Look what’s happening out in the streets
got a revolution got to revolution
Hey I’m dancing down the streets
got a revolution got to revolution

- Jefferson Airplane

Marking two months of protests, Thursday was declared a “Day of Action” by the Occupy Wall Street movement with demonstrations across major cities nationwide remonstrating against financial greed and corruption. In Southern California, the LA Times reported: “In what police called an ‘orchestrated series of arrests,’ nearly 100 police in riot gear moved in to arrest 23 protesters who locked arms around tents in the middle of Figueroa Street . . .”

Meditator arrested in Oakland

“Orchestrated series of arrests” is another way to say “civil disobedience.” More about that below, but first, the city of Oakland, California has taken a hard line against the protesters. There has been violence and then Monday, police forcibly evicted demonstrators from their camp in the downtown area. According to the San Jose Mercury News, “Oakland police arrested [Pancho] Ramos Stierle before dawn on Monday as riot police were clearing out the Occupy encampment at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. He and two other activists had been meditating for hours in the plaza’s amphitheater as police surrounded the camp and ordered everyone to disperse.”

Criminal charges against Stierle have been dropped, but because he is an immigrant, the cops turned him over to ICE. As of Thursday he has either been released or will be released pending a hearing before a judge. In either case, he is facing deportation. His case has become a bit of a cause célèbre (Free Pancho).

I don’t know if Stierle is connected with any particular spiritual group or whether he’s just a guy who wants to meditate for peace. It doesn really matter to me, and I certainly support his aim and his actions as far as the protest goes. I am not, however, all that sympathetic to his status as an immigrant. Apparently Stierle’s visa expired in 2008, which, as far as I understand things, makes him illegal. I know this is an unpopular view, but frankly I’m not convinced that people who are in this country illegally should enjoy the same rights as citizens and legal immigrants.

That aside, when you engage in civil disobedience you have to expect some consequences. The authorities do not like civil disobedience. That’s an eternal truth. I wish Stierle the best, but I assume that he is an intelligent person and knew what he was getting into.

At the same time, I do wonder if everyone really understands what civil disobedience is all about.

Civil disobedience is the time-honored act of the “professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power.” (Wikipedia) In this current movement, we’re talking about multinational powers.

I think it is safe to say that a good majority of acts of civil disobedience are designed to provoke an “orchestrated” arrest. At the very least, those who engage in such actions should be cognizant of the possibility of arrest and/or persecution by the authorities. To put it in Buddhist terms, civil disobedience is Bodhisattva action. It invites suffering for the purpose of making a statement against suffering.

Gandhi, whom we can look to as sort of an expert on civil disobedience, called his revolution ahimsa (non-violence) and satyagraha (truth). His brand of protest was grounded in spirituality, and marked with the force of compassion and acceptance of resulting suffering. Gandhi wrote,

Complete civil disobedience is rebellion without the element of violence in it. An out- and-out civil resister simply ignores the authority of the State. He never uses force and never resists force when it is used against him. In Fact, he invites imprisonment and other uses of force against himself . . .

Civil disobedience means capacity for unlimited suffering without the intoxicating excitement of killing.”

Nearly a hundred years earlier, Henry David Thoreau, in his 1849 essay, On Civil Disobedience, put it bluntly:

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. The proper place to-day, the only place which Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less desponding spirits, is in her prisons, to be put out and locked out of the State by her own act, as they have already put themselves out by their principles.”

Gandhi behind bars

Thoreau went to jail for refusing to pay what he believed was an unjust tax. Gandhi was imprisoned in 1922, 1930, 1933 and in 1942. All together, he spent 7 years in prison. In the early days of Gandhi’s activism, in South Africa, he tried to organize resistance against the Registration Act. On September 11, 1906, at a mass meeting with some 3000 Indians, Gandhi warned the assembled to expect repercussions: imprisonment, beatings, fines, and even, deportation. He also told them,

I can declare with certainty that so long as there is even a handful of men true to their pledge, there can be only one end to the struggle, and that is victory.”

