Friday, October 27, 2006

Dear: Joan Baez, After All these Years

Published on Friday, October 27, 2006 by

Joan Baez, After All These Years

By John Dear

"Come back, Woodie Guthrie, Come back, Mahatma Gandhi,” sang Joan Baez in her beatific soprano. “Come back to us Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. We’re marching into Selma as the bells of freedom ring.”

She’s been singing for peace and civil rights for forty-eight years. Originally inspired by Pete Seeger, she captured the attention of the nation in the early 1960s, her politically charged music propelling her to the cover of Time magazine long before Bob Dylan and the Beatles. To my mind, as soon as she sang “All My Trials, Lord,” the 1960s were born and the culture turned a corner. Music and politics would never be the same.

Today, she’s better than ever. Her voice is strong, her vision clear, and her call for peace and justice just as urgent. She continues to use her extraordinary talent for global peace and brings the power of music to the needs of the world.

Joan Baez has long been one of my heroes. She was in New Mexico last week to perform a slew of folk songs against the latest U.S. war, including Bob Dylan’s “With God On Our Side,” “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall,” and “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.” She also sang “Finlandia” and a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace.” “Any Day Now/ Baez Sings Dylan” is my favorite of her CDs, but she has just released a great new CD, Bowery Songs, with these inspiring songs recorded live in New York.

I was thrilled that Bruce Springsteen recently recorded some of Pete Seeger’s folk music and anti-war songs, and hope Joan gets the same recognition. If I had any say in the matter, she’d win a place in the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammies, and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Joan learned from Pete Seeger and then the writings of Gandhi to use her art for social change. She shows us that every peace and justice movement needs every possible creative outlet--music, painting, poetry, drama, film and literature--to help uphold the vision of a new world without war, poverty or nuclear weapons. These movements need everyone of us to contribute whatever we can. In fact, everything we do should serve peace and justice, the coming of God’s reign of nonviolence here on earth.

Over the years, Joan has helped me with various causes and protests. Once, an envelope from her arrived at my door and nestled inside was a large drawing she made of me speaking for peace. She’s a friend and more—she’s one of my teachers.

After the show I told her stories of my recent civil disobedience action against the U.S. war on Iraq, the September 11th Peace Walk from Thomas Merton’s hermitage to Louisville, and our ongoing campaign to disarm Los Alamos. But then I grew pensive and confessed a nagging thought. The actions are necessary, I said, but they sure seem futile.

“Well, John, you know what Gandhi said, right?”


“Full effort is full victory.”

“Okay, Joan,” I returned. “I'll keep at it.”

Joan herself has kept at it a long time. She walked for civil rights in the South, befriended Dr. King, sang at the 1963 March on Washington, read poetry with Thomas Merton in his hermitage, sang to Dorothy Day as she sat behind bars with the United Farmworkers, and supported dozens of movements for social change, from Poland to Chile to Nicaragua. In the 70s she ventured on a perilous trip to Vietnam, and like Daniel Berrigan and Howard Zinn, suffered under an interminable U.S. bombing raid.

Joan, like Dan, King, Merton and Day, has a rare commitment to nonviolence. Armed only with her guitar and her voice, she helps us envision a world without war or injustice. And to make her songs authentic, she practices what she sings. She marches, organizes, gets arrested, has refused to pay part of her taxes, and has joined countless demonstrations. Last month, for example, she was the featured guest in Prague at the national birthday party in honor of Vaclav Havel, the heroic former president of the Czech Republic.

We can create a new world of nonviolence, she teaches, “by studying, experimenting with every possible alternative to violence on every level. By learning how to say ‘No’ to the nation-state, 'No' to war taxes, 'No' to military conscription, 'No' to killing in general, and 'Yes' to cooperation, to building new institutions based on the assumption that murder in any form is ruled out, by making and keeping in touch with nonviolent contacts all over the world, by engaging ourselves at every possible chance in dialogue with people to try to change the consensus that it's okay to kill.”

In her famous essay, “What Would You Do If?” she concluded, “The only thing that’s been a worse flop than the organization of nonviolence has been the organization of violence.”

These days she ends her concerts with a moving rendition of Steve Earle’s hymn, “Jerusalem.” It rises like a prayer. Her prayer is her song and her life is her witness. Between witness and song, she still stirs hope for peace. After all these years.

