It is in opening our hearts that we are truly free and independent

"It is your fear that makes you a slave - it is your fear. When you are fearless you are no longer a slave; in fact, it is your fear that forces you to make others slaves before they can try to make a slave out of you."


Perhaps the biggest fear that we have is the fear of death, although some say there are greater fears such as the death of a loved one, the loss of one's money or favorite possessions, etc. Of course, Roosevelt said that the greatest fear is fearing fear itself.

What is your greatest fear?

Perhaps the more interesting question is "How do you manage your fears?" Isn't that a lot of what a spiritual life is about? A lot of people cope with their fears with religion. I used religion that way for years, but I think I am moving past that now. I don't think I need religion to do that for me any more.

Many people use their patriotism to cope with their fear and they regress to the myth of militarism. We can see in the case of Viet Nam and Iraq that this doesn't work. A military strategy to fight a war on terror is ludicrous. These are very unenlightened people who push such a strategy and it is doomed to failure because it does not speak to the human soul, the human spirit. Killing others does not lessen our fear and terror, it heightens it.

We have two dry drunks, Bush and Cheney, formulating our current policies in dealing with the world. They both are filled with fears and terror which apparently have never been dealt with at a psychological and/or spiritual level and so they resort to militarism to quell their fears. It doesn't work for them and will not work for our nation.

The true meaning of freedom and independence is freedom from fear. This year, 2006, we are more afraid, more filled with terror than ever as a nation. We are constantly reminded of 9/11 to manipulate us into slavery by giving up our civil rights with the Patriot Act, the NSA surveillance, the increasing demonization of the immigrant, a growing intolerance for people with whom we would disagree.

What we need as a country is the courage to be uncertain, the flexibility to deal in a loving and just way with all peoples, especially people who are different from us. The antidote for fear is love and understanding, not militarism and increasing rigidity.

Our fears have made us slaves of governmental oppression and subjugation. Our fears have made us killers and oppressors in Iraq, Viet Nam, El Savador, and other countries around the world. Our fears have made us behave like liars and bullies rather than the honest, just, and compassionate people that we would like to think of ourselves as being.

It is time for new leadership, a new vision, new values, new policies, new behavior. We must manage our fears in constructive, tolerant, and respectful ways. That is the path on which true freedom and independence lies. True courage will enable us to open our hearts to others not close them off. It is in opening our hearts that we can be truly free and independent.

Clogged VA delays Iraq vets' care

Here's where the "Support The Troops" jingoistic rhetoric degenerates into the hyprocisy that it often really is. This situation was predictable and should have been planned for. As I said last year on this blog, we have a new generation of veterans and their families that will suffer just like the Viet Nam generation and their families suffered.

Soldiers from Michigan who risked their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan   are returning home to a veterans' benefit system that is overwhelmed, causing delays in medical and mental health treatment.

"I'm very frustrated I can't get the treatment I need," said Nathaniel Ganzeveld, 22, of Dearborn, a discharged lance corporal in the Marine Reserves who fought in Iraq and who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Ganzeveld says he has waited five months for any determination on most of his claim.

The problems in Michigan are part of a national logjam of 334,611 veterans from across the country who awaited approval of benefits at the end of October, according to statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs. That is 40 percent more than the VA says it deems optimal, and far beyond what members of Congress and veterans' groups consider justified.

Since the end of October 2003, the number of pending cases has jumped 14 percent.

Many veterans are waiting for nearly six months. From October 2003 to October 2004, the number of cases pending nationally for more than 180 days increased by about 25 percent, from 57,414 to 71,406.

The VA averages 160 days to process claims, 60 percent longer than its goal and far beyond the 60 to 90 days veterans are promised. In Metro Detroit, the VA says the average wait is 111 days. But veterans dispute that assessment and say they are often waiting six months for necessary treatment and services. Some say just getting the process started often takes months.

"If you're dying of cancer, why should you wait 60 days?" said U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, a veteran of World War II after whom the Detroit VA hospital is named.

Dingell has been aware of VA issues for some time, but he's now more keenly aware of the problems involving returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Link: Clogged VA delays Iraq vets' care - 11/08/04.

Food service training program, Farestart, gives people second chance

In the July/August, 2004 issue of Hope magazine there is an interesting short article about Farestart in Seattle Washington which runs a restaurant, a catering business, and contract meal preparation using homeless and unemployed people not only to produce nutritious food for people but also to train poor, unemployed people many with psychiatric and substance abuse problems for the food service industry.

I was especially interested in this because we had done the same thing at The Health Association in Rochester, NY when I worked there in the 90s. We had opened the Journey Cafe which served primarily lunches in a restaurant used as a training site for people in recovery. I left the HA in 99 and I understand that they since have closed The Journey Cafe, but I was saddened at its demise because I always thought it had great potential. So I was very excited to see that a similar program is flourishing and doing well on the other side of the country.


Interdependence Day is on September 12th.

It is easy to say that war is hell and that we want peace.

Of course, who doesn't?

But how do we create peace? As human beings our amygdala's (the reptile part of our brains) want to kill when threatened. Can we override the instinctual tendencies to strike back and work constructively to resolve conflicts?

In our information age, it becomes increasingly apparent how interdependent we all are on Planet Earth. Isn't it time that we learned better how to share and play nice? It would be better for all our mental healths.

September 12th has been designated Interdependence Day.

Go to the web site linked below, read the declaration, and if you agree sign it.

Tell others about it, and find some way to reach out to someone you have had a disagreement or conflict with and listen to them. See where it takes you. You don't have to agree. You don't have to do anything further other than to understand where they are coming from.

Jesus said "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." What was it that they thought they were doing? Probably trying to protect their own turf even if it is as simple as the need to be right. It is interesting, though, how often, when people are given the chance to talk, that they can talk their way out of their own nonsense and gain a greater perspective.

Our quote today says that traveling is better than education.

Traveling is not necessarily a geographical activity. It also can be exploring different cultures, different religions, different art, different food, different music, different parenting styles, etc., etc., etc.

Traveling opens whole new worlds and contributes to peace.

Travel today to a world different from yours with a spirit of curiosity and see what happens. It can be as simple as making up with your life partner if you have been at odds. Listen to what (s)he thinks and feels. What do they want to have happen, and how, why, when, where?

CivWorld Interdependence Day Website

Backpack Nation

Freud said that the components of good mental health are the ability to love and to work.

Kathrine Gordy Levine who developed Emotional Fitness Training which was mentioned on this blog a few weeks ago has long been a proponent of saying that one of the core disciplines of Emotional Fitness is service to others. In Alcoholics Anonymous, 12 stepping is giving back the recovery which we have been given.

So, I will be mentioning from time to time neat ways that I have come across of being of service to the community and the world. These posts will be collected under the category of "service".

Check out Backpack Nation founded by San Francisco cab driver, Brad Newsham.

The basic mission and strategy of Backpack Nation is to transform the world's dire political situation by sending individual travelers from the developed countries to serve as roving ambassadors to the world's less-wealthy countries.

Each ambassadorship will be funded with $20,000. Half of the money - $10,000 - will pay for the ambassador's travel expenses for a trip of between 100 days and one year. Each ambassador will design his or her own itinerary, but must stick to the Third World as much as possible. At trip's end, each ambassador will be required to tell Backpack Nation how and where to deliver the other $10,000 - to what compelling situation that he or she has encountered - an individual, family, organization, or village somewhere in the Third World.

Click on the link below to learn more. Maybe, you 'd like to make a donation. Maybe you would like to apply to be an ambassador yourself.

Backpack Nation - Brad Newsham