Goldman Sachs on trial


The OWS is calling their movement an “American Revolution.” Chris Hedges is an American journalist who has specialized in writing about the Middle East and is now involved with OWS. Last Thursday, Hedges, Cornel West and others held a mock trial of Goldman Sachs in Zuccotti Park. Hedges was arrested. Tuesday, he wrote on Truthdig,

Welcome to the revolution. Our elites have exposed their hand. They have nothing to offer. They can destroy but they cannot build. They can repress but they cannot lead. They can steal but they cannot share. They can talk but they cannot speak. They are as dead and useless to us as the water-soaked books, tents, sleeping bags, suitcases, food boxes and clothes that were tossed by sanitation workers Tuesday morning into garbage trucks in New York City. They have no ideas, no plans and no vision for the future.

I support the Occupy Wall Street movement. I only hope everyone understands what it really takes to engage in civil disobedience, what it means to be a revolutionary. I hope the mistake that was made in the 1960’s is not made again. The Anti-War movement disintegrated after the Kent State massacre in 1970. All of the sudden protest kids realized, “Hey, you can get killed doing this!” I think in our collective unconscious we decided it might be better to just stay home with Sweet Jane.

Both Thoreau and Gandhi would no doubt subscribe to the notion that it is every person’s duty to protest injustice. That also belongs to the eternal, ultimate truth. But in the conventional world, let’s face it, not everyone is going to join in, and perhaps some should not join on the front lines. Those who have a lot to lose by catching the attention of law enforcement maybe should think twice about putting themselves at risk as Stierle did. I would imagine there are numerous ways that someone can support OWS, and in the future, if the movement comes together and gains a measure of organization, some of the most important roles will be played behind the scenes.

The iconic revolutionary

But if you are going to take center stage, man the barricades, stand on the front lines, then you’d better know that, as CSN&Y sang, to find the cost of freedom, you must “lay your body down.”

Revolution is serious business. Che Guevara once said,

In a revolution, one wins or one dies.”

Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you, lay your body down

- Crosby, Still, Nash and Young


Street photo: occupylosangeles.org
Stierle photo: occupyoakland.org
Hedges/West photo: occupywallst.org

Yesterday the Department of Justice announced a settlement in a lawsuit over alleged religious discrimination by the city of Walnut, California. You may have heard about it: The Chung Tai Zen Center of Walnut was denied a permit to build a “Buddhist house of worship” on its own property. The Zen Center ended up moving to Pomona, some 8 miles away.

According to the DOJ press release,

The case arose from the city’s handling and ultimate denial of the Zen Center’s application for a zoning permit to operate a Buddhist house of worship. Under the Walnut code, houses of worship may operate in the area in which the Zen Center wanted to build its facility if granted a conditional use permit. The government’s complaint alleged that, until it denied the Zen Center’s application in January 2008, the city had not rejected any application for a conditional use permit to build, expand or operate a house of worship since at least 1980. The complaint further alleged that the city treated the Zen Center differently than similarly situated religious and non-religious facilities. For example, the complaint alleges that in August 2008, the city approved a conditional use permit for a Catholic church that, when completed, will be larger than the Zen Center’s proposed facility. The complaint also alleges that between 1998 and 2003, the city built a civic center complex two blocks from Zen Center’s former location in Walnut.”

The settlement still has to be approved by a Federal judge. Under the settlement’s terms the City of Walnut is prohibited from engaging in “the inferior treatment of any religious organization that seeks to build a house of worship in compliance with local zoning laws.” City leaders, managers and certain employees must also attend training classes on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), enacted by the United States Congress in 2000.

