Editor's Choice Archive 2

Editor's Choice Archive 2

War and a Moment of Truth

By Patricia Keegan

We are standing in a moment. This moment is like a small island in the midst of a swiftly flowing river. We can get swept along in a rumbling tide of ignominy, or we can secure our stance and hold steadfastly to our values.

Although we may not be aware of it, ever since September 11, 2001, each and every one of us has taken one step closer to our fellow human beings, both here in the U.S. and throughout the world. This step, hard to define -- a mixture of fear, compassion and empathy -- has the potential to lift us up, to enlighten our common understanding, and to crack open the shell that has historically kept us from seeing the world as one heartbeat. One heart, through which when pain flows, affects all hearts. The pain of the utter futility of war flows through the hearts of most Europeans who have suffered the destruction of two world wars in the first half of the 20th century. Europeans are standing in this moment saying, “There has to be a better way.” Many Americans also realize that neither revenge nor violence is the answer. Their numbers are growing.

If in this moment, we view the world as one vibrant, living planet, populated by a huge majority of decent people, just wanting peace in their land, then there is hope!

We live in a time when all the dreams of humankind can be realized, when we produce enough to replenish the world’s table for everybody, when war has become unnecessary because technical progress can give a country more wealth than territorial conquest. In this moment, the world is in the process of becoming more unified. Education and information technology have propelled us to new levels of connection and understanding, and have cut through the sense of detachment regarding our fellow travelers on this planet. The tides are pressing us toward enlightenment, optimism and solidarity. We are striving for love, justice and truth. We are awakening to a new global consciousness. It is all there, it is bubbling beneath the surface. The voices that want to raise us up toward a new enlightenment are driven by the struggle against opposite forces that want to squeeze us down and make us believe in our own regression.

We in the western world, coming from a position of abundance, are compelled to move away from the “primitive.” Military force in solving problems is not a viable solution. Unless we want deep and irrevocable lacerations in the world, and in our relationship with allies, the U.S. must avidly search for creative ways to deal with countries dubbed “Axis of Evil.” War, as an answer, is itself evil. How can war be anything but evil when thousands of innocents get killed?

Coming from abundance, the US must look realistically at all levels of development in each of the three countries President Bush labels “Axis of Evil.” We have to look closely at their history, not with a jaundiced eye, but with some faith in our own ability to work through each of the presenting problems, not as an enemy, but as a concerned partner living together on a fragile planet. This can only be achieved through dialogue, and through support for the efforts of the United Nations.

If, in this moment, at the brink of war, we could change course and open the way for enlightenment of the global mind, we could ignite that sense of optimism -- a prerequisite for the world to function successfully.

Editor's Choice Archive 2

For the Children of Iraq

By Patricia Keegan

Oh land of Abraham, and Ur, where Moses rose
Between the Tigris and the Euphrates.
Oh land of Noah’s great flood,
Where once you sank beneath the waters,
And now you call again upon the Sky God,
The Moon God, but it is the God of the Wind
Who carries your voice across the world
To this new land, Where deep inside the hearts of millions
A hallowed voice is heard.
It nags and nags and nags; It says, 'Thou shalt not kill!'

Once the capital of the world for two centuries,
Baghdad looks faded now,
Burdens of weariness etched across her face.
But children come and go and skip along in innocence
To school, to dance, to play,
While mother’s watch and wring their hands in fear.
And mornings come and go and still they rise
To put the coffee on, put on their shoes,
Then warily turn the front doorknob,
An opening to the naked sky.
Yet, still they wait, the moments drag...

Six thousand miles away
Debating voices rise...
Unseen in their chaotic world is the glorious perfection
Of the Iraqi children,
Their newborn skin, their shining eyes,
A tiny hand reaching for a father
To lift them up,
To view the wonders of the world.
For now, they are the fortunate, with precious moments left.
For others, all was lost through deprivation.
Victims of sanctions, 5000 die per month, their Fate
Carelessly tossed aside like random weeds.

And will we send our sons and daughters
To press cold buttons on laser guided bombs
O’er hospitals, schools, factories, bridges and mosques,
And think they will return to us the same?
Their minds, if not their eyes, will forever
Journey backward through the path of destruction,
Seeing bodies strewn in the lingering hell of half-death.
Oh Sky God, Moon God, Wind God, God of Abraham, God of Moses,
And all who have the power to turn the world away from war,
Stop us, Stop us, before we hear the cry:
Forgive them God, they know not what they do.

Editor's Choice Archive 2

America the 'Super Power'

What Does it Really Mean?

By Patricia Keegan

The challenges to President Bush in navigating and negotiating his way through the turmoil in the Middle East, the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, and the volatile stock market, while maintaining the war on terrorism, far surpasses challenges presented to Presidents of recent times.

