Polarity

But there’s a subtler dynamic in interpersonal, (particularly romantic or family) relationships that is similar to power hydraulics, but different in some ways. It’s a polarization effect, where people take on opposite ends of a role continuum. These are the “I’m the one who” polarities. I’m the one who runs the finances, I’m the one who has the feelings, I’m the one who does the house work, I’m the strong one, I’m the crazy one, I’m the responsible one. It’s so easy, but it’s so destructive because nobody is always strong or crazy or responsible, but you go there because it’s your role and your partner keeps you there and pretty soon, the only way you can see to get out of a role is to leave.

One of my best friends lost him marriage to this. He was older than she was and good with money. He balanced their checkbook at first and polarized into The Responsible One. She was forever running up the credit cards and he was always lecturing and worried. She finally left him because she thought it was the only way she could learn to be responsible. She felt like he’d never stop seeing her as impulsive and stupid. He felt like she’s always seem him as controlling and cheap. She wanted to manage money better but felt pushed into the spendthrift role. But she also liked pretty, expensive things. He wanted to be able to buy on impulse occasionally, but also liked feeling in charge and adult and responsible. They got so polarized that neither of them could stand the extremes, the charicatures they’d become but neither could move towards the center or allow the other one to.

My last relationship before Scott died on a polarity too. He was the crazy one. He had wild emotional swings, anger and jealously and it was my job to be the steady one. To hold him and reassure him, to protect him and heal him. I liked it because I felt important and the passion was intense. He liked it because it felt alive and real and he had some serious stuff he needed to heal and felt safe and loved enough to start working on it. But it polarized. And I could never have a bad day or a short fuse or pain, anger, grief or passion of my own. I always had to keep it together. And he, likewise, could never come into peace, calm, be intellectual or rational. At the end, he did crazy all the time and I did the Ice Queen. I’m a fairly intense and passionate person, left to my own devices, but our relationship had become so polarized that I felt nothing any longer. You find yourself saying, “This isn’t me” and wondering how you got there.

Early on, I would break up with a guy when I reached the full extension polarity and pick the next guy based on the pendulum pull back. If I’d been the smart one I’d pick a smart guy next time. If I’d been the naughty one, I’d pick a bad boy. Whatever my partner had polarized on, I’d go for the opposite pole. It didn’t take long to spot the pattern, and what I started to do was look for balance on the continuum that had broken up the last relationship. Ricki was the crazy one, so when I went looking for Scott, I wanted a man with whom I could hand the emotionality back and forth. We still do a pretty good job on that one, actually. Sometimes he’s the strong one, sometimes I’m weak. Sometimes he freaks out and I soothe. It’s nice.

We have other polarities though. I’m the neat freak and he’s the slob. Which is ironic, because I’m not, left on my own, that much of tidy type. Only he is less so and so we’ve polarized and now I’m the one who cleans and he doesn’t. At all. And yes, it makes me crazy. I’m the intellectual one and he won’t read anything I write, not even the erotica. And he was Ivy League when I started going out with him. But we’ve polarized. Now I’m the one that has ideas and he’s the one who makes things with his hands. A man’s man. Grrrrr. See me moon about.

Living with another person is a delicate balance of give and take, of compromise and accommodation, but I’m beginning to believe there are places where one should refuse to bend, refuse the push down the continuum, stand fast to the balance you have when you’re single and have to account for the full spectrum on your own. I’m trying to see what it is I get out of the polarities I inhabit, because I’m pretty sure it’s mutual thing that ends you up there.

