Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nov. 22,1963 in Buenos Aires

Fol published in the 11/22/13 South Marion Citizen: John F. Kennedy electrified Latin America when in his inaugural address he said: "To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge – to convert our good words into good deeds—in a new alliance for progress – to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty." The world loved our charismatic president and our country which then represented peace and justice and hope for one and all. I was among the first half dozen people in Argentina to learn of the President's assassination. After my usual solitary lunch of bife de lomo or steak and kidney pie at the nearby London Grill in downtown Buenos Aires, I had been reading the English-language Herald in the American Embassy's file room before resuming my duties as communications supervisor when my “agency” counterpart came to the half door in shock. “The president's been shot!” Off I went to the code room to check for confirmation. Ambassador Robert McClintock, meanwhile, tried to call Washington on his hot line but it didn't work, forcing him to walk down several flights to use the phone in the military attaches' offices, a great indignity for the man who in 1958 called the Marines into Lebanon and the entire Sixth Fleet to the eastern Mediterranean on standby against anticipated turmoil in the Near East. Turned out his standard poodle had disconnected the phone. Grief exploded both within and without the embassy. Women wailed and men trembled as the light of hope for a better future was dimmed. Multitudes gathered in the streets to share their shock and sorrow. And for a full month thousands and thousands of people came to the embassy to sign condolence books while in the window of every boutique and restaurant and business was a photograph of the young president shrouded in black crepe or encircled with flowers and flags. The Embassy was then located in a 10-story building on Sarmiento within walking distance of the Casa Rosado on the Plaza de Mayo, where years later the mothers of those who “disappeared” would stand courageously in protest against the abductions and killings of their sons and daughters during the “dirty war” of military dictatorship which afflicted this rich and sophisticated nation of still unassimilated European immigrants from 1976-1983. Speaking at American University six months before his death, President Kennedy called for “a world in which the kind of peace which makes life on earth worth living – and the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely in our time but peace in all time.” Some say that his call for world-wide nuclear disarmament in that speech sealed his fate. The world came together before its television sets to witness the end of the “one brief shining moment” known as Camelot . Unfortunately too many of us join with the Argentines and peoples everywhere in continuing to search for “a man on a white horse” to singlehandedly right all our wrongs and lead us into the promised land without the commitment and effort necessary from an educated and involved citizenry. If we are to realize the dreams of our forebears, we must, as Alice Walker wrote, understand that “ We are the ones we have been waiting for.” The John F. Kennedys ......and the Barack Obamas of the world can only light the way for us.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Culture of Violence: Newtown requires new thinking about our violent society By Delphine Blachowicz Herbert Special to the Star-Banner Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 6:30 a.m. Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 7:32 p.m. As a longtime advocate for peace and justice, I ask our elected officials to join with other civic and faith leaders, both in our local community and in Tallahassee, to begin to turn the tide against the culture of violence, which was the occasion for Florida leading the nation in calling for and implementing “stand your ground” legislation. But “stand your ground” is not merely a legal term. It is a moral imperative, which compels individuals of conscience to stand up for what they believe. I, thus, ask our lawmakers in Tallahassee to stand your ground, not by turning us all into sharpshooters but by committing themselves to work toward nonviolence as the ultimate measure of a civilized people and as an expression of the love toward one another, which all religions and moral philosophies espouse. Jesus, after all, said that those who live by the sword are condemned to die by it. Yet, it is human nature to want to protect ourselves. We must be realists and begin with legislative action both in Washington and in Tallahassee to contain the manufacture and accessibility of assault weapons. But a greater reality demands that we address the reasons we have become among the most violent societies on Earth with 2 million of us in prison, a number larger than that of China with four times our population. We cannot remain an open society by fostering a bunker mentality in which we seek to shut out the outside world, sheltering ourselves in gated communities, pistol in hand behind locked doors in subdivisions where we scarcely know our neighbors. Fear is the mind-killer which cripples us into cowardice and rejection of the unknown. We can begin by reaching out to those who seem most unlike ourselves — the “others” living in neighborhoods into which we do not customarily go and by confronting situations which we usually avoid. We can't remain sequestered in the narrow comfort of the like-minded, be they in our churches or other interest groups. Yes, there are myriad proposals for the containment of sales of assault weapons and ammunition. In Florida, we have at least five companies that manufacture the AR-15s and at least 50 that produce the bullets for them. Earlier this month, 8,000 people stood in line at a gun show in Orlando, and last month, concealed-weapon permits in Florida surpassed the 1 million mark. So who uses them? Yes, hunters, street criminals, often disposable young people unable to get jobs, who are condemned to become fodder for our “justice” system. Sometimes distraught individuals such as the young mother who saw no way out of her difficulties except to leave this vale of tears with a beautiful 6-month-old child. My heart breaks for the children in Newtown and for the idle young people who succumbed to group pressure and amused themselves by torturing to death a 15-year-old in Summerfield. I grieve for the young soldier who was laid to rest in Reddick a couple Saturdays ago upon his body's return from Afghanistan. And I grieve for veterans — often wounded in mind if not in body — who return to civilian life unable to find a place for themselves Yes, I want our children protected. I want all of us protected. I understand the wish to station police in every school, but what kind of people will we become? There is no way in a free society we can protect ourselves against every possible security risk. Pessimists say it is too late to do anything because 300 million guns already exist in this country. But as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his last book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”: “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” Delphine Blachowicz Herbert is president of the local chapter of The Interfaith Alliance, a national group of 185,000 members devoted to separation of church and state and fighting discrimination in any form. Error on line 28 position 9: 'split(...).1' is null or not an object All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August 12, 2012

