Dove of Peace

The Path of Peace and Liberty

"There is no path to peace. Peace is the path." - Mohandas Gandhi

"There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo

The Non-Aggression Principle

This site is dedicated to the prospect that we can live both free and peaceful lives. It is about a simple yet powerful idea called the Non-Aggression Principle, or NAP.

For those who are either new to the NAP or seek to know more, we have provided our fellow travelers with a Beginners Guide to Peace. An overview of topics discussed can be found on the Guide page while the Resources page provides links to books, movies and other resources meant to inspire, inform and perhaps even transform.

Healing our culture

Liberty in watercolor by Tanya Hall

Western civilization has provided humanity with many gifts, but war is not one of them. Like slavery and misogyny, war is a disease of culture, a malfunction that prevents it from operating at its life affirming optimum. Western culture did not invent war nor does it have a monopoly on it, but war seems to have stricken western society particularly hard these past several centuries.

Because war thrives on ignorance, apathy and fear, the cure for war will require knowledge, compassion and action. It is hoped that this site will contribute to the healing.

NAP Metal Logo

Finding Peace and Liberty

Is it possible to find both peace and liberty? Among the various pages of this site there are 42 images embedded with the NAP logo, not counting the banner at the top of each page. The logo was created to symbolize the Non-Aggression Principle and its embrace of both liberty and peace. It is free to be used and shared by all those who both value freedom and are opposed to the use of coercive power, whether it be by individuals, groups or the State. More information on its usage and links to downloadable versions of the logo can be found on the Feedback page.

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Tales from the Trail

Miscellaneous observations on the path of peace.

Woodstock Poster

August 15-16-17: Woodstock

"Three days of Peace and Music." - From a 1969 promotional poster for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

The Woodstock Nation

That was quite a party they had back there in '69. Some 400,000 young people made it to the Woodstock Music and Art Fair at Max Yasgur's farm near Bethel, New York. It was reported that another quarter million more tried to get there but were stymied by miles of nearly impassible roads.

The actual event took place some 60 miles southwest of the town of Woodstock, an artist colony that was home to Bob Dylan, Richie Havens and a number of other musicians at the time. The concert promoters had originally hoped to have the festival at a site close to Woodstock but politicians intervened and the promoters had to scramble to find another location.

From the reports I have read it was a remarkable event, the largest gathering of youth for peaceful purposes in the history of humanity up to that time. For many it was a life changing experience, not only for those in attendance but for those there in spirit.

I was but a small tyke at the time, not quite seven, so it was a number of years after that I even knew anything about the event. Over the years, having watched the concert footage, listened to the music and read numerous interviews from those who were there and those that made it happen, I myself have drawn a number of useful lessons from the "gathering of the tribes".

Woodstock crowd

Peace is possible

While the documentary of the festival features a number of beautiful young women in various styles and states of dress, photos show that the audience was predominantly male, and the Vietnam War was undoubtedly on the minds of most of those men. The Vietnam War was running full throttle and, while it was not known at the time, the year 1969 would mark the peak of U.S. troop levels in Vietnam. Over half a million men were stationed there, with over a third of the U.S. troops in Vietnam being there non-voluntarily as draftees.

In contrast to southeast Asia, where young men were being forced to inflict horrific violence, the people in the small towns around the festival reported how peaceful the young people were. Part of this was likely due to the fact that most of the young people in attendance had been brought up in a culture that still taught respect for others and was not inordinately focused on perceived entitlements. Another factor may have been the relative absence of alcohol. While it was reported that a lot of weed was smoked during the festival, along with some use of psychedelics, after the first day there was relatively little alcohol available.

..but politicians often prefer war

22 Percent of the World's Prisoners

Unfortunately, despite its relatively benign nature, the ever paranoid Nixon demonized the use of cannabis in the years following the festival. Associating it with the antiwar movement, Nixon dramatically increased the criminal penalties for its use, igniting a war on drugs that would escalate through the Reagan and Clinton administrations to the point that the U.S. would eventually have the highest incarceration rate in the world. By 2013, with less then 5% of the world's people, the United States had 22% of the world's prisoners.

Politics divides, music can unite

Woodstock era buttons

Prior to the festival, many people had feared, or had been encouraged to fear, that the violence that had occurred the previous year at the Democratic Party convention in Chicago would reignite amidst such a large gathering. What was missed at the time was a full understanding of the divisive nature of politics and the power of music to unite.

Chicago Convention Riots

During the campaign leading up to the 1968 presidential election, candidates Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy had both strongly spoken out against the Vietnam War. Tragically, in the midst of his rising popularity and on the very eve of his primary victory in California, RFK was silenced by a gunman. Incredibly, although the overwhelming majority of Democratic Party voters had voted for an antiwar candidate, at the convention in Chicago it became clear that the apparatchiks of the Not-So-Democratic Party were going to choose the pro war Humphrey, demoralizing the antiwar community and escalating tensions already heighten by the assassinations of RFK and Martin Luther King Jr. the previous year.

Power corrupts

While the festival received overwhelmingly positive reviews regarding its peaceful nature afterwards, the organizers had to deal with an unexpected threat before the concert even began.

