Sue Moon’s Blog

Discourses and musings from a second Saturn return

Archive for January, 2009

Cheap Ethanol-See If You Think It’s Worth IT

This is a lengthy article, but I couldn’t put it down. If you think cheap ethanol is the answer, then read what is happening where it is being made. -Sue

A “Green Tsunami” in Brazil: The High Price of Clean, Cheap Ethanol
Thursday 22 January 2009

by: Clemens Höges, Der Spiegel

A Brazilian worker harvests sugar cane by hand. Sugar cane is grown in large monoculture tracts in Brazil to satisfy a global demand for ethanol. According to human rights workers, this ethanol industry is being built on the backs of Brazilian workers who are ruled over by “gangs” and who live and die like slaves. (Photo: Tatiana Cardeal)

Brazil hopes to supply drivers worldwide with the fuel of the future — cheap ethanol derived from sugarcane. It is considered an effective antidote to climate change, but hundreds of thousands of Brazilian plantation workers harvest the cane at slave wages.

In the middle of the night, the plantations around Araçoiaba in Brazil’s ethanol zone are on fire. The area looks like a war zone during the sugarcane harvest, as the burning fields light up the sky and the wind carries clouds of smoke across the countryside.

The fires chase away snakes, kill tarantulas and burn away the sharp leaves of the cane plants. In the morning, when only embers remain, tens of thousands of workers with machetes head into the fields throughout this region in northeastern Brazil. They harvest the cane, which survives the fire and which is used to distill ethanol, the gasoline of the future.

Hours earlier, Antonio da Silva attempts to get up from his plank bed. He doesn’t need an alarm clock, even at two in the morning. The pain wakes him up. He looks at the other two beds in the room, where his children sleep — four young girls and two boys. Once outside, in front of the hut, he says he may not be able to feed them for much longer.

He knows a hernia finished him, and it was the hernia that forces him to push his intestines into place when he straightens up after bending over. He feels two types of pain: a dull throbbing pain in his groin that has been there for a long time, and the sharp pain he experiences whenever he cuts sugarcane with his facão, or machete.

When foremen realized he was holding his intestines in place with his hand, they chased him off the plantation. They are uninterested in sick old men when plenty of young, strong workers can take their place. According to a study done at the University of São Paulo, cane cutters last an average of 12 years on the job before they are so worn out that they have to be replaced. Da Silva is 43, an old man on the plantations.

Though his hernia was repaired in the hospital, the doctor told him he should no longer cut cane, especially not for the next few months. Otherwise the wound might reopen and possibly kill him.

Only 11 days later, da Silva was back to cutting cane, this time on a different plantation, far in the south of Araçoiaba. He looks strong, with his muscular upper body and short haircut. No one at the new plantation is aware of his pain.

“What can I do?” da Silva asks. “There is nothing else here. Those who do not cut sugarcane go hungry. And then there are the children.” He packs his facão and a canister containing five liters of water, just enough to last him through the heat of the day. He walks to one of several waiting buses that arrive, late at night, to take the men from Araçoiaba to the plantations.

Da Silva must harvest three-and-a-half tons of sugarcane by sunset. This is his daily quota, enough to make about 300 liters of biofuel. To do this, da Silva will have to strike the cane with his facão about 3,000 times, working among the ashes and embers and under the scorching sun. If the doctor is right, one of those blows will eventually tear open his groin again.

Da Silva is one of about a million people toiling away on the plantations and in Brazil’s ethanol factories. Many live and suffer much as their ancestors did — as slaves on sugar plantations. Government investigators occasionally liberate a handful of cane workers, but in such a big country the officials are few and far between. The real power lies in the hands of militias, or capangas, working for the sugar barons. They intimidate workers and drive away small farmers with bulldozers, all in support of a global vision. “By 2030 we will be the world’s largest fuel supplier,” says Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. If all goes according to plan, ethanol will provide his country — and the rest of the world — with a bright future.

The Power of the Sun

In 2008 Brazil produced just under 26 billions liters of ethanol, a number projected to rise to 53 billion by 2017. There’s no shortage of buyers. More than 30 countries worldwide use ethanol as an additive to gasoline. The United States plans to satisfy about 15 percent of its fuel requirements with biofuel by 2012, while the European Union wants ethanol to constitute 10 percent of each liter of gasoline sold by 2020.

The Swedes are at the forefront of this development. Last summer they signed an agreement with Brazilian companies for the delivery of 115 million liters of ethanol. The Swedes, wanting to be good people, have stipulated in their agreement that slave labor or children may not be used to produce their biofuel. In return they will pay a premium of five to 10 percent.

Lula’s plan is even more far-reaching. The president dreams of a green belt surrounding the globe along the equator. This belt of sugarcane would link large parts of the tropical Third World, where the cane grows best. Poor people of the earth could use Brazilian know-how to distill ethanol. Their governments could join forces to form an organization like OPEC, but for biofuel.

They could supply fuel to wealthy countries and become wealthy themselves. They would also help to save the world from climate collapse, because ethanol combustion produces only as much carbon dioxide as the plant has extracted from the air. In other words, cars could go on driving forever, and the world would continue to hum along, driven by the rays of the equatorial sun. At least this is what Lula imagines.

In his dream, Brazil would lead the world in this “new era of humanity,” as a Saudi Arabia of biofuel. Experts estimate that if every car in the world ran on ethanol, Lula’s country could satisfy one-fourth of global demand. In the ethanol age, as the president predicts, the world will be greener, more modern and — globally speaking — far more equitable than it is today. “When we think of ethanol, our goal is to help the poor,” says Lula. “The world must become cleaner, and the world needs jobs,” he preaches. He also insists that biofuel is a solution for both problems, in other words, a “historic opportunity.”

It is a compelling dream. Politicians around the world, along with agricultural corporations like Cargill, investors like George Soros and even multinationals like Shell want it to become reality. Now that 189 governments have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, they will need ethanol to meet its CO2 reduction targets. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Lula in Brazil last May, the two leaders signed an energy agreement. Experts are now examining how Brazilian ethanol can flow from the pumps at German gas stations.

Part of the charm of Lula’s vision is that nothing would change for people in industrialized countries. They would not be forced to economize, and car manufacturers would simply have to install a few different gaskets in their engines, as VW has been doing in Brazil for a long time. Ethanol would even be cheap, with Brazil’s factories producing it at a cost of about 20 cents a liter. Most of all, drivers, with the power of the sun in their tanks, could step on the gas with a clear conscience.

“Bullshit,” says Father Tiago. “The promise of biofuel is a lie. Anyone who buys ethanol is pumping blood into his tank. Ethanol is produced by slaves.”

The padre is familiar with the dark sides of Lula’s vision. He cares for the people for whom the president’s dream has meant living a nightmare.

A Long Tradition of Sugar Slavery

Tiago, a Catholic monk from Scotland, pushes back his worn cap made of Harris Tweed. He has a hooked nose and wrinkles in his face, and his beard is almost completely grey. He says he has never been able to accept the notion that the happiness of some people is often based on the unhappiness of others — and that men like Antonio da Silva pay the price for cheap eco-fuel.

Father Tiago believes that no one should be allowed to treat people like slaves. The ancestors of Brazil’s big landowners established the first plantations shortly after Christopher Columbus brought sugarcane to the New World. First they drove Indians into their fields, then they shipped in blacks from Africa. The nightmare of trans-Atlantic slavery began with sugarcane.

