Friday, December 31, 2004

The End of 2004

It has been a particularly dismal year, with a exceptionally dismal final week in this year of 2004. The tsunami is the worst natural disaster in our lifetimes. If you can contribute to a charity to help these poor people, then please do so. Please be sure to give to a reputable charity, like the Red Cross, UNICEF, many religious charities (my favorite, www.afsc.org).

I was looking at a new summary in the local paper of events in Iraq this past year. They mention how many US troops have died, but no mention of totals of Iraqi deaths, civilian or otherwise. They mention one to three highlights from each month. They mention the September 30th terrorist bombings that killed 35 children in Baghdad, and also mention the October 1st actions US forces made to retake Samarra from the "insurgents". No mention is made of the 23 children killed on Oct 1st (in that retaking of Samarra) from US bombings.

The civilian deaths from terrorists and insurgent activities are mentioned, but the civilian deaths from US actions are totally ignored in our press. They don't even make an attempt to find out.

Another example is the mention of the March 31st incident were four American "security contractors" were killed and mutilated in Fallujah. No mention of the incident the week before, where 15 Iraqis were killed by US Marines, seven of them children. The US response to the killing of the "security contractors" was extensively bloody, and resulted in many civilian casualties.

It goes on and on. The US forces still does report or attempt to uncover the number of dead from the results of their own actions. And the US media still ignores the issue. Yet we are supposedly there to bring the Iraqi people "freedom and democracy". We are bringing many of them the freedom of the grave and the democracy of death.

In November the US forces "liberated" Fallujah for the third time. They are still "liberating" Fallujah. The entire water and sewer system has been destroyed, and the place is not fit to live in. So, what are they going to do about this? Is there going to be a fourth "liberation" of Fallujah someday?

Here is what one Iraqi official said (From FRONTLINE, a magazine in India): Ghazi al-Yawar, the interim President of the puppet regime in Iraq, had opposed the impending action: "I completely disagree with people who see a need to settle the Fallujah question through military action .. . . It is like someone firing bullets at his horse's head because a fly lands on it; the horse dies and the fly flies away."

He was correct. The terrorists moved elsewhere. Now, the mainstream media in the US would have you think they moved to Mosul. However, those of us who listen to Democracy Now know that Mosul was in the complete control of the insurgents by September, 2004, well before the Fallujah assault.

I often wish that those people who started up this useless war could be made to bear the burden of the suffering it causes.... but instead, it will be ordinary, poor Iraqis and ordinary, poor US troops who will bear this burden. Forever and always.

Pray for peace, pray for the addressing of wrongs in this world, pray for guidance on how we can solve these problems in a non-violent manor. Pray for unity for the good people in Iraq and all over the world.

I don't feel like a party, but I am headed to a friend's house anyway.

I wish you all a happy and peaceful New Years.

Americans showing their generosity!

I read today that Americans have donated $48 million to the tsunami relief efforts!

And that is way more generous than the US government, which needs to do LOTS more. Please contribute (if you have not already) because you can literally save a life for $100 dollars. You will never know whose's life you saved, but that does not change the fact that you did it! There are aid organizations listed in a post below, but there are many good ones out there.

This is the worst natural disaster you will see in your life.

I am so grateful that I am not among the victims. Please call the White House comment line next week (I think they are closed tomorrow) and tell them to donate more than $35 million. The number is 202-456-1112.

And to those who contributed: pat yourself on the back! you did good!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

More Figures

Cost of one F-22 Raptor tactical fighter jet -- $225 million

Cost of the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq--$225 million/day

Amount spent by Kerry and Bush campaigns -- $400 million

U.S. aid to Yushenko camp in recent Ukrainian conflict -- $30+ million

Estimated cost of Bush's Second Inauguration and Ball -- $ 40+ million

Amount of U.S. tax cuts under Bush -- $1 trillion

Cost of the U.S. Iraq War in 2004 -- $147+ billion

U.S. reconstruction aid budgeted for Iraq (though never spent!) -- $18 billion

Amount the U.S. initially pledged to aid the Indian Ocean tsunami victims -- $ 10 million

Amount U.S. offered in tsunami aid after being chastised by UN official -- $35 million

THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Conclusive Evidence that Americans are Immoral and Unchristian

Conclusive Evidence that Americans are immoral and unchristian

From the Washington Post again:
Among the world's two dozen wealthiest countries, the United States often is among the lowest in donors per capita for official development assistance worldwide, even though the totals are larger. According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development of 30 wealthy nations, the United States gives the least -- at 0.14 percent of its gross national product, compared with Norway, which gives the most at 0.92 percent.