Yippie Button

The Yippies (Youth International Party) were an anarchistic political group that was largely focused on opposing the Vietnam War and decriminalizing cannabis and other drugs. They often used street theater and pranks to draw attention to their cause. While generally nonviolent and having no official hierarchy of leadership, one of its founders, Abbie Hoffman, seemed inordinately attracted to the spotlight. Drawn into the political circus that was the Democratic convention the year before, Hoffman and seven others had been arrested and charged with inciting a riot, a riot which many believed was actually initiated by the police.

While awaiting his trial prior to the festival, Hoffman made a spectacularly ham-fisted attempt to insert himself into the festivities. Joel Rosenman, one of the organizers of the fair, describes what went down:

"I went to see Abbie on his request-an invitation one doesn't refuse. I said, 'Look Abbie, I know you'd like to make a kind of big presentation at Woodstock, but it isn't that kind of a show, it's rock 'n' roll and it's really a weekend of peace and music,' and he said, 'I don't give a damn about that, you guys write a big check to my organization, and we're cool.' 'What are you talkin' about?' 'Here's what I'm talkin' about-$10,000.'"

The Who

To ward off disruption the organizers cut the check. I find this episode particularly appalling as I am actually very sympathetic to much of what the Yippies tried to do. By embracing the growing mass media and using art and street theater, the Yippies had attempted to bridge the gap between the flower children, perceived by many as self centered and hedonistic, with the hard core antiwar and anti-government movements.

Ring of Power

Unfortunately the Ring of Power, in this case attention and fame, proved too difficult for Mr. Hoffman to resist. Apparently not content with the coerced payoff, Hoffman further disgraced himself by jumping onto the stage during The Who's set to harangue the audience for enjoying the festival while a friend of his was in jail for two joints of weed. Displeased by the interruption, Pete Townsend, who later expressed his sympathy for Hoffman's cause, knocked the usurper off the stage for violating, in Townsend's words, "the sanctity of the stage".

The world is not black and white

Magic Bus

While the first Woodstock festival has been called "a gathering of the tribes", some critics over the years have complained that the audience was overwhelmingly white, insinuating that racism was somehow at play. This is a ridiculous notion. While the audience was generally light in complexion, that largely reflected the ethnicity of those in the immediate and surrounding areas. Additionally, the musicians they had come to see and hear were a diverse lot representing a number of different musical styles and heritages. The music portion of the fair was bookended by acoustic guitarist Richie Havens and electric guitar marvel Jimi Hendrix, with stellar performances from Sly and the Family Stone and Carlos Santana. The first day of the concert featured classical Indian music by Ravi Shanker, interspersed among a number of folk acts such as Joan Baez whose husband had recently been jailed for resisting the draft.

B.B. King

In contrast to that time, the recent outrage over cultural appropriation is puzzling. Musicians, painters, writers and other artists have long borrowed bits and pieces from numerous cultures. In the 1960's George Harrison became intrigued by a musical instrument, the sitar, while on the set of the movie "Help" and ultimately introduced millions of Beatles fans to Indian music. Likewise members of the Rolling Stones, the Animals and numerous other bands in the U.K. were huge fans of African American blues music and integrated elements of that music into their style of play. This in turn generated a greater audience for a number older blues players in the United States.

Earth From Apollo 11.jpg

Additionally, like music, science and technology progresses from new discoveries and inventions from people all over the world. The Apollo moon landing that had taken place just weeks before the Woodstock festival had benefited greatly from contributions by German and other European scientists. To criticize someone for embracing positive elements of another culture seems unnecessarily belligerent, intentionally provocative and contrary to a spirit of peace and brotherhood.

Be prepared

The producers of the show had hoped that more than a hundred thousand people would show up for the festival but told the locals they only expected 50,000. In the end more than a half million people either made it to the site or got stuck in traffic trying to get there. Needless to say, food, water, sanitation and other services were quickly overwhelmed. Torrential rains added to the discomfort.

"Be Prepared" is the Boy Scout motto. While I was never a fan of the uniforms and other paramilitary elements of the organization during the years I was a member, there were a number of useful skills and values that I either learned or had reinforced by that group. Being self-sufficient was one of those skills, and it is something that can be a benefit not just to oneself but to others as well. Those that arrived early with tents, sleeping bags and supplies likely faired far better then later arrivals. Not only were they better prepared for the rain, they were in a much better position to help others in need, to share a blanket and a meal.

Volunteer

VoluntarySociety

No, I don't mean join the military. In fact, I prefer you not do that. What I am talking about is extending a hand to help others in need, whether they be your neighbors or cold hungry strangers.

During the course of the festival there were numerous examples of people pitching in to help. In an interfaith effort a number of ladies from the Jewish Community Center of Monticello joined together to pay for and assemble 30,000 sandwiches which were then distributed by the Sisters of the Convent of St. Thomas. Meanwhile members of the Hog Farm commune, relying on numerous volunteers and funds from the concert promoters, did its best to provide "breakfast in bed for 400,000". In addition to staffing the kitchen and distributing food, other volunteers helped to staff the medical tents, providing basic first aid and calming those tripping for the first time.

I should make a distinction at this point between volunteering as a charitable act and Voluntaryism, a philosophy that I also support. Voluntaryism is based on the Non-Aggression Principle and holds that all forms of human association should be voluntary. A purely voluntary free market, with its demonstrated ability to benefit millions without coercion and violence, is a great example of Voluntaryism in action. Likewise, when difficult circumstance arise, as they inevitably do, Voluntaryists believe that the best response is a charitable response, not one that relies on the harsh hand of the State.

