Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Maya


Maya was having a hard time remembering how to climb up the bookshelf to the loft today.

As soon as I started trying to take her picture, she remembered.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Leaving Two Circles for a Larger One

I just love this photograph. Its from the International Theater of the Oppressed website. I love the pairs of circular bicycle wheels left on the side to join a larger communal circle. This is what art is all about.
Hourah!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Theater in Action

The best workshop that I went to last week was Friday's theater workshop. I have been to a great many workshops that have specifically used theater of the oppressed techniques. This was the one that gave me the most skills to actually apply it. Thank you Tim and Marc!

I am itching to use what I learned now. I know this stuff works and am looking forward to using it this year. This photograph is of a project in Kenya called Magnet Theater. Check it out.


Through art, we can change the world.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I'm Home!

I am so happy to be home.

Maya was in the driveway when I pulled in, waiting. This is usually where I see her when I come home even from a short trip to the grocery store. I sometimes wonder if she does much of anything except sit in the driveway and wait.

It was so nice to be in my own house with my own bathroom, my own kitchen, my own computer, and most of all my own bed. I just curled up in the fetal position on my love seat as I like to do in the summer and relaxed.

Eventually, Maya joined me. She does this thing where she looks up at me with her large yellow green eyes, then she'll jump up onto the bed/loveseat sit upright and suddenly fall curl into position along side of me.

She stayed with me most of the night. I don't even think she wanted to go out in the middle of the night like she usually does, but I may just not remember. Perhaps I carried on the routine sleepwalking.

She was there this morning when I finally woke up. I missed yoga to continue cuddling with and petting her. She has such soft and shiny black hair and thankfully does not mind attention.

It is really nice to be home.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Sky Burial

I just finished reading a powerful book, Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet by Xinran.

Wow. I rarely read a book from start to finish in one day anymore. And I sure did cry. This is a true story. This is how Shu Wen spent her life. I am in awe that she could go into the unknown of Tibet in the late 50's searching for her husband for over 30 years. Margaret's wandering spirit definitely wants to put Tibet on my long term list of destinations (Once I decide where I am going next of course.)

This is a book you can devote a day to and feel that you could not have spent it more productively.

Om mani padme hum.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Oh, Where am I Traveling to?

The other major themed thought that is whirling around in my mind is my vacation. For almost a year now, I have been planning to go to Lebanon this September. Obviously, this trip was cancelled and a "fact finding mission" may be organized. What is hard for me is that I have no idea when this is going to happen and I could really use a break from work. While I understand that it is hard to predict when a political climate will be safe for a trip, because I have limited vacation days and keep a pretty packed schedule at work, I would like to have some idea.

And so my mind wanders. Should I make sure to keep enough vacation days so that I can take a trip to Lebanon at a moment's notice with Global Exchange or should I plan another trip?

If I plan another trip, my mind goes hog wild.

I could still go to Lebanon despite the uncertain ceasefire and help clean up the environmental mess. But I have no connections and would have to find them.
















If I still want to travel and be reminded of the resilience of the human spirit and our perpetual struggle for peace, I could go to Palestine instead. A side of me has been telling myself that this demostrates a lack of focus on my part. But the truth is, that I have also always wanted to go to Palestine. The American Friends Service Committee is organizing an Olive Tree Harvest Delegation that is particularly appealing.


Or, I could stay closer to home, take some of the Power of Hope workshops that I have been thinking about and do some traveling around the Olympic Peninsula before it gets too cold.

No worry, I am full of ideas. I could also perhaps find time to visit my friends Goyo and Deborah in Portland and then drive to see the Oregon coast.

Oh woe is me. Some people don't even have homes to go to right now and I am trying to decide on my perfect vacation spot.

I have no answer at this point.

(I have been trying to upload the images of each travel idea but again am having difficulties. I will try to put them in a new post.)

Exhausted

I'm in a mood this evening. It's Friday and it has been a productive week at work. We've spent the week working with a few youth in a juvenile detention center. Today we drew advertisements for our peers around excuses people use to not use condoms and what to say in response. I thought the youths' responses were very creative and demonstrated that they were really thinking. I left feeling that we were making a small positive difference in the lives of these youth and of many others as well. I know we are; and as director, I have alot of control on how we do this. But outside of my little department, I have no control and I like to try and fix everything. It's frustrating when I can't. I expend so much energy at work on what I cannot fix that I come home exhausted.

