Wednesday, May 30, 2012

KENYA ON MY MIND

I know, "out standing in his field," right?

Look closely and you'll see zebra, gazelle, stork, and other wildlife just behind me. There's also a herd of cape buffalo in grazing by the lake.  This is Lake Nakuru in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya.  It's just one of the places our 600-mile bicycle ride took us in May.

I blogged the two-week adventure at http://BikeKenya2012.blogspot.com. I've shared a number of personal reflections at that site. Also, more than 200 photos of the event can be viewed on Flickr at this link.

Bike Kenya 2012 was my third international cause-related cycling experience.  This time, I led the team, a group of experienced and novice, younger and older riders.  We had a great time together and with our Kenyan hosts.  With the support of lots of friends, we've thus far raised about $30,000 for needed high school in Eldoret. Our goal is $40,000, so we're still sharing the story.  I hope to reach the goal by summer's end.

I hope to continue facilitating cause-related international cycling excursions. Where next?  I don't know.  Thus far, we've been invited to cycle in India, Vietnam and Kenya to raise funds for a hospital, to get children sponsored for their education and to get a high school built.  I suppose I'll wait for an invitation, consider the cause, an evaluate the logistics.

Until then, I'm reminiscing with gratitude about what we saw and experienced in Kenya.  I keep saying no place can grab my heart like India. Then we traveled in Vietnam.  Then we rode through Kenya.  Go figure.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

STONE BY STONE

I recently came across this reflection by Alice Walker.  It's from her book Everything We Love Can Be Saved.  I think it is significant.

"It has become a common feeling, I believe, as we have watched our heroes falling over the years, that our own small stone of activism, which might not seem to measure up to the rugged boulders of heroism we have so admired, is a paltry offering toward the building of an edifice of hope.  Many who believe this choose to withhold their offerings out of shame.  This is the tragedy of our world.  For we can do nothing substantial toward changing the course on the planet, a destructive one, without rousing ourselves, individual by individual, and bring our small, imperfect stones to the pile."

Few of us may ever qualify as rugged boulders of heroism.  Photos of Gandhi hang on my office wall. The words and actions of Martin Luther King, Jr. are never too far from my consciousness.  Books by activists and educators and faith-formed writers and witnesses who inspire me line my nearby bookshelf: Bonhoeffer, Romero, Mother Teresa, Tutu, Buechner, Manning, McKnight, Paton, Yoder, Snyder, Sider, Wallis, Wesley.  These are, to me, rugged boulders of heroism. They inspire me, but whatever I am or do pales in comparison.

Alice points out, however, how important it is for each us to add our stone--however small or rough or lightweight or incomplete or conflicted or seemingly insignificant--to the pile.

The pile becomes the foundation for the edifice hope.  Whether or not we make our own small resistances in the face of mass capitulation, lift our own broken voices amid deadly silence and sameness, and make our own creative contribution amid corporate and consumer co-optation is the difference in hope or despair for others, for the world and for ourselves.

So, whether or not you think what you have to say or do will make much difference, say it anyway, do it anyway. Shake off the shame that shallow comparisons invariably, deceptively foment.  We all need your voice, your action.

Pick up the stone and heave it onto the pile.  That's how hope happens.

Monday, May 28, 2012

WHAT WE DON'T TALK ABOUT ON MEMORIAL DAY

Solomon says we should challenge the 'methodical deception' that mythologizes war brutality on all sides

WAR MADE EASY. Norman Solomon points out, in an article titled "The Silent Curse of Memorial Day," that, amid the patriotism of this holiday, no one dares mention the downside or duplicity of decisions that often lead America into the wars where its young people die. Solomon is author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits are Spinning Us to Death. A few excerpts from Solomon's article:

IS GOD MADE TO BLESS DEATH? "In the truncated media universe of Memorial Day, the act of remembering bypasses any history that indicates an American war was not inevitable and unavoidable. The populace is made to understand that God and nature must be death dealers. We are encouraged to extol those who bravely gave their lives and took the lives of others -- but not confront those, high in the U.S. government's executive and legislative branches, who cravenly gave their fervent blessings to gratuitous carnage..."

FALSE PRETENSES, REPEATED DECEIT. "But during the last half century -- when, for days or months or many years, U.S. troops and planes assaulted the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq again -- the rationales from the White House were always based on major falsehoods, avidly promoted by the U.S. mass media. In the light of real history, the U.S. soldiers who are honored each Memorial Day were pawns of methodical deception. Media spin and the edicts of authorities induced them to kill "enemy" combatants and civilians, for whom Pentagon buglers have never played a single mournful note..."

MEMORY WITH INTEGRITY. "Memory with integrity should inform our understanding, on Memorial Day and every day. If we remember the Americans who were killed but forget the people they killed -- if we remain silent while media scripts exclude crucial aspects of history that demolish Washington's claims of high moral ground -- the propaganda system for war can remain intact. When journalists defer to that silence, they're part of the deadly problem."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

CLARIFYING MEMORIAL DAY

Distinguishing between honoring our war dead and celebrating militarism is critical

This was published as a "Letter to the Editor" in the Friday, May 28, 2010 edition of the Indianapolis Star.

I love how Indianapolis pulls out all the stops on Memorial Day weekend.  With the eyes of the world on our city on Sunday, there's plenty of pageantry and patriotic fervor to spread around.  No city has a greater responsibility, then, to accurately frame what Memorial Day honors.

