Tuesday, August 30, 2005

sorrow and resolve

My friend Joy wrote:

"you said in your most recent post that you think the senate is going to have to hold the administration's feet to the fire ... of course they should, but do you truly think they will? i'd love nothing more than to see some accountability, but it seems the most devastating piece of all this is the complete evaporation of the concept."

I think we have to tell our Senators what we want them to do. We can embolden them to act.

Senate email addresses are here. Brief messages to our own Senators and messages of appreciation to Senators whose public statements, speeches and votes we applaud will help them decide to do the hard thing in the days just ahead -- which I think many of them already want to do.

I wish we'd settled this in the 2004 election cycle. But I think we have another shot this Fall -- this week, today -- to tell our Senators what we want.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Old Yeller

My old friend Sid Lee pushed back gently on my sorrow and sadness post:

"I can relate to your feelings," he said, "but - having painted ourselves into this corner, how do we get out? Leaving Iraq to a massive civil war, is just another hopeless answer. So what is a good answer? Bush has none. Someone must have - where are the good answers?"

I think that's a fair question in response to what I hope began as a fair question from me. My answer is, he's hit the nail on the head.

My rage toward Mr. Bush -- and I was no fan before -- began during the roll-up when it became clear that he had the brush and the paint and seemed completely unaware there was a corner behind him.

One night during the news that winter, I told my neighbors "He's painted himself into a corner today, and us with him."

Which is where we find ourselves still.

I want to rub his nose in it and say "Look what you did!" because I believe deeply and am convinced thoroughly that he is responsible for this. There were other ways and he knew it and we knew it and he misused his power and there's a straight line between his actions and these tragic near term outcomes.

This is a monumental failure of imagination. We'll never know what might have been had he been more creative, more disciplined, more…mature.

As Ms. Sheehan said in the post I cited, he has no skin in the game and never did. I'm persuaded this is adventurism and it is inexcusable.

Errol Morris made a remarkable film comprising an extended postmortem by Secretary of State Robert McNamara. It's called The Fog of War. Of Mr. McNamara's "Eleven Lessons," I believe Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld have failed every one except, perhaps, Lesson #9: "In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil."

The transcript of the film is on Mr. Morris' website and is, as they say, a hell of a read. TheDVD is worth renting if you're a visual learner.

So..We're in an unspeakable mess for which no one is accountable and this frustrates me half to death.

My suspicion is, the Senate is going to have to sort this out. I think they are going to have to hold the Administration's feet to the fire beginning next month.

I think some people have to lose their jobs -- I think the neocon fundamentalists have to be put out to pasture to write their books explaining why their second massive washout is not a failure of philosophy but just another failure to execute (good luck with that).

I think we have to abandon this insane quest to construct a New American Century, muzzle the apologists, put real diplomats on the ground in every nation in the region and every nation in the EU and on the floor of Nato and the United Nations and get about finding win/win solutions.

In a speech last weekend, Anne Lamott said that part of her struggle as a writer is her American conviction that things are more valuable if they are solitary and grimly difficult. She pointed to the prosecution of this war as an example of this cultural twist. I think she's right about this. We have to stop acting crazy. We have to conclude that if we always do what we always did, we'll always get what we always got. I think we have to act on that conviction and seek shalom as if our lives depended on it.

Old Yeller isn't going to get better. Sorry, but I think it's time for someone to take him to the woods.

Monday, August 22, 2005


i have a new book out this month, written with my old friend and hero Rich Van Pelt. It's called (deep breath) The Youth Worker's Guide To Helping Teenagers In Crisis.

I'm really happy about this book because it's just so darned practical. We've treated 22 distinct crisis scenarios with background and action plans just about anyone can tackle. Between us, we've lived through every one of these crises (except a big honkin' natural disaster which, thank you very much, we'd just as soon skip).

Which 22 Crisis?
Cutting and Self-Injurious Behavior
Dropping Out
Eating Disorders
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Sexual Abuse
Sexual Identity Confusion
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Substance Abuse and Addiction
Trouble with the Law

You can download free chapters here and here and you can purchase the book here.

Rich and I are doing Critical Concern Courses based on The Crisis Book at Youth Specialties' National Youth Workers Convention this fall in Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Nashville. If you're a youth worker -- volunteer or paid -- come on out. if you know a youth worker, send her.

sorrow and silence

I have been quiet in this space for a number of weeks.

One reason for this is that i am still reeling from the loss of my good friend and neighbor Ralph about which (and whom) i suspect i will have much to say once i get my legs under me.

And i have been traveling and working madly.

The rest of it is barely contained rage at Mr. Bush and his administration.

What's going on now in Iraq: this is what we said would happen if he rushed to war.

He said it wouldn't go this way -- or, more properly, Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr, Cheney, Ms. Rice, Gen. Powell, Mr Wolfowitz, Mr. Perl and Mr. Libby said it wouldn't go this way while Mr. Bush maintained a mainly soundbite-safe rhetorical discipline. But who would deny that Congress got the message and acted accordingly?

They said it wouldn't go this way and they were dead wrong -- where dead equals hundreds of Coalition (mainly U.S.) fatalities and tens of thousands of Iraqi dead (not to mention thousands of Coalition causualties and tens of thousands of Iraqi wounded).

There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no attack on the West by Iraq. Rebuilding the Iraqi infrastruture is stalled, with millions of reconstruction dollars missing and presumed lost. They're having trouble keeping the lights on in Baghdad.

How are we supposed to react to this when this is what we said would happen and we were shouted down?

Frank Rich notes today that attempting to change the subject by smearing Cindy Sheehan -- Swift Boating her into irrelevance -- isn't working:

"The public knows that what matters this time is Casey Sheehan's story, not the mother who symbolizes it. Cindy Sheehan's bashers, you'll notice, almost never tell her son's story. They are afraid to go there because this young man's life and death encapsulate not just the noble intentions of those who went to fight this war but also the hubris, incompetence and recklessness of those who gave the marching orders."

Ms. Sheehan puts a finer point on it:

"'I got an email the other day and it said, "Cindy if you didn't use so much profanity .... there's people on the fence that get offended."

'And you know what I said? "You know what? You know what, god damn it? How in the world is anybody still sitting on that fence?"

'If you fall on the side that is pro-George and pro-war, you get your ass over to Iraq, and take the place of somebody who wants to come home. And if you fall on the side that is against this war and against George Bush, stand up and speak out.'"

i've been silent in this space for a number of weeks because i have been overwhelmed with sorrow and rage and my inability to find words to talk about the sad mess we're in (where we equals all of us who love the American ideal and flinch every day at this American reality).

Don't read too much into this last part; i'm just borrowing a page from another national story. If the shoe fits…well, we all know what to do:

"When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her — but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them." Isaiah 1:15-23