“Who are we to give up? I’m a black woman living in America. At any other point in America I would have been enslavable. I would have been Jim Crowed. I’m a Professor at Princeton University!

“Who am I to give up? How dare I give up and say ‘Oh, we can’t fix it, it can’t be done.’ When people overcame, when people who are my people – my grandmother, who was a domestic worker, my father who went to Jim Crow public schools…. How dare I give up? I feel like we just have too much privilege to be the ones to give up.”

– Melissa Harris-Lacewell, on Hurricane Katrina Recovery
Bill Moyers Journal, August 2007

Perhaps you have heard the story of Maher Arar. If you haven’t, here it is in a nutshell: Mr. Arar, a citizen and resident of Canada was grabbed up – basically kidnapped by the U.S. Government – in 2002 during a family vacation stopover at JFK Airport, and illegally sent off to be imprisoned and tortured in the Middle East for over a year. The notorious Syrian prison where Arar was held and brutally tortured for over 10 months is known as “The Grave”. Arar’s arrest was made based on false information, and Arar was given no opportunity to consult with a lawyer – told by our government that he had no rights whatsoever because he is not a U.S. citizen.

Since being returned to Canada in 2003, the Canadian government has cleared Arar of any wrongdoing, made a formal apology to him, admitted its complicity in Arar’s wrongful detainment, and awarded him over $10 million dollars. The U.S. Government has yet to admit its illegal actions, or even take Arar off the terrorist watchlist – which he should have never been on in the first place – even though the Canadian Government officially requested Arar be removed from this list in January 2007. Arar’s case against the U.S Government continues.

I’m writing about Mr. Arar because I am moved by the story of his suffering and survival, and disturbed by how little I’ve heard about Arar in mainstream media. And I am inspired by the ongoing efforts in pursuit of justice by Mr. Arar and his wife, Monia Mazigh. Were it not for the intense campaign of Mazigh to have Arar freed, he might still be imprisoned.

I first heard Mr. Arar’s story in 2006, and was reminded of Mr. Arar again when he was interviewed on Fresh Air recently. You can listen to the show here:
Canadian Citizen Imprisoned by U.S. Speaks Out

There have been a number of other excellent stories on NPR about Mr. Arar as well, which you can find and listen to by searching their website. You can find more info about Arar’s case on his website, as well as in an extensive Wikipedia entry on Extraordinary Rendition.

This is just one of many stories of illegal, unconstitutional actions taken by the current U.S. administration, and as citizens, I believe we all bear some responsibility for our government’s actions. So I sent this letter to Mr. Arar in October 2007, when members of the U.S. Congress also apologized to him, as he appeared before them to testify about his experiences:

Dear Mr. Arar,
I heard your story on several NPR programs in October of 2006, and was very moved hearing of the ordeal you and your family have endured. During an interview, you were asked about whether an apology from the US Government would help. As a citizen of the United States, I would like to apologize to you, knowing that an apology from this particular government will probably never be forthcoming. Though I am proud of my country, I am deeply ashamed of this government and its many inhumane and destructive actions. This government, which myself and many others believe was not legitimately elected, neither speaks nor acts on my behalf. And many, many of us are working to ensure that the people who did this to you will be removed from power. It is a challenge, but hopefully one which can be accomplished sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, I work for peace, most especially with my friends of many faiths in an interfaith peace group, where we work to educate each other and the public at large about the beauty of each of our religions, and the many common values we share. We work to support each other, and in particular to change the perception that Islam endorses violence and that Muslims are dangerous and should be feared.

What happened to you, I believe, is a direct result of the scapegoating and fear-mongering being used by this government to further its political goals. I pray that such injustice will pass away from our world, and that no one will ever have to go through something like this again.

I started writing this message in 2006 but never completed it. Then the other day I heard that you had testified before Congress recently, and remembered that I had not completed and sent this message to you. I hope that the apologies you received from members of Congress provided you with some small measure of comfort. I know nothing can erase the wrong that has been done to you and your family, or make up for your suffering.

I wish you peace and healing, and thank you for all you are doing to bring attention to these issues.

Peace and Love,
Laura Sue

PS I am sending this via e-mail because I wanted to send this apology to you with my personal contact info, so you would know it is coming from a real person and US citizen.