Now the crop gives up ethanol as well as sugar, and a green tsunami is rolling across Brazil. sugarcane is grown on more than six million hectares (14.8 million acres, roughly the size of Sri Lanka or the U.S. state of West Virginia). One hectare is about the size of a soccer field. But this is only the beginning, with plans in place to expand production to cover 10 million hectares. Machines can gather the harvest in the flat fields of the south, but not in the hilly north.

Father Tiago is driving north on Federal Highway 101, the country’s sugarcane highway. The region bordering the Atlantic Ocean is called Zona da Mata, or Forest Zone. But the rain forests were cut down long ago, and Zona da Mata has since been turned into Brazil’s ethanol zone. The sugar barons divert rivers and streams, and they raze entire villages. As devout Catholics, they leave only the chapels and churches standing, which results in the curious sight of small chapel towers, unreachable by road, now and then protruding from a sea of green.

The Kiltegan Fathers, a group of Irish missionaries, sent Brother Tiago to Brazil in 1968. In 1975, the National Conference of Bishops established the Commissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT). Its aim is to improve the lives of field workers by practicing what Father Tiago calls “good religion.” “Bad religion,” he says, is the faith preached in the plantation churches, constantly promising the workers a better life in the next world.

An Industry Run By Gangs

The CPT gave him a car — a VW Gol, the more angular Brazilian version of the Golf. Traveling on behalf of the CPT, Father Tiago spends his days on the 101 and in the ethanol villages lining the secondary roads. He knows many people in the region, and he spends much of his time bringing people together, as well as providing advice and comfort.

One of the poverty-stricken bedroom villages for cane cutters on Tiago’s route is Araçoiaba, a flat collection of dirty huts and houses in the sweltering heat. The important parts of Araçoiaba are the large squares where buses line up at night.

Antonio da Silva moved to the town with his family five years ago. They threw plastic tarps over a handful of branches to build the hut where they still live today. The door consists of scraps of cloth nailed to a board, and boards placed around a hole in the tarp form the window. The furniture, arranged on the bare earth floor, consists of the plank beds and a cabinet.

The children usually play in the dirt, and the girls often have infections. Raw sewage runs through open ditches. When it rains the entire tent city turns into a muddy morass. It was once a garbage dump, until the ethanol boom began attracting more and more people to the region. Today it is called Araçoiaba Nova, an effort to evoke the promise of the future.

Da Silva could not have ended up anywhere else. He is illiterate and had no other opportunities. His father died when he was seven. When his mother fell ill, she gave Antonio a facão and sent him to the foreman on the plantation.

The machete, with a blade wider than a hand, is sharpened seven or eight times a day. It’s sharp as a razor blade. The hook at the end of the blade can make serious wounds.

The act of cutting the cane consists of two strokes with the facão. The first stroke separates the cane from the root, and the second removes the remaining leaves from the stalk, allowing the worker to twist the stalk with his free hand. The motions are fast and fluid, but the double stroke requires strength, even the first, second or third time. After 3,000 or 4,000 strokes a day, by evening the men are often too exhausted to speak.

Da Silva learned the laws of sugarcane before he learned to cut. The first is that no law is above the words of the feitor, or foreman. The feitor determines what the workers earn, who is hired and who is fired.

Da Silva learned that men could collapse and die on the spot from working too hard in the searing sun and not having enough drinking water. It happens often. He learned that no one would help if he sliced into his foot with the facão, and that those who cannot work have nothing to eat. He learned that anyone who makes trouble quickly finds himself face-to-face with the capangas, who crisscross the plantations in Jeeps and on dirt bikes. They carry radios and weapons. Officially, they are considered security guards who watch over the plantations. In reality, the capangas circle the workers like aggressive dogs encircling a herd.

“These Men Live Like Slaves”

On the plantations, workers are not entitled to eat anything but corn meal with water, the daily subsistence food of cane cutters. Their wages are insufficient to buy anything else.

They work six days a week. Da Silva earns about 400 real (about €130, or $172) a month during the season, which last about five or six months. One of the curses of monoculture is that there is no work for sugarcane cutters in the northeast except during the harvest season. In other words, they and their families must survive on their earnings for an entire year. This is far too little, especially when a kilo of beans costs 5.80 real (about €2, or $2.65).

Without the five sisters from the “Sacred Heart of Christ,” da Silva would be unable to feed his family. Once a month the sisters, who operate a children’s home, give him a basket of rice, corn, milk powder and soap. Every day, one of his daughters is permitted to spend the day at the home, together with 174 other children. The nuns feed them and teach them writing and arithmetic. “When the children come here, they are so thin that you can see every rib,” says the mother superior, Sister Conceição, 72.

She devotes herself to fighting for the girls’ future. “Many become prostitutes when they are this tall,” says Sister Conceição, holding her hand about 1.50 meters (five feet) off the ground. It is not about money, she says. “They give themselves away for a piece of salt meat,” until they become pregnant and try to perform abortions with bicycle spokes. “Some die in the process,” says the mother superior.

Two brothers, 17 and 18 years old, live in another hut in Araçoiaba. They began working in the sugar fields 10 years ago. They had no childhood, and now they have no future. They can see what the future holds when they look at men like Antonio da Silva. “The heat, the dirt and the wounds are bad enough,” says the elder of the two, “but the worst of it is that we will have to stay here forever, because there is nothing else.”

“These men are held like slaves. Slavery is illegal, but they are slaves,” says José Lourenço da Silva. Many here share the surname da Silva. Most are descendants of slaves, who had only first names. When the plantation owners were forced to free their slaves in 1888, thousands were given the same surnames.

“We Learn Nothing at All”

José Lourenço da Silva is the president of the STR farm workers’ union in Aliança, another of the ethanol villages. The wind carries the stench of squalor across the open inner courtyard of the building that houses his offices. Lourenço, peering over the edge of his reading glasses, is wearing an ironed shirt and carries a ballpoint pen in his shirt pocket. In the ethanol zone, these are the insignia of an intellectual, and yet Lourenço feels more like a fighter.

He has survived three murder attempts, committed by capangas, as he believes. The last time, he says, he barely escaped with his life. He had received a telephone call — a pretense to lure him out to a plantation. As he was driving back home, three bullets struck his car.

The people who pin their hopes on Lourenço sit on white plastic chairs in the hallway outside his office. “The ethanol boom may be good for Brazil, but it is devastating for the people,” he says, adding that Lula’s dream has been a disaster. In the six years since Lula has been in office in Brasilia, says Lourenço, the number of people seeking his help, sitting outside his office in Aliança, has doubled. He has even had to bring out more plastic chairs.

Many of their cases relate to accidents, but most are about wages. The cane is not weighed to determine how many tons the men have cut on a given day. Instead, the feitor measures the sections of the field each worker has cleared with a long stick, which he twirls in his hand like a drum major twirling his baton. If he wishes, he can allow the stick to slide through his hand, thereby reducing the section of land a worker has cleared — and his wages. In many cases, the plantations simply pay the workers nothing or only a portion of the wages they are owed.

When that happens, Lourenço drives to the offending plantation, where he examines records and re-measures the cleared fields. He argues with the feitor, and he can be very annoying. But he has little real power.

