Sept. 27, 2004Articles and commentary regarding world events
Suffering of the Hostages

     (The following was written Sept. 22, 2004, following the beheading of two American hostages - Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley, and the widespread publication of a video of British hostage, Ken Bigley, pleading for his life).

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     Is there a way to adequately speak of the heart's response to witnessing, in such a close and intimate way, the pain and terror of another human being believing they are about to die? All that is human and all that is humane within us cries out against this desecration of life that we see, that we witness, helplessly, from a distance. Each individual soul comes into the sphere of our attention for a moment, a day, or a week as their fate is being determined and their faces appear on our television screen. And then they join the other victims of horror who, collectively, form a list of atrocities committed by man against man, often in the name of God. These individual souls who suffer anguish beyond comprehension, once their pictures have stopped flashing on the news become part of a body count, part of an abstraction that fades into the background of our consciousness and into the background of news coverage, not because we do not care, but because we feel that we have no way of holding them present, of bearing their pain, of keeping track of the unspeakable anguish of each individual being.

     It is a different kind of holocaust that we are witnessing today in different places, not vast in numbers, but vast in the intensity of dehumanization that is taking place for individuals, much as it took place in the past for larger groups. It is dehumanization and degradation at its worst that we are seeing, with all the sadism, brutality, cynicism, and inhumanity that we associate with the historical holocaust perpetrated more than fifty years ago upon Jews and upon other groups as well.

     Is there a way of being present for this, a way that the news media with their quickly moving focus from one event to another does not give us time for? And what does it mean to 'bear witness' to the pain of another or of many others?

     Here, it is not a matter of holding each individual name in our memory, or of thinking deliberately of the family of each victim and their immense suffering, or of lighting a candle for those who have died. These are all good options for they are reminders of our caring for those who have suffered. But more important than any particular ritual is the way in which we register horror when it happens, the way in which we recognize the significance of what is happening when it is happening.

     Today, we are living through a dark time in our history as a people, when the upsurge of human and cosmic darkness can once again cause the kind of atrocities that are taking place. It is this that we need to register - the extreme capacity for dehumanization and indifference to life that allows for the execution of innocents in Iraq; for the eruption of practices in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere that are more widespread than we know; for an al Qaeda plan to take the lives of many more people in the United States - thousands perhaps, millions? - people who are not known, who are just bodies that have one label - American; for the brutal deaths of 50,000 in Sudan. And then there is the dehumanization and indifference that is part of a military practice that treats 'collateral damage' as if it were about things, not about people. These words should not be used to describe civilian casualties numbering in the thousands - people caught up in the trauma of war. The utterance of these words should never apply to the human. For the real and extensive loss of life in Iraq requires of us something more than the kind of objectification that is present in words such as 'collateral damage'. Only dehumanization and protective self-interest prevent the government from not speaking more openly in publications or in media about the Iraqi lives that have been lost in the course of the U.S. occupation. And if we do not speak openly about it, if we let these facts fade into the background of our awareness, we become part of the force that dehumanizes - part of the force that believes in the inevitability of what is called the 'price of war'.

     Of course, all of these forms of dehumanization are not equal. Some are more filled with the darkness of sadism, brutality, and cynicism than others. But they all - including the widespread practice of media coverage which treats hostage-taking and beheading as one subject among many - partake of dehumanization.

     'Bearing witness' means that we do not allow ourselves to become numb. We do not allow ourselves to become dehumanized in our language, in our feeling, in our witnessing of the suffering of others. Nor do we sink into despair. In refusing to become numb, we remain in relationship to the suffering of mankind. We allow shock to turn into sadness, and sadness to turn into love. We bring our full spiritual intention and the power of our hearts to the suffering, and through our caring, we help uphold those who have fallen, who have suffered loss, who have been victimized at the hands of terrorists and others.

     We cannot afford to become numb or distant. We must find the spiritual strength to remain awake to what is actually taking place in the world - to what is sweeping through the world as a current of pain that affects the entire earth. Of course there is also the expansion of light that is taking place. If that were not true, there would be nothing to hold onto in the presence of great suffering. But it is true, and therefore we must endeavor, all of the time, to stay aligned with the power of our hearts and the power of light so that we can be of help to those who cannot see or feel it - to those caught up in the pain and the suffering for whom we remain as advocates, guardians, brothers, and friends.

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"US in shock over hostage deaths." (Sept. 22, 2004)

"Full text: Kenneth Bigley Appeal." (Sept. 23, 2004)

"Arabs ambivalent over hostage crisis." (Sept. 23, 2004).

