July 2nd, 2006

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Good Morning!

Jan's graduation at Trentadue Winery was beautiful and inspiring.  It was enchanting to sit among trees, looking out at hills, and listening to healers speak of their work.  I am still affected by their enthusiasm and desire to help.   One doctor spoke of patients as teachers of patience.  I had never thought of where that word "patient" came from.  Somehow linking it with patience worked for me.  I think the ceremony and speeches were especially poignant for me, because of what I have been through.  I wanted to have heard the graduation speech of all my doctors, to see and feel that intensity of their youth, even though it still flows vibrantly through them all.   The food, wine, atmosphere, and gathering of wonderful people certainly fueled the peacefulness of the day.   There were many children there.  One graduate has two herself. I could not imagine medical school and residency with children, but she thanked her husband and family, and it definitely had been done.  Her children were there.   They were perhaps five and seven.  

These twelve people who graduated meet once a week to discuss what is personally going on for them, so I am known, and was consoled on the death of Mandu and asked about my health.  I am very touched.  Jan thanked Jeff in her speech saying she could not have made it through medical school and residency without his help.  Tears came to my eyes, then, and now, as I type this.

I felt serene.  All felt easy.   We sat with some of Jan's friends, and enjoyed a good time.  I will see them next at the wedding.   Jan's father asked one of her friends if she thought Jan would let him come to the wedding.  Of course!   We would all be delighted.   So, I let go of my ego part in this, and all is circling around to enlarge peace in our hearts.  

I have much to do today.  My desk is piled up.  I have put so much off, and I am tired today, despite much sleep, and I am hoping to dig in.

I had a dream where Mandu was here, not as he was, but, he said, he could come back one more time so we could touch him, so I held him in my dreams.

I also dreamed a young girl annointed my Third Eye.  She said the Dalai Lama had annointed her, and now, she would pass it on to me.  I have had dreams of the Dalai Lama before, and I loved how this one included a little girl.   I feel I have come through a rough week intact.  I give thanks for that. 

I also realize now that Trentadue Winery is in Geyserville, right next to Isis Oasis, where I attended a Rosen Intensive.  It is where I learned I could paint, and perhaps, a little bit more.   I am living in circles, the Asian Way.   That straight line is turning and turning.  I am grateful for the embrace.  
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An important comment.

I am putting in color the paragraphs of this article that I think are especially important to note.   Something stinks in Florida.  What a surprise!


Op-Ed Contributor

History Under Construction in Florida

Published: July 2, 2006

West Tisbury, Mass.

AS a historian, I love facts. I especially love facts about early America, the subject I have researched, taught and written about for more than 40 years. The Florida Legislature would seem to share my enthusiasm. An education law it recently enacted insists, "American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed" and "shall be viewed as knowable, teachable and testable." The statute places particular importance on the facts of the Declaration of Independence, which was adopted by the Second Continental Congress two days after its vote for independence on July 2, 1776 — 230 years ago today.

Yet the wording of the law befuddles me. Facts mean little or nothing without being interpreted — another word for "constructed." All historians know that facts never speak for themselves.

Take an example from my own experience. Several years ago I was delighted to uncover proof in the British Public Record Office that an accused male "witch" in 1692 Salem, Mass., had been trading with enemy French and Indians, just as a young accuser had charged. That document confirmed my developing conviction that the Salem witch trials were linked to New England's hostile relationships with the French and Indians. But to many other scholars who previously had encountered that document, it meant no such thing.

The Florida law, while claiming to eschew constructed interpretations, is itself an obvious construction. The statute specifically defines what the term "American history" includes: "the period of discovery, early colonies, the War for Independence, the Civil War, the expansion of the United States to its present boundaries, the world wars, and the civil rights movement to the present."

Among the multitude of omissions from that list is any discussion of the religious development of the country or the transformation from an agricultural to an industrial economy. The statute thus constructs an American past that values certain aspects — especially wars and the civil rights movement — more than others.

Nowhere is this construction more obvious than in the law's emphasis on the Declaration of Independence as a key founding document. "The history of the United States," it asserts, "shall be defined as the creation of a new nation based largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence." Elsewhere, it lists those principles: "national sovereignty, natural law, self-evident truth, equality of all persons, limited government, popular sovereignty and inalienable rights of life, liberty and property."

Reading that made me wonder if Florida's legislators had familiarized themselves with the Declaration and the context of its adoption. Thomas Jefferson's famous phrase, after all, was "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" — not property.

The Declaration ended, rather than created, a government. It forcefully asserted the right of the people to alter or abolish a polity unresponsive to their needs, a "universal principle" overlooked by Florida's legislators. Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 — who drafted the document on which the nation is actually based — rarely mentioned the Declaration in debate. Indeed, as Pauline Maier, a historian, has pointed out, we owe the current interpretation of the Declaration to 19th-century commentators, especially Abraham Lincoln.