Chung Tai Monastery Taiwan

I don’t know anything about the Chung Tai Zen sect, other than it’s a Taiwan-based monastic order that supposedly follows traditional Chinese Ch’an. I think I may have been to the center in Walnut once, but it was long ago. I used to visit quite a few Chinese temples in the San Gabriel Valley, but they are a bit of a blur now. Except for Hsi Lai in Hacienda Heights, which happens to be the largest Buddhist temple outside of Asia, so it’s kind of hard to forget.

George H.W. Bush, said something once while running for President in 1987 that I think still reflects the thinking of many Americans:  “No, I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

For quite a few of our fellow Americans you could replace Atheists in that sentence with Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, etc. One nation under God, as they, the kind of people who think like this, see him.

Apparently that depraved gunman in the recent massacre in Norway was inspired by one of these types, a far-right anti-Islam activist named Robert Spencer. I don’t know much about Spencer either, except that he seems to be somewhat in the Glenn Beck mode and he collaborates with a woman named Pamela Geller, who has a blog called “Atlas Shrugs” and there is, obviously, some sort of connection to the philosophy of Ayn Rand. According to Salon, “They are now actually fundraising on the fact that they helped inspire a massacre. Or more accurately, they’re begging for money to protect them from the imaginary witch hunt that they claim the liberals will mount.” ThinkProgress reports, “if you donate more than $500 to Atlas Shrugs, they will send you a signed copy of Geller’s book, ‘Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance’.”

If you donate more than $500 to this blog, I will send you a signed copy of relationship guru Paula Yorlegagan’s new book, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?”

The world is changing every moment, and is therefore unreal, it has no permanent existence. But though it is constantly changing, it has a something about it which persists and it is therefore to that extent real. I have therefore no objection to calling it real and unreal . . . It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. And this knowledge saves me from attributing motives to my opponents or critics. The seven blind men who gave seven different descriptions of the elephant were all right from their respective points of view, and wrong from the point of view of one another, and right and wrong from the point of view of the man who knew the elephant. I very much like this doctrine of the manyness of reality. It is this doctrine that has taught me to judge a Musulman (sic) from his standpoint and a Christian from his. Formerly I used to resent the ignorance of my opponents. Today I can love them because I am gifted with the eye to see myself as others see me and vice versa. I want to take the whole world in the embrace of my love. [This] is the result of the twin doctrine of Satyagraha (“truth force”) and ahimsa (“non-violence”).”

Mohandas K. Gandhi, 1926

The assassin maneuvered his way to the front, hand in his pocket, gripping the pistol. The crowd had been waiting for a while. The person whom they were waiting for was late. Eventually they saw him come up the pathway, draped in the shadows of the warm evening, accompanied by two members of his “family.” The assassin stood calm, resolute.

When his target was just a few yards from the wooden platform, Nathuram Godse, stepped forward and blocked the path. He bowed in respect and then fired. Three bullets from the .38 Beretta semi-automatic pistol slammed into the body of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who murmured the words, “Oh, God,” and fell to the ground where he died within moments.

January 30, 1948. Sixty-three years ago. Louis Fischer, a well-known journalist at the time, later wrote of Gandhi: “His legacy is courage, his lesson truth, his weapon love. His life is his monument. He now belongs to mankind.”

In the wake of the Tucson tragedy, there has been much talk about how we as a free society should talk. The dust has not settled and exactly what direction this dialogue about the words we use in public discourse will take is yet unknown, but one encouraging sign is that there has been little, if any, of the kind of the revenge talk that followed the Oklahoma City bombing. Revenge, not justice allowed Timothy McVeigh to get the easy way out with a death sentence, which, by the way, was exactly what he wanted.

While all sides have some responsibility to take for the sorry state of our national discourse, I firmly believe that the lion’s share belongs to the right wing/conservative element. It began in the 1990’s when Newt Gingrich told Republicans that they should target liberals and Democrats by calling into question their patriotism, their faith, and their morality. Gingrich’s “Contract with America” in reality was little more than a contract on political opponents. The mean-spirited, exaggerated political rhetoric shot off by angry, gun-metal mouths has continued unabated, but had someone been able to pull the plug on this license to lie and smear back then when it started, or had we not listened, then we might not find ourselves in the situation we are in today.