The people I enjoy most are those who are able to maintain polarities within themselves, those who can be artistic and stable, smart and silly, kinky and responsible, daring and considerate. But it’s hard. And I think, when we fall in love, we’re all too happy to hand half a continuum off to our love. It binds us to them, is an intimate sharing, an act of love: “Here, you be smart and I’ll be silly.” Until we end up leaving him because he has no sense of humor and says you can never be serious about anything. And I’m not sure I know how to reclaim it. It sounds a lot like identity assassination when you ask your partner to be a more artistic type of person. And even it you’re not really wanting them to change who they are, you know they’ll resist if you start breaking the rules and acting all stable and business-like. That’s their role, after all. And maybe that’s the key, to begin reclaiming your competencies, edging into the middle space without asking him to leave. Could I have ever been the weak one with Ricki? Could I have had a meltdown and cried and not cared if he didn’t join me on the great role flip? If he had stayed in crazy himself and not picked up my place in stable, or would the teeter totter just have flipped over rather than snapping in the center as it did?

Sing!

My daughter goes to a school where everybody sings. It’s part of the curriculum and the children, even the middle school boys, are remarkably unselfconscious about it. In High School, choir becomes an elective. There is some attrition. Last night, grades four through eight performed. I watched them, their mouths forming perfect O’s through the long “oh!” of Alouette. They are completely innocent.

I am not.

Innocence, like virginity, is not lost. Lost things can be found. Innocence is slain or sacrificed, stolen or bestowed. And in the place of slain Innocence stands Knowledge- knowledge of evil, of failure, of death. But, from the corpus atop which Knowing stakes his claim, rises Hope wrapping ghostly arms around him. And although you can strengthen Knowing, brutalize Hope, she is Innocence Dead and cannot be killed again. Stronger than the living was, she survives and cradles Knowing in cool, smoky arms. And he, the proud warrior, strides away from lifeless Innocence, brushing the clinging shroud of Hope from his shoulders only to find her twined about his legs.

A friend of mine recently correlated innocence with dreaming, with the ability to believe in, or even have, dreams. I am no innocent. But I have a dream that may just be coming true, and I don’t want to brag and I sure don’t want to jinx it, but I’m feeling really good these days. I feel powerful and centered. I feel hopeful. It’s a dangerous place to be.

When Knowing hesitates, Hope transcends, and binding him, becomes almost Innocence again, believes in things again, radiates and plunges into the sea she tried to cross barefoot. She is a ghost, after all, and has a very weak grip on reality. Knowing and Hoping have been locked in mortal tango in me since I was a few years older than my daughter is now. Hope growing corporeal, beginning to make choices for me, leading me happy, wanting, down sweet paths to deep sewers. Knowledge mucking it out, rippling forearms breaking faith and dreams to feed his horse Responsibility.

It’s not such a bad horse. I rode it here.

A full two years ago, I came up with an idea for a business, for a thing I wanted to make. I worked for a while on one part of it, but it cost too much since I’m trying to source everything through fair trade organizations. So I switched to candles: Petroleum-, Lead- and Dogma-Free Prayer Candles. They’re done now. There’re six: Heal, Hope, Peace, Praise, Grieve and Thrive. Thing is, they’ve been really well received. In fact my dad, (whose view of reality is remarkably unclouded by phantom Hopes) offered to pay for a meeting with a patent attorney to determine if there was anything worth patenting. Which, it appears, there is.

And Hope takes the upper hand, rolling over the soldier’s torso, smoothing his ache and whispering in his ear.

I am not innocent. But I am not afraid. Perhaps Hope has me too wound within her narcotic embrace, although I can still hear the warrior speak. I know I can fail. I know desire and hard work are not always enough, and that like new marriages, half of new businesses fail. I won’t let blind Hope drive this time. I ride a plodding horse. But Hope sings to grim-mouthed Knowing and this is Optimism, who meets possible calamity with “I know it can, but hope it won’t,” who teaches Knowing a partner’s gentle grip on Hope’s lithe waist, and so I hum along, bending notes between Hope and Knowing, searching for the perfect pitch.

Come on, sing the optimism tango. It has no long “oh!”s

Peace Biology

When the war ends, you put your weapons and maille away. You live the quiet country life that you fought to defend. Now the borders are threatened again, and older now, you polish your shield. You will not race off on raids, draw the blue woad lines on your cheeks again, but you dress for battle in the still morning and walk the slow miles to counsel where you will be the elder statesman, the warrior queen returned to broker peace with full knowledge of what war is. I will, if I have to, fight again. But I will bring my battle-hard body to the table first. I will make what preparations are required but I will keep vigil every night and pray I will not need them.

