Monthly Archives: November 2004

Why can't the US support real democracy in Saudi Arabia?

Women in Saudi Arabia Too Have a Dream

I am a Saudi citizen. I am over 21; I am educated; I am positively contributing to society by educating hundreds of university-level Saudis every year, and I am patriotic. Yet, I am not eligible to vote in my country.

It is not because I have a criminal record or because I participated in any anti-government organizations — because I have committed neither. And, even if I had, I recently read that prisoners will be allowed to vote. Nor is it because I am handicapped and cannot go to cast my vote because officials have kindly removed that obstacle by enabling handicapped Saudis to vote through an agent. As you can see, my country is doing its best to encompass as many Saudis in the new elections as possible; but they just cannot include me. My crime is too unforgivable. My handicap is beyond help. I am a woman.

We cannot and must not function with half our population. That has been our gravest mistake thus far, and we are obviously not learning from our mistakes. Usually, the reasons given for marginalization of women in Saudi Arabia are either religious or social, but neither pertain here. As far as religion is concerned, I do not think anyone with any knowledge of Islamic history can deny that Islamic society was perhaps the first culture to include women in the “voting” process. More than 1,400 years ago, two women were among the first few people who approached the Prophet (peace be upon him) to pledge their allegiance. This was known as the First Bayah. The Prophet did not turn these women away, nor did he turn away the many other women who came side by side with their male counterparts during the Second Bayah years later in Makkah.

And as for social reasons, well the elections are new to all of us. This is a chance to write on a clean slate for a change. The extensive media coverage of the elections can highlight the importance of getting all members of society to contribute. Reading the slogans on the billboards recently posted on many streets in Riyadh, I could not help but see the irony behind every line. “Your voice will not be heard unless you register”; “Participate in making decisions.” The irony lays in the following paradox: On the one hand, you have a slogan that is obviously phrased to convince as many people as possible to participate, and on the other you have a rule that excludes more than half the population.

Finally, I would like to say that while my voice has been muted, I am still here. I may not be able to vote today, but I will continue the struggle to be heard simply because, in the words of Martin Luther King, “I have a dream.”
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I’ll believe Bush supports democracy the day he calls for Saudi Arabia to give the vote to women.

An open letter to George W. Bush

OK Dubya,

You’ve managed to con enough people in this country to get four more years in office. Whatever it is they believed about you or hope you will do, I think a lot of us understand perfectly well the neocon dreams you’ve bought into and the grand plan for America you have in mind. Never mind that the world abhors your ideas and the thought of World War IV you envision.

Just don’t even think about imposing a draft. My kids aren’t going, and those of so many people I know are not going to support your war lust. Get those wonderful people who support you to send their kids, and send your own while you’re at it. You think this is all going to be some cakewalk or picnic, but the world doesn’t want the American hegemony you and your cronies envision. And lots of us hope all you really have in mind is enriching yourself and your cronies, and that you’re just playing the neocons for fools as well, but I doubt that. You’ve taken every step they, and bin Laden, had hoped you would take so far. It doesn’t look like you intend to start doing right by America and the world anytime soon now.

For the first time in my life, I’m ashamed of and afraid for the country I live in. This isn’t the America I grew up in, and while I hope someday it will be again, at least for four more years we are stuck with you. People just wouldn’t listen when it was so obvious what was coming. You won’t listen to anyone who doesn’t agree with you, surrounded now by all your yes men and your sweet lady friend Condi (who thinks you are her husband, apparently) after kicking out the one possible voice of reason Powell.

Well, have fun fighting your wars and creating the mess you’ve created all your life on a grand global scale now. There’s not much hope that you even have a clue how bad this is going to be, or if you do, I’m sure you just intend to profit from the war and chaos, as the Bush family always has. Chaos is something you all enjoy so much.

Many of us see the truth. We don’t have the power to change what’s happening, but you do. Wake up, let us wake up and end this nightmare. Live up to the real greatness that you want to be, instead of buying into the mightmare scenario those who surround you want to bring on. You may be a good person at heart. It is hard to tell for sure what is the real person and what is the act you portray. But if there’s an ounce of goodness left in you, stop now. Kick out the neocons and their cronies, not the good people who try to tell you the truth and not play up to your ego. Stop the madness, or go down in history as the one who led to America’s downfall as a great power.

Or if not, go ahead. Those of us who still harbor the dream of America will pick up the broken pieces when you are done, just as the truly good people have done after every catastrophe of history. And finally, America will learn the lessons of Never Again.

Too bad so many good people will have to pay such a high price along the way, isn’t it? And too bad you will not be remembered as a great leader, but a disastrous one.

