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  • Friday, June 14, 2019 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I announced this at our NoVES meeting last Sunday and I wanted to make sure that members who did not attend were aware of this important human rights situation.

    One of my main take-aways from the Humanists International General Assembly that I recently attended in Iceland is the alarming position of a Humanists International board member.

    Gulalai Ismail, a women’s and human rights activist in Pakistan is under legal threat from the Pakistani government that has charged her with “sedition”.  This charge poses a serious threat to her liberty and her life.

    Hearing of the consequences of Gulalai Ismail advocating for a full investigation of the murder of a minor girl, highlights the peril that humanists face in many parts of the world.

    Earlier this year, Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International, urged Gulalai to stay in the United Kingdom and seek asylum.  She replied that she needed to return to Pakistan to continue her work for women’s and human rights.  She said that if she was killed because of her efforts, it would serve as inspiration to others to take up the cause.

    I am overwhelmed by Gulalai’s moral courage and selfless dedication.  She is paying a high price for living her humanist values.  It underscores the personal safety and freedom of expression that I experience.

    The full article from the Humanists International website is included below.

    Supporting “humanists at risk” is one of the activities of Humanists International.  If you feel moved to help, consider making a donation to:

    Additional information about the activities of Humanists International, can be found on their website:

    May 23, 2019

    Gulalai Ismail faces “sedition” accusation for protesting injustice in child murder case

    Human rights defender Gulalai Ismail faces the threat of arrest for “sedition” under the anti-terrorism act, after campaigning for justice in the case of a girl who was raped and murdered.

    Gulalai Ismail is a women’s right activist, human rights defender, and was elected to the Board of Humanists International in 2017.

    It was reported in Pakistani media today that an FIR (First Information Report) was raised against Gulalai Ismail in relation to a speech she gave at a rally earlier in the week. The accusation falls under the anti-terrorism act for “delivering seditious speeches and instigating masses against the state institutions”. Gulalai’s speech earlier in the week was widely circulated on social media. The rally and the speech were held to protest the rape and murder of a minor girl known as Farishta.

    The body of Farishta was found near the capital’s Shahzad Town area after being allegedly raped. Her family said they had tried to file a missing person report with the police on 15 May, but it took police until 19 May to register the FIR in that case and, even then, a proper search was not initiated.

    Protesters at the rally this week were objecting to the perceived lack of interest or progress in the case up to that point. Subsequent to the protests, the government and state authorities have pledged to take action on the case and investigate the apparent inaction of police services.

    The accusation in the FIR is that this speech was “anti-state” or “seditious”. It is very common for some activists to be branded as “anti-state” or “seditious” in particular when they are critical of military or government actions constituting human rights violations.

    Ismail has previously faced accusations of “blasphemy” for example around her work promoting women’s equality, and accusations of being “anti-state” for taking part in Pashtun rights protests and criticizing authorities including the military for human rights violations or failures of justice.

    It is particularly concerning that Gulalai Ismail faces the prospect of arrest and detention again, having faced similar accusations several times in the past few years.

    There is also significant social media activity surrounding the speech and the FIR, with elements accusing her of “anti-state” activities and posting photographs of her with international NGO contacts (including Humanists International Board members) with the hashtag: “#GulalaiPTMExposed”. (The repeated insinuation is that she is connected to or funded by “foreign” agencies. This is a common allegation against human rights defenders, which endangers the accused by casting them as traitors, terrorists or seditionists.)

  • Friday, May 31, 2019 7:11 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I enjoy traveling by myself.  Moving through the world at my own pace.  Deceiding what I will do next with minimal negotiation.  Traveling becomes a contemplative experience played out in the unfamiliar.

    I have been let loose in Reykjavik since Tuesday morning.  I thought that a four-hour time difference would not amount to much, yet I am having trouble sleeping at the right times.  I spend my time wandering about and drifting into random museums and restaurants.

    I find it interesting when the English word for a country differs greatly from the native name.  I may be wrong about this in this case but the art museum was called “Listasafn Islands - National Gallery of Iceland”.  Googling “Listasafn Islands” only produces pages in Icelandic so I have more research to do.

