public.

These are the mind tools of the Media War:


1. Atrocity Allegations. 
In it's most common form, it is the accusation of ritual murder, infanticide, rape, sexual depravity, mass murder and so on. This can go deeper, with unfounded and untrue statements as well as true statements of small numbers of people, left to fester. Remember, an atrocity accusation can even be as simple as they wear black because they are afraid of the light, as long as it isolates the community member.


2. Hyperbolic Inflation of the Stakes. 
This recently took form in Bosnia when NATO stated if we do not stop Serbia we will have another Hitler, and fight a larger war. For us, If children are allowed to wear Pentagrams soon all our children will be. Further, If children are allowed to practice Wicca then they will become involved with *put you own derogatory here*.


These first two mind-tools create a powerful argument, no matter how true or false. Simply put, atrocity and Hyperbolic inflation assures that even if you are not sure it is true, you don't dare defend them in case it is true, and you certainly don't become involved.


3.
Demonization and Dehumanization
In every conflict, the enemy must not have a human face. Broad brushes are used to slander and deprive human feelings for the attacked, otherwise one would have to consider them as individuals. For Wiccans it was Satan Worship, but lately we are all said to be nudists and we do not believe in God or State.



4. Polarization.
"Those not for us are against Us." Simple and is the basis for all manner of fights.


5. Claim of Divine Sanction
The claim of divine sanction frames all arguments, out of the human context and instead places it on God, Allah, or some other authority in charge of the action. Further the power to forgive for any excess of zeal is gained. This assures no matter how much one would feel the action is wrong, the person committing it is secure because God told them to do it.


6. Meta-propaganda
Meta-propaganda is the most powerful. This discredits the other sides propaganda not by challenging the veracity of a single story, but by repeating holes and mistakes on the whole argument and discredit everything coming from the enemy. The aim is to produce wholesale disbelief and close doors to redress.


Being aware of the tools being used by Ralph Reed and other consultants, "Spiritual Warriors", and "Prayer Soldiers", we will be able to understand how they reached their world-view and prepare our statements accordingly. After all, Ralph Reed has already begun.



 ------------------------------------------------------
 Permission Granted to Forward this original Daily Goddess News article
 http://messages.to/Daily Goddess

 ------------------------------------------------------

I was asked to spy
By Amitai Etzioni

Civil libertarians are up in arms over various measures to be included in Patriot Act II. I do not often share their misgivings, but I must admit that my own personal experience with the FBI suggests that it might be just as well if someone does keep a critical eye on what the Bureau is up to.

I was teaching at Columbia University when someone named Bogdan Walewski called. Though he was a Polish citizen, he explained that he worked for the United Nations. He asked if he could drop by to discuss trends in American culture. We had a good chat at the end of which he invited my wife and I to dinner at an expensive French restaurant in New York.

I accepted the invitation without hesitation, as I had never even been near one of those. However, bringing along my wife was a bit of a problem. At the time, I had been divorced for more than a year. Instead, I brought with me to the restaurant a woman who was living with me. We had a lavish dinner and pleasant chit chat. But everything changed when Mr. Walewski called on January 13, 1965. This time he was all business. He told me that he was well aware that I was Jewish and a refugee from Nazi Germany. He had read about my adamant opposition to granting West Germany a finger on the nuclear trigger, as I had
stated in a recent issue of the New York Times Magazine.

Walewski explained that the USSR was very concerned about this matter and that I could, singlehandedly, help stop the Germans dead in their tracks if I would get him a report that my colleague Richard Neustadt had prepared on the subject for President Johnson. I knew nothing about the report other than that I had read somewhere that it was "for the president's eyes only," which is more highly classified than top secret. It took me a long minute to realize that I was being asked to spy, which
is not exactly part of the daily routine of a university professor or, I guess, of anyone else.

I told Walewski to leave my office and that I was going to report this conversation to the FBI before he even hit the door. He warned me that "I will let it be known that you are not  married to the woman you live with." I told him to get going and immediately called the local FBI. I expected some high-ranking agents to rush over and interview me, maybe even ask me to set a trap for the guy. Instead, I got someone at some switchboard who, to my utter amazement, was uninterested in my story. I decided to put it all in a memo which I sent to the FBI in New York City. In response, I received a form letter, appreciating my communication. Heck, I concluded, if nobody cared about Soviet spies hiding in the middle of New York City, on the payroll of the United Nations, I had other fish to fry.

Almost exactly 25 years later, in July 1990, I received a letter from Walewski; he wanted to apologize. He had been serving as an American agent and was ordered to check on my loyalty. (He was later caught while spying for the United States in Warsaw, and was released in 1985 in a spy exchange between the United States and the communist block.)