I come home exhausted, and often fall asleep for an hour. It helps me move from my work space to my personal one. I get so exhausted from work that I do not always socialize that much in my free time. I expend so much energy that I need to just spend time by myself or with a few select friends on the weekend. Occasionally, I begin to feel that I am too reclusive. I'm feeling a bit like that right now. "Why didn't you plan something for the weekend?" I berate myself.

I shouldn't give myself such a rough time. There's a female vocalist performing at my favorite coffee shop tomorrow and I can go to that if I am up to it. I need to be careful though because I have to travel again on Sunday to another weeklong conference for work. Some of the workshops look very energy building and we are encouraged to dress casual and relax while at the conference. Plus, I'll get to socialize with my colleagues who are some of the most creative and supportive people that I have ever met.

I know that I will come home on Friday though, and fall asleep exhausted on the loveseat curled up with Maya. I will then once again be reclusive for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fiddling with my Look

What do you think of the black background? I was getting a little sick of the white that I had and so I copied and pasted this background and color scheme. I was toying with the possibility of a mustard, but for the time being this will do.



I was also trying to get an image in my banner like Mother Rising but to no avail. I thought the above water image might work. Unfortunately, I just get a white box with a red x in it. I was even having trouble uploading the image any bigger than it is now in this post. Saber what my problem is!

My shoulder aches and I want to read for awhile. I give up for the evening.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Now is the Time to Open your Heart

I've been reading Now is the Time to Open Your Heart by Alice Walker for the last few days. There was one chapter (pp. 77-78) in particular that grabbed my attention:

FIRST OF ALL, ABANDON ANY NOTION THAT ANYTHING you humans do will ultimately destroy me. That is because I am your mother. It is impossible to kill one's mother. You may shoot her a hundred times, but alas, she has already given birth to you. She is yours forever. What you are destroying is your own happiness. Your comfort, which I put so much playful effort into creating. Your peace of mind. Your joy.


. . .

The biggest problem is thinking the fate of the world rests on you. It does, and it doesn't. The "saving" of the planet, as you humans think of it, can be done really easily. All that is required is that everyone becomes as one mind. . .Then there are the languages people have which have become a completely unnecessary division. There is no need to talk, really. It is something humans started a long time ago-- I don't even remember why-- and they've clung to it. Clinging to speech they've lost the ability to read one another, to feel one another, to know one another at a glance. Or with a sniff. It is entirely within human capability to do this.

When you witness the various peace talks that occur on a daily basis somewhere on earth and you see how far everyone is from peace, and how they get no nearer the longer they talk, well, this gives an indication of the problem.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Step 1: Lebanon, Step 2: Iran

Thanks to my friends Argyle and Glen, I came upon the unfortunate news that the U.S. knew that Israel was planning to attack Lebanon before Hizbullah even kidnapped the Israeli soldiers. Israel was just waiting for the right opportunity.

In the 8/21/06 issue of "The New Yorker," Seymour Hersh writes that:

The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preĆ«mptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.

....“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said.

A cheap war with many benefits.
A cheap war with many benefits.
A cheap war with many benefits.
What is there to say in response to that?

. . .Earlier this summer, before the Hezbollah kidnappings, the U.S. government consultant said, several Israeli officials visited Washington, separately, “to get a green light for the bombing operation and to find out how much the United States would bear.”

. . .A former intelligence officer said, “We told Israel, ‘Look, if you guys have to go, we’re behind you all the way. But we think it should be sooner rather than later—the longer you wait, the less time we have to evaluate and plan for Iran before Bush gets out of office.’ ”

Watch out world, it appears that Iran is next on the the Ultimate Destruction team's "War on Terror."

Monday, August 14, 2006

So Far, the Ceasefire is Holding

So far, the ceasefire is holding. At least for the Lebanese that is. What about the Palestinians? Out of sight, out of mind. There isn't much about their fate in the news these days. It's old news.

But I am happy that people in Lebanon are hopefully having a good night sleep after innocent people have been killed and their cities and coast have been destroyed.

I hope you are having sweet dreams, Lebanon.

Goodnight.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hoping for a Ceasefire



I really like littlepaperboat's images. I am hoping that by tomorrow morning when I wake up that there will actually be a ceasefire in Lebanon.

There is a slight amount of doubt in my tone that I am trying to ignore. I don't want any slight bit of cynicism that I have to negatively effect a ceasefire. I want to think hopeful thoughts.