As it is currently observed, however, the holiday appears to be mostly a celebration of American military prowess.  Military might is prominent at all our big events, from military bands and troops marching in parade to the latest military hardware proudly on display to a bone-rattling fly-over of military jets at the singing of our national anthem before the race begins.


Of all places, the praise of militarism is included and embedded in official public prayers offered at numerous memorial and spectator events. Ordained ministers of the Gospel, who should know better, routinely give thanks for and invoke God's blessing carte blanche on America's war machine. Do they do this sincerely?  Because they think it's expected?  Because they're mimicking others?  Have they even begun to think the implications through?

God, guns, and guts will together be praised.  In the eyes of our youth, a distinct and misleading impression will form: Memorial Day is about recognizing military might and honoring those who fight for us.  Secondary assumptions will be implanted: This is the primary way we preserve our freedoms and ensure democracy.  This is the way it's always been.  And this is the way it always must be.

But the intention of Memorial Day is to honor all who died in America’s wars, not to celebrate militarism or bless war.  It’s clear from the inception of “Decoration Day” in 1868 by General John Logan and its post-WWI promotion by Ms. Moina Michael that the focus was to honor our war dead, particularly by decorating their graves and graciously supporting the many widows and orphans war leaves in its wake.

Though routinely disregarded, the distinction between memorializing our war dead and celebrating militarism is critical.  Instead letting the holiday be co-opted to perpetuate militarism, let us resolutely focus on honoring those who have given their lives in our nation’s conflicts.  Reverently consider the cost of even one soldier’s life and its impact in lost potential, relationships, creativity, and community contribution over a generation.

This Memorial Day is an opportunity to consider: given the cost in these precious lives, we must find a better way, not just repeat the past again and again.  War--and those whose lives are snuffed out or haunted by it--gives us every indication that we have not yet explored or employed our best intellectual, spiritual and material resources for preventing or addressing conflicts.  The Memorial Day holiday affords us an opportunity to contemplate how far we have to go as a nation--and as a human family--in transforming our means of defending liberty, advancing democracy, and procuring justice for all.


In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

BACK FROM KENYA

Trying to get my head and heart together back in Indy after two weeks in Kenya


The Great Rift Valley takes my breath away even today. This was the
backdrop of much of our 600-mile cycling tour of Kenya this month.

It's been a whirlwind of a month, so far; like no May I've ever experienced. I return from two weeks of riding a bicycle through Kenya and move right into the last week of May in Indianapolis--always a week packed full of compelling opportunities surrounding the Indianapolis 500, a week in which our city shines.

While I will take in Indy's festivities, my mind and emotions are still processing what I experienced in Africa. The juxtaposition of these two settings--the slow, wild, natural life and beauty of the Great Rift Valley and the fast, intense, sophisticated pageantry and technology of the Indianapolis 500--could make for some interesting connections and insights over the next week or so.

One day I'm pedaling along roadways with goats, donkeys and cattle standing nearby and children yelling "Jambo!" to get my attention and hilly terrain testing whatever stamina and power I have left in my legs and everything is advertised and spoken in Swahili--all but incomprehensible to me. The next day I'm landing in Chicago and speeding along a 12-lane interstate highway and stopping at a sleek fast-food franchise and passing endless fields of hybrid corn and setting my baggage down on the floor of a place I call home. One day I'm walking along a potholed street with matatu cronies calling out for my attention and engulfed in the smell of wood-fired cooking and garbage and mud. The next day I'm inside my well-designed, manicured neighborhood and taking in the smell of late-spring flowers and the visual impact of a slowly-setting sun through the leaves of our many backyard trees.

Atop the highest point in Hell's Gate National Park near
Naivasha. We rode our bikes with Zebra and Giraffe
crossing the road right in front of us and with warthogs,
gazelle, and impala grazing leisurely all around. 
A few miles away, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a hub of activity in anticipation of Sunday's annual extravaganza--"the greatest spectacle in racing." The highest technology in automobile engineering is on display and will be on the line as 33 Indy cars prepare to sail around the 2.5-mile oval at 220+ mph in front of 250,000 spectators.  But my mind is thousands of miles from this reality at the moment.  I am thinking of the young men I saw running along the side of the road near Eldoret--those elite runners from the Kalenjin tribe who have dominated international long-distance running for the past 30 years.  Simplicity. Singularity. Prowess. Patience. Power. Perseverance.

Orientation. Disorientation. Reorientation. My head and heart are spinning a bit in these few hours and days back in Indianapolis from Kenya. For all the swirl of emotions and clash of cultures that tug at my heart, I hope the agitation continues for quite some time. I appreciate and somewhat enjoy the creative mix.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

ON OUR WAY ON BICYCLES IN KENYA

I take a few minutes in the Kenyan highlands to update friends and
supporters at home on the progress of Bike Kenya 2012. Amazing:
in the heart of rural Kenya and immediately connected globally.
We are well on our way on bicycles in Kenya. This two-week, 600-mile journey has thus far taken us from Nairobi into the Great Rift Valley and on to the Kenyan highlands--a lush area defined by tea plantations.

Three full days of cycling are behind us. They have been defined by long and sometimes steep climbs.  No one said this would be easy.  But whatever difficulty is out-shined by the beauty we see in the land and the people we encounter.

There is much to reflect on, but time with the Internet is limited.  As the days go by I will share some here.  But I encourage you to check our Bike Kenya 2012 blog daily for photos and stories.