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The Others

Beyond our edge lies another country.
The others live there-right beyond our edge.
A country’s edge drawn black-lined and defined,
us and ours-and then-the others.
A land’s edge or a skin’s edge or a mind’s edge;
no inside-out and God knows-no outside-in!
Is it really clear where we stop and an other begins,
even those, we once would call our friends?
Have we made a God of LAW that wars with the God
of COMPASSION who surely cringes and protests
when we brandish our brutal selfishness
wounding all the weak and vulnerable
who stumble in its path and lie there bleeding?
Does the crusade demanded by another idol,
the ever restless idol of THIRST FOR POWER,
that seeks to wall the borders of earth’s bounty
and seal doors that once offered sanctuary from evil,
now dare try to wrap even our hearts with concertina wire,
like the many map lines of history’s territorial greed?
Is nothing sacred? Is nothing safe from hubris?                                                                                     Wake up, people of good will!                                                                                                                         The time has come to expose this egomania                                                                                             and challenge people to believe once more                                                                                               in the possibility of joy from open hearts                                                                                                 and the sense of safety that only love can bring.

Eleven Year Old Granddaughter Asks about Donald Trump

Her mom’s reply: My 11 year old asked me why people (Donald Trump) were saying we should deport all immigrants, Hispanic and Muslim, why he wanted to start a database or have people wear numbers, why he thinks we should close our borders to an entire race/culture, why he said such angry and ugly words about people. She said ‘a lot of my friends wear scarves on their heads. They are not bad people, they are nice and my friends’. I have tried to explain to her what’s going on. I have told her both sides. That bad people have done horrific things in the name of a perverted view of a religion. That those things keep on happening all over the world. She has seen some of the news coverage about it. She, in her 11 year old head, is trying to understand something none of us will ever understand. She also immediately understood something I think all of us should.
Let’s step back for a moment everyone. Step back and truly listen to what’s being said right now. Hate is rampant and being applauded. This has all gone too far. Do we not remember the holocaust? What’s happening in our country right now, is the beginning. Yes, there are people (monsters) who pervert a religion to justify killing innocents as there always have been. This is not new, nor is it confined to a disgusting perversion of the Muslim faith. Yes, we DO need to do something about it. No, we don’t need to incite fear and hatred.
My 11 year old understands this. Why can’t adults? After I explained, as impartially as possible, which I will admit was difficult for me, why Trump (and others) were saying the things that they are, she looked at me and in all her 11 year old wisdom asked quietly ‘isn’t that what Hitler did?’ She, as a babe, understands the ramification of what is being said. She has little 11 year old friends who are scared because they wear a headscarf or go to the mosque. She sees their fear and hurts for them. Isn’t about time we, as adults, took a page from her book of wisdom and say ‘this is enough! We will defend the innocent, but we will not do it by punishing the innocent!’
My heart hurts and my brain is tired. Please stop this hate. Stop applauding it and spreading it. Stop before it’s too late to bring this freight train of bigotry and racism to a halt.

Become Peacemakers: Wars Kill Our Souls

From The Upper Room August 6, 2013:
A reflection on Ephesians 4:32
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

I hated the Americans who massacred so many people, including my sister, with the atomic bomb when I was fourteen. For many years I could neither forgive nor forget what they had done. But as I started to read the Bible, I was challenged and changed by the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”(Luke 23:34)
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done. We ask for our daily food, forgiveness, and salvation from evil. Then we affirm God’s dominion, power, and glory. For me, forgiveness is a strong and powerful attitude.
Paul said,”Be kind to one another” and “tenderhearted.” When we allow God to make our hearts tender, we become able to forgive. For me forgiveness is given so strongly and so powerfully from God through Jesus, that it breaks through the hatred caused by the atomic bomb. Contributed by Haruyoshi Fujimoto

My reflections:

War and fear breed hatred beyond understanding and war leaves wounds too deep for human healing.