As the leader of India’s hard-won struggle for independence, Mohandas K. Gandhi became the international symbol of a free India. He lived a spiritual and ascetic life of prayer, fasting, and meditation. He was so admired by his countrymen that he was called Mahatma, meaning ‘Great Soul,’ a title reserved for the greatest sages.

The extraordinary life and teachings of this man still inspires and remains a brilliant example today,  and especially in these days, there is we have much we can learn from his legacy.  These thoughts of Gandhi’s, from his autobiography, seem apropos to the present moment, words that all of us could benefit by reflecting on:

The iconic photo by Margaret Bourke-White.

I must say that, beyond occasionally exposing me to laughter, my constitutional shyness has been no disadvantage whatever. In fact I can see that, on the contrary, it has been all to my advantage. My hesitancy in speech, which was once an annoyance, is now a pleasure. Its greatest benefit has been that it has taught me the economy of words. I have naturally formed the habit of restraining my thoughts. And I can now give myself the certificate that a thoughtless word hardly ever escapes my tongue or pen. I do not recollect ever having had to regret anything in my speech or writing. I have thus been spared many a mishap and waste of time. Experience has taught me that silence is part of the spiritual discipline of a votary of truth. Proneness to exaggerate, to suppress or modify the truth, wittingly or unwittingly, is a natural weakness of man and silence is necessary in order to surmount it. A man of few words will rarely be thoughtless in his speech; he will measure every word. We find so many people impatient to talk. There is no chairman of a meeting who is not pestered with notes for permission to speak. And whenever the permission is given the speaker generally exceeds the time-limit, asks for more time, and keeps on talking without permission. All this talking can hardly be said to be of my benefit to the world. It is so much waste of time. My shyness has been in reality my shield and buckler. It has allowed me to grow. It has helped me in my discernment of truth.

Syud Hossain

I have a book that I got about ten years ago, I think at a yard sale but it’s been so long I can’t remember. If I paid more than a buck for it, I’d be surprised. It is called Gandhi: The Saint as Statesman by Syud Hossain, an author who at the time I had never heard of. This is a first edition, published in 1937, and it turns out that Hossain, a Muslim, was a friend of Gandhi and was active in the Indian Independence Movement.

The book has an inscription signed by Hossain and Carl F. Sutton, the publisher. Dated August 20, 1938, it reads “To Stephanie and Cyril (?) Holton, with best wishes.” What’s more, inside I found two Christmas cards, obviously from the late 30’s or early 40’s (one looks handmade), sans envelopes, given by Syud Hossain to a Mr. and Mrs Ludwik Opid or Ford (the handwriting is hard to read). I don’t have the foggiest idea who these recipient were.

Hossain was an interesting guy, although his biographical information is scattered around here and there. “He exiled himself to the United States to find support for Indian independence, giving lectures and writing articles and books. In 1933, Jacques Marchais helped him organize the ‘Roundtable of Contemporary Religion’ in New York,” is how he is described on the Tibetan Material History website. It also says that “Jacques Marchais was a woman who had an early interest in Tibetan culture and who built a museum on Staten Island [Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art] that she thought of as an educational center to provide American people with a place of encounter with the East.” Sounds like another interesting person.

Here is a description of Hossain written by Blanche Watson for Pearson’s Magazine in 1922 (included the book’s appendix) that has some parallels with today’s situation:

From the moment almost of his landing Syud Hossain has been an animated denial. He has been obliged to deny, not once but scores of times, that the Mohammmedans and Hindus are deadly enemies; that the former are all Turks; that India is the size of Texas; that the Mohammedan is a ferocious war-maker; that India is unfit to govern itself; that England is in India for the ‘welfare’ of Indians; that Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent resistance movement is a preparation for bloodshed and violence.

