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Category Archives: Politics

Women's March on Washington 21 Jan 17

Remember the Women’s March only six months ago?  Six months of chaos and insane foreign “non”-policy, bomb dropping, firings, and disregard for the rule of law and balance of power?  Yet also six months of mobilizing, great demonstrations, committees formed to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, articles, speeches, victories in the courts and legislature.  We must remain awake, aware, involved in whatever way we can to resist the removal of systems that protect life, protect civilization.

Yet an interesting article in the Washington Post Arts&Style section reminds us that “taking a break from current events” for an hour doesn’t mean “not paying attention.”  We need to take care of our bodies, spirits and minds to be alive, aware and ready to be involved for the “long haul.”  So, meditating every morning, reading Handmaiden’s Tale again, drawing a cartoon, laughing, holding a baby, walking in the woods is not “copping out” of the revolution.

I was perhaps too single minded in the late sixties, stopped reading novels, dedicated all my reading time to political analysis and gathering of research for my next speech, next demonstration or news article.  In today’s struggles, I am not giving up my journaling, meditation, Qi Gong routine, time with family and friends who make me laugh, an occasional play, movie or book that isn’t directly related to politics and social change.  Our minds need breaks, variety, balance, delight and joy.



Thay with candle

Many friends have been disturbed by the recent political election.  Thich Nhat Hanh gives me some perspective to see more clearly, to calm mind and feelings, to act with love and compassion.  He suggests that “Every time you have a presidential election, you think in terms of Democrats and Republicans, and you take a side.  You suffer or you are happy because one party wins or loses.  But, if we look more deeply we see that the two parties are made of each other and have a lot of things in common.  The success of one party is made of the lack of success of the other party.” (Mindfulness Bell, Autumn 2016)

He is telling us that we are all part of one whole, that we “inter-are.” Our thinking in opposites (right/left, bad/good, wrong/right) is not the whole picture of reality and brings us much suffering.  My suffering came in the form of disbelief, shock, fear and anger, a desire to change the great suffering that will come of this decision.  However, I cannot live in fear and anger for more than a few moments without increasing the suffering in myself and my world.  I remembered Thay’s teaching on Inter-being, that we are not separate from one another, my friends simply identified as “left, right, good” and the president-elect as “right, wrong and bad.”  We inter-are and all had something to do with the conditions that brought about the results of this election.

On a practical level I need to stay calm, to reach out to my neighbors, friends and strangers who are suffering.  I can assure them that I will continue to practice, to come back to the present moment where we are still alive, capable of compassion and love for one another.  I am sticking close to my spiritual communities, listening as deeply as possible, trying to respond with courage to do the things I can see and do, one day at a time.

Demo in DC/Photo by

The pictures and stories about the protests in Egypt stir my revolutionary soul. I have gone through so many experiences in my own life that have drawn me to non-violent protest against war, injustice and oppression that my spirit resonates with the people in Tahrir Square. After having experienced violence and seen violence used to counter violence, I am again a firm believer in non-violence as a powerful force against oppression. Gandhi says, “I have found that life persists in the midst of destruction and, therefore, there must be a higher law than that of destruction. Only under that law would a well-ordered society be intelligible and life worth living. And if that is the law of life, we have to work it out in daily life. Wherever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.”

There were scenarios in the Washington Post Sunday describing various ways the uprising there could go – like Tiananmen, Poland’s“Solidarity,” Indonesia or Iran’s Islamic Republic. Or something different, something particularly suited to the conditions and history of Egypt. This is the moment of opportunity, opening, change, when many options are possible. I felt that same possibility during the intense month after 9/11. A peaceful, non-violent solution was possible then. It was an option. But Bush and our vengeful government chose instead to perpetrate an un-winable war against a country ravaged by war, oppression and destruction for many years. Less than two years later, the US attacked Iraq.

I’ve worn my peace sign on my coat since the first bomb in March, 2003, hoping for an end to the wars that have cost so many lives. It may be a small act of one small person, but I am part of a growing and powerful non-violent movement. War doesn’t work. Oppression doesn’t work. Eventually people will resist both. People want peace, enough security and safety in which to feed, clothe and house themselves and their families, freedom to vote, to celebrate life, practice their faith, work and create. All people need peace. If we want peace in our world, we must build peace in our country. If we want peace in our country, we must build peace in our communities. If we want peace in our communities, then we must build peace in our homes. If we want peace in our homes, we must build peace in our own hearts, minds and bodies. (my version of a Confucian saying).

How do you feel about the uprising of the Egyptian people? About how you are making peace today?

“Threats of violence, no less than violence itself, are antithetical to democracy” says E. J. Dionne in an article on the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and 19 other people in Tucson, six of whom died. Giffords had spoken out about the rhetoric used by Palin and others in the November elections – having her district “in the crosshairs of a gun sight” or “being on the targeted list.” Granted, this particular assassination was not carried out by the politicians voicing the threats. However, violence in mind, heart and speech is the bedrock of violence in action.

