Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Human Cost of Turning a Blind Eye to Lebanon

This morning, I found a website called
about the violence between Israel and Lebanon. The website contains some very graphic and disturbing pictures of civilian casualties of Israeli bombing.

Also disturbing, but on a very different level, are the now famous pictures of Israeli girls writing or drawing on heavy artillery shells. The website suggests that these Israeli girls are writing messages to the future Lebanese victims of Israeli shelling. This claim may well be pure propaganda. Nevertheless, I find it deeply sad that parents permitted their children to write or draw anything on an artillery shell. Such an act teaches children to make light of instruments of death and destruction. I agree with the ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu, who wrote that
Weapons are the tools of violence; all decent men detest them. Weapons are the tools of fear; a decent man will avoid them except in the direst necessity and, if compelled, will use them only with the utmost restraint. Peace is his highest value. If the peace has been shattered, how can he be content? His enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself. He doesn't wish them personal harm. Nor does he rejoice in victory. How could he rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men? He enters a battle gravely, with sorrow and with great compassion, as if he were attending a funeral. (Tao Te Ching, Chapter 31)
In addition to presenting pictures of some of the consequences of this war, the website links to a petition to save the Lebanese civilians and points out that these civilians include Christians, Muslims, Druzes, and Jews. As of the time of this writing, the petition has received almost 200,000 signatures since July 15, 2006, including my own. The petition says that
Up until now more than 500 Lebanese civilians have been killed and thousands missing under the rubbles, thousands wounded, bridges and infrastructure destroyed, refugees are leaving Beirut in droves and worst of all the enforced siege might lead to a human catastrophe in the next few days. There must be an end to this cycle of violence and continuous violation of international laws and basic ethical behavior.
If you believe that the factual basis of the petition is correct and share its concerns, I encourage you to act right now and add your signature to the petition as well. Better yet, after you sign the petition, tell others about it, too! (An easy way to do that is to click on the envelope icon at the bottom of this post, which will let you email this post to a friend.)

How NOT to Run a Blog

Out of concern for the recent escalation of violence between Israel and Lebanon, I turned to Google this morning to consult informed opinions on whether the Hezbollah are "freedom fighters" or "terrorists." I found a lively discussion of this issue on a blog called The Language Guy. The moderator of the blog and most of those who left comments felt that the Hezbollah are terrorists, but one dissenting voice, Hugh, felt that they are freedom fighters. I am still undecided on this volatile issue, but I do have strong feelings about how to best foster honest debate in the blogosphere. I will let the primary sources speak for themselves.

Here is The Language Guy's decision on how to handle Hugh, the lone dissenter:

Hugh's comments on this blog will be deleted from now on. I refuse to take abuse from a teenager on my on blog. Criticism is fine. Hugh acts like a teenager and will be treated like one.

Here is my reply to The Language Guy on his blog:
Dear Language Guy,

I greatly respect your academic training as a linguist and your desire to apply your expertise for humanistic purposes; however, your impeccable credentials as a linguist do not make you infallible in the political arena. If you are going to run a public forum, you had better expect people to disagree with you and to criticize you on occasion, as I must now regrettably do. I'm not going to flame you, but I'm not going to pull any punches, either. I assume that you know how to graciously accept constructive criticism from a concerned colleague.

I have read every comment in reply to your original post, and I find nothing "abusive" in anything Hugh has written. To characterize simple disagreement as "abuse" makes you seem too thin-skinned to participate in public political discourse. Resorting to wholesale censorship by banning Hugh's dissenting voice from your blog was a bad decision, and I strongly urge you to reconsider it. Do you want real discussion on this blog or do you just want everyone to agree with you all the time? Is this a public forum or a vanity press? These are certainly pointed questions, but if you can answer them honestly, you will have a truly great blog.

You have criticized Hugh for allegedly committing the logical fallacy of appealing to authority in citing Chomsky, but you have made an unwarranted assumption. We academics cite the works of others all the time (in formal papers by including a literature survey with a supporting bibliography), and nobody confuses this with fallacious reasoning. As you well know, it would be wrong for Hugh to pass off Chomsky's arguments as his own; Hugh did the right thing by acknowledging his source. Hugh certainly has every right to cite the works of others if he feels those works have something relevant and meritorious to contribute.

