Saturday, September 30, 2006

Democracy and Question 1

With just a few weeks to go until the November election, I find myself troubled by one item on the Rhode Island ballot. There on TV is the Narragansett Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas once again urging me to vote Yes on Question 1 . Yes for a casino in West Warwick as an act of simple fairness to the Narragansetts, and an economic boon to the state.

Sounds logical, generous even. Be kind to Indians: Vote Yes. By this logic it would seem to be a no-brainer. So why am I troubled?

One reason is that I’ve already answered this question, very firmly, back in 1994 when the very same Harrah’s that is behind this effort attempted to bring a casino to my town, West Greenwich.

The strange thing was, they had targeted an available piece of property close to Route 95 that was also in the middle of the Exeter-West Greenwich schools. School buses would be driving by the casino, casino traffic would be driving by the schools. The casino would even be within walking distance of the schools.

The promotional effort, while substantial, was nowhere near as slick as this year’s version. I recall a special Town meeting, where residents were invited to hear the Harrah’s sales talk. There would be an opportunity to ask questions.

The silk-suited men strode confidently back and forth across the stage, stressing the good points for the town. Money for the schools, lower taxes, economic boon. But as I watched them strut back and forth, I was struck by the contrast between these silk-suited ones and the country clothing – and viewpoint – of the audience.

Then too, I thought of our town hall. I had been to enough meetings there to know how difficult democracy is. We had a part-time lawyer, a good man, but how could he ever be a match to the bottomless fleet of lawyers an entity like Harrah’s could project? If we didn’t like what was happening to our town, how could we ever protect it?

Democracy is hard. You have to show up for it, again and again. It’s hard in Iraq as we see on the news. It’s hard in Rhode Island too. Citizens can never take democracy for granted. It is more than a right, more than a privilege. It is a sacred duty.

It means being informed. It means asking questions. It means always looking for the common good, for the right solution. The solution that is a blessing to everyone.

I went home from that meeting and made a sign and stuck it to a tree by my driveway. In big letters it said NO-CASI-NO. I still have it in the shed.

I think the same argument can be made today. I was even thinking that if Harrah’s loves the Narragansetts so much, why don’t they simply donate the dollars they are spending on TV advertising to a scholarship fund for the tribe? Of course we know why. For Harrah’s it is not about the tribe, it is about all the money they are going to make from Rhode Islanders.

There are industries that we should be engaged in that would be both a safeguard and a boon to our state. They include solar, wind, and the emerging energy technologies. We could be mining ocean currents for energy, developing ways to heat our homes and businesses without relying on fossil and nuclear fuels.

These are the technologies and industries of the future. Given the uncertainties in the Middle East, we can be sure these initiatives are way overdue. There may come a time when our very survival depends on them.

I have no problem with people gambling for a little entertainment. It happens in ordinary conversation, men raising the stakes a bit to see who might win. I suspect if we were reduced to playing stick games that an element of luck and daring would endure as part of human nature. Every business startup is a chance at something. Every dream launched.

But let’s not gamble with this. Our future, our government, the control of our towns and cities is in our hands. We choose the direction our lives will take and we choose the future too. Let’s build a future we can be proud of. Let us launch the technologies and industries that will really bless the generations to come.

Gail Murray

Station Nightclub Healing

As I watched the news today, I saw courtroom scenes of families telling how the fire had impacted and damaged their lives. I saw their furious sense of an unjust verdict. I was saddened that this wound is still festering: over three and a half years later, still causing such pain to the survivors.

A while later, I happened to drive by the scene of the fire, now a semi-permanent shrine, with crosses and flowers to mark the victims. A TV van was there, interviewing families, who apparently had gathered in response to the courtroom drama.

How can these families find healing?

I thought too of the tens of thousands of Iraqi families that have suffered similar loss as a result of the war we have started and continue to provoke. How can those families find healing, even years after the fighting has stopped?

Some losses are so hard that we cannot contain them as we are, but must allow a transformation of love to occur in our hearts, in order to grow beyond the pain. Or else we break, or lead lives so dulled by pain that we barely live at all.

Literally, we must take the pain and do something good with it. Something so good that with it we can honor the memory of the one who was lost. Something that brings new life or meaning to another, given without hope of reward except the life-giving impulse itself.

There may be families who have found this healing. I would hope we could find these ones and tell their stories too.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Common Sense Evangelist - poem

I am a common sense evangelist,
my church is everywhere:
by the side of the road,
in a traffic jam,
a cup of coffee wings a prayer.

Trying to make some sense of jail
or hanging over the windward rail,
I'm looking for God, nothing less will do:
Have you seen Him?
Do you know Her?
I'll spend some time with you.

gg murray

Monday, September 04, 2006

The 95% Solution

I doubt if Bush can be 'made' to do the right thing with Iraq or anything else. In fact, it's probably a waste of time, like beating a dead horse. Plus it keeps the focus on the bad stuff. Very discouraging. Gives people the feeling we're in a downward spiral and can't do anything right.

Instead, I think we need to rouse ourselves from the spell of his campaign of Fear-with-a-capital-F and get focused on the good things America can be. It's a vision thing. If we can think of it, we can do it. If we stay focused on it in a hopeful and positive way, it will happen faster.

I think the biggest mistake Americans can make is to be all the time reacting to Bush and his cronies. Enough already. Spend 5% of the time pointing out what is broken, and 95% of time and speech and imagination on bringing the much better thing to life.

People will hear the call. Everyone wants a future worth living for. Paint it so we can smell it, feel it, taste it. Remember how we felt when JFK was President? I even felt it with Clinton. Much more hopeful times. It feels like you can be anything, like the future is wide open and there for the taking. There is a generosity towards other people, a welcoming of immigrants, a hand up to those who are reaching for something better.