I should have gone to Oakbrook but explanations are useless.  My choices of a Sunday usually are the UUS out in Summefield, the UCCs on 200 or sometimes even the church of my patrimony downtown.
My adventure on the east side last week to welcome the new rabbi was not productive.  I really should have tried Jame M. Young Jr'.s  interfaith Abundant Life but I settled on a visit to the NAACP meeting where Jesus truly is present in the lives of those present.  Thank you Loretta.

My church is in my garden and the adoration of my animals............and in the heavens above when I retrieve my papers in the pre-dawn.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

August 11, 2012 "Disturb us, Lord......."

Daddy used to say that I threw away opportunities that others would kill for.  Little did he know the full extent of my impetuousness .........not only with jobs but with my various admirers whom I would frequently dismiss in a great rage.  . ...I didn't know about PMS in those days.

When I quit the Iranian Embassy for the fifth and final time in 1976, a wise woman observed that I had allowed myself to be defeated by pygmies.  Strange that when I was a client of Dr. Tamarkin he elicited a dream in which a giant ocean liner was tangled in rope held by Lilliputians.

Today I almost threw away the company of some of the finest people in Ocala, members of a board on which I serve because of an obstinate and controlling  old woman.  Ann Sperring, before she died, warned me that I was consorting with the wrong people. ..........and not doing what I did best.   She was right. 

I know I only put some old stuff on this blog today.  I have been afraid of returning to this site because I don't think I'll ever again write with the poetry in "Maria Tatiana" which I soon plan to put online.

Meanwhile I share this beautiful poem.

Sir Francis Drake's Prayer (1577). "Disturb, us, Lord..."

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love."

Interfaith Alliance observed tenth anniversary of 9/11 in Ocala

When the Twin  Towers fell peoples of the world  from Times Square to Tehran came together as one as they repudiated the evil of a few until that evil  was met with shock and awe upon the birthplace of  Abraham and some say of civilization itself.

Upon the tenth anniversary of that horror hundreds of residents of Marion County -.

Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Baha’i ,  humanists and others across   the spectrum of  faith and non faith traditions - came together once again   to recreate the oneness of all at a  9/11  service of remembrance, hope and healing at the First Congregational United Church of Christ. 

In an event sponsored by The Interfaith Alliance of Marion County  laity , youth and  religious leaders read from the tenets of their faiths while singers offered the balm of music  in a  liturgy of candles directed by Dr. Harold W. McSwain, pastor of the host congregation.

Homilist Dr. Scott Olsen, professor of religion and philosophy at CF, called upon us to consider  both the golden and the silver rules  - universal  variants of “ do unto others as   you would have them do to you”   found in all ethical traditions.

Those attending left the sanctuary singing euphorically “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me” as they moved to the fellowship hall where they lingered for some time in an  expanding circle of  hope and  friendship.

The Interfaith Alliance is grateful  to all who participated in an exhilarating evening of enlightenment, tolerance and good will reflecting the basic goodness of most human beings.  This includes the Ocala Star Banner for its very generous publicity expressed through its community liaison Mary Baggs and the artist who transformed my sketch into an ad of somber  beauty and quiet  drama

Please join with us as we  continue to work locally  to  build common ground thus helping to  transform our  small part of a  torn and broken world with love, justice and respect for the inherent dignity and worth of each and every human being.

Delphine Blachowicz Herbert

The Interfaith Alliance of Marion County

Imam Zaid Shakir at CFCC April 5, 2007

Imam Zaid Shakir at CFCC April 5, 2007

“Religious people collectively no longer have the luxury to hate each other, given the numbers of weapons available in the world today.  Unless we learn from history and create new visions and new institutions, this can only lead to ongoing wars in which there will be no winners” Imam Zaid Shakir told those who came to the Webber Center at  CFCC Thursday evening April 5 when the Humanities Department and the future Muslim Students Association sponsored  an “evening of enlightenment” with the outstanding Islamic  scholar

An American Black born in Berkeley and educated both in Western and Islamic intellectual traditions, Shakir now  is scholar in residence at the Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, California.   He mesmerized the largely Muslim audience by his clarity and serenity as well as his scholarship as he  discussed both Islamic spirituality and the need for world-wide systemic change rather than mere regime change as we confront the evils of current  global economic and political structures.  “We need to change the militaristic nature of society and its unending need for wars,”   he said,  repeatedly stating that “we must not lose the ability to recognize nuances.  We must not seek simplistic answers to highly complicated issues.” 