Hugh never said that Chomsky was an unimpeachable authority—that was your assumption about his intention! One could argue that you have committed the straw man fallacy by attacking an argument that Hugh never actually made. One could also argue that you have committed the ad hominem fallacy by categorically dismissing every statement attributed to Chomsky merely because Chomsky said it. Just because Chomsky said it doesn't mean it is without merit. If you have disagreed with Chomsky in the past, it does not automatically invalidate his current arguments. On these singular points, I find your reasoning to be specious, but I am quick to add that these mistakes do not mean you are incapable of formulating a cogent argument.

You clearly have a lot of worthwhile things to say, but when you are dismissive and censor those who disagree with you, you risk losing both your audience and your credibility. If you want me, and others like me, to continue reading your blog, I respectfully suggest that you stop telling others how they may or may not make their case and simply let the discussion unfold in a natural way.

Wishing you success,

Dr. Taoist

The Way of Peace
No doubt, it is much more easily said than done, but I sincerely hope to uphold the same high standards on my blog which I have recommended to The Language Guy for his blog. Let me now remind both myself and my readers of the guidelines I set down for this blog in my inaugural post:
I welcome civilized discourse from all interested parties, including those who offer points of view which differ from my own. "Civilized discourse" means that no matter how passionately you feel about your point of view, you will not use profanity, resort to abusive language, or engage in personal attacks. Such behavior will not be tolerated here. Your comments must show sincere respect towards the other participants of this blog.
On a personal note, I will soon be moving back to the United States after eleven wonderful years living, studying, and working in Canada. Although my blog has been almost completely dormant during the past year—a time of significant transition for me—I expect to revive my blog after returning to my home country. I invite you to stay tuned for more news, commentary, analysis, and opinions—yours as well as my own!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Please Stay Tuned

Please stay tuned for my next post on the way of peace. In the mean time, why don't you subscribe to my mailing list? That way, you won't miss my next post when it's finally ready for publishing! Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Subscribe to My Weblog to Get Updates by Email

I am very pleased to announce an extremely useful new service which is now available to my readers: You can subscribe to my mailing list!

As a subscriber, you will receive a brief notice in your email whenever I update my weblog. Subscribing to this free notification service will ensure that you are kept current on the latest developments here while saving you the trouble of checking my blog periodically for updates. It ensures that you will never miss a new post or lose the opportunity to leave a timely comment!

Managing Your Subscription

Now that you understand the benefits of subscribing, let me explain how your subscription is managed. After considering some fifteen different mailing list services and testing seven of them thoroughly, I finally chose a free mailing list service provided by Bravenet (which also provides dozens of other free web tools for webmasters). Bravenet's mailing list service is free because it is advertiser-supported. That means Bravenet may insert a small advertisement before or after the messages I send to my mailing list. I have decided that the high reliability, great ease of use, and rich features provided by Bravenet mailing lists are well worth the minor inconvenience of a few small ads.

You can subscribe to my mailing list quickly and easily by filling out the simple web form at the top of my blog. You can also unsubscribe using the same form. To prevent unauthorized changes to the mailing list, Bravenet uses a "double opt-in" and "double opt-out" process—that means a confirmation email will be sent to the address you specify whenever you ask to subscribe or unsubscribe. The confirmation email contains a link which you must click to confirm your request and thereby prevents anyone else from changing your subscription status.

Privacy and Community

Let me assure you that I will not share your email address with anyone for any reason—that means you will not receive any spam as a result of subscribing to my mailing list! This list will be used solely for the purpose of keeping you informed of updates to my blog.

If you subscribe to The Way of Peace, you will not only stay informed on a wide variety of vitally important issues, you will become an important part of a vital and thriving community. As we join together in this way, remember that this website is but one of thousands which right now are building armies of well-informed citizens. Know also that when we mobilize our combined forces, we will make a profound difference in this world—and the world will have you to thank for it. My dear reader, my good citizen and fellow soldier, why wait any longer? The world needs you today—I implore you to enlist now!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Our First Duty Is to Uphold the Truth

In my inaugural blog post and its follow-up post, I described my encounters with some of the people who have most deeply influenced my thoughts—who inspired me to take my first baby steps of political action and begin working towards peace in an increasingly violent world. These same people inspired me to start this blog as a form of political action.