There is no free lunch

VoluntarySociety

While many of the multitude received free food, medical attention and other services, it still had to be paid for. This was done through the generous donations of labor by thousands of volunteers and by financial contributions from hundreds of supportive townspeople. Additionally, while hundreds of thousands of concert goers were pleased when the promoters declared it a free concert, John Roberts, the chief financial backer of the festival, found himself $1.5 million in debt at the end of the festivities. In addition to all of the unexpected costs and the lost revenue from not charging for tickets, the backers faced dozens of lawsuits from surrounding dairy farms for the interruption to their milking and delivery schedules. In the end, although it took eleven years, Mr. Roberts made sure that all debts were paid in full.

I love Gravy, as long as it is Wavy

Wavy Gravy at Woodstock

"We must be in heaven man! - Wavy Gravy at the Woodstock festival

While Abbie Hoffman had seized the microphone at center stage to berate the audience, co-emcee Wavy Gravy, member of the Hog Farm and the "Please Force", embodied the spirit of the festival and projected a feeling of harmony, cooperation and happiness. He made people understand that we are all in this together, and that we can all benefit by helping each other out. While preparation is certainly important, being able to appreciate and enjoy the present, no matter what the conditions, is vital to living fully. We should always make now the best possible now.

Further Explorations

An excellent book on the trials and tribulation of the medical staff charged with keeping 400,000 people healthy can be found in the book Woodstock '69: Three Days of Peace, Music, and Medical Care.

The book Woodstock: Three Days that Rocked the World by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsury, provides a great summary and set lists for each of the artists that performed at the festival along with historical context and a discussion of the impact of the festival on later events.

Notes

Quote from Joel Rosenman, page 139 of the book Woodstock: Three Days that Rocked the World by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsury, forward by Martin Scorsese.

Picture Credits

Woodstock promotional poster at the Museum at Bethel Woods, photographed by Andrew Lesko

The crowd at Woodstock. Photo by Derek Redmond and Paul Campbell, downloaded from Wikimedia Commons. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

"US Justice" - image by Andrew Lesko.

1960's era buttons on display at the Museum at Bethel Woods, photographed by Andrew Lesko.

Chicago Democratic Convention riot, 1968. Original source unknown.

Yippie! button.Photo by victorgrigas, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

The Who. Photograph by Heinrich Klaffs. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Ring of Power. Composition by Andrew Lesko.

Psychedelic bus display at the Museum at Bethel Woods, photographed by Andrew Lesko

B.B. King. Public domain photo of B.B. King in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1972. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Earth from Apollo 11. Public domain photo by Mark Goff, August 15 1969. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Sharing a blanket. Public domain photo by Mark Goff, August 15 1969. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Voluntaryist banner. Public domain photo by Mark Goff, August 15 1969. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Woodstock tickets. Created by Marpescz. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Image of Wavy Gravy speaking at the Woodstock festival, 1969.

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Buchenwald Liberation

August 6-9: Witnessing

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” - Elie Wiesel

The denial of history

Near the end of World War II, as Nazi concentration and death camps were liberated by the allied forces, nearby townspeople at a number of sites were forced to march through the factories of death and cruelty. Some of the locals were quoted as saying that they were not aware that such a thing was happening in their homeland and, very nearly, in their own backyards.

It seems cruelly ironic to collectively pass guilt on all the German people for the horrors of the holocaust. The belief in group guilt and the infliction of collective punishment are both morally repugnant. The Jews were wrongly and viciously targeted because of a Nazi belief in the collective guilt of all Jews for an atrocity millennia earlier. Homosexuals, intellectuals, political opponents and others were also collectively punished for equally absurd reasons.

In the end we do not know what responsibility any individual townsperson had in the incarceration of thousands of lives and the incineration of many thousands more. As a group, however, they did have have a singular responsibility in the aftermath. Having laid eyes on the horror of these pits of hell, the most important task of the townspeople was to bear witness, to observe and report what had happened to guide future generations from committing similar atrocities. As General Eisenhower said after visiting one of the death camps, “Get it all on record now, get the films, get the witnesses, because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”

Nagasaki Bomb

A history of denial

August 6 marks the anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb. On that date in 1945, within a matter of seconds, tens of thousands of people in the Japanese city of Hiroshima were incinerated. That atrocity was followed just three days later, on August 9, by the detonation of a second atomic bomb over the city of Nagasaki. A mere four months after the atrocities of the Nazis had been revealed to the world the United States had committed its own terrible acts of collective punishment.

Throughout the war the United States government was quick to publicize German and Japanese atrocities but worked overtime to hide its own barbarism. Shortly after assuming the role of Viceroy of Japan, General McAuthor imposed total censorship on journalists wishing to report the aftermath of the atomic bombs, either confiscating or destroying nearly all photographic evidence taken at the two sites. We now know that, by a single act, the U.S. government had murdered at least 80,000 civilians at Hiroshima, including 20,000 conscripted Koreans forced to work for the Japanese. In addition to the tens of thousands that died instantly, many tens of thousands more died slow agonizing deaths from radiation poisoning and other injuries. At Nagasaki the civilian death toll was at least 60,000. Ironically, the all-Christian crew of the second bomber managed to do what various Japanese governments had been unable to do for centuries: by dropping the bomb on Nagasaki, they annihilated the largest Christian community in Japan, a community of thousands that had been forced to go underground in the 1600’s and survived in secret for over two centuries before the ban on Christianity was lifted in 1873.

