One Bold Step

Everyone talks a great game about changing the world, or even just their lives, but courage, while free, comes with one price: action. I want to share my bold step with you, and, if you write to me with your bold step, and it's timely, I'll post it on my site every couple of weeks, if not more often.

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Location: Phoenix, Arizona, United States

Director of Research for (aka: The Foundation Foundation). Formerly with Air America Radio Phoenix ("Froggy Went A Marchin..."). Sang the National Anthem at a rally in Phoenix with Cindy Sheehan. Loves: chocolate, flowers, perfume (my grandmother), great music, politics, and a whole-hearted appreciation of the truth (Are there really "conspiracy theories" or do we need more FOIAs?). Seeker of justice and agent for change.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

What's in a paperclip?

A paperclip is normally thought of as an incendiary device in office work. It is not something that engenders discussion of serious issues. When it comes to memories that are slowly becoming abstract with the passing of time, however, such an object suddenly becomes monumental in meaning and in proportion.

This happened to me recently when I discovered "The Paperclip Project." Now, this isn't the most timely article on the subject, as PBS has already aired the documentary on it more than once, but I think it deserves attention anew. It means a lot to me because it's the sort of project that I could never have conceived of as a young Jewish girl in northern Ohio, surrounded by mostly Catholics and Methodists in a town of over 6,000. It also has meaning because it does what words, and often books, alone, cannot do: it tears down biases simply with its presence. It reminds me that who I am is important because I am here, and it is a great lesson for all of us: who we are and what we do matters, irrespective of our stature in life or our physical worth to society.

On the day that now marks the passing of one of our great civil rights leaders, Coretta Scott King, this project seems all the more important. If you have followed my posts up to this point, you understand that I have a lot to say and that I do my best to bring it to you on a consistent basis. Now, with this post, you have an idea of my motivations springing to life. Please keep in mind that this occurred in a town where there were no Jews living, probably not any other diverse population, either. You can see for yourselves how amazing this is.

And now, the main, very bold, story, as described by someone with a beautiful, down home view of the project.

Enjoy and be inspired,

Your Humble Blogger

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Paperclip Project

I love documentaries. Over the weekend, I saw one on HBO titled, "The Paperclip Project." It was about a group of students at a middle school in Whitwell, Tennessee, who were studying the Holocaust. The school principal, Linda Hooper, wanted to do something different in her school. She wanted these children who have little or no exposure to other ethnic groups, to really understand the costs hatred and violence bring to the world. It began as a weekly, afterschool, project, attended on a volunteer basis, due to the graphic scenes and descriptions of violence that the children would be exposed to.

As they read books, did research, the same number kept coming up over and over. Six million. Six million Jews executed. One student asked, "What does six million look like?"

The students asked if they could collect something to represent six million, so that they could grasp the vastness of that number. Hooper agreed, but the students were told they'd have to find something that had meaning to the project. They decided to collect paperclips because, they discovered, during the Holocaust, Norwegians wore paperclips on their collars in silent protest against Nazi policies.

By the end of the first year, they'd only collected 10,000 paperclips. But then, two reporters from the DC area, who worked for a German newspaper, caught wind of the project. After their story was published, the flood gates opened. The school began receiving so much mail that the local post office could no longer deliver it. Most of the paperclips they received were from Holocaust survivors, their children, their grandchildren. A large portion of the shipments were accompanied by letters, personal stories of horrid experiences.

I managed not to cry through the beginning of the story, but when a few New Yorkers arrived to speak to the students, all Jewish, all a little afraid of being in Redneck land, and were greeted with hugs and tears and exclamations of, "Don't be scared, we're just folks!" well, that's when I started to lose it. It was a beautiful thing. Then, an older man, not very tall, spoke to the crowd and said, "My name is Joe and I'm a Holocaust survivor," while holding up his arm and showing his tattoo, I fell apart. I watched the remainder of the movie through tears, I'm a big wussy baby, I know.

The school decided to use the paperclips to build a memorial. Through a series of events, they were able to obtain one of the rail cars used by the Nazis to transport people to the concentration camps. The entire town volunteered to help with repairs and landscaping. It now stands in the town of Whitwell, Tennessee, holding eleven million paperclips. Six million for the Jewish people who died in the camps and an additional five million to represent the Romani, homosexuals and other human beings who were forced to suffer and were senselessly murdered.

God Bless Linda Cooper and the teachers, students and townspeople of Whitwell, Tennessee. It's a beautiful thing.

Submitted by Romani Heart @ 8:02 PM

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

A New Constitutional Amendment?