Fábio Farias, on the other hand, has power — at least in theory. “When we look at the numbers, there appear to be no problems on the plantations,” says Farias, an official at the labor ministry in Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco. “They indicate that when it comes to accidents, we have a better record than Switzerland. The problem is that our numbers are wrong. In other words, we learn nothing at all.” The plantations, says Farias, are worlds unto themselves, places where no one reports accidents or abuse. He has far too few people to monitor them, he says — nine inspectors for 140,000 workers.

Farias sits in a small office where the plaster is peeling from the ceilings and the computer is broken, suffocating in his files. He wears a suit and tie to work, and beads of sweat glisten on his forehead. This is no country for ties and yet, despite everything, Farias wants to preserve his dignity.

He knows that work on the plantations is far more dangerous than it ought to be. “The use of pesticides alone is outrageous,” he says, adding that they are often spread onto the fields by hand — by workers wearing neither masks nor gloves. “There is long-term damage, and there are cases of poisoning.”

Because Farias has so few inspectors, they can only search a plantation or a factory — and close it, if necessary — once every few months. When that happens, they file lawsuits, sometimes for slavery, but always for violations of all kinds of rules and regulations.

José Nunes da Silva spent 12 years cutting cane, until he was so worn out that he could no longer work. Nowadays he buries the dead of Araçoiaba. Their paths through the cane end at his feet.

There are nice graves in his cemetery, graves with crosses on them, where capangas and feitores lie. But the bodies of cane cutters are usually buried for only two years. After that, he digs up the remains of the ethanol men and carts them to the back to a spot at the back of the cemetery, next to the garbage dump, where they are burned. Bones protrude from the ashes, and stray dogs roam around.

The gravedigger usually pours a petroleum mixture onto the remains of the cutters and sets them on fire. “No one smells it,” he says, “because the plantations are burning anyway.”

The bodies are burned to avoid payment of the 15 real (about €5, $7) annual fee for each gravesite — too costly for the widow of a cane cutter.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.

Tragedies abound in the prequels to this story, according to David Blume, author of Alcohol Can Be a Gas. Sugar-cane culture can be far better for the soil than corn culture because cane can be grown on the same roots for many years, without the erosion and soil diversity-loss of tilling. Generally, cane requires few external inputs like pesticides or fertilizers, and swaling (a way to catch and keep rainwater where it falls) allows little use of below-ground water. It was done in a careful way in Brazil for many years, with strong unions promoting human labor rather than that of machines. Brazilian resilience in the face of the world oil-price manipulations prompted interesting corporate responses. One was to discover oil off the coast of Brazil. Another has been their move to get into the sugar-cane industry, supplanting local ways. When the multi-national corporations began to move in, things began to move in alarming directions. Fiber used to be stripped from the cane by hand, not by machine or fire, enforced by union contracts. The fires now set, rather than hand-harvesting the fibrous bagasse, sometimes kill workers, producing bleeding-and-leading stories for western reporters who want to promote the traditional oil industry over alcohol. In the meantime, the U.S. has enough waste starch and fiber to produce a great deal of alcohol, here, without harming the rain forest there. Anyone who has visited the less populated parts of the American South has encountered kudzu. An article I found recently argued that kudzu could save NASCAR, a dubious endeavor from my point of view, but possibly entertaining enough to have some public-relations legs for a while. David Blume also mentions mesquite pods. We poison kudzu and our children with the effluents of the oil industry so we can import Brazilian alcohol. Can some of us ask our new leader to help us change this, in direct confrontation with the Gates/Rockefeller axis of power? I would like it if someone closer to him than I would ask this question.

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The Year Of The Ox (Buffalo)

It is the Year of the Ox (or Buffalo) and it’s looking to be a really positive and very strong influence for us all. Our own New Year begins in January and it is always a good time to reflect on the past year. What did you glean from it? What could you have handled better? What did you learn and how can you move forward with that?
I’ve attached some info on the Year of the Ox below so that you can see what great energy is available to you.
The biggest thing for all of us this year is the steady influence of what I am calling “miracle energy” from Neptune-Jupiter-Chiron, in conjunction all year into Jan. 2010. We all have the opportunity to rise above our deepest wounds and heal them at last. It is very important when such high spiritual energy is flowing into your lives to keep yourself in a higher state of optimism, happiness, love, compassion etc, otherwise it can go down into those oh so familiar paths of helplessness, despair, anger etc.
When you know where these planets are in your chart and what the focus will be on this year, you can work with it and make such great progress!
It just makes sense in these times to utilize all the information you can, especially using your own intuition on which direction to take. Astrology can point the way and reaffirm what your own intuition has been telling you.
My wish for you all is that you align with your soul’s purpose for this life and flow with the beauty of it all.
Jai Bhagwan, Namaste, Om, Shanti
THE OX
In China, the Ox (or Buffalo) is associated with stamina, patience, determination, stubbornness, possessiveness, hard work, conservatism, wealth and family. Quiet and methodical, the Ox inspires others due to their unconditional reliability. If they make up their mind to do something, they will never be swayed from their purpose. They do not like to be challenged, contradicted, or blocked, as this arouses their considerable temper.
This sign WILL have its way. They are self-contained, self-reliant, very deep, and don’t like sudden things or any form of change. They like their field, will plow it forever, and are wary of anyone else trespassing on their chosen area and interests (unless they invited them to be there, and even then will not entertain criticism.) This of course makes the give and take of human relations an uncomfortable arena for them.
They are the embodiment of “slow and steady as she goes.” They don’t have much patience for anything they don’t like or approve of, and worship family, duty, and work. They expect affection and obedience, are solitary homebodies, keep their own counsel, and can be exceptionally intelligent if somewhat narrow in focus.
The one-pointedness of the Ox often leads to them feeling misunderstood. But they are the consummate laborer, able to “transport heavy loads to distant regions.” And yet they would rather stay close to home and hearth and the predictable, rewarding routines in which they feel safe and comfortable. Above all, this tribe is built for comfort, not for speed!
The intelligence of the Ox along with sheer pragmatic determination to accomplish its will enables this sign to pretty much get its way, though care must be shown not to alienate people needlessly by “bulling one’s way through” life and experience. This tribe is born to work, and whether the accomplishments are great or narrow are entirely determined by how much the Ox chooses to learn, since under any and all circumstances the Ox will have its own way.

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The Sum Of It All

Ever searching for understanding and the meaning of it all has kept me on a philosophical quest on the one hand and a physical adventure on the other. I daily speak with many people about the meaning of their lives, or the lack thereof. As I look out from the safety of my morning (always my best time of day), thoughts of what it all means coalesce into; we know in a very deep part of us that how we live our lives adds to the total of all lives in this world. Whatever small or large act of significance or seemingly not, is part of what we all know. The phrase comes to mind that we are as strong as our weakest link and also then, we are as great as our most brilliant mind, saint, leader, healer etc. Knowing this places me into a much larger view and out of the smallness of daily activities. I was just reading somewhere about dreams dying on the schedule of everyday living. I find that to be so true in my life and wanting all the activity to have more meaning and fewer schedules. Seems to be a common thread, perhaps even a lifelong one.