Among other things, this blog serves as a voice for my conscience. It gives me a constructive outlet for the sheer outrage I feel when I read about the blatantly dishonest and shockingly unscrupulous actions of so many of the key leaders in the current American government.

As I see it, my first duty as an American citizen is not to protect those in power, but to uphold the truth. By telling the truth on this blog, I will expose the unlawful acts of these rogues in my own government and shine the light of public scrutiny on their appalling lack of principles. It is absolutely vital that the truth be made widely known so that we, the people, can hold our own government accountable—only then can we put a stop to the unconscionable wrongs which our government does in our name over and over again, both at home and abroad.

We Have Seen the Enemy

Only by embracing the disturbing truth in all its ugliness can Americans hope to confront the greatest danger of our time: the unprecedented moral failure of leaders in all three branches of our own federal government. This failure of leadership poses a far greater threat to both our personal security and our fundamental liberties than all sporadic acts of terrorist violence combined. Truth is the foundation for all genuine social and political progress, and this particularly ugly truth will be the cornerstone of that foundation in our country for a long time to come.

Given the supreme importance of discovering, accepting, and spreading the truth, we must carefully consider how we can reliably find out what the truth really is. Nearly all of us depend completely on the reports of journalists to find out what is happening in our country and throughout the world. Because of this complete and utter dependence, it is incumbent upon us to choose our trusted news sources with extreme care. The most visible choice may actually be the worst choice!

The Internet to the Rescue

Like a great many progressives, I believe that the Internet is the last bastion of serious journalism available to Americans. These days, most of the television, radio, and newspaper media outlets in America do little more than spread government propaganda. They routinely fail to report vitally important news. The mainstream media have compromised their journalistic integrity and capitulated to the unholy confluence of political power and corporate influence. In response to this phenomenon, some progressives now call the mainstream media by the colorful name, "media whores." Of course, this comparison is terribly unfair—to the world's oldest profession—but it is useful nevertheless!

What has led so many mainstream journalists to prostitute themselves so completely? What has led them to do this in a time of national crisis, no less? Why do they do this at a time when the public desperately needs journalists to fulfill their traditional role as government watchdogs? A large part of the answer is that the same wealthy cabal which has seized power in our government by a host of illegitimate means also owns and operates enormous media conglomerates—which it does not hesitate to use to poison the public mind with government propaganda masquerading as unbiased news and informed commentary.

The most egregious example which comes immediately to mind is the Faux News Channel, whose real name is not worthy to be mentioned on this blog. The vitriolic talking heads on this cable network deal from a stacked deck of profoundly biased sources. Contrary to the network's claim, such coverage is not "Fair & Balanced"—the insidious lies which these right-wing partisans deliberately spread to smear and destroy their political adversaries are a simple but effective combination of "Guile & Bile." Even more alarming is that this particular cable network is merely one vicious cog in the much larger right-wing attack machine which marches in lockstep with our leader.

The Disease and the Cure

This partisan practice of waging malicious and unprincipled disinformation campaigns is so far beyond bad journalism that it resembles mental illness more than it resembles rational political discourse. Although we must exercise extreme caution before characterizing the behavior of any political group as pathological, there are situations in which such a characterization is sadly accurate. In this particular instance, there is a well-documented pathology, complete with classic psychological manifestations like the idealization of self, the demonization of others, the gross distortion and outright denial of factual realities, and the projection of one's own unacknowledged motives and behaviors onto others.

This national sickness started at the head of our government and has spread rapidly through the entire body politic like a virulent strain of cancer. Do not let it infect you! A genuine willingness to consider all points of view with a clear head and open mind is the only prevention and the only cure for this potentially deadly disease. Only by drawing upon many different sources—and carefully examining conflicting points of view—can we hope to separate the vital truth from the numerous lies. Only when we know and accept the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth can we begin to take effective action to solve the extremely serious and highly complex problems we now face.

