Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace a Chance"



I find myself hearing echoes of a plaintive cry, a pleading chant so achingly innocent. The simple words were sung over and over again at peace rallies against the Vietnam War, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” It seems in retrospect that perhaps the words were sung primarily in the earlier years of the war, before the horror sunk in of how deep we were in the “Big Muddy,” as Pete Seeger sang of the churning vortex. Perhaps it was before it became so clear that the American war machine was chewing up our young and spitting out the pieces of a generation. Perhaps it was before the fiery dragon spewing Napalm flames devoured so many Vietnamese, those who were never included in the nightly body counts. Much as in the way of another dragon called Puff, that which is innocent and good is also eternal, however masked or maligned, continuing to speak its own quiet truth.

I keep hearing the old words, singing them alone, at times with tears, stunned to hear them on the lips of an American president, yearning for the multitudes to gather and raise their voices together. I hear the truth of a song’s simple innocence, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” I heard that truth as I read the weekly Torah portion, Parashat Mattot-Massei (Numb. 30:2-36:13), and I hear it amidst the cacophony of voices that would drown out glimmers of hope as the Big Muddy rises. All is connected when John Kerry tells of learning the horror of war in Vietnam, of the urgency to prevent war carried since then, when all we were saying was “give peace a chance.”

The choice is ever before us, whether to give peace a chance, to take realistic steps to allow for its possibility, or to rely on old ways of power and might that become the only way, insuring more of the same. It is the question that pulsates in Parashat Mattot-Massei, what will we do to make change, to shift the momentum and the paradigm? Torah is the context in which we wrestle, facing the challenge of violence and of hope desperate to rise, asking ourselves what else might have been the response then, realizing in a flash of honest encounter that the question is not of then, but of now, not of Moses, but of us.

This week’s portion is one of those for which Abraham Joshua Heschel gave us a way of calling and containing, one of the “harsh passages.” It is brutal and bloody. The Israelites wage war against Midian, massacring men, women, and children. Forced to look at its horror in the holy text, challenging us not to avert our eyes to the same horror in our worldly context, war itself is the ultimate reflection of human failure. For all that Midian might have done or wanted to do to undermine and eradicate Israel, there are those who explain it simply as war, the lives of men, women, and children not withstanding!

But it didn’t have to happen; it doesn’t have to happen. There were enough threads of human connection to weave together in this portion, threads that in their weaving might have offered a new way, that still can. Moses fled to Midian to escape the wrath of Pharaoh. There he found his calling, encountering God at the burning bush while tending the flock of his beloved father-in-law, Yitro, a Midianite priest. Moses married Yitro’s daughter, Tzipora, mother of their children, Gershom and Eliezer, children of Israel and of Midian. In a remarkable Jewish ethical/Musar work, whose title is its own teaching, Chochmat Ha’Matzpun/the Wisdom of Conscience, we are told that after ordering the battle, Moses himself stood back, perhaps as though stunned, horrified, v’eyno yotzei la’milchama/and did not go out to battle. Asking why, the Musar teacher draws on ancient midrash to underscore Moses’ deep connection with Midian, underscoring in its own way all human connection, for it is not in the way of justice to cause pain to those who had done good for him for he had been raised in Midian (Sefer Chochmat Ha’Matzpun, vol. 3, p. 238).
Moses failed to weave together the threads of human connection, but we can. Offering context in which to engage with the timeless trials of human life, the Torah cries from its essence for us to meet the challenges of our own time, challenges reflected in its own ancient mirror that cry out for a new way of response. A new way has been offered today, without which an unthinkable path to war is far more likely. Threads of human connection wait to be woven. No longer of innocence, but from a place of clarity and vision, a timeless truth, a truth of Torah waiting to be sung, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

Rabbi Victor H. Reinstein

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ten Illusions about Inequality and Peace