Not that I don't think people in Lebanon deserve it, of course I do. I just know that I do not trust Israel and because my government never disagrees with Israel, I do not trust my government either.

I did not read every stipulation of the ceasefire. What I have understood from my listening and reading is that Israel can still act defensively even after the ceasefire. Considering the fact that the perception of the mainstream U.S. media (NPR and the New York Times) and the opinion of the U.S. Government is that Israel has been acting defensively since July 12th, I am rather pessimistic.

I shouldn't be thinking this way. I should fill my thoughts with hope.

In the mean time, Israel has been moving further into Lebanon and doing some of the worst damge it has done this entire month. Surprising? No. Both sides have to show that they were winners, both Israel and Hizbullah. Such insanity. Both lost. And there is Lebanon, the battlefield in someone else's ping pong game. There are no winners in war.

Hopefully, I will wake up tomorrow morning and there will be a ceasefire. Let's hope.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hourah for Crying Leaders!

I have a case of insomnia tonight.

And so, I started checking out blogs. Rena wrote of Prime Minister Siniora's tears.

My response:

As far as I am concerned, crying shows humanity and empathy. I have more respect for people, especially politicians who can cry. To the majority of politicians of my country, people who die and suffer in war are no more than necessary casualties in the name of a "New Middle East." If more politicians could cry, maybe they would stop justifying war upon war, upon war,...

For a political analysis of what else Siniora said on Monday, check out Abu Kais' blog.

I am just happy Siniora can cry. I wish more leaders could cry. I don't understand why so many people in positions of leadership believe that they can't share their feelings with people "below them."

In my opinion, we need to embrace our humanity if human beings are going to live peacefully together and with Mother Earth.

Some people brush me off as a hopeless idealist who does not believe in hierarchies. I know otherwise.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Believing in the Power of Art

While believing in the power of art, I am uploading some images and art reflections that have impacted me the last few weeks. For some reason, I had not been able to upload them earlier.


This is an image from littlepaperboat's journal.





" Lost Dog" and "Last Night was Probably the Most Frightful" are responses on the streets of New York to Zena's blog.



Check this out, a sticker left on an ATM in London. Others left on the streets of New York.

My Epiphany

I had a small epiphany last night.

I've been beating my head against a figurative concrete wall trying to feel and be empathetic towards what is happening in Lebanon. If I could by shear will and passion, there would be a cease-fire by tomorrow that is equitable and fair and is not unduly tilted in favor of Israel.

But no matter how many articles I read, I can't single-handedly create a cease-fire. Yes, I will continue to be vocal and to take advantage of moments to educate and to give support to those who are putting their all into a fair and peaceful world for Lebanese, Palestinians and for the world as a whole.

But what I have barely been doing these last few weeks is nurturing my soul. I have said that it is a luxury but the truth is, people burn out caring if they don't.

I do have a gift. It's my passion, my creativity, my faith that art and the people that make it can change the world. I am not necessarily talking about the art that you find in galleries, even though I can definitely appreciate that. I am talking about grassroots art, guerilla art- the art that is found on street corners, that allows two strangers to share smiles, the art that causes an incomparable flame of inspiration in people including youth.

I have spent a lifetime being saved by art. Recently its theater, thematic visual projects with teens, and in my spare time, words.

My trip to Lebanon is not happening in September. I am finally resigned to that. And I will keep my name on the list to go on a Global Exchange fact finding mission when the time occurs.

In the mean time, I am going to take advantage of this beautiful part of the United States of America that I live in. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful and I have been around. Not only is there incomparable natural beauty but the people live and work in ways that make sense to me.

I am going to climb mountains, and when I get to the top, I am going to scream: "Let there be peace!"

I am going to rediscover art and theater, including Theater of the Oppressed, and Power of Hope. I know art works. I have seen it. I will continue to touch the lives of the youth I work with. I will continue to inspire as many people as I can that enter my path. And one day, I will be able to again go to countries like Lebanon and share the gift of art.

It is listening to our hearts that we will find peace. Art is the vehicle that I can use to inspire it.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

From Beirut with Love

Rena's blog, From Beirut with Love, is worth reading. If you still don't know what it is like to live through war, she'll describe it for you. And if you need to get a sense of the generosity, strength and humanity of the Lebanese people, she can provide you with that too.