In a future post, I will recommend a number of excellent online resources which can help us not only discover the truth, but apply our new-found knowledge in constructive ways in order to make a difference. You will find links to a dozen of these resources already listed in the margin of my blog! I encourage you to explore the many facets of these wonderful resources—you will find that they have considerable depth. Please use these fine resources as an integral part of your own personal mission to transform the whole world into a haven of safety and justice, without which there can be no peace.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

March 2003: An Open Letter to Avert Disaster

Twenty years ago, I spent some time at Cornell University amidst the gorgeous scenery of Ithaca, New York. Cornell students and faculty were very socially conscious and politically active, though I myself was neither at that time in my life. I still remember the words and actions of one Cornell professor, Robert Strichartz, who had a deep and lasting influence on me. This story is my modest tribute to his strong convictions and the good example he set for others. It illustrates how planting a tiny seed can yield fruit in the most unexpected ways, even long after the fact.

At that time, Professor Strichartz held faculty positions with both the Department of Mathematics and the Center for Applied Mathematics (CAM). While I was at Cornell, Professor Strichartz did a very noble thing: He wrote a public letter to protest that CAM received military funding and then resigned his position with CAM as a matter of conscience. This courageous political act made such a deep impression on me that it would inspire me to take political action of my own nearly two decades later.

Just two years ago, on the evening of March 17, 2003, American President George W. Bush gave an ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein: Bush demanded that Hussein and his sons leave Iraq within 48 hours or face the dire consequences of an American-led military invasion. It was during these agonizing 48 hours that I composed the following open letter and sent it via email from Canada to my closest colleagues throughout the world:

Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2003 01:55:36 -0500 (EST)

Subject: A Dire Matter of Utmost Urgency

To My Dearly Valued Colleagues in Canada and Abroad:

Like many of you, I too have been watching with considerable concern as pivotal events unfold upon the world stage. Thanks to the integrity and courage of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, some information with deeply disturbing implications has recently come to my attention. Since then, I have read dozens of online newspaper articles to corroborate these alarming facts. Out of this great mass of information, there are two points which stand out—two points which must be immediately and widely publicized before the international community loses its most favorable opportunity to take decisive action. We must avert the impending crisis, which is far more serious than any of us could have anticipated.

I respectfully and urgently call your attention to the following two items. The first item, which reveals what is at stake for all of us as the United States threatens unilateral military action against Iraq, is truly cause for alarm. The second item, which describes a legal procedure under which the international community can unite in order to avert the impending crisis, is both a cause for hope and a call to action.

(1) The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and the Pax Americana

I dearly wish that what I am about to tell you were the wild speculation of crazed conspiracy theorists. It is not. The information I am about to share with you is well-documented and freely available in the public record—and part of the reason it is so disturbing is that it has gone virtually unnoticed by so many for so long.

The Project for the New American Century is run by a small group of powerful and ambitious American neo-conservatives. Its members include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, and others who now occupy key positions of power in the Bush administration. These men—not George Bush and not the United States Congress—are the true architects of American foreign policy, and their plans for the role of America in world affairs are absolutely chilling.

To put it bluntly—and with no exaggeration—PNAC is literally planning for American world domination by military force. Following PNAC's recommendation, Bush has already requested an increase in American defense spending. PNAC's stated goal is to suppress the rise of any rival military power and preserve American military dominance indefinitely. PNAC mandates that American world dominance be unfettered by international agreements on civilized warfare, by world opinion in general, and by the United Nations in particular. This explains why America has repeatedly defied world opinion in international affairs on issues such as protecting the environment, upholding anti-ballistic missile treaties, abolishing the use of land mines to protect postwar civilians, establishing a permanent International Criminal Court in the Hague to prosecute war criminals, and most recently, pursuing peaceful means to disarm Iraq.

Even more alarming is that PNAC fully intends for America to displace the United Nations so that America can become the world's sole force for global leadership. That is why Bush has sought to undermine the United Nations and criticized it as ineffective in the disarming of Iraq—when in fact chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has reported that inspections have become effective instruments in the destruction of Iraq's lethal arsenal. These recent events are part of a plan which was carefully crafted years ago, and which has seized upon the tragedy of September 11th as "a catastrophic and catalyzing event ... like a new Pearl Harbor" in order to secure access to the power necessary to realize PNAC's ambitions.