While we have long been told that the use of nuclear weapons was necessary to end the war, a number of high ranking officers, including General Eisenhower and Admirals Halsey and Leahy, thought that they were not needed. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of allied forces in Europe, had in fact advised the Truman administration against using the new weapon.

Unfortunately, here in the United States we continue to live under a veil of ignorance, both with regard to World War II and to the seven or more current wars that the U.S. is either leading or participating in. In this hyper-connected world that provides billions with the access to instant information, there seems to be little knowledge in this country of the damage and suffering caused by decades of war and political and economic interference by the U.S. government.

Worth the price?

Is the Price Worth It?

In 1991, after a massive 42 day bombing campaign that resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, in part due to the targeting of water treatment plants, George H.W. Bush proudly proclaimed that the U.S. had "kicked the Vietnam syndrome". In doing so Bush tortured the English language to mock the natural and rational reluctance of the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens to insert themselves into new wars while deliberately hiding the war crimes that the U.S. government had committed. The following President, Bill Clinton, added to the misery in the Middle East by enforcing brutal economic sanctions against the Iraqi people, sanctions that the United Nations estimated resulted in the deaths of 500,000 children, more than had died at Hiroshima.

The cost of ignorance

Ignorance is not bliss. While the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens may not know the full extent of the war crimes committed in their name by their "representative government", the people of the Middle East certainly know. In addition to recognizing the human and monetary costs of these wars, we who are opposed to war also understand the principle of blowback, a term coined by the C.I.A. to describe the unintended consequences of covert actions by the U.S. government in other countries. Having opened Pandora's Box in the 1850's by forcing open Japanese ports through the threat of naval bombardment, the U.S. reaped what it had sown decades later, with devastating consequences for much of east and southeast Asia as well. What will the ultimate consequences be for U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen and other countries not yet reported?

Further Explorations

Additional discussion of the futility and ultimate costs of war can be found in the chapter Dead Ends in the Beginners Guide to Peace.

Notes

Picture Credits

Buchenwald survivors, including Elie Wiesel, quoted above. Instead of piles of bodies, I choose this picture of the survivors of the Buchenwald death camp to illustrate not just the horrors of the State but also the dignity and strength of the human spirit. Public domain image downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Nuclear cloud over Nagasaki. Public domain image downloaded from Wikimedia Commons, with modifications.

Is the price worth it? Screen capture of Iraqi victims of U.S. economic sanctions, from Leslie Stahl interview of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the 60 Minutes news program, May 12, 1996. The dialog is as follows - Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it."

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July 25: Bodhisattvas

“We are the authors of our own destiny; and being the authors, we are ultimately, perhaps frighteningly, free.” - Śāntideva

Waking up to the NAP

Guanyin-Bodhisattva

I recall first learning about Bodhisattvas during a field trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, some years ago. I was a student teacher at the time and the museum guide was showing our group a number of artfully carved statues from East Asia. Several of the more graceful figures he identified as Bodhisattvas. The guide informed our group that Bodhisattvas are highly regarded in the Buddhist tradition. They are beings that have attained enlightenment but postpone Nirvana in order to guide others to their own enlightenment

I found both the concept and the statues beautiful. I do not completely understand the nature of Nirvana, but given the serene depictions of Buddha in the hundreds of pieces of art I have seen, it must surely be something wonderful.

The elimination of suffering is central to Buddhism, and Nirvana is the state of liberation from this suffering. It is said that Buddha was one who awoke to the reality of this world and the nature of suffering and spent the remainder of his life sharing this knowledge with others. Like Buddha, Bodhisattvas are compassionate teachers. The word compassion literally means "to suffer with", and these guides, by postponing entry into Nirvana, are in essence sharing in the pain of others with the ultimate goal of liberating all beings from suffering.

Buddha Knowledge

Like Bodhisattvas, libertarians are people who have awoken to reality. Guided by the Non-Aggression Principle, we have been liberated from the illusions of authority and aggression. We understand the foundational violence of the State. This foundational violence causes needless suffering through war, unjust incarcerations and the tremendous waste of resources. This is an observable reality that somehow remains hidden to the vast majority of people.

Rather than living in ignorance and fear, we libertarians embrace knowledge and compassion. We seek peace, liberty and the free and voluntary exchange of goods, services, and ideas.

In the "City of Brotherly Love" I discovered the Bodhisattvas. It seems appropriate for me to continue their tradition, to educate, to liberate and to minimize, if not eliminate, the suffering we see all around us.

Picture Credits

Guanyin-Bodhisattva: Baltimore Museum of Art; Padmasambhava, Demon-Taming Teacher: Freer Museum, Washington D.C. Photos by Andrew Lesko, with modifications.