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Solar Eclipse/New Moon in Aquarius 1/26

Big Solar Eclipse. What do you do with eclipse energy? My friend Robert Wilkinson has this to say about it: “The coming Solar Eclipse will have a huge impact on everyone. All eclipses shut something down, taking away elements of our lives no longer true for us. Aquarius is the sign of collective expression, larger ideals. It is how Leo, the sign of personal love, exteriorizes. So a form of impersonal love will shut down, with the void sure to attract new forms of expressing this energy. The eclipse degree promises new forms emanating from Cosmos, and as it is conjunct Jupiter, we can expect major new openings. This Eclipse is part of a grand lineup of points in Aquarius, including Moon, Sun, Jupiter, Chiron, Neptune, and North Node all in that sign, and so it will profoundly affect the Cancer, Leo, Sagittarius, Aquarius, and Pisces planets and houses in our charts through lessons learned in early and late Aquarius, calling us all to a higher self-expression, a great contribution, and new ways to manage our energies. ”

So, start looking for new ways to express yourself and include all aspects of your life. Put a new twist on how you dress, how you relate, work, health etc. Then you will be using the energy instead of it using you. Common sense just goes with the flow and makes your life so much easier.

“Saturn is important since it’s the worldly ruler of the Eclipse, with Uranus the Spiritual ruler of the Eclipse. These two are in close forming opposition for the second time in recent months, indicative of the on-going polarization between the old and the new, the established and the innovative. This opposition in all our charts have yielded both realizations and polarizations in the houses in which they fall.”

These are really big times we live in and I tune into that on the astrological level because it is a passion for me. Stay informed and work with the energies of your life and when you need a little help, get it.

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River Moving In You

I feel all caught up in a river of forward moving action, reminds me of this Rumi quote:
When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.
When actions come from another section, the feeling disappears. -Rumi

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The Shift

I watched history with millions of others yesterday and it changed me. Listening to our new president speak of the work ahead for us all, somehow included me, and I haven’t felt that with a leader for a very long time. I feel part of something much bigger than all of us individually, a reminder that as spiritual beings of an infinite being, we truly are all one and the same. Something big shifted yesterday.

At one point I could feel the presence of Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Georg Washington and so many of our historical forbearers. A truly awe inspiring, and for me, humbling experience. I didn’t feel so isolated after it all, and I have felt isolated, even betrayed for many years. It’s a new sense I am waking up to this morning.

What can I do to help? The first thing this morning I received an email from an organization I have never heard of-Lots of helping hands. Check out their website: http://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/contribute/ I made a contribution and submitted my name. Then I went to www.Kiva.org another great global micro-loan organization and loaned a little more. I think I’ll go to www.Heifer.com and buy a flock of geese for a family in need. Snowballing around the world, an effort to help any and all who need it.

What can you do today? Look around and give a hand, or maybe you need to ask for a little help. Or maybe just spread your cheery smile and mean it.

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Hope Springs Eternal In The Hearts Of Men

I remember that quote from childhood. It is one of the phrases that I have pondered all of my life. Mostly it resonates inside of me as a thrilling little feeling around my heart.

When I think of today’s historic inauguration it is what came to mind. The un-daunting, ever-renewing hope that comes again from the darkest of nights. I hadn’t realized how turned off to politics, country, big business etc. I had become until Barack won the election. I couldn’t celebrate, I didn’t believe it was real, surely someone would take it away…..I had lost hope.

Today, I am almost in hope and my heart is full of wanting to believe. I will watch this inauguration of the first African/American to take the highest office of our land with many friends at a happy little brunch. And then I will be a witness and a partaker of just how Hope springs eternal in the hearts of all the peoples of the world.

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Will You Wake?

Thank God our time is now when wrong comes up to meet us everywhere,
never to leave us till we take the longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul-sized. The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes so many thousand years to wake.
But will you wake for pity’s sake?
-Christopher Fry

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Myss On Healing Our Country

I believe that we all have to pull together to heal the world now. I believe that every thing every individual does toward that end is needed. I don’t think we have any luxuries left to us in the areas of pollution and self serving philosophies, so when I opened my email bag this morning and found a lengthy article by Carolyn Myss, I thought I’d share a brief bit of that. -Sue

If healing is the target, than crisis is the bow and a bow is but the device to transfer energy. America needed to wake up. It needed to break out from the dark spell of fear from the Government’s administration and reconnect to the soul of America, a soul that is fundamentally one of service and humanitarian interests. Toward that end, among America’s most powerful archetypes are the Pioneer, the Visionary, and the Entrepreneur. We are standing at a crossroads of history, between eras. We are living at the close of the fossil fuel era and the need to break into the era of energy. Already we are a species whose lines of communication are all energetic. While I was doing a workshop in Santa Domingo last year, I had several conversations with a few businessmen who own the largest wheat plantations in Guatemala and Venezuela. They were in the midst of shifting their wheat fields from growing wheat to raising corn for ethanol, as they felt the future was in alternative fuels. The problem for them was that they were the leading manufacturers of flour for these countries and they owned all the bakeries as well. They could see that their decisions would have major consequences in terms of creating a shortage of food in these countries but they were willing to allow that shortage to happen because of the personal profit they would make. They saw this as a decision essential to the times.

Food shortages have always existed but they are rapidly increasing. Food is something that America has always been good at producing, especially wheat, corn, soy beans, and other grains. Why can’t America pioneer ways to become the ecological breadbasket of the planet? Why can’t America turn to its land and become masterfully productive at finding alternative ways to produce food for exportation? If we can’t produce equipment, why can’t we grow food? Surely there must be ways to utilize the creativity of the land industry that could convert to massive exports. Anything is better than printing dollars and pouring them into black holes with blank-faced experts who have no idea where billions of dollars have gone. Surely Americans are capable of creating ways of responding to the needs of this world rather than becoming dependent and fearful, returning to the days of the Great Depression. The fact that we are on the verge of a new era already says that the inspiration abounds for those who are ready and able to make bold choices. Granted, the majority of us are not farmers, but we do not have to be farmers to think creatively.

America needs to move forward now and not think of returning to the era of “self and wealth”. The American dream needs to be redefined, not as the right to financially engineer one’s way through something, but as the right to create a new livelihood and the obligation to take care of our freedom. And Americans can do this. We can envision this nation as an ecological wonderland, a place where we can create the energetic technology that is needed to feed and fuel the here and now of humanity. We are a people who have “service” in our bones and in our blood. Entrepreneurial enterprises can emerge out of the disintegration of this economy as we release the old, gird our loins, and envision ourselves as “re-energized” in our psyche and souls. These past years have de-energized our spirits. War does that, as does years of living under the politics of fear and being fed endless lies by an administration that decayed in national and international respect years ago. A people need to respect its leadership. In voting in Barack Obama, we voted to return to the Sacred Contract of America because this man represents the rule of law. He is a Professor of Constitutional Law, a man who respects the Bill of Rights and the fundamental principles upon which this nation was built. This election was a turning point for us and many recognized that as we looked upon the two candidates, a former POW whose language was filled with battle cries and wounds versus a man who promised a hope and a new America. We chose well. We chose the spirit of America over the illusion of the power of America. We chose the real power of America. Well done us.

It is my belief that America is at its most fragile time and in that fragility, it holds the potential of a new birth. For all that a new President can bring to a nation, still its recovery is in our hands and in our hearts and spirit. The well being of America is in our hands and it is up to us to reach into our own Sacred Contracts and reach for the soul path of our lives. Go for your how highest potential. If not now, then when? America is in its cocoon waiting to see if it will make it to the stage of a healthy butterfly. So many Americans have the idea, “Oh, America will rise again. America will get back on its feet again.” It’s great to have that type of faith in America but these are different times than those that have gone before and America now needs to take its place as an equal at the world table of leaders and not as the “leader of the free world.” As a result of these past eight years, we have lost the high moral ground we once held and perhaps it’s not a bad thing for this nation to stand on equal footing with the rest of the nations, given that we all share this one planet. In fact, perhaps it’s a great blessing in disguise. We have entered the era of global equality, not global domination. If we learn nothing else from the past eight years of the Bush/Cheney folly, we must learn that invading to get what we want based upon contrived reasons and “misinformation” is itself a moral crime against the people of this nation as well as the rest of the world. And no people should ever tolerate years of being lied to by their own government, much less knowing that they are being lied to on a daily basis and looking the other way and calling that silence “patriotism”.