“I believe they’ll come a day
when the lion and the lamb
will lie down in peace together
in Jerusalem.

“They’ll be no barricades then.
And they’ll be no wires or walls.
And we can wash all this blood from our hands,
all this hatred from our souls.

“And I believe that on that day
the children of Abraham
will lay down their swords
forever in Jerusalem.”

* ** *** ** *

John Dear is a Jesuit priest, peace activist, and author, most recently, of “You Will Be My Witnesses” and “The Questions of Jesus.” For info, see:

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Adams: Vote for Love

Published on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 by

On November 7, Be Smart: Vote for Love

by Patch Adams

While the State Department’s Alberto Fernandez felt obligated to take back his comments that elements of U.S. policy in Iraq have been arrogant and stupid, the truth is that U.S. policy post-9/11 has been driven by arrogance and stupidity. What could be stupider than the idea that violence could end the threat of terrorism and make us safer at home? Simple logic tells us that responding to terror with more violence will only lead to more terror and more violence. Now we have that logic confirmed by the grim facts on the ground in Iraq.

Isn’t it time for a radical change of course? There’s only one thing more powerful than violence, and that’s love. So shouldn’t we be fighting violence with love? I don’t mean relational love. I mean treating people with love. Feeding them. Educating them. Healing them. That kind of love.

As a doctor—and a clown—I’ve seen the tremendous healing power of love. The number one factor for surviving a heart attack is having a loving community. A study of 4,000 women with breast cancer found that with a little love—six hour-long support sessions—their survival rate increased five-fold. With the situation in Iraq imploding, tensions increasing with Iran and North Korea, and our government’s policies leading more and more people to hate Americans, it’s time to take the healing power of love to the global level. It’s time for a love platform.

What’s a love platform? It’s a set of policies that shows compassion for the elderly, the mentally ill, the homeless, the poor. It’s a platform that treats the environment with the loving respect it deserves.

A love platform would call for kissing, not killing. You switch two little letters and you get a whole new outlook on life. Kissing, not killing.

A love platform would put women in charge—women with loving instincts who would treat the world the way my mother treated my friends when they came to my house. She fed them, she wiped their noses, she was nice. That’s it. We’d have a policy called “Be Nice.” If everyone treated people like my mother did, we’d put an end to violence.

We need to create a massive global movement for loving. It would be like the Peace Corps times 10,000. People who have resources would go, en masse, to help those without. People with skills would teach those without. People who are healthy would take care of those who are sick.

We’d save cabinet positions for the Amish people who embraced the family of the man who killed their children. We’d put in charge of foreign policy the people who lost loved ones on 9/11 but insisted that revenge was not the answer, or the women of CODEPINK who tried desperately to stop the war in Iraq before it even began.

It really amazes me that we spend so many hours as a society focusing on love as sex or love that some consider perverse: Mark Foley sending emails to underage boys, Bill Clinton with an intern, love between people of the same sex. But we spend no time focusing on the big love that should drive our lives and our policies, i.e. love for the human family. We spend no time in school teaching young people how to grow up to be loving adults. The media gives us never-ending examples of violence and hate, but rarely gives us the uplifting examples of the kid who spends his lunch money on feeding the homeless. We hear about the brave soldiers who fight, but not about the people—often women—who force the soldiers to put down their guns.

For those who say that a love platform is ridiculous and naive, I ask them to compare the results of the $300 billion we’ve spent on war in Iraq with what we would get if we had spent that money on setting up health clinics all over the world and feeding people who are hungry. I travel around the world and meet lots of people who fear and hate us. If we spent our energy and resources uplifting people in need—spreading laughter and light instead of bombs and bullets—we’d live in a world that was happier, healthier and safer.

So come November 7, be smart. Vote out stupid and arrogant candidates who think that occupying Iraq by force or bombing Iran will make us safe. And vote for candidates who understand the simple notion that love is not only the best medicine, it’s also smart policy.

Patch Adams, M.D., is a nationally known speaker on wellness, laughter, humor and life. To support peace candidates, go to

Friday, October 20, 2006

Cook: Teach Your Children Well?

