Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘freedom’

Quakers

The Only Alternative: Christian Nonviolent Peacemakers in America
by Alan Nelson and John Malkin. (Excerpt)

The Quakers

The movement to create the Quakers – more formally known as the Religious Society of Friends began in England in the mid-1600s. A leather worker and shepherd named George Fox (1624-1691) led in developing this new Christian way of gathering, studying, praying and taking action. The first Quakers emphasized the importance of personal guidance and direct experience of the teachings of Jesus. From their early days, the Quakers challenged the authority and dogma of church and state and they questioned the notion that a minister or intermediary was necessary to know God. Quakers have often suffered imprisonment, confiscation of property and death in their struggles for freedom and justice. Fox wrote in his journal that he was frequently beaten or forced out of a town after verbally challenging clergy about matters regarding faith and politics.

Fox encouraged William Penn (1644-1718) to establish a colony in North America where a “holy experiment” could take shape. In 1681, King Charles II of England had settled a debt owed to Penn’s father by grating to William Penn ownership of a vast area of land in America. Penn left for America on August 13, 1682, to set up the colony with thousands of other Quakers who shared a vision of creating a community where they could worship as they chose without persecution by the British government or the Catholic Church. The “Holy Experiment” became known as Pennsylvania. There are currently about 300,000 Quakers worldwide.

Relations between Quakers and American Indians were peaceful, especially compared to the bloody history between American Indians and most other early Christian and non-Christian immigrant groups. Also, the Religious Society of Friends has always worked for equal rights for women, regarding women and men as equal children of God and equally capable of public ministry and of filling leadership roles in the Quaker community and church.

Quakers were among the first to oppose slavery in the United States and to prohibit it among their members. Quakers in Germantown, Pennsylvania, protested slavery as early as 1688. John Woolman (1720-1772), a colonial Quaker, opposed and helped to eradicate slavery among Quakers in the United States.

Another Quaker, Levi Coffin (1789-1877), was called “the president of the Underground Railroad” because, using their home as a safe house, he and his wife and family helped about three thousand slaves escape to freedom. Coffin gave escaped slaves food, shelter, medical care and safe transportation. Such revolutionary social action was not popular with landowners, slaveholders, or some Quakers, who deemed Coffin’s actions “too radical.” In spite of death threats and attacks on their home, Levi Coffin and his family continued their liberating work rooted in Christian nonviolence to help ex-slaves begin new lives, free from their former “owners.”

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Proud to be an Egyptian

One of the largest non-violent revolutions in history, in the most populist state in the Arab world and the biggest country in Africa, is transpiring before our eyes! The people of Egypt have provided an example of determination, unity, honor and courage that has opened the eyes of the world to what is possible and what must be.

Following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatmas Gandhi, the fall of the Berlin Wall, People Power in the Philippines, the revolution in Romania, the revolts in the Czech Republic and thousands in Iran and Tunisia, the Egyptian people (from all walks of life, backgrounds, religious orientations and economic circumstances) have lit a path for freedom that can not and should not ever be taken for granted or dismissed.

The coming days, weeks, months and years will provide an opportunity for the army of Egypt (which is supposed to be a force for THE PEOPLE) to stay true to their word and be a stabilizing influence for real democratic change and the installation of democratic institutions. If they don’t, there is no doubt that Egyptians will arise in mass once more (despite the cost) and demand their hard fought for revolution be implemented and respected.

Many Egyptians are once again saying they are proud to be Egyptian. In fact, what they have done makes us all proud to be human. Now is the time to support the people of Egypt and similar democratic movements throughout the world, with our actions and not just give lip service as we (our government) has done in the past.

This will be the beginning of a worldwide change that will see authoritarian dictatorships around the globe either make drastic changes in how they treat their citizens or see similar mass civil disobedience and change regardless of their personal wishes for power or control. Countries such as Iran, Myanmar, Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Mozambique and China may see Egypt as a wake up call. Let us hope they wake up to allow peaceful democratic freedom and rights for their people and not to clamp down and impose further restrictions, violence and tyranny.

Thank you Egypt. You are one of the cradles of civilization. Perhaps you have now become the cradle of a new world order of peace, prosperity and freedom for all.

In Bed With Joan Baez

Here is an article about my life long affair with Joan Baez, which first appeared in My Latino Voice.

When I was sixteen year of age, I fell in love with Joan Baez. It wasn’t just her beautiful long black hair, big eyes and luscious lips that attracted my teenage attention; it was primarily her powerful voice and what she said in her songs with her words, and her actions on and off stage. She was one of the first to join in the fight for civil rights in the South and protest the war in Vietnam, long before the majority of U.S. citizens opposed the war. (She has taken similar actions against the illegal invasion of Iraq.) She sang about freedom, peace, faith and love, as if they were the most important things in the world. Some people believe they still are. MORE

Queer Gals for Straight Guys

Wake up my testosterone engorged brothers. Our estrogen dominant queer sisters have the inside scoop on pleasuring women. If you want to get off your tired stereotyped butt and really connect with a woman, listen up.