In declaring that the purpose of life is to serve God and to serve other humans,  Shakir’s description of Islamic theology did not seem  much at variance with the doctrines of other major  religions. He described his journey from a Baptist household, through  atheism and an examination of many other religions  until  he chanced upon a Christian comic book in which the author opined that the impossibility of creating something from nothing argues for the existence of God. “The human condition is wretched for he who doesn’t recognize the need for God,” said the Imam who devoted much of the evening to the need for service to humanity as a service to ourselves and inevitably  to God if done for the act itself and not in expectation of earthly recompense of any kind.

During the first hour of the evening  Imam Zafer Sabawi of the Ocala Islamic Center and Dr. Scott Olsen, CFCC professor of humanities, discussed various aspects of  Islam and responded to very active and informed  audience participation as they examined many issues such as attitudes toward violence and treatment of women  which often prove to be cultural rather than theological in nature.

In his  anthology of essays called “Scattered Pictures, Reflections of An American Muslim, ” the Imam brilliantly addresses the consequences of what happens when religion bows to political expediency and people no longer respect the sanctity of civilian life.  He debunks jihad as a non-ending war against non-Muslims and , citing  God’s words to Abraham, said that the Islamic community must be an exemplar for all humanity.          

The Imam concluded his remarks in the spirit of hope as both the Prophet and Jesus admonished us to love one another and to incline toward peace with other nations.

All the essays in the anthology  are excellent but among the most outstanding are:  “We are all collateral damage” in which he states that there will never be progress on the war on terror until” there is no they or we in this affair. . .”.  And in the essay  entitled “Not Muslim Zionists” Shakir recounts the development of Zionism and the dangers Muslims face when attempting to implement Islam, a universal religion,  within the confines of  nation-states earlier  defined by  western colonialists. 

How do we respond when government infringes on individual & religious rights?

The Interfaith Alliance forum at Joy Evangelical  Lutheran  Church January 8, 2008

Panelist Delphine Herbert, Marions for Peace:

How do we respond when government infringes on individual and religious rights?

There is only one way – with courage.  We must take a stand and act on our beliefs even if initially the whole world seems to think otherwise.  The greater numbers of our citizens prefer not to be discomforted and in fact do not see the now accelerating erosion of our constitutional rights as the current administration, with the acquiescence and complicity

 of our Congress, our economic structure and our media , presumes to monitor all aspects of our lives with  the  Orwellian Patriot Act which makes thinking for oneself a crime..

Americans not yet accessing the world wide web would be shocked to learn that US-based Electronic Privacy Information Center and the UK-based Privacy International , in assessing 70 nations,  has ranked  the US with Russia, China and the UK as  among the worst in the world for invasion of the privacy of their citizens. The assessment is based on many criteria, including constitutional protection, the use of identity cards, data sharing between government agencies, and visual surveillance.

Right after 9/11 the author of the following words published in the New Yorker on 9/24/01 was excoriated as a traitor:“  The disconnect between last Tuesday’s monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing.  The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public.    …..Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is OK.  America is not afraid.  Our spirit is unbroken ……a robotic president assures us that America still stands tall.  A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush…….the unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy. Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one:  confidence building and grief management.  Politics, the politics of a democracy which entails disagreement and promotes candor – has been replaced by psychotherapy. ”

The author was Susan Sontag, once president of American PEN, an organization devoted to the protection of freedom of expression for creative individuals. 

Truly free men cannot allow themselves to be cowed into conformity by the heavy fog of fear which clouds irrational response to danger.  The exceptional among us – the Dr. Martin Luther Kings, the Sojourner Truths, the Frederick Douglasses, the Daniel Ellsbergs, the Berrigans, rose to the call of history.  Now we have   Scott Camil, the Winter soldier who after serving as a gung ho Marine in Vietnam, had an epiphany in Detroit in 1971, transforming him into a powerful voice with Veterans for Peace. A homeless advocate, Clare Hanrahan, spent six month in Federal prison after protesting at the School of the Americas.  The Rev. Gwin Pratt, Presbyterian minister in Jacksonville, was arrested in the well of the US Senate last year for protesting against the war.  These voices defend your rights just as surely as does anyone wearing a military uniform.    But we who are more frail vessels hesitate.