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What To Do During A Mercury Retrograde?

Wilkinson has some great info on what best to do till 2/1. I love his commentaries and resonate with his intelligence. -Sue

So just what IS Mercury retrograde good for? The conventional wisdom is that supposedly it’s NOT a good time to sign contracts, make purchases of electronics, or major moves or decisions. We are told to hang out with the energies, being alert that things may not be as they appear, and so on. However, I’ve found there is much that a Mercury retrograde period is good for, such as traveling, research, and other important things.

As long as one is flexible, retrograde travel is actually a good thing. There may be shifts in plans, but these are inevitable in an unpredictable world. Other things favored during Mercury retrograde are research, reflection, review, rehearsals, and returns from the past.

It’s also a great time for reconnecting with old friends and finding people and things thought lost, It’s a great time to explore alternative approaches to circumstances and opportunities, as long as no definite decisions are made and options kept open, since they are usually modified or reversed later on.

It’s great for doing things left undone or neglected from previous times. It’s good for resuming something from the past, as long as you are mindful that it may not look like it used to, or that it may require a different approach than before. It’s also excellent for getting new information and perspective that fills in gaps in understanding or activity, and doing things that seem to go in one direction but lead us to entirely new information and understanding.

We can safely resume things begun in previous retrograde periods, or pick up threads we once set aside while other things developed. It’s an energy that favors building in a time lag in judging or evaluating whatever you’re doing, since retrogrades often show that there are things yet to develop that will ultimately fill in whatever is missing in the present.

This last time Mercury was retrograde in Aquarius, opened a new way of conserving our energies and prepared us for what in many respects has been a “back to the future” experience.

This month’s Mercury retrograde in Aquarius offers us a preliminary look at the long range effects that will come as a result of this Eclipse on Jan 25.

There may be insights into old friends, or old ambitions, or a new look at old values sustaining one’s sense of honor. This is the resourceful mind judging from the highest ideal, offering new applications of old principles.

Mercury in Aquarius is seen to be a form of service, as it prepares the abstract mind to search for practical applications of truth.

This position sees world service as a truth. Knowing comes through seeing the unified vision.

Keep seeing a bigger picture, a larger contribution to your world, a wider group of friends and personal effectiveness within a collective project.

This particular Mercury retrograde challenges us to see a larger social-cultural way to contribute to our lives and world, and examine the patterns being “pre-formed” so that we can present our standards and virtues in a public way. Share your values with others, and move toward whatever patterns exemplify your sense of style and ideal, since Jupiter and Mars will activate these energies very quickly in the first half of February.

However, given we are still “crashing into retrograde,” I’ll remind you of something I said earlier: Hang out with the energies and information, pay attention to details while remembering that a lot of it won’t make sense for several weeks or months, and don’t believe everything you’re told. It’s a great time to see a larger vision of things, taking an alternative view of recent experiences and social harvests, and why certain reorganizations are necessary.

Mercury retrograde in Aquarius is great for finding a new view of a greater vision, new forms of ideal activity or world service, and definitely a new look at goals, ambitions, and ideals of friendship in whatever life area is indicated by the house Mercury is moving through. We are stabilizing a new set of life patterns over the next few weeks, so detach, see the big picture, be a true friend to yourself and others, and make your life a miracle of “doing the Angel of your Being.”

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Under The Knife

Under the knife………my old nursing jargon from those surgical years……..under the knife is what we are at this time. In the surgery forum it means the patient is anesthetized, all monitors are hooked up and checked and working, and the surgeon is making the incision.
This is where we are now for the change of our lives and of our world.
I like it though, it’s a time here of really looking at how we spend our time and resources and if it’s worth it or a waste. Wasting anything is just not feasible anymore. I’ve always been good at recycling and I’m a thrift store junkie, but it’s beyond even that. Not spending money is the new art form. How can we conserve in every area of our lives. Maybe dumpster diving is next!!
My grocery store probably wants me to stop shopping there as I really get on their case about waste. The other day, the produce manager was removing 30-40 heads of really good looking broccoli and I asked him where that was going and he said to the dump. I sort of came unglued and asked him why he didn’t take it to the shelters where they have to live on boxed and canned chemicals…………….Grrrrrrrr.
I know it’s changing, but as you know, we were changing this back in the ’60′s and now the world is being forced to look at what we’ve been saying all along. It isn’t gratifying to me to be “right” if that’s what you call it. Or maybe “harbinger” is the word.
Anyway, the new spending that seems to be working best is on self help. What do you need in your world to make it better? Mental/emotional health is certainly at the top of the list and sometimes you have to pay for that, but it’s worth it in whatever form that works for you-counseling/readings/massage ad infinitum. Physical health, I’ve pared it down, and those supplements are spendy …….but I don’t feel well without them. Spiritual………it has to be daily and more, moment to moment. Looking at each situation to see the bigger evolving picture and my place in it.
Under the knife, cutting out what doesn’t work anymore.

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The Body

I spend a lot of time feeding my body with herbs and vitamins, pretty good diet, yoga/meditation and generally keeping tabs on thoughts that would make my body feel poorly. I wonder why? I have a friend in pretty poor health and usually pretty negative who derides me for it, saying we’re all going to die when our times up anyway. It has never been about living longer, but feeling good. So, I guess that’s why-I like to feel good. I haven’t been feeling very well lately, my body is rebelling against me treating it as if it were 20. I picked up a little virus and my electrical system/brain had a mini melt down and now I’m tired. Re-thinking a few things. I can get so caught up in a belief that it becomes law. This is a really good time during a Mercury Retrograde period to re-examine old belief systems to see if they need to be updated and what works for you may not be what is “supposed” to work for all.

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Cancer Full Moon

Tomorrow’s Full Moon in Cancer feels very sweet to me and also full of surprises. Should be a delightful weekend so relax and enjoy.

And from the book Imagine: Thomas Moore comments on our spiritual awakenings:

“But at the end of the 20th Century, a remarkable thing happened. People of all kinds became attracted to spirituality. On the surface, this would seem to run counter to the prevailing myth. And yet people are meditating, eating differently, forming new churches and communities, and looking to Indian gurus and Sufi poets for inspiration. Rumi is reportedly the best-selling poet in America.”

Later in his chapter:

“Many people today are waking up to themselves. Many tell me that they had been going along, living the American myth, when one day they realized that it wasn’t enough. They felt a hunger for more, a yearning for something that could really challenge and inspire them. A large number of people tell the story of how they decided rather abruptly to quit the corporate world or leave a job and career that wasn’t doing anything for them personally.

When people work too hard for rewards that are only material, two things may happen: They wake up to the realization that they want more out of life, or they find themselves plagued by alcoholism, or some other addiction, divorce, or depression. These are the common complaints of our time.”