Conclusive Evidance that Bush is Immoral and Unchristian

Lobbying Tab Is $1.1 Billion for Half a YearSpecial interest groups report expenditures for the first half of 2004. Chamber of Commerce and AMA top the list, with $39 million. - from LA Times

Cost for Iraq's destruction: $228 million PER DAY - from DOD website

Cost for Bush's upcoming Inauguration: $40 million - per Washington Post

Amount Bush has pledged to help the WORST natural disaster in our lifetimes: $35 Million

Call the White House Comment Line at 202-456-1112 and tell them what YOU think.

And please help the people on the other side of the world!!

Tsunami

One of the world's worst natural disasters has happened over in the Indian ocean, affecting a dozen countries and millions of people. One town reports over half it's population of 95,000 is missing and presumed dead. It boggles the mind, the level of this disaster. There are many great relief agencies out there, and here is another one:
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
The biggest earthquake in 40 years has killed tens of thousands and has left many more homeless. Building on AFSC programs and contacts in Asia, we will help provide relief and longer-term recovery, particularly to those who might be overlooked by other agencies or relief programs.

A donation can be made at: the American Friends Service Committee web site:

http://www.afsc.org/give/asia-relief.htm


For more information, visit AFSC online at www.afsc.org.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Peace Petition

From the American Friends Service Committee:

Each day brings more stories of bombings, kidnappings, and death in Iraq. As the occupation rolls on with no end in sight, more and more ordinary Iraqis question our intentions in their country. To continue down the current path of military occupation and dominance will only invite more violence. It's time to change course in Iraq. It's time to bring the troops home.

Please take a moment to sign the Iraq Peace Petition. Tell the President that we've had enough of body bags and maimed children. The petition will be delivered on the morning after the inauguration. It says:

Mr. President:
We urge you to end this war now. Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people.
War is the wrong path. Too many lives have been lost already -- let our troops come home.


Support for the war continues to ebb. Help us build the momentum for peace. Sign the petition and pass it along to your friends:http://ga3.org/campaign/iraq_peace/wwwu65d4yj85w6d

Together, we can make a difference.
Sincerely, Peter Lems
AFSC Iraq Peacebuilding Program

Thanks for reading. I am so glad my church is doing this.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