    The museum displayed interesting historical and contemporary Icelandic art.  There was a special exhibit about an Icelandic video artist Stenia Vasulka and her Moravian husband Woody.  After meeting in Europe and working there for a while, they relocated to New York City where they opened “The Kitchen”, a performance space in a hotel basement in 1971 (The Kitchen still exists, albeit in a different location – my daughter Madeline won a modern dance lighting design Obie award for a show that was in this space).  The Vasulkas eventually moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where their work continues.  I spent two hours absorbing various video snippets, everything from a Filmore East montage including Jimi Hendrix and Jethro Tull, to the artists talking about the meaning and purpose of art.  Artists talking about their Art and Musicians talking their music fascinate me.

    I am told that I am experiencing unusually favorable weather – cool crisp blue skies.  The city is beautiful.  It has its own unique domestic architecture with a welcome lack of reflective glass tall buildings.

    Yesterday I did the tourist bit and visited the Blue Lagoon.  The creativity involved in turning the hot water run-off from a geo-thermal power plant into a tourist spa shows some ingenuity.  It was worth going - though I did not stay long.

    After a few days of roaming about without successfully engaging in much conversation with any of the locals, I was pleased to meet a local musician, Teitur Magnusson, at a café over breakfast.  I showed him my daughter Alicia’s Band (A Different Thread) YouTube channel and got a suggestion where I could go to hear some local music.  Our conversation ranged from about music to the fate of the world. I bought his CD.

    The Humanists International Conference starts this afternoon.  I will switch gears and become social.  I’m looking forward to it.

  • Saturday, May 11, 2019 1:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Over the last several years, I have attended annual clergy seminars held at Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, North Carolina (my first home).  The purpose of these seminars is to promote the understanding of Judaism among other denominations.

    The subject of this year’s seminar was “Violence in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament”.

    I thought that this would be very useful for me since my Biblical literacy is minimal and I cringe with incomprehension when reading some of the passages in the Old Testament (OT).  I have always gotten something out of attending these seminars in the past and was ready to do so again.

    Two Jewish Biblical scholars from Duke, Professors Carol and Eric Myers, and Rabbi Daniel Greybar, from Durham’s Temple Beth El, comprised the presentation panel.

    Eric Myers led with the idea that a 2,500-year-old text, with portions that are even older, is bound to be challenging to people today who may have difficulty engaging with it in a meaningful way.

    He acknowledged that the OT is replete with violence, genocide, and wholesale slaughter.  He cautioned that it is important to avoid a literal interpretation of the text.  Biblical stories are there to illustrate some lesson.  The Jewish tradition of biblical analysis and commentary has produced, and continues to produce, deeper interpretations of the text.

    Eric Myers suggested that different readings of the OT produce greater insights – redemptive readings, liberation readings, readings of justice and righteousness.

    Carol Myers scholarship looks at the OT from a feminist perspective.  She pointed out that violence against women in the OT has been used to justify subordination and violence against women.   She sees stories in the OT as literary constructs – not historical accounts.

    She gave examples of how particularly horrific OT accounts such as Judges 19 that contains mob violence, sexual assault, gang rape, and dismemberment must be read in context of the first and last passages that book-end this section.  The first section reads – this is what happens when the nation is not united.  The last section reads – this is what happens without a united support of the monarchy.  Read this way the passage becomes a warning rather than a chronicle of actual events.

    Carol Myers followed this with other examples, some with analysis of the societal traditions of that time.

    Rabbi Daniel Greybar spoke of the challenges of steering communities that consider these texts to be sacred.  His approach is that we must be claimed by these texts, balancing this commitment with the potential for abuse.  It is necessary to reclaim scripture from those who use it to justify violence.

    All of the panelists dispelled the stereotypical understanding that the Hebrew Bible is a nasty piece of work that has been superseded by the New Testament, the simplistic trope that the Old Testament God is Violent and the New Testament is Loving.  It is more nuanced and complicated than that.

