Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Counter Recruiting Tour

What if the best way to prevent the next war is part and parcel of the healing of the victims of this one? Apparently an important part of healing from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is to integrate the trauma with a purpose for the life of the survivor. Many former soldiers find healing by dedicating their lives to convincing the next generation of soldiers not to fall into the same traps. Coincidentally, veterans make the best counter-recruiters, because they can speak with authority about the realities of war and the military.

Veterans for Peace (VfP) and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) have discussed sponsoring caravans of veterans to go on counter-recruiting tours, carrying their truth to schools, military communities, and anywhere youth are willing to listen. Another key to healing is to work with other survivors who are finding peace. These peace-making bands of healing warriors can be a powerful positive social force.

According to Belleruth Naparstek (Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal), two important elements of healing from PTSD are regular exercise and meditation, both of which can be accomplished on a bicycle. Lane Anderson, active in VfP, has recommended that counter-recruitment tours be bicycle based, rather than bus. There is a moral consistency to refusing to buy the resource wars are being fought over. Bikes are a must for sustainable oil-free living.

Bicycles are a great outreach tool. While they don't go fast, they can certainly go far, more efficiently than any other mode. You can easily bike to places you'd have difficulty driving to, especially in a bus. Bikes are human-scale travel. It's easier to jump into a conversation from a bike than from a motor vehicle. Kids being targeted by early recruitment propaganda are often on bicycles themselves. Bikes symbolize freedom.

I encourage my readers to lend support to these healing efforts, which may be the most important part of the peace movement. They can always use input from those of us who have studied nonviolence. If you're a vet, please accept this invitation to ride with me. I'll help you to assemble and maintain a good touring bike and support your peace-making on the road.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Plant Trees

I woke this morning thinking about John Chapman. I had a new version of his song in my head. "Oh, the world is good to me, and so I thank the world..." the spirit of Johnny Appleseed seems appropriate to our current situation.

When we biked up the Blues Highway, it was hard to find shade. I remember thinking there must have been forests there before all the cotton and peanuts were planted. As much as I appreciate cotton shirts and peanut butter, the whole planet would be healthier if there were more trees in North America, instead of all those open fields.

I've since written notes to legislators, encouraging incentives for planting forest crops like fruits, nuts, and maple sugar. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and produce oxygen for us. They provide shade and shelter while replenishing the aquifers and offering food.

Right now I'm in a Maryland neighborhood that has marvelous walnut trees. This nut, which grows on the Pacific coast as well, is particularly appropriate for the American diet. Its proteins match with grains to replace meats (another source of greenhouse gas), and it contains lecithin, which could help obese people to digest their stored fat.

So I lay this morning imagining myself gathering walnuts in a canvass bag and bicycling them to be planted in the nearest area where there are no walnuts. As I planted them in their new home, I could gather seeds from local trees to distribute further. All the while I'd sing about how good the world has been to me.

I'm likely to follow that dream, but the geek in me says to put technology to service in this endeavor. I'll start a Yahoo Group <>to discuss tree planting and use the mails to share seeds. Please join us and spread the word. Together we can reforest our continent with the most appropriate human-friendly trees.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

DC Blog

Wow! We made it! Four thousand five hundred miles across North America the long way round! This is my second crossing in 13 months, for a grand total of over 8000 miles. Now what?

It's been an excruciating, delightful journey. Living as an activist on a bicycle is intense. Living with two-year-old twins and a twelve-year-old girl is intense even when you're not on a bike journey. Intensity is good for me, because what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. I feel very strong!

There is so much to be grateful for in this journey. We've met so many marvelously generous people, learned so much, and renewed our faith in the fundamental goodness of people. We've been blessed with so many great experiences and we haven't gone wanting for anything we ever needed.

I believe the nation is balanced on the edge of a major change of power. There is broad recognition among the American people that our government does not represent us or work for us. Nor does it control us. We don't have to cooperate with those who abuse power. They need us far more than we need them.

I have great hope that people everywhere are going to join with their neighbors in standing together for what is right. We're going to support and care for each other as we refuse to play along with the institutions that harm people. Each of us will insist that our time and the fruits of our labors are only to enhance life.