A Story from One Who Has Been There

Last Survivor of 'Christmas Truce' Tells of His Sorrow By Lorna Martin The Observer U.K.
Sunday 19 December 2004
The First World War's horrors still move us but one man recalls his moment of peace amid the bloodshed.
The words drifted across the frozen battlefield: 'Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles Schlaft, einsam wacht'. To the ears of the British troops peering over their trench, the lyrics may have been unfamiliar but the haunting tune was unmistakable. After the last note a lone German infantryman appeared holding a small tree glowing with light. 'Merry Christmas. We not shoot, you not shoot.'
It was just after dawn on a bitingly cold Christmas Day in 1914, 90 years ago on Saturday, and one of the most extraordinary incidents of the Great War was about to unfold.
Weary men climbed hesitantly at first out of trenches and stumbled into no man's land. They shook hands, sang carols, lit each other's cigarettes, swapped tunic buttons and addresses and, most famously, played football, kicking around empty bully-beef cans and using their caps or steel helmets as goalposts. The unauthorised Christmas truce spread across much of the 500-mile Western Front where more than a million men were encamped.
According to records held by the World War One Veterans' Association, there is only one man in the world still alive who spent 25 December 1914 serving in a conflict that left 31 million people dead, wounded or missing.
Alfred Anderson was 18 at the time. Speaking to The Observer, Anderson has revealed remarkable new details of the day etched on history, including pictures of Christmas gifts sent to the troops.
His unit, the 5th Battalion The Black Watch, was one of the first involved in trench warfare. He had left his home in Newtyle, Angus, in October, taking the train from Dundee to Southampton, then a ferry to Le Havre.
He was happy, healthy and surrounded by most of his former school friends, who had all joined the Territorial Army together in 1912. In October 1914 they thought that they were at the start of an exciting adventure. But by the first Christmas of the war they had already experienced its horror and the death of young friends was commonplace.
On 24 and 25 December, Anderson's unit was billeted in a dilapidated farmhouse, away from the front line, so he did not participate in any football matches. 'We didn't have the energy, anyway,' he said. But he can still recall vividly what happened on Christmas Day 1914.
'I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence,' he said. 'Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening. And, of course, thinking of people back home. All I'd heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices.
'But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted "Merry Christmas", even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.'
In some parts of the front, the ceasefire lasted several weeks. There are also numerous trench yarns, some possibly apocryphal, about the impromptu fraternising. One, detailed in Michael Jurgs's book The Small Peace in the Big War, involved a young private who was led to a tent behind German lines by an aristocratic officer and plied with Veuve Clicquot. In another tale, a barber supposedly set up shop in no man's land, offering a trim to troops from either side.
Now aged 108 and living alone in Alyth, Perthshire, Anderson still treasures the gift package sent to every soldier a few days before the first Christmas of the war from the Princess Royal. The brass box, which is embossed with a profile of Princess Mary, was filled with cigarettes.
It also contained a cream card, with 1914 on the front, which says: 'With best wishes for a happy Christmas and a victorious New Year, from the Princess Mary and friends at home.'
'I'd no use for the cigarettes so I gave them to my friends,' he said. 'A lot of the lads thought the box was worth nothing, but I said someone's bound to have put a lot of thought into it. Some of the boys had Christmas presents from home anyway, but mine didn't arrive on time.'
To his delight, he discovered that his most treasured possession - a New Testament given to him by his mother before he left for France and inscribed with the message: 'September 5, 1914. Alfred Anderson. A Present from Mother' - fitted the box perfectly.
He kept both in his breast pocket until 1916 when a shell exploded over a listening post in no man's land killing several of his friends and seriously injuring him.
'This is all I brought home from the war,' he said, showing the box and Bible, but forgetting about his beret with its famous red hackle, which is the first thing you see when you step into his home.
There are still many aspects of the war that Anderson finds difficult to talk about. 'I saw so much horror,' he said, shaking his head and gazing into the middle distance. 'I lost so many friends.'
He recalled one incident that gave him a 'sore heart'. When he was first home on leave, he visited the family of a dead friend to express his condolences. He knew them well but soon realised that he was getting a frosty reception. 'I asked if they were going to ask me in and they said no. When I asked why, they just said, "Because you're here and he's not". That was awful. He's one of the lads I miss most.'
Two years ago Prince Charles paid him a private visit after learning that he had served briefly as batman to the Queen Mother's brother, Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon, who, along with hundreds of Mr. Anderson's regimental colleagues, was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915.
The seemingly invincible Anderson, who was awarded France's highest honour - the L├ęgion d'Honneur - in 1998 for his services during the First World War, was recently in the rare position of witnessing one of his six children's golden wedding anniversaries. His children, he said, five of whom are still alive, are what keeps him going.
Alfred Anderson has spent 90 years trying to forget the war. But it has been impossible. So on Saturday he will look back. 'I'll give Christmas Day 1914 a brief thought, as I do every year. And I'll think about all my friends who never made it home. But it's too sad to think too much about it. Far too sad,' he said, his head bowed and his eyes filled with tears.

Do Something!

From Rebecca Solnit:
"And besides which, if you give up, you'll hate yourself in the morning. If you act, you may or may not have the impact you intend, but you know what the consequences of passivity are. Insurrection is the honorable way to go, and you can be a small victory just by being in public, in touch, and outspoken -- one person who hasn't been conquered. Don't do the Administration the favor of conquering yourself."

Next month, I will be going to DC to demonstrate against Bush's policies. I will also attend a Progressive Democrats of America conference (hey, I'm a treaurer of a PAC now, and I don't even really care for politics!) and help out at the American Friends Service Committee exhibit "Eyes Wide Open" for a couple of days. This is an exhibit about the Iraq war. They have a petition on line that is asking the US to get our troop out of there, also. I hope to get a chance to see the museums in DC also.

Tonight, I am connecting with a local person about getting the "Eyes Wide Open" exhibit brought to my town, plus I will be emailing advertisers for the horrible media company, Sinclair Broadcasting.

Tomorrow, the White House Comment line will be open again (202-456-1112), and I will call them yet again and let them know what I think. They need to hear it, believe me.

