A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On Blogging and Foreign Policy

Not sure what to write today, just know that it's important that I get something down. The discipline of writing each day has lifted a lot of my depression but I worry that I'm forming opinions about issues too quickly. And that's why any comment is most welcome, especially one that disagrees with whatever position I take in my blog. I still might not agree but the exchange stimulates me to reflect more deeply and slows me down. I do reserve the right to change my view on anything I write in this blog. I think our spirits evolve as we gather more information and experience. Right now, my experience with the world is limited and I am quite ignorant. The more I study, the more I know this. It's a process to learn which initially requires having some kind of opinion about whatever daily topic presents itself. Taking a position involves the risk of being wrong but it's a risk I know I have to take in order to keep seeking the truth, as far as I'm able to distinguish truth. And I say as far as I am able to distinguish the truth because the Truth with a capital T can be elusive and often a subjective perception. Hence my truth will not be someone else's truth.

In this blog I am free to express opinions in a way that I don't do with others. My family in particular are so articulate and knowledgeable that I will second guess my thoughts because of my ignorance and wind up saying very little. This was particularly hard when I was most psychotic and I was not able to converse almost at all with them. These past couple of years I've felt well enough to engage in conversations, saying a little here or there, but most importantly, able to follow the conversation. The voices no longer forcibly intrude themselves on my thoughts and distract me. This is a great relief. Also a great relief is to not be controlled by delusions. Finally, I can think without being lost in the twilight zone of false beliefs. When I was delusional most things related to my primary delusion and I had little room to move. Now I feel the freedom of free thought and free speech in a way I haven't for a while and I feel grateful.

Apart from medicine, therapy, the support of family and friends, a practice of gratitude is what directed me towards this new freedom. To me, the daily practice of gratitude is a form of prayer. I'm grateful to be alive, grateful for the food I eat, grateful for the people I know. When a car passes my house I'm grateful for whoever is in the car and send out a prayer that they be well. I've come to even be grateful to the voices for their ideas and companionship. I detach from them but I don't reject them and I wish them well also. All this gratitude grounds me and keeps my perspective more positive than negative. And it places me in the larger context of the world, it helps me to connect with others if only indirectly. It strengthens my belief in a higher power that witnesses and listens and guides all of us. So I believe even for those like my family who don't believe. But still I think they do, they just call it by its other names: goodness, justice, tolerance, intelligence,etc...

Just today I started listening to an audiobook by Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state under Clinton, called The Mighty & The Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs. I've only listened to part of the first cd so I'm not yet able to comment on the book, but I will comment on what was said on the back cover of the jacket: "She offers a balanced but, when necessary, devastating analysis of U.S. strategy, and condemns those of all faiths who exploit religious fervor to create divisions or enhance their own power. In this illuminating account, Albright argues that, to be effective, U.S. policy makers must understand the power and place of religion in motivating others and in coloring how American actions are perceived. Defying the conventional wisdom, she suggests not only that religion and politics are inseparable, but that their partnership, when properly harnessed, can be a force for justice and peace."

Separation of church (or rather religion) and state is the position the United States has taken in its own government which finds its roots in the First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Hence there is no state religion enforced, instead people are free to believe (or not believe) and worship as they choose. It seems to me, that this position has served us well over the years. The problem that Madeleine Albright addresses is the rise of the Christian right through George W. Bush and the blurring of lines between church and state, especially with matters of foreign policy, specifically the Iraqi war. President Bush's initial goal was to bring "freedom and democracy" to Iraq while searching out and destroying any terrorist threat to the U.S. in the region. But his greater goal seems a belief that the U.S. has the God given right to bring its idea of "freedom and democracy" to the entire world, the Middle East for the time being. All this without fully understanding the cultures they wish to revamp.
The result: Bush and his administration has alienated the U.S. from other foreign powers, allowed for the death of thousands of Americans and put us in the midst of a civil war with no wish to finally pull out. He will not admit defeat.

So I'm a believer in God but I do not believe that my belief should be everyone's belief, in fact I love the diversity of religious beliefs in the world. I also appreciate atheists and agnostics. What I find hard to tolerate is the fundamentalist belief that one's own religion is the only real religion and the rest should be either eradicated or somehow held in submission. I do believe in the First Amendment right for everyone. The basic human right to worship or not worship as one sees fit. That's an idea of freedom I've acquired from the Constitution. On the other hand, I am woefully ignorant of Muslim culture, especially in the Middle East. I am partly an ugly American because I've ignored much of the world and I'm afraid many Americans still remain ignorant of Muslim culture (along with many other cultures). Why so ignorant? Why was the President so ignorant when he took us into war?! Do we think we're better than everyone else? Perhaps some of the most patriotic people do feel this but how can they when many of them have never even left the country? Well, President Bush has left the country many, many times and has been exposed to other cultures and yet he still comes across as the worst kind of patriot, the kind who think the U.S. is the best, so good in fact that it should have controlling interest in the rest of the world. The kind that won't admit to past mistakes and won't apologize.