* Flute Fusion * from The Silver Nightingale

“Do not be preoccupied with killing the dinosaur. Rather, invent the gazelle.” – E.F. Schumaker

I am posting this information because this is a story everyone, especially everyone in the United States, should know, and because I greatly respect and support Maher Arar and Monia Mazigh’s persistent work – in the face of tremendous resistance from the current U.S. Government – to make sure that what happened to them does not happen to others.


“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
So much has been destroyed –
I cast my lot with those who, age after age,
Perversely, with no extraordinary power,
Reconstitute the world.”
– Adrienne Rich

RNC, Part 1: Be Careful What You Wish For

There are some spiritual and psychological schools of thought which suggest that what we wish for others is what we ourselves will manifest. This could even be considered the basis of The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So doing good unto others is ultimately enlightened self interest. And vice versa.

This came to mind as I watched the Republicans virtually cancel the first night of their National Convention, to avoid looking like a bunch of uncaring partiers should Hurricane Gustav turn out to do a lot of damage. And I could not help but remember a couple weeks earlier when Stuart Shepard of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family asked people to pray for “rain of Biblical proportions” the night of Sen. Obama’s big speech in an open air stadium. As it turned out, the weather for that event could not have been better if Hollywood itself had produced it.

But the Grand Old Partiers faced not one, but two major hurricanes happening during their convention, with more queuing up right behind. And with Gustav blowing right by New Orleans, this guaranteed pundits would be talking about Katrina a lot throughout several 24-hour news cycles… not to mention whether global warming is causing stronger, more devastating hurricanes.

I’m sure many of those at the RNC making pleas for donations to hurricane relief were very sincere in their concern, yet I found it impossible to view the curtailing of the first day’s convention program without a great deal of cynicism. Sorry y’all, nothing you do now is going to make up for what happened to New Orleans. If you really want to make amends, help rebuild New Orleans, restore the coastal wetlands that used to protect the Crescent City, and make the levees that are supposed to protect the city as strong as they should have been BEFORE Katrina was ever heard of – and no, the job is NOT done. Not even close. (Want to help? Visit my Help New Orleans Musicians pages.)

And what’s that? Hurricane Ike got huge again and is bearing down on Texas? Adopted home of Mr. Bush, not to mention quite a few evangelical groups, oil barons and a passel of Christians? I wonder if we’ll be hearing Pastor John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio (isn’t that in Texas?) saying afterwards that Hurricane Ike was God’s punishment for all those folks, like he did after Katrina. After all, Hurricane Ike showed up and headed straight for Texas right on the heels of Pres. Eisenhower’s granddaughter Susan speaking at the DNC, and very publicly leaving the Republican Party – that couldn’t be a coincidence, could it?!

Having been through a number of hurricanes myself, I would never, ever wish that experience on anyone, not even my worst enemy. And one would hope that anyone who called themselves a Christian wouldn’t either. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said: “Love your enemy”? I don’t want to jump to any premature conclusions, but it seems to me that some Christians aren’t practicing that precept quite as thoroughly as others. So I’m not saying the folks in Texas deserve to be walloped by Ike. I’m just saying: Be careful what you wish for. Or pray for.

Some commentators have concluded that all this shows that God supports Obama for President. But I say unto those praying for God to smite the Democrats: God has nothing to do with it. You brought this on yourself.

~ ~ ~

RNC, Part 2: Best RNC Coverage

The Daily Show, intercutting Fred Thompson’s convention speech with Foghorn Leghorn, and Joe Lieberman’s with Droopy Dog. The resemblances are uncanny! Whoever came up with this totally rocks!

~ ~ ~

RNC, Part 3: I was astonished to hear Heart’s “Barracuda” being played during the end-of-convention aerial balloon bombardment – for two reasons:

1. I knew Heart would never, ever give permission for this bunch to use their music.
2. The lyrics accompanying shots of the candidates and their voluminous families were not exactly flattering, and I couldn’t figure out why this music was even being used – didn’t anyone listen to the song before choosing it? In fact I found a lot of the music played during the RNC to be rather mystifying.

