It is my belief that in the Presence of God there is neither male nor female, white nor black, Gentile or Jew, Protestant nor Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, nor Moslem, but a human spirit stripped to the literal substances of itself before God. Wherever man has this sense of the Eternal in his spirit, he hunts for it in his home, in his work, among his friends, in his pleasures and in all the levels of his function. It is my simple faith that this is the kind of universe that sustains that kind of adventure, and what we see dimly now in the churning confusion and chaos of our tempestuous times will some day be the common experience of all the children of men everywhere. – Howard Thurman
I admit it! I am disturbed, deeply disturbed by the hawkish rhetoric of our nation’s leaders in dealing with Ukraine and Russia. The United States of America has sent additional weapons of destruction to Taiwan and NATO allies, carries out raids inside the sovereign nation of Syria, continues to treat Iran as a villain while having over 800 military bases around the world. Yet, we hear little from commercial (for profit) media about the hypocrisy. We hear only the regurgitation of “official” press statements.
Tomorrow is President’s Day, a day reserved to honor those who have served as president of the United States with emphasis on Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. It has commonly been reduced to a day for commercial sales. (I’ve looked myself for Presidents’ Day sales on items I plan to purchase.) There could be more to this day than there presently is. It could be a day when we reflect upon what presidency of this nation really entails. Is it transformative? How does a president lead? And where? What are the demands of the role? Does the president have responsibility to forge peace rather than make enemies of other nations? What inspiration must come? What aspirations should be emphasized?
I nominate our own Libby Traubman for Secretary of State. In 1984, Libby and her late husband, Len, had the forethought and audacity to visit what had been labelled the Evil Empire, the Soviet Union. Their experiences in Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev convinced the Traubmans that Russians were not the enemy as they had been portrayed. The boundary crossing and sharing of stories led to common ground.
Returning to the United States, Libby and Len committed themselves to promoting peace among Americans and Soviets through dialogue. And did not stop with improving relations between people of the U.S. and those of the Soviet Union. When the cold war ended, the couple applied the lessons they had learned to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
People, human beings, are the ones who suffer most severely in national, international, racial, religious, cultural conflict. Is it possible to see people of conflicting national agendas as human beings, sisters, and brothers?
Dr. Howard Thurman wrote in Jesus and the Disinherited:
(1) Hatred often begins in a situation in which there is contact without fellowship, contact that is devoid of any of the primary overtures of warmth and fellow-feeling and genuineness. (2) Contacts without fellowship tend to express themselves in the kind of understanding that is strikingly unsympathetic. (3) An unsympathetic understanding tends to express itself in the active functioning of ill will. (4) Ill will, when dramatized in a human being, becomes hatred walking on the earth.
I would add that “ill will when dramatized” in a nation becomes most frighteningly the source of war.
The Traubmans hosted Muslims, Christians, Jews, Palestinians, Israelis, Jordanians, and Americans in their living room. The warmth, fellow-feeling and genuineness of that space allowed those gathered to share their hurts and hopes, fears and visions with listening ears and open hearts. Len said: We experienced equal humanity and realized that “an enemy” is one whose story we have not heard.
Just last month the New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation, in partnership with Global Interfaith University successfully conducted a 3-Day training for 35 religiously diverse Participants of The Len and Libby Interfaith Peacebuilding Fellowship Program from January 19-22, 2022. The theme was “Faith and Peacebuilding: The Role of Young People.” The training was held at the CRUDAN Guest House, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria.
I quote Libby: This demonstrates the importance and outreach of the Dialogue work. When it was started thirty years ago, we never would have imagined the rippling effects. We should never underestimate the influence of even the smallest idea.
While Libby and Len’s efforts were toward dialogue and building relations with individuals, promoting dialogue is a policy that needs to be implemented among nations.
Regarding the Ukraine-Russian-NATO-United States situation, Oliver Stone’s film, Ukraine on Fire, gives insight into the issues involved. Here is a link: (1hr:34 mins, 2016)
Check out archives at KPFA 94.1 FM for informed commentary.