We live in a country that daily perpetrates war in Iraq and Afghanistan, sends drones to kill in Pakistan, allows widespread sale of guns and is one of the few democracies remaining to use the death penalty. It is as important today, as it was in 1969 when many of us were willing to go to jail for major portions of our lives in order to stop the war in Vietnam, to look deeply at the violence in our society and to do whatever we can to stop it.

Today, I begin my day with an examination of my mind and heart through journaling, Qi Gong and meditation. I know that I have the same seeds of violence, anger and fear in me that plagues others. I want to become more aware of those seeds, their origins and triggers. I try to water the opposite seeds of peace, joy and faith in my heart and in the hearts of all people I will encounter today.

Non-violence is not passive. Practicing non-violence toward ourselves, our families, our communities, our political rivals and other countries takes awareness, commitment and a community to support us. I am happy to see that some of her opponents in Congress have found enough peace in their hearts to pray for Congresswoman Giffords’ recovery today.

Where are the other three of the nine, including the two women?

My waking thoughts were about Charlie Meconis’s book With Clumsy Grace: The American Catholic Left 1961-1975. It must have been a doctoral dissertation with all the citations, charts and references to court documents. He interviewed 46 people for the book (including me and other friends), so there are quotes from Joe O’Rourke throughout, also Neil, Phil, Dan, Liz, etc. I read more at the Y yesterday afternoon, then kept it up in the late afternoon and evening at home. So, it was fresh in my mind. Also, I worked on the Chicago jail/court chapter yesterday morning, so most hours of the day were given to my book – either writing or reading the Meconis version of events surrounding the subject of my book.

The Catholic Left was an amazing movement, and much credit for the energy, vision and organization goes to Phil Berrigan. But Meconis also brings out conflicts within the movement over religious motivation vs the humanitarian/political, between the women and men, between increasingly “violent” tactics and the philosophy of non-violence, paranoia and precaution against FBI infiltration.

Memory is so fluid. It seems affected by the present moment, by who I am now. I have elements of my past operating in my present: my nun self that likes schedule, routine, silence and my “wild woman” self that loves my sweet young husband, all my crazy friends and my criminal past. I discovered when I was writing about one important character in the book that I was writing more about the person I know today (compassionate, secure as a leader and teacher, open to exploring his own suffering) than what I really remember about him in 1969. Amazing that we have somehow maintained and worked through the difficulties of a 42 year old relationship!

I know that my particular story, my vision, my memories will contribute to the mosaic that is the tale of the Catholic Left, the broader anti-war movement and the women’s movement of the late sixties, early seventies.

Merijin Hoek

“It’s time to stop complying with the system and draw your own map. Stop settling for what’s good enough and start creating art that matters. Stop asking what’s in it for you and start giving gifts that change people. Then, and only then, will you have achieved your potential…you have brilliance in you, your contribution is valuable, and the art you create is precious. Only you can do it, and you must. I’m hoping you’ll stand up and choose to make a difference.” (Linchpin, Seth Godin).

Why am I, Joann Malone, ex-nun, ex high school teacher, so obsessed with this marketing/business guy Seth Godin? Blame Patrick, my husband, who is very serious about not only creating his music on a daily basis but also sharing it with the world. He’s a philosopher. He’s very into Seth, reads his blog everyday. Today’s blog is on Self-Delusion and Self-Loathing. Seth is a philosopher, too, in addition to being a world class businessman, writer, speaker and successful author.

The more I read of Linchpin, the more I realize that his message is very similar to the one I preached as a rebel, hippie nun in the sixties. I felt the same need to wake people up to the mess our government and social institutions were creating for human beings. Seth says that the system we grew up with is a mess. Back in 1968-69, I was saying similar things on college campuses and at draft card burning rallies – “Stop! Listen to what our government is saying and doing! Listen to the messages of our schools – conform, be afraid, fear people from other countries, fear Communism, fear anyone who thinks for themselves, kill them. Is that really the way you want to live? In fear? In mistrust of others? Believing whatever teachers, priests or military recruiters tell you? No! Think for yourself. Stand up! Resist! Stop the war.”

If you don’t do it, who will? If we don’t question our system’s spending, policies and actions, who will? If we don’t look at our own lives, decide what is really important to us and DO IT, who will? There are some things that only YOU can do, aren’t there? Love your child unconditionally. Breathe the air coming into your nostrils at this moment. Live your life. Be right where you are right now, as fully as possible. This doesn’t mean that we are disconnected from others, totally unique. Yet only I can live MY LIFE. I can’t wait for someone to tell me how to do it. That I still believe, although I pray every day for guidance from a Higher Power and check my brilliant ideas with friends and family who know and love me. But I never want to lose that fire in the belly I had as a rebel nun, urging young people to do what only they can do, live life fully NOW!

Do you feel alive right now? Doing what you are doing? Being the person you are being? Is it true that only YOU can do it?

