Are we asking the wrong question? (Drones Part Two)

A query in search of words.

“My son is a soldier in Afghanistan. If a drone will protect my child from harm, so be it.”

​I listened and I trembled inside. The parent spoke at a public lecture critical of our government’s use of drones. For a few moments a stillness settled on the room. I do not take the parent’s statement as rebuttal to the speaker. Rather, I remember it as an implicit question: how do I reconcile my concern for my child with criticism of government behavior?

​For that moment we stood on common ground: the speaker, members of the audience, the parent, and myself. Discussion stopped. In the stillness I felt this common ground slipping from beneath us. And after a few heartbeats, the room was filled with words about legalities, disclosure, and accountability.

I continue to reflect on that moment, remembering that I have, as many of us have, witnessed similar moments since the days of Vietnam. During those five decades we have seen these moments repeated when shared concern, even skepticism, about a foreign venture is deflected. Whatever the defects in the policy, we hear that we need to support our children in uniform or that our security requires that certain prices be paid.

When the parent spoke, how might I have responded? I remain uncertain. While analytical arguments about political systems and cultural values and about complexities of effective dissent provide necessary perspective, that talk seems insufficient by itself to address this question in search of the right words. After all the talk about constitutional questions, this place may remain barely explored. The parent’s response silences criticism of state policy. And criticism of state behavior often evades the parent’s question. The answer lies somewhere beyond the question: do I stop the drones or do I support our loved ones?

And so I feel drawn to this still point in time. At once I empathize with the parent and remain no less convinced that the drones are wrong. Moreover as a parent I know that these killing machines kill children over there. Today a parent in Afghanistan may be saying that if it were not for the drone, he would be having dinner with his daughter.

Sometimes we tell ourselves that we are asking the wrong question. Today I do not know the words for my question. Yet I feel it necessary to continue searching. I feel so when I stand at my community’s Saturday peace vigil and meet neighbors who are friendly to the dream of peace but conditioned to be fearful for their security. Again, the problem is posed as a choice between either peace or war with little ground between. Repeatedly though in different ways, I feel common ground slip away. Perhaps a first step may be taken simply by taking a deep breath and not stepping out of that still place.

Good work is being done that may enable us to sit in that still place between seeming opposites or irreconcilables for a bit loner. Last year neighbors in my community gathered in groups to read and discuss Karen Armstrong’s “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life” and the Charter for Compassion project. That discussion continues in several forms including the Nonviolent Carbondale project. Parker Palmer comes to this place in his “Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit”. And Living Room Conversations works to bridge political division.

​I am imagining a long process of undoing deep habits of thought that we share and that stymie our imaginations. But the wars have been going on for a long time, so long that we may simply call it The War. Learning the facts and calling for disclosure of government behaviors informs the discussion. But I wonder. The facts alone about drones or other policies once disclosed may not mean that they bring us forward. Intellect helps, no doubt, to address recurring concerns. Yet intellect alone may remain stymied, as it was that evening, without union with compassion and listening. Perhaps then we can work with that parent.

Building bridges across political divides

Parker Palmer writes (on Facebook):

Joan Blades is co-founder and co-chair of the well-known political organization MoveOn, which promotes liberal and progressive causes. Some people (and I’m one of them) are grateful for MoveOn. Some are not. But this post is not about taking political sides. It’s about building bridges across political divides.

Joan has launched a new project I’m excited about. Called “Living Room Conversations”, its purpose is to foster civil discourse between folks who differ politically and help them make common cause.

Want to see something hopeful? Check out the conversation. You’ll see and hear a dialogue between Joan and Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots: two people who are poles apart politically, but who found overlapping concerns and mutual respect through this project.

The site is full of resources for starting your own Living Room Conversations with family members, neighbors, colleagues and friends. This kind of conversation can help “We the People” overcome our divisions and become a political power again—the power on which American democracy depends.

Joan and her colleagues are “putting wheels” on some of the things I wrote about in “Healing the Heart of Democracy”. So I’m very grateful for Joan’s endorsement of the book, which you can learn more about at the site below:

“Can we keep our sights on the vision of what we aspire to be while working constructively to transform realities that do not yet fulfill that vision? How do we remain ‘open hearted’ so that we can engage creatively with citizens who hold different views of the challenges we face? ‘Healing the Heart of Democracy’ asks these necessary questions and inspires us to answer.” — Joan Blades

Quaker Peacemakers Project: Joey Rodger

Joey RodgerJoey Rodger serves as the Acting Executive Director and Co-founder of PeaceAble Cities: Evanston, is a Chaplain with the Evanston Police Department, and actively represents Friends in local interfaith efforts. She moved to Evanston 25 years ago to work as an executive for public library organizations, and following her retirement from librarianship, her commitment to peace and justice – nurtured by 40 years as a Quaker – led her to help found PeaceAble Cities: Evanston. Joey deeply believes “we are all meant to live together with respect and a graciousness toward the possibility that we can work together to create a richly diverse city completely free of violence.”