Unfortunately, the aftermath of Gandhi’s revolution did result in a great bloodletting. As for the rest of that statement, it would appear that the misconceptions about Muslims and the East Syud Hossain had to contend with are not much different from those existing today. We haven’t come too far, have we?

Syud Hossain was born in 1888 in Calcutta to a well-to-do and prominent family.  His father was a scholar and the Registrar General of Bengal. In 1909, he went to England to study law.  In 1916, he became a journalist with the Bombay Chronicle and worked with its legendary editor, B G Horniman. While in Bombay he became involved in the Home Rule Movement, and in 1918 he returned to England as secretary of the Home Rule deputation.

In 1919, he joined the Independent where he gained notoriety with some passionate editorials that provoked the displeasure of the British Government.

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

Hossain fell in love with Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the sister of Nehru, who was an Indian diplomat and politician. This was a rather controversial relationship that attracted the attention of the international press for several years. The couple faced immense opposition to their marriage, and from some reason, it seems that Gandhi was vehemently opposed to it. According to the April 27, 1949 issue of the Miami Daily News “just a few weeks before her Washington appointment [as Indian ambassador to the US and Mexico] was announced, Syed Hussain was found dead in his corner suite at the famous Shepherd Hotel . . . His intimates there swear he died of a broken heart”.

This is confusing since the site that provided this information also says that Hossain “was made India’s first ambassador to Egypt where he died on February 25, 1949,” and elsewhere it is claimed that he and Pandit eloped and had a child.

While in the United Sates, Hossain became somewhat of celebrity. He was said to be a masterful speaker and he lectured at universities, social clubs, and various international organizations throughout the country on Gandhi and the Indian independence movement.

Much of this information, I culled from an article by Danish Khan entitled “Syud Hossain: India’s Voice For Freedom Abroad.” You can read the entire article at Indian Muslims.

Here is an excerpt from Gandhi: The Saint as Statesman in which Hossain discusses Gandhi’s principle of Ahimsa:

Nonviolence is thus both a principle and an instrument of Gandhi’s technique, but if any Westerner held that nonviolence, in Gandhi’s sense and use of the term, was anything pusillanimous he would make a grievous blunder. There is nothing namby-pamby about Gandhi. He is a spiritual athlete. His is no creed of cowardice . . .

By ruling our hate from his scheme of things Gandhi automatically rejects and repudiates violence or coercion which he regards as merely the instruments which subserve hate.  To him the attainment of any end, however intrinsically laudable it may be in itself, by methods of forcible compulsion, is a gross immorality. For Gandhi emphatically the end does not justify the means . . .

And Gandhi holds it to be the bounden duty of every individual not to acquiesce in or compromise with Evil, but on the contrary, positively to give it battle. But the difference is that Gandhi gives battle to wrong not by retaliatory hate and violence but by love and self-suffering. In other words, it is the practical unvarying application in daily life and to mundane affairs of the spirit embodied in “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” The application, however, is at once retrospective and redemptive.

Perhaps the most distinctive contribution of Gandhi to the ethical idealism of his time is his application of these principles on a scale that is unprecedented, and in a domain where it has never been tried before, namely, the notoriously sanguinary field in which Imperialism and Nationalism deadlock for mutual destruction.

We may now perhaps better realize how the saint came to be also the recognized and undisputed leader of perhaps the greatest national revolutionary movement of history.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf interviewed by Christiane Amanpour on ABC News’ This Week Sunday morning made a comment worth noting, something to the effect that the controversy over the Ground Zero Mosque is not a battle between Islam and the West; it is a battle between moderates and extremists of all faiths.

I agree. Looking at the mosque issue objectively, and putting aside for the moment the understandable emotions of the 9-11 families, it’s clear that we have two groups of extremists pulling from what on the surface seems to be opposite ends of the spectrum but actuality are not. Whether the mosque is built or moved, either way it’s a victory for one of these small bands of extremists who seek to impose their terms on our free society. Whichever side prevails, we all lose. Score one for extremism.