Our ten illusions about inequality and peace.
Yesterday I realized that we humans do not focus well on the goals of life. We still have a long journey to go, when it comes to "Artham," the way of power and wealth.
I think the Eastern view that life is an illusion is more attached to living reality and our nature.
We cannot define the accumulation of wealth on earth as bad, though as we all know, everything stays when we die.
First illusion: Moral: All that remains of what we saved after death is exactly what we work for in vain.
When we are rich, we have to build a fence because of fear that someone will remove what surely we have in excess, what is left after our needs.
Second illusion: Why do we fear losing what is left, if what is left is excess?
Third illusion: We've never seen a millionaire lose his fear even after building a very high fence. I knew a great millionaire in Monterrey that slept with a guard outside his room, despite the fact his home had a wall three meters high and electrified.
Perhaps fear is directly proportional to the size of the fence?
Money creates the accumulation of wealth and power and this power makes one build bigger and higher walls to protect the wealth. This fence is called laws and punishments.
Fourth illusion: Artificially, this power and wealth creates the right to private property, which is a universal and positive law, but we forget that others have the right to meet their needs also, and this is above the right to accumulate. Others also have ambitions that may be legitimate or not legitimate and that although the punitive law does not eliminate the rights of others to survive, or diminish ambitions.
We forget that even the most interesting story of wealth accumulation depended on the work of others, because nobody can get rich alone. If you build a team, for sure the output will have to be divided equally.
Fifth illusion: Any sensible thinker would say that if the rich accumulated his wealth by the work of others and they were not compensated equally, only then he is exploiting; In a forest of trees, if only we take and we do not give back the same of what we cut , we call that exploitation and nature eventually will pass an invoice for sure. Nobody has the right to exploit anyone and if you do, wait for nature to compensate. This is inevitable. I see that exploitation always smells like blood.
In the world, rich people created plutocratic states, and these states form armies to protect the wealth of the millionaires who control the country.
Sixth illusion: Let us realize that in order to sustain the interest of these plutocratic nations we will have to sacrifice young people for the sake of homeland defense, when it only defends the interests of powerful minorities. Maybe you can maybe justify homeland defense, but you can not justify the defense of the interests of the country abroad. It is only the illusion of patriotic unity. The children of the rich almost never die in war. The poor boys are the only ones who are killed as they have less to lose.
We can accept that perhaps we deserve more if we work more and if we don’t work we might not deserve anything. Actually it is not that way, as the time rates for working are not the same for everyone.
Eighth illusion: In our society we value mason workers and the civil engineers on a construction site differently. Aren't both as important? What is true is that a Mason has a lower life expectancy than a civil engineer? I have never seen an engineer laying bricks on a wall or a mason worker calculating a structure. Is it true that both are needed equally? Inequality in pay rates causes the problem of envy and injustice. "Equal pay for equal work, with the same rate if the effort is the same" We could perhaps accept a near "double" rate for the engineer, but never absurd multiples for the capitalist, a big differential in today’s world.
We can define justice as to satisfy what everyone needs and how much effort you provide to others. So why this abysmal inequality?
 Ninth illusion: By observing social inequality we may think that this will bring Peace and Justice, then we are living the greatest illusion, because this will not happen despite the laws.
Tenth illusion: If we believe that human beings are like that, and we are satisfied with it, then we can only expect that the world will not change, because to believe otherwise would be an illusion; to expect a different world without the same inequality.
My thoughts by default do not expect more of the same world. What I see is that we have to change to a more just world to deserve more peace.
Some may think that what I write here is similar to "Dialectical Materialism" of Karl Marx, but it is not. What I want is peace and justice, and one without the other cannot exist. I am not seeking to rob the rich and take all from them, what I want is to give the poor a better chance for life. This is not a theory, not a fact, it is only seeking to be consistent with myself and accept that I am part of inequality and therefore part of the problem of an illusory world attached to matter.
Fernando Ferrara

Monday, July 13, 2015

Race


Once again, we have a home grown massacre that focuses our attention on a long standing problem in the American psyche. If it were just one sick soul as perpetrator, we could relegate him to the prisons of the mentally ill or to death row. But we all know the soul sickness is deeper than that. 

From what we have heard and read so far, it's likely the killings in the church in Charleston were motivated by racial hatred. We are forced to confess once again that nowhere in a country that celebrates equality and freedom, can one escape the reality of racial divide and injustice, if not outright hate, even in church. 

It's ironic that in the same week we experienced the murders in Charleston, we heard the story about Rachel Dolezal, the Seattle NAACP President who resigned because of the controversy over her race. Her birth certificate says she is "white." She has been passing herself off as "black," saying in a recent interview that she has identified with being African American since a young age. It makes one think of the recent attention on the transgendered, where one's identity, one's psyche or soul, is different from one's physical characteristics.

Or consider the irony of how blood quantum is used to determine whether one is "Indian" or not. Because of intermarriage, the "red race" and the "white race" have gotten all mixed up. So in order to be considered Native American by Native Nations and the U.S. Government, you need to know your genealogical history so you can prove you're maybe 1/8, or whatever, of Indian blood.

