We at Tikkun enthusiastically endorse:
 
 THE PEACE ALLIANCE
DEPARTMENT OF PEACE CAMPAIGN
http://www.ThePeaceAlliance.org
 
The Third Annual Department of Peace Conference!
 
Make sense. Make peace. Make history.
 
Support a U.S. Department of Peace
September 10th, 11th, and 12th, 2005
Washington D.C.
 
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Featuring:
 
Patch Adams
Walter Cronkite
Azim Khamisa
Rep. Dennis Kucinich
Barbara Marx Hubbard
Ambassador John McDonald
Tim Reynolds
Jonathan Schell
Marianne Williamson (Master of Ceremonies)
and more... 
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Join us in our nation's capitol to lobby for a Cabinet-level Department of Peace, as the legislation is re-introduced in the House of Representatives as a tribute to victims of September 11th.
 
From a culture of peace will come a world without war.
 
Special Highlights:
- Join us for a conversation with legendary journalist Walter Cronkite and Congressman Dennis Kucinich about building a culture of peace, and more specifically the Department of Peace.
 
- John Titus, from September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrow (www.peacefultomorrows.org) will share at a nondenominational service on Sunday Sept. 11th.
 
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At the Conference:
 
~ Join with hundreds of citizens from across the country.
 ~ Develop a comprehensive understanding of the Department of Peace legislation.
 ~ Discover and practice effective lobbying strategies.
 ~ Network with citizens from around the country: Visit Capitol Hill and walk the halls of Congress, Meet your representatives, Make your voice heard.
 ~ Form a new political constituency with the power to make an historic impact.
 
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Every generation has its moment. This is ours... We hope to see you there!
 
Register now and learn more at:
http://www.thepeacealliance.org/events/sept_conf_05.htm
 
For further information watch Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Marianne Williamson on CNN at: http://www.thepeacealliance.org/cnn.htm
 
EMAIL LIST: To join our email list for updates, send a blank email to:
subscribe-3536@en.groundspring.org
 
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The Peace Alliance
PO Box 3259 - Center Line, Michigan 48015 USA
Tel (586) 754-8105 Fax (586) 754-8106
www.ThePeaceAlliance.org -- Info@ThePeaceAlliance.org  
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Sept. 27, 2005: Rabbi Lerner Reports Back from DC
 
Dear Mary,
 
As you'll recall, I went to D.C. with significant skepticism, in part because the anti-war movement has not yet articulated a positive vision of what it is for (and hence can advance a distinctly anti-Semitic tone to the way it articulates its criticisms of Israel). Though my concerns were validated in the experience, I came away very positive about the whole thing, reminded once again that the sponsoring groups and their worldviews have very little to do with the reason most people come and the spirit that they generate.
 
In fact, the demonstrations were terrific precisely because of the creativity, moral vision and beauty of hundreds of thousands who assembled in D.C. on September 24th. And yes, it was hundreds of thousands, not the "tens of thousands" reported by the media. Should we really be amazed that the media continues to do what it did to the anti-war movement of the '60s, ignoring and belittling the demonstrations that involved millions of people eventually? True, the media has become ever more concentrated in the hands of a few powerful corporations. And yet, there are so many decent people who have entered into the field of journalism that you'd imagine, many of them children of the marchers of the '60s and early '70s, that you would think that at least on the level of the bare fact of the numbers of people who came we could count on more accuracy. And in fact, in The Washington Post the next day there was some attempt by two reporters to tell the real story. But T.V. and radio news was as distorted as usual in its accounts of what happened and how many people were there.
 
I started Saturday morning in a Shabbat service for demonstrators that took place at a newly restored synagogue (at 6th & I) organized by Arthur Waskow. Rabbi Sid Schwartz gave an eloquent talk about the difficulty facing Jews who oppose the war but then find themselves in a context in which they are marching with signs that seem to equate the evil of the war in Iraq with the occupation of the West Bank, singling out Israel's human rights violations as though they were worse than those of a dozen other countries whose human rights violations are not mentioned. Though I wish he had acknowledged the role of the primary pro-Israel lobby AIPAC in cheerleading for the war before it began, and the role of prominent Jewish neo-cons in devising the arguments for the war, and the unabashed support for the war by almost all sections of the Israeli political spectrum who had long feared the potential of an anti-Israel Iraq, I still felt that Schwarz's basic point was legitimate and important to articulate. All the more so because at the morning rally before the march started, and in signs carried by the "Palestine contingent," the demand was to "liberate Palestine from the Jordan to the sea," as clear a reference as could be made to destroying Israel and denying the Jewish people the right to national self-determination that the Left asserts for every other national group, thus validating the critique that this double standard is anti-Semitic (because no other country engaged in occupation or denial of rights, e.g. China in Tibet) has its legitimacy as a national entity called into question by these lefties.
 