I still haven't gotten to those letters I said I would write. My plan is to at least write some of them by the end of this weekend. Who cares if the letters aren't the tipping point. Too many people do not act because they think that they won't make a difference. Just by refusing to be numb, you are making a difference.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Paranoia? Luck? Or a Wake Up Call?

I took the day off from work today. I was dozing on the couch when I heard firetruck horns and sirens wizzing by. The firestation is just up the hill and the trucks usually cross the bridge a few houses over and above mine when they are heading north.

All of a sudden I had a thought: My office is north of here.

Our security manager and I had just had a discussion about all of our near death experiences including the fact that I was away at a training and not on a subway car underneath the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

I started calling my co-workers but only got answering machines.

Was I being paranoid? Was it just that I was spending too much time reading about what is happening in Lebanon? Or had all of the red and orange alerts designed to keep americans afraid finally gotten to me?

No, it was entirely possible that my office had been bombed or in flames.

Luckily, I finally got in touch with one of my coworkers who assured me that she was in the parking lot and no, the building was not in flames.

I was lucky. Others aren't so lucky.

For instance, Zena's account today wasn't.

Should americans be able to brush the sweat off their forehead and be thankful for their luck? Or will the fact that it is our weapons, military technology, including radar escaping airplanes, that are killing Lebanese and Palestinians finally have an effect on us? When will we wake up?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

HRW Report: Israel's Attacks on Civilians not Accidents

I copied and pasted this directly from Abu Kais' blog.

Human Rights Watch issued today a new 50-page report analyzing almost two dozen cases of Israeli air and artillery attacks on civilian homes and vehicles in Lebanon. The main conclusions are:
(i) that Israeli forces have systematically failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians in their military campaign against Hizbullah in Lebanon
(ii) the pattern of attacks in more than 20 cases investigated by Human Rights Watch researchers in Lebanon indicates that the failures cannot be dismissed as mere accidents and cannot be blamed on wrongful Hizbullah practices.

The report goes on to conclude that some of these attacks constitute war crimes.
Here is a summary of the report.

(Beirut, August 3, 2006) – Israeli forces have systematically failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians in their military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The pattern of attacks in more than 20 cases investigated by Human Rights Watch researchers in Lebanon indicates that the failures cannot be dismissed as mere accidents and cannot be blamed on wrongful Hezbollah practices. In some cases, these attacks constitute war crimes.

The 50-page report, “Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon,” analyzes almost two dozen cases of Israeli air and artillery attacks on civilian homes and vehicles. Of the 153 dead civilians named in the report, 63 are children. More than 500 people have been killed in Lebanon by Israeli fire since fighting began on July 12, most of them civilians.

“The pattern of attacks shows the Israeli military’s disturbing disregard for the lives of Lebanese civilians,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Our research shows that Israel’s claim that Hezbollah fighters are hiding among civilians does not explain, let alone justify, Israel’s indiscriminate warfare.”

The report is based on extensive interviews with victims and witnesses of attacks, visits to some blast sites, and information obtained from hospitals, humanitarian groups, security forces and government agencies. Human Rights Watch also conducted research in Israel, assessing the weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Human Rights Watch researchers found numerous cases in which the IDF launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military objectives but excessive civilian cost. In many cases, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some instances, Israeli forces appear to have deliberately targeted civilians.

In one case, an Israeli air strike on July 13 destroyed the home of a cleric known to have sympathy for Hezbollah but who was not known to have taken any active part in the hostilities. Even if the IDF considered him a legitimate target (and Human Rights Watch has no evidence that he was), the strike killed him, his wife, their 10 children and the family’s Sri Lankan maid.

On July 16, an Israeli aircraft fired on a civilian home in the village of Aitaroun, killing 11 members of the al-Akhrass family, among them seven Canadian-Lebanese dual nationals who were vacationing in the village when the war began. Human Rights Watch independently interviewed three villagers who vigorously denied that the family had any connection to Hezbollah. Among the victims were children aged one, three, five and seven.

The Israeli government has blamed Hezbollah for the high civilian casualty toll in Lebanon, insisting that Hezbollah fighters have hidden themselves and their weapons among the civilian population. However, in none of the cases of civilian deaths documented in the report is there evidence to suggest that Hezbollah was operating in or around the area during or prior to the attack.