I came of age in war and would not see my children ever have to know what I learned there. But there are things worth fighting for and I am willing to face chaos and fear once more for freedom. A country does not live in peace without effort. Peace is a bird in the air, not a stone on the earth.

Ours can never be the sweet and gentle harmony of drum and flute. I play bagpipes and he plays accordion. Our instruments are tuned in different keys, and they are neither much good at pianissimo. I will not agree to be silent so that we sound good together. But I will not pack up my pipes and go home just because discord makes my skin crawl.

I wrote a while ago about the whole product/process thing and it’s still haunting me. In fact, the way I’m writing here is my attempt to be in process rather than share the finished process of my thinking. My best friend was here for the last four days and she pointed out that I’m so process oriented that when I began to feel like the end result of my relationship with C was going to be divorce, it changed the way I related to everything. I need to do what’s right and let go of needing to know what will happen. I need to be willing for our relationship to end, and I need to be willing for it to work. I need to be willing to defend my right to an unsilenced self.

I wrote a while ago about integration and individuation. And I have a gift for integrating. I’ve got the shapeshifter’s gift- the creatrix able to pass as any creator, blend in any landscape, appear to fit into to any grouping, and yet not at home anywhere, vigilant against detection as the fraud only I know I am, always honing my illusion. The desire for love, the longing to belong, to fit in., to integrate. This desire to merge and unite in opposition with the desire to grow and individuate, be more myself and more than I am now, to expand, branch out, extend my reach.

See, it’s all process still. And it’s sort of a mess.

I had always believed that peace was the highest goal. And I still do. I’ve just qualified what I mean by peace. Because I could have peace in my home if I just let my husband have his way with everything. Negotiated peace, though, the peace of individuation AND integration, the complex organism peace- where each organ achieves its own growth and complex specialization and the individual growth contributes to the health and productivity of the organism. This is what I want and I do believe it’s worth fighting to defend. I don’t want to be a peaceful amoeba. I’d rater be an embattled frog.

36 Year Old Tree

I’m invisible.
I don’t go to work someplace where people see me.
Not so attractive anymore that I’d catch your eye.
Not so unattractive that I collect scornful glances.
At the grocery store I’m another woman in a line with a cart and a toddler.
If the checker looks up, she doesn’t see me.
On a good day, she’ll smile at my son.
My children see me through children’s eyes.
They see me for what they need, not who I am, and that’s as it should be.
My husband looks at me, looks to me, for sex, for clean socks, for a constant steady friend. He says being near me makes him feel peaceful, he says I’m the source of everything good in his life. He loves me deeply, but he’s simply not interested in the life of my mind. Something I’ve always known.
My best friend is married with a full-time job and a busy life half a country away.
It’s ironic, really, that this place is where I come to feel seen. Where no one sees my face and no one knows my name.
But I have felt seen here.
Maybe I shouldn’t need to feel seen, acknowledged, recognized.
Maybe the inner workings of a 36 year-old stay-at-home mom aren’t interesting.
I pay attention to my children, to my husband, to my friends and my house and my responsibilities. I pay attention to self-growth and continuing education.
I pay a lot.
I don’t make much.
I see quite a bit.
But nobody cares what I see.
Or how it looks to me
I keep up my end. I don’t make a mess. My life is intact. I don’t call attention to myself, don’t get in fights or run up the credit cards. I’m not sneaky. I don’t cheat or gossip.
No one looks at me and shakes their head.
No one frowns in disapproval or scowls in worry.
No one looks or frowns or scowls at all.
I’m Responsible.
Invisible.
If a woman lives and no one sees her, does she really fall?

Miss Waiting

It is because I can’t sing that I know there are no gods. Yeah, I can dance, but what good is that on long car trips?

Once, religion was sexy and happened naked around fires in the deep woods. Or is that just a fantasy we tell ourselves, like how much better things were before pollution and penicillin?

I just won’t fake it Jack.

What bites about getting older is learning that the fire inside that whispers “you’re special and are going to do something wild” burns in everybody else’s head too.

The bitch.

It’s my funky little war zone baby. And Waiting, — that whore with leather lips–she puts the bit between your teeth. I’m too young to shake it alone and too damn old to care.

Yeah, like I’m the only sad little bastard waiting in the rain for my mama to see me. Like I’m the only soul who burned with wanting and not having and dying.

Billy talks all night. Cold spit on his throat and the insides of his elbows and wrists and belly, says “everyone you don’t know fucks the same”.

And I’m still awake in the milky morning and that old whore Waiting, in stale make-up and dry underwear, scurries and hums. And wouldn’t you know it?

The bitch can sing.

Donkeys (and tigers) and Elephants (oh my!)

We start awake. A strange figure moves towards us in the dark.
“It’s a tiger!” you whisper “It’s about to pounce on our son as he sleeps across from us!” Carefully, you aim your rifle at the advancing shadow.
“Stop!” I cry. “It’s our son, returning to his sleeping bag. Don’t shoot!”
“How can you risk giving the benefit of the doubt to a tiger? A tiger killed our other child!”
“How can you not give the benefit of doubt to our child?”
“If I wait another second” you say “the tiger will spring and our son will be killed.”
“If you do not wait,” I say, “you will shoot your son.”

Kaki asked me recently to explain the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Even managing to resist the temptation to be flippant, I found it harder than I would have thought. Policy differences are too complex and biased explanations led to questions that are even harder to answer, like “why would anybody believe that?”

Talking to kids requires you to think on the fly, and the answer that finally satisfied her was more about differing world views than political parties. I told her that some people believe there is only one right way to act and other people think there are more than one answer to the same question. I told her, basically, that Republicans are absolutists and that Democrats tend towards moral relativism. I’m not entirely happy with the answer, even beyond its obvious over-simplification, but I can’t quite dismiss it as pabulum either.
More and more the thing I am most interested in are these tensions between the dichotomous points of a polarity. The people who fascinate me are those who maintain, within themselves, a continuum between typically mutually exclusive traits- the stable artist, the driven hippy, the conservative intellectual, but here I am in binary again. There is one or there is not one. No correct perspective, one correct perspective. Absolutism toggled on and off, and I am deeply bothered by this.

Articulating the light and shadow attribute of two diametrically opposed worldviews was an interesting exercise:
Absolutism- fanatic, certain, judgmental, in action, hubristic, heroic, confident, reactionary
Relativism- compassionate, uncertain, humble, equivocal, humanistic, pacifistic, hesitant
Absolutism- There is one correct perspective
Relativism- There are many correct perspectives.
Absolutism- There is one correct perspective and I am correct in my attempts to bring all persons into alignment with it.
Relativism- There are many correct perspectives and I am correct in allowing all persons to choose between them as suits their particular circumstance and situation as long as their choice does not impinge upon my own choices or the choices of others.
Absolutism- There is one correct perspective and I am correct in trying to spread the freedom of democracy and the wealth of modernization to everyone who is oppressed or poverty-stricken.
Relativism- There are many correct perspectives and no one perspective is any more correct than any other so I am correct in allowing every perspective to flourish and am free to judge none inferior.

The clash between Bush and Bin Laden is absolutist against absolutist. Each believes with absolute conviction that the other is evil. The clash between Bush and Bin Laden against me is that they are certain and I am not. Just because they lack my hesitation I am unlikely to win. I know I oppose both their absolutism, but relativism is anti-absolutism and not inherently, pro anything more dynamic than careful deliberation and consensus. Absolutism is cheerful pro-Itself and has a tremendous speed advantage. Relativism can walk around looking at a situation from so many perspectives it ends up dizzy.

Democrats end up being the ones who’d rather risk inaction than be guilty of absolutism and Republicans end up being those who’d rather risk taking the wrong action than no action at all. And it ends up sounding almost like a personality thing. Do you shoot first and ask questions later at the risk of shooting an innocent man? Do you wait till you’re certain the person advancing intends to do you harm and risk allowing him to land the first punch? Or the first- and likely only- gunshot? Would you rather be guilty or dead? And for a group that tends not to be heavily church-going, it’s the democrats like me who’d rather risk death than sin.

A relativist may have a highly evolved personal morality, but feels very uncomfortable imposing it on anyone else. An absolutist will believe his morality is universal and correct and not only have no trouble at all holding others to that morality but believe that failing to do so abets evil. But relativists tip their own hand. We may not be certain what is right for the world, but we damn well know it’s not the unilateral morality of the absolutists. If there is no point from which we can see what is moral for all people and in all situations, we can at least see that the belief that one has such knowledge is erroneous, and on that point we are absolute. As a relativist, I am an absolutist that absolutists are wrong. Oh dear. Oh, my!

 

Speech- free and otherwise

Speech is free but you pay attention. There are no legal regulations on what I can say alone in my living room. And I think that is correct. I do believe there are moral restrictions, and that there are things I can say in the same quiet room that would damage my soul, but my soul’s health is not properly the concern of my government. My government, I believe, should concern itself only with minimum acceptable standards and not with the ideal. So unattended speech is and should be free and unregulated.

Everything changes though, with the act of attending. Attention, idiomatically and, I believe actually, is paid. I think of attention as a subset of personal power. As money is. It has value and as such, can be stolen. If I am responsible for my power, then I am responsible for its exploitation and for the safeguarding of it from theft. I am responsible for not allowing my attention to be directed away from the uses I have chosen for it by a person’s outrageous appearance or the People magazine headlines. If I’m teaching a class, and if the antics of a particular child are stealing the other students’ attention which rightly belongs to me, it is my responsibility to stop the child, assuming his fellow students are too young to be responsible themselves for the safeguarding of their attention. I am responsible for my attention, for consciously directing it and safeguarding it from theft or exploitation.

That said, I’ve done enough theater to know that focus is easy to steal and hard to protect. People who steal attention are, in my experience, people who feel helpless to increase their own power through other means. (I wonder what would happen if you simply offered a person the gift of your attention if they could demonstrate a legitimate need for it, if they could effectively articulate why they should be given what they have not earned.) The morality question is easy. It’s immoral to steal or exploit another person’s attention. You can request it. You can earn it. Or you can do without. Those are, to my thinking, are the only ethical options. But we all know that people will do immoral things and at point we band together as people, as a society to stop them. And that tension between what is damaging enough to the social body to warrant correction and the necessary subordination of the mechanism of correction to that which it serves and protects is the same biological tension between individuation and integration, between the highly specialized and deeply collaborative.

There are forms of speech, actions and words, which demand my attention beyond my power to safeguard it. There is speech that overpowers and takes attention by force, speech that jeopardizes safety or pollutes common property. I believe that correcting the abuse of power is one of the things we rightfully ask of social structure. How should we react to people who exercise their free speech to steal our attention? Do I have the right to tell you what you don’t want to hear? Do you have the right not to hear what I want to say? Do you have the right to show me something I don’t want to see? Do I have the right to be protected from seeing what you want me to see? Do I have the right to protect my children from seeing what you want them to see?

So here’s what I believe: I have the right to unattended free speech. I have the right to attend to whatever I desire and disregard that to which I do not wish to attend. I have the right to request attention, but not to coerce or mandate it. The line between persuasion and coercion can be difficult to see, especially in instances where power is distributed unevenly between those with the message and the audience they attempt to command. Morally, I have the obligation to earn whatever attention I desire through the merit of what I have to say, by reciprocal interest in what you have to say and/or by honest persuasion. Morally, I have the responsibility to consciously direct my attention and safeguard it from theft or exploitation.

Here’s where I get iffy: What do I want from my society, what regulatory guidelines on speech should be in place to mediate between the right to speech and the right not to be exploited? Where do you put the pegs in that continuum between free expression and personal privacy is difficult to determine without context. Does my right to free speech extend to the destruction of symbols of great power and importance? Can I soak a crucifix in urine, raise the Dixie flag, co-opt the tomahawk, burn a US flag in the park or a cross on my lawn? Does my right to free speech extend to hate speech, the calling of names, to cursing at a person or hurling racial epithets? Are “fighting words” protected? Does my right to free speech extend to threats against another person? Can I scream “Fire!” in a theater? Can I grab my crotch or extend my middle finger or shake my fist? Can I expose myself, mime violent or sexual acts, announce my intent to kill you? Can I fake a heart attack on a crowded subway platform at rush hour?

Does my right to free speech extend to the public display of pornography? Can I stand outside an abortion clinic with graphic photos? Does my right to free speech extend to unsolicited speech? Can I make telemarketing calls to your home or send spam to your computer? Can I stand in the public park and proselytize? For a political candidate, for Jesus, for Allah, for Osama bin Laden, for Hitler?

These are regulatory rather than moral questions, and I’m sort of out of my element with them. So, to go back to the original question, I’d say an individual using shock tactics to steal your attention is probably protected by free speech unless his speech poses a credible threat to your physical well-being. Beyond that, it’s your responsibility not to allow your attention to be co-opted. I think legally, we have to protect speech. The larger legal structure may censor only speech that constitutes a credible threat to your physical safety. Social groups, clubs, church, societies, economic units and any other self-created structures can censure speech based on offensive, taste, faith or form and we have more direct control over our environment by exercising social control if we are courageous enough to be self-policing and turn only to the state-police in areas of danger. But determining what poses a credible threat to physical safety would likely require almost case-by-case consideration and judges to judge them and since the question was a general one rather than a case-specific one, I’ll leave my thoughts in broad strokes with gratitude for the opportunity to have drawn anything at all.

54+1

Today I mailed 27 pairs of kids’ shoes and a soccer ball to Iraq.

I know that there are American soldiers willing to beat and humiliate captured Iraqis, but there is one I don’t know who wrote home to a friend of a friend’s wife asking her to send the shoes their kids had outgrown in his next care package because Iraqi children need them.

I think he must be a remarkable man.

We hear a lot of rhetoric these days about Evil and Freedom. I believe in Big Ideals and love those on which my country was founded, but I believe that ideals are reached, not by unilateral gesture or presidential vendetta, but by the humble and practical consideration of Us for Them.

So I asked around and ended up with 27 pairs of shoes: baby booties, sandals, church shoes, two pairs of Doc Martens, but mostly sneakers; and I bought a soccer ball.

If we would facilitate Peace and Democracy in foreign lands, the path of the toppled statue dragged through streets will not lead us there, only to Abu Ghraib jail. I believe we reach the Ideal on the dusty road of practical daily life, the small and real, not from the top down in broad gestures- invasion, incursion, insurgence, but from one person to another, individual, with small understandings. If a soldier can reach out in-country, I will help him not reach empty-handed.

I know I make myself ridiculous with my pathetically tiny gesture, but I’d rather be a daring fool than a constant nag and my only other course of action is to bitch endlessly. My country has chosen a path I will not walk, but in it, I am still free enough to choose my own way. I will direct my energy, my money and my hope down an obscure trail marked by a man without political aspirations.

I hope that there are more soldiers like my friend’s friend’s husband. I hope other small steps taken by American soldier/fathers towards Iraq’s children are enough to show the compassionate there that the people here are worth walking towards, despite the flailing and knashing of our head of state. I hope there can be another path, different from the one down which so many lives and resources have been washed away- a path towards Peace. It is path we must choose despite media overgrowth and fashionable despair. It is a path we choose in the face of marches forced in the opposite direction by our leaders and our prison guards alike. It is a path that will be walked (I dare to hope) by their children’s feet in our children’s shoes.

Patriot Act

Hope is a strange thing.

