Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tara Brach: Awakening Self-Compassion


Awakening self-compassion is often the greatest challenge 
people face on the spiritual path.
 

Tara Brach: Opening To the Vulnerability Of Our Own Hearts


The intimacy that arises in listening and speaking truth is only possible if we can open to the vulnerability of our own hearts. Breathing in, contacting the life that is right here, is our first step. Once we have held ourselves with kindness, we can touch others in a vital and healing way.
 

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

2015 Memorial Day: Praying for Peace While Waging Permanent War?

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'Only when we work for the day when the US is no longer the world leader in war,' writes Quigley, 'will we have the right to pray for peace on Memorial Day.' (Photo: Shawn Harquail/flickr/cc)
Memorial Day is, by federal law, a day of prayer for permanent peace. But is it possible to honestly pray for peace while our country is far and away number one in the world in waging war, military presence, military spending and the sale of weapons around the world? 

Permanent War

Since 1980 the US has engaged in aggressive military action in 14 countries in the Islamic world alone, according to research published in the Washington Post:  Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria.  In this hemisphere, US military forces invaded Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989), and landed 20,000 military forces in Haiti (1994).

US Global War Machine

The US has 1.3 million people in the military and another million serve in the military reserves.  The US has over 700 military bases in 63 countries across the world deploying over 255,000 US military personnel there.  The Department of Defense officially manages over 555,000 buildings on 4400 properties inside the US and in over 700 properties across the globe.   The US has over 1500 strategic nuclear warheads, over 13,000 military aircraft,  dozens of submarines, many of which carry nuclear weapons, and 88 huge destroyer warships.  

Global Harm

Nearly 7000 US military people died as a result of the wars waged by the US since 9/11.  Just as important, in Iraq over 216,000 combatants, most of them civilians, have died since the 2003 invasion.   No one even counted civilian deaths in Afghanistan for the first five yearsof our war there.  Our drone attacks have murdered hundreds of children and hundreds of civilian adults in Pakistan and dozens more in Yemen.   

World Leader in War Spending

US military spending is about the same as the total of military spending by the next eight largest countries combined, that is more than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, India and Germany combined.  

Since 9/11 US spending on our military cost well over $3 trillion.  Direct combat and reconstruction costs for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11 have officially cost US taxpayers $1.6 trillion dollars according to the Congressional Research Service.   Additional trillions have been spent on growing the Pentagon budget and for present and future increased health and disability benefits for veterans.

The US military captures 55 percent of our national discretionary spending and spending on veterans benefits is another 6 percent.  Since 9/11 military spending has increased by 50 percent while spending on other discretionary domestic spending increased by 13 percentaccording to the National Priorities Project.

Corporate War Profiteers

With these trillions being spent on war, there are legions of corporations profiting.

The number one war profiteer is Lockheed Martin, according to USA Today, with annual arms sales of $36 billion.  Not surprisingly Lockheed Martin spends over $14 million a year lobbying the people who make the decisions about how much money is spent on weapons and which weapons will be purchased.  Their CEO is paid over $15 million, according to their 2015 shareholder report, and on their board is James Ellis, a former Admiral and Commander in Chief of US Strategic Air Command, who gets paid over $277,000 for the part time work and James Loy, former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, who gets over $260,000 for his part time work.  Lockheed receives substantial government contracts amounting, by one calculation, to over $260 from each taxpaying household in the US.  They are so entitled that a 2014 special investigation by the US Department of Energyfound Lockheed used taxpayer funds to lobby for more taxpayer funds.

Number two war profiteer is Boeing with annual arms sales of $31 billion.  Boeings spendsover $16 million a year lobbying. The rest of the top ten corporations profiting from warinclude BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Raytheon, EADS, Finmeccanica, L-3 Communications, and United Technologies.  You can track their corporate contributions to members of Congress, especially the politicians on the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate on Open Secrets.

While most of the lobbying money has gone to Republicans, all the arms merchants hire lobbyists who can influence Democrats and Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

And these war profiteers do not just sell to the US government.  The US sold more than $26 billion in weapons to foreign nations and has been number one for a long time though recently that title has been going back and forth with Russia as to which is the world biggest international arms merchant.

On Imperishable Honor and Glory

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Korea 1950. Photo by Al Chang/AP

The world's leading war maker marks another Memorial Day, ostensibly a day of prayer for peace that too often betrays those "not fallen but pushed" in our ceaseless wars. Among others, Howard Zinn long cited the day's "hypocritical patriotism" and urged, "Let us not set out on the same old drunken ride to death." Fiercely echoing him long before was MarkTwain and Siegfried Sassoon; later have been  the veterans of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. Perhaps the most anguished call "for these who die like cattle" came from World War One's Wilfred Owen, killed a week before the Armistice. In his "Anthem for Doomed Youth" and "Dulce et Decorum Est," thought to have been written between  October 1917 and March 1918, Owen savagely took on the "old lie" that, in the Latin source, "It is sweet and right to die for your country."

DULCE ET DECORUM EST

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs 
And towards our distant rest began to trudge. 
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots 
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, 
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; 
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, 
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime... 
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, 
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, 
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace 
Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; 
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Stephen Levine: The More We Love


The more we love, 
the more real we become. 
 
- Stephen Levine
 

Thích Nhất Hạnh: The Roots of War and Peace


We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. To prepare for war, to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts, is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come. 

Thích Nhất Hạnh, Living Buddha, Living Christ

 

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Spiritual Death


A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense 
than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. 

~ Martin Luther King, Jr., 
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967
 

Martin Luther King, Jr.: A True Revolution Of Values


Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere... A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. 

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.