And then you have what Native Americans call "wannabes," the whites who would like to be Indian. Some who make a life in Indian country may well believe they have the soul of an Indian, like Rachel Dolezal believes her true identity is African American. 

The irony multiplies when we look seriously at the origins of the concept of "race." There is good reason to believe the concept started with the German philosopher Christoph Meiners in his The Outline of History of Mankind in 1785. Meiners proposed two races, Caucasians and Mongolians. He considered Caucasians (from the southern Caucasus region) more physically attractive because of their paler skin ("whitest, most blooming and most delicate skin"). He also considered them more sensitive and morally virtuous. Europeans with darker skins he considered "dirty whites," mixed with Mongolians.

His work was continued by one of the founders of anthropology, Johann Blumenbach, who added the study of skull structure and facial features to skin color distinctions. He wrote On the Natural Variety of Mankind in which he identified the "White, Yellow, Brown, Black and Red" races.

Both Meiners work and the work of Blumenbach have been used over the years by scientists and others to justify political policies like segregation, immigration restrictions and other opinions rooted in prejudice and stereotyping. Just listen to some of the candidates running for President in the U.S. today and you hear some of the same racially based stereotypes. 

The reality is, there is only one race, the human race. Don't get me wrong. The color of your skin makes a difference, a huge difference in this country and elsewhere. Racial distinctions are still implicit in all of our social institutions. But it's not something inherent in who we are as people. Whatever distinctions are made, whether on the basis of skin color or skull structure or facial features or cultural characteristics or genealogy, the writers of the Genesis story and the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence were right, we are all created equal. Distinctions we create to make someone else the other, aren't a given. We make them. At base, we're all humans. 

It's astonishing what lengths people will go to, to separate themselves from others who they see as below them. One could say that those who would use human differences to separate the beloved from each other, are falling victim to Christianity's original sin. There are several ideas as to what Adam and Eve eating the apple represents. But in God's eyes, in the Genesis story, the first humans are trying to be more than they are meant to be. They lack humility!

One gets the same message in the story of the tower of Babel in the Hebrew Scriptures. This is the story that tells us of the origins of our human divisions. What is the cause? Once again, it's the attempt to be more than we are created to be. It's that sense of human arrogance that we can reach the heavens and be like God ourselves. It's a sense of moral and spiritual entitlement (and in the American empire; economic, military, political and racial entitlement). 

Perhaps the fundamental human value in short supply is humility. It's hard to shoot up a church when you're humble. When it comes to race and racism, a little humility mixed with a fundamental commitment to the human race, could go a long way.

Carl Kline

Friday, July 3, 2015

Consequences



Growing up, I was always aware that there would be consequences for my actions. My father was usually the enforcer. He generally followed the "spare the rod and spoil the child" belief. I still remember some of those spankings like yesterday. They reside deep in my psyche.

As an adult and parent myself, I soon learned that there were other kinds of consequences that could be more effective than hitting. The first was making sure rules and values were clear so the likelihood of misbehavior was minimal. 

The second was a series of choices that the offending child didn't like, including time outs and time consuming chores. But probably the most effective technique was the knack my wife had for distraction, so when the child was just about ready to make a bad decision, she drew their attention to a better choice they actually liked. 

Repeated often enough, this was a learned behavior that I believe helped shape later life. The consequence of a good choice was a good result. So why make a bad choice?

Whatever the style of family discipline, most of us learn there are consequences to our actions in the family. If not there, it slowly becomes apparent in other institutions, like the school, neighborhood or larger community. Maybe the knowledge only comes to fruition for some in prison. All of this is what I call "real time consequences."

Unfortunately, there are also "eternal time consequences." And in a materialistic culture, the long term is often sacrificed for the immediate.

I've always been impressed with indigenous understandings of the importance of thinking about the seventh generation. "We cannot simply think of our survival; each new generation is responsible to ensure the survival of the seventh generation … what we do today will affect the seventh generation and because of this we must bear in mind our responsibility to them today and always." 

I'm saddened by the reality that most decision makers in U.S. society seldom even think about the generation following them. They make "real time decisions" with "real time consequences." So the Public Utilities Commission in South Dakota can rule out any testimony about long term consequences of the Keystone XL pipeline running through our state. And Transcanada could care less about how they've opened up the worst carbon bomb in our history, all of which has to stay in the ground to avoid climate catastrophe.

They seem oblivious to connecting the dots: warmest months in history; heat deaths and floods in Asia; wildfires in Alaska and the U.S. West; drought; torrential rains; melting glaciers. 