“Hezbollah fighters must not hide behind civilians – that’s an absolute – but the image that Israel has promoted of such shielding as the cause of so high a civilian death toll is wrong,” Roth said. “In the many cases of civilian deaths examined by Human Rights Watch, the location of Hezbollah troops and arms had nothing to do with the deaths because there was no Hezbollah around.”

Statements from Israeli government officials and military leaders suggest that, at the very least, the IDF has blurred the distinction between civilians and combatants, arguing that only people associated with Hezbollah remain in southern Lebanon, so all are legitimate targets of attack. Under international law, however, only civilians directly participating in hostilities lose their immunity from attack. Many civilians have been unable to flee because they are sick, wounded, do not have the means to leave or are providing essential civil services.

Many civilians are afraid to leave the south because the roads are under Israeli attack. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have fled their homes, but Israeli forces have fired with warplanes and artillery on dozens of civilian vehicles, many flying white flags. Israel has justified its attacks on roads by citing the need to target Hezbollah fighters moving arms and block their transport routes.

However, none of the evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch or reported to date by independent media sources indicate that any of the attacks on vehicles documented in the report resulted in Hezbollah casualties or the destruction of weapons. Rather, the attacks have killed and wounded civilians who were fleeing their homes after the IDF issued instructions to evacuate.

“Israeli warnings of imminent attacks do not turn civilians into military targets,” said Roth. “Otherwise, Palestinian militant groups might ‘warn’ Israeli settlers to leave their settlements and then feel justified in attacking those who remained.”

Human Rights Watch urges Israel to immediately end indiscriminate attacks and distinguish at all times between civilians and combatants. Human Rights Watch also calls on the United States to immediately suspend transfers of arms, ammunition, and other materiel credibly alleged to have been used in violation of international humanitarian law in Lebanon, until these violations cease. Human Rights Watch further asks the Secretary-General of the United Nations to establish an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate reports of such violations, including possible war crimes, and to formulate recommendations with a view to holding accountable those who violated the law. That commission should examine both Israeli attacks in Lebanon and Hezbollah attacks in Israel.


In previous reporting, Human Rights Watch has addressed the conduct of Hezbollah forces, condemning its attacks on civilian areas as serious violations of international humanitarian law amounting to war crimes. Human Rights Watch has called on the governments of Syria and Iran to use their influence on Hezbollah to promote respect for the laws of war. In this report, it urges Hezbollah to take all feasible steps to avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas and to remove civilian persons and objects under its control from the vicinity of military objectives.


Who is Responsible for the Fading Childhood?

A co-worker sent me this today.

Adam Yaghi is a graduate student and a Fulbright scholar from Palestine studying English at the University of Idaho

Who is Responsible for the Fading Childhood?

This morning, my mind was perplexed by questions addressed to me. I called my family back in the Gaza Strip, and when I asked to chat with my youngest sister's son, he shocked my mind and made me think and write these words; maybe you can answer his questions. He asked me, "Am I without electricity here in the U.S.A? Do I see funeral marches in the streets where I live in Moscow? Do I hear F16s howling like hungry stray dogs day and night? Do I escape bombs and seek shelters where none is found? Do I behold and join, like him, crowds heading towards the burial ground?" These are some of the questions that a 9 years old boy struggles to answer.

He was not afraid when a bomb hit the ground few meters from his house. He became accustomed to them. He felt proud when hespoke about himself fearlessly trying to ease and lull his three-year old sister when the night crept and the ghosts of death struck forcefully--even the dead were not exempted of their brutal assaults. He spoke like a fully grown man. Not only him, but also his sister expressed the same feeling.

Meanwhile I sensed fear occupying the soul of my mother, and heard it in her voice. "What a difference!" I said to myself. "What makes this child fearless and defiant of death?" I asked myself.

For sure it is the systematic brutality of the Israeli occupation, its organized destruction of civilian infrastructure such as schools, holy places, universities, public markets, private transportation, electricity plants, water resources-- it is the deliberate policy of imposing fear and robbing the people of hope that peace might come one day, that life is so precious and death is so ugly; that tomorrow will be a brighter day. It is war. Yes, the horrors of war made this child think in this way. The man inside him has been stimulated for more than five years and urged to grow up quickly. His childhood has been lost like tens of thousands of other Palestinian and Lebanese children who experience and meet with death in every corner and street they cross through. Is it their destiny to carry the seeds of manhood or martyrdom? Who is guilty of this? The occupied or the occupier?