    My understanding of violence in the OT was broadened by the panel’s presentation.  I remain puzzled by the power that ancient words and the traditions they have produced have on contemporary people.  Saddled with horrific biblical passages, scholars and clerics have found ways to understand historical context and come to different interpretations.  I suppose that there is little choice given the material that they have to work with.

    Afterwards, I began reflecting on my Humanist/Ethical Culture tradition and what shortcomings exist in our literature and practices.

    Ethical Culture’s congregational movement began in the late 1800’s.  It’s founder, Felix Adler, introduced some new ideas about universal human worth and dignity, social justice, and societal reform.  Unfortunately, Adler also had a traditional Victorian view of women’s roles and limitations.  It was many years later that Ethical Culture recognized the equality of women and had women serving as Ethical Society Leaders.  Although Ethical Culture always affirmed the worth and dignity of everyone, only recently have people of color assumed leadership roles in Ethical Culture. 

    The Humanist Manifesto (1933), Humanist Manifesto II (1973), and Humanism and Its Aspirations (2003) are other sources that I look to for inspiration.  Full of ideas and commitments about making a better world these documents were written by Americans, mostly men, and reflect this bias – not so much by what they include but by what they leave out.  Voices of oppressed and marginalized groups were not included.

    I may be at an advantage in not needing to explain the moral values contained in iron-age stories, but there is much to be done in Ethical Humanism to fully live out my values.  I am heartened that there are many women Ethical Culture Leaders and that there are people of color in our Leader Training program.  This diversity in leadership has expanded my humanist outlook and is creating a more inclusive humanism.  Ethical Humanism is expanding by incorporating new humanist perspectives.  It is exciting to be part of this process.

  • Thursday, April 18, 2019 12:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    After the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral, David Roberts from VOX News, posted on the March for Science Facebook Group)

    Watching something that took centuries to develop, something that can never entirely be recreated, disappear in the comparative blink of an eye – that, in slow motion is going to be the dominant feeling of the 21st century.  Only instead of buildings: glaciers, forests, species.

    I would add that the deaths of tens of millions of people fighting for resources is another likely outcome of unchecked Climate Change.

    It is curious what captures the human imagination.

    Over $1 billion has been pledged by wealthy donors and corporations to restore Notre Dame.  I do not begrudge the emotional connection that many have for this iconic Paris building.  I wonder how to focus international imagination on taking steps to avert climate disaster.

    Teen Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg commented:

    “Yesterday, the whole world witnessed with sadness and despair the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris, but Notre-Dame will be rebuilt,” she said in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. “I hope it has strong foundations and I hope we have strong foundations, but I’m not so sure.”

    “I want to make you panic, I want you to act as if your house was on fire,” she said. “A lot of politicians have told me that panicking does not do any good. I agree, but when your house is on fire and you want to prevent it from collapsing, it is better to panic a little.”

    “If your house were falling apart, you would no longer fly around the world in business class,” said the high school student, who came to Strasbourg by train from Stockholm. “You would not organize three emergency summits on Brexit and none on climate change.

    “Well, our house is falling apart and yet nothing is happening. We’ll have to switch to cathedral mode. I ask you to wake up and do what is necessary,” she said.

    Cathedrals can be restored and so can the Earth’s climate, but necessary action on Climate Change is proceeding all too slowly.

    Yet I do find hope in the words and actions of Greta Thunberg and the movement that she started, “Youth Climate Strike”.

    Last month I attended a “Youth Climate Strike” gathering at the Capitol protesting the lack of action to combat Climate Change.  This rekindled feelings that change is indeed possible.

    About 1,500 youth were there with older folk hovering around the sidelines.  The organizers determined that to counteract the lack of women in leadership positions, all of today’s presenters would be women, as are the three leaders of Youth Climate Strike.

    It was energizing to hear “Generation Z” articulate many of the problems that face us and how they are interrelated.  Here are some of the words that I heard:

    Gen Z must confront: Climate Change, Racism, Classism, Colonialism, and Capitalism.  Shake the system to the ground.  Confront pollution.  Eliminate single use plastic. Gen Z will be the first generation to experience the devastating effects of climate change.