I immediately went to my computer and discovered that Palin’s sports nickname was Barracuda. And that Ann and Nancy Wilson had, before the convention, issued a cease and desist order to the Republicans to stop using their song – and after the RNC continued to use it, they released the following statement:

“Sarah Palin’s views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song ‘Barracuda’ no longer be used to promote her image. The song ‘Barracuda’ was written in the late 70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. (The ‘barracuda’ represented the business.) While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there’s irony in Republican strategists’ choice to make use of it there.”

and a few other choice words….

~ ~ ~

RNC, Part 4: Oh, and one more thing: Hurricane Gustav provided just the excuse Bush and Cheney needed to stay away from the RNC. So Bush addressed the convention from the White House, making a clearly partisan political speech in support of a campaign candidate. Isn’t it against the law to use the White House for political campaigning? I’m not hearing any commentators talk about this, but I’m sure I saw something about it on The West Wing.

I’m excited to announce that I have a new article titled “How To Be Creative” in the September 2008 issue of Natural Awakenings – Broward County, South Florida edition. The theme this month is Creativity, and there are lots of other interesting articles in this issue as well. You can read the print version, available at numerous healthy locations around South Florida, as well as the online version here: Natural Awakenings – where you’ll also hear one of my original flute compositions – “Oriental Expression” – from my CD Sarabande – Solo Flute Meditations, accompanying the beautiful painting of a flautist on the magazine’s cover.

If you’re wondering who that is in the snapshot accompanying the article, it’s my big sister Eleanor and myself getting creative!

Best line of the Democratic National Convention, delivered by Barney Smith, a blue collar worker in a red and white checked shirt sporting a small blue Obama button, in front of 84,000 people at Invesco Field, and 38 million watching on TV. Appearing unaccustomed to public speaking, Smith spoke plainly about growing up in the heartland, following in his father’s footsteps – raising a family and working a good manufacturing job at an RCA plant – until his job was outsourced in 2004, and he got 90 days severance pay after working there for 31 years… followed by 13 months of unemployment:

“For most of my life I was a proud Republican – but not any more…. The Republicans talk about putting country first, but tell that to Marion, Indiana. They sent my job overseas. America can’t stand more of the same.

“We need a President who puts Barney Smith before Smith Barney!”

– Barney Smith, 28 August 2008 – Democratic Convention, Denver, Colorado

“A free spirit, huh? Well, you know I’ve been called that. But you know there’s no point in setting a spirit free if it just runs and hides once it’s sprung from the box. Now, too many free spirits confuse freedom with mere chaos. The fact is, you can’t lose focus. You can’t avoid the real world. A truly free spirit seizes their time and works like a field mule right around the clock to try to haul all the less free souls to someplace better. And this is the true job of the Artist, the Seer, and yes, even the Princess. Temptation is just the voice that whispers: ‘Don’t bother.’ Well here’s the word: Bother. Do it. Reach!

– Dennis Hopper, Concert for Diana, 1 July 2007

Or: The Green, Green Groceries of Home

So Wednesday night I’m chillin’, watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and, as per usual, Keith is talking about John McCain’s latest gaffe, and all of a sudden, he says: “In front of the cheese case at the King’s Supermarket at the Westgate Mall in Bethlehem, Pa, the Senator tried to clear up any confusion….” etc. etc. And I sit bolt upright, look at the screen, and sure enough, there’s McCain in the local supermarket right near my parents’ house!

This is the grocery store I drag my father to any time I need ice cream or potato chips or seltzer or whatever else I’m craving that my parents don’t tend to keep in the house. I know this store and the Westgate Mall pretty well. It’s barely a mall by today’s standards, just a little strip mall. The supermarket is not that super either, it just happens to be the closest one. When I go with my stepmom to do a real grocery shopping, we always hit the Wegmans that’s a lot bigger and much better, but a little farther away. Though it’s not exactly small, King’s is much more of a Bethlehem small-town grocery store, while Wegman’s is a megastore that makes its own sushi, espresso and focaccia inhouse – not the kind of store I grew up with, or ever expect to see when I visit Bethlehem, though it’s been open for several years now.

I still remember Schoenen’s, the little grocery store I went to with my mom a thousand times – a family business, much smaller and humbler – off the main streets in a little neighborhood on the way to my high school. I remember its little parking lot – maybe 20 spaces – along the side of the store, and the big church and associated church school across the street on two sides of the store. I never knew anyone who went to that church, and its little plaid-skirted students always looked very foreign to me; but my mom always ran into people she knew at Schoenen’s, and always chatted with them – sometimes a little longer than I would have liked. That’s probably why I remember the outside of the store better than the inside, because that’s usually where I was while she was chatting. She was friendly like that.