Click the play button below to hear Joey’s reflections on peacemaking.

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The Peace Resources Committee interviewed Joey alongside Sara Gmitter and Elizabeth Mertic in front of a live participatory audience at Evanston Monthly Meeting in November 2012. Listen in to hear her explorations of peacemaking today, peacemaking as strategy as well as leading, collaboration, discomfort, exploration, joy and focus towards peacemaking as the priority. Joey truly lives for peace. Reflecting on the theory of change presented by James Gillian in his book Preventing Violence, she has strong words for Friends truly committed to peace: “you can actually make a difference.”

Click here to learn more about the Quaker Peacemakers Archive Project where you can nominate Friends in Illinois Yearly Meeting you think should be included in this effort. The project aims to compile and preserve an oral history of Friends whose contributions to peace building offer wonderful opportunities for reflection. As Friends tell their stories in their own words, these recordings will capture and preserve unique and inspired personal acts and thoughts which enrich our Yearly Meeting.

Music: “Sunset Drama King” by The Appleseed Cast (Low Level Owl: Volume 2, 2000)

Tales, Adventures, and Reflections of a Quaker Activist

Daughter Do Mi (Barbie) Stauber wrote to ILYM and shared –

I’d like to let you know about a new book by a Quaker author formerly of Illinois Yearly Meeting:

Feeling Light Within, I Walk: Tales, Adventures, and Reflections of a Quaker Activist

Peg Morton was a member of Illinois Yearly Meeting from 1965 to 1989. She has published articles in Friends Journal and is the author of a Pendle Hill pamphlet, Walk With Me: Nonviolent Accompaniment in Guatemala. She is an activist who has spent her life working in the civil rights, war tax resistance, Latin America solidarity, and peace movements. She went to prison at age 73 for civil disobedience at the School of the Americas. Peg has written of a life that spans eighty-two years, fueled by a deeply spiritual commitment to raise her voice in nonviolent protest against war and injustice everywhere, and give voice to those who have none.

Peg has many wonderful memories of IYM and sends her love and greetings to all!

Feeling Light Within is available from, or directly from the author: send $15.00 plus $3.50 s/h to Cedar Row Press, 2809 Shirley St., Eugene, OR 97404. Peg’s website will accomodate online ordering soon!

What next? Tamms is closed.

What next?  Tamms is closed.  Now how do we attend to the climate of opinion that permitted, indeed endorsed, the construction of this institution?  Specifically, what steps can we take to reverse the programs and policies that characterize this nation’s penal systems?

Wrestling with the “what next” question has been far more difficult than coming to a position on closing Tamms.  I think my difficulty is one shared by others in my Meeting and in the general public.  And that is why I write.  I also write so that I may call attention to some responses to the “what next” question that are emerging as I listen to discussions among Friends in southern Illinois.

Shaping a Minute in support of closing Tamms drew attention to the larger and more complicated dimensions to this subject.  As I recall the process, many Friends expressed concerns that the discussion was being framed by Springfield’s concerns for budgets.  What about the penal system at large?  How is it that we pay our taxes to support systems of punishment rather than programs for rehabilitation?   By addressing the debate on closing Tamms, are we distracted from the grim statistics that point to the continuing presence of race and class in the sentencing process?   And so, after a month of careful listening, the Meeting did come to a minute supporting closure but with the provision that a second Minute be composed that addressed the larger contexts.

Lest we forget the thousands of prisoners in countless prisons, we have been working on that second Minute.  We are not done.  We work slowly not simply because of Quaker process but because of the complexity and the immensity of the subject.

Immensity and complexity seemed to numb imagination at the point of addressing the “what next” question.   To speak to the strident voices of retribution and to counter the political clout of the prison industry looms up as a labor of Herculean proportions.  Many of us have asked ourselves what talents we may offer or how much time and energy we are able to devote to such an undertaking.   As I listen, I sense that the discussion is shaped in part by images of a hero peacemaker who comes to task with extraordinary energies and focused devotion.  But have we been measuring ourselves by impossible standards?  Are we handicapped by such an ideal of the peacemaker that causes many of us to feel inadequate to the task?   In various ways, we are asking that question and coming to recognize such models of peacemaker are as likely to discourage as they are to inspire.  We seem to be asking another question: Who amongst us is not a peacemaker?  As we come to recognize the varieties of peacemakers in our small circle, we may be finding ways to help one another to move from faith and principle to practice.