Under PNAC's vision of America as a "benevolent" empire, the often criticized role of America as the world's police force will no longer be a metaphor—it will become policy. PNAC intends to transform the American military into a global "constabulary"—the enforcers of the "Pax Americana," which means the American Peace (by Unilateral Exercise of Military Force). The essence of this irrational policy is that the road to world peace is paved with death and destruction—on multiple fronts simultaneously. PNAC takes the doctrine of Manifest Destiny to a new, grotesque, global level of expression. The irony of the Pax Americana is that it will fuel the fires of hatred, fanaticism, violence, and terrorism against American interests for decades to come, making the world a far more dangerous place than it is today.

There is much more, and it is just as disturbing as what I have told you here. For further information, I invite you to read at least one of the following two articles:

First Article [no longer available—try Google link below]
Second Article [no longer available—try Google link below]

You can find many similar articles by doing a search on "New American Century" or "Pax Americana."

(2) Uniting for Peace under United Nations Resolution 377

We are poised on the brink of a global disaster. PNAC's recommendations reveal America's true goals in invading Iraq: to secure an uninterrupted supply of oil to stabilize the American economy and fuel its military ambitions, and to establish a permanent military base in the region to exercise control over the Middle East. If America gets a foothold in Iraq, we are all in real trouble. The international community must unite immediately and take decisive action to put an end to America's aggressive military expansion, which threatens not only Iraq, but the whole world.

Fortunately, it is not too late for the international community to take effective action under a legal procedure known as "Uniting for Peace," established in 1950 under United Nations Resolution 377. The United Nations has used this resolution ten times since its inception to curb unacceptable military aggression around the world—with notable success. This resolution is our best hope for curbing American aggression now.

This is a time of severe crisis. I implore each of you to organize your family, friends, and colleagues, and to contact your representatives in government to urge the United Nations General Assembly to break the deadlock of the Security Council. Since this is the very purpose for which Resolution 377 was created, let us now put it to good use!

I invite you to read at least one of the following two articles:

Third Article [no longer available—try Google link below]
Fourth Article

You can find many similar articles by doing a search on "Uniting for Peace" or "Resolution 377."

*       *       *       *       *

In the remainder of this letter, I will briefly declare the principles by which I shall conduct my academic career until further notice. I am now completing my Ph.D. and about to embark on an academic career path. As an American citizen studying abroad, I have both a responsibility and a timely opportunity to respond to the growing global threat posed by the systematic realization of PNAC's ambitions. Since my government has abandoned its founding principles of integrity, justice, and the rule of law, I have decided that I will not accept employment in America until there is an American "regime change" and a pronounced return to government by the principles of the American Constitution.

As a matter of conscience, I plan to settle in Canada and invest my energies and talents in Canadian universities and conferences. I plan to seek Canadian citizenship as soon as possible. In the event that the United States persists in pursuing its unlawful policy of global expansion and rule by military force, I will renounce my American citizenship as a permanent protest. I will take every moral, ethical, and legal action in my power to both expose and oppose the unlawful actions of a handful of ambitious men. In concert with other citizens of the international community, I will seek to restore the country of my birth to the rule of law, to a policy of full accountability to the international community, and to a system of values which consistently places the best interests of the whole world above and beyond narrow national self-interest.

We have reached the moment of decision, and the consequences of the choices we make today will outlive each and every one of us. Our choice is both simple and clear: We must resolutely oppose a world governed by the unilateral actions of one nation through military force, and we must enthusiastically embrace a world governed by the rule of law in accord with international agreements between civilized nations. Unless the world unites now to slam the door in the face of the coming tyranny, the Pax Americana will surely build its "benevolent" empire on the broken bodies of the slaughtered of many nations—while the powerful and ambitious men behind the Project for the New American Century become the equally "benevolent" masters of us all.