What's at stake for me is a positive future, real representation, honest debate, an America worth living for. Speeches are often full of things that are worth fighting for, but how about things that are worth living for?

I think of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, how that empowered so many people to step up and claim that future. The work will never be done, but we can all have a meaningful part in making good things come to be. People need to be reminded of this, of how important every single one of us is. How much it matters how we treat our families, our neighbors, our jobs.

I think that is the spirit that will move America through this challenging time.

Gail Murray 9/4/06
with thanks to Carl Sheeler for stirring me to clarify these ideas

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Rhode Island voting thoughts

What’s a Rhode Island voter to do? The September 12 primary is coming up, and my heart is tugged in different directions.

Which primary ballot to choose, since I can only choose one: Democrat or Republican? If I could, I would vote in both primaries, because there are good people in both parties.

Observing the Republican Senate Chafee-Laffey contest, there is no contest as far as I am concerned. I love Lincoln Chafee. I am proud of his courageous choices in vote after vote in the Senate. He is an example of the noblest type of Republican, with a conscience for the environment, for choice, and for integrity in our dealings with other nations. Chafee would never have got us into this war.

In the Democratic Senate Whitehouse-Sheeler contest, the choice is more difficult. Conventional wisdom gives the contest to Whitehouse as the experienced Rhode Island politician. But my heart is with Carl Sheeler, a businessman and former marine, who since last year has had the balls to call very publicly for impeachment and for serious disengagement from the war. I long for this kind of directness in my public officials.

Also there is the matter of Whitehouse’s relutance to debate Sheeler. I think I deserve a debate, and this makes me wonder what else he would be unwilling to discuss. On that point alone, Sheeler gets my vote.

Thanks to the League of Women Voters, last week Sheeler and Whitehouse finally did get a half hour debate - if you could call it that - with a third candidate Christopher Young. Whitehouse is certainly the more polished and experienced politician, with carefully crafted replies. Sheeler is coming from a different place entirely - straight talker, identifying with working people, understanding the military experience, not taking a single vote for granted.

Then there is the District 2 Democratic primary contest between Congressman Jim Langevin and his challenger Jennifer Lawless. True, Lawless is an unusual name for a lawmaker, but what a vibrant campaign she has run! She has walked all over her district, meeting voters face-to-face. She even called me - a stranger - on the phone one time, to ask for my support. When does that ever happen?

Lawless teaches Political Science at Brown and is no dummy when it comes to citizen rights and responsibilities. She is pro-choice, anti-war, and for universal health care coverage. Also, it seems to me that Langevin votes more like a Bush Republican than a Democrat. Although he is a good man, I suspect he is just too cautious for the times we are living in.

Finally there is the matter of the balance of power in the US Congress. I fault the Republicans for getting us into war, not protecting our rights as citizens, making us poorer as a nation and certainly less safe. If there are more Republican than Democrat senators and representatives, we will have more going along with the Bush direction. If the balance in Congress shifts in favor of the Democrats, there is hope for a change.

Since I have to choose between a Republican and a Democrat ballot at the moment I step up to vote, with sincere regret for Chafee, I am intending to choose the Democrat ballot and vote for Sheeler and Lawless. To me they represent fresh and courageous voices for change in the direction that matters to me. And I am so ready for a change.

Gail Murray

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Rising Tide

A rising tide lifts all boats.

That’s the saying that comes to mind as I ponder this morning’s passage in the newest Abraham book, The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent [1].

I do indeed want to rise, in my whole being, like the tide. I not only want to leave behind this painful shoulder, but any thoughts of limitation, any habitual resistance to Love’s beautiful energy flowing to me and as me. Spirit becoming flesh, consciously maintaining my awareness of this divine ongoing action. [2]

If I forget the shoulder for a while and turn my thoughts to the allness of Love, the nourishment of Spirit, the steadfastness of divine Principle, I can feel my way to a much better platform of creation.

Let me try the steps of the Focus Wheel [3] exercise here:

* I have made this emotional/spiritual journey many times before, so I know it can be done.
* It is not about any particular pain or limitation, but about opening my mind and heart to the allness of Love – in me, as me, and as all the circumstances vibrating around me.
* It is more about being childlike than intellectually astute. I can be childlike. Just the thought of that brings a smile.
* With childlike trust, stepping forward into something unknown – that turns out to be as familiar as the arms of my mother.
* At every turn today, I can be that child, turning to the arms of my divine Father-Mother Love.
* In those arms there is comfort and relief of every fear. There is provision of every need. “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.” [4] Why? Because divine Love is what it is – eternally – for me and everyone.
* Even right now, with these baby steps, I feel the pain lessening, and a rising tide of hope beginning to stir.
* I want to be the full and vibrant expression of that rising tide.
* I want to be rich with laughter, irreverent with mesmerism and fear, constant in awareness of the beautiful Source from which I flow.
* I want to grow skillful at pivoting, at bringing myself to this awareness, wherein all that is good may be found.
* This is the ultimate treasure hunt – to look within, to consciously link up with Source, and ride the tide to the next wonderful awareness.
* And the next one after that, in a journey of discovery and delicious anticipation.

Amen. That was both a prayer and a conscious moving of thought to a new platform of awareness. I can feel the results already, a distinct lessening of pain, a sense of happy discovery, the conscious companionship with Love.

Gail Murray 9/1/06

[1] The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent by Esther and Jerry Hicks, Hay House, Carlsbad CA, 2006.
[2] From my training in Christian Science, I often refer to God by the capitalized synonyms defined by Mary Baker Eddy in her lifework, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 465. The synonyms are: Love, Truth, Life, Spirit, Soul, Mind, Principle.
[3] The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent, Focus Wheel exercise, p. 173-181.
[4] Science and Health, p. 494.