I attended the second conference of the Network of Spiritual Progressives in D.C. last week. Below you'll find some photographs and links to articles. I'll be writing more about the conference soon. All photos were taken by me with the exception of the photos in which I appear.
All Souls Unitarian Church, Washington D.C.
Rabbi Michael Lerner
(top to bottom)Rabbi Michael Lerner and Peter Gabel of Tikkun, Cindy Sheehan, Ray McGovern
(top to bottom) Delivering petitions, Cindy Sheehan and Ray McGovern lead march, Ray McGovern and Code Pink
Two American Street writers (Anonymoses and yours truly)
(top to bottom) Rev. Jim Wallis, Cindy Sheehan, Walking to the White House
"...what I call for as the fundamental ethos or the fundamental central organizing idea of a progressive movement is a call for a new bottom line or, in more technical terms, a new definition of productivity, efficiency and rationality so that institutions are judged rational, efficient and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power, but also to the extent that they maximize love and caring, kindness and generosity, ethical and ecological sensitivity, enhance our capacity to respond to other human beings as embodiments of the sacred, and enhance our capacity to respond to the universe with awe and wonder, and radical amazement at the grandeur of all that is in this universe."
* Photos copyrighted and used only with permission of owner.
Karl Zinsmeister Tapped as Bush Domestic Policy Chief
Conservative columnist Mona Charen is singing the praises of American Enterprise Institute magazine editor-in-chief Karl Zinsmeister, George W. Bush's latest pick for domestic policy chief, and the news hits very close to home. Karl, a Yale graduate, hails from nearby Baldwinsville, N.Y. In 2004, he'd given the Syracuse alternative newspaper, the Syracuse New Times, some inlammatory material with which journalists can now work. It's perfect fodder for some controversy in the mainstream media.
As noted here Friday, new White House domestic policy adviser Karl Zinsmeister doesn’t think much of Washington, telling the Syracuse, N.Y., New Times among other things that “people in Washington are morally repugnant, cheating, shifty human beings.”
But on the Web site of the magazine he edits for the American Enterprise Institute, Zinsmeister altered those quotes and other text in the New Times profile. In fact, he removed the “morally repugnant” quote altogether.
He insists the New Times got the quotes wrong, but the author of the piece says that after the profile was published, Zinsmeister complimented him on the article.
I had mentioned Karl and a book he's written about Iraq called "Boots on the Ground" at my Syracuse.com blog in August, 2004:
Mission Accomplice Embedding with the 82nd Airborne inspired Cazenovian Karl Zinsmeister's two books Syracuse New Times/Justin Park
Local writer Karl Zinsmeister has volunteered his time and effort to travel to Iraq's danger zone (embedded with U.S. military) to obtain his unique stories which have been committed to history in his two books.
I am especially proud of a young member of my own community today.
The Washington Post has reported that Fatima Faisal of Camillus, N.Y. has had a very special honor bestowed upon her. Staff Sgt. Phillip Trackey, currently serving at Fort Drum in Upstate New York, said he was inspired to give Fatima his Purple Heart medal. The West Genesee Middle School student had won a contest for writing a letter to American troops out of her gratitude for all they do for our nation.
[..]Trackey and a group of fellow Fort Drum soldiers attended a ceremony Thursday at West Genesee Middle School in honor of seventh-grader Fatima Faisal, who was a regional winner in the Letters to the Front contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.
After Faisal received her prizes, Trackey stood and held up his Purple Heart for everyone to see. Then, he pinned it on the girl's blouse.
[..]Trackey, of Glens Falls, said he received the medal for shoulder and head wounds he suffered when a bomb went off near him in Baghdad in January 2005. Trackey said his Purple Heart was just collecting dust at home. [WaPo]
I'll be singing at a Memorial Day ceremony at a local church this evening, as I have done each year for the past 16 years. I've always kept my country close to my heart. Our closing song is Battle Hymn of the Republic. When Julia Ward Howe wrote the song, she firmly believed not that God was on our side in the Civil War, but that the Union was on God's side. She'd written the words after visiting a Union Army camp on the Potomac River. She heard the soldiers singing the song "John Brown's Body," [an abolitionist's song] and was inspired by it.
Reminding me of what I call "my morning muse - when ideas come almost magically from nowhere upon awkening and are often too soon forgotten as the memory of dreams are so often lost - Julia wrote this:
"I awoke in the grey of the morning, and as I lay waiting for dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to entwine themselves in my mind, and I said to myself, "I must get up and write these verses, lest I fall asleep and forget them!" So I sprang out of bed and in the dimness found an old stump of a pen, which I remembered using the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper."
