Friday, December 16, 2011

Due Process - President Obama does not think it is that important. Do you?

      It is amazing to me, how quickly things are moving. A few days ago we were gathering signatures to urge President Obama to veto the sections in the Defense Authorization Act. Especially the sections that cemented the insidious and vague lanugage left over from the Patriot Act about indefinitely detaining American Citizens on American soil without right to due process. Well, Wednesday a little piece was added to the bill that allowed the President the discretion to determine when a situation warranted this special power (basically making the Executive Branch even more almighty), and our President has now declared he is ready to sign the bill.

What a disappointment!

     Yet there is still hope. There is a bipartisan initiative called the "Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011" that is  addressing this issue. The Senators co-sponsoring this bill are: Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Mark Udall (D-CO), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Rand Paul (R-KY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Al Franken (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO

     We have generated a petition to collect signatures in support of this initiative. If you wonder what this is all about - please read my last blog posting for more background on this subject.

     If you care about living in a free nation - then please know that the Bill of Rights in essence is being re-written  in front of our very eyes... If this Due Process Guarantee Act does not pass, it will be up to whatever president, who happens to be in the White House, to determine whether a certain (dissenting) group or individual is really a "terrorist organization" that wants to harm the homeland or not.

     So now is the time to wake up and smell the coffee before a current or future president has the discretion to declare groups of demonstrators, or single voices of dissent, for terrorists. He then can pack them off to detention camps a la Guantanamo Bay indefinitely and without right to due process. The Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011 will prohibit the "indefinite detention of lawful citizens."

     This should concern you greatly whether you think of yourself as understanding the dissent voiced by either Tea Partiers or Occupiers. And this should concern you greatly, if you just want to live in a nation that claims to allow free citizens the ability to express their views without fear of being hauled off to jail indefinitely!

Please go and support this bipartisan initiative here!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

O'er the land of the unfree and the home of the timid...

      Do you like this revision of the National Anthem's last line of lyrics?

     This little change is about to become reality.... well, no - of course we will keep singing about the land of the free and the home of the brave. Yet the words will be empty and meaningless rhetoric if President Obama signs into law Section 1031/1032 — renumbered as Section 1021 in the conference committee bill - as part of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. If he does not veto this bill, it will signal the end of what is left of this notion that the United States is a place where freedom reigns.
     It is that serious!... what is at stake is what we know as part of the Bill of Rights - that we cannot be held indefintitely and without probable cause, we have the right to an attorney and to a trial by a jury of our peers. The bill that is now passed by both House and Senate will effectively allow our government, military or a police force to arrest any of us, at any time, anywhere and for any reason! The government or the military can hold any American citizen on American soil indefintiely without the right to an attorney, or to be charged and tried in front of a jury .....

     Does this sound free to you?

     So let's say you are part of a movement or group, whether Tea Party or Occupy, and your viewpoints differ from those of the administration's. You assemble peacefully - and protest. Someone is "planted" or trouble brews, and let's say someone throws a stone at a shop window. Now under this new bill - this can be construed and interpreted as a terrorist act - and because it is worded very loosely, your entire group could be labeled as displaying actions that are threatening to the United States. So our government or military could label your group as a National Defense liability. The powers that be could claim that your group (and I quote this piece of legislation)“supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” And so any cause you might be trying to further, be it the right to bear arms or to get the money out of politics, could be slanted, diverted and interpreted to be a potential terrorist act, and you could end up in jail. Entire groups could be unjustly labeled as sympathisers with "enemies of America," and end up in internment camps. Since no trial would be needed, and since there would be no right to an attorney - how would you be able to prove that you were NOT a terrorist?

     Does this sound like home of the brave to you?

     How would this impact your willingness to be any kind of protester of the status quo? How could this possibly affect your desire to assemble peaceably to let your views be heard? Would the threat of being placed in a place that resembles Guantanamo without rights and indefinitely possibly make you think twice before you let your voice be heard?

     Would you be intimidated and worry about the lives of those you love, if you suddenly disappeared? Land of the free - home of the brave no more for sure!!

     Obama is currently weighing whether he can sign this bill including these sections or not. As a Constitutional teacher and expert, he is intimately familiar with the implications. There is nobody, who can say he doesn't understand the stakes. So President Obama, where are your convictions? Since both the politicians of the House and the Senate have signed on to this shameless legislation - can you "man up" and show some backbone?

     And where are we the people?

It seems we are eerily silent. The media have been strangely silent about this too. Where is the outrage?

     I believe we are so mired in "noise" from watching the latest soap opera, the latest reality show, the latest gossip, the latest bet between Romney and Perry..... We are distracted by bogus attempts to pit us up against each other. American people against American people.... Whether you call yourself red, blue, black, yellow, purple.... this is all a country of Americans!