Craig Scott, left, lost his sister, Rachel Joy Scott, at Columbine on April 20, 1999.

Published on Friday, October 20, 2006 by the

Nation's Leaders Mislead Youth by Preaching Peace, Practicing War

by David Cook

On April 20, 1999, a Colorado student named Craig Scott watched his sister and two friends die when they were shot to death by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, fellow classmates at Columbine High School. Before the noon sun began to set, Klebold and Harris killed ten others before killing themselves.

Two days later, President Clinton felt the need to speak out against the Columbine violence, which had shipwrecked the nation. Traveling to a public high school in Alexandria, Virginia, he held the attention of a student peer mediation club, saying to them, "We must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to express their anger and resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons."

After his speech to the Virginia students, as columnist Colman McCarthy writes, Clinton returned to the White House and, before turning in for bed, gave the order to resume bombing in Serbia. That day in Belgrade, United States military planes, backed with the blessing of our president, streaked across the sky, dropping 500-pound bombs that would fall into the homes and towns of innocent people. That same night in Colorado, thousands of miles away, a community began its long mourning.

Flash forward to last week, as the Amish school shooting in Pennsylvania prompted President Bush to call a similar, post-Columbine conference on character and school violence. Present during the Maryland conference (alongside Attorney General Gonzales and Secretary of Education Spellings) was Craig Scott, the now-23-year-old who had lost his sister and friends in the Columbine shooting. During the only meaningful moment of the conference, Scott stood and addressed the president.

"I've grown up in a culture today that doesn't teach me anything of substance, of value, how it bombards me every day with messages of emptiness and shallowness. And the youth are crying for something to stand for, something to believe in. If it weren't for my faith or my family, I possibly could have fallen into the lies that our culture tells us. But now I've traveled, I've spoken to over a million teens across this country….I've seen depression, anger and loneliness, students without direction or purpose….I've seen students who called themselves cutters, have cut themselves because that's the way they know to take out the pain that they're dealing with. I've learned a lot about my generation. And I've learned a lot since I lost my friends and my sister.''

And then Scott said the greatest words the president or anyone else could hope to ever hear:

"And the main thing I've learned is that kindness and compassion can be the biggest antidotes to anger and hatred, and I believe the biggest antidotes to violence.''

The president responded in the only way he could, which was to thank Scott, applaud him and then ask for a copy of his speech.

The next day, researchers from Johns Hopkins released an updated body count for the war in Iraq. An estimated 600,000 civilians have died since the war began. These are not soldiers or armed resisters; these are mothers, grandfathers, children playing outside. Families, just like yours, just like mine.

God forgive me should I ever truly understand how presidents Clinton and Bush are able to mouth the hollow words about protecting children ("We must…teach them to express their anger and resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons") and then, hours later, give the damnable blessing for military movements that kill other people's children. This is madness, and it is the hell-bent delusion of violence that allows the president of the United States to stand up before a crowded room of parents, reporters and survivors and announce his intentions to better protect American schoolchildren, and then, before the same day's sun sets, continue to sit on a war that has killed more than half-a-million souls.

And a nation of 300 million barely opens its mouth.

When the war began, President Bush openly declared his intentions to use violence against this axis of evil. He gave this speech inside the halls of the National Cathedral and Christians across the country cheered, seeing no paradox, no problem with declaring war inside the church walls of Christ. Since then, it has been proven that the war and its reasons were manufactured, and that the war-makers and military-engineers and weapons-manufacturers have again orchestrated the dance that is our nation's great addiction: not oil, but violence. Craig Scott looked the president in the eyes and told him the greatest sentence he will ever hear: "Kindness and compassion can be the biggest antidotes to anger and hatred, and I believe the biggest antidotes to violence.'' The president presumably smiled back, applauded Scott and then sat back down.

We must not sit down with the president. I do not speak as a Democrat or Republican, for violence is bi-partisan: the same delusion that infects President Bush and Rumsfeld also made sick President Clinton and Cohen, Kennedy and McNamara. Instead I speak as a human and a Christian that believes in the sacredness of every living life (in Colorado, Belgrade or Iraq) and, more importantly, in the power of the God of Love whose faintest whisper is enough to make straight the crookedest path, disarm the mightiest weapon, and crumble the heart of ten thousand Hitlers. And I do not believe that this God achieves the salvation of the earth through soldiers, generals or presidents that proclaim war.