What, then, is to be made of the stress on the Declaration in the new Florida law? An earlier version of the law had emphasized study of the Constitution and the Declaration equally, describing each in general terms. In the new version, only the description of the Constitution retains its non-prescriptive character. The Constitution, after all, is an inconvenient vehicle for setting forth universal principles; it concerned itself with nitty-gritty details about federalism, separation of powers and the like. Further, the Constitution supported the continuation of slavery, thereby undermining the notion that the nation from its earliest days adhered to Florida's list of universal principles, prominently including "equality of all persons."

In short, a class learning about the drafting of the Constitution would confront the unpleasant reality of founding fathers who either owned slaves themselves or protected the right of others to own them. How much simpler and less troubling to present young people with a rosy picture based on modern understandings of the language of the Declaration of Independence! Under the guise of returning to a factual teaching of history in the state's schools, Florida's legislators have mandated an ahistorical construction that paradoxically distorts the very facts they purport to revere.

The Florida law highlights a growing tendency in the United States to substitute easily grasped absolutes for messy and ambiguous realities. (Another example of the same type of thinking is the quest of certain judges to capture the "original intent" of constitutional clauses.) A stress on facts, not constructions, superficially appears to be ideologically neutral. Yet the choice of which facts to stress, and which to omit, is crucial. In the end, history can never be "factual ...not constructed," as the language of the Florida statute itself demonstrates.

Mary Beth Norton, a professor of American history at Cornell, is the author of "In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692."

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The Dalai Lama -

The Dalai Lama was asked by The Progressive, a monthly magazine,  for what he saw as the sources of terrorism and its solution.  Here is his response.

    "Just after September 11, some reporter asked me why terrorism happens.  I told him that my view is that such acts are not possible unless you have very strong hatred and very strong will-power and determination.  That tremendous hatred comes from many reasons.  The causes of this hatred may be going back centuries.  Some people say that the West has a cruel history.  These people may also see the achievements of Western countries - in terms of the economy, education, health, and social achievements - as a result of exploitation of poorer countries, including Arab countries.  Western nations get rich by using resources such as Arab oil.  Meanwhile,  the countries supplying them raw materials remain poor.  Due to such injustices, jealousies are created.  Then, there's perhaps a religious factor.  In the Muslim world, there's the notion of Allah.  The Western, multi-religious modern society is some kind of challenge to this.  These, I feel,  are the main causes, and when combined with lots of anger and frustration, cause a huge amount of hate."

    "The countermeasures for such things are not easy....  At the general public level we must cultivate the notion of not just one religion, one truth, but pluralism and many truths.  We can change the atmosphere, and we can modify certain ways of thinking.  Then, second, there should be a spirit of dialogue.  Whenever we see any disagreements, we must think how to solve them on the basis of recognition of oneness of the entire humanity.  This is the modern reality.  When a certain community is destroyed, in reality it destroys a part of us all.  So there should be a clear recognition that the entire humanity is just one family.  Any conflict within humanity should be considered as a family conflict.  We must find a solution within this atmosphere."


This makes sense to me.  I would love to see a movement of peace that uses our creativity, intellect, and resources for helping and uplifting us all, rather than slamming down one group at the expense of the next. 
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Today!

Today, I took an afternoon  walk, and as I was sitting on a bench contemplating the sky, hills, sun, fog, grasses, and rocks, I found  myself with the words of Pythagoras.  "Astonishing!  Everything is intelligent."   I felt, and feel,  just so.

Steve has a giant new toolbox which will not fit in the garage, because we have so much stuff.  To be honest, I do not think that much of the stuff in our garage is intelligent, and it certainly is no longer needed.  It seems it may be a time of discarding.  Things have piled up in these last so many months.  I used to clean out periodically, and I have not done so, so, perhaps today and tomorrow will be about some of that.

Brain cells need jostling to feel their alertness.  We need to lift them, like weights, and bring them back down to the ground.  I think we have some space in the garage that needs a turning of energy, and some new life brewing, like worms in a compost pile, in the detritus of our garage.  
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William Rivers Pitt -

 When I Paint My Masterpiece
    By William Rivers Pitt
    

    Sunday 02 July 2006

Someday,
Everything's gonna be smooth like a rhapsody,
When I paint
My masterpiece.

- Bob Dylan

    Any starting point requires that we remember that this nation which birthed us, inspires us, blesses us, puts us to work, this nation that challenged us to remember the original promises whenever we said the Pledge of Allegiance all those times in school, this nation we'd all die for, this nation we call home is, in the end, nothing more or less than an idea.

    An idea. A dream, an experiment, something sociologist Max Weber once described as "the slow boring of hard boards," a serious endeavor with a good chance of success but a better chance of failure, and if the one was to be saved from the other, there would have to be a lot of good will and hard work and devotion to the premises that got everything started in the first place. The lady who asked Benjamin Franklin what had been wrought after the Constitutional Convention of 1787 got the right answer. "A republic," Franklin told her, "if you can keep it."

