Monthly Archives: June 2009

Terrorism in America

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Newt Gingrich’s recent comments to a right-wing religious audience that “We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism” have been getting lots of coverage, and rightly so. What worries me more, however, are his comments immediately before and after the “paganism” line: that the ACLU is a “hateful, anti-religious system” aimed at driving God out of America, and that the Christian response to the rise of Paganism is first of all a spiritual challenge.

We just had a taste of this “spiritual challenge” last Fall, during the heated last days of the presidential campaign. Does anyone still remember the rhetoric? Now we have had the gunning down of a security guard at the Holocaust Memorial, the cold-blooded murder of a pro-choice doctor, and anti-abortion radical Randall Terry calling a press conference warning that our new president’s policies make more fundamentalist violence in this country “inevitable.”

Gus DiZerega does a great job of summarizing the right-wing terrorist attacks in the U.S. that have happened in just the past year. There is a pattern here that we are not yet used to seeing, let alone acknowledging. This “spiritual challenge” that Newt Gingrich just invoked is a fundamentalist’s dream: a Christian holy war that gives license for far-right ideologues to attack not just individuals with whom they disagree, but the very institutions of our democratic, free society.

There is still considerable resistance in the mainstream media to reporting seriously on this disturbing trend, even after the release of the 2007 Homeland Security report which warned of right-wing extremist violence specifically. But make no mistake, it is here, and it needs to be called out by as many people as possible.

Newt calling the ACLU “anti-religious” may be his attempt to divert the rabid flock away from the abortion arena and onward to attacking institutions which uphold civil liberties. What really baffles me, though, is why Newt Gingrich has jumped on this bandwagon at all.

Perhaps it is just a cynical ploy to sell more books that had Newt joining forces last week with Mike Huckabee, Oliver North, and the wacko fringe of the Republican Party. It certainly can’t be a serious effort to revive the party or his political career, since by all accounts the far-right wing is a small and dwindling demographic that will never win a national election. And Newt Gingrich is nothing if not cynical and self-serving.

Here is my take away from this whole sordid affair: there will be inflamed rhetoric on both sides. The more Gingrich and others threaten various religious groups and organizations, the more people will start to pay attention to the afore-mentioned trend. Hopefully this will result in prison terms for people guilty of terror, murder, and treason. Meanwhile, it is important to remember that the culture war they are still fighting is essentially over. They lost it, and soundly. What we are seeing is a vestigial effort—though obviously prone to escalating violence. But for now, they are really just poor losers. Very poor losers.

And while we need to speak up and make sure their terror campaigns are thwarted, on the whole our energy is best spent moving forward with the long task of rebuilding the nation. Let’s get Sotomayor confirmed, enact some much-needed social change legislation, regulate the financial industry, right some of the heinous wrongs of recent years, and most of all bolster our education system so that the ignorance which breed this kind of hatred is minimized. Oh yeah, and let’s keep religion out of politics in this country, okay?

Best Waking Dream of the Week (3)

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I am a big fan of working with dream material during the daytime, through meditation, art, writing, or acting in ways which are suggested by the events of the dream. What many people don’t realize is that this process is just as rewarding using other people’s dream material as it is with our own.

Case in point: my good friend Kathy Taylor, who is a wonderful dreamworker and artist. As wife of the renowned Jeremy Taylor, Kathy has developed her own unique processes for working with dream material over the decades. Recently, someone posted a dream about zombies on the email list of the Marin Institute for Projective Dreamwork, Jeremy’s professional training school. The person wondered (among other things) what to make of zombies in dreams.

Kathy responded by talking about how she sat with the dreamer’s question, and what personal associations came out of that process for her. It is not only a deeply insightful look at possible meanings for zombies in dreams, but a wonderful description of how to stay with an elusive dream figure, bring it into our waking awareness and let it challenge and change us. Here are Kathy’s words (quoted with permission):

When I read the dream, the word “zombie” leapt like Halley’s Comet straight into my unconscious/conscious interface.  My first question was “why?”  (no answer) and my second was “what would it be like to be a zombie in a dream?”

I kept this question “up” for those odd moments when my brain was not otherwise occupied, and was annoyed by my inability to imagine what the inside of a zombie head/body would feel like.

I couldn’t let it go. I’ve learned that if I persist at something even though frustrated and annoyed, then it’s definitely something my whole being has decided is important.  I was rewarded at 5:30 this morning by a few seconds of “zombie mind.”  Imagine my surprise when what I sensed/saw/felt was what I have come to call my “weeping child.”

This is my shorthand for an archetypal figure I’ve been in touch with (always briefly) for the last 35 years.  She is the “ugly,” stubborn, ferocious, tenacious kid who was, in my childhood, keeper of my soul flame; she is the child self who hung on by her fingernails in the hurricanes, determined to keep my core self intact. She was holding it together in the powerless world of a child.

Now that I’m 65, she still comes out now and then, even though I am no longer powerless. That’s when she might appear symbolically to be lurching around, aggressively defending her right to be, barging in inappropriately, engaging in endless “walking” (for which read repetitive behavior) because to do otherwise feels to her like death and not life.

In that moment this morning my response to seeing my zombie—weeping—child was a huge outpouring of love. I set a place at the table and invited her in.  I counted on love being as powerful as fire to transform.  By this point I had moved into waking dream and in that waking dream she came in and I embraced her in her rotting, stinking, tattered, bloody embodiment of strength, will, and courage, and she turned into a cat in my arms, smooshing against my face, then leaping down, running up the long dinner table at which sat 100s of clear and unclear images of different “me-s” and she jumped into a basket by the fire, becoming a very different kind of guardian of the soul flame.

It was a fascinating exercise in active imagination….I hope [we] can find a way to love those shadowy beings and have compassion for all those parts [of ourselves] who feel lost, “homeless,” and (like Pinocchio) longing to be “real.”

When people bring this kind of thoughtful process to working with a dream, it enriches everyone’s dreamwork experience. I can’t remember having any zombie dreams myself, but if I ever do I will keep in mind their transformative potential, and stay with the dream until I too sense that magical shift back into life.