Melissa and Kayla (two lesbian friends) kindly shared with me (a heterosexual male) the real low down on gender, sex and relationships. Their advice is tempered from a lifetime of loving women. They blew the top off the usual paradigms and images males cling too and provided a choice, challenge and opportunity for men to approach women in a different light. Here are some of the juicy tips and wise suggestions they shared about how to truly love a woman and enrich your life.

DON’T BE CONFINED OR LIMITED BY SIGHT. Men get stuck in the visuals and only see tits and ass or some mountaintop to climb and reach its peak. Gender is more complex and fluid than that. It can be difficult for men to enjoy the whole picture and appreciate the in-between places, the different layers and textures of a woman. Women tend to be more process oriented and appreciate a man who sees more in them then a place to park their penis.

DON’T FOCUS ON “GETTING OFF”. The illusion that it’s hard for women to climax is bogus. She can come by herself anytime she chooses. When you’re together enjoy being together. LOVEMAKING IS AN EXCHANGE, not a pursuit.

STOP TREATING WOMEN’S NIPPLES LIKE A TARGET. They aren’t radio tuning knobs or buttons to be pushed. The nipple is one small part of the entire breast, which is connected to tissue across her chest and under her arm. Enjoy the whole thing. The same goes for the clitoris. It is contained and surrounded by an array of wonderful muscles, nerves and skin that extend outward and inward. Take it all in.

ENJOY THE SENSUALITY OF SEX. Enjoy moment to moment pleasure. Take time to love every inch of your partner. Let the tension build, then linger, play with it, experiment, bathe in the ebb and flow of energy. USE ALL YOUR SENSES of touch, smell, sight, sound and taste. Sex is a basic human need. It comes in a variety of flavors. Make it tasty. Make it fun.

TAKE YOUR GIRLFRIEND/WIFE/PARTNER/FRIEND TO AN EROTIC BOUTIQUE OR HAVE HER TAKE YOU. Get some toys, books, lingerie, videos, oils and/or vibrators. VIBRATORS AREN’T JUST FOR WOMEN. Men can receive just as much pleasure from a vibrator as a woman can.

BE WILLING TO HAVE ANYTHING YOU DO WITH HER DONE TO YOU. That’s right, anything. If you want to have her kiss, lick and suck you everywhere, then do likewise. If you love kissing her breasts then let her lick and suck yours. If you want to come inside of her or have anal sex, be willing to have anal sex and be penetrated by her. Be willing to take what you give (but only when it is something you mutually wish to experience and is safe).

LISTENING TO YOUR PARTNER WHEN SHE SPEAKS AND GIVING HER ATTENTION IS LOVE. Eye contact and the courage to honestly reveal yourself emotionally and physically is love. When you risk being open and intimate you allow her to do likewise. Sex isn’t just jumping into bed and diving in; it’s sharing your feelings, thoughts, desires, fears, hopes and dreams. It’s being open to change and transformation. COMMUNICATE in bed (or on the floor, table, couch, chair, car or beach). THE BEST LOVERS ARE THOSE THAT TALK about sex, feelings, thoughts, experiences and desires.

MOST WOMEN ARE PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY IN FLUX. Instead of complaining about these changes, CELEBRATE THE UPS AND DOWNS, the curve balls and the unexpected. It makes life more adventuresome and unpredictable. Every day is a new day. Every time you make love is different. What a wonderful gift to be sexually reborn and see each other for the first time again and again.

CAST A SPELL. Create a nurturing, loving, sacred environment for you and your lady. Use it as a retreat, an inner journey and a safe sanctuary to explore and discover your erotic selves. Sex doesn’t take place in a sterile vacuum. Put it in context. Give it time, attention and meaning. Make an altar to your sexual union.

IT TAKES COURAGE TO BE INTIMATE and not let the privileges that heterosexual men are accustomed to in our society confine your life and define who you are. Our greatest fears are to allow another human being to look inside and see who we really are. Don’t just touch a woman’s body; touch her soul. Open the door and let her inside your heart as much as you want to be inside of her. ACKNOWLEDGE THE BEAUTY, WISDOM, SEXUALITY, POWER AND FREEDOM IN THE WOMAN YOU LOVE.

Do I Have The Guts?

I know it works. Millions of people around the world have risked life and limb to make it happen. But I don’t know, when it comes down to it, if I have the courage or moral strength to do it myself. In country after country, against the world’s worst governments, tyrants, military invaders and dictators, people have put their lives on the line by confronting the violent use of repression, intimidation, torture and imprisonment with nonviolent weapons of non-cooperation, civil-disobedience, strikes, sit-ins, rallies, vigils, politics and boycotts.

The question is not whether nonviolence works, but why it hasn’t been acknowledged, advocated, taught and put into practice more often? No other form of conflict has created such long-lasting and peaceful results as that of nonviolence.

Nonviolence is far from a passive activity. It requires deep introspection, continual self-awareness, strategizing, commitment, patience and direct and in-direct action. People actually have less chance of getting killed by using nonviolent tactics than they do by using violence.

