30 September 2004

Bumps and boosts in the fight against cynicism

Hebron: It was probably inevitable, but today came the first news that I've heard of members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams being hospitalized for injuries sustained on duty. I find it moving and distressing that they occurred as they accompanied children on the way to school.

Moscow: This week Friends House Moscow said goodbye to its longest-serving staff member, Galina Orlova, whose last day of work was Tuesday. There is no way to describe Galina adequately to those who have not met her. Patricia Cockrell and Galina Orlova She has been on the staff about as long as there has been a staff at Friends House. I cannot ask her permission to publish this note; her modesty would be a standing veto. Out of respect for that modesty, I will not go on at length here, but our wide-ranging programs, our support of reconciliation work in the tense ethnic situation in Russia, our networking and relationship-building with others in the ecumenical and civil-society-building community, our work with Alternatives to Violence ... all have been graced with her intelligence, spiritual care and personal warmth. Health is a concern; we hope and pray that her strength will permit her to enjoy being a new grandmother as well as an important presence for Moscow Friends long into the future.

Miami FL / Portland OR I find myself with a strange resistance to turning on the television to watch the debate between U.S. presidential candidates John Kerry and George Bush. How can this event be described as anything but cruel political theater, with every political animal in the country (and I used to count myself in their number) training their zoom lenses on the scene in the hopes of catching a devastating error or electrifying coup that may have nothing to do with the substance of the campaigns? Millions of dollars will be spent in the minutes and hours immediately after the debate, in order to tell us how interpret these clues. In the meantime, in the real world, Palestinian children need to be walked to school by international volunteers, and Iraqi children cannot safely play in the streets and take candy from U.S. soldiers, and Russian children must wonder how they became eligible to be hostages.

PS (added on Friday): I did watch the debates after all. For both candidates, expressing American dominance in the world seems to be habitual. President Bush implied that there can be no legitimacy whatever to any international court that calls American soldiers or diplomats to account. At least twice Senator Kerry asserted that he would round up the nuclear material in the former Soviet Union in four years, in contrast to the thirteen years it would take at the pace established under Bush. It will be interesting to see whether the U.S. public can tolerate even the moderate amount of advocacy displayed by Kerry for U.S. regard for consultation and alliance-building on the world scene. Bush, on the other hand, mocked Kerry for arguing that U.S. pre-emptive actions would have to pass a "global test."

PS #2 (added Friday evening)

Questions I wish Jim Lehrer had asked John Kerry: "Why are you apologizing for voting against the $87 billion appropriation for operations in Iraq when you could be explaining the outrageous strings that were attached?" "George Bush says you are willing to change your core convictions. Care to comment?" Question I wish he'd asked President George Bush: "Give an example of a mixed message. Now, give an example of an unmixed message that is clearly consistent with truth." I seriously fear that the President is incapable of distinguishing language that is persuasive to his own circles from the reality that is obvious to everyone else.

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