In light of these unprecedented challenges, we are traversing unknown territory without a blueprint and with no clear answers. Unfortunately, one does not sense any grand vision that might help us believe there is a light at the end of this tunnel. We are told the war on terrorism could go on for generations, but nobody quite knows how, when, or what will be the significant sign that it is over. This is the reality that most of us are beginning to accept, and even the most powerful can’t wave a magic wand to make it go away.

In the meantime, what we could, or should be addressing is somehow withering on the vine. We sense a world out of balance, destabilized, that needs to regain its equilibrium. So what should we do?

In our role of 'super power ' we should come up with solutions that restore that balance, that not only give Americans a light to shine their way out of the doldrums, but that brings light to all corners of the world. Thus, we would be attempting to regain the earth’s balance by constructive means.

The war on terrorism cannot proceed as a single-pronged approach – all military might. It must address a more humanistic regard for our fellow travelers on this planet.

We seem comfortable with our 'super power ' title, despite its reference to a Cold War that ended more than a decade ago. That aged title belongs in the dustbin of history. What is at risk now is the entire living planet. As Americans, in a leadership role, we need to shift from a self-centered, reactionary perspective to a more all encompassing, compassionate viewpoint.

What if we changed our title to 'America: Protector of the Planet ' and broadened our vision to ask ourselves what 'super ' responsibility comes with being the richest and greatest democracy in the world? Yes, it means turning the accepted paradigm upside down to see the world not through the eyes of American power or largesse, but by meaningful, spiritual interaction and respect. It is an awesome challenge to contemplate. It would be a giant step in a new direction. It would give young people an inspirational base to build their dreams upon. It would give idealists, an endangered species, a chance to put their ideas back into operation. We must intercept with a new vision by seeing our world as a family living on a small planet where the roof is about to cave in unless we shore it up.

Let’s move away from the arrogance implied by 'super power. ' Let’s pause awhile to focus on what we, as Americans, have to offer. Why can’t we turn our leadership powers into a full commitment to protect all human life, and into nation building. Why can’t we leave behind old methods of arms as solutions and become 'Protector of the Planet, ' not as policeman of the world, but an equal partner with the world in beholding the intense pain and turmoil and helping in the healing. We must also find the courage and humility to speak out against blatant injustice, the imbalances to which we, Americans, are contributing.

One horrific example was July 22, when an Israeli F-16 fired a missile into a Palestinian Gaza City neighborhood during the night. The one-ton bomb killed at least 11 people and injured over 100, including sleeping children. Both warplane and missile were sold to Israel by the U.S. – to use only for defensive purposes. Many Americans, in full knowledge of the impotency of weapons to solve problems, see this action as only perpetuating the cycle of violence to new levels of insanity. The loss of life on both Israeli and Palestinian sides is tragic, frustrating and humbling.

If we step back and see the world as a small, vulnerable planet, beaten and battered by natural occurrences– – earthquakes, tornadoes, fires out of control, a melting Arctic and more – how can we keep increasing the havoc already wreaked upon it?

If we look at religions, they have been dividing and diminishing us along political lines. They have been falsely separating us from each other, not by major differences in what we believe, but by borders erected to make us believe that beyond the border lies the 'enemy. '  The success of all these imaginary borders has brought us to the current sad state in our history.

If the war on terrorism has brought any benefit at all, it could be that mainstream Americans are being forced to look at the bigger world. How we view that bigger world will make the difference. For people who have traveled, enjoyed some of the world’s extraordinary beauty, who have made friends among different cultures, this transformation will be easy. For those who settle for simplistic, insular thinking, never getting beyond the hyperbole – 'We are the greatest, and what is foreign to us must be feared ' – it will be difficult.

I have long believed there should be a White House role for a visionary/ethical philosopher, one who could help bear the burden that weighs heavily on President Bush. A person deliberately removed from politics with a vision of what is possible, what is positive in today’s world, and what we as individual Americans can do to help bring some light into this period of uncertainty. Someone with a depth of spirituality who can look at the prospect of bombing Iraq and come up with a more creative, humane solution. America is still the country the world looks to in envisioning the future. We have to come up with a fresh, new model for that future.

If we could precipitate a change, a deep and abiding change, from the White House down, or from the grassroots up, one that would engage Americans in transforming America from 'super power ' into 'Protector of the Planet, ' we would begin to feel a difference.

Hope of restoring world balance lies with the majority – individuals and families who want their children to grow up in a more peaceful climate, a more welcoming world. This is the time; instinctively we know it. A moral cleansing is taking place. Across the world, people are exposing corruption in institutions once regarded as stable and irreproachable, peering into their dank corners and demanding accountability. The pillars are being shaken – this is only a beginning. We are being called to action, to make the difference by peacefully bringing about a more nurturing image of America and helping to acknowledge its true spirit as Protector of the Planet.

Editor's Choice Archive 2

Shaking the Sacred Pillars


By Patricia Keegan

There are key points in history when sacred lines are crossed, when the unthinkable happens. In the last century there were two world wars, with all the accompanying atrocities, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These caused irrevocable shifts in the world's balance that has taken over half a century to restore, and the healing continues.

