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April 28, 2005

Transforming Tragedy Though Love

Dear Friends,

Here's an inspiring story that says it all....


Mother of 9/11 Victim Visits Afghan School She's Funding

Woman Helps Raise $180,000 for Facility Near Kabul


KABUL, Afghanistan (April 23)

Sally Goodrich, whose son died in the Sept. 11 attacks, kept a grip on her grief as she surveyed the foundations of the Afghan school being built with money she raised in the United States.

But the 59-year-old, who lost her son in the second plane to hit the World Trade Center, has been overwhelmed more than once as she surveyed the striking landscape of mountains and plains where al-Qaida honed its plot. "How could it possibly have come from a place of such reverence and tranquility?" she told The Associated Press in the Afghan capital this week, the thought bringing fresh tears and a determined smile.

Goodrich, a native of Bennington, Vt., and an administrator for schools in nearby North Adams, Mass., has helped raise about $180,000 for the new girl's school in Surkh Abat, about 30 miles south of Kabul, in Logar province. On Wednesday, she visited the site in a fertile valley edged by jagged mountains. Teachers and pupils gave her jewelry and a penholder made of colored beads. Later, they sang songs of welcome. "All I had to do was maintain my composure, which was the most I could do," Goodrich said in an interview in a government guesthouse in Kabul, wearing a black headscarf even indoors out of respect for the country's deep-rooted Islamic customs. By Saturday, turbaned masons were raising the earthquake-proof stone walls of what is to become a 16-classroom school for girls aged 6 to 13, about 200 of whom were in classes nearby, crammed into a long room and an open-ended tent at the mayor's house.

The new school is not intended as a monument to Peter Goodrich, who was 33 when he died more than 3 1/2 years ago, and the idea of building it grew from a more modest aid effort. But Sally Goodrich said her voyage to Afghanistan was one that her lost child, who had spent time reading the Quran in his own time and was fascinated by other cultures, would have approved of, and it had brought them closer together. "Peter would be all about trying to understand why the event happened," Goodrich said, adding that she had read about Afghanistan intensively before her trip and has been promoting learning about Afghanistan in schools back home. "Had he the opportunity that day to listen to the hijackers, to sit down and talk to them, that would have been his inclination."

U.S. Marine Maj. Rush Filson, a childhood friend of Peter Goodrich, sowed the seed of the project last summer when he wrote to Sally Goodrich and her husband, Don, about the state of schools near where he was stationed in Afghanistan. The Goodriches helped raise funds for supplies for another school in Logar that also was being run out of a private home. The U.S. military delivered them for free. But the organizers soon decided that Afghan children needed more than just pens and books. Local churches, schools and family friends helped raise the funds for the school, paying some into a memorial foundation. Some of the money also came from compensation paid to families of the victims of the 2001 attacks.

The site for the new school was identified with the help of an Afghan deputy interior minister who once worked as an assistant to David Edwards, a professor at Williams College, in Williamstown, Mass., who also is involved in the project. Haji Malik, the 60-year-old foreman of the construction site, said the people from seven nearby villages were delighted about the new school and the generosity of the "kind foreign lady. I condemn what happened on Sept. 11," Malik said as about 20 men heaved chunks of stone onto the foundations and smothered them in cement. "We are all part of humanity, we are all brothers, even if we have different religions." One laborer, Ghulam Dastagir, said his three small daughters jumped up and down for joy when they heard about the school, which will serve elementary and middle grades. Bibi Hawa, a 10-year-old girl minding four cows nearby, said she also would like to come to the school, "but my father won't let me," suggesting conservative Muslim traditions would deprive some local children of a chance for education.

Sally Goodrich said her visit was heartwarming and that the 10 female teachers had made clear their sympathy for her loss. "You see it in their eyes, that they understand suffering," she said. That support will be valuable again when Goodrich returns with her husband to see the first classes in the completed building, a trip slated for the fourth anniversary of the event that brought her halfway around the world.

"No matter what, we will spend Sept. 11 in Logar," she said.

Posted by mwblog at 5:35 AM

April 25, 2005

Barry Goldwater on Religion and Politics

"However, on religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.'"

Barry Goldwater
US Senator (R-Arizona)
Republican Nominee for US President in l964, often called the Founder of modern Conservatism

Posted by mwblog at 8:35 PM

April 24, 2005

Give Peace A Chance

Dear Friends,

I wrote this Civics Primer for the Department of Peace Campaign. I hope it inspires you to join in...


Citizenship Primer For The Department of Peace Campaign

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

---- Thomas Jefferson

The primary function of a United States Department of Peace will be to research, articulate and facilitate non-violent solutions to domestic and international conflict. In order to establish the Department of Peace, we must understand how an American law is passed and the role of the citizen in making it happen.

The Role of the Government

There are three equal branches of the U.S. Government: Legislative (the U.S. Congress); Executive (the President); and Judicial (the Supreme Court). Our Founders deliberately established the co-equality of all three branches, as a system of checks and balances.