So now we're told we face the sixth great extinction. Science magazine recently published a study by several scientists from a number of North American Universities. Even the most conservative estimates show we are killing off species at far higher rates than previous die-offs, as much as 100 times greater, because of human activity such as climate change, deforestation and pollution.

The scientists conclude, if those rates continue "life would take many millions of years to recover,and our species itself would likely disappear early on." Paul Ehrlich writes, "There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead. We are sawing off the limb we are sitting on."

Fortunately, the next generation has noticed these likely prospects for their future. You'll find them at the Possibility Alliance in Missouri, where the only form of transportation they will use is a bicycle or Amtrak. They are off the electrical grid. They use candles.

Or you'll see them in court. In the state of Washington, eight young petitioners won a landmark decision this week forcing the state Department of Ecology to work on statewide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. The petitioners range in age from elementary school to high school. Thirteen year old Zoe Foster said, "I'm not going to sit by and watch my government do nothing. We don't have time to waste. I'm pushing my government to take real action on climate and I won't stop till change is made."

Or you'll see the next generation building tiny houses, establishing bike trails, gardening organically and selling fresh produce at farmer's markets, speaking up at public hearings, encouraging their schools to divest from fossil fuels, working at jobs that could help us create positive "eternal consequences." We all owe these young people an enormous thank you for what they are doing to foster a more sustainable future. We all need to do something, anything, and join them. 

And should I even mention "spiritual consequences?" Many have allocated ideas of heaven and hell to the waste dump. Others are unsure about the idea of a "soul" and if anything continues after "real time." Perhaps that's part of the short sightedness of modern societies. We're too busy with "real time" concerns to even ponder the life of the spirit, and to plan and work for future generations.

If the Genesis story of creation means anything to Christians and Jews, it should mean we're meant to be stewards of this good earth, not plunderers. And the best theology still contends there are spiritual consequences for spiritual apathy.

Carl Kline

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Uplift for All


Mahatma Gandhi wasn't just concerned with resisting the English occupation of India. He was also concerned about the self development of the people. For him, it was two sides of the same coin. He once described it as walking on two legs. You wouldn't be balanced with only one. 

The campaign for independence required active nonviolence, what he called Satyagraha or the force of Truth. The self development campaign was aimed at the universal uplift of all strata of the society, self determination and equality for all. It was called Sarvodaya.

Even after Gandhi's death, his followers carried on this idea of Sarvodaya throughout the country. I've witnessed countless cottage industries in practically every state in India where the program spread and brought a subsistence level of living to those who were hopelessly poor and destitute. It might be a weaving industry or an agricultural cooperative or a recycling operation where everything (I mean everything) is repurposed in some incredibly creative way.

One such cottage industry was solar ovens. I recall seeing demonstrations of those low tech operations on visits to India in the 1980's. It was a way followers of Gandhi were bringing development to every strata of society. Rural communities could produce, distribute and use them. One or two responsible people could do the necessary oversight of the construction and training. It was self development at it's best.

It even got exported to other lands as people realized that universal uplift was the pathway to happier and healthier societies. Those of us right here in Brookings, South Dakota have our own incarnation in Haiti Solar Oven Partners. Here is a local cottage industry that has helped bring solar cooking to the people of Haiti for the last 15 years. Now the Partners are in the process of transitioning to new countries and peoples.

If you haven't had some banana bread or chocolate brownies cooked in a solar oven, then you still have a treat in your future. And if you lived in poverty, without access to clean water, boiling water in a solar oven could save the lives of your children.

Lives can be saved; healthier societies can be created; economies of scale can be introduced; if we access even modest resources for the common good, for lifting up all.

I'm thinking about all that free sunshine that blesses us most days in South Dakota, that modest and unclaimed energy resource. Why we couldn't be a leader in solar energy is beyond me. It took us years as a state, watching our neighbor to the east installing wind turbines and profiting from them in myriad ways, to begin accepting the idea in our own wind driven state. Now we continue to sit on the sidelines as solar becomes commonplace elsewhere and cottage industries develop all over the planet.

Even for those who don't accept climate change and aren't invested in the development of all, there's reason to look at solar as an alternative energy source. It's cheaper! "I'm probably the furthest thing from an Al Gore clone you could find," says Jim Briggs, interim city manager of Georgetown, Texas. This small community of some 50,000 people is going 100% renewable in a state best known for it's fossil fuel industry. "We didn't do this to save the world," Briggs says. "We did this to get a competitive rate and reduce the risk for our consumers."