The Question of Iran/ Haiti

     The fear of nuclear attack upon American soil has increased in the past three years. Graham Allison, whose book on nuclear terrorism was recently published

(See: "Washington Accused of Ignoring Nuclear Terror Threat." (Aug. 22, 2004)

explains the present realityof this concern, but also describes ways in which nuclear threat can be reduced by practices that contain the spread of nuclear weapons and fissile materials. In light of this concern, it is more important than ever to be aware of current U.S. policy on nuclear weapons, not just in relation to their presence abroad, but in relation to our own commitment to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"Why Shouldn't Iran Seek Nuclear Weapons?" (June 18, 2004).

"World's Nuclear Powers Decried as Hypocrites." (June 22, 2004)

"Iran rejects UN nuclear demands." (Sept. 19, 2004)

"Non-proliferation treaty explained." (Sept. 20, 2004)

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"Haiti Struggles for Flood Relief." (Sept. 24, 2004)

What is a Hurricane?

"Food aid looting erupts in Haiti." (Sept. 26, 2004)

Truth on Trial

     'Truth on trial' refers to the great need today to become judicious and aware in our ability to appraise what is true and what is presented to us as 'truth'. Though this has always been an important faculty of heart, mind, and conscience, it is even more important today when the stakes are so high regarding the effect of government policies upon our individual life and upon our national life.

     'Truth on trial' means that we must become more discerning regarding falsehood that masquerades as truth, charm that masquerades as honesty, so that we will not be seduced by false things - not into wars that we would not, on our own, choose to wage - nor into false pictures of what is happening to our global environment - nor into equally false pictures of what the prevailing view of America is as seen from elsewhere in the world - nor by the subtle soothing of calming words that deflect awareness from the growing isolation that we, as a nation, are constructing, all the while claiming to be fostering good relations with others.

     To discern truth, it is necessary to understand that there is such a thing as 'the light of truth' which is a palpable impression of Divine light and love that can surround and connect with stated intentions or policies, spoken words or gestures - with action that truly seeks the wellbeing of the whole. This whole is the earth. It is the people of the earth. It is the animals of the earth, and the ecosystem. It is our nation, but it is more than our nation. The 'whole' is humanity and humaneness - it is concern for the welfare of all. When concern for the larger 'whole' is reflected in any part - in a policy, decision, effort, or intention that relates to that specific part yet remains in harmony with the whole, the result is that we feel light around that policy or decision, that speaker or goal. This 'light of truth' needs to be looked for as we sift through the statements and policies that take us toward care-less or destructive action - in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Darfur, the African continent, or here at home.

     To discern truth or the 'light of truth', inner quiet is needed. This can only be achieved by endeavoring to free the mind of information and chatter and by attempting to find a peaceful place inside where there are no arguments going on - no ranting or raving. Any spiritual practice which brings us to this quiet place is useful, and the ability to locate it, essential. For truth will elude us if it is based on information alone, since information can be misleading, inaccurate, incomplete, or distorted. But being able to become quiet within and to ask for Divine help in establishing right alignment with truth, takes us beyond information toward a clearer perception of what does and does not contain it.

     All that is of God carries light in it, and that which embodies the greatest love carries the greatest light as well. Since truth contains light in proportion to its joining with the motivation of Divine love which is non-partisan, non-exclusive, and seeks the highest good of all, our internal state of alignment with that love will also bring us closer to truth. As we move in this direction, even if at first we do not register what we are perceiving or whether we are sensing anything at all, we need to proceed with patience. The practice of discerning truth through alignment with God and light is a learning process - one that develops as we grow spiritually and mature.

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     Several situations in which truth may be said to be 'on trial' are described below. They affect our intimate lives in important ways as well as the life of the world.


     What is a 'fact'? We are taught in school and in everyday life that science has to do with 'facts' and that we can rely on this. The Union of Concerned Scientists' report, however, suggests that even what represents itself as scientific 'fact' is open to distortion, exaggeration, omission, and manipulation, so that we, the public, may never really know what is true.

     The allegations of this report are more than a matter of questioning the interpretation of the outcome of a study or series of studies. What is being documented in the original UCS report (Feb., 2004) and in its update (July, 2004) is the deliberate misrepresentation of scientific facts by the Bush administration, as well as the slanting of information so that conclusions offered will create a predetermined political advantage.

     The UCS report is illuminating if not shocking. It documents in considerable detail, (see the Executive Summary or read portions of the full report) the increased importance of control of information within the present administration's practices and policies.

"Scientific Integrity in Policy Making: Further investigation of the Bush administration's abuse of science."


     In the political arena as well, where truth is often covered over by cleverly constructed 'spin' and catch-phrases, trying to locate it is like trying to find a center within a maze of contradictions, misquotes, and misrepresentations. This can be true of candidates' speeches within any election, and can form part of any political debate. But it is especially true of the present Republican campaign in its efforts to dislodge Sen. Kerry's credible challenge to the President's re-election.