After the services, a group of Tikkunish Jews (led by a lively contingent of twenty-somethings from Elat Chayyim, the Jewish Renewal retreat center in Accord, N.Y.), entered the march. It was immediately obvious that this was a huge gathering. And though many of the signs from the United for Peace and Justice as well as from ANSWER sought to link the issues of Iraq and Palestine, very few of the homemade signs raised that issue. Overwhelmingly the focus was on Iraq. The moods of the signs, and of the various groups marching past the White House that Shabbat afternoon, ranged from anger to sadness to mourning for the many Americans and Iraqis killed and still being killed. Our group decided to stay in front of the White House for quite some hours. We offered healing prayers for President Bush and those in his administration. We know that these people have lived lives that have alienated them from their own highest God-energy so that they could advance themselves in a society that rewards money and power and laughs at sanctity and thinks morality and solidarity with the rest of the human race and the search for peace and justice to all be naïve and unrealistic. In losing touch with their own humanity, they have inflicted huge pain on the rest of the world, and on so many poor and middle income people in the U.S. And yet, as spiritual people we are not willing to dismiss these rulers as one-dimensional evil devils. We insist that they still have their own humanity which must be respected, and so the appropriate response is both anger, critique and yet also loving prayer that they may be reconnected to the health and loving parts of their own consciousness and healed from the blindness that is leading them to policies that are destructive to the planet and to large sections of the world's population. So we prayed for their healing, even as we prayed for the success of all of us who are demonstrating for peace, justice and ecological sanity. The energy of an explicitly religious contingent like ours was matched at several points in the march by groups of Quakers, Catholics, Buddhists, and various Protestant denominations. It might have been stronger still had the various groups marched together, but that kind of coordination that we are seeking to create with the Network of Spiritual Progressives was not yet shaping the reality of this particular demonstration.
 
The demonstrators represented a beautiful array of voices. There were contingents from Montana and Texas, there were veterans of previous wars and there was a strong contingent of vets who had served in Iraq and now were here to critique what they had seen, there were many many young people in their teens and early twenties, there were children with their twenty- and thirty-something parents, there were many boomers (though not enough to dominate or make this seem as though it represented only one generation), there were seniors and there were families, churches, and labor unions. There were more people of color than I had ever seen at an anti-war demonstration, though still not proportional to their percentage in the population as a whole. There were bands and minstrels, performing groups and lonely prophets. There was joy and there was sadness at the deaths and destruction that our government has unleashed in Iraq.
 
I have to acknowledge that the growing joy I felt the more I witnessed the quality and quantity of people was untainted by hearing most of the speeches. What I did here was banal and uninspiring. The leadership of both the United for Peace and Justice and ANSWER seem to share the same philosophy about speakers: they are not there to educate the demonstrators with new thinking or analysis, or to help stimulate democratic participation in shaping the strategic direction of the movement, but rather there as payoffs to the various groups that have cosponsored the rallies. So no speaker gets enough time to develop a serious set of ideas, and no one is invited for that purpose. As a result, even the most serious thinkers who get to the microphone end up spewing out clichés and simplistic expositions, to the cheers of the thousands who stayed to listen, but to the obvious annoyance of the hundreds of thousands who don't bother to stay because they quickly realize that they are going to be subjected to drivel. In the course of the day, I met some very depressed people. They talked of marching for decades and feeling discouraged that for all their efforts America was still stuck in Bush/Cheney consciousness. But most people I encountered with far more hopeful. They were buoyed by recent polls indicating that a full 60% of Americans now believe that the war was a fundamental mistake!
 