The sight of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton smiling in the center does give us hope. Although I had studied the conflicts in the Middle East for many years, it was not until I visited Palestine and Israel in 1991 that I felt in my body and spirit the spiritual power of Jerusalem. Within feet of each other are ancient centers of three great religions and the remnants of unbelievable suffering that has affected millions of people around the world.

Each day in whatever ways we possibly can, may we learn to smile and touch the hand and heart of those we have considered enemies. If the long and bitter struggles between Palestinians and Israelis can result in peace in our lifetime, we can surely make peace within our own families, neighborhoods and communities. Who knows how far the ripples extend from one act of humility and peacemaking?

Do you believe peace is possible? Here? Now?

This quote by Jeannette Rankin has attracted more people to my blog than any other, it seems. I “re-post” this Sept 1 posting today in honor of the real people still dying every day in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world where our government kills in our name.

Today the US government is declaring the END of the WAR in IRAQ. Does war ever have such a neat and defined ending? Eight mIllion of us around the world marched in protest in March, 2003 when the US bombing of Iraq began. I will never forget the 2600 students of Montgomery Blair HS who walked out into freezing rain in protest over the bombing and this insane and unjustifiable war. We knew that such a war would destroy decades of peacemaking efforts and that its effects would last for generations. Well over a million Iraqis killed, thousands of American troops killed and wounded. Infrastructure, education, government and health care systems destroyed, in addition to the art and culture of one of the oldest continuing civilizations in the world. And for what purpose? How can this war be “ended,” let alone “won.”

Jeannette Rankin, the only woman elected to serve in the US Congress during both World War I and II and to vote against both said, “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.More quotations: War quotes

I do rejoice that many of our soldiers will be returned alive, that the Iraqi people may gain a small measure of independence. I still believe that peace is possible and that we must do everything in our power each day to make peace, to listen, to understand more deeply the conflicts that exist in our world. But “winning” cannot be equated with mass destruction.

”The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it.
by George Orwell
Polemic, May 1946, “Second Thoughts on James Burnham”

Photo at a protest against the Iraq War in 2006 by Danny Hammontree

What are your thoughts on war and peace today?

August 20, 2010

Today I completed the third draft of my book The Power of Love! Hooray!

As I was compiling a bibliography, I breathed yet another prayer of gratitude to all the teachers and writers who have influenced me for so many years – Theilard de Chardin, Franz Fanon, Paulo Freire, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Thich Nhat Hanh. Two leaders of the Sisters of Loretto whom I dearly loved are on the list – Sister Luke Tobin (Hope is an Open Door) and Sister Helen Saunders (More than a Renewal )- which contains an entire chapter about my participation in the anti-war action that is the subject of my book. I still have the copies of several “handbooks” I dragged all over the country hitch-hiking from trials to demonstrations to speaking engagements: Seymour Hersh’s Chemical and Biological Warfare, Domhoff’s Who Rules America , The Rich and Super-Rich by Ferdinand Lundberg and Baran and Sweezy’s Monopoly Capital.

Not to mention the minimum of three novels I need every week to keep me going.

Isn’t it the least I can do– to contribute one book in gratitude for all I’ve been given to read?

Photo by CoreBurn

It is raining again, the morning after a tornado-like storm that downed trees and power lines.   I watched it all yesterday from a gentle sitting meditation room with friends.  Later people were scratching their heads at my daily meeting about why things happen.  Trees were down on Sligo, the creek flooded by the flash storm, electricity out at all over the region.  A friend was very shaken by a tree falling into the house where she lives.  The house was condemned and she can’t go in to get her clothes.  She rescued the dozens of pets and her computer.   No one was injured.  Cause and effect. The great God of weather.

I remember a wonderful film I saw about Cause and Effect.  It was a short documentary that traced what happened to one plastic cup….just watched it travel when someone tossed it out a car window, traced its survival through traffic, sewers, and oceans.  We don’t just “toss away” trash without it going somewhere.  Trees appear to fall suddenly, but the conditions for the fall may have taken many years to develop.  The tree in our back yard is leaning, has some rot on the side where the other tree fell, has been diagnosed as dangerous by several tree people.  It may fall eventually, possibly on our roof or the fence or on our neighbor’s new addition.  The arborist in our town will not give us permission to cut it down.

The oil spill in the Gulf was caused by so many factors that came together – dead dinosaurs from millions of years ago, WWII, oil dependence, greedy companies, government policies, our dependence on cars and wars.  Why do we need to imagine a god who sits up in heaven with a computer deciding whom to harm.  “This is” because “that is.”  It’s such a simple way to look at things.  Thank you Thay.

I suppose people’s minds want the “first Cause” to be a person, a great Mind.  Perhaps it is.  I don’t need to understand.  But I do want to be ever more mindful of my actions and their effects on people, nature, my body, the food chain, pollution.

I want my footprint to be gentle on the earth, my words to be kind to others, my actions to foster beauty rather than destruction. So, I take up my writing, looking deeply at its causes, hoping its effects will enhance beauty and understanding.