Congress (made of up two co-equal branches: the Senate and the House of Representatives) makes the law. The President can veto a law if he or she has the Congressional support to do so; otherwise, his or her job is to propose new laws, as well as execute laws already established. The role of the Judiciary is to assure that all laws are both made and executed in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.

Every American is represented by one House member and two Senators. The make-up of the House of Representatives is determined by population, while each state regardless of its size is represented by two Senators. There are 440 members (435 voting) of the U.S. House of Representatives, and 100 members of the U.S. Senate.

In order for a bill to become law, it must ultimately be passed by both the House and Senate, then signed into law by the President. Bills are initially introduced by a member of Congress, either from the House or Senate. Should enough votes be present in both houses, the House and Senate versions of the bill are then put into Conference Committee. In committee, the two versions of the bill are revised and blended, then put before the entire Congress for a vote.

The Role of the People

Your Congressperson and Senators are well aware they’re elected by their constituents. If we don’t consistently express our opinions to them – through citizen activism such as constituent meetings, phone calls and letters, as well as membership in citizen lobbying groups – then we can’t complain when our opinions aren’t reflected in Congressional policy-making. Our role is to tell our Representatives how we think and what we feel; our right to do so is the Constitutional guarantee that sets a democracy apart from every other form of government.

Yet our freedom is like a muscle that must be exercised or else it atrophies. There are currently several paid corporate lobbyists for every Congressional Representative. If a corporate lobbyist is speaking to your representative practically every day, it is hardly enough for you to speak to them through the voting booth only every two or four years.

In the words of Congressman John Conyers (D-MI.), “Congress is a reactive body.” The current crisis in our democracy has less to do with Congressional failure to express the will of the people, and more to do with the failure of the people to express their will in a meaningful way. In order to establish a U.S. Department of Peace, we must present a compelling case for its existence both to our fellow citizens and our elected officials. A collective desire then becomes a political constituency, with both the will and the power to affect the laws of the United States.

The Power of Citizenship

In the U.S. Constitution, our Founders established a profound yet delicate relationship not only among the branches of government, but also between the government and the people. Through our electoral system, we ourselves are the ultimate check and balance on unfettered government power. Yet as patriots from Ben Franklin to Abraham Lincoln have pointed out, Americans must be vigilant. Vital citizenship is a demanding and active role, in which we are called to take individual responsibility for our function as ultimate keepers of the democratic flame. When Lincoln said that government “of the people, by the people and for the people” would not perish from the earth, he was well aware it is up to each of us to make sure of that. No generation can guarantee freedom for generations to come.

While laws do not change overnight – nor should they – it is equally true, as written by Thomas Jefferson, that, “as (the human mind) becomes more developed (and)… enlightened, institutions must advance to keep pace with the times.” Congressional Representatives have thousands of bills put before them for consideration during any Congressional session; it is only to be expected that it takes considerable effort to get their serious attention, much less their support for a particular bill. Yet surely the effort is worth it. For the Department of Peace legislation does reflect what Jefferson referred to as “progress of the human mind,” presenting a new model for the amelioration of violence and the waging of peace. As such, it represents both a philosophical as well as political advance for American society.

Citizenship is not a quick fix. The American anti-slavery society was established in l833; the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in l863. The women’s suffrage movement officially began in Seneca Falls, New York, in l848; women were granted the right to vote through the passage of the l9th Amendment in l920. Every serious political advance in America has taken years to achieve, and so might this one. But not that long, for advances in technology and communication provide extraordinary opportunities for the organization of a grass roots movement. Today, it is time for our own generation to respond to a great historical challenge: to interrupt the patterns of violence which threaten to destroy not only our own, but all human civilization. In the words of Albert Einstein, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

The idea to establish a U.S. Dept. of Peace is not new, having been proposed in various forms throughout our history. It is an effort with personal as well as political, spiritual as well as social dimensions. The Department of Peace legislation addresses the political dimension of peace-creation in a crucial way, institutionalizing the interests of peace within the workings of the United States Government.

With the creation of a Department of Peace, an established voice for peace will be at the table of American power. This will be our generation’s gift, should we choose to give it: to our nation, to our children, and to the progress of the human mind.

Posted by mwblog at 5:39 AM

April 13, 2005

CNN on Thursday

Dear Friends,

I'm on CNN twice this Thursday:

At 2:30 pm EST I'm on with Dennis Kucinich discussing the Dept. of Peace campaign with Kyra Phillips, and at 9 pm EST I'm on Larry King doing a panel called "What Happens After We Die."



Posted by mwblog at 11:22 AM

April 12, 2005

Marianne on Larry King

Dear Friends,

I'm scheduled to appear on the Larry King show this Thursday night (April 14). It's a panel discussion on "What Happens After We Die."

All best,


Posted by mwblog at 2:11 PM