So, do something! As long as it is constuctive and nonviolent, it will probably help in the long run. And even if it doesn't, at least you can sleep at night.

Just Beyond the Fear

"But for just one fleeting moment
The answer seemed so clear
Heaven's not beyond the clouds
It's just beyond the fear
No, heaven's not beyond the clouds
It's for us to find it here."
(sorry, I forgot to note the author. This is the end of a poem about
the cease fire at Christmas in WW One.)

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas Day

Here's some historical perspective of Christmas and it's celebrations:

"After the Reformation, godly Protestants in Europe were absolutely opposed to Christmas. It was despised by the Puritans and Non-conformists in England. In 1644, when the Puritans controlled the Parliament, it was declared that no observation of Christmas was to be had on December 25th, but, instead, it was to be observed as a normal market-day. It was called "the Profane Man's Ranting Day." At that time, troops would actually break up Christmas celebrations, tear down decorations, and arrest anyone holding a service on that day! Some who celebrated it in Europe were also thrown into prison.

America's settlers ("Protestant America") rightfully considered Christmas a "popish" holiday. In fact, it was only in the early 1800s that several founding members of the New York Historical Society "invented" Christmas. Before then, it was illegal in colonial Massachusetts to even take December 25th off work. Christmas was forbidden as "unseemly to ye spiritual welfare of ye community." (Christmas was banned in Massachusetts in 1659, and this law remained for about twenty years. In Boston, public schools stayed open on December 25th until as late as 1870!) It wasn't until 1836 that any state declared Christmas a holiday (Alabama), and then there were no more state declarations until the Civil War. The so-called Christmas customs and traditions were later concocted more for commercial purposes than for religious."

And today, we have American Christians claiming that the holiday is being attacked because of people saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas"! It seems to me, that if they are truly following Christian ideals, they would be quite tolerant of people saying "Happy Holidays" and even "Happy Solstice".

I heard of the origins of another holiday custom today... the origins of the luminary. This is where you place a cup or so of sand in a brown paper bag, place a candle inside, and then place a few hundred of these lights on the streets and driveways at night. It is quite beautiful! This came from New Mexico, I heard.

"Someday at Christmas, a new world will start... with peace and hope born in every heart, someday at Christmas, men will be free.... maybe not in time for you and me, but someday at Christmas time..."

In this season of celebration of Light, may the Light of God shine in your eyes and your heart!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Quotes

Kipling:
"And if they ask you why they died, tell them: because their father's lied."
(his son died in WW 1)
Mr. Suarez: "My son died, my government lied, my life changed."
(his son died in Iraq in 2003)

Christmas Gifts

Christmas Gifts

My brother sent me a gift in the mail. It is a very tiny, very cute little thingy… a Memory Stick/PC Card Adaptor. I like small, little things, which is why I got notebook computers in the first place. I think it was very sweet of him to send me a gift, and the point of this Memory Stick is to transfer my data (mostly old emails) off of my old computer and put it on my new computer. Right now, my old computer acts like a giant floppy disk. (Let’s leave aside the question of “should I save this data at all?” If I do transfer the data, then I can sell or give away the old computer, anyway.) He said he sent me this because he wanted to give me something practical.

I have no earthly idea how to make it work.

I was driving around town today and looking at the rime ice up on the mountains. (Rime ice, for those who have never seen it, is actually condensation, or humidity, frozen on tree branches and such.) It leaves the top of a mountain looking mostly white, with a bottom part that is mostly brown (some green from the pine trees). It is like someone drew a line to separate the two areas. While driving, I listened to my friend, Cecil, on the local radio station. He was talking about different holiday traditions and celebrations. I really enjoy having Cecil on the local radio. These were two gifts from today… the rime ice and the progressive radio with Cecil. This radio station allows me to hear “Democracy Now” with Amy Goodman. This is quite a gift.

Cecil mentioned the ancient rites of this season…. The pagan celebration of the winter solstice. I attend the Religious Society of Friends meeting (Quakers). We do not even have services for Christmas, even though this is a religion founded on (as they like to say) the “radical” teachings of Jesus Christ. They don’t see where Jesus asked us to celebrate his birthday, and they suspect, like I do, that he was born in the spring anyway. They consider the whole holiday quite “populist”.