Schoenen’s is probably long gone now. Since my mom passed away, and my dad remarried and moved with the family to a new home or two, this King’s store has been my parents’ neighborhood grocery for many years. And seeing this little bit of home on the national news really got me. The same thing happens when I see the inevitable footage of Syracuse snow every winter on the news, or deco hotels I recognize from around town on old episodes of Miami Vice, and most especially when I see footage of New Orleans. I remember after Katrina seeing a particularly wrenching photo of the devastated St. Roch Market – I always used to drive crosstown to buy crawfish there – theirs was the best!

What is it about the places we’ve lived that even a glimpse of a grocery store there can so stir these feelings of yearning, longing and general tugging at the heart? I don’t have any brilliant or profound insights here, I’m just noticing how much these little sightings affect me, and wondering…. No doubt others have written voluminously on this subject, so maybe I’ll just read some of what’s already been written, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel here.

Anyway, back to Bethlehem: I’m sure anyone who watched the news at all this week saw McCain in front of the cheese, and I must admit there was a certain amount of snarkiness among the media towards the cheese. And I must also admit that I felt a certain amount of defensiveness on behalf of my hometown cheese. What did the cheese do? Did anyone ask the cheese if it wanted to be on the national news? I don’t think so! It was just an innocent bystander!

Days later, everyone in the media is still talking about McCain and the cheese, for example this from Olbermann last night:

“Rule #1: Always stay away from the cheese.”

I emailed my father to let my folks know about their grocery store’s fifteen minutes of fame, and he wrote back:

“Yes, I was at Weiss-Kings and the secret service arrested me because they heard me say I am voting for Al Obama. Could U send 25K for my bail? Otherwise everything is OK.”

My father has also determined that Obama is actually Irish: i.e. O’Bama.

While McCain has been touring a variety of food-related establishments this week, Obama has – well, if you’re breathing, you know where he’s been this week. But in all the coverage, I haven’t heard anyone mention how cute Obama looked in a yarmulke. (Is there a rhyme in there? Obama’s Yarmulke? Maybe Adam Sandler will write a song.) (Yeah, I know, cheesy).

So thanks Keith, for being the only commentator to be so specific about the location of the cheese, and making the campaign just a little more personal for me.

The Campaign Gets Personal – Episode 2

From my good friend and colleague, Annie Wenz – kayaking gypsy shaman folk nurse!

Hello Beautifuls!

I thought I’d send this out in case maybe just maybe some of you have in your hearts &/or pocketbooks to contribute to an absolutely wonderful cause/song camp for teens age 12-18, sponsored by “Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Texas & Texas Folk Music Foundation” (Our friends at The Kerrville Folk Festival)

The camp is SUCH an AMAZING gift! Many of these kids have at least 1 parent in Iraq, & most of them come from incredibly difficult situations. Music has been the perfect tool for bringing them together, building their self esteem, teaching them leadership skills & giving them hope!

They are actually the most diverse group I’ve ever worked with. (this will be my 3rd year teaching) They arrive from various areas around Texas not knowing each other, keeping to themselves, initially, shy insecure & out of their element. Within 24 hours, they stand arm in arm, cheering each other on, laughing, crying, sharing the joy of music & art. They are totally transformed.

Cost of sponsoring 1 teen is just $50 (but even part of that would be a huge help) Also if anyone out there just won the lottery, we are also in need of a “food sponsor”- that will cost $1500. (if not, we’ll just feed them bread & water & maybe some wild grapes & armadillos from the ranch 😉 )

This years music instructors are myself; Tom Prasada Rao; Donna & Kelly of “Still on the Hill” & Roy Wooten of Bela Fleck; Texas artists Frank Meyer & Bill Oliver, & Poetry instructors Tim Mason and Jena Gessaman.

It is SUCH an honor to share music with these kids. I know we are making a huge difference in their lives as we pass the torch of music & community.

