Thursday, May 06, 2004

Am experiencing a growing concern ...

about my growing inability to cope with the day-to-day headlines and growing hysteria around the Middle East. I tend to use this journal as an escape from the fear that is beginning to make my breathing shallow and my attention span determined by how quickly I can flip the remote between horrors.

A few minutes ago I sat here to begin to catch up with myself and to try to recapture some of the biographical themes that I found in that Bancroft Library video. It is not to be.

Phone rang and it was a long distance call from Rev. Paul Sawyer, UU minister of long acquaintance and with whom I've worked on many occasions. He's been pastoring the UU church in Pasadena, I believe, for the past 15 or so years, having been associated before that time with the Fellowship of Unitarian-Universalists in Berkeley. It was through Paul that I met and associated with, if only peripherally, with author Ken Kesey et al many years ago. We shared the experience at Asilomar that Tom Wolfe wrote about in the Electric Acid Koolaid Test. Paul is seeking a post at Starr King School for the Ministry (of the Graduate Theological Union) and called to ask for a letter of reference. Glad to oblige.

That call started a train of thought that has blocked out all else over the past hour.

Me: "What are you doing these dreadful days, Paul?"
Paul: "Trying to pull together some kind of response to the happenings in Iraq, but such outrage really demands more than the usual actions such as letters to the ... signing petitions ... etc., but it may well be time to take to the streets (again!)."
Me: "Isn't it wonderful, what MoveOn is accomplishing by way of unifying the voices of the electorate?"
Paul: "Yes, but it isn't enough."
Me: "But, of course I know that. But it's a beginning place, isn't it?"
Paul: "Of course it is, but with Kerry doing the predictable campaign waltz of shifting to the Center when he should be solidifying his base on the Left is tragic and may just lose the momentum he gathered during the primaries."
Me: "But what do we do...?"

And that's where I've been since we cradled the phones.

We probably need a controlled and peaceful revolution like that of the Sixties. That brought us Civil Rights as well as a withdrawal from Vietnam and brought down a corrupt presidency. Why should we be hesitant to use the streets now? The threat to our existence on the planet is greater than in all of history. The total destruction of the world may be at hand. Orwell's 1984 was an accurate predicter of the present -- with the signs leading up to his "future" well-marked. Whatever are we waiting for? The rest of the world is now under the empirical control of our nation -- for good or evil. Should the current trends prevail, we may be doomed -- taking everyone else with us. That means your children, my children, and theirs. How can we not act? Why do I feel this paralysis? What savior are we non-believers waiting for?

I've now lived long enough to have seen the rate of change accellerate from generations measured in half-century cycles to today when they're measured by five years or less. That increases the sensitivity factor so much that -- as with MoveOn -- the effects are almost instantly measurable. We have new organizing tools and a new generation of thinkers and activists to use them. This world is not the one I thought we were creating, but somewhere in the mix that world must still exist. Paul Sawyer, Aron Gilmartin, and millions of others -- together -- bending in the direction of constructive change helped to give that world life. The counteracting forces have all but obliterated the humane governance we worked hard to produce. It may not be too late to salvage something of worth from those efforts.

Paul has a boat moored at the Berkeley Marina and will be coming north in July with his Susan. If the world is still whole, we'll spend time together and try to blow on the embers of the past in hope of finding some new pathways for the future. We've lots of friends in common and some are still around, probably as frightened and immobilized as we. Wonder what would happen if we came together to provide some moral guidance to those new to social action as we knew it? We may have passed the torch, but was it well lit?

Kesey died a year or so ago. Would love to have had the chance to sit with those two again. I've met a number of original thinkers over my lifetime, and these two may top that list. It will be great to see Paul again.

Now back to the Great Escape known as Fleshing Out The Proposal for the Convention Center. Meeting Jennifer for a two hour session this afternoon and I'm late. The world will just have to take care of itself until I get back. And, yes, I realize that I'm avoiding the radio or television and have been for days. Have lost my status as a news junkie, a sure symptom of my paralyzing and growing fear of knowing. The feeling of helplessness grows in direct proportion to the exposure to the media.

November can't come too soon!