When I have sung the verse below, for the past few years my heart has been heavy.
The Three Servicemen statue by the late sculptor Frederick Hart, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.
"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on. Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on."
For where is truth today? Our President has lost his claim to moral truth and he should tremble before history and before God.
Americans have awakened to a truth that has always been present, but was so hard to see because of a media that either feared the truth or refused to tell it willingly.
It's time for our citizens to turn this thing around. We are the greatest democracy on the face of the earth and we will survive as a decent nation because we are a nation of decent souls.
Citizens are calling for a new kind of political leadership. Tired of the rhetoric they hear day in and day out, they long for straight talk and authenticity. They know it when they hear it. They feel it when conditions are actually improved by a bold change in policy that comes from a creative and convincing political leader.
Too often, politicians will tell citizens only what high-paid consultants have advised them that citizens want to hear. Out in grassroots America, citizens are directly telling political leaders what they want to hear, and it's often in conflict with the consultants' advice. When a political leader speaks from the mouth of the consultant rather than with his own wisdom and heart, the citizens who cry out for something completely different feel as if they must be living in some alternative universe. Citizens are not an impersonal audience, but they are made to feel that way by their leaders. If a political leader wishes the citizen to see him (or her) as a responsible candidate for office, it seems only natural that they should begin by communicating responsibly and authentically with those they seek to represent. For example, we are barraged with a constant flow of public polls gauging "how we're doing" on poverty while few politicians have the courage to actually champion the causes of the poor. Senator John Edwards is a rare and refreshing exception to the rule, championing those causes every day.
Our leaders too often boast about a land of opportunity and a great economy while the quality of life for thousands of Americans deteriorates. It's no wonder that Congress is receiving such a bad "report card" from the public. According to a recent study, Wal Mart contributes to poverty in our communities while they advertise their low prices and our government gives them sweetheart deals. Some of the working poor in this country were not visible until $3-per-gallon gasoline prices pushed them over the line toward full-blown poverty. Union workers who once enjoyed reasonable job security and economic comfort are now faced with potential layoffs, salary cuts and diminished healthcare and pension benefits.
American politics have hit a dead end. Citizens feel that they are no more than tools used by politicians to maximize capital and to harness power. Americans are thirsting for moral leadership - the kind that reflects our common values.
Let this be a call for a new bottom line in politics and for a new kind of respect for the citizens from whom a political leader is trying to get a vote. Our economic institutions should not only be judged as efficient only to the extent that they extract the maximum wealth and power from each of us. There is no reason why their policies shouldn't reflect our common values - such as compassion, caring, kindness, generosity, ethical sensitivity and ecological sensitivity. We should stand for no less.
From this day forward, listen to political candidates. If they aren't speaking to you with what you perceive as authenticity and a public commitment to pay attention to our core values as caring human beings, let them know why their message will not win them your vote. Tell them to stop framing their programs with their goals to advance the interest of the richest while using each of us as marketing tools and profit targets. We are human beings and as members of a democracy, we possess the capacity for caring for everyone on this planet and having foreign and domestic policies to support that kind of caring.
How can we sit here in what we are told is the freest nation on the face of the earth and complacently allow these political leaders to continue to govern merely for their self-interest and for their assured re-election? When the number of dying children on a daily basis from starvation and disease is equivalent to the number of lives that would be taken as a result of dozens of 747s crashing down from the sky each day, and we know we already could have saved millions of them with only a slight, simple change in our focus and our generosity, how can we keep from crying?
“We are at a historic crossroads to make real change in the developing world, and poll after poll tells us that Americans want to do more to help people in poverty. Even in a time of fiscal constraint, Americans can always afford to keep our promises.”
All signs indicate that it's time for a change. You can be a part of it simply by listening to your leaders carefully - and talking back. Americans are people with great conscience and compassion. The public face we show to our own citizens and the poor of this world should be a reflection of the human beings we pride ourselves on being; not unforgiving, materialistic elites who would pass by their fellow man lying wounded by the side of the road.
I thought I'd share with you a blogpost by Rex Pe [in Jiangsu, China] that I found to be relevant to the challenges we face, as Progressives, while trying to change this world (and the face of politics) for the betterment of all humanity.