Tag Archives: #LoveThyNeighbor

All People Have Value


Kids and signsTrump’s policy of separating young children from their parents when they cross the border has galvanized Americans of all stripes to stand up and fight back.

Governors (Democrats and Republicans) are refusing to deploy their state’s National Guard to the border; television journalists are shedding tears on camera; mental health professionals are telling us about the long-term trauma these children will suffer; and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are telling the Administration to end this outrageous policy while proclaiming that “America is better than this!”

Marchers gathering 3

Protests were organized in many U.S. cities this week. I joined 500+ people in El Paso to March about 1.5 – 2 miles to the detention facility where many immigrants are being processed through the system after their children are removed and taken somewhere else. We chanted, yelled and some swore while the national and international media captured our stories.

By every measure, this action was successful, and Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso must be recognized for its effective organizing efforts.  Within 24 hours, President Trump had signed an Executive Order ending the separation policy.

Was it the media attention, or the Governors’ actions, or Congress, or a combination of many actions that caused Trump to reverse course? We may never know. But I have no doubt that when Americans are aroused and angry, we can move mountains.

All People in All Countries Have Value

Then why aren’t Americans aroused and angry over our government’s funding and support for Israel’s systematic killing, maiming and traumatizing of Palestinian children in Gaza?

If “All People in All Countries have Value” — how do Americans not recognize and become incensed with our government’s complicity in Israel’s war crimes?

[This isn’t the blog post to explain or convince anyone about Israel’s war crimes, but I acknowledge that lack of education may be part of the answer to my question.]

If Rachel Maddow and other journalists started crying on camera when reporting about American-made (and American financed) bombs falling on Palestinian children in Gaza, would that move anyone?

If a few Governors proclaimed their distaste for U.S. priorities, such as allocating $3+ billion each year to Israel’s war machine while cutting social programs at home, would that move anyone?

If there were simultaneous demonstrations and marches in large U.S. cities protesting Israel’s willful and deliberate killing of Palestinian children, would that move anyone?

Probably not.

Most humans (not just Americans) have a finite wellspring of empathy which seems to be doled out sparingly, as though we’re fearful that the well might run dry.  Immigrant families crossing the southern border with their children? That we can get our hearts and minds around. Palestinian families half way around the world, not so much, even though our government is directly responsible for the suffering of both.

Love Thy Neighbor


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The Single Garment of Destiny in 2017

Are the protests and marches the new normal around the world in 2017?

I’ve attended plenty of marches in my day, beginning in the 1980s when I took my children, the youngest in his stroller, to protest nuclear weapons.

The largest by far was the Women’s March in DC the day after Donald’s inauguration. Wearing our pink knitted pussy hats, we roared like mother lions.

Perhaps the most polite march was the smaller group of clergy and religious leaders of many different faiths that I joined on April 4th to remember the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech. We marched in straight lines, smiling and chanting all the way to the White House.

The #taxmarch on Saturday, April 15th was far more noisy. In more than 150 cities around the country, people took to the streets to demand that Donald release his tax returns.crowd 3

Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Representatives Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., had a very appreciative crowd when they called for Donald’s impeachment. I was heartened as the speakers at the podium in front of the U.S. Capitol passionately connected the dots between all of the issues — tax reform, ethics, climate justice, a livable wage, immigration and refugees, and more — but the best speaker was President Trump himself.

The entire event was filled with a mixture of outrage, humor and creative energy. Walking among the crowd, snapping pictures, I felt the camaraderie even though I knew no one.

Fifty years ago, Dr. King called for a “radical revolution in values” and beseeched us to see our common humanity; our interconnectedness. His profound truth — that we’re “tied together in a single garment of destiny” — is the radical revolution still waiting to be ignited in our human spirit. This truth seems to be just as elusive today as we grapple with the laundry lists of issues that scream for our attention!

Why do I march?

Aren’t we stuck in the past with these marches focusing on the symptoms rather than the transformational change that we so desperately need?

I’ve heard that marching may be mobilizing but it isn’t organizing, and we need to organize to effect real change. I’ve heard that marching certainly won’t accomplish the goal of getting Donald to turn over his tax returns. A friend criticized the #taxmarch because its goal was not as worthy as the goal of stopping the bombing in Syria.

Those thoughts certainly have merit. If I expected concrete results from the marches — other than the obvious benefits that I enjoy from walking and socializing — I’d have to agree.  We may never see Donald’s tax returns, but there is much more involved and unseen by the naked eye.