However, what disturbs me more than extremism right now is complacency.

For instance, a young blogger on the Washington Post, Ezra Klein says that the mosque issue is a non-story and “now the only thing to do is to wait for it to pass.” While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I have to say I don’t think that is much of one.

I can understand frustration, that’s natural. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another, and then another . . . And yet, that’s the point. Waiting for the mosque issue to pass is not a solution, because there will be another issue after that, and another . . . Do we give up on all of them? Screw it? I don’t care anymore?

Edward Norton in 25th Hour

It reminds me of the character Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) in Spike Lee’s film 25th Hour, who while standing in the men’s bathroom and talking to himself in a mirror, goes through a long list of all the groups of people he’d like to tell to go screw themselves. It’s a great soliloquy and every word in it is right on. However, it’s also a purely emotional and immature reaction, born out of his frustration, which at the end of the scene, Marty realizes. He seems to finally come to terms with the fact that he responsible for himself and his situation.

I don’t think we gain very much reacting to things with ‘screw this” and “screw that” and “this too shall pass” kinds of attitude. At best, maybe we buy some time. Until the next situation comes around.

It’s also a shirking of responsibility. We are all in this together, like it or not, and when the stakes are so high we cannot avoid taking responsibility, whether we are two blocks from the center point or two hundred, or even thousands of miles away.

And what are the stakes? Well, it’s life or death. By life, I mean the freedom to live and think as you choose. By death, I am referring to something that Norman Cousins once said, “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” I can’t help but feel that the greatest loss here is not if extremism wins the day, but if complacency does.

To live in complacency, to me, is tantamount to presiding over the funeral of a vital part of our human spirit. As society is also a living organism, it needs to be fully alive in order to survive. This goes straight to the heart of the matter, because part of the frustration is over the fact that the same old ways of addressing these problems don’t seem to work. At the same time, complacency is also reacting out of the old patterns we have established in both our individual lives and in society.

Instead of giving up, we could set about finding new solutions, new ways to think about these situations. We desperately need new thinking. We could use a new and deeper understanding of tolerance, for example. I have in mind something akin to what Prof. Robert Thurman calls “the tolerance of cognitive dissonance, the ability to cope with the beauty of complexity.”

I am taking him somewhat out of context, but I think that on one level “tolerance” here means being okay, even appreciating, the complexity of things. It does not mean to back away from complex issues, to fall back into old patterns of thought. Sometimes the word ‘cope’ seems to convey complacency, even helplessness, as in “coping with life’s stresses,” almost suggesting a kind of surrender, but to ‘cope’ actually means to struggle with something, evenhandedly, and most importantly, with some degree of success.

In business, successful thinking means emphasizing long-term potential over short-term goals, and successful entrepreneurs do not give in to either frustration or complacency. If we challenge the way we view things and try to cultivate a deeper understanding of the issues at hand, this is the sort of inner action that can create a ripple effect in our collective unconscious, and might bring us to some new solutions for these old and persistent problems.

By the way, I think Spike Lee is one of the best directors working today. Every one of his films is innovative, both visually and in terms of narrative. He consistently looks for new ways to tell a story. He’s not afraid to tackle thorny issues or back way from hard questions. While he rarely provides an answer, there’s nothing complacent about his movies. I certainly have the feeling that he is someone who understands and appreciates “the beauty of complexity.”

If you want to read the soliloquy from 25th Hour, go here and scroll down. You’ll know it when you see it.

Speaking of politics:

Today is the birthday of Jeanette Rankin. A life-long pacifist and Suffragette, she was the first female member of the United States Congress and the first woman elected to the House of Representatives in 1916. She was also a Republican (they were different in those days).