I went and bought a copy of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” song. Another Christmas gift, from me to me. I remember singing this song while I was in high school…. I remember signing it with friends, some of whom are now dead. I remember singing it on New Year’s… with guys who had been to Vietnam. Now, today, it is again sadly, relevant. And that makes me feel like crying.

“As so this is Christmas,
and what have you done?
Another year over,
a new one just begun.”

I heard this week that the US troops that arrive at the military hospital in Germany only come with what they had on…. And they were requesting socks, underwear, sweatpants and sweatshirts, toiletries, movies, DVDs for the troops. I called the White House comment line (202-456-1112) and Senator Dole’s office (202-224-6342) right away about that one. Apparently, getting a limb blown off is not a good enough excuse for not packing your bags in today’s “the army you have, not the army you wish you had”. I can understand why the US military might not want to buy the typical movie a typical 20-something year old male might want to watch… that would just look terrible on a purchase order. But NOT PROVIDING THEM WITH UNDERWEAR is just beyond me. I will be sending some of my old videos over soon, like “A Walk to Remember” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding”. Most of those 20-something year old males will watch for about 10 minutes before they say “hey, I don’t have to watch this! I’m not on a date!”

“And so this is Christmas,
We hope you have fun,
The near and the dear ones,
The old and the young.”

Of course, this week we had 22 killed when an “insurgent” in Mosul blew himself up. Those of us who listen to Democracy Now knew that Mosul was in the hands of the “insurgents” by this past September. Those of us who know anything about guerilla wars know that the rebels infiltrate the occupiers all the time. Very tragic this event, and very predictable.

“A Very Merry Christmas, and A Happy New Year,
Let’s hope it’s a good one…without any fears.”

A blogger from Iraq “A Star from Mosul” wrote about her friend who died from US troops firing after a roadside bomb went off. Her friend was shot, and died, while in his teacher’s arms.

“And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
The rich and the poor ones
The world is so long….”

The people who made comments on her blog gave her lots of grief because she called the American troops “irresponsible” and because she never mentioned the recent killing of US troops in Mosul. This Iraqi blogger, and those who commented, never mentioned at all THE 66 PEOPLE KILLED TWO DAYS EARLIER in Najaf and Karbala. That would be three times worse than the Mosul incident, I think.

“And so happy Christmas,
For black and for white,
For yellow and red ones,
Let’s stop all the fights.”

Of course, those Iraqis civilians killed by US firepower are not mentioned at all. One statistical survey (a couple of months back) put this figure at 100,000. Being a statistical model, there is a wide margin of error here. However, they concluded that there is a better than 94% chance that over 40,000 civilians have been killed, mostly by US firepower (by a two to one margin), in this optional war for bogus reasons.

“A Very Merry Christmas, and A Happy New Year,
Let’s hope it’s a good one…without any tears.”

I read somewhere this week that 16 children in Baghdad died from exposure this week. They mostly have no electricity, and there is little fuel for the generators or for kerosene heaters. What fuel that is available is very expensive. The malnutrition rate is twice it was under the sanctions, which was already high. And it is not because of a lack of food (yet)…. It is because there is no safe drinking water. Not all those who die from war do so from bullets or bombs. They die from exposure and disease and stress and lack of medical care also.

“And so this is Christmas,
We hope you have fun,
The near and the dear ones,
The old and the young.”

The Washington Post wrote an editorial called “War Crimes”. This is in response to the ACLU’s unearthing the memos that indicate that the ‘Sec. Def.’ ordered torture (that would be Rumsfeld). Furthermore, military guys were pretending they were FBI guys. That made the FBI guys kinda nervous. Yes, torture, rape, abuse and other inhuman brutalities are also a part of wars, all wars. It just has that effect…. Seeing other humans as “others”, as being less than human. And having a buddy injured or hurt does inspire feelings of hate and revenge in a lot of people. And putting all the blame on the troops is like blaming your hand for hitting someone.

The Washington Post has not yet noticed that the entire war on Iraq is a WAR CRIME. But, nobody claimed they were a quick study, even if they do publish my letters sometimes (and sometimes not!)

“A Very Merry Christmas, and A Happy New Year,
Let’s hope it’s a good one…without any fears.”