After I wrote that letter, I finished my studies in Canada and obtained my doctorate. Since then, I have managed to extend my stay in Canada up to the present day by accepting a total of seven temporary teaching and research contracts at the university level; however, it has become quite clear that I will not be able to remain in Canada much longer. Unfortunately, the level of research funding currently available in Canada is insufficient even for some of my established Canadian colleagues. Moreover, as an American researcher in Canada, I am not eligible for postdoctoral funding from the government of either country. There is simply no funding available for me to continue my research in Canada at this time, which means that I have no choice but to return to the United States.

By October 2004, a number of things had lead me to this inescapable conclusion. It was thus with considerable concern that I watched the results of the US presidential election take shape on Tuesday evening, November 2, 2004. I had recently done my part to encourage a "regime change" by casting my absentee ballot for Democratic candidate John Kerry. Before midnight, it seemed like Kerry was actually going to win; however, by the wee hours of the morning, the tables had turned, and it was clear that Bush would be declared the winner. Here is the truly surprising part: Instead of being overcome with despair, I felt a sense of peace come over me—the peace that comes from knowing what must be done.

Since I sent my open letter in March 2003, I have learned that Bush does not sit in the Oval Office wringing his hands daily while thinking, "How will I ever get along without this citizen's support?" One person who replied to my open letter pointed out that renouncing my citizenship would silence my political voice in America, not strengthen it. There are far more effective ways for me to influence my government than to look on disapprovingly from a distance! During the pivotal Fall 2004 school term, a very socially conscious and politically savvy student of mine suggested that in a time of severe national crisis such as this, citizens living abroad as temporary residents have a duty to return to their home country and take action. I agree, and I know what must be done.

I must go home and work along side the hundreds of thousands and even millions of American who are already taking decisive action to rescue America's future from the treasonous legacy of George W. Bush. Let all true patriots now work together in unison to hasten his political decline and restore our democracy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Welcome to the Way of Peace

I warmly welcome you to the inaugural post in my weblog on the way of peace! My inspiration to start this blog came primarily from some of the Mennonites and other compassionate Christians I met while studying in Canada, and from the general experience of living in Canada for ten years. These people and experiences brought my thoughts into focus, deepened my convictions, and transformed me as a person. I have become a devout advocate of peace, and anyone who says otherwise is gonna get a fat lip!! <sigh> It's a process.

Disclaimer: No lips were harmed in the making of this blog.

In all seriousness, I have been deeply influenced by the Mennonite wisdom tradition of working towards peace through nonviolent conflict resolution. Similarly, living in Canada has instilled in me a deeply held belief that it is vital for civilized nations to conduct themselves according to the rule of international law and to rely upon instruments of diplomacy rather than military force to resolve conflicts in international affairs; for more on this belief, please read my follow-up post, March 2003: An Open Letter to Avert Disaster.

This blog explores applications of these principles to current affairs in the public arena and to events in my own private life. It offers a perspective based on my own particular wisdom tradition, the Chinese philosophy of Taoism. Peace is a natural application of Taoist principles since the pursuit of harmony is intrinsic to the Taoist way of life.

I invite you to participate: If something on my blog strikes a chord, you can forward it to others by clicking on the envelope icon at the bottom of the post. You can also reply to what you read here by posting comments directly on my blog. If you have an interesting idea for a new topic of discussion, please contact me so that I can consider it. I welcome civilized discourse from all interested parties, including those who offer points of view which differ from my own. "Civilized discourse" means that no matter how passionately you feel about your point of view, you will not use profanity, resort to abusive language, or engage in personal attacks. Such behavior will not be tolerated here. Your comments must show sincere respect towards the other participants of this blog.

Since I want this blog to be a haven for constructive dialogue, these ground rules will be strictly enforced. This brings us to our first lesson in peace: No one can keep the peace without two things—strength and restraint. One must have strength to exert influence, but it is the manner in which strength is applied which determines the outcome. Without restraint, strength destroys. With restraint, strength protects. The lesson, then, is strength tempered by restraint: Effective peacekeepers must command the power of the hawk with the gentleness of the dove. If this strikes you as contradictory, consider a saying of the legendary Taoist sage Lao Tzu: "True words seem paradoxical" (Tao Te Ching, Chapter 78).