As a medium and a channel, I look at the world with a point of view that is deliberately expanded from the close-up on day-to-day stories which our mass media churn out with such prolific energy.
Right now I am looking at news articles about Ehren Watada, Bassam Aramin and Hines Ward. It seems to me that these three stories — of a U.S. Army officer in the midst of a court-martial, a co-founder of Combatants for Peace, and a Korean-American MVP football player — have a common thread that transcends the differences in their tales.
U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, born to a Hawaiian father and mother 28 years ago, was an excellent student and an Eagle Scout as a teenager. His father, Robert Watada, had refused to fight in the Vietnam War, so Ehren is no stranger to political activism. Ehren joined the Army after 9/11, motivated by the desire to protect his country. He served a tour in Korea, was rated as an outstanding and talented officer, and in 2005 came back to the United States to be trained to go to Iraq.
He started doing research for himself on the Iraq War and soon lost all faith in the morality and legality of the war. He felt that the American public was offered carefully placed lies in order to get approval for this war and that "no soldier should give a life or take a life for a lie." He said that the war was "based on misleading or false premises, such as the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, and that the occupation itself does not follow the Army's own legal rules of conduct for occupying a country." For all of these reasons, says Watada, he cannot morally participate in the war.
The Army reacted by charging him with "missing movement" to Iraq, "conduct unbecoming an officer" and "use of contemptuous words for the president." In that last instance, remarks about the president were made while he was in civilian clothing and not representing the armed forces in any way but acting only as a concerned citizen at a peace rally. However, the Army is not known for its ability to distinguish these small details when it is upset. It is throwing the book at him.
This week he began the process of court-martial. He faces the possibility of four years' imprisonment for taking this stand against the war. He is not bitter. He feels that the Army is doing what it has to do. And he stands his ground with dignity.
Bassam Aramin is a 38-year-old Palestinian peace activist. In 1993 he co-founded Combatants for Peace, an Israeli-Palestinian organization of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants who are working to end the hostilities in Palestine and Lebanon, and he has worked ever since for peaceful solutions in Palestine.
His younger years were not dedicated to peace. When he was a teenager, he felt, as many Palestinians do still, that the only way to create change in the Middle East and help the plight of homeless Palestinians was to use military force. He was a member of Fatah, which was dedicated to fighting to achieve a Palestinian homeland the equivalent of Israel's. For that, he was jailed by Israel.
As he matured, after the prison years, he decided that "there was no military solution to this conflict. It just meant that more Palestinians and Israelis would die."
One day recently, his daughter, Abir, was exiting her school. Police were patrolling the street outside the school. A student picked up a stone and threw it at the police. The police opened up on the children with guns shooting rubber bullets. Such guns are not supposed to cause fatalities. This time, Abir was the exception. She was struck in the head, went into a coma and died several days later.
Aramin says, "I want Abir to be the last victim. I will still be working for peace despite my suffering, but it will be very, very difficult." And so this slight young man with gentle eyes continues to persevere in his chosen work with dignity.
Hines Ward was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1976. His father, Hines Ward Sr., is an African-American. His mother, Kim Young-hee, is Korean. During his early years, while he and his mom were waiting out the notoriously slow process of being accepted into the United States as members of Ward's family, he was subjected to a never-ending flow of racism. He and his mother were shunned because of his mixed heritage. Koreans, like many people in societies around the globe, have a strong prejudice against people who are of mixed race. He was shamed and humiliated constantly and was very glad to come to the less prejudiced soil of the United States, where his family still lives.
Ward Jr. played as a wide receiver for the University of Georgia Bulldogs from 1995 to 1998 and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he has played ever since. He became the Steelers' all-time leading receiver in 2005 with his 538th catch against the Browns. In 2006 he was named MVP in Super Bowl XL.
He decided to go back to the land of his birth after the big game, hoping to reconcile his painful feelings about Korea. The South Koreans watch the Super Bowl, and he was welcomed as a hero. It was a tremendously healing experience for him, and he responded by donating $1 million to form the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation, which has the goal of helping mixed-race children like himself to achieve equality. With dignity, he observes that "I'm pretty sure that this country can change and accept you for who you are."
Dignity is a rare commodity these days on the political and social scene. I appreciate these three men for standing up for what they believe to be right. In all three cases, these men could have responded to their difficult circumstances by showing disrespect for authority and expressing themselves in emotionally colored words.
Instead, they have rested on what they believe to be their truth. Dignity is a word whose roots are in the Latin "dignus," meaning "worth." These are worthy men, and they have each acted responsibly to express their beliefs. Their actions give me a lift, for if they can do it, so can we.
Phil Ochs wrote a song back in the 1960s, titled "I've Got Something to Say, Sir, and I'm Going to Say It Now." Don't we all have something to say, these days? Is it time we considered saying it now?
The ET source, Q’uo, in a channeled message transmitted through our group on Jan. 15, 2006, said this about dignity:
"We would ask you to experiment with taking your power back whenever you feel helpless and hopeless. Remember who you are and why you're here. Take courage and feel the dignity of your reality. You did not come here for casual purposes. You came here as a sacred journey, and you are doing very well with it. Take pride in yourself. Have faith in your process. And know that your guidance is closer than your hands and feet and nearer to you than your next breath."
The cause of unconditional love thrives when people take themselves seriously and live out their high ideals. Whether you are signing petitions, marching as an activist, finding ways to better your community by your actions or otherwise hew to your ideals and live them, you are doing excellent work. Let your truth and love shine!
I open my arms and embrace your spirit. Whatever you believe in, whatever you hold sacred, I encourage you today to hold it as worthy. I encourage you to hold yourself to be worthy. And I encourage yourself to take action, as you deem appropriate, to speak your truth, gently but firmly.