    Take back the Earth.  Take it to the streets.  Take it to the polls.

    Climate Justice/Climate Action/Right to a livable Planet

    Climate Justice, poverty, pollution – all are connected.

    Invitations were sent to women in Congress to address the gathering.  Ilhan Omar was the only person who showed up.  Here are some of her words:

    I ran on the Green New Deal.  We cannot let fossil fuel CEO’s dictate how we use our planet.  We cannot let this administration continue to put corporate interests over taking action to reduce global carbon levels.

    I have introduced a Bill to end $20 billion in corporate welfare.  This $20 billion will instead end homelessness in this country.

    Representative Omar then turned to podium over to her teenage daughter, Isra Hirsi, who is one of the three national leaders of Youth Climate Strike.  She spoke about how her climate activism began by joining the Green Club in her high school.  She was the only person of color in the group.  At first she did not fit in, but she stuck it out and became a national leader.

    There were several interesting crowd chants that punctuated breaks in the presentations.  My favorite was this call and response:

    Solid as a Rock

    Rooted as a Tree

    We are here

    Standing Strong

    In our rightful place

    I was inspired by the dedication and commitment of the people at this event to wok to ward saving the planet and ourselves.

    After this gathering, my spirit was lifted and I smiled on my 12-mile bike ride home.

    - Randy Best

  • Wednesday, November 07, 2018 5:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Yesterday’s election results lifted my spirits.  There were important races across the country where candidates ran on healthcare, and economic and social justice issues.

    I am encouraged.  I get to continue resisting and protesting policies from an administration that supports white nationalism, racism, sexism, and trans-phobia.  I refuse to normalize the words and actions of the national political theater in the white house.

    I am encouraged.  I now have more allies in the U.S. House of Representatives, many of them women and people of color.

    I am encouraged.  The process of change takes time.  There are the beginnings of a swell toward increased concern for the welfare of others.

    Where will the country be after two more years when the presidential election rolls around?

    I hold on to a naïve notion of human progress, despite the setbacks that I can see wherever I look.  For, after all. I am encouraged.

    Randy Best

    NoVES Leader

  • Saturday, October 06, 2018 8:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    During the presidential election many voters chose to ignore Donald Trump’s many shortcomings (which I will refrain from enumerating) because he was seen as the means to their end of changing the composition of the Supreme Court.  The goal was to transform the Supreme Court and thereby remove constitutional protection for abortion and reverse decisions on numerous other social issues such as same sex marriage. 

    With the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, these changes may come to pass.

    I think that a Republican President could have done better than Brett Kavanaugh.

    In his typical style, Donald Trump has left chaos in his wake.

    DAHLIA LITHWICK wrote in Slate on Brett Kavanaugh’s Nomination:

    Donald Trump is running the table. He has managed, with his Brett Kavanaugh nomination circus, to undermine the FBI, the judicial branch, the media, and the legal academy. He’s done all that while being openly malevolent and revanchist about the dignity of sexual assault survivors in America. Everything the man touches turns to garbage and it’s surely just a happy accident that the institutions—like courts and federal law enforcement—that have been arrayed against him will all come out of this Supreme Court nightmare both tarnished and diminished.

    This is the “bad news” that has been ongoing since Trump assumed office.

    Yet Brett Kavanaugh makes it all seem worse.

    Kavanaugh’s bellicose, entitled, and nakedly partisan response to the charges of sexual assault against, him have not only revealed a judicial temperament ill-suited for the nation’s highest court, but exposed a partisan outlook that seems immune from deliberation.

    Kavanaugh’s appointment is a testament to the craven nature of Senate Republicans.  It is an affront to victims of sexual violence.   It cracks the veneer on a broken political system.

    I do not apologize for my anger and disgust about this most recent affront to my values. I struggle to find any kind of silver lining.