Walewski's letter was less of a surprise than you might expect. By 1990, I'd had other indications that during the Johnson and Nixon administrations I, like many other peace activists and those working for civil rights, had been under FBI surveillance. I still resented that my criticism of American foreign policy led to my loyalty to the United States being cast in doubt. I believed, and still do, that those of us who were opposed to the war in Vietnam and sought to diminish the danger of nuclear war were truer to America than those who escalated the war in Vietnam and rested on the safety of the nation on a growing pile of H-bombs.

The Walewski letter provided me with an occasion for reflection. I've never had any doubt about the essential role of individual rights in our lives. It does not take a Ph.D. in anything to realize that a free society will not remain free for long if critics of free speech can be muzzled, if those who criticize the government are treated like traitors. Although I realize that as of 9/11, we do need new measures to ensure our safety, nothing teaches better than experience. My being treated as a suspect, as someone whose loyalty the FBI had to test for the nation's safety because of a few speeches I made, articles I had written, and demonstrations I marched in was so infuriating that it stayed with me for many years to come. I hope for instance, for Iraqis living in the USA against hope that as the new safety dragnets are drawn tighter, that none of them will be tricked and tested the way I was.

Adapted from Amitai Etzioni's book, My Brother's Keeper: A Memoir and A Message, published by Rowman & Littlefield in May 2003. 

Pagans and Politics
Commentary by Michael Urban

Now tell me... Do you really think that pagans can afford NOT to be political? There are plenty of ultraconservatives out there who have similar views as Pat Robertson. If pagans take an apathetic approach to  politics, than policies like those promoted by Pat Robertson will become common place.

"So what?" you say? "This doesn't affect me as a Pagan. It has to do with sodomy." Yes it does, but What do you think is going to happen if Pat Robertson gets his wish? What if the only three liberal justices on the Supreme Court retire? What if they are replaced with conservatives? Then we will have an entirely conservative Supreme Court, with not a single justice representing the liberal viewpoint.

A few years after that happens (remember, Supreme Court justices get a lifetime appointment), I would defy anyone to look back on this and tell me that this article did not affect you as a pagan.


Perhaps some more background on Pat Robertson is in order. Other than being very anti-homosexual, he is also very anti-Pagan. After he has made it a crime to be gay, I can guarantee you that he won't stop there.

Remember, it was on Robertson's "700 Club" that Jerry Fallwell stated that the terrorist attacks on the WTC were the fault of Pagans, homosexuals, abortionists, etc., and that it was god's punishment of the US for allowing us, well, to exist and be here. Robertson's response? "I totally concur." Robertson did make a mild retraction later.

But that statement was only the most recent in a long history of attacks on Paganism by Robertson.

On December 5th, 2001, Pat Robertson stated that the United States would invoke "divine displeasure", and then gave a list of reasons why. The first item on his list was witchcraft.

In 1992, Pat Robertson claimed that the feminist agenda was about people who wanted to leave their husbands, kill their children,
practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.

In another statement, Robertson opined, "I think we ought to close Halloween down. Do you want your children to dress up as witches? The Druids used to dress up like this when they were doing human sacrifice... [Your children] are acting out Satanic rituals and participating in it, and don't even realize it."                                                            
http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/7027/quotes.html

Clearly, Robertson's agenda includes a hatred of Paganism, and a desire to destroy it. Robertson is also stated that only Christians should be allowed to run the Government, and has implied that the Constitution only applies to Christian people.

Before you write Robertson off as an extreme religious right radical without enough influence to be harmful, consider that Pat Robertson's "The 700 Club" airs on national satellite, multiple cable channels, and over 125 local channels throughout the country. (source: Christian Broadcasting Network.) In addition, "The 700 Club" is available in streaming video on the Internet.

Pat Robertson was also the head of the radical Christian group, Christian Coalition for many years. Take a look at this statement by Robertson, regarding Christian Coalition:

"The mission of the Christian Coalition is simple... to mobilize Christians -- one precinct at a time, one community at a time -- until once again we are the head and not the tail, and at the top rather than the bottom of our political system... the Christian Coalition will be the most powerful political force in America by the end of this decade... We have enough votes to run this country...and when the people say, 'We've had enough,' we're going to take over!"

CNN reported in 1997 that not only did Christian Coalition support George Bush Sr.'s reelection campaign, but that Pat Robertson himself hand picked more than 30 of Bush's campaign leaders.
"The mission of the Christian Coalition is simple... to mobilize Christians -- one precinct at a time, one community at a time -- until once again we are the head and not the tail, and at the top rather than the bottom of our political system... the Christian Coalition will be the most powerful political force in America by the end of this decade... We have enough votes to run this country...and when the people say, 'We've had enough,' we're going to take over!"