No, tomorrow I shall not dwell on what the presence of an enlightened president could mean for world peace, global justice, and living under the big tent. I need not depress my mental and emotional energy.
Instead, I will pay homage to the life of Malcolm X (El-Hajj El-Malik Shabazz). Because of personal and historical treatment as a Black person in this nation, Malcolm truly believed that white people were devils. He believed that salvation for Black people was in separation from this devil.
February 21, 1965, Malcolm was gunned down at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. He was preparing to speak to his newly formed Organization of Afro-American Unity. Modeled after the Organization of African Unity, its goal was to establish greater cooperation with African peoples and promote human rights throughout the African Diaspora. Since his break with the Nation of Islam, March 8, 1964, he had been self-assessing and moving in the direction of accepting orthodox Islam.
Encouraged by his newly found tutor of Sunni Islam, Dr. Mahmoud Youssef Shawarbi, and his sister, Ella, among others, Malcolm decided to participate in Hajj, one of the pillars of Islam. Ella, who had always been there for Malcolm, financed the journey with funds she had saved to go on Hajj herself.
The hajj ritual invocation is called the talbiya and is recited by the pilgrims during Hajj as they affirm their intention to enter the consecrated state of Ihram. It is recited frequently throughout the Hajj. The prayer states: “Here I am, O God, here I am! You have no associate in divinity! To You are due praise, grace, and power! Here I am!”
Pilgrim’s Arrival for Hajj/Umrah
The experience of Hajj in the Holy City of Mecca was incredible. Malcolm was born anew, changing his name to El-Hajj El-Malik Shabazz.
Back at the Frankfurt airport, we took a United Arab Airlines plane on to Cairo. Throngs of people, obviously Muslims from everywhere, bound on the pilgrimage, were hugging and embracing. They were of all complexions; the whole atmosphere was of warmth and friendliness. The feeling hit me that there really wasn't any color problem here. The effect was as though I had just stepped out of a prison.
The statement above is a portion of a letter that Malcolm sent to Wallace D. Muhammad, son of Elijah Muhammad, head of the Nation of Islam. It was also sent to Ella and Malcolm’s assistant at the Muslim Mosque, Inc., that he had founded earlier that year. Malcolm himself was astounded at the profound shift in his mentality. And yet, he says his “whole life had been a chronology of – changes.”
Here is a link to the full letter.
After this change when he wanted to work more cooperatively with Dr. King, J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, considered Malcolm a threat to national security. Yet, I see him along with Dr. King as enhancing national security through the establishment of human rights and creating a world that worked for the masses of people. They were committed to what God/Allah required of them: . . . let justice well up like fresh water, let honesty roll in full tide (Moffatt translation). What an extraordinary person Malcolm was becoming! What fabulous wings were being unfurled! What an awesome force he and King together would have been!
I had looked forward to seeing Malcolm in person. He was scheduled to speak at Brown University, where I was in my first year of studies, March 5, 1965. But the assassins’ bullets felled him. As the blood gushed from his body, something life affirming left mine also.
Ossie Davis’ Eulogy for Malcolm X
As strange as it may seem, El-Hajj El-Malik Shabazz had joined the search for common ground and King’s beloved community.
It is my belief that in the Presence of God there is neither male nor female, white nor black, Gentile or Jew, Protestant nor Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, nor Moslem, but a human spirit stripped to the literal substances of itself before God. Wherever man has this sense of the Eternal in his spirit, he hunts for it in his home, in his work, among his friends, in his pleasures and in all the levels of his function.
I will spend time tomorrow dealing with a personal loss and a loss for this nation and world. I will reflect on the life of Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. I believe as Thurman does that this is the kind of universe that sustains the work of Len and Libby Traubman, that continues the legacy of El-Hajj El-Malik Shabazz in you, me, in human beings that we meet across the social and personally imposed barriers of separation and hostility.
Let us now go forth to save the land of our birth from the plague that first drove us into the “will to quarantine” and to separate ourselves behind self-imposed walls. For this is why we were born: Men, all men belong to each other, and he who shuts himself away diminishes himself and he who shuts another away from him destroys himself. And the people said Amen.