In war, there are no victors-only survivors who will live abnormal lives suffering the traumatic symptoms of war and its horrors. This is my answer to those who think that war will bring peace and victory. Children of Palestine, Lebanon, Israel and children everywhere would love to have a normal life and enjoy the blessings granted to us by the creator. We are made of one man despite the differences in skin color but we have failed through history to live according to this fact. Some would think that they are elected, selected and chosen-by whom? I have no idea!

It is the role of intellectual societies to raise public awareness and stimulate the sleepy minds of millions to think for asecond and meditate about what life we might have if children in this world started to lose their sense of childhood, and become fully grown adults at an early age.

What preciousness will we lose if we continue to destroy those children and million others in this universe is the question that I urge you to think about before it is too late. Imagine that you have kids and they are in Palestine or Lebanon facing what that kid faces! Imagine that you are a dad or a mom with one or two kids. What will you do to make them safe?

You are not in the holy land but you can make a difference because you have a conscious mind and you should be fully aware that you have the right and the power to bring peace for children of the world.

Say NO to WAR.

Adam Yaghi The University of Idaho July 27, 2006

Good Morning

I wake up every morning and run to the radio to listen to the news. Everytime I do this I am hoping that I will hear that there is a cease-fire in Lebanon. No, it hasn't happened yet but one of these days I will wake up to a cease-fire. I wish it was today or tomorrow not years from now.

Everytime I hear or read that a cease-fire will only return Lebanon to the "status-quo," I am disgusted. Does that mean that all the people that have been killed, all the homes that have been destroyed, all the families that have fled the country, all the beaches that have been destroyed, all the depleted uranium in the air and soil will be rewound back to July 11, 2006 as in a Hollywood movie?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Inspirational Human Creativity in All of This

Those who know me are aware that it is human creativity that gives me hope and enthusiasm in a world where humans impose so much suffering, pain, horror, trauma, death, and discrimination in no particular order onto other humans and onto our dear earth.

Zena's blog at Beirut Update is an example of this human creativity. She is an artist who is in Beirut right now, living through the daily Israeli attacks. From what I am understanding, her blog is her creative outlet along with her daily survival, her contact with family and friends, and her care about her country's coastline.

This is real. And you should be aware of her world. I know, I have vowed never to use the word "should" but quite frankly, I am pissed and frustrated that we humans can allow all this violence against other human beings in Lebanon as well as elsewhere. If enough of us stood up and shouted, we could change things.

Yes, we could.

I wrote Zena a short comment:

Thanks for your blog, Zena.

It is hard for me to be so far away from the country I grew up in while all of this is happening. I was planning to finally return for a visit this September. All I can do is send e-mails with articles to friends, post on my blog, and write letters. I will probably do Women in Black this Friday as well.

I know you do not want to be political on this blog, but I want to do something to help no matter how futile it might be. A combination of reading, letters, donations, and just plain feeling is all I can do from here.

For me, it is politics that caused this and I must use what I know about expressing my opinions within the confines of the political structure (no matter how futile it may seem) to try to stop it.

I admire the various ways you are remaining sane these days through your concern for Lebanon's coastline, your sister's work, your writing, your contact with family and friends. . .

Please know that my thoughts are with you.

How is your friend Maya by the way?

Margaret

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Letters

I am putting this in print so that there is some accountability and I actually do it. By the end of the week I want to write the following letters:

Letters of Disappointment

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell
U.S. Senator Patty Murray

Letters of Futility

U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris
Not my President George Bush
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert

Letters of Support

Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora
U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich
U.S. Representative Barbara Lee

A New Middle East, or Rice's Fantasy Ride?

I received this article in an e-mail. It makes alot of sense.

The references to alcoholism made me think of an article by Katherine Van Wormer, a professor of Social Work at the University of Northern Iowa, that was published in
Counterpunch right after the U.S. invaded Iraq for the second time in 2002.

The Bush Administration is definitely ignoring talking to the key players. Even Thomas Friedman of the New York Times criticised the Bush for this. But then again, if Bush wants regime change in Syria and Iran this is the perfect way to villify them just as 9/11 in some screwed up logic became the perfect way to justify invading Afghanistan and later Iraq.

And all the Lebanese government could do was to tell Condoleezza Rice that she was no longer welcome in Lebanon. One of my friends reminded me that this small act of defiance barely made the mainstream U.S. press.

I'm numb. How can a cease-fire and the saving of human life ever be premature?