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Mercury Retro-1/11-2/1

Time again for Mercury to retrograde. During this time we have an opportunity to finish up old projects – finally. I like to re-organize my kitchen, the closets, my relationships. How can I make all these things work better for me?

This particular Mercury Retrograde falls in my 1st House and will be showing me aspects of my personality that I may want to reconsider. Maybe even rethink a new beginning I have been offered recently.

If you wish to know how this will affect you personally I’ll re-print Robert Wilkinson’s info below. After the date info, scroll down to read the description of the house and how personally it will affect you. This is just for your sun sign, so if you know your ascendant, read both; or if you would like more details I will do a mini report for $25, just drip a check in the mail to 5121 S. 79 Ave. Ralston 68127. This retrograde period lasts till 2/1:

For birthdays between:

Dec 28 to Jan 10, read Mercury retrograde in the 1st house.

Jan 11 to 26, 12th and 1st houses.

Jan 27 to Feb 7, 12th house.

Feb 8 to 24, 11th and 12th houses.

Feb 25 to Mar 10, 11th house.

Mar 11 to 26, 10th and 11th houses.

Mar 27 to Apr 10, 10th house.

Apr 11 to 26, 9th and 10th houses.

Apr 27 to May 10, 9th house.

May 11 to 27, 8th and 9th houses.

May 28 to Jun 11, 8th house.

Jun 12 to 27, 7th and 8th houses.

Jun 28 to Jul 12, 7th house.

Jul 13 to 28, 6th and 7th houses.

Jul 29 to Aug 12, 6th house.

Aug 13 to 29, 5th and 6th houses.

Aug 30 to Sep 12, 5th house.

Sep 13 to 29, 4th and 5th houses.

Sep 30 to Oct 13, 4th house.

Oct 14 to 29, 3rd and 4th houses.

Oct 30 to Nov 12, 3rd house.

Nov 13 to 28, 2nd and 3rd houses.

Nov 29 to Dec 11, 2nd house.

Dec 12 to 27, 1st and 2nd houses.

Of course, this table is approximate, and if your birthday falls near the edge of two possible positions you may need to read both. One should always have the chart calculated professionally in order to know where the planets are situated, as this helps clarify your exact cyclic pattern.

Mercury retrograde in the First house: You’ll take a new look at your self-image, and recent information about yourself, or who you think you are may need to be reconsidered. Old character traits and ideas may resurface in new forms. Re-think a new beginning you may have been offered recently, and/or finish up some old business so you can get on with a new way of perceiving, coordinating, or expressing something. You may find you know something about yourself that you want to communicate, but not know how. You can get flashes of insight into your subconsciousness. Great time for reworking your self-expression and the personality you are expressing.

Mercury retrograde in the Second house: You’ll take a new look at your values, what you have, or how you are using it. You may get an insight into your subconsciousness as to why you want what you want, why you hold on to things that you do, or why your self-image is supported by something. Money or goods thought lost may return, or your money supply may slow down because of peculiar circumstances. Great time for finding new and innovating ideas about how to make money or hold on to it. Also a great time to capture things in roundabout or indirect ways, and get insights into your partner’s desires or ways they relate to joint resources.

Mercury retrograde in the Third house: You will think many thoughts, over and over, trying to figure out how to put them all together. Try to see how they are all connected. You may know what you want to say, but not how to say it. You can notice things in your environment you never saw before, or meet someone in a roundabout way that is like a brother or sister to you. You can get insights into thoughts you’ve had before, but in new applications or unusual ways to use them. Great time for learning non-verbal or indirect means of communicating, or renewing an old knowledge into a new skill or application. Great for seeing subconscious factors driving your partner’s truth, philosophy, or morality.

Mercury retrograde in the Fourth house: There will be returns from your past, or you could get new information or a new perspective or way of viewing your home, family affairs, or an important impression from the past. You may get a new insight into some old need or something from your childhood that altered your perception. A parent could communicate in an unusual way, or someone could remind you of one of your parents. An old family issue could surface anew. Something you’ve been putting off around the house may become important during Mercury retrograde in this house. Great time for rearranging furniture, reconnecting with family, and doing research into your genealogy.

Mercury retrograde in the Fifth house: This can give insights into children, your creative expression, or a look back on some way that used to connect you to life’s joy, and was an expression of your enthusiasm and playfulness. You may see a different way to express something, be your natural self, or play. Find indirect ways to express your creative self, and value unique insights into your many forms of self-expression. Great time for exploring the youthful, natural, spontaneous parts of yourself. You may understand why a child is having trouble expressing themself, or coordinating their affairs. Non-verbal communications will work better than instruction. New insights into your partner’s friends, goals, or ambitions.

Mercury retrograde in the Sixth house: This could bring a new insight into an old health concern, or bring confused or muddled information about a health complaint that isn’t really what it’s supposed to be. This is the time to do research into health matters, or return to an old understanding, or give an old way of working a new look so that other practical facets can be shown. Find a new approach to all health matters, work matters, or ways of relating to plants and animals. Great time for finding a new way to do a job, getting information about alternative health options, or finding new information important to your health not understood before. Insights into partner’s motives, sorrow, and subconsciousness.

Mercury retrograde in the Seventh house: This is the time to explore new ways of communicating things to others without attachment to exact forms of what is being said. Great for getting new insights into old opportunities and finding new interpretations. Find a way to communicate insights you have about yourself within your relationships, without making too much or too little of those in your past. You may get interesting insights into what makes a present or past partner tick, or see a different facet to your partner, thus creating a new understanding. Great time for revealing deep parts of yourself or your partnering dynamic to others. Could also bring up old issues in new forms.

Mercury retrograde in the Eighth house: You need to review a past loss or death and take a different perspective on your experience of what was taken from you. Reclaim an old power in a new form, or reclaim some idea, feeling, or thing of value you once surrendered to someone in a defeat. Find a new way to see what you desire, or experiment with new approaches to getting it. You can get a flash on something of social value and a way to draw some opportunity to yourself. Great time for dropping something long overdue and shaking off the Soul sludge that is hindering you from flowering in some public way. Great time for new insights into your partner’s money issues, or why they value what they do subconsciously.

Mercury retrograde in the Ninth house: You will take a new look at your future, path of Truth, life journey, or your quest. An old Truth may return in a new form, or you’ll get a different take on some moral or ethical dilemma. You may see how another Truth or philosophy is related to your own, or get a new interpretation of the meaning of a higher truth. It’s a time to notice the little things that will affect your future to come, and experiment with different applications of your Truths in a wide variety of situations. A great time to review something you learned in the past, or for going back to school. If you and your partner are having trouble communicating, look at possibilities without having to be too specific.

Mercury retrograde in the Tenth house: This can bring reversals in public position, or long overdue acknowledgment or recognition. You may need to do some things neglected up to now before you can move forward. This position may indicate miscommunications in the professional sector, or delays and misunderstandings in the workplace. Take extra care about any important decisions to be made, as they will probably be subject to change, and try to sign no important contracts during this period. A great time to take care of old business or use temporary experimental approaches to be finally evaluated later. Also a great time to see how your parents affected your self-image and what type of public standing you project.

Mercury retrograde in the Eleventh house: A time to get new insights into your friends, goals, and ambitions. You may reconnect with an old friend, or get a new insights into why you once wanted something and how this is related to some subconscious assumption. A good time for getting insights into why you have joined the groups you have been involved in, and what they taught you about your larger vision of world service. It’s a great time for forming some interesting public relationships, and harvesting something from the past in a new form. Find ways to recombine several old ambitions in a new package. New insights into why your partner plays the way they do, or if creative, you’ll see their subconsciousness.