     Come on... this is way too important. Are we to continue acting like easily distracted children, who take delight in schoolyard bullying of those who look, think or appear different from us? Are we going to continue our little game of "us versus them"? What do we gain from that? Little easy victories that make us feel "better than the other guys"? And in the meantime the noose is being tightened around the neck of our democracy. The fabric of the Constitution is being undermined in front of our Kardashian watching eyes. While we are debating whether Angelina Jolie is getting too skinny, and we are stuffing our trunks with stuff we don't need, the very fabric of what it means to be an American is at risk of being irrepairably damaged.

     What I want for Christmas is a President who is able to finally draw a line in the sand! A country that cares enough about its future, and its past, to know that it is now - right here in the present time - that the fate of our collective destiny as a country is being charted....

      So it is time to wake up! People of America - it is time to see beyond the celebrity headlines and the talking heads talking trash!  If there ever was a time to call the White House and let your voice be heard - it is now.... If there ever was a time to call your friends and talk about this piece of legislation, and what it means for you as an American and your freedom - it is now... If there ever was a time to look beyond the party lines and the perceived separations between us as Americans - it is now! One thing should be crystal clear to us all: If we keep fighting the little partisan fights that keep separating us, we will miss the boat on the big and really important stuff. And this is it!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Afraid of the Dark?

I wonder how many of us have had this sense of fearfulness when we find ourselves in dark rooms because of a power outage, have our car break down on an unlit road, or simply wake up at night and look into the unknown. I would guess most of us at least at some time have experienced this sense that when we cannot see what is around us, we feel insecure.

Humans like to see what is around them so they can orient themselves. We want explanations so we can label and explain things - so we can anticipate what to expect.

When I take my morning walk and look around me, I delight in all the beauty around me; flowers, trees, birds chirping, above me expansive never-ending blue sky. And then I think that really, the expansive blue sky is just a limited view, since our atmosphere allows only certain wavelengths of light to come through . In daylight we see only what is in essence an illusion above us.

At night we have the illusion pulled away - no longer seeing the projection of our atmosphere above us. On a cloudless night we can see - truly see into All That Is! The Universe opens up for us and displays itself in all its glory. In the darkness we really get a much better and more comprehensive view of what is all around us!

This kind of paradox boggles the mind. In the dark we actually see clearer than we do in the limited reality of daylight.

Scientists are finding that what is visible to us, around us and in all of the Universe - all we have ever measured with the finest of our human technology is only a small fraction of what "is". About 5%. So 95% of what "is" cannot be seen or directly measured. It is so-called Dark Matter and Dark Energy. And this "darkness" is not "nothing". It has distinct properties that can be observed. Dark Energy affects the expansion of the Universe- yet most of what we know about this dark reality all around us is and remains a mystery.
"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing." (E. A. Poe, The Raven)

This is what we do. We fear that which we cannot see, cannot measure, cannot fathom. This is embedded in human consciousness. From when we were cave dwellers to our now "advanced" state of understanding: We fear that which we do not understand. That which eludes our comprehension. That which we cannot see or measure quantifiably.

What would happen if we started accepting this state of "unknowing"? What would happen to us if we did not attempt to label, seek to control and always want to "understand" everything? What would living in the "Mystery" look and feel like? How could "I don't know" sometimes be a much more informed answer than the absolute certainty we tend to express and certainly see expressed by both politicians and other preachers?
What would be our Truth? How comfortable would we be "fumbling in the dark?"

There is a great deal of mystery around us. NASA is even starting to sound like the Religious Mystics of all time. Indeed it seems that the more science discovers the more the mystery continues.

What happens when we stop seeing our lives on the basis of the human projection and restriction of the "limitless blue sky". Might there be much beauty and meaning missed when we fear the unknown - when we cower in fear, hiding from the unknown expressed in the darkness?

To accept that which we do not understand and that we do not know the intricacies and the true magnitude all around us, might just be the first step. As Alistair Sim as Scrooge elaborates a bit on the original Dickens text in a Christmas Carol: "I don't know anything, I never did know anything, but now I know that I don't know." Might Scrooge's transformation from control freak to living fully in the infinite possibilities just set such an example for us all? Scrooge Wakes on Christmas Morning (go to minute 2:30)

To not fear the unknown in us and around us might be an important start. To dance with the possibilities. To allow the mystery to be a part of our awareness. This is not an invitation to leave our senses, values, morals and our critical thinking skills behind. Quite on the contrary: What if the paradoxical is the new reality? What if the greatest enlightenment truly is to be found in the unknown? What if life begins to unfold most meaningfully when we allow the mystery to inform our everyday reality? When we allow our faculty of understanding and comprehension to go as far as it will go, and then allow the mystery of the "unknowing" to take us into a place of curiosity, rather than to that place fear of that which we do not understand.

Maybe when we stop labeling that which we do not understand as "dangerous" or "bad" - we might discover that just as the blue sky is a limited projection - the darkness of space is simply an expression of the unknown. The mystery continues - and if we stop fearing it - maybe we will find that we can learn from it, be part of it, and ultimately like Scrooge be transformed by it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Evil Personified

I have to tell you, I struggle with the glee and the dancing in the streets, because our military have managed to kill yet another human being. A high profile one, who was himself responsible for thousands of innocent civilian deaths, yet nonetheless a fellow human being.