A New Middle East, or Rice's Fantasy Ride?
Rami G. Khouri
Monday, July 24, 2006
The Daily Star

American officials are very good at vernacular descriptions, but lousy at history and political reality in the Middle East. As US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sets off Sunday on her short trip to a Middle East that is increasingly engulfed in violent confrontations and political turmoil, she has described the massive destruction, dislocation and human suffering in Lebanon as an inevitable part of the "birth pangs of a new Middle East."

From my perspective here in Beirut, watching American-supplied Israeli jets smash this country to smithereens, what she describes as "birth pangs" look much more like a wicked hangover from a decades-old American orgy of diplomatic intoxication with the enticements of pro-Israeli politics.

We shall find out in the coming years if indeed a new Middle Easy is being born, or - as I suspect - we are witnessing the initial dying gasps of the Western-made political order that has defined this region and focused primarily on Israeli national dictates for most of the past half-century. The way to a truly new and stable Middle East is to apply policies that deliver equal rights to all concerned, not to favor Israel as having greater rights than Arabs.

Rice declared that Israel should ignore calls for a cease-fire, saying: "This is a different Middle East. It's a new Middle East. It's hard, We're going through a very violent time."

Behind the American position to support Israel's massive attacks against Lebanon's civilian infrastructure and Hizbullah positions is a sense - widely reported from Washington in recent days - that the Bush-Rice team wants to use this conflict to achieve short-term tactical aims and long-term strategic goals that serve the interests of America, Israel and their few allies in the region.

Short-term, the US would like Israel to wipe out Hizbullah, allow the Lebanese government to send its troops to the South of the country, ensure the safety of northern Israel, cut Syria's influence down to size, and apply greater pressure on Hizbullah supporter Iran. The US opposes a cease-fire, therefore, because, "a cease-fire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo," Rice said.

This diplomatic position to support Israel's attacks on Lebanon, coupled with rushing sophisticated precision-guided bombs to Israel from the US arsenal, indicates that Washington seriously aims to fundamentally redraw the political and ideological map of the Middle East in the longer term. If this means yet another Arab land goes up in flames and war, so be it, Washington seems to be saying. So we now have three Arab countries where American policies and arms have played a major role in promoting chaos, disintegration and mass death and suffering: Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. You can watch them burn, live on your television sets.

Ironically, these were the three countries that Bush-Rice & Co. have held up as models and pioneers of the American policy to promote freedom and democracy as antidotes to Arab despotism and terrorism.

Washington's desire to change the face of the Arab world requires removing the last vestiges of anti-American defiance and anti-Israel resistance. The problem for Bush-Rice is that such sentiments probably comprise a majority of Arab people. Most of them flock to Islamist parties and resistance groups like Hamas, Hizbullah, the Muslim Brotherhood and assorted Shiite groups in the Iraqi government.

Syria and Iran are the most problematic governments for Washington in this respect. So there is further irony and much incoherence in the latest American official desire for Arab governments to pressure Syria to reduce its support for Hizbullah and other groups who defy the US and Israel. The numbing fact that Bush-Rice fail to acknowledge - perhaps understandably, given the alcoholic's tendency to evade reality - is that Washington now can only speak to a few Arab governments (in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere) who are in almost no position to impact on anyone other than their immediate families and many guards.

Washington is engaged almost exclusively with Arab governments whose influence with Syria is virtually nonexistent, whose credibility with Arab public opinion is zero, whose own legitimacy at home is increasingly challenged, and whose pro-US policies tend to promote the growth of those militant Islamist movements that now lead the battle against American and Israeli policies. Is Rice traveling to a new Middle East, or to a diplomatic Disneyland of her own imagination?

If Rice pursues contacts in the coming five days that increase Washington's bias toward Israel, tighten its links with isolated, increasingly impotent Arab governments, and further alienate the masses of Arab public opinion, she will exacerbate the very problem she claims she wants to fix: the spread of violence and terror, practiced simultaneously by the armies of states like the US and Israel, by police-state governments in the Middle East who live by violence as a rule, and by non-state actors like Hizbullah and others like it.

On her long flight from Washington to Palestine-Israel Sunday night, someone should give Condoleezza Rice a modern history book of the Middle East, so that she can cut through the haze of her long political drunken stupor, and finally see more clearly from where the problems of this region emanate, where the solutions come from, and how her country can become a constructive rather than a destructive force.