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May 28: Memorial Day - Remembering and Forgetting

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

Remembering

Fog of War

I have visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. a number of times and it has never failed to move me. As you enter the southwest end of the memorial you first come upon bronze statues of three U.S. servicemen. Atypical of many other memorials commemorating war, these soldiers look dazed and weary as their eyes look forlornly towards the main memorial. Following their gaze, you walk towards a "V" shaped trench gouged out of the earth, reminiscent of the trenches that are all too often the homes of soldiers in battle. As you enter the trench, you are exposed to the names of the first U.S. military deaths of that war, dated 1959, carved into cold black rock. As you move forward the trench gets deeper, the slabs of stone get higher and the listings of fatalities grow longer. As you near the point of numbness, having been exposed to tens of thousands of names, each a cold mark in stone of a live once lived, you reach the deepest part of the trench, marking the darkest years of the war. Looking up ahead, you see the names of tens of thousands more. By the time you exit the trench, emotionally drained, you have walked past the names of over 58,000 U.S. military. Exiting the memorial and heading due south, you discover another memorial, this one dedicated to the U.S. women of the Vietnam war.

Sisters of Mercy

The Forgotten

Of course, like most memorials, the site tells only part of the story. While it provides a powerful memorial to the U.S. veterans that lost their lives, they were but a small fraction of the total deaths caused by that atrocity. The toll of Vietnamese fatalities, both military and civilian, was far greater and would require another 20, 30 or even 40 more trenches to commemorate. Using conservative estimates we find that over 440,000 Vietnamese servicemen died on both sides of that conflagration along with at least 627,000 civilians. Even that is not the full story, however, as the U.S. government expanded the war into Laos and Cambodia in the late 1960's, ending the lives of another quarter million civilians.

Truelove

In addition to the costs in human lives there were the financial costs. At least three million refugees were forced to flee war zones in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Millions of acres of farmland and forests were defoliated, increasing the misery of the local people. The costs of the Vietnam war to the U.S. taxpayer for military operations alone was over $111 billion, or over $2400 for every man, woman and child living in Vietnam at a time when the average annual wage there was under $100. The $111 billion in combat costs, however, is but a small fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars in medical and other costs expended to repair the damage to families, farms and businesses shattered by the war.

As strongly as I am opposed to Communism and its restrictions on life, liberty and property, given the enormous waste of lives and treasure, surely there must have been a better way to "help" the Vietnamese people then to go to war. It was not, as one U.S. Major claimed during the Vietnam War, “necessary to destroy the town to save it”[19].

Picture Credits

Photos of soldiers at the entrance the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Women's Memorial, and names of deceased U.S. Vietnam war vets by Andrew Lesko, with modifications.

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May 13: Motherhood - Love, Life and Loss

"In times of peace the young bury the old. In times of war the old bury the young." - From Herodotus*

Turmoil

Mom

I came of age during the Vietnam War. It was a tumultuous time, a time for raising questions, challenging injustices and seeking new paths forward. It was also a time of great pain and suffering for many people. Millions of lives were shattered or utterly destroyed, both in the United States and across the Pacific. In beautiful distant lands the U.S. military, in a furious rage, seemed hell bent on destroying the very people it was supposedly there to protect.

During the depths of that senseless war my mother discovered that she had Multiple Sclerosis. It hit her young and it hit her hard. Within days of her 37th birthday, she was gone. As painful as that is to say, as painful as that was to experience, I cannot imagine the pain a mother or father must feel to lose a child.

Vietnam Refugee

The original quote from Herodotus, referenced above, is "In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons". War in modern times does not limit itself to destroying the lives of brave young men, however. It destroys women, children and entire families, annihilating the foundations of civilization itself.

Disease and Destruction

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a type of autoimmune disease where the body's defenses misidentify its own cells and attempts to destroy them. In the case of MS it is the lining of the spinal cord that is attacked. The individual can lose their balance, mobility, vision and even life itself through the actions of a broken and reckless immune system.

In the United States today we have the equivalent of a broken immune system. The out of control militarism and swelling empire that has coincided with it has not been healthy for the citizens it is supposedly designed to serve. It has created an unbalanced economy inordinately dependent on government spending. It has harmed mobility as passengers wait in long security lines and as goods are no longer freely traded among nations at war. Most disturbingly, it blindly attacks fellow human beings that are no threat but instead creates hatred, fear and blowback, threatening the health and lives of all.

It seems that suffering can either make you more sensitive to pain or make you more callous. The sorrow I experienced and shared with my father and brother certainly made me more aware of the pain of others. That awareness, along with a lifetime’s investigation into the sheer illogic and utter stupidity of war has led me to where I am today, passionate for peace and driven to ending the out of control militarism infecting this country. Although we live in turbulent and challenging times it is also a great time to be alive and I am thankful to my parents for bringing me into this world. I think my mother would be proud.

Picture Credits

Mom, photographed by my dad in 1967; Vietnam refugees (1963) - Photo provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.

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Sermon On The Mount

April 4, 2018: A Vision for Peace

Jesus said "Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God". This vision, spoken from the heart during the Sermon on the Mount, is one of my favorites. Indeed, I have wished for it all my life. Unfortunately what I have seen instead is one war maker after another rewarded with power, usually by inciting fear and hatred. They slither into new wars, squeezing those they are supposedly defending to pay for ever more destruction. The end result is always more sorrow and suffering, the opposite of what is promised.

This does not need to be. There are millions of good Christians in the world, perhaps even hundreds of millions, who seek to live the words of Jesus. They live lives devoted to charity for the poor, help for the downtrodden and peace and good will for all. A dedicated number of them continue to this very day the difficult task of purging the world of human slavery, continuing work that first began to bear fruit in the early 1800's. In the UK it was devoted Christians, encouraged by enlightened humanists, who successfully pushed for the abolition of slavery throughout the British empire, ending the terrible institution without resorting to war and decades before the brutal and unnecessary US Civil War.