Foreign policy should be about working well with other countries and cultures. There should be no agenda for various forms of world domination be they religiously motivated or economically motivated or both. The best way to avoid that attitude is to know and know well the nature of other religions and cultures, to get inside that culture's perspective and to take a good look at ourselves as well. This is the way to create an open dialogue. In the spirit of understanding and with the common sense approach of compromise, deep wounds can be healed and the nations of the world can truly be global and not fragmented. But this perspective doesn't take into account the many pockets of terrorists spread throughout the world. Nations can have dialogues but how do you reason with a terrorist who is perfectly willing to die for his fundamentalist beliefs and is willing to take as many people as possible with him? I guess I'd say what I said before--study the terrorist's religion and culture and try to see how he is looking at us, try to see ourselves through his eyes. Find the weaknesses in his arguments against us and the strengths. Learn to identify with him. Understand him more than you fear him. That's the way to find a bridge to communication and communication has to be the goal. If there continues to be no communication the conflict will just escalate.

Two thousand years ago Jesus said love your enemies and to this day Christians do not embrace it. It was a revolutionary idea back then and it still is today. I wish we had the guts to practice what we preach. What would Jesus do if he encountered a terrorist? What would he tell us to do? Love the terrorists, don't hate them. Understand them, find a bridge and cross it. Be peacemakers not warmongers. Share what you have. I'm not saying it's easy to love those that hate you but you have to begin somewhere. And what's the alternative? Hate for hate, war for war and terrorist attack for terrorist attack?
I don't think that's smart, I don't even think that's grown-up. If people stop believing in hatred I think there would be so much less of it in the world. Stop believing in the necessity of violence and war, act as if and you move towards making it so.
I think Jesus had it right.


Anonymous said...

Yes a view of not wanting to know or tolerate anothers belief is truley the problem.

This would also enable one to strenghthen their own beliefs or questioned them.

I wonder if, because it is a sometimes a life time achievement for some to practice their own beliefs that it is difficult to find the time to appreciate others. Sort of staying on the straight and narrow. We all know the world as the Bible discribes it and to stay on the true path and we have all endulged in the world. Which does lead others to another path and in my case Christian life.

I feel that all religion provides a safe haven.

My little understanding of muslim is that they carry the same belief as Christian's that their way is the right way. How do we make these two rights a right. I guess we should love our neighbour but it also says in the bible somewhere that we should not impose our selves either. In other words be in some one's face. This is what Bush is now doing and their is nothing worse than that. He is doing the very thing that he was trying to prevent happening to him.

Oh and Kate, There is nothing wrong with having an opinion that evolves.

I once had a pychotic belief that the three religions judism, islam and christainity all form a triangle which is a very strong shape and there is a race to see who wins the whole world as being the truth. What frightened me of this thought was the speed of the race. The means of trying to win the race. The applied forces. The terrorism and war.


Anonymous said...


Jesus did say love your enemies, but Jesus also didn't just go around letting people do as they please. Remember the story of Jesus' reaction to those selling idolatry trinkets in the holy place? Jesus was NOT the serene, passive person some people like to make him out to be. There is a great book by Phillip Yancy called _The Jesus I Never Knew_, which examines everything the Bible tells us about Jesus, not just the "love your enemies" niceties people like to focus on.

I think you also have to make the distinction between loving your enemies and accepting their behavior as okay. I can love you and kick your ass. The two aren't mutually exclusive, when considering the kind of love about which Jesus is talking.

(Very glad you're still posting every day. Gives me something to think about).


Kate Waters Kiernan said...

Hi J.P.,

Yes, I agree that religion is a safe haven for many, but the main problem is that people don't seem to want to acknowledge that God is God, one God for all people and not one religion for all people. We all share the same humanity and yet so many of us want to act as if we are priviledged over the other, special, chosen but to my mind we're all special and chosen. I remember when I first became aware of Christianity I was shocked by all the different sects within it. I still have no idea what the difference is between a Anglican and a Baptist and a Methodist and a Presbyterian, etc...etc... I do respect people's faith in God from all religions but I do not respect the need to keep dividing us all up, nor the hypocrisy of having any kind of "holy" war. No religion has the corner on truth, truth is for all of us not just the so-called elect.

Kate Waters Kiernan said...

Hi Elizabeth, yes, I'd like to read that book by Phillip Yancy you recommend. I'll see if it's in the library. I like getting as many perspectives as possible. I'm no expert on Jesus but I would like to learn more. And I know that according to the New Testament he was both loving and tough. But I have to disagree with you, it doesn't seem to me that people do focus on the love your enemies side of life. To me, people avoid the whole issue and I think understanding it and following it is crucial to becoming a Christian. I also don't see loving your enemies as an example of being soft, in practice it is very hard to do and I'm sure Jesus was well aware of this. But he asked people to do this anyway. Oh, I have to think more about it but I am fascinated by some of his ideas.

Thanks again for the support, you've been great.