Meanwhile, we are beginning to recognize specific works that are appropriate to this meeting’s size.  The Carbondale chapter of the The Three R’s Project—Reading Reduces Recidivism (—has been working to acquire books and transport them to regional prisons.  The handful of volunteers needs more people to collect, catalog, and move books to prisoners.  As Friends listened to a 3Rs organizer, they awakened to a path leading out of the shadow of doubt.  We are still aware of our limited abilities.  But we are exploring connections with other community groups.

Seeking for connections opens other answers to the  “what next” question.  By participating in the movement to close Tamms, we came to appreciate at a personal level how many others were concerned.   We were entering into a larger community of compassion.  With Tamms behind us, we are also learning more about the good work performed by Friends elsewhere who are addressing the prison system.  Farther north in Illinois, Quakers have been visiting prisons and bringing books.  The example and the guidance of Friends in Champaign may be helpful not only for practical reasons but, equally important, for renewing faith that we are not alone in our resolve to meet the immense and complex challenge of the prison system.

The times tremble with possibility.  If we listen carefully, we can hear a growing chorus of voices echoing our concern.  Look for a moment at Friends Journal and the recent issue (March 2012) devoted to our prisons.  If we look beyond our Meeting, we see that we are part of a larger awakening.  Consider for a moment Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.  This thorough and impassioned analysis has been praised for stimulating awareness of this long-festering disease.  And it has stimulated.  But by giving credit to Alexander’s work, do we forget that before the book appeared so many people were prepared to attend to her voice and to buy her book?  Alexander was not crying in the wilderness.  There were people ready to listen.  The buyers and the readers testify to the books significance.

What next?  I can only begin to imagine how the growing number of awakened souls in the nation will turn their concerns into practice.  But I think my experience in a small community at the very bottom of Illinois can inform.  While southern Illinoisans deliberated on Tamms, all the action seemed to be happening far north, 150 miles north in Springfield or another 150 miles farther north in Chicago.  I often felt as if we were on the periphery.  When asking the “what next” question, we might turn attention from the centers of power and attend to ways to support uncounted others who live in seeming isolation.  Lest such communities lose heart in the face of enormity and complexity, we might consider creating organization and  communication networks to sustain us all.  The struggle will be a long one.  This we all understand.  We will need to keep faith.  And we will need to organize our scattered communities into concerted energy.  What next?  This may be the emerging task of such groups as the ILYM Peace Resources Committee.

AFSC Reader’s guide: Economics matters

Compiled by Tony Heriza
Published in Quaker Action, Fall 2012

Mired in the “economic crisis,” people around the world are calling for just and sustainable economic policies at the local, national, and global levels. Members of AFSC’s program staff recommend these resources to help you understand the complex issues and imagine a more humane economic order.

You may order many of the books listed here through


What’s wrong?

Economic Collapse, Economic Change: Getting to the Roots of the Crisis,” 2011
By Arthur MacEwan and John Miller

99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It,” 2012
By Chuck Collins (also see his TEDx talk)

Inside Job,” 2010
Directed by Charles Ferguson
This documentary exposes the corruption and greed behind the crash of 2008.
Find books and articles by the Nobel Prize-winning economist

Inequality and the Common Good
Data and analysis from the Institute for Policy Studies illuminate the corrosive impacts of inequality.

Visions of a different future

Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth,” 2009
By David Korten
Locally based, community-oriented economic alternatives

All Labor Has Dignity,” 2011
By Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Michael Honey
A new collection of Dr. King’s speeches on labor rights and economic justice

America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy,” 2011
By Gar Alperovitz
Democratizing our economic system from the bottom up

Breakthrough Communities: Sustainability and Justice in the Next American Metropolis,” 2009
Edited by M. Paloma Pavel
Urban strategies that benefit entire metropolitan regions, including low-income communities

Holy Cooperation!: Building Graceful Economies,” 2009
By Andrew McLeod
Theological support for cooperative economics

New Priorities Network
Works to cut military spending and increase investment in jobs and public services

The Occupy Handbook,” 2012
Edited by Janet Byrne
Essays on our economic disaster and avenues for change

The Other Game: Lessons from How Life Is Played in Mexican Villages,” 2008
By Phil Dahl-Bredine and Stephen Hicken
In some communities, sharing and inclusion are the highest values.