Unfortunately, many still believe that having made that mistake we have no choice but to continue the war. The anti-war movement has been particularly ineffective in countering this argument, because it has no positive vision of what should happen next in the short or long run. My own effort to articulate that to the S.F. Chronicle got largely mauled in an article that seemed to suggest that what I was favoring was international cooperation with the US occupying forces, whereas what I in fact was calling for was a replacement of the U.S. forces (and our special control over Iraqi oil) by an international force (UN or otherwise constructed) that could conduct a plebiscite to allow the people to determine for themselves whether they even wanted one unified Iraq or 3 separate countries (remember, Iraq was itself constructed by the Western colonialists after World War I, and didn't have a long history as a national entity).
 
On Sunday I attended a gathering of the Progressive Democrats of America, a new organization that I hope will work with the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Unfortunately, the first encounter was less than inspiring. The organization had invited several religious leaders to begin the morning's meeting with a religious service, then at the last moment had decided to put the service in a small room on a different floor from where the plenary was scheduled, thereby ensuring a small turnout and an event segregated from the larger community. These progressives seem not yet to get the importance of changing the perception of Americans that the left is hostile to religious and spiritual concerns. Unfortunately, it's not just a "perception," but an ongoing reality that needs to be challenged. I stayed for the speakers, too many of whom spoke to the assembled two hundred and seventy (I counted, though organizers claimed 500 had registered) as though they had to convince people to oppose the war in Iraq or support social justice, rather than discussing in a serious way what a strategy might be. But there were also some deeper speakers. And there was Cindy Sheehan, whose obvious simplicity and sincerity was very moving! Sunday evening I was part of an interfaith religious gathering at the Washington Monument attended by several hundred people (I didn't count, it was dark). For three hours an interfaith group sang spirituals, listened to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Quakers, Buddhists and others bring their religious perspective to the centers of power. It had a refreshing quality as more than one speaker acknowledged the importance of not dichotomizing in arrogant ways or assuming that we had no work to do on our own selves. A very moving moment happened when Cindy Sheehan and other parents of Americans killed in Iraq gathered at the front and tearfully joined in the prayers for healing of their families and the families of Iraqis who have suffered these tragic losses from the war.
 
I was so moved by that part of the event that I asked Sheehan's schedulers to arrange for Cindy to talk at my own Rosh Hashanah services I'll be conducting at the University of San Francisco on October 4th. These are the days of repentance (from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur) and certainly one appropriate target for repentance is the ways that we the American public have been complicit in this war. We start by remembering what has actually transpired (Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Remembrance) so I think it appropriate to remember what has been happening in Iraq, and I found Cindy Sheehan to be a fine interpreter of that experience (far different than the image I had gotten from the media&emdash;and realized how much, even with all my awareness of the media distortions, my impression of her had been mauled by media representations that made her seem far more simplistic and one-dimensional than she actually is). I have no idea if she'll actually come&emdash;it may be that she'll simply show up there sometime during the service&emdash;but we at Beyt Tikkun can be flexible). At first I worried that this might be a distraction from the strong inner focus we normally have at our High Holiday services, but then felt that we could have both, and that dealing with the war is totally appropriate on Rosh Hashanah (she was definitely not available for Yom Kippur) as long as it doesn't dominate or distract from the tough inner work that is the central focus of the High Holidays. I will make a strong effort to get her to come (and at an announced time) for our next national gathering of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (now tentatively rescheduled for D.C. on May 17-20, 2006).
 
All in all, I felt very positive about the demonstrations. The uninspired leadership of the organizations that convene these demonstrations does not in any remote way represent or reflect the depth of creativity, ethical vision, or beauty of the hundreds of thousands who demonstrate, though they do shape the way that the public hears about what is happening. But there is something so very positive about what is happening that even the incompetence and visionlessness of the United for Peace and Justice and the totalitarian and deeply misguided leadership of ANSWER cannot undermine or significantly diminish. A movement is beginning to revive in America, and it's quite positive. I only hope that it can learn from what we at Tikkun have to contribute, and that it can make a serious place for the Network of Spiritual Progressives. If it can begin to talk to the spiritual crisis in America, it has a real chance of spreading to the sectors of our society that have not yet been listening. And that development would be a sea change in American political life.
 
Warm regards and blessings to all who fight for peace, justice, love and kindness,
 
Rabbi Michael Lerner
 
RabbiLerner@tikkun.org
 
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