Marching is worthwhile in its own right. I commend everyone who participates, and hope those who don’t find other actions that are satisfying. The physical exertion involved in marching is cathartic and helps me express my feelings.

Marching is worthwhile because it gets us off our couches and empowers us to engage with issues. Many Americans are content to be mere observers, not even invested enough to vote. Our democracy may not survive without many more Americans actively engaged – marching, calling Congress, and voting. Any type of nonviolent engagement is positive and shouldn’t be discouraged.

sitting on lawn

Marching is worthwhile because it sends a public message, one the public won’t hear by simply reading the newspaper or watching social media. Regardless of whether Donald even heard the tax protesters calling for him to release his tax returns, many Americans and people around the world heard. Like the circles that spread when a stone is thrown into the calm lake, the marchers touched many spirits who will, in turn, touch many more in some way. We don’t need to know how or to what effect.

Marching is worthwhile because the very act invigorates everyone who participates, reaffirming that we are not alone but acting as a community.  Strength comes from community in incomprehensible ways.

Marching is worthwhile because it spreads the spirit of change.  I’m reminded of the story of the Hundredth Monkey.  I shared that story in a lecture in Gaza in 2012 and I wonder if it made any sense.  I believe in the phenomenon that the scientists witnessed in the 1950s on that Pacific island, a phenomenon that spread around the world when the critical mass was reached. We don’t know how, but the evidence is clear.  I believe that the energy manifested at marches is similarly building towards that critical mass.

The future in non-linear terms

As a city planner, I was educated in the linear model of setting goals, preparing plans, and then implementing the plans.  Of course, there were many steps involved, but it all proceeded from A to B to C. One action led to another, and the process was rational and defensible, if the public was duly invited into the process. We knew where we wanted to end up, and the future we wanted to build. There was some measure of comfort in that way of thinking, and perhaps a bit of arrogance. We even thought ourselves prepared for the unexpected and had contingency plans ready to pull out when needed.

While there’s still some merit in that way of planning and thinking, I’ve come to appreciate that our survival depends on adapting and learning to think in non-linear terms.

My personal revelation didn’t come as a bolt of lightening — an “AHA” moment. Instead, it crept up on me slowly over the past 30+ years. First, I wanted to connect the dots. I was on the look out for the invisible common threads that bind us all.


Second, I wanted to tear down the metaphorical silos that keep our minds and creativity locked up. Everywhere I looked, primarily in the fields of environmental, land use and planning law, I saw silos. Regulatory and administrative silos, issue silos, political silos, and much more.

Third, I wanted to learn new creative ways of looking at these challenges. I was overjoyed whan I found Kate Raworth’s Doughnut.

Today, I realize that Dr. King’s “radical revolution of values” may be as simple and as difficult as #LoveThyNeighbor (no exceptions).

Not the syrupy goody two shoes type of love. Not a naive and guilt-ridden type of love. Certainly not a passionate Eros type of love.

#LoveThyNeighbor (no exceptions) opens me to the empathy and concern and vulnerability that provides a space within me for my neighbor. That we are “tied together in a single garment of destiny” cannot be denied. The ravages of climate change may perhaps be the most visible symbol of this truth, but we can find evidence in every facet of our lives. Americans are tied to the refugees’ destiny as tightly as we are connected to our parents and siblings. The Citigroup bankers and U.S. Legislators who are racing through the revolving doors in each direction are intimately connected to the homeless perched over the heating grates on K Street.


Just as the monkeys learned to wash the sand off their fruit, the evolutionary progress that humans need (and need very quickly if we’re going to survive) is the radical revolution of values to encompass #LoveThyNeighbor (no exceptions). This won’t happen with linear thinking or actions, I’m convinced, because it requires a transformational shift within.

The nonlinear thinking embodies an openness to new ideas from every source, a willingness to be comfortable with the unknown, a greater humility than most of us can muster, and a commitment to model the energy and spirit we trust affirms our neighbors as it affirms us.

So why will I join the March for Science in DC this Saturday, and then the Peoples Climate March on April 29? The simple answer — I’m looking for the Hundredth Monkey.  The truthful answer — I feel energized with the spirit and creativity at each march.

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#MLK50AWAKE – Remembering Dr. King

MLK50 sign

True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.