Violence is violence is violence. It will never bring about true peace or justice anymore than darkness creates light. It is impossible. Craig Scott and the Amish know this. So do Christ and King and Gandhi.

Napoleon once said that, if you have bayonets, it is impossible to sit on them. America has buried in its earth thousands of nuclear weapons. We preach false words about character and justice in schools while continuing to fund a system that, one day, will be tempted to use those nuclear weapons. Has there ever been a weapon created that we have not used?

Yes. There is one, and it goes by many names. Truth. Love. Reconciliation. Dialogue. Faith. Forgiveness.

* ** *** ** *

David Cook is a former journalist for the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. He currently teaches American history at Girls Preparatory School and can be reached at

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Comly Beattie: Prayers for Peace

At the Edge of the Abyss: Prayers for Peace
By Missy Comley Beattie

A few days ago, I was walking down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan when I noticed colorful ribbons, hanging from the iron fence in front and around the side of the magnificent Marble Collegiate Church. The green, blue, and gold streamers enticed me to cross the street and read the marker explaining the significance of the project called Prayers for Peace. The gold ribbons display the names and ages of our servicemen and women who have died in Iraq and represent prayers for their families. The blue are prayers for Iraqi dead and wounded with their names and ages, and the green ribbons represent prayers for peace. I sifted through them, determined to find my nephew's name. I knew that seeing it would bring tears. I cried, though, long before I found him. Some of our dead were 18-years-old. Many of the Iraqi dead were just months old.

The marker includes a message from Senior Minister, Dr. Arthur Caliandro:

On the Sunday following the end of the Gulf War, I attended a Quaker meeting. You may be aware that at Quaker meetings there is typically no formal spoken liturgy. People enter in silence and speak when moved by the Spirit. Of all the comments made that day, the one I remember was from a man who was about my age: 'I know how to protest war,' he said, 'but I don't know how to make peace.' It seems that man speaks for most of the world.

Long before their grandson, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase Comley, was killed in Iraq, my parents wondered why so many among the clergy have remained silent about the invasion and occupation of Iraq. I had given my mother a copy of The Reverend William Sloane Coffin's book Credo. Coffin, who died in April, was a Christian clergyman and antiwar activist who worked tirelessly for social justice, believing that it is crucial to Christianity.

Coffin had this to say about the war that has now claimed almost 3,000 coalition soldiers and, possibly, a half million Iraqis:

The war against Iraq is as disastrous as it is unnecessary; perhaps in terms of its wisdom, justice, purpose, and motives, the worst war in American history. Of course, we feel for the Iraqis so long and cruelly oppressed, and we support our military men and women; but we don't support their military mission. They were not called to defend America but rather to attack Iraq. They were not called to die for, but rather to kill for, their country, and in an illegal and unjust war opposed by the UN Security Council and virtually the entire world. What more unpatriotic thing could we have asked of our sons and daughters serving in the military?

We have just left September and, already, October is a deadly month for our troops. We have lost 26 coalition soldiers in a week. Who knows the accurate number of Iraqis killed?

George Bush is still saying, "Stay the course."

He should read Credo and learn from Coffin's timeless wisdom: "If you're at the edge of an abyss the only progressive step is backward!"

In 2004, Coffin said in an interview conducted by Bob Abernethy, editor and host of RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY: "almost every square inch of the Earth's surface is soaked with the tears and blood of the innocent and it's not God's doing. It's our doing. That's human malpractice."

Coffin lived and breathed the activism that was central to his faith.

Recently, I read that the minister of George Bush's church has voiced opposition to the war. In fact, United Methodist Church leaders signed a Declaration of Peace in September to end the war and bring the troops home. Other denomination leaders are organizing as well, engaging in nonviolent acts of protest-even risking arrest. Sadly, though, many members of the clergy remain silent, fearful of alienating their congregation. I'm sure this is the case in my parents' Kentucky community, although I've been assured by people in the peace movement there that this formerly red state has taken on a purple hue.

Surely, it is time for all members of the clergy to call for peace. Surely, it is time for each of us to demand it.

* ** *** ** *

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She's written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she's a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,'05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: