Thursday, October 9, 2008

International Peace Day & Autumn Equinox

This talk was given at the Community Unitarian Universalists church in Brighton, MI on September 21, 2008.

“The Earth is the Center”
By: Arnold Stieber

My talk this morning is titled – “The earth is the center.” At this point in my life I believe my role is to plant seeds and create dialogue. My hope is to do that this morning.

Thank you for allowing me to be here on this International Peace Day and the autumn equinox. They are related.

The autumn equinox is when day and night are EQUAL. EQUALITY. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that” we are ALL created EQUAL.

The International Day of Peace is also about equality. For with equality comes peace. The “others” are not “illegal”, not “terrorists”, not “evil”. They are equal. They “are endowed by their creator with certain UNALIENABLE rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

But there are those who say this is not true. The “others” are not equal. They are illegal. They are terrorists. They are evil. That makes as much sense to me as those who once said the earth is the center of the universe.

At one time the earth was the center. There was no doubt. The leaders said so. The religious said so. The teachers said so. It was fact. There is a concept called the Learning Curve. It says that to retain a thought, you must hear it, and/or see it, at least six times. Thus if EVERYONE says the earth is the center, and you hear it over and over, then the earth is the center.

Some, those dissidents, those unfaithful, spoke out and said the earth can’t be the center. Look at how the stars move in the sky. Look at the length of the days. They are long in the summer and short in the winter. Look at this time of year. It is a transition time. Light and dark are equal.

How dare you question!!! The earth is the center. The earth is the center. The earth is the center. The earth is the center. The earth is the center. The earth is the center. There. End of dissent.

Galileo – what say you? (I call on a person in the audience who I’ve coached to be Galileo and they say – the sun is the center). Seize that person. They speak lies. Off with their head.

If we hear it enough, we believe it. If we see it enough, we believe it. Violence is the solution. It is sold to us everyday, in many ways.

Go into any park in any town and you will most likely see a military statue, or a canon. Veterans' memorials are everywhere. Veterans and the military lead parades. The military carries the flag into sporting events. POW-MIA flags fly from Post Offices and other buildings. Highways are named after wars, war veterans, and generals. Battleships are named after Presidents. We have civil war re-enactments. We call the military “service”.

We let violence into our language - "I could just kill my kids", "bullet points", and sports announcers inject "kill", "beat", "destroyed" into their descriptions. The more overt influences are easy - video games, TV shows, weapon toys, paint ball parks. We cheer when the politicians “get tough” and say they want to “take out” someone, or a group of people, or a country.

Violence is the solution and the earth is the center, and there is no other way. And some people wondered.

Several years ago I toured the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati. I had read about slavery and I thought I knew what it was. But as I toured, I began to REALLY feel what slavery was/is. It felt vaguely familiar. The oppression, the hatred, the total domination, the violence, the tearing apart of families brought back many memories from my time in the military in Viet Nam. But I also began to realize “the other side” of slavery. On the other side is the money and the righteous - the people who were not only comfortable with slavery, but promoted it. The preachers, the politicians, the teachers, the business people, the pillars of society said slavery was not only necessary, it was the only way the country could survive. The slaves weren't people. They weren't human. It was OK to torture them and shoot them and hang them. It was OK to use dogs on them and beat them. They didn’t have a brain. The Golden Rule didn't apply to them.

Some, those dissidents, those unfaithful, spoke out and said slavery can’t be right. Look at these people, they are just like us. They have eyes, noses and ears. They come in all sizes. They laugh and cry like we do. They are our brothers and sisters. They are equal.

Slavery is the solution and the earth is the center, and there is no other way – those in power said. And some people wondered – isn’t slavery much like war?

Hermann Goering (Gestapo/Nazi leader). Testimony to Nuremberg war crimes trial, 1946. said: “Why of course the people don’t want war . . . but after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along. Whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship . . . . Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

Folks – at one time it was very difficult to get the facts. We had to rely on the leaders to tell us “the earth is the center”. With the internet, and satellite communications we can get information from many sources around the world. We can reach outside the US corporate controlled media and look at the world and see that it is round, it is not the center of the universe, and the US is just a small part of it. We can gather multiple inputs and use our maturity to wonder and ask “why?”, “what are the options?”, “Is there another way?”.

The last six words of the Pledge of Allegiance are – “with liberty and justice for ALL”.

This is the International Day of Peace. Tomorrow is the autumn equinox. They are about relationships with ourselves, our neighbors, this community, this country, this world, this universe. They are about persistence. They are about asking “why?” They are about the connectedness of life. They are about equality.

Galileo – what say you? (I call on a person in the audience who I’ve coached to be Galileo and they say – the sun is the center).