A loyal American, loving mother, and now, a citizen of the world,

Donna

Flander's Fields

Rising Hegemon: Flander’s Fields

The war and its tragedy, especially its constant misery and evident criminal foolishness amongst those in the trenches gave birth, as does most prolonged human suffering to great prose. Especially poetry. Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen were among the English poets. The most famous poem of the war came from a Canadian, John McCrae:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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In remembrance of all those lost to the tragedy of war — the soldiers, families, civilians, and all who loved them. In the wreckage of Falluja’s streets, they will remember, too.

Spiritual Awareness

Group work must include spiritual awareness if it is to touch the existential anxiety of our times. Without awe, the awful remains unspoken; a diffuse malaise remains.

Be willing to speak of traditional religion, no matter how offended some group members may be. Overcome the bias against the word God. The great force of our spiritual roots lies in tradition, like it or not.

The wise leader models spiritual behavior and lives in harmony with spiritual values. There is a way of knowing, higher than reason; there is a self, greater than egocentricity.

The leader demonstrates the power of selflessness and the unity of all creation.

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Tao of Leadership

Hmm. I agree with spirituality and think it is important. What I object to is imposing one’s spirituality on others. I don’t think offending people in a group is a very good idea. But I wouldn’t want to offend people by denyign them their spirituality either. Perhaps for me it is about letting people believe what they believe, and express it without imposing it upon others.

I think it is the same in our world situation. When America was an example for others of freedom and democracy, that made it strong. But trying to impose it on others, or at least, trying to take over other countries in the name of some supposed freedom, makes us an object of scorn and derision. We must live by our values, not impose some corrupt idea of them on others.

Whether the Bush family and its cadres are after the oil wealth, or just power mad, I think they have sown the seeds of their own destruction. The world will not look kindly on their efforts to impose their will. And we as a country will now have to pay the price along with them. This will not end well.

We All Live in Pleasantville Now

Remember Pleasantville? That black and white world, where personal expression was a no-no? We all live there now, in what we used to call America.

The black and white people took back their country, and want everyone to live by their values. Well, guess what. A lot of us still live in color, still want to take back our world, the real world full of color and diversity and shared values, not imposed ones.

And just as those people started to see color, started to be color, we stand out, because we live on color. We will shine in this black and white world, and know each other because we are the ones who are vibrant and creative and paint and sing and dance. And dance we will

So get out your red dress, go dancing, live vbibrantly. Paint your pictures, sing your songs, laugh, dance. We will not mourn in this place. We will celebrate life and being alive. We will bring our color to their black and white world, and while they might manage to make a few of us cover our colors in their gray, we will bring those people out again.

Celebrate, paint your pictures, dream in color. America will be back, bigger, better, more colorful than ever. We just have to get through some gray times first. Reach out to each other, love those you know and make friends with those you don’t, and let’s form our webs of friendship and strength to be even greater than theirs.

Pleasantville, your days are numbered. You’ll be color soon enough.

Polarities, Paradoxes, and Puzzles

All behaviors contain their opposites.

Hyper-inflation leads to collapse.
A show of strength suggests insecurity.
What goes up must come down.
If you want to prosper, be generous.

Also:

The feminine outlasts the masculine.
The feminie allows, but the masculine causes.
The feminine surrenders, then encompasses and wins.

And:

Water wears away rock.
Spirit overcomes force.
The weak will undo the mighty.

Learn to see things backwards, inside out, and upside down.

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Tao of Leadership

At least the Republicans will be seen as fully responsible for the messes they’re making. America, you are one screwed up country. And everyone knows it but you.

Election Day

Tomorrow’s gonna be a brighter day
There’s gonna be some changes tomorrow
Gonna be a brighter day…

Well, I voted absentee two weeks ago, my husband dropped off his ballot yesterday and my son votes this afternoon, for the first time. I guess after that, it’s just wait and hope.

I know no matter who wins, it’s not going to be easy the next four years and the real culture war is just beginning, but I am feeling hopeful. Tomorrow is my 46th birthday and I’m hoping for a great present, a new president and the start of a new political era. That’s what I would like to see. Otherwise, it’s four more years of battling this oil-drenched corporate hydra that is trying to strangle our country.

So, some Tao thoughts for the day, just to keep me sane. I’m opening up “Tao of Leadership” at random to see what I find:

Be OPen to Whatever Emerges

The wise leader does not impose a personal agenda or value system on the group.

The leader follows the group’s lead and is open to whatever emerges. The leader judges no one and is attentive to both “good” and “bad” people. It does not even matter whether a person is telling the truth or lying.

Being open and attentive is more effective than being judgemental. This is because people naturally tend to be good and truthful when they are being received in a good and truthful manner.

Perhaps the leader seems naive and childlike in this uncritical openess to whatever emerges. But openess is simply more potent than any system of judgements ever devised.

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Indeed. Whatever emerges, we will deal with it, and get through it.