In 2003, I visited the small town of Shrewsbury, England.  I went to their tiny, but ancient, Military Museum.  There were relics and accounts of literally millennia of wars.  There was a captured American regiment’s flag from our own Revolutionary War with England.  There were long lists of local men killed in war after war after war.  Many of the family names on the lists were the same for generation after generation.   Most of the wars were with countries that are now England’s allies.  Unbelievably, this small rather insignificant museum had actually been damaged by an IRA bomb a year before.  My maiden name is O’Leary, so I felt saddened by that, though after visiting Ireland and seeing the evidence of England’s repression and injustice to the Irish, I did finally understand the conflict. Seeing the lists of those lost to war, of families decimated, of enemies now allies, and allies now enemies, realizing that in all those other countries there were matching lists, I thought of all the little people who bear the brunt of wars and even the survivors who are never the same.  My life experiences have taught me that there are no good guys in wars. And now my beloved America was following in England’s footsteps.  Sorrow overwhelmed me.

During WWII my mother was Personnel Director for a large American Army Post. Part of her job was keeping up morale and this required showing movies of our soldiers cornering Japanese soldiers in caves. When the Japanese soldiers came out of the caves with their hands up, our soldiers set them on fire with flame throwers, and the civilian personnel watching these movies would all cheer. Mom came home sick and unable to sleep after having to show and watch these.

Some years ago, I worked in a Christian Book Store. A young man, about nineteen or twenty years old, came in to buy a bible and we got to talking. He began to tell me about being in the army and just returning from fighting in Panama. With tears in his eyes he told me about his squad being ordered to take over a building where enemy soldiers were thought to be hiding. As they approached, people suddenly came running out of the building, and he and his fellow soldiers responded with machine gun fire. It turned out that it was a school and the people running out were teachers and their young students.

Almost thirty years ago, I was a Civil Service employee on an U.S. Army Post. Technically, I was an Education Specialist-Religion in the Chaplains’ Division. I was Associate Director of All Religious Education for the Post and Director of the Catholic Religious Education Program for the 9,000 Catholics on Post. Central America was at that time a hotbed of political revolution with America unofficially supporting various sides. I had many military men and women volunteers teaching in our Sunday children’s classes. I learned quickly to make sure each of our fifty classes had two teachers, with at least one of them being civilian, since overnight without any warning, all the military would disappear and I’d end up with classrooms full of children without teachers. I never knew exactly where they went. Everyone just said people had gone “south.” There were no official declarations of war and often we ended up fighting in support of blatantly evil dictators, because the communists were supporting the rebels.

The individuals I met in the military are amazing people.  They spend their lives far away from their families of origin, so they form close bonds among themselves, which they renew when their paths crisscross over the years.  With both men and women now serving all over the world, their families and their communities are small versions of the United Nations Assembly. In civilian life, people coming from other countries tend to cling together and to their native cultures.  The army life more or less forces the military to live with, work with, learn with, and support each other across races, nationalities, and cultures.  Marriage with citizens of other countries and cultures is common place and families are multi-racial and cultural.  Frequent separations make marriage harder than normal and many blended families may have children of several different racial and national backgrounds. It is a paradox that the rank and file of the military are the greatest witness to hope for peace among diverse people, I have ever encountered. When we protest against war, these are not the people causing them.  These are the people dying in them. War is political. We civilians are just as much a part of the political systems that create wars.

One of my friends did training for Religious Education teachers for the nearest Catholic Diocese. She also happened to be a leader in the local Peace and Justice movement. I invited her to come lead one of our Teacher Training Workshops. I think the title was: Teaching as Jesus Taught, which stressed using stories like Jesus did. Our Religious Ed Department included a large combination Library/Conference Room, which we used for this workshop. It just so happened the room was already set up for a Chaplains’ conference on ministering to soldiers when battles involved limited nuclear weapons. The set up included horrifying photos, that I hoped were only simulated, all around the walls. My friend was a kind and sensitive woman, who did not intend to cause me any problems by being offensively anti-military. She did not need to. As she gently led us in listening to Jesus’s words, one of the teachers noticed the photos and called attention to them. No words could have illustrated the gap between the world’s way and the way of Jesus better. The photos said it all.

God forgive us all, for we know not what we do.

Whom do you see as  the “bad guys” in your world?  Your parents’ world?  Your grandparents’ world?  Your children’s world?  Your grandchildren’s world?How do we become peacemakers?  Where do we start?  What helps you be peace filled? What has helped bring about reconciliation in your life?