Charter for Compassion

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We Refuse to Believe that the Bank of Justice is Bankrupt

I recently heard a Yale professor say, the often ignored, but most important part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech is the first part. I agree, and am reprinting it here. I believe it is applicable to all Americans in their struggle for decent health care. I have also included a translation in Chinese, for my Chinese friends who have their own Civil Rights struggle. Although the Chinese people will work out their own way, I believe King's words are an important inspiration and very applicable to the Chinese people's struggle for their rights.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.


Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.


But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.


Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering his 'I Have a Dream' speech from the steps of Lincoln Memorial. (photo: National Park Service)

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.


(translation not mine)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thomas Jefferson on Democracy and the need for Education

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.

Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

Information is the currency of democracy.

It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good.

Truth is certainly a branch of morality and a very important one to society.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.

Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.

Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government." - Thomas Jefferson ...Jefferson for Health Care Reform!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shir Ami Means Song of My People

Shir Ami is the shul I go to
an old converted house
a place of witness
last night
like other nights
a place where our
are transformed
into an ark
transported by song
a bottomless
floating boat
across the Reed Sea
to fetch
to find freedom
to find the infinite
a land of milk and honey

singing songs of freedom
is what gets us there
the realization that we
slaves in Egypt
we are the ark
the other side
the other
even the Palestinians
we are freedom
and we don't even
a boat
we are already
and yet
and then
the weekly struggle
life in samsara
until we recognize
this sea of bitterness
is also
this place of freedom
this little song of freedom
as Bob Marley said
its all I ever had
Shir Ami

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Twitter and Facebook

Just a short note to say how amazing twitter is (facebook too). Having conversations around the world with people literally in 4 or 5 countries of the world at times, and understanding each other better than in a town hall meeting.

Open Letter to US President Obama

A student living in Western China has written an Open Letter to President Obama. In it, he expresses the frustrations of justice denied. It expresses several clear instances where civil rights have been ignored. It is in English, so I have included it here. Open letter to US president Barack Obama

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sydney Morning Herald Reports: HK Reporters 'Detained' in China

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Now TV and the Hong Kong Journalists' Association have filed protests with China's HK-Macau Affairs Office over the restriction of journalist freedom in reporting on the Tan Zuoren Case discussed below. Here is that article. Chinese left no stone unturned in their attempt to hijack justice.

Observations about Taxes by a friend, Charles Reynes

On my pay-stub: Federal Taxes Withheld $597; State Taxes Withheld $145; Kaiser $959 emp. + $352 dist. Taxes are the price we pay to live in a civil society. Fear, violence, crime, and ignorance are also taxes. Losing a home to medical bills is a tax. Going to school with poor vision or tooth aches is a tax. These are taxes of a different nature: they diminish both society and the individual.

Chinese Artist Reports Being Barred From Trial

The New York Times has finally posted an article about the story I followed on twitter and wrote about in this blog yesterday. Here it is.

Chinese police detain 11 who planned to attend activist's trial

Here is a link to the Guardian's article on the trial.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Daring Photo Taken While in Police Custody

Ai Weiwei taking a picture of himself and the