If you are at all able to donate even a bit, please contact:

Jon F. Charles (Camp Director)
304 W. Ave B
Killeen, Texas 76541
(254) 699-5808 Ext. 106
(512) 525-9037 Cell
Deputy Chief Professional Officer
Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Texas

or Dalis Allen

Annie Wenz
Player of Harleys/Guitar/Piano/Drums/Indigenous Flutes

Stay tuned to this category, I will be posting more opportunities to do good in the world, and inspiring stories about people doing good deeds (unless those end up in my Inspiration Category! 😀)

Some Thoughts for Independence Day

“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?” – Pablo Casals

“I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” – Abraham Lincoln

“We’re not made by God to mass kill one another… and that’s backed up by the Gospel. Lying and war are always associated. Pay attention to war-makers when they try to defend their current war… if they move their lips they’re lying.” – Philip Berrigan

“War is obsolete. We are not here to fight something or tear something down. We are here to be the example of what is possible. Any sane individual will tell you that violence is not the way.” – Buckminster Fuller

“Do not be preoccupied with killing the dinosaur. Rather, invent the gazelle.” – E.F. Schumaker

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela

“When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive.” – Alan Paton

“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
So much has been destroyed –
I cast my lot with those who, age after age,
Perversely, with no extraordinary power,
Reconstitute the world.”
– Adrienne Rich

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” – Martin Luther

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

“Never give up, and never under any circumstances, no matter what, never face the facts.” – Ruth Gordon

“I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“What would statesmen do for fun, if all at once the world was one?” – The King, The Little Prince – Antonie de Saint Exupéry

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Walt Kelly, Pogo

Happy July 4th Everyone! Let Freedom Ring!

Here’s the first significant thing I’ve seen on Saturday Night Live in quite a while:

Tina Fey’s Bitch Manifesto – i.e. her commentary on Hillary Clinton during the Women’s News segment of Weekend Update, delivered while Tina hosted the show on February 23, 2008.

Here’s the heart of it:

Tina: Maybe what bothers me the most is that people say that Hillary is a bitch. Let me say something about that: Yeah! She is! And so am I! And so is this one! (indicating Amy Poehler)
Amy: Yeah, deal with it!
Tina: You know what? Bitches get stuff done. That’s why Catholic schools use nuns as teachers and not priests. Those nuns are mean old clans, and they sleep on cots, and they’re allowed to hit you. And at the end of the school year you hated those bitches. But you knew the capitol of Vermont. Well I’m saying: It’s not too late, Texas and Ohio, get on board! Bitch is the new Black!

You can see this shining moment again this Saturday, June 21, when the show is rebroadcast, or no doubt on YouTube. It was good to see Tina Fey on SNL again – the show’s writing has really deteriorated again since she departed for 30 Rock, leaving her Head Writer duties in less capable hands.

In case you’re not familiar with the original BITCH Manifesto, it’s a brilliant piece of feminist scholarship written by Joreen (aka Jo Freeman) in 1968.

Its central theme is that women are labelled negatively, and called names like Bitch when we are assertive, ambitious, strong, outspoken, persistent, and other qualities and actions which, when men exhibit them, are called assertive, strong, honest, brave etc. In the decades since The BITCH Manifesto was first published, this analysis has become widespread and commonly understood, but at the time it was revolutionary – and just the validation I needed to understand and feel better about myself as a generally strong, assertive, outspoken woman. I first read The BITCH Manifesto in the early 1970’s, and it had a HUGE impact on me. I have explained its thesis to others, and utilized its insight and analysis myself countless times since then.

So it was great to see Tina Fey applying this foundational feminist wisdom to the sexism we saw still alive (if not well) during Hillary Clinton’s very bitchy – I mean incredibly strong – presidential run.

And although Hillary was not my first choice among the Democratic candidates (and neither was Barack), since she left the race, I have really missed hearing a strong woman’s voice in the Presidential election campaign….

I find it comforting to remember that Hillary was by far not the first, and will surely not be the last woman to run for President. If you want to feel more encouraged that a woman WILL be President someday, here’s another great article by Jo Freeman: The Women Who Ran For President

Great Words from Great Wordsmiths

“I am the strings, and the Supreme is the musician.” - Carlos Santana

“What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner.” - Collette

“I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.” - Rabindranath Tagore

“A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” - Maya Angelou
September 2021