With regards to war, I have no doubt the Christians will play an important and perhaps even decisive role in ending that plague as well. As with abolition, it will no doubt require sustained and unyielding effort.

Roman Coin - Four Horsemen

A Time for Action

The time has come to end the wars, and to end them now. On this there can be no compromise. Just as "Who will pick the cotton?" was not a valid argument to support slavery, "How can we protect ourselves without military interventions?" is not a rational argument to support US military involvement in at least seven openly festering wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen ) and perhaps others not fully reported, boiling just below the surface.

Ending the wars will require strength. Unfortunately there is weakness within the Christian community. In many places, and in many nations, it has been hijacked by the State. The most famous hijacking, of course, occurred many centuries ago when the Roman emperors decided to stop killing and persecuting Christians and instead co-opted the popularity of Christianity to its own ends during the waning days of that empire.

Roman Coin - Two Faces

Jesus said that one cannot serve two masters. Unfortunately it seems that many churches have forgotten this lesson, allowing symbols of the State into houses of worship and even putting them in places of honor. It seems that some have even come to idolize the flags and symbols of the State, all the while applauding the endless military "interventions" and turning a blind eye to their global destruction and misery. Meanwhile, the State works tirelessly to push its war agenda while tens of millions are distracted by modern day gladiatorial games. The current emperor has certainly made it clear that the State's war anthem is not something to be opposed or criticized during these games.

It is time to recognize that the State is not our master. It is time for Christians and secularists, Jews and Gentiles, to break free of the State and join together to support peace, liberty and the end of all wars. We must stop being seen as willing participants or even promoters of the State's wars of death and destruction. I believe this is something we can and must agree on.

NOTE: A more detailed discussion of these topics can be found in the Beginners Guide to Peace referenced at the top of this page. An explanation of how the State hijacks religion can be found in the chapter called Losing the Way while a discussion of how to repair the damage to our culture can be found at Going Off Road.

Picture Credits

Detail from "Sermon on the Mount" by Carl Bloch, c. 1877; Roman coins c. 225-212 BC, provided by Classical Numismatic Group and used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

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March 30, 2018: Good Friday?

Note: This is a reprise of an article written last year. Not much has changed.. – A.L.

Today marks the anniversary of a particularly gruesome murder.

The Passion Of Christ

A ritualized killing that is still recalled after many centuries, it was a desperate attempt to destroy the ideas of one man, a man who dared to question the morality and authorities of his time. This man certainly committed no crime that any compassionate person today would put him to death for. His death was a human sacrifice to demonstrate the power of the State.

The crucifixion of this man was a particularly cruel method of death. It was targeted to anyone who dare challenge the State. The execution was slow and brutal, designed to demonstrate the strength of the Empire and its ability to snuff out human life at will.

Has much changed in the past two millennia? It certainly seems today that many still worship the State. What has undeniably changed is that the latest Empire wields a power unfathomable by the Romans. The new Empire encircles the globe with hundreds of army, air and naval bases, commanding an arsenal of thousands of nuclear warheads powerful enough to remove any trace that the Romans ever existed.

Yet, as powerful as it is, the Empire is cracking. Its current nominal leader is rudderless, without core beliefs or even a map to mark less treacherous roads. Is there any place safe from the beast as it flounders about, seemingly at random, blind to the consequences of its own reckless behavior? Are our own moral compasses strong enough to guide us through this storm?

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School Of Athens

February 8, 2018: A Matter of Perspective

One of the great innovations in the art of painting was the development of perspective. Largely absent in ancient art where important figures were portrayed larger in size and with little depth, experimentations in perspective that began with the ancient Greeks and were refined by the Chinese blossomed in Renaissance Europe. Instead of depicting flat and oddly proportioned bodies, canvases came alive as painter magicians combined the ingredients of vanishing points, foreshortening and sfumato, the effect of atmosphere over distance.

One beautiful example is Raphael's "The School of Athens". It not only demonstrates a mastery of depth and perspective, it also captures the vital energy of philosophical discourse that had occurred many centuries earlier in ancient Greece. Epicureans and stoics, Platonists and atomists, cynics and skeptics enthusiastically discussed and debated the nature of reality, the purpose of life, and the best ways to live.

WhereDidWeComeFrom

In contrast to that time, some elements of our culture seem particularly flat, especially with respect to political discourse. Without depth or dimension, a false dichotomy of right versus left prevails, with little or no awareness of what's up and what's down, or where we came from, or where we are going.

The mainstream media, seemingly lacking a wider perspective, overly focuses on the personalities of those who seek power, making them look larger than life and distorting their importance. They overly fixate on the win-lose nature of politics, cheering on the contest with little questioning of the destructive nature of the game itself.

Venice

The people in power, in turn, seem incapable of seeing beyond a single dimension. Lacking any depth of understanding regarding the win-win nature of free trade and voluntary social interactions, they instead fixate on military and other coercive "solutions", inserting aggression into the normally consensual relationships of commerce and community. They have no real sense of beauty, principle or moral virtue, seeking only victory to gain power and to rule over others.