It seems so barbaric. Are we no better than the people in the streets in the Middle East who danced and rejoiced after the tragedy on 9/11? Are we just as simple-minded? Are we just as caught up in a game of Old Testament justice (an eye for an eye). Or a Darwinian play of who is the strongest? Smartest? Mightiest?

And then I see the joy in the eyes of the students who their entire aware life have lived with Osama Bin Laden as the personification of Evil. And I realize that there is a deeply felt archetypal component to this. By killing Osama bin Laden, we killed the symbol of Evil. Just like when Hitler perished - it seemed like it was Evil personified that died.

So Osama has become a symbol. Just like Bush and now Obama have been and still are symbols of Evil to many in Iraq and Afghanistan because of the deaths to many civilians caused by the wars there.

Maybe the battle between Good and Evil rages on in our psyches independently of who we as societies project these qualities on. Maybe personifying Good and Evil is politically expedient and a powerful rallying tool.

Archetypal forces continue to be forceful fields of gravity. The more we close our eyes to our own shadows and our own "inner Hitlers", we will continue to project them out in the world as personified Evils. Someday, maybe politically expedient rallying tools will be constructive and responsive rather than destructive and reactive.

In the meantime, justice will continue to be played out in the interactions between us. I long for the day, where justice is as much an inner guiding principle as one that is projected out in the world, symbolized by other human beings.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The more information we have the better, right?

In a world of unlimited information at our fingertips, we should be the able to make informed decisions at a drop of a hat. We are able to google anything and learn all we ever wanted (or never wanted) to know about anything or anybody. We can wiki this and google that - cnn, facebook, huffpost, foxnews, tweet, blog and bing our way through the questions of the day.

So why is it that we often find ourselves confused and filled with a powerless sense of ever-present anxiety?

Well, new research points to the fact that as the information load increases so does activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain where decisions are made - and also the area that controls our emotions. And at a certain point, as information keeps streaming in, this area gets overloaded. When inundated with a steady stream of information, the activity in the DP Cortex suddenly drops! This means that our emotions are no longer in check. As information keeps streaming in, so do feelings of worry and doubt. The research also found that along with the increased level of anxiety, our ability to make decisions disappears or gets reduced significantly. As a result we cannot make up our minds or make decisions. Instead of being level headed and clear minded, we get irritated and feel like we are in a fog of confusion. We might feel overwhelmed and just want to escape. So here we are: Highly emotionally charged people incapable of making an independent choice! 

We, the people of the internet age, have become people unable to make up our minds and therefore desperately clinging to what we thought we knew!

Of course it is great to have a tool like the internet at our disposal! Doing research is infinitely easier and more convenient. It can help us gather information and make informed choices. However research shows that there is a reason to be aware that too much information or rather too much ongoing and constant information can create a sense of paralysis of our decision making abilities.

So if you find that you too are hooked on the constant stream of information, and feel a bit powerless at the complexity of it all, just know that you might benefit from slowing down once in a while and smell something other than the electronics!

Out there on the other side of our screens something real is taking place. Something that might help make it easier for us to make up our minds and clear the sense of helplessness. Something that might help us connect to our own authenticity! I know that a visit to nature outside in quiet contemplation or a few yoga poses do more to aid my wellbeing than any google search on 'wellness'. Could it be that I might be able to make up my mind about all those things on my lists if, after doing thorough research, I stop the flow of information and simply look into my heart and soul for the answers? 

I'm going to give it a try! Please consider joining me in getting away from the information barrage of TV and internet a little bit more than you otherwise would each day...  let's take small unscheduled trips outside, take a few extra deep breaths, feel the air around us, the ground below us. Let us grab the opportunity to let go of the constant chatter. And maybe right there in the stillness around us are the answers we were looking for all along.

Japan, Nukes and Madness - March 2011

 In the Old Testament God says this to mankind: "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over .. the sea...the air.. and over every living thing that moves on the earth." This mindset has shaped many minds for thousands of years. And I believe this is a part of the reason for the consequences of environmental destruction we see today! We have allowed and encouraged mankind to act as the ruler over earth, over cosmos - next in line right after God himself.

Well, maybe this mindset needs a bit of revision. A bit of updating....

 We have a choice. To free ourselves from the old thinking that favors dominion over earth to the new thinking of respect for earth, love of earth, love for every living being on it. To understand that you cannot watch out for your own child's future, if you do not watch out for a child's future in Japan, in Libya, in Egypt, in Wisconsin... if you do not watch out for the future of the whales, the sea bass, the tuna, the corals....

We can all help on this level. Remind everyone you talk to how the consequences of a nuke plant in Japan affects us all.... And also that every shortcut taken in the name of greed and shortsightedness has a long term consequence for all of us fellow travelers on our great planet. This moment holds in all its great despair also a promise to help us wake up, and to help others wake up, to the potential of our interconnectedness because we are right now feeling the consequences of it!

And pray for the people of Japan, and all of us on earth in these crazy times. Even if you don't pray... pray!