Some 2,000 people were allowed back into Fallujah this week. That would be about 1% of the total number that left seven weeks ago, most of who are now living (and dying) in tents. Those people who went back said their homes are destroyed. There is no electricity at all here, and all the water and sewer pipes have been bombed to smithereens. The US military is proposing to put up water tanks on every block or so for drinking water. Meanwhile, three more US Marines died fighting there this week. I’m not sure if that makes it the fourth “liberation” of Fallujah, or if it is just the third “liberation”, part 2.

So, what happens if they cannot reach the water tanks to refill them?

Anybody over there thought of that? I didn’t think so……..

“And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
The rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong….”

“A Very Merry Christmas, and A Happy New Year,
Let’s hope it’s a good one…without any fears.”

Again and again on the “pro-American” sites (really “pro-war” would be the correct term) they hold onto the belief that Bush really intends to deliver “freedom and democracy” to the Iraqi people. Apparently, all the lies about WMDs have not made a dent on these people! It barely reaches their consciousness, or sometimes, they actually believe the WMDs were found! or used!! (no, I'm not referring to the napalm-like bombs the US dropped in Fallujah.)

They also go on and on about how the Iraqi people have to stop the insurgents themselves. The reality is the US military hired an insurgent (after screening him) who proceeded to blow them up last Tuesday. How can the Iraqi civilian population, which does not have the weapons, night vision goggles, protective vests, training, etc…. how can THEY stop the insurgents?

I have to constantly remind myself that some of those folks who thought this war was a good idea, fools that they may be, really do hope and wish (and sometimes work for) the best for Iraq.

“And so this is Christmas (war is over)
And what have we done? (if you want it)
Another year over, (war is over)
A new one just begun. (NOW)”

But those folks who started this war have no good intentions. (and think of this… it was probably less than 200 people on this planet who started this!!) And for those who profited from this war (that would include Senator Edwards), how can you live with yourselves? For those in our media that promoted and cheered on this war (that would include you, Aaron Brown), how can you live with yourselves? How can you go on day after day not informing Americans of what is really happening with their tax dollars? How can you look in the mirror and not throw up? How can those who profess to be Christians support war in any form?

“War is over, if you want it, war is over, NOW.”
“War is over, if you want it, war is over, NOW.”
“War is over, if you want it, war is over, NOW.”

And, as that radical Jesus said, “Father, forgive them: they know not what they do.”





Thursday, December 23, 2004

First Post

This is a test.

Standing in the Light

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly.

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
By: Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D., 1872-1918


I've been thinking about this poem.

A first cousin of my father's was killed and buried in France in 1944. He was an American, and his name was Vincent Kleine. My father's name, as well as mine, is also quite German. I have no doubt my father had more distant cousins fighting for the German side.... and some more distant cousins who died in the camps that Hitler made.

The folly of it all. Cousins killing cousins, both sides convinced that "God is on our side".

But getting back to the poem:"take up our quarrel with the foe, to you from failing hands we throw - The torch: be yours, to hold it high...."

This poet said the fallen soldiers threw us a torch... a light... not a gun, not a cannon, not a sword, not a weapon of war, .... but a torch, to hold high, so that those who died can rest in peace.

A light, to illuminate this darkness called violence and war.

And in this season of celebration of light... (the solstice, the menorah, the light of Jesus -who was born in the spring, I believe-, and Kwanzaa) .... all are based on light, in one way or another. A light that is a miracle, or a light that is guidance, or a Light sent to redeem the world, or the light of the returning sun. The last one would be the original celebration, which I believe the Christians co-opted. And the Solstice is a fine holiday. Without the return of longer days and warmer weather, we would have perished long ago. The lengthening of the days was a sure sign of hope.

I attend Quaker meetings for worship. They are based on the teachings and life of Jesus, yet they do not have services for his birth. They consider such activities, and the hoopla that goes with it, to be "populist". They do believe that all human beings have the spark of divine Light in them, and that superficial celebrations and rituals usually just obsure that connection with the Light of God. They also believe that the truth of God is still being revealed, so we are open to learning from other religions and spiritual practices.

In meeting for worship, we "hold people in the Light" when we pray for them. We hold them in our thoughts and concerns and the healing power of God, the Light of the world.

May the Light shine on you and yours this holiday season, as we attempt to hold the torch high, that is the light of truth, and the Light of the divine.

May we not break faith with the fallen.

May we find the light of truth and the light of love to overcome those who have lost the way, and have led us into war yet again.

dancewater