CNN reported in 1997 that not only did Christian Coalition support George Bush Sr.'s reelection campaign, but that Pat Robertson himself hand picked more than 30 of Bush's campaign leaders.
www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1997/08/19/christian.coalition/

On December 5th of 2001, Robertson announced that he was resigning from Christian Coalition. Why? Gary Bauer, a religious conservative who challenged George Bush Jr. in the primary, had this to say:

"I think Robertson stepped down because the position has already been filled... [Bush] is that leader right now. There was already a great deal of identification with the president before 9-11 in the world of the Christian right, and the nature of this war is such that it's heightened the sense that a man of God is in the White House." (12/24/2001: Common Dreams News Center).

Make no mistake. Pat Robertson is extremely influential not only among conservative voters, but also among the very politicians that run the United States.

If you think that your right to freedom of religion is protected by the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, think again. Remember, the final authority on interpreting the Constitution lies with the Supreme Court -- a court, which as pointed out earlier, would be completely conservative if Robertson had his wish. It is not inconceivable that a conservative Supreme Court could come up with a religious right favorable interpretation for the 1st Amendment.

So once again, I ask, can Pagans really afford not to be political? The religious right has powerful political lobbying groups that have a great deal of influence, especially in today's conservative government. Pagans need to counter this.

If Pagans choose to ignore politics, saying that the actions of our government "doesn't affect us", I can only hope that the Gods and Goddesses responsible for protecting truth and justice will be merciful towards us.


Yes, the Deities hold us accountable for our actions, or lack there of. The idea that we are not accountable to the deities is a Neopagan corruption. It is designed for rebellious Christians and teenagers who don't want to be accountable to a God or Goddess. The idea that we ARE accountable to the Deities is practically a universal thread throughout Paleopagan and historical pagan religions from all origins. The idea of Divine accountability predates Judaic and Christian religion by thousands of years. If you are looking for a lack of accountability, you are not going to find it in any form of serious Paganism.

Pagans cannot afford to be apathetic to politics. Not when we have people out there like Pat Robertson and other ultraconservatives who work day and night to strip anyone who does not agree with them of their rights.

You may write to Michael Urban at  

urba0083@tc.umn.edu.

Press Release
Protesting Good for Your Health
The University of Sussex, UK
16 December 2002

Protesting is good for you, say psychologists.

A study by psychologists at the University of Sussex has found that as well as potentially changing the world, participation in protests and demonstrations is actually good for you.

This is one of the findings of a large-scale interview study led by Dr John Drury, Lecturer in Social Psychology, into protest crowds and social movements, often known as 'collective action'.

"Many published activist accounts refer to feelings of encouragement and confidence emerging from experiences of collective action," says Dr Drury. "But it is not always clear how and why such empowerment occurs, so we aimed to explain what factors within a collective action event contribute most to such feelings."

The study involved in-depth interviews with nearly 40 activists from a variety of backgrounds, in which over 160 experiences of collective action were described. The range of events described by interviewees included traditional marches, fox-hunt sabotages, anti-capitalist street parties, environmental direct actions, and industrial mass pickets. 

"The main factors contributing to a sense of empowerment were the realization of the collective identity, the sense of movement potential, unity and mutual support within a crowd," says Dr Drury.

"However, what was also interesting was the centrality of emotion in the accounts. Empowering events were almost without exception described as joyous occasions. Participants experienced a deep sense of happiness and even euphoria in being involved in protest events. Simply recounting the events in the interview itself brought a smile to the faces of the interviewees."

Psychologists have become increasingly interested in the role of  positive experiences and emotions not just in making people feel good but also in promoting psychological and physical health. Uplifting experiences are associated with a variety of indicators of  well-being, such as speed of physiological recovery; ability to cope with physical stressors; and the reduction of pain, anxiety and depression.

"Collective actions, such as protests, strikes, occupations and demonstrations, are less common in the UK than they were perhaps 20 years ago," says Dr. Drury. "The take-home message from this research therefore might be that people should get more involved in campaigns, struggles and social movements, not only in the wider interest of social change, but also for their own personal good."

Other e-zines Activists should read:

Progress Report
http://www.americanprogress.org/site/c.biJRJ8OVF/b.6228/


Green Perspective
http://www.ecoequity.org

Mother Jones 
New print subscribers only $10/yr.
Free e-newsletter
Some articles free on-line

http://www.motherjones.com/news/outfront/2002/45/ma_153_01.html

The Progressive

http://www.progressive.org

McCarthyism Watch:
http://www.progressive.org/webex/mcwatch.html

Common Dreams NewsCenter

A non-profit news service providing breaking news & views 
for the progressive community.
http://www.commondreams.org/

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