Finally there are the citizens. Often misinformed but nonetheless willing participants in the political process, they flail back and forth within the narrow confines of left and right, seemingly distracted by the smallest of issues and unable to see the bigger picture. Blocked in their desire for peace and prosperity by forces they cannot see, they fixate on small obstacles but perceive them as an insurmountable barriers. Lacking perspective, they are unable to see alternate paths forward.

Nolan Chart

As long as people are locked into the false dichotomy of left and right, they will forever be unable to see the fuller, richer reality. By extending our vision by even one dimension, however, we can become aware of details previously hidden. By distinguishing between personal freedom and economic freedom, for example, we can map out a richer and more vibrant landscape in which to discuss politics. Opponents that once seemed radically different, such as the National Socialists (Nazis) of Germany and the International Communists of the USSR, are revealed to be closely related when viewed from a two dimensional perspective. Instead of being viewed as extremes sides of a left-right dichotomy, we can more easily see the similarities of these two authoritarian systems that severely restricted both personal and economic freedom, each destroying the lives of millions.

Picture Credits

"School of Athens" by Raphael, c. 1509-1511; "Where Did We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?" by Paul Gauguin, c. 1897; "Return of the Bucentoro to the Molo on Ascension Day" by Canaletto, c. 1733-4; "The Nolan Chart", from a diagram created by David Nolan in 1969.

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Freedom From Want

November 16, 2017: Failure to Communicate

A recent survey of Americans revealed that 69% would skip holiday gift giving if their friends and family would agree. Most of those surveyed opined that they would have more time with loved ones if they weren’t so busy shopping.

To quote the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we got here is failure to communicate.” Over two thirds of Americans are doing something they do not want to do yet they could easily remedy it by openly talking to those they are closest with. What is the cause of this communication breakdown? Is it possible that there are other things that people are not talking about, but should?

Sinead

It has become painfully obvious that many in Hollywood knew of the sexual predations of producers and others with power but remained silent for years. Perhaps some of the victims and witnesses saw what happened to Sinead O’Connor. In the early 90’s the young singer tried to kick start a conversation about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church through a song and strong symbolic gesture but was instead harassed mercilessly by those who were either ignorant of the facts or wished not to know.

As serious as these past and current sexual abuse accusations are, there are even more disturbing things afoot. In what is perhaps the most stunning silence of our modern times, there has been a near total absence of discussion regarding the out of control militarization of American culture and its brutal effects on nations across the globe. From Bush to Clinton to Bush Jr and Obama, this moral outrage has remained largely unspoken, and perhaps unknown, by the majority of Americans as the number of wars has continued to grow, costing trillions of dollars and inflicting untold misery.

In this holiday time, in the spirit of those speaking out against sexual aggression, we call on all good people to voice their opposition now to the endless wars abroad and the coinciding attacks against personal freedom at home.

We must work together to be heard. Politicians are masters at silencing the peaceful through evasion, intimidation and fear. They are practiced deflectors, able to distract people with heated discussions of flag burning and arguments over whether to stand for a war anthem. They are merciless against any that would blow the whistle. It is unfortunate that the compliant mainstream media continues to provide them cover, finding it much easier to sell ads by not opposing the State. Ratings do go up, after all, at the start of each big new war while old wars continue to smolder and destroy, largely without notice.

The time for fearlessness is now. We have long been told to never let down our guard yet failed to notice our gradual enslavement to the State. Let’s be brave and be willing to stand together now and endure whatever repercussions come from quickly exiting these wars.

Let’s also be honest. The United States did not end when it withdrew from Vietnam in 1975, and the world will not come to an end when the US inevitably withdraws from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. This is not isolationism. We do not need to withdraw from the world but can instead, by withdrawing from militarism, embrace it through the promotion of travel, trade and shared good will.

Picture Credits

"Freedom from Want" by Norman Rockwell, Sinead O'Connor on "Saturday Night Live", October 3, 1992.

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Peace Flag

November 12, 2017: Can we agree on this?

Look, we all want Peace, right?

Why, then, don’t we have it?

Perhaps we are afraid of appearing foolish to want it so much..

Perhaps we are afraid of being perceived as naïve children or uninhibited hippies from the sixties..

The truth is that Peace is a thing to be desired by mature adults as well as children and dreamers. We don’t necessarily need to be covered with Peace signs or wear flowers in our hair to show how much we want it. We just need to live our lives as people who have fully embraced it.

One thing we can surely do is to stop participating in the partisan bickering. We need to escape the deadlock of the two-party duopoly that has tried to silence diverse voices, from Ralph Nader to Ron Paul, that challenge the system and debunk the false narratives. We need to stop pretending there is a real choice between the Democrats and Republicans. We need to recognize that they are dividing us, pitting clan against tribe, city against country, women against men and men against women.

What we need to do instead is to embrace those things that unite us, and surely one of these must be the desire for Peace. Over the course of the coming weeks, I will be reaching out to both natural and unexpected allies, revealing the common elements that unite us through our opposition to war and embrace of the Non-Aggression Principle. Through open letters, I hope to cut through the lies that politicians and other have used to try to divide us and demonstrate the many benefits that a devotion to Peace can provide.

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November 2, 2017: Fragile Democracy

Democracy must be a delicate thing to be so easily damaged by the mere possibly of fake news from foreigners. The mainstream media is all in a tither over the possibility of Russian interference in U.S. elections. As usual I suspect they are probably missing the real story. Let’s take a look for ourselves at some of the electronic ads “the Russians” reportedly paid to promote during the last election cycle.