Since the horrendous attacks on September 11, we seem to be sieged with a series of events and revelations that have shaken the civilized world. One current example is watching the Israeli tanks moving into Bethlehem, bringing a violent disturbance to that little town where we believe Christ was born. For the first time since the 4th century, mass cannot be heard in the Church of the Nativity. A sacred place revered throughout the Christian world is now standing in the crossfire of violence. For over two thousand years, this sacred place has been respected. Now a tense world watches, fearing violence will only breed more violence. Some may remember the prescient words of the Christmas hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight

We are also going through a time when two of the world's great religions are being challenged. Islam was hijacked by Osama Bin Laden and used to carry out a mission to destroy America and Americans. Catholicism is being challenged by the terrible betrayal of some of its own messengers.

The distortion of Islam and the use of religion to support political extremism, no matter what denomination, is the blatant exploitation of faith, which, in its strength, exists only between the individual and God. The scrambling to interpret the variations of Islam to the secular world has been confusing for many. However, if, instead of accepting blanket generalities, we open our minds, not just by reading books about Islam, but by reaching out to people of the Islamic religion, we may be surprised with what we find. The majority of Muslims are peace loving, generous in spirit and gentle.

Catholics are experiencing heart wrenching disappointment with the actions of the church hierarchy. The sacred line crossed by the Catholic Church in covering up the perversions of some of its priests has shaken the very foundations of the Church. The most sacred of sacred lines is the treasured trust that exists between a child and an adult, priest or otherwise. It is a gift, blessed and God-given. No greater gift exists in this world!

But once these sacred lines are broken, what happens? For violence in war and the violations of the innocent in any situation, there is no retribution.

We have a choice, we can turn away in disgust or we can become proactive. Religions and their symbols are the pillars that uphold our civilization. The world has been nurtured by them for over two thousand years; we cannot watch them crumble. But we cannot look to them as crutches either.

The challenge now lies ahead. Can we take what we have learned, can we take the inspiration of all our different religions, their message of hope, not what we know intellectually, but what we sense, what we feel, the strength of our faith, its beauty, and begin to build the pillars within. Like the beams of light that have taken the place of the towers of the World Trade Center, can we begin to create beams of light for all to see that signify there is no separation between us and all people of the Universe.

Where religions of the past built cathedrals, synagogues, temples and mosques, let us build beams of light that gently intertwine, leading to more open dialogue between religions and supporting and strengthening those who clearly see that we are all one with the Universe and co-Creators with God.

Editor's Choice Archive 2

Is War Inevitable?

By Patricia Keegan

In Henry Kissinger's book, Does America Need a Foreign Policy?, he sees history as a tragic process in which wars are inevitable. But seeing ourselves as victims of history, controlled by the outcome of war, implies a subjugation of human ideals and our potential for good. Certainly, wars will continue if we allow people of the caliber of Hitler and Milosevic to take control, and if we, the so-called Super Power, set a negative agenda in continuing to be the prime peddler of military weapons around the world. The corporate pursuit of money for arms reflects a lack of good faith in projecting a more hopeful vision for the 21st century. If this immoral, negative outlook continues, it will likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Given this lack of vision among our leaders, coupled with aggressive arms selling throughout the developing world, isn't it time we, the people, took responsibility in setting our own vision? Observing the greatness of the human potential for good in our daily experience, aren't we encouraged by all that is miraculous and beautiful, beginning with the innocence and trust of our own children? Those who depend on us to protect and sustain them cannot be continuously disappointed. Many teenagers live in a society today where little is cherished. Without goals, ideals or dreams, many are reluctantly swept into the maelstrom of mediocrity.

To cynics, I say everything is possible. There was a time in our society when slavery was thought to be with us forever. Its demise began when voices of the people rose above prevailing opinion. Now the very thought of slavery is abhorrent to the civilized world. When will the idea of using weapons to resolve conflicts become abhorrent enough to be considered obsolete, a relic from a primitive past?

From my experiences in traveling the world, I firmly believe that the vast majority of people are good. Our differences are only superficial. This common, basic goodness, so often underestimated, should become the driving force for change.

Dresden is an inspiration. A microcosm of the immense devastation of the last 'great' war, the next generation of survivors of the allied fire bombing of 1945, are quietly rebuilding its former Baroque glory. Its museums, architecture, music and profound resilience of spirit serve as a living tribute to the highest potential of human aspiration.

If we work together on a vision of a world without war, if we foresee a day when weapons of mass destruction are deemed uncivilized and obsolete, if we believe more love then hate exists in the world, then this energy can be harnessed in creating a better world. Only then will all our learning and all our wealth have some meaning; otherwise it is merely recycled sadness. We want something better than that. We can make it happen by giving voice to our vision.