    "We the people" was a good start, if we're talking about the premises. No one had ever before, in all of history, bothered to lay down a national charter with that kind of thinking in mind. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" was another original stroke. There were a dozen more at least, ideas that have been around since time out of mind to be sure, but ideas that no one anywhere ever used collectively and comprehensively to define the reasons for a diverse people to stand under one flag and salute, and mean it.

    It was supposed to be a lot of things, but it was never supposed to be easy.

    That is America, or at least it was for a while. The song remains the same, as the band once said, but we are certainly not operating off the same ideas that marked the blueprint these last several generations, and anyone who tries to tell you different is also trying to sell you something. Rose-colored glasses are selling cheap these days. They're going for the price of a flag or a few hours of round-the-clock cable-news talking-head pablum, and unfortunately for all of us, that's about as cheap as it gets in the 21st century.

    Why? Because America was about a lot of things, back when it all meant something, but there was always a virus in the matrix. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the great thinkers put all the good ideas to paper, but they also made sure the thing was hard-wired to favor anyone with a lot of money.

    It was the taxes that burned the Fathers out of neutrality, after all, as well as the denial of commerce by the Crown. So when the revolution was over and the smoke had cleared, the Fathers carved out a separation of church and state, and codified free speech, and laid the groundwork for more freedom for more people than had ever been seen before, but they also made sure the well-to-do were going to remain thus for time out of mind. That was fine, because they put the work in, and freedom also means freedom to make money and be rich. Before too much time had passed, that kind of thing was called The American Dream.

    The problem, though, was the virus, which was money. Money slowly bought power, money slowly won elections that used to be free, money started to be the defining reality of Congress and then the presidency, money began writing and signing the laws, money got judges put on the Supreme Court by the purchased aforementioned, and money made sure those judges made decisions designed to benefit the money. Washington and Franklin would have been horrified to see the way it started to shake out even fifty years after they finished their work, but of course, they were gone by then.

    Two Supreme Court cases tell the story of where we're at: Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886, and Buckley v. Valeo in 1976. The first, a relatively straightforward eminent domain case, granted 14th Amendment rights to corporations. The second declared that money spent to influence elections is a form of Constitutionally-protected free speech.

    And we roll the bones, because the 14th Amendment says, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside," which makes corporations exactly the same as natural-born American humans, and further says that no state can create or enforce any law, "which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

    So corporations are the same as natural Americans, but thanks to Buckley v. Valeo, all the money thrown at elections and candidates and campaigns and political parties is the same as free speech, and when massive multinational trillion-dollar corporations throw millions at the politicians, they do so with the same set of basic rights as the guy who empties their trash. Except they can't be held liable for anything, because they're corporations, and can hire million-dollar law firms to defend them, and those lawyers become judges appointed by the politicians who are bought and paid for, and it's all perfectly legal, and that's the virus.

    Buy the laws, buy the law-makers, and you become the law. That is the definition of corporate freedom.

    Money is why we're in Iraq. Money is why it's legal to spy on Americans, why the laws are rewritten to suit policy, why we go to war for resources, why we torture people. It doesn't have anything to do with safety or national security or anything else except money. Foreign policy decisions these days amount to little more than business deals writ large and with body counts to boot, but the latter is always folded in somewhere beneath the bottom line.

    These are the Augean stables that have to be cleaned. It doesn't have a damned thing to do with George W. Bush or any of his merry men. That pack is a symptom, merely a cell, a string of proteins holding the genetic code for the virus that is everywhere, and it was there before they showed up, and will still be there when that pack is gone.

    There is an election in November, which is good, because there are some people in Congress who know all this, and if it all shakes out the right way, those people will be in a position to make some changes. It's good because elections still matter, even with the corporate ownership of our votes. It's good because the idea may have been paved over with a hundred miles of money and corruption and greed, but that doesn't mean the idea is dead.

    The nation which birthed us, inspires us, blesses us, puts us to work, the nation that challenged us to remember the original promises whenever we said the Pledge of Allegiance all those times in school, the nation we'd all die for, the nation we call home is, in the end, nothing more or less than an idea. It has trembled on the edge of dissolution for more than two hundred years, and never more so than today, but the margin is still there.

    The margin, of course, is you and me, and everyone else. A lunatic might call this a great time to be alive, while a patriot would say it is a terrible time to be alive, and in the end, they'd both be right. Only a lunatic would think any of this could be changed, and only a patriot would stand up and volunteer for the fight to create that impossible change.

    Lunatics and patriots, and a guarantee of broken hearts. That is what you sign up for if you get involved tomorrow, and that is what you've seen and felt and choked on if you were involved today. It was supposed to be a lot of things, but it was never supposed to be easy.

    That was the idea to begin with, when you think about it. It has always been in danger, this idea, this dream, and it has been sustained all this time by edge-riders and lunatics and patriots. It was a masterpiece when it was created, and will be again when all is said and done. Too many of us refuse, absolutely refuse, to have it any other way.


    William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

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