Electronic Ad #1

Why do I have a gun?

Other than a small grammatical error, what is wrong with this ad? It is a fact, after all, that guns are used as deterrents from crime tens of thousands of times each year in the United States alone. And it is no secret that many in the Democratic party are quite open about their desire to increase gun control. Considering these facts, I think it is clear that the people attracted to this ad would not likely have been supporters of Hilary Clinton.

By the way, I think I should start putting quotes around the “Democratic” party brand to emphasize the irony of the name, especially considering how the DNC short circuited the democratic process internally to bend the election towards HRC in the last primary.


Electronic Ad #2

Is this ad considered dangerous because it is factually inaccurate?

HRC and Vets

I find it hard to believe that Hilary Rodham Clinton only had a 69% disapproval rating among veterans during the last election cycle. I would have thought it was much higher than that, considering how she contributed heavily towards getting U.S. troops involved in new wars, this time with the Libyan and Syrian peoples. HRC also had a bad reputation among veterans for minimizing issues being reported by injured vets and their families at US VA hospitals. I doubt the people who identified with this ad would need much reminding to not vote for Hillary.

With regards to the picture in the ad, it seems odd that Social Justice Warriors, among HRC’s biggest supporters, seem more concerned with perceived social slights to a rotating selection of victim groups within the U.S. than with the wholesale assault and destruction of families, tribes and entire nations across Asia and Africa caused by a militarized U.S. foreign policy, one that HRC seemed quite comfortable with.

Electronic Ad #3

Bernie Sanders

Was Bernie Sander’s misquoted? If not, what is the “problem” with this ad?

There is certainly plenty of published evidence of “pay to play” deals and the use of Clinton Foundation funds to help pay for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.

Perhaps this ad was produced to remind Bernie Sanders supporters of what was done to their candidate by the HRC dominated “Democratic” Party during the 2016 primaries.


Russian Interference?

Were these and other ads enough to tip the balance towards Trump? Was the will of the people denied by interference from the Russians? Did any of this have any measurable effect at all on the last U.S. election?

The Russians certainly didn’t interfere with my "democratic rights". I was appalled by both major candidates, and finding no anti-war candidates among the other parties who were also committed to economic and social freedom, I decided to once again stay home on election day.

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April 1, 2017: Good News or Bad?

~ Were the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election good news or bad news for lovers of peace and liberty?

When the 2016 US presidential election results were finally revealed there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Some less experienced survivors of the election process decried the results as the “worst thing ever”, conveniently ignoring two world wars, the bubonic plague and other minor occurrences.

Lao,Buddha,Confucious

The youth, of course, can be forgiven for their tendency towards hyperbole. Wiser, more traveled folk, however, must observe these things with a calmer, wider perspective. One beautiful illustration of this is the following Chinese parable:


There was once an old Chinese farmer who had the apparent misfortune of having his best stallion run off. His neighbor came over to express his regrets, but the farmer just said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.” The next day the stallion returned bringing with him three wild mares. The neighbor rushed back to celebrate with the farmer, but the old farmer simply said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.” The following day, the farmer’s son fell from one of the wild mares while trying to break her in and broke his arm and injured his leg. The neighbor came by to check on the son and give his condolences, but the old farmer just said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.” The next day the army came to the farm to conscript the farmer’s son for the war, but found him invalid and left him with his father. The neighbor thought to himself, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.”


So was the election of Donald Trump good or bad? For someone with a libertarian perspective, the past election cycle was just another repetition of an endless process where the most vile and power-hungry gnaw their way to the top. There was certainly no peace and liberty candidate amongst the two major parties, with both the Republican and the Democratic nominees trying to outdo each other with their blatant militarism. At best, Trump was perhaps 4% less belligerent with respect to foreign policy, offering some skepticism of the Iraq war and making some overtures towards improving relations with Russia.

The Green party candidate at least got points for proposing a position for Edward Snowden in her cabinet. Unfortunately, her economic proposals were the typical socialist nostrums that have proved a failure in countries throughout Africa, Latin America and elsewhere.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment, though, was the Libertarian party candidate. The candidate and his running mate may very well have confused and turned off perspective libertarians for a generation. With a seeming disregard or misunderstanding of property rights, their proposals, other than the legalization of marijuana, had seemingly little connection to the Non-Aggression Principle, one of the foundations of libertarianism.

Augustus Caesar

Was the election of Donald Trump good or bad? The power that is now in the President's hands is both vast and dangerous. This would have been the case whichever candidate had won. The fact is that governments at nearly all levels have grown excessively powerful, wielding the ability to destroy life and liberty with little or no restriction, let alone justification.

If more people have awoken to the enormity of state power and its ability to disrupt the lives of people throughout the world, it may be a good thing. If more of us are willing to push back, reclaiming the right of all people to liberty and peace, it may be an even better thing. And if more people can see past the artificial divisions created by partisan politics and unite to press for both a containment of and rapid halt to the spreading flames of war, it may be the best news of all.


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Traveler Advisory

War-Biohazard

War is threatening to become pandemic across several large regions of the globe and there are signs that we are on the verge of a world wide epidemic. Careful planning and extreme caution are advised.

The war disease continues to shorten the lives of hundreds of thousands each year, both directly and through destruction of basic social services.

Please check back for additional information.



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