Click here to learn more about economics, see how you can get involved, and read select AFSC voices on the economy and related topics.

Doing Time for Peace: Resistance, Family, and Community

The North Shore Coalition for Peace, Justice, and the Environment Cordially invites all to celebrate a book launch and signing of Rosalie Riegle’s new oral history…

Doing Time for Peace: Resistance, Family, and Community


Saturday, December 1, 2012 from 3:00 to 5:00
Refreshments served.

Curt’s Café, 2922 Central Street in Evanston. (Near Lincolnwood.) Take Bus 201 from the Purple Line Davis Street stop. Curt’s Café provides training to Evanston’s at-risk youth in both food service and life.

In this compelling collection of oral histories, more than seventy-five peacemakers describe how they say no to war-making in the strongest way possible—by engaging in civil disobedience and paying the consequences in jail or prison or by “doing their time” at home while their loved ones are incarcerated.

Included in the book are interviews by Kathy Kelly, Mike and Nettie Cullen of the Milwaukee 14, John Dear, SJ, the Berrigan children, Brad Lyttle, Mike Giocondo of the Camden 28, and many more. A short program will introduce the book.

Born to a political family from Flint, Michigan, Rosalie Riegle has been drifting to the left ever since she met Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day in 1968. Prior to that, she was a typical Catholic woman, graduating from St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, marrying after a short career in retail, and birthing four daughters. She says Dorothy Day changed her life. “I became active in nonviolent resistance to the Vietnam War and helped to found the Saginaw Valley Peace Watch in Saginaw, Michigan, where I lived for forty years. Oh, those were the days! We were certain our vigils and rallies and visits to the draft board would make a difference, and eventually they did, as the mighty chorus of the antiwar movement helped to end a needless and devastating war. I wish I could regain the hope of those heady years.” Click here to read more…

You can order “Doing Time for Peace: Resistance, Family, and Community” on Amazon.

Sharing apple recipes and step-by-step directions for applesauce

As promised, here are a few resources that were shared during the weeks Friends worked together planning the Preserving Apples workshop, including recipes, storybooks, and step-by-step directions.

Applesauce 101
Download the step-by-step directions that walk through our workshop, complete with photos to show what things look like along the way.  Enjoy!

Danish Apple Cake
shared by Cathy Garra
This is a no-bake desert which depends on having good apple sauce. Best made the night before or on the morning of the day you plan to serve it.

Apple Cake
shared by Grayce Mesner
Remembered from a past Among Friends, this recipe is being shared by special request (and thanks to the recipe-keeping of Cathy Garra).

Rain Makes Applesauce
shared by Maurine Pile
Generations of Maurine’s family have read this children’s book, written in 1964 by Julian Scheer. She wrote PRC: ” I would like to recommend this book ; a favorite in my family.”

If you have any apple themed contributions, please consider adding them in the Comments section below. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, how might we prepare apples in celebration of our community? What apple stories might be shared?

Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living

Today I had the privilege of hearing WBEZ’s Jerome McDonnell speak live in-studio with climate scientist, Brenda Ekwurzel, author of “Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living” about ways we can reduce our carbon footprint.

Just about every decision we make, from what we eat to where we live, has an impact on the environment. This book challenges you to cut your carbon emissions 20 percent this year and gives you the information you need to succeed, helping you “sweat the right stuff” — the smartest choices you can make for the climate — with answers to dozens of questions about your carbon emissions, such as:

* Do books or e-readers cause more emissions?
* Is it worth washing clothes in cold water?
* Is buying organic cotton really a better option for the climate?

You can hear Jerome discuss these questions and more:

A peaceful approach to the upcoming election (book review)

John Gilpin has shared his thoughts about the new book Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.

Mariellen writes: “In his usual concise way, John summarizes many of the points of the book. I found especially helpful his summation of what people of good will can do to peacefully help us through this upcoming election.”

From the review

“The machinery by which American democracy operates is being hijacked by a tiny group of wealthy men. The process is far along, and American news reporting has almost entirely failed to raise the alarm.

Enter Greg Palast, investigative reporter extraordinaire, with Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps. In B&BB, Palast demonstrates he has the goods on the operation.”

About the book –
A close presidential election in November could well come down to contested states or even districts–an election decided by vote theft? It could happen this year. Based on Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s investigative reporting for Rolling Stone and BBC television, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps might be the most important book published this year–one that could save the election.

Click here to read John’s review and learn more about the book.