Many of our dear senators are doing what? Raw Story reported today that members of Congress, specifically The Senate, are talking about a new Constitutional Amendment that would limit The President's powers during war time. Now, I'm all for this. However, there's a small problem here: we already have one. It's called our Fourth Amendment, and it's in The Bill of Rights. The text is as follows:

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,
papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by
Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and
the persons or things to be seized.

Do we really need a repeat performance? Doesn't this reek of something known as: Many members of Congress think we're stupid or willfully ignorant and this is just a HUGE waste of news space? Doesn't Congress have anything better to do?

Oh, that's right. Congress doesn't have anything better to do with their time, like, say... pass an economic bill of rights, draft a law against military industry profitting during war time, write and pass another law that bans voting machines, or... how about pass the Equal Rights Amendment? Hey, wait a minute.... This would mean that I could be drafted. Well, don't you gentlemen of sound mind already serving think this would be a good way to stop future unnecessary wars? Hmmm.... Or, you could just impeach the undeserving person in The Office and his cohorts in crime right now.... But maybe this is too much work for you? Aw... such a shame that you all have to work so hard. I'll give you some pity when you pay for a new G5 Apple computer system with dual monitors and an updated sound recording package for me. (Um... maybe I'll take the latter, but you still won't get the former. As Garfield would say, "DUH!")

If you really must know, my dear Senators, you would accomplish a lot more by following in the lead of the Arizona State Legislature and Representative Kyrsten Sinema in conjunction with and get monuments of The Bill of Rights on the grounds of every State Capitol in the nation, including Washington, D. C. Maybe then, when We The People are reminded of our rights across the board and on a consonant basis, we won't keep having these senators and representatives who are so willfully ignorant or poorly taught that they make it all the way to Congress this way and consistently break our own laws. After all, democracy and freedom are things we do not things we have.

Here I Go...

This is probably one of the bravest posts I will ever make, so I ask that you bear with me here. A lot of us are debating various religions and their principles these days, and rightly so. However, there is a tendency for people on both sides of the debate to qualify their beliefs. People who are against terrorism will often say that their own religions, be they Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or something else, do not, at heart, teach bad things like violence, rape, etc. as solutions to problems. People who try to deny terrorism or brush it aside will say that their religions are forgiving, peaceful, etc., etc.

The problem, here, is that religions are both good and bad -- just like most everything else in life. They are chronicles of the people that believe, as well as lists of beliefs. Judaism, for example, makes blatant statements about homosexuality, women, and slavery. Christianity has statements about women (I'm not Christian, but I do know about I Corinthians), and Islam (and, no, I'm not Muslim either, but I am familiar with some chapters of the Quran) does, at times, call for Jihad as the answer to dealing with "non-believers." There are also depictions of graphically violent acts in the Jewish Bible. There is at least explanation of justification of violence in the Quran, and Christianity has the violent belief, as well, that Jesus died to save his believers, even if this has ultimate implications of non-violence.

The point, here, is that we have to look at religion for what it is, and stop trying to paint it as one or the other. If we read our holy books critically, they can help us down the road to a better life. If we don't, and we accept everything verbatim, then we risk hurting many of our friends, family members, colleagues, and even ourselves. It is tempting to say that we want to get rid of religion all together, due to its negative effects, but this carries with it a slippery slope that we can trace back as recently as World War II and The Holocaust. Whenever we try to blame any religion or belief system for our problems, we just end up worse off than when we started. It's like the child who can never forgive his parents for anything. Even if they did do some bad things, continuing to blame them forever will hurt him the most in the end.

The solution to all this may ultimately end up being a radical acceptance of all different kinds of belief systems being parts of the overall heritage that each of us possesses in our lives. There are valuable lessons that certain groups can teach us. Modern Judaism, for example, can inspire people to accept that everyone on Earth deserves a home within it and a right to exist without fear of further genocide. Christianity teaches that we ought to forgive people as much as possible to prevent harm to ourselves and others. Islam, by teaching that Moses and Jesus were both past prophets, suggests that we can, indeed, accept that we have different ways of coming to many of the same conclusions in life for the better.

I can understand people wanting to emphasize the positive about our religions. Violence is not something worth teaching to anyone except as part of an overall history, cultural, or interpersonal lesson about how to avoid it. However, if we deny the violent history of all religions, then we risk only repeating it in the future. So long as we learn from the past, there is no reason to be ashamed of it. On this note, I encourage you to look at religion with a more objective eye and try to see it as a motivation to move forward as a species, if nothing else.