Born in 1880, near Missoula, Montana, Rankin graduated from the University of Montana in 1902 and studied at the School of Philanthropy in New York City. She began social work in Seattle, Washington, in 1909 and in subsequent years worked for woman suffrage in Washington, California, and Montana.

One month into her term in the House of Representatives, Congress voted on the resolution to enter World War I. Rankin voted against the resolution and suffered a backlash from not only the press but suffragette groups, who canceled many of her speaking engagements. Despite her anti-war vote, she supported the military draft and participated in Liberty Bond drives.

In 1918, she introduced legislation to provide state and federal funds for health clinics, midwife education, and visiting nurse programs in an effort to reduce the nation’s infant mortality.

Her term as Representative ended in 1919. For the next two decades, she worked as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. for various causes. She worked for legislation to promote maternal and child health as a field secretary for the National Consumers’ League, and campaigned for the Sheppard-Towner Act, the first federal social welfare program created explicitly for women and children. In 1920, she became founding vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In 1929, she wrote,

There can be no compromise with war; it cannot be reformed or controlled; cannot be disciplined into decency or codified into common sense; for war is the slaughter of human beings, temporarily regarded as enemies, on as large a scale as possible.

She was re-elected to the House in 1940, running on an anti-war platform.  She was sixty years old. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Rankin once again voted against going to war. It should be noted that there was huge opposition to entering World War II, even after Pearl Harbor, a fact that is usually left out of most accounts. Republican leaders in Montana pressured Rankin to change her vote, but she remained firm. By 1942, her antiwar stance had become so unpopular that she did not seek re-election.

Rankin’s interest in India dated back to 1917, when she read some books by Lajpat Rai, a pre-Gandhi Indian author and politician. By the time she left Congress for the second time, she had become extremely interested in Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence. In 1946, she traveled to India where she was able to meet with Nehru, but missed an opportunity to see Gandhi, something she always regretted.

By her next visit to India, Gandhi had already been assassinated. She continued to visit the country many times, mainly to study Gandhi’s non-violent civil disobedience methods.

Gandhi was a religious man, he was. But he was what we would call a politician; he knew what you could do and what you couldn’t do with people. He was a psychologist. He was a politician because he knew what you could expect of the common people and what you couldn’t expect of them . . . Gandhi never used the phrase “non-violence” without the word “truth.” Truth and non-violence. He hunted for the truth and the other side gave in . . . Gandhi used spiritual power to solve modern political problems. Without violence, he obtained the independence of India.

In 1968, at the age of 88, she led the Jeannette Rankin Brigade, a peace group numbering 5,000, to Washington to protest the Vietnam War and to present a peace petition to House Speaker John McCormack.

Apparently, when she died in Carmel, California, on May 18, 1973, Jeannette Rankin was contemplating yet another run for Congress.

Jeanette Rankin was a true maverick. Learn more about this remarkable woman at Women in Congress.house.gov

Or rent A Single Woman, the bio-pic on Jeannette Rankin, starring Jeanmarie Simpson, Judd Nelson, and Peter Coyote, along with the voices of Patricia Arquette, Karen Black, Margot Kidder, Elizabeth Peña, and Chandra Wilson.

Now that I have started this blog and borrowed its title, The Endless Further, from a term coined by Rabindranath Tagore, I’ve been going back and re-reading parts of “The Religion of Man”, where we find the phrase I have appropriated.

I want to tell you a little about Tagore, but first I’d like to share one of his wonderful poems, from “Fruit-Gathering”, published in 1916:

TagoreLet me not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless in facing them.

Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain but for the heart to conquer it.

Let me not look for allies in life’s battlefield but to my own strength.

Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved but hope for the patience to win my freedom.

Grant me that I may not be a coward, feeling your mercy in my success alone; but let me find the grasp of your hand in my failure.

Tagore believed in God, but not the same God that Abraham believed in. Tagore’s God was above all definitions and dualities, formless, a supreme reality that that transcends personality, and he did not believe in going to that God with a beggar’s prayer.

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