Often, we simply don’t know what to do, where to start.  We mistrust our own ability to make a difference and we fear the censure of public recrimination.  We don’t want to appear ridiculous if indeed we are proven wrong.

Paul Rogat Loeb, in Soul of a Citizen, wrote “We never feel we have enough knowledge or standing.  If we do speak out, someone might challenge us, might find an error in our thinking, or an inconsistency – what they might call an hypocrisy in our lives……..we…..use the standard of perfection to justify our detachment.”   He went on to say that “social change always proceeds in the absence of absolute knowledge, as long as people are willing to follow their convictions, to act despite their doubts, and to speak even at the risk of making mistakes.”

It is hard for many of us to take a stand.  We all seek community – be it the community of family, church, tribe, interest groups or the universes of the intellect now expanding exponentially through the miracles of technology.  Thus there is a constant tension between the desire to appease our personal communities and the need for the expression of our innermost hearts and souls. 

Five years ago 150 people in Marion County joined with hundreds of thousands of others throughout the nation who lifted their voices against an unprovoked war by signing an open letter to President Bush which was published in the Ocala Star Banner on January 19, 2003.    It endorsed the words of national religious leaders of all creeds, beseeching the president to turn from the brink of war with Iraq as such action “will only sow more seeds of intense hatred, strengthening the extreme ideologies, and breed further global instability and insecurity.”  Two and a half years later when fear prevailed and patriotism brooked no challenge, only 80 would sign a similar letter.

The candlelight vigils and rallies which first attracted 75 people at the Ocala town square in January of 2003 now attract only a handful of regulars at our weekly street rallies.  Friction developed between those who wanted silent vigils and those who wished to voice their concerns about the immorality of a Pax Americana spread by the sword.    Many lost sight of the reason we came together – our rejection of an unjust and illegal war - not our personal stances on religious issues.   Mercy me,  if a street preacher said a prayer in the presence of an atheist.

In the local churches there were the perfunctory prayers for peace and the safety of our troops . But really supporting the troops by wanting them out of useless danger characterized one as a traitor. Just where were the strong voices standing publicly for the Prince of Peace? 

Many have mocked Marions for Peace for continuing our street rallies.  They don’t know that we read public repudiation of the war long before the politicians did.  Yes, it is hard to stand in 100 degree heat with the sun blazing in your eyes.  It is difficult not to respond in like manner to the rude and the uninformed.  But, while our numbers are small, the response from passersby has been at least 80% supportive right from the start.  And just before the 2006 election we were experiencing almost total and enthusiastic acknowledgement, leading us to believe that by our presence we were in fact giving courage to others by showing them that’s it’s alright to stand up against the status quo. There is a certain exhilaration gained both from standing with like-minded folk and from the grateful responses from the street. 

And yes, despite all the criticism that demonstrations large and small throughout the nation have accomplished little because of discord among the groups, peace people , through the power of the internet and the passion of personal commitment, have thus far stopped the administration from bombing Iran, an action which might indeed lead to world-wide conflagration.

Those who taunt Marions for Peace on the street do not realize that just about every man who has ever stood with us has served in the military, and many of the women have been nurses. Among our most faithful supporters have been:

The Rev.Mac White, retired Methodist minister, past president of the Marion County TIA  and lifelong champion of peace who marched in the civil rights protests in the 1960s;

George Newkirk, 89 year old elder of the Quakers, who until recently dragged himself to our rallies and vigils with his walker; Lee Wiggins, a retired VA nurse and her husband, Jerry Janiszewski, a design engineer who worked with the space program, Bob Zannelli, savant extraordinaire and nuclear engineer once associated with Admiral Rickover; Cynthia Merkey, former owner of a Gainesville bookstore; and Homer Detwiler, forest dweller, marathoner and member of the Marion County Chorale.    

But perhaps the most impassioned among us was Rex Weng, 86 year old veteran of the segregated military, whose heart broke each day as he learned of the latest casualties.  Now living with his daughter in California, Rex cannot understand why the black community does not see the need to stand with us since the war impacts minority communities so greatly.  Rex, who regularly protested alone against the Confederate flag still flying near the Marion County Commission headquarters, deems institutional racism and continuing gender discrimination as the two underlying reasons that multinational corporations for whom profit is the only god now  rule the world, crushing the good which globalization might otherwise bring to all mankind.  

Dr. Martin Luther King said that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I think this means that yes, we have rights but we also have duties as citizens to defend those rights.  How are you using your first amendment right to free speech?  Is fear of what others might think causing you to acquiesce to consensus thinking?  Or are you speaking out publicly – on the internet, in the papers, on the radio, in your churches and other groups – in the realization that killing anywhere, whether of body or of spirit, is the real terrorism of our times.

Yes, the winds of change are giving breath to the audacity of hope……..and perhaps the new thinking Einstein said we need to save mankind from extinction.                 `````