As seen throughout history, it is imperative that the means match the ends. If you want a peaceful society you can’t use violence to create it. If you desire less hatred, bigotry and vengeance in the world, you have to see it in yourself and practice removing it from your own life.

A Jewish man, known as Jesus of Nazareth, repeatedly and adamantly advocated love and nonviolence and was willing to suffer torture and death by the Romans for his beliefs. His actions and words have since influenced the lives of millions.

About five hundred years before Jesus, the Buddha of Gotama preached an end to the caste system in India and contrary to all rules, laws and expectations of his time, accepted students from all castes.

In 1905, an Eastern Orthodox priest led over 150,000 Russians to the capital to protest the government. That march led to the first popularly elected parliament in that nation’s history.

In the early 1930’s, Mahatmas Gandhi first called for mass civil disobedience against the British. His call for active Satyagraha (truth force) resulted in India’s democratic independence in 1947.

Danish citizens refused to aid the Nazi war effort and forced the Germans to end blockades and curfews during their occupation of Denmark.

Without picking up a single gun Salvadoran’s forced their longtime military dictator into exile in 1944.

Martin Luther King, Jr., using many of the non-violent tactics of Gandhi, helped mobilize Americans to end racial segregation in the South and fight for civil rights nation wide.

Cesar Chavez peacefully rallied farm-workers to demand better working conditions for the men and women that harvest our countries food.

Laborers went on strike, won the right to organize and with the help of the Catholic Church and Solidarity, nonviolently brought down a totalitarian form of communism in Poland.

A group of mothers marched in the capitol of Argentina demanding to know the whereabouts of their abducted sons and grandsons. After years of being intimidated, tortured and imprisoned themselves, their persistence helped oust the countries military junta.

In the Philippines, in 1986, a coalition of citizens outraged with the government supported assassination of a returning exiled politician, massed to support his widow Corazin Aquino. After defying continued brutality, censorship and threats by the Armed Forces under Ferdinand Marcos, the people, with the help of The Church, struck at the conscience of military officers who eventually refused to follow Marcos’s orders.

South Africans waged a decades long nonviolent campaign to end Apartheid. Their actions eventually led to the freeing of Nelson Mandela and a democratically elected government in which every person’s vote had equal value.

Over 100,000 students in the Czech republic sat down in the streets demanding freedom. Their example set off a wave of protest that washed away totalitarian regimes in Hungary, Bulgaria, Mongolia and East Germany.

At the turn of the century the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic was defeated and his security forces neutralized by a general strike and nonviolent uprising.

These examples are but a few of the many inspiring practical applications of nonviolence, but how does somebody become brave enough to do it? How does one get to the point where they are willing to risk losing their job, go to prison, be assaulted or killed? How do we stand up to evil without becoming like those we confront? How do we separate evil acts from the people perpetrating them and still stop their actions without demonizing them in the process?

I like to think that my life and what I am doing with it make a difference. I tell myself that working as a counselor, a writer and volunteering in prisons and overseas helps others. I believe raising healthy children, working with human rights organizations and using non-polluting energy for my car and home, all have an impact. Then again, they are all safe and convenient.

Sure, I’ve marched in protest rallies against different wars and been arrested for blocking nuclear weapons facilities, but I knew the worst thing that would happen would be a couple of hours in detention or an overnight stay in the slammer. If I faced the prospect of years in prison, large fines, torture, a criminal record or being exiled from my country and family would I have done the same thing? I doubt it. Am I willing to stop paying taxes, get fined and go to jail? No. Am I spending time organizing other citizens to insist on less military spending and greater humanitarian interventions around the world? Perhaps, a little. Am I fully putting my body and deeds where my heart and beliefs lead me? No.

The reality is that I pay others to protect me with violent means. By paying my taxes I pay for law enforcement and military personal to carry and use weapons to theoretically keep my family, community and nation out of harms way. The money I pay to our government helps research, design, produce and use weapons of mass destruction and military intimidation and violence.

If someone threatened my son, daughter or mate, I believe I have the guts to stand my ground and resolve the conflict nonviolently without striking back, but I’m not sure. And if someone threatened my neighbor or community, I doubt I would have the same brave resolve to “fight back”, as I would with my immediate family.

I like to see myself as an advocate for justice, peace and freedom, now I’m not so sure. The justice, peace and freedom I seek are made in the context of a comfortable way of life and don’t require me to go out of my way to achieve them or make any great sacrifices; yet, all of those who have preceded me have been willing to do just that. They all took a leap of faith. They saw that they were not separate from anyone else on this planet and what they and others do or don’t do, affects us all.

When it comes down to the nitty gritty and I have to practice what I preach, I hope I can make that leap. I hope my faith in non-violence and love carries me through any and all circumstances and situations. In reality, I won’t know until or if, it happens. It could be that everyone is scared, even petrified, when faced with harm, but they act anyway. Perhaps that is what courage is all
about.

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