–from Stride Toward Freedom, 1958, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most of us have those “before and after” moments.  That time when we clearly feel a break with the past, and the beginning of something new. The moment when our lives have changed forever, and we know we’re in new territory now.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

–from ‘Letter from Birmingham, Alabama Jail’, April 16, 1963

My visit to the Gaza Strip (9/2012 – 5/2013) was that moment in my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but since my return to the U.S. and with some reflection, I see my personal timeline divided — before Gaza and after Gaza.

Love Not Hate

My understanding of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s impact on the world is a case in point. “Before” — I honored Dr. King’s memory each year knowing his contribution to the civil rights movement intellectually. I could recite most of the great milestones of his life, and I was grateful that America had such leaders. I had read his “I Have a Dream” speech but none of his other speeches.

“After” — something clicked in me. When I learned that April 4, 2017 was the 50th anniversary of his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, I was motivated to read it in its entirety. When he talked about a “revolution of values” and the “giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism” — I knew he was speaking to me, to my world, and to my generation.

The blunt truth of his message was much more than an intellectual respect for a great leader but a heart filled with love and sadness that his truth has not rung deeply within the halls of power. To many Americans, the radical revolution is merely hyberbole, and they can’t be bothered with the difficult struggle required to change our society.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

–from Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, New York, NY

On April 4, 2017, I spent the afternoon and evening at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC just two blocks from the White House with an amazing group of clergy and lay people from many different faiths. We gathered to remember and celebrate Dr. King, and to send a message to the White House that Dr. King’s message of #LoveThyNeighbor – with no exceptions – is alive and well.

New York Ave Presbyterian Church is a Sanctuary Church that opens its doors to anyone who feels “threatened or vulnerable.”Church welcomes immigrants

Some people may feel their spiritual calling requires them to stay above the political fray and partisanship that permeates most discourse in Washington these days. Not these clergy members.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.

—from King’s 1963 book Strength to Love

We began the afternoon by getting to know each other, standing up, clapping and appreciating each other’s differences. The Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Quakers, the LGBT, the old and the young, the poor and those who had plenty, and from all different parts of the country and the world.

“Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, 1958.

Then we broke into groups for workshops on such topics as “Personal healing from Racism to Action” — “Faithful Resistance, Advocacy and Organizing” — “Powerful, Pragmatic and Spirit led Lobbying”, — “Increase Militarism in the Trump Budget” — “Addressing Poverty – Breaking the Silence”.workshop

I joined the Quakers who led the lobbying workshop because I wanted to know how to be more effective on the Hill.  We learned about some of the priorities of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (easy to agree with these priorities), and then went through the nuts and bolts of an office visit with our member of Congress.  The discussion was both concrete and very encouraging.

The take away message for me was: Come to the meeting with my Senator or Representative with the right spirit, with the goal of building a long-term relationship. Our members of Congress need to hear stories from real life to anchor them as they discuss policy and new laws.

At 5:00 pm we picked up signs from the sanctuary and marched down to Lafayette Square in front of the White House. There were about 30 – 40 people marching, with some drumming and others chanting. Probably the most well-behaved March I’ve ever participated in.

The time is always right to do what is right.

–from Oberlin College Commencement speech, 1965

We stood in a straight line, singing, chanting and then mic-checking to the words of leaders who encouraged us to lift our voices to the White House and the visitors and tourists who were gathered around.


At 7:00 pm some of us reassembled at the church for the 49th observance of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination. Several hundred members of the community joined to listen to people eulogize Dr. King; to hear his words come alive with the reenactments of some of his speeches; and listen to the DC Labor Chorus, the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church Male Chorus, and others fill the church with music. I wish I could have recorded it all.


The highlight for me was second-grader Kiye Bashiri Corbitt who read some passages from Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream Speech”. He stood up straight, and with great composure read his lines on cue in front of an audience of several hundred adults. Dr. King would be very proud of this future generation following in his footsteps.

Young boy

—from Dr. King’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize (1964).

After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts.

Bless you Dr. King.

And thank you to the organizers for planning this very special day.

Rev. Aundreia Alexander, associate general secretary of the National Council of Churches

Christine Ashley, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Cherie Brown, director, National Coalition-Building Institute

Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK (“Nuns on the Bus”)

Rev. Richard Fernandez, (In 1967) executive director, Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam

Rev. Roger Gench, New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Washington, DC

Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director, Office of Public Witness, Presbyterian Church USA

Rev. Mike Neuroth, Washington Office, United Church of Christ

Jacqueline Patterson, Director, Environmental Justice, NAACP

Bishop Dwayne Royster, political director, PICO National Network

Imam Talib Shareef, Masjid Muhammad, Washington, DC

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center




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