    I am uncertain if Brett Kavanaugh’s conformation will have a positive impact on the upcoming mid-term elections.  Partisan rancor remains at a fever pitch.  Both sides are energized.

    Kavanaugh’s confirmation has caused me to question my faith in democracy and my belief that increased voter participation, on whatever side, is a good thing.

    Despite my misgivings and frustrations, I remain engaged in the political process.

    There are candidates who share my commitment to supporting human worth and dignity and who believe that the government is there to promote basic human equality.

    The recent setbacks in progress toward a more egalitarian society do not belie the over-reaching arc toward justice.

    These are indeed tough times.  I am going to go out and find friends to be with in silent solidarity as a balm to my wounded spirit.  It is through others that I will restore my hope in the potential for human goodness.

  • Friday, July 13, 2018 3:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I spent Independence Day flying back from a five-day visit to St. Louis.  I grew up in St. Louis and my mother and sister still live there. At 89, mom still lives in the house that I grew up in.  My older sister lives nearby. In addition to visiting them, a memorial service for my old friend, Nancy, drew me back to town.

    It is interesting that I consider Nancy to be a good friend.  She is the mother of high school friends of mine. Her oldest daughter Mary is a good friend of my sister.  I was closer to James and Bridget. Nancy’s house was a place to hang out when we were in high school. It was a big old house and James’ lair was in the large attic space.  Nancy was always welcoming to us kids and we would stop to chat with her before going about our business.

    James and I were close friends doing international folk dancing and later modern dance together.  I became estranged from James after he found Jesus in college. He gave up a promising professional dance performance career to become the youth dance minister at an evangelical mega Church.  My lack of belief made it hard for me to accept James’ choice.

    After her children left for college, Nancy took up folk dancing herself.  I saw her regularly when I visited folk dancing during my return trips over the years.

    Nancy’s memorial service was in an Episcopal Church.  The service was heavy with ritual. It began with a parade of priests and other officiants led by a man carrying a cross (no incense though).  The program included call and response, the Lord’s Prayer, Hymns, and communion – as well as words about Nancy by a priest and a few family members.  Although I have attended Catholic, Jewish, Methodist, Evangelical, Unity, AME, UCC, and Unitarian memorials, because of my beliefs this was still unfamiliar territory for me.

    At the reception afterwards, I had a chance to re-connect with many old friends, some who I have not seen in decades, including Peter who came in from Japan.  I had many good conversations, including some with James.

    Later that evening there was folk dancing – and another chance to re-connect and dance.

    At the reception there was a large table piled deep with multiple copies of photos that Nancy had shot – there for the taking.

    Included in this pile were many of my children at various ages and this one of Sarah and me that I particularly liked. 

    What are my take-aways from this trip?  I continue to try to wrap my head around the power of symbolic rituals.  They have never affected me but I recognize that many others find deep significance in them.  I felt good re-connecting with old friends who I have lost touch with over the years. I am self-aware enough not to resolve to continue to stay in touch – because I know that I won’t.  I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just in my nature. A poor excuse but a real one.

    This trip made me think about who I was when the photo was taken and who I am now along with the good and bad that has happened in between.  This trip helped me look back on my life. Something that I find to be beneficial now and then.

    Thank you Nancy for who you were and the gifts that you and old friends have given me.

    Randy Best

    NoVES Leader

  • Thursday, June 28, 2018 1:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By now I am sure that you are familiar with the kerfuffle surrounding the manager of the Red Hen Restaurant (a farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, VA) recently denying service to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, President Trump’s White House Press spokesperson, and asking her to leave.

    Sanders brought this to the Nation’s attention by tweeting about it on her official U.S. Government Twitter account.  This caused Trump to use his official Twitter account to try to ruin the Red Hen’s business.  What fun.

    The Red Hen’s refusal prompted Editorialists, Pundits, and Facebook posters to opine about the line between civility to all and the personal choice to deny service.

    These opinions often included specious comparisons to bakers refusing to make cakes for gay weddings, abortion protests, and screening party affiliation before letting people in the door.  Let me clarify my disagreement with these points.