Since the Georgetown utility company is a city owned monopoly, in examining their options last year they discovered renewable energy was cheaper. By January 2017, SunEdison (not a cottage industry but a giant multinational) will bring their renewables to 100%. In 2014 they had already signed on with a nearby wind outfit. They'll have sun by day, wind by night. It sounds sensible! 

A record amount of solar power was added to the world's grid last year. Total cumulative capacity is 100 times more than it was in the year 2000. Many are convinced the tipping point has now been reached that will allow for the rapid expansion of the technology and the continued descent of the cost.

If we could just convince the decision makers we need net metering in our state, so rooftop and other smaller solar installations were more economically accessible, we might give our citizens a bit more self determination about their energy sources. And if we could get some sensible local ordinances passed about individual wind energy, it could be comparable to getting a solar oven in Haiti. People have satellite TV receivers on their roofs, why not small scale wind systems?

Carl Kline

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Eyes on the Prize



The school year is finally over and as a teacher you begin to reflect on how the year turned out. It’s easy to think that the only measure of success is the test scores, but I know that is bogus. Yes, success can be measured by academic achievement and “data”, but it also is measured by much more qualitative measures: mindsets like perseverance, skills like problem-solving ability, and other not-so-simple things like motivation and confidence. I bind myself to these stories and not to test scores because a score does not show the whole picture, nor is a score alone enough to propel a student out of poverty into their dreams. 

One of the more qualitative measures of success I tried to build into my students this year was a long-term vision for their future – recognition that success is a LONG process and therefore every day matters. Today matters for the job you want or the car you want or the NBA game you want to attend, whatever it is. So I repeat things to them over and over and over. I say, “you want to do well in 3rd grade so you can go to 4th grade, and 5th grade, and 6th grade, and 7th grade, and 8th grade, and 9th grade, and 10th grade, and 11th grade, and 12th grade, and college.” (I’m actually pretty good at saying that very fast now.) We also talk a lot about what that future is going to look like: how knowledge gives us power and power gives us choices. Choices – freedom – that is the prize we work towards every day because poverty is not just a lack of money; it is a lack of options. This is a long chain of events a long way in the future for a 9 year old to grasp and work towards, but I think it’s important because when they get it, they become responsible to themselves.

The problem with building these qualitative measures is they are exactly that, qualitative. I cannot give a test and receive “data” to tell me exactly, to what extent, each child has grown their own personal long-term vision. Luckily however, you sometimes receive little glimpses of growth breaking through the concrete.  For me this glimpse came the day before the big End-Of-Grade (EOG) test with my students, when I gave each a chance to write down their worries about the test and put them in the “worry box” (a.k.a. “where worries go to die”). Reading through their worries after class most said things like, “I’m afraid I won’t pass and won’t get to go to 4th grade with my friends.” This is a legitimate concern because of the way the law is written in NC, but one kid in particular struck me. He wrote, “I’m afraid I won’t pass and I won’t get to go to 12th grade.” This kid – who so often at the beginning of the year said he didn’t care if he failed or not – has just proved his long-term vision to me. He wasn’t thinking about 4th grade. He was thinking about “4th grade, and 5th grade, and 6th grade, and 7th grade, and 8th grade, and 9th grade, and 10th grade, and 11th grade, and 12th grade, and [hopefully] college.” His eyes are on the “prize”. His note made me simultaneously extraordinarily proud of him and also kind of sad because I could feel the added pressure he felt for the upcoming day.

The next day after the test I had the kids write a reflection about how they felt. This student again proved his mindset when he drew two accompanying pictures with his writing. Both pictures begin with him sitting at a desk taking the EOG. From here though he imagines two different futures based on his test score. In the first set an arrow is drawn to him buying a car and then another arrow to a picture of him getting paid $100 bills. “This,” he tells me, “is me passing the EOG and getting to choose out any car I want when I get a good job.” His eyes are the prize – choices, opportunities! However, in the second set the arrow from him taking his test points to two stick figures behind bars in what he calls “EOG jail”. From “EOG jail” an arrow points to my student crying when his boss tells him, “You’re fired.” When you see this it is hard not to cry at the reality, or at least the fear, of it all. Study after study links 3rd grade reading success to high school graduation rates and high school dropouts have a much higher rate of incarceration than those who graduate. It’s not hard to put the two and two together. At this point you begin to wonder if teaching your kids to have a long-term vision was actually a good idea. Maybe it’s too much. Hope seems so far away for some of the kids. The test seems too big. It would be easier if we only had to plan for next year, not the next ten.