Mercury retrograde in the Twelfth house: This is a period for you to achieve closure on whatever ghosts and sorrows are still bugging you. Review and change your thinking, perception, affirmations, interpretations, meditations, or prayers to come to a more compassionate view of what is leaving and why things have happened the way they did. Unclear speech or recollection could cause trouble in unsuspected ways, so best to say little and forgive much. Get a new insight into an old sorrow or self-undoing behavior. A great time for taking one last look back before closing a chapter of the life that is already over. You’ll get glimpses of the “movie of your life,” and may need to re-edit your view of what happened and why.

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Beginning Again

I’m sitting here this morning ruminating. Isn’t that a great word! I was given a beautiful gift of travel to a foreign land closing out 2008 and welcoming in a brand new year. I can’t remember when I have felt a new year as much. So fresh and beckoning with opportunity. And I am ready.
One of the not so new, and yet, so very new directions is a bigger focus on astrology. January began with a new monthly article in a local magazine that I am very pleased with. Go to: http://viewer.zmags.com/showmag.php?mid=wrhsgd#/page62/ and just make sure it goes to page 62. This monthly article starts my year off in the direction I love so much, astrological counseling. I am listening to the Universe and it is singing my song right now. I feel like I stepped out from behind a boulder onto a flowing current of light (isn’t that poetic!) and all I want to do is laugh and play and follow my passions!

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Acceptance

As I was perusing the many astrological sites I find meaningful, I came across the below on Cayelin’s site, really resonated with that today, maybe you will too.

The ancient Vedic text known as the Bhagavad Gita describes what happens when we learn acceptance of as stated below being content and unattached to outcome

Content with getting what arrives of itself
Passed beyond the pairs, free from envy,
Not attached to success nor failure,
Even acting, s/he is not bound.
S/He is to be recognized as eternally free
Who neither loathes nor craves;
For s/he that is freed from the pairs,
Is easily freed from conflict.
- The Bhagavad

Said another way… total acceptance of self and of all that life IS without judgment, or resistance, or a need to fix it or make it be different than what is liberates us from the limiting experience of duality including the concepts of good or bad, right or wrong, success or failure. This is the place of total freedom.

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Peace For All

The Dailies today are about our lack of peace in certain parts of the world. So, if you have peace in your little corner, you might want to become more informed about your brothers and sisters in other parts of the world and do something so that we all have peace, safety, enough food to eat and don’t live in terror of bombs falling on us in our sleep. -Sue

Dear friends,

All day I’ve been thinking about Gaza, listening to reports on NPR, following the news on the internet when I can spare a moment. I’ve been thinking about the friends I made there four years ago, and wondering how they are faring, and imagining their terror as the bombs fall on that giant, open-air prison.

The Israeli ambassador speaks movingly of the terror felt by Israeli children as Hamas rockets explode in the night. I agree with him—that no child should have her sleep menaced by rocket fire, or wake in the night fearing death.

But I can’t help but remember one night on the Rafah border, sleeping in a house close to the line, watching the children dive for cover as bullets thudded into the walls. There was a shell-hole in the back room they liked to jump through into the garden, which at that time still held fruit trees and chickens. Their mother fed me eggs, and their grandmother stuffed oranges into my pockets with the shy pride every gardener shares.

That house is gone, now, along with all of its neighbors. Those children wake in the night, every night of their lives, in terror. I don’t know if they have survived the hunger, the lack of medical supplies, the bombs. I only know that they are children, too.

I’ve ridden on busses in Israel. I understand that gnawing fear, the squirrely feeling in the pit or your stomach, how you eye your fellow passengers wondering if any of them are too thick around the middle. Could that portly fellow be wearing a suicide belt, or just too many late night snacks of hummus? That’s no way to live.

But I’ve also walked the pock-marked streets of Rafah, where every house bears the scars of Israeli snipers, where tanks prowled the border every night, where children played in the rubble, sometimes under fire, and this was all four years ago, when things were much, much better there.

And I just don’t get it. I mean, I get why suicide bombs and homemade rockets that kill innocent civilians are wrong. I just don’t get why bombs from F16s that kill far more innocent civilians are right. Why a kid from the ghetto who shoots a cop is a criminal, but a pilot who bombs a police station from the air is a hero.

Is it a distance thing? Does the air or the altitude confer a purifying effect? Or is it a matter of scale? Individual murder is vile, but mass murder, carried out by a state as an aspect of national policy, that’s a fine and noble thing?

I don’t get how my own people can be doing this. Or rather, I do get it. I am a Jew, by birth and upbringing, born six years after the Holocaust ended, raised on the myth and hope of Israel. The myth goes like this:

“For two thousand years we wandered in exile, homeless and persecuted, nearly destroyed utterly by the Nazis. But out of that suffering was born one good thing—the homeland that we have come back to, our own land at last, where we can be safe, and proud, and strong.”

That’s a powerful story, a moving story. There’s only one problem with it—it leaves the Palestinians out. It has to leave them out, for if we were to admit that the homeland belonged to another people, well, that spoils the story.

The result is a kind of psychic blind spot where the Palestinians are concerned. If you are truly invested in Israel as the Jewish homeland, the Jewish state, then you can’t let the Palestinians be real to you. It’s like you can’t really focus on them. Golda Meir said, “The Palestinians, who are they? They don’t exist.” We hear, “There is no partner for peace,” “There is no one to talk to.”

And so Israel, a modern state with high standards of hygiene, a state rooted in a religion that requires washing your hands before you eat and regular, ritual baths, builds settlements that don’t bother to construct sewage treatment plants. They just dump raw sewage onto the Palestinian fields across the fence, somewhat like a spaceship ejecting its wastes into the void. I am truly not making this up—I’ve seen it, smelled it, and it’s a known though shameful fact. But if the Palestinians aren’t really real—who are they? They don’t exist!—then the land they inhabit becomes a kind of void in the psyche, and it isn’t really real, either. At times, in those border villages, walking the fencelines of settlements, you feel like you have slipped into a science fiction movie, where parallel universes exist in the same space, but in different strands of reality, that never touch.

When I was on the West Bank, during Israeli incursions the Israeli military would often take over a Palestinian house to billet their soldiers. Many times, they would simply lock the family who owned it into one room, and keep them there, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days—parents, grandparents, kids and all. I’ve sat with a family, singing to the children while soldiers trashed their house, and I’ve been detained by a group of soldiers playing cards in the kitchen with a family locked in the other room. (I got out of that one—but that’s another story.)

It’s a kind of uneasy feeling, having something locked away in a room in your house that you can’t look at. Ever caught a mouse in a glue trap? And you can’t bear to watch it suffer, so you leave the room and close the door and don’t come back until it’s really, really dead.

Like a horrific fractal, the locked room repeats on different scales. The Israelis have built a wall to lock away the West Bank. And Gaza itself is one huge, locked room. Close the borders, keep food and medical supplies and necessities from getting through, and perhaps they will just quietly fade out of existence and stop spoiling our story.

“All we want is a return to calm,” the Israeli ambassador says. “All we want is peace.”

One way to get peace is to exterminate what threatens you. In fact, that may be the prime directive of the last few thousand years.