    Gay marriage does no harm to anyone else in society.  If you think that gay marriage contributes to society’s moral decline and corrupts the institution of marriage, you are much too late for that train.  Instead, I suggest that you focus on things that produce real harm in marriages such as spousal abuse.

    Abortion clinics and abortion providers have been subjected to picketing, customer harassment, and violent, sometimes fatal, assault.  This level of confrontation does not equate to quietly asking someone to leave your restaurant.

    No one has started denying service based on party affiliation.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders was singled out as an individual who has a prominent public role in the Trump Administration.  She was singled out because of her active support in actions that cause harm to others.  Adam Gopnik wrote in

    many have sided with the Red Hen on the grounds that, on this week in particular, a week which featured the Trumpites’ cruellest organized exclusion of others to date, to not exclude one of the organizers, or at least the mouthpiece, of that exclusion would amount to a moral failure.

    So where do I draw the line between being open and inclusive and deciding not to include someone at my table?

    My first thought was that the Red Hen went too far and everyone should be able to be served, even though they are involved in a reprehensible regime.  After all, Ethical Humanism attributes worth and dignity to everyone without exception.  Then I read some opinions that challenged my stance.  I found another part of Adam Gropnik’s post particularly persuasive:

    As a moral duty, we should share the pleasures and conversation of the table with as many people of as many views as we can—and, even when we can’t, we shouldn’t grumble too nastily under our breath at our kids when someone at a nearby table takes up the case for the Donald. (A self-directed moral rule, this.)

    On the other hand, the Trump Administration is not a normal Presidential Administration. This is the essential and easily fudged fact of our historical moment. The Trump Administration is—in ways that are specific to incipient tyrannies—all about an assault on civility. To the degree that Trump  has any ideology at all, it’s a hatred of civility—a belief that the normal decencies painfully evolved over centuries are signs of weakness which occlude the natural order of domination and submission. It’s why Trump admires dictators. Theirs are his values; that’s his feast. And, to end the normal discourse of democracy, the Trump Administration must make lies respectable—lying not tactically but all the time about everything, in a way that does not just degrade but destroys exactly the common table of democratic debate.

    That’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s chosen role in life—to further those lies, treat lies as truth, and make lies acceptable. This is not just a question of protesting a particular policy; in the end there are no policies, only the infantile impulses of a man veering from one urge to another. The great threat to American democracy isn’t “policy” but the pretense of normalcy. That’s the danger, for with the lies come the appeasement of tyranny, the admiration of tyranny, and, as now seems increasingly likely, the secret alliance with tyranny. That’s what makes the Trump Administration intolerable, and, inasmuch as it is intolerable, public shaming and shunning of those who take part in it seems just. Never before in American politics has there been so plausible a reason for exclusion from the common meal as the act of working for Donald Trump.

    And what about civility? Well, fundamental to, and governing the practice of, civility is the principle of reciprocity: your place at my table implies my place at yours. Conservatives and liberals, right-wingers and left-wingers, Jews and Muslims and Christians and Socialists and round- and flat-Earthers—all should have a place at any table and be welcome to sit where they like. On the other hand, someone who has decided to make it her public role to extend, with a blizzard of falsehoods, the words of a pathological liar, and to support, with pretended piety, the acts of a public person of unparalleled personal cruelty—well, that person has asked us in advance to exclude her from our common meal. You cannot spit in the plates and then demand your dinner. The best way to receive civility at night is to not assault it all day long. It’s the simple wisdom of the table.

    My view shifted.  I have not lost my ideal that everyone has worth; however, in this case, I came to see how someone’s active participation in a corrupt administration that purposely causes real harm to real people is sufficient grounds to allow a restaurant owner to not serve them and ask them to leave.  The real incivility comes from supporting actions that cause great harm to others.  Public officials who support heinous actions must face consequences.