     To see what the problem is regarding the discernment of truth, it may be helpful to look at recent speeches by John Kerry at New York University and by President Bush in Derry, New Hampshire. NY Times reporters who described Sen. Kerry's remarks as the "most stinging critique to date of... Mr. Bush's 'colossal failures of judgment'," also refer to the difficulty in knowing, based on the two speeches, what is actually happening in Iraq.

"The two men (Sen. Kerry and President Bush) appeared to be describing different countries. Mr. Kerry said Iraq was a place where deaths mounted daily, raw sewage filled the streets, unemployment topped 50 percent and blackouts were routine. Mr. Bush said his administration was working with international partners, rebuilding the country's infrastructure, training Iraqi security forces and preparing for elections that he said would be held in January despite violence."


Remarks of John Kerry at New York University. (Sept. 20, 2004)

President's Remarks at Ask President Bush Event in Derry, NH. (Sept. 20, 2004)

"In Harshest Critique Yet, Kerry Attacks Bush Over War in Iraq." (Sept. 21, 2004).
(NY Times articles are free of charge for 7 days post-publication).

      Reading the two speeches can be eye-opening. Senator Kerry, following a lengthy and impassioned critique of errors that President Bush has made in Iraq, lays out four areas in which he urges Mr. Bush to take immediate action in order to rectify the situation:

First, "to repair alliances" - Sen. Kerry describes the relative lack of coalition-based support for the present military engagement, saying, among other things:

"nearly 90 percent of the troops and nearly 90 percent of the casualties are American. Despite the President's claims, this is not a grand coalition."

Second, "to train Iraqi security forces," - Sen. Kerry describes the inadequate training of Iraqi forces and the deterioration of national security that is occurring for the entire country.

Third, "to improve reconstruction," - Sen. Kerry speaks of the way in which money allocated for this purpose has not actually been used for this purpose.

Fourth, "to ensure elections," Sen. Kerry speaks of the difficulty in holding national elections due to the current security situation, saying:

"Because Iraqis have no experience holding free and fair elections, the President agreed six months ago that the U.N. must play a central role. Yet today, just four months before Iraqis are supposed to go to the polls, the U.N. Secretary General and administration officials themselves say the elections are in grave doubt.

     In the end, Sen. Kerry summarizes these four points, previously elaborated in some detail, as: "to repair alliances, train Iraqi security forces, improve reconstruction, and ensure elections."

     Later, in Derry, NH, President Bush issues a rebuttal not of Sen. Kerry's actual speech, but of the general statements which summarized his speech, changing the meaning of these statements from a reflection of what the present administration's policies have been lacking, to a positive statement regarding the administration's accomplishments and intentions. President Bush says, in effect: What you have said is not a contrast. I agree with the steps you are recommending and have already taken them. This response then becomes quoted by media as President Bush's disclaimer of Senator Kerry's ineffectual challenge. It then gets repeated by other media, reinforcing the idea that Sen. Kerry didn't say anything new.

     What is the problem here? Can we see it? By not responding, point by point, to the lacks which Sen. Kerry describes, and by responding, instead, to the general remarks of his summary, President Bush moves the discussion away from what the Senator has said, to who he is, namely, "a person who talks without saying anything new." In doing this, he shifts attention away from the real issues raised by Sen. Kerry, and refocuses it around the matter of 'credibility' itself, namely, whether the Senator knows what he's talking about. In the presence of this shift, we, the listening public, are led away from looking at what the facts are concerning policies in Iraq, toward a focus on the speaker himself. We suddenly find ourselves asking whether the Senator knows what he's talking about and is believable.

     This is the maze in which truth gets lost - the maze in which the perception of truth becomes the companion (or victim) of manipulation of facts and of presentation - no longer dependent upon information, but upon which candidate presents themselves with greater authority, more skillfully, more appealingly, or more (apparently) honestly, in the public view.

     This pattern is everpresent in the campaign and is not solely limited to Republican efforts. However, the Republican campaign has made of this pattern an everpresent tactic with which to persuade and convince. To not be manipulated by charisma, sound-bites, patriotic fervor, elegant speech-making, homespun charm, or misrepresentation of what someone else has said, requires a great deal of us, the listening public.

     It is for this reason that we, the public, must ask: Where does all of the above leave us? The answer is that it must leave us not with disillusionment, but with a need to seek and develop our own sense of truth that goes beyond information, that is not just of the mind, but of the heart. This is what is necessary at a time when truth is 'on trial' - that we seek to develop an inner 'knowing' that grows as we grow and deepen spiritually.

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The purpose of Light Omega is to bring us all into greater planetary consciousness with awareness of the suffering of others and with a willingness to remain awake to the challenges, dangers, and possibilities we face today.

     Julie Redstone

All that is of God carries light in it, and that which embodies the greatest love carries the greatest light as well.