Study Peace: I ain't gonna' study war no more.
From every direction we are continually being encouraged to hate. Sometimes the message is as subtle as a racist innuendo peppered into the nightly news, other times it's blatant and cruel and spoken by some authority figure who by their status lends their hatefulness acceptability. Online comments to news items and blogs are often so mean-spirited that they choke off all incentive to carry on a civil dialogue. As our standard of living steadily declines, we are handed scapegoats on a silver platter: blame it on the immigrants, the gays, the homeless, the liberals, the Muslims, the Chinese, the Mexicans, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Tea Baggers and those atheists who dare to wish you Happy Holidays! Enough!
How are we going to stand up to the bully banksters and globalists if we're draining our energy fighting amongst ourselves? We are obviously being manipulated by the oldest trick in the book -" Divide and Conquer! This constant bickering over silliness while the bullies rape and pillage our world, is tearing apart families and neighbors. Instead of scrambling to figure out how to get us out of this mess, our legislators have proudly assured us that they committed to fueling partisan bickering and one-upmanship, as if this was a game and not our lives!
I'm not suggesting that we stop working for justice and causes we know are critical to our mutual survival. This is no time to be silent or remain neutral. What I am suggesting is that we try to be more aware of our approach and to recognize that we have, as the song goes, been carefully taught to hate. And because of that, we tend to act, speak and think within a violent framework. Listen to the conversations around you today and see how many violent words tumble off our tongues without a thought. Now that I am more attuned to this, it astonishes me to hear how often people, who are committed to peace, talk about "fighting" for this or that cause. Go back to the first sentence in this paragraph and notice that I used the word "working" instead. Such a small thing a word is, that it can put us in such a different place.
I was fortunate to have a conversation with Marcelline Brogli, who teaches non-violent communication (NVC), when I decided to run for Congress in 2006. Knowing how mean-spirited politics can be, she challenged me to use NVC throughout my campaign and offered to teach me how to do it. I'd always considered myself a peaceful person, but with Marcelline's guidance I began to hear my responses through the ears of others, and to feel how hurtful my words could be. I can't claim that I was the perfect student, and I still often lapse into the old way of carelessly speaking my mind and trying to clean up the mess afterwards. But I've learned to be more conscious of the power of my thoughts and words, and to be kind to myself as well as others, as we all have a lot of learning to do -" or perhaps un-learning would be more apt.
Here's an example of how foreign non-violence is to the status quo. Our organization, Amikas, has been going back and forth with the IRS for almost a year now just to get their approval as a 501(c)(3) organization so donations to us can be tax deductible and we can apply for VA and HUD grants. The problem started when we referred to our plan to build cooperative communities. Apparently the IRS is only capable of seeing the word "cooperative" in one light -- as a co-op. And co-ops cannot be 501(c)(3) organizations! Try to explain to the IRS that cooperative means that people work with one another for the common good. Does not compute. We had to change our corporate purpose, by-laws and application to remove the word cooperative. But yesterday I received yet ANOTHER letter requesting even more assurance that we are not a co-op, because we they found the word cooperation was still on our website!
I'm not going to go into all the details on how to practice non-violent communication. The method Marceline taught me is based on the work of Marshall Rosenberg http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/index.htm, but there are many other good approaches that you can find online. Like all good things, it doesn't come easily, and I doubt anyone can be non-violent all the time. But the effort is worthwhile. Our goal is to get through these difficult times we find ourselves in, and we can do that a lot better if we know how to communicate and cooperate with all the people in our community.
Now I need to remind myself to practice NVC in my response to the IRS -" arrrrgggghhhh!!!!!!