the sochi effect

iron-closet-gq-magazine-february-2014-russia-01

9e95b9c5460c816b632aab3d6c605c73 it’s time for the olympics. the winter ones, of course. and i’m semi-excited. ok. i’m not really excited at all. but, i know me. and as soon as news networks and twitter and Facebook friends begin posting stuff about the olympics, i will climb on board the olympic excitement train and get all caught up in curling (who knew that existed before the previous olympics?), figure skating, snowboarding, speed skating, and other events. and, as i do every olympics, the opening ceremonies will cause a tear to fall down my cheek. that is always a great moment of global unity, in my opinion.

but, this year, there is much, much more on my mind as well. and, maybe i will not climb on the olympic spirit train…

i suppose you could say that it’s hesitation. and concern. now, i’ve never been to russia so i know nothing about it first-hand. and i try not to judge a country i have not visited because they can be so completely different than expected – in good and bad ways. at least that’s what i’ve experienced. but, i must admit it, i am worried. scared, even. and, of course, i am angry.

right now all of the news seems to be about whether sochi is ready to host the olympics or not. can they handle the crowds? will there be violence or terrorism? on the news today there were reports that the accommodations for athletes are not up to par. the photos they showed were of fairly bare rooms, with toilets that you cannot put toilet paper in. instead, you use the trash can for the paper.

my first reaction to the “sub-par” conditions at hotels and such is this: suck it up. you are in another country and things will not be like they are at home. that’s what happens in different countries. and it is one of the beauties of travel – experiencing different cultures and ways of life, seeing how other people live, discovering and exploring. but, you must do this with an open mind. and with the expectation that things will not be the same. this is an adventure, and you will have stories galore to tell. not to mention, you will learn so much about yourself.

now, there is another issue that hits much more closely to home for me and you all have heard about it, i’m sure: LGBT rights. in russia, it is now illegal to be gay. and, from what i have read and seen, it is completely acceptable to bully, attack, and beat up any gay person or ally. it’s just horrible. ridiculous. and sickening.

and so, i am having a hard time reconciling the olympics (a global, unifying event) being in  this country where not all people are accepted. i could go on and on, but instead, i am going to leave you with a video. a very, very, very disturbing video. it is very graphic, so if you are sensitive, do not watch it. instead, read this article from gq:

iron-closet-gq-magazine-february-2014-russia-01

but, if you think you can handle it, here is the video. it is so important for us to be aware. warning! graphic & disturbing!

peace, love, and equality. xx

i will always believe that peace is the answer.

IMG_3261

IMG_3261

i am a news junkie. or nerd. or whatever you want to call me. and on sunday mornings in the states, if i’m home, i like to watch all the sunday morning talk shows. as depressing and skewed and manipulative it may be, i want to be informed. of course, i don’t just rely on the mainstream media to get my news. i also listen to/read independent newspapers/sources. i read commentary and try to listen to global perspectives as well. but, on sunday mornings, i catch up with good ole american sunday morning talk shows = news talk shows.

this past sunday, i did just that. i made a pot of coffee and sat down to hear the latest on syria. something that is on my mind pretty much constantly these days. how in the world have we found ourselves (the usa) in the place AGAIN, where we think we have to flex our muscles, be the police of the world, and intervene (perhaps on our own) militarily in another country’s conflict? not that we shouldn’t intervene. we most definitely should. what is happening in syria is tragic and inhumane. but, perhaps, if we can find the money to station destroyers in the mediterranean and send missiles to syria, then we could find the money (= use the same money) for the millions of syrian refugees living in horrible conditions instead. perhaps we could save lives instead of killing them.

oh, i know that this is a complicated (understatement!) situation, but something about it is simple. at least in my idealistic, theological mind. it’s about humanity. and then ends justifying the means. which in this case, they don’t. that’s my ethical take on it. here’s the simple statement… and i draw on martin luther king, jr. again after celebrating his legacy last week:

violence only creates more violence. period. it never, ever solves the problem. as king says it:

“darkness does not drive out darkness, only light can do that. hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that.”

missiles, war, violence, and the need to show our strength & credibility to the world do not solve any problems, they are simply egotistical. in my opinion, those who are the greatest, are the peacemakers, the ones who are humble and merciful and even meek. the ones who live and work for others, not for themselves. the world does not see them as “great”, but screw the world. since when did the world have everything right? is money, power, greed, and a tough appearance the only way to get respect? i think not. the truly great ones, stand their ground and do not give up, but they do it non-violently:

like ghandi, nelson mandela, mlk, jr., mother theresa, julian of norwich, perpetua, and countless more “regular” women & men & children who are left out of the history books… even you & i. if we choose it.

we can be great. we can make a difference. and we can work for true justice. but, it cannot be through violent means. peace will never be achieved by flexing our muscles and threatening and hitting and punishing. peace will be achieved through peace.

and so, today, during my forty days of fika time, i am going to meet with others in downtown asheville to meditate for peace… specifically for the events in syria, for world leaders, and for our own courage to live non-violent lives.

wherever you are, will you join me at some moment today to stop & think about those suffering in syria, and how the world should respond to the horrible human suffering going on in that country and in many others around the world? will you consider that the greatest way that you can be a peacemaker is, perhaps, in your own life, the the people that you meet everyday? if we all did that, then what would the world be like?

peace and harmony… to you all.

there has to be something we can do.

john lennon

i’m under my covers, sipping on coffee, safe in sweden, while chaos is unfolding across the atlantic in boston, massachusettes. i’ve got a local boston tv station streaming live and i’m checking twitter every few minutes and the news is unfolding in real time before my eyes & ears.

i tend to do this when big things happen. and it doesn’t have to only be in the states. i was glued to my computer when revolutions occurred in egypt and violence broke out in benghazi, syria, palestine, etc. the question is, do i get too stuck in these things?

24 hour news is an amazing and scary thing. twitter and reddit have changed how news is reported. but, i think i do know when i need to shut it all off and move on. still, i find that it is important, as a citizen of the world, to know what my brothers and sisters all over the world are facing and experiencing. i’m not into sensationalism and speculation, but rather, i feel that in order to be a better person where i am, in order to live a life of peace and spread that peace onward, it is good for me to be aware and updated on current events. and to not only know tidbits, but to try to get a better understanding of what is happening.

for now, my thoughts are with the people of boston. it must be scary and unsettling, knowing that there is so much violence popping up across the area. the current news is not only about what happened at the boston marathon on monday, but what is, at this moment, going on with chases, gunfires, and searches for suspects. people are being asked to stay inside their homes and lock their doors. really scary stuff.

but, i also can’t help but think about people who live in the midst of this kind of violence and fear every day of their lives. there are innocent people in many other countries all across the world who face random acts of violence daily.

all violence is horrible. enough is enough.

it seems too overwhelming, i know, to try to make a change or a difference. but, the only thing we can do, is choose how we will live our own lives, in our own towns, in our own countries. how do we rid this world of so much violence? i have no answers. i only know that we can choose what we prioritize in life…

are we going to be individualists, thinking of only what makes us the most powerful, successful, rich people we can personally be?

or are we going to live as a community, thinking about the greater good for everyone?

peace is not an easy path. in fact, it’s the harder road, which requires more self-discipline. but, i am determined to continue to believe that this world can be a place of peace. i will not give up hope.

john lennonhugs and comfort for all of you today. peace.