But attempts to exterminate pests breed resistance, whether you’re dealing with insects or bacteria or people. The more insecticides you pour on a field, the more pests you have to deal with—because insecticides are always more potent at killing the beneficial bugs than the pesky ones.

The harshness, the crackdowns, the border closings, the checkpoints, the assassinations, the incursions, the building of settlements deep into Palestinian territory, all the daily frustrations and humiliations of occupation, have been breeding the conditions for Hamas, or something like it, to thrive. If Israel truly wants peace, there’s a more subtle, a more intelligent and more effective strategy to pursue than simply trying to kill the enemy and anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity.

It’s this—instead of killing what threatens you, feed what you want to grow. Consider in what conditions peace can thrive, and create them, just as you would prepare the bed for the crops you want to plant. Find those among your opponents who also want peace, and support them. Make alliances. Offer your enemies incentives to change, and reward your friends.

Of course, to follow such a strategy, you must actually see and know your enemy. If they are nothing to you but cartoon characters of terrorists, you will not be able to tell one from another, to discern the religious fanatic from the guy muttering under his breath, “F-ing Hammas, they closed the cinema again!”

And you must be willing to give something up. No one gets peace if your basic bargaining position is, “I get everything I want, and you eat my shit.” You might get a temporary victory, but it will never be a peaceful one.

To know and see the enemy, you must let them into the story. They must become real to you, nuanced, distinctive as individuals.

But when we let the Palestinians into the story, it changes. Oh, how painfully it changes! For there is no way to tell a new story, one that includes both peoples of the land, without starting like this:

“In our yearning for a homeland, in our attempts as a threatened and traumatized people to find safety and power, we have done a great wrong to another people, and now we must atone.”

Just try saying it. If you, like me, were raised on that other story, just try this one out. Say it three times. It hurts, yes, but it might also bring a great, liberating sense of relief with it.

And if you’re not Jewish, if you’re American, if you’re white, if you’re German, if you’re a thousand other things, really, if you’re a human being, there’s probably some version of that story that is true for you.

Out of our own great need and fear and pain, we have often done great harm, and we are called to atone. To atone is to be at one—to stop drawing a circle that includes our tribe and excludes the other, and start drawing a larger circle that takes everyone in.

How do we atone? Open your eyes. Look into the face of the enemy, and see a human being, flawed, distinct, unique and precious. Stop killing. Start talking. Compost the shit and the rot and feed the olive trees.

Act. Cross the line. There are Israelis who do it all the time, joining with Palestinians on the West Bank to protest the wall, watching at checkpoints, refusing to serve in the occupying army, standing for peace. Thousands have demonstrated this week in Tel Aviv.

There are Palestinians who advocate nonviolent resistance, who have organized their villages to protest the wall, who face tear gas, beatings, arrests, rubber bullets and real bullets to make their stand.

There are internationals who have put themselves on the line—like the boatload of human rights activists, journalists and doctors on board the Dignity, the ship from the Free Gaza movement that was rammed and fired on by the Israeli navy yesterday as it attempted to reach Gaza with humanitarian aid.

Maybe we can’t all do that. But we can all write a letter, make a phone call, send an email. We can make the Palestinian people visible to us, and to the world. When we do so, we make a world that is safer for every child.

Below is a good summary of some of the actions we can take.

Please feel free to repost this. In fact, send it to someone you think will disagree with it.
Starhawk

www.starhawk. org

More from Starhawk: Personally, I think mass emails and pressure on Obama might be one of the most effective things we can do in the long run.

Now, I’m finding that the click here links below don’t seem to work when I either copy or forward them, but I am including this for the useful phone numbers. You can go directly to two websites:
End the Occupation http://www.endtheoc cupation. org/article. php?id=1773
And United for Peace and Justice www.unitedforpeace. org and get to working links.
You can email Obama or post comments at http://change. gov/.
Good luck!

From United for Peace and Justice

Take Action to Protest Israeli Attack on Gaza

Mid-morning Saturday, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) launched a series of deadly air strikes on the occupied Gaza Strip. As we write this, an estimated 275 people have been killed. Hundreds of innocent people have been wounded. According to news reports today, Israel plans to keep these attacks going and has brought scores of tanks to the border with Gaza.

These Israeli attacks come on top of a brutal siege of the Gaza Strip which has been going on for years and has created a humanitarian catastrophe of dire proportions for Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinian residents by restricting the provision of food, fuel, medicine, electricity, and other necessities of life. All of this is happening in the most densely populated and one of the poorest areas of the world.

Israel is carrying out these attacks with F-16 fighter jets and missiles provided by U.S. taxpayers. From 2001-2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F-16′s. In July 2008, the United States gave Israel 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and ‘bunker buster’ missiles.

Israel’s lethal attack on the Gaza Strip could not have happened without the active military and political support of the United States. We need to take action now to protest this attack and demand an immediate cease-fire.

The U.S. Campaign to End the Israel Occupation (a member group pf UFPJ) has issued an action alert with these suggestions — we urge you to take action today!

* Contact the White House to protest the attacks and demand an immediate cease-fire. Call 202-456-1111 or send an email to comments@whitehouse .gov.
* Contact the State Department at 202-647-6575 or send an email by clicking here.
* Contact your Representative and Senators in Congress at 202-224-3121 or find contact info for your Members of Congress by clicking here.
* Contact your local media by phoning into a talk show or writing a letter to the editor. To find contact info for your local media, click here.
* Organize a local protest or vigil and tell us about it by clicking here.
* Sign our open letter to President-Elect Obama calling for a new U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine and find out other steps you can take to influence the incoming Administration by clicking here.

In addition, the Middle East Children’s Alliance (another member group of UFPJ) is working with health organizations in Gaza to procure the most-needed medicines and send them directly to Gaza with the help of the Free Gaza Movement. You can make a secure online contribution now.

Background Information

Below are three articles you may want to read for background information and reports on the Gaza crisis.

‘If Gaza Falls…’, Sara Roy, Professor at Harvard’s Center For Middle Eastern Studies and author of ‘Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian- Israeli Conflict’.

‘Gaza Massacres Must Spur Us To Action’, Ali Abunimah, Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of ‘One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse’ (Metropolitan Books, 2006).

‘Report on Gaza’, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Update December 22, 2008.
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Help us continue to do this critical work: Make a donation to UFPJ today.

UNITED FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE
www.unitedforpeace. org | 212-868-5545
PO Box 607; Times Square Station; New York, NY 10108
To subscribe, visit www.unitedforpeace. org/email

Sign up to organize people in your community to end U.S. military aid to Israel. We’ll send you an organizing packet complete with our brand new postcards featuring the icon below. If we’re going to change U.S. policy, we’ve got to go beyond agreeing among ourselves and educate and organize others as well. Sign up today and we’ll send you a package tomorrow by clicking here .

Join us in Washington, DC for Inauguration Day on January 20. Upwards of 4 million people are expected in Washington, DC for President-Elect Obama’s inauguration. This is a perfect time for us to reach out to and educate our fellow citizens about U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel. If you plan to be in Washington for the inauguration and would like to help us distribute information and get signatures on postcards calling for a cut off of arms transfers to Israel, please click here .

Join us again in Washington, DC for a Grassroots Advocacy Training and Lobby Day on February 1-2. Interfaith Peace-Builders and the US Campaign are organizing this exciting two-day event, featuring interactive, skills-building workshops and the chance to meet with your Representative and Senators to discuss U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. Spaces are filling up fast. For more details, and to register, please click here No comments