    Charles P. Pierce in summed it up nicely:

    This debate is stupid. It’s also dangerously beside the point. SarahHuck is the lying mouthpiece of a lying regime that is one step away from simply hauling people off in trucks. That she was politely told to take her business elsewhere is a small step towards assigning public responsibility to public officials that enable a perilous brand of politics. There are bigger steps to be taken, but everyone in official Washington is too damn timid to do what really needs to be done about this band of pirates.

    The Red Hen incident is a distraction from the real work toward change that remains to be done.

  • Monday, May 28, 2018 12:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I experience mixed emotions on Memorial Day.  Although I am morally opposed to violence and war, it does not trouble me to respect and honor those who gave their lives for what they deemed to be a worthy cause.  Death is an inescapable finality.  When it comes too soon it is tragic.

    I find it difficult to extend respect and honor to the American Military as an institution.  More and more, it seems that American military force is used to replace honest diplomacy, further America’s geo-political interests, and serve corporate interests.  Human rights, if they enter the picture at all, serve as a pretext for economic and political interests.  The hypocrisy shown in where and when American military force is used is staggering.

    I realize that the world today is far from renouncing the use of violence as a legitimate means of settling differences.  I also realize that while I decry America’s use of violence abroad, I benefit greatly from it.  I enjoy America’s high standard of living that consumes resources at a greater level than most of the other inhabitants of our planet.  American economic and military might preserves my lifestyle.

    On Memorial Day, I willingly partake in sad reflection on the loss of life and devastation of war.  I will try to avoid the military triumphalism that I often see displayed.  Memorial Day is a time to mourn.

    I will silence these conflicting thoughts that bounce around in my head.  Instead, I will focus solemnly on those who died in the service of their country – for that is one of the tragedies of war.  Those who died deserve to be remembered.

    I will contemplate this poem by Thomas Hardy about a death in the Boer War far, a death so far from home.

    Drummer Hodge

    Thomas Hardy, 1840 - 1928


    They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
         Uncoffined—just as found:
    His landmark is a kopje-crest
         That breaks the veldt around;
    And foreign constellations west
         Each night above his mound.


    Young Hodge the Drummer never knew—
         Fresh from his Wessex home—
    The meaning of the broad Karoo,
         The Bush, the dusty loam,
    And why uprose to nightly view
         Strange stars amid the gloam.


    Yet portion of that unknown plain
         Will Hodge for ever be;
    His homely Northern breast and brain
         Grow up a Southern tree,
    And strange-eyed constellations reign
         His stars eternally.

  • Thursday, May 24, 2018 8:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear NoVES Members – 

    I struggle at times to hold the worth of others at the forefront of my consciousness. To recognize human worth in times of conflict and disagreement. To fully recognize our common humanity and our common struggle to do what each of us believes is right.

    Acting ethically would be easy if there was never any disagreement or conflict.

    Resolving disagreement is an opportunity to take my ethics beyond the theoretical and put it into practice.

    I will do my best to rise to this opportunity, respectfully, creatively, with concern for others.

    Conflict leaves disappointment and hurt feelings in its wake.

    After conflict, healing and the repair of relationships are necessary.

    How we act in the wake of conflict, how we reach across divisions to begin healing are the true indicators of ethical inclusion.

    Everyone acted for what they believed to be the best interests of NoVES at the recent members meeting. 

    As the NoVES community emerges from conflict, the challenge is to re-affirm commitment to our community and strengthen connections with others.  To recognize the integrity and worth of all of our members.

    There is no right side or wrong side. 

    In some cases, there is deep hurt that needs healing.

    There is an opportunity to truly listen to others, to move forward with greater understanding.

    Felix Adler, the founder of Ethical Culture wrote:
    Life is worth living if I live to support the worth in others. And if I find and enlarge the worth in myself. We add to our moral lives in two ways: by living rightly according to the light we have. Secondly by constantly seeking for new light. In the moral world if we do not find new understandings, and if we do not advance and grow, then instead we shrink.
    It is my hope that as NoVES moves beyond conflict, I am able to support the worth of others, to move forward with deeper understanding and renewed commitment to the NoVES community.

    Yours in Ethical Struggle,

    Randy Best
    NoVES Leader

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