Toward this end, I look forward to continuing to bicycle about the country, facilitating neighborhood discussions about how we can support each other in living by our best values. This model will work for any community, whether we can sit together for two days or only two hours. It's not about what you believe but if you truly want to live those beliefs. Please contact me.

Before I ride much further, I need to get my equipment together. My SPD shoes have gone 8,000 miles and don't seem ready to go any further, even if I pour another tube of shoe glue into them. Much of my drive train is stripped out, so that I have few low gears. There are plenty of little glitches in my old cycling machine. Some serious time in a community bike shop would pay off well.

I also need a plan for either paying my debt or living free of hassle if I ignore the banks. Life is going to be different, but I trust I will continue to be blessed if I continue to occupy myself in the way that appears most productive toward the needs of the most people. My life is dedicated toward improving the planet.

Recipe for Significant Social Change

First, please let me review the assumptions. Most US residents don't feel well represented by either the Democrats or the Republicans. We are all increasingly disenfranchised and disenchanted by a government comprised of the best politicians money can buy. The two party system gives each party incentive to make the other look bad and they've both done such a good job that half the populace is convinced that all politicians stink and there's no point in voting. Meanwhile, as both parties fight over the "middle of the road" and the funding of corporations, they reinforce that perception with real bad decisions.

In this age of communications, most of us have access to information that undermines the corporate disinformation that spews from the for-profit mainstream media. We are increasingly distrustful of TV and centralized news, as we piece together skeptical truths from alternate sources, who have no incentive to lie to us. No one source has the whole truth, least of all the mainstream media.

Our human nature is to do good. We wish no harm upon those who have not hurt us. We all care about children in particular. While our competitive culture renders us too eager to search for enemies, we all know how to collaborate for common good. Americans are particularly supportive of individual liberty and democratic decision making.

So we have a nation full of people who are disenchanted, growing informed, and well intentioned. The main element that is missing for social change is personal empowerment. Most Americans have little sense of how much power we each hold. The corrupt lords need us much more than we need them. Our work and money make the future happen. Do we work for the corporate order or do we support a healthier alternative?

What follows is a recipe for setting up a discussion in your neighborhood about how we can best support each other to live up to our own values. It's not about telling anybody what to think or believe, although it leaves room for sharing information and sources. The assumption is that if we empower each other to do what we already know is right, we will improve the world.

We also believe that effective change must be from the grassroots up, rather than the top down. Authoritarian solutions only invite further corruption.

1. First, you must assemble residents of your neighborhood for a discussion. Pick a time slot at least two hours long and a location that will comfortably accommodate at least 20 people. Consider providing food or inviting people to a potluck. Now go door-to-door through your immediate neighbors on weeknights between 7 and 9 pm. Introduce yourself as a neighbor (point out where you live) and issue an invitation. Ask how many members of the household can attend. Continue, expanding slowly outward, until at least twenty people agree to come (please don't accept maybe). Give each a written slip with the time, date, and location of the discussion and get a phone number for each, just in case something changes. The evening before the event, call all 20 to remind them of their commitment.

2. Imagine how the discussion will go. If you can't see yourself in the facilitator's role, please find somebody who can (ask me, if I'm in your part of the country). Consider what you'll do if the worst thing you can imagine should happen. Then go to bed the night before envisioning the best possible outcome.

3. Begin the discussion by asking each person to describe their view of the most serious problems we face. Encourage each to explore their personal complicity in those problems. For example, if the problem is global warming, ask about the carbon footprint of the speaker. If the problem is government, ask if the speaker pays taxes. If war, do you buy the resource they're fighting over (oil)?

4. When everybody has had a chance to speak about the problems, steer the discussion toward solutions. Ask each to share their vision of a world without those problems, focusing particularly upon their personal roles and lifestyles.

5. Save at least the last third of your discussion time for examination of the actions each of us can take to bring us closer to the envisioned solutions. Explore the ways neighbors can support each other in living up to their values. Try to extract a specific commitment to act from each person. Get neighbors to express support for each commitment.

6. Before you end the meeting, decide how you will meet again and if you will expand the discussion to include other neighbors. You may even decide to take a group action (

Please contact me to let me know how this model works for you or if you've found ways to improve upon it. e-mail or call 425-438-8985. Thanks!