By the time you break a national problem into pieces small enough to actually address, it feels like any action you take is meaningless. And yet to take no action admits to hopelessness. So you inventory your abilities and resources and do what you can.
And you hope it helps.

A month ago I mailed 27 pairs of children’s shoes and a soccer ball to a friend’s friend’s husband stationed in Iraq. He had written home saying the kids there had no shoes.

I felt overwhelmed by what is happening in my country- the increasingly rabid division between left and right, and while soaring ideals of freedom and peace can carry me away, I get lost in ideals and drowned in big problems. I am a small, practical person; my resources are limited: some time, a little money, a love of children and decent organizational skills.

My friend’s friend’s husband wrote me back. I’m out of kid’s shoes, but he says the children where he’s stationed (Ba’qubah, 30 miles north of Baghdad) have no toys, no balls or dolls, and very few clothes. I’m going to gather up what I’ve got and ask around. I have friends with kids who outgrow shoes.

St Francis of Assisi taught that there is no point in walking five miles to preach a sermon if the walking itself is not the sermon. I know one soldier who has traveled many more miles than that to be moved by Iraqi children even while he is missing his own. He’s not preaching Occupation, or America, or even Democracy. He just saw kids without shoes; kids like his own kids. And that’s a sermon I want to help Iraqi children hear.

I’m going to gather up as much as I can afford to ship and stick pictures of my kids in the box. I’m going to ask other people to help. I’m going to collect children’s shoes, and children’s clothes and toys and smiling faces and send them to the kids in Iraq. It’s a little intimidating, but this is what I can do.
I hope it helps.

Patriot

I stand humbled by our military men and women who leave their families and give their lives, nobly sacrificing, as our president has not, their personal agendas in service to something larger than themselves, inspired by America’s history, humanity and infinite possibility to risk their lives in Her service and defense.

I stand awed by military surveillance and weapons technologies, as sophisticated as war is primitive, but I believe the same American ingenuity, creativity and intelligence that developed them could also have found ways not to need them, ways as radical and revolutionary as those which inspired the founders of our brave country.

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago America’s founders chose the unmarked trail of personal liberty and claimed for themselves and proclaimed to others new ideals of human freedom and dignity. Nations followed, shrugging off their feudal mantles and stepping with us into a new landscape of unprecedented self-determination.

Freedom is our national heritage, our deliverance and our burden. But freedom cannot be enforced. It is, itself, the absence of force. It is choice. We can no more liberate Iraq with war than we can free an alcoholic by shooting his bottle.

Personal liberty is the road to national freedom. It begins with the private freedom to make a space between stimulus and response that separates us from animals, the choice to access our bigger brains to respond out of thought rather than impulse or instinct. Freedom is in the independent thought between propaganda and personal belief, in choices made in the deliberate space between anguish and action, between the righteous rage of terrorists’ victims and retaliation, between political dissent and mob mentality.

If our country’s leaders have chosen a road we will not travel, let us chose, because we are free Americans, a path of our own making. Let us not lie down in American’s streets in protest, but rather see the terrain for ourselves and map a new trail always heading towards our country’s great hope: freedom and justice for all.

America now calls herself the world’s strong right arm; and while there is much to celebrate in a strong arm, when it compels the left arm and both feet to become right arms too, the world body will stumble. Let us find a million roads to freedom, each as individuated as a hand from a foot, each as integrated as an athlete. Let us each inventory our abilities and resources and take personal action to decrease polarity, chaos and suffering and increase individuation, integration and order.

The waves of democracy that washed the world after 1776 were not pushed, but rippled from citizen to subject. Let us drop a pebble in our own pond again and pray it ripples round the world. Let each of us walk our private sermon to the national pulpit and when we arrive, let us listen, so that America might lead an army of the inspired rather than a coalition of the coerced.

May America lead again. May her freedom ring, not divided against herself, but indivisible, individuated, integrated- not one note, but many mingled tones. May we, the people, lead our country into new freedoms, as different from our present discord as democracy is from monarchy and finally of the people, by the people and for the people. I believe we can. I stand for an America where anything is possible.