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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I love a parade, part 2

Tammy Baldwin at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, July 2, 2003, announcing proposed legislation to expand health care for wounded veterans. Photo credit: John HamiltonMemorial Day is one of the holidays I try to avoid, except for relaxing or getting something done that I don't have time to do otherwise. This one was different. I got invited (yes - me - invited) to walk with Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin in the City of Monona Memorial Day parade. Actually, I handed out candy to kids, wearing a Tammy Baldwin T-shirt, falling hopelessly behind Tammy's vehicle and the other candy hander-outers. I left no child behind, to coin a phrase. It reminded me of my high school track career, running to catch up.

Kids with candy bags hoping for a handoutHanding out candy was great fun, but the best part was getting to know Tammy Baldwin. She's actually better than her public image, which is a very good one. You would not believe her to be a politician if you didn't already know. She is very relaxed, warm and friendly, and actually listens to people. She might think twice about listening to me next time.

Actually, it went pretty well. I mentioned to her about the call I got from one of Barack Obama's campaign workers, and how decent and respectful the guy was, even after I told him I am supporting Kucinich (so far). Another elected official came by, and a conversation ensued about the Iraq occupation funding. I was struck by how knowledgeable Tammy Baldwin is, and how easy she is about it. Unlike the typically aggressive male, she makes her point almost casually, with a subtle strength that I find refreshing.

I asked the congresswoman if it is difficult campaigning in the rural communities west of Madison, and her response showed great insight and directness: "Well, they have different concerns. But now they know me, and they know where I stand." No lofty, blustering harangue about how all voters are equal or how you tailor the message. Just a simple understanding and approach. Contrast that with what we have representing the "United States" to the rest of the world.

Cindy Sheehan at Camp Casey, near Crawford, Texas, August, 2005Another contrast worth mentioning is with the announcement by peace activist Cindy Sheehan that she is retiring from her public involvement with antiwar activities. Most telling was her disgust with the peace movement: "I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions."

I wrote this response to something she wrote in Smirking Chimp: "As for Cindy Sheehan, she has taken on a very difficult task. I find it amazing that she can be so articulate and insightful after all she has been through. If there is one piece of advice I would offer to her, it is to be careful of the "peace movement." It is fraught with hangers-on, grandstanders, opportunists, and pretenders. They will try to use you and to get you to speak their lingo. Fortunately, they have not had much success."

My experience with the "peace movement" has covered decades, but most acutely when I was a member of the local chapter of a veterans group advocating the abolishment of war. I even designed and edited the group's website. Most of the problem with this group was that the membership was predominantly male, and that the thing they had in common was military service. Add in peace advocacy and Madison, Wisconsin, and, voila, let the games begin!

The one thing I tried to emphasize in my time with this group was that communication with the general public should be the number one priority. I dared using the term "preaching to the choir," and one of them actually bragged about convincing the already convinced, and on the radio to boot. There can be only one reason for a bias towards preaching to the choir: relative position among one's peers. Or, as I prefer to call it, scrambling to be lord of the flies. If Tammy Baldwin only preached to the choir, she would today be practicing law in Madison.

Another contrast is that Cindy Sheehan made her campaign personal, focusing on George W. Bush. It was a turn-off for many "Americans," and cost her a lot of valuable influence. Whereas Tammy Baldwin persistently, determinedly, eloquently and effectively advocates for not just peace, but for a number of matters of vital concern in an issue-oriented manner, Cindy Sheehan has let her animosity towards George Bush dominate her effort. It's understandable, given that the criminal Bush is the cause of her son's death, but it made her less effective. I wish her well in her future endeavors. I hope her efforts will be with a broader perspective.

As for me, I have a new experience of Memorial Day. I almost forgot how much I love a parade.

This story calls for an encore.


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