Yet, I cannot give up on the long-term vision. Kids need to know what they are working towards and so do we as peacemakers need this too. Our work will not happen overnight or even over the next year.  We need to keep our eyes on the prize. We need to teach each other and encourage each other to have patience, perseverance, and the determination. We need to remind each other that this year, this moment, matters for “next year, and the year after, and the year after, and the year after, and the year after, and the year after…” until we reach our goal. Sometimes it is hard to understand why we don’t reach our goals right away. Perhaps we feel too much pressure but only with our eyes on the prize can we “Hold on! Hold on!”

So please, dear readers,

Hold on, Hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on, why don't ya
Hold on, Hold on!

Jennifer Arnold

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_tcZAqQUAg


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Nuclear Disarmament


Almost unnoticed by the major news media, four weeks of negotiations on nuclear disarmament ended with the scuttling of a revised treaty. Apparently the biggest hurdle was a requirement that Israel meet with Arab neighbors to discuss the development of a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. 

At least that's the excuse given by the U.S. for the veto. U.S. representatives blamed the failure of a new agreement on Egypt for including the nuclear free zone idea.

It's reasonable for Egypt to seek such a zone. Israel has an estimated 400 nuclear warheads, which it won't confirm or deny. It simply stonewalls on any questions about their nuclear stockpile, since if they admitted to having them, they might be forced by international agreement to reduce their numbers. 

Egypt warned that the Arab world would take a strong stance as a result of the U.S. veto. There are rumors afloat that Saudi Arabia may go nuclear as they are concerned about Israel and the possibility of a nuclear Iran.

Iran on the other hand, has requested further meetings at the U.N., in the hopes of coming to some new agreement. Apparently, they would prefer to put the world at ease as a non nuclear weapons power if only there were assurances the rest of the middle east would do the same.

At the same time, non nuclear states are upset with Russia and the U.S. because of the slow progress on reducing their nuclear weapons numbers. It's estimated both states have about 8,000 warheads with about 1,500 on missiles ready to launch at a moment's notice. 

But yes, you're right! It happened! Back in 2009 in Prague, President Obama declared with conviction, "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." That was then, this is now! So now the U.S. vetoes the idea of a nuclear free Middle East. And now the New York Times has reported the modernizing of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and infrastructure, and plans to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years doing it.

How many know the U.S. has recently been sued, along with the other eight nuclear armed countries? The suit by the Marshall Islands is for failing to negotiate in good faith on nuclear disarmament. Instead, the movement is toward modernizing and updating arsenals. And it's altogether appropriate that the island peoples who suffered as nuclear testing guinea pigs for years be the ones to bring suit. From 1946 to 1958, the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear and thermonuclear tests with an explosive power equivalent to 1.6 Hiroshima bombs dropped daily for 12 years in this homeland for some 70,000 people.

One hopes nuclear weapons can't and won't be used ever again. Unless of course there's an accident ("accidents happen" is an old and familiar saying … so you probably don't want to read the book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser). Or unless the human capacity for madness escalates (which seems to be our tendency … M.L. King once said, "We have guided missiles and misguided men.") The primary reason for having nuclear weapons is fear and intimidation, though their possession doesn't seem to threaten ISIS as much as it threatens the U.S. government.

Nuclear weapons is a transient power. It's absurd to spend more money on an obsolete system that can't be used and makes us all less safe. What we need is more spiritual power, like that of 85 year old Sister Megan Rice. She was one of those arrested in 2012 for cutting through fences at the Oak Ridge enriched uranium storage facility in a protest of nuclear weapons, because she said, "we had to - we were doing it because we had to reveal the truth of the criminality which is there, that's our obligation. We have the power, and the love, and the strength and the courage to end it (the nuclear weapons industry) and transform the whole project, for which has been expended more than $7.2 trillion. The truth will heal us and heal our planet, heal our diseases, which result from the disharmony of our planet caused by the worst weapons in the history of mankind, which should not exist. For this we give our lives - for the truth about the terrible existence of these weapons."  

Sister Megan was recently released from prison. She and her fellow Transform Now Plowshares still in prison, represent the strength of heart Gandhi describes. "Power invariably elects to go into the hands of the strong. That strength may be physical or of the heart, or if we do not fight shy of the word, of the spirit. Physical force is transitory. But the power of the spirit is permanent, even as the spirit is everlasting."

Carl Kline