After the United States Select Committee on Intelligence released its report last week, reaction was swift and passionate. The Seattle Times described the 500 page summary report of atrocities as "cringe-worthy sadism, done in the name of national security that ranks among America's most sickening actions."
Fear and anger are natural consequences of the 9/11 attack on the United States. For many citizens the response was one of sacrifice and generosity - our better angels were on display. Political leaders and CIA authorities ignored their better angels and determined to do whatever deemed necessary to punish Al Quaeda and end terrorists' threats. After 9/11 international laws were ignored.
One vote. That's what it took to defeat the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline bill. Of course, this controversial issue is not going away.
Is anyone communicating with facts? Those who support the pipeline continue in mantra-like form to proclaim that the pipeline is good for the economy. Is it really? The Courier-Journal reported that the creation of the pipeline would only produce 35 permanent jobs, another report indicated a maximum of 50 jobs. The pipe used in the pipeline would be produced in India, not in the U.S. The oil would go to other countries.
Recently I received word that a former co-worker from Chicago died. As tributes arrived, I was moved by one that described his devotion to the homeless. He was always prepared to meet homeless men and women on the street, giving them hats and gloves. In Chicago winters they are vital! He also carried $5 McDonalds gift cards, perhaps providing the only food for the day.
He made eye contact! I say that because that often does not happen with many people. It is easy, on a busy day, to walk on by. Perhaps the most important response is to make eye contact, even if we don’t give a donation. Unfortunately, the homeless are not disappearing; in fact, 610,042 people experience homelessness on any given day in the United States. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 23% of the homeless population are children.
The post mortem on the 2014 elections will soon be in editorials in papers around the country and flooding the airways. Political ads have been especially negative, even mean-spirited. Since I am often in the car, I frequently turn to the classical music station to remove the toxic air coming from the radio.
Any discussion of the election must include a discussion of the ill-advised Citizens United ruling by the US Supreme Court. This decision in 2010 permitted unlimited corporate and union donations to be considered political free speech. The court allowed groups to refrain from disclosing their identity, and have become known as "dark money groups" who can spend unlimited money to support or unseat a candidate. The court opened the floodgates to contributions. In fact, over $4 billion has been spent to date.
Soon the unrelenting cacophony of political ads will end. More heat than light has come from this routine exercise. What is missing in debates, ads and stump speeches of politicians around the country?
One concern that never surfaces is a broken judicial system that continues to be racist. Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, is an important voice on the issue. He notes that 1 in 3 African American men in the United States are in jail, on probation or on parole. One in six Latino boys will be in prison. He further states that 14 states have no minimum age for trying a child as an adult and 10-year-olds are being prosecuted as adults. They are put in adult jails and many are raped or abused.
If you have noticed people wearing purple ribbons during October, they are working to bring awareness to domestic violence and all who suffer from its effects. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence initiated Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October 1981, with a goal of connecting battered women’s advocates across the country who were working to end violence against women and their children. Programs mourned those who have died because of domestic violence, celebrated those who have survived and connected those who work to end violence. One of the most important actions coming in 1989 was establishing a toll-free hotline.
They are going to Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia and Colorado. They are, Nuns on the Bus, traveling on a mission that is vitally important to this country. On every stop Sr. Simone Campbell and sisters from around the country will talk about the crisis of income inequality. The middle class is shrinking and the poor are getting poorer. Network and religious organizations around the country continue to urge congress to raise the minimum wage, stuck at $7.25 an hour. No one yet has asked members of congress if they could live on $7.25 an hour!
Mountain-size student loan debt continues to be ignored by congress, even when a moderate bill is introduced to lower the percentage of the loan. Equal pay for equal work continues to be a dream for women.
By now most television watchers have seen the video of Baltimore Ravens player, Ray Rice, hit his girlfriend in an elevator and drag her face down, like a sack of flour, out of the elevator. What was as shocking as this event was the response before the full video appeared. The Ravens owner, general manager, and coach defended Rice. Ravens fans gave Rice a standing ovation when he took the field in a preseason game. Law enforcement officials in New Jersey permitted Rice to begin counseling, and this will result in all charges being erased from his record. Michael Vick received a 19 month prison sentence for engaging in dog fights. Is the message, dogs are more important than women?
When reflecting on 9/11, I remember a time of great pain and great love, a time of faith and testing, of endings and beginnings. The sky was the bluest I can remember, in contrast to the grayness of the events to come.
Soon after the second plane hit the second twin tower I joined members of the Kentucky Council of Churches for a scheduled meeting. The previously planned agenda was ignored. We shared tears, prayers, silence and fears. What happened at that meeting carried on in the days to come—compassion and gentleness with those around us. Wherever I went I heard people on cell phones saying ‘I love you’ to parents, spouses and friends. There was a sense of urgency to reach out and make certain that people knew we cared.
At a recent fund raising dinner for Interfaith Paths to Peace I had the privilege of hearing a reflection on "how I go about peacemaking in my daily life." There were many creative examples of furthering peacemaking in one’s everyday life. I would like to share a few.
Widen your circle. No one is a stranger. We are all just branches of the same tree. When I help you, I am helping myself. This is true, but difficult to see unless we are willing to look deeper and see our common roots. Genetically we are 99.5% the same. Let's build on that circle.
Keep a good question in front of you. A good question focuses our attention without closing off discovery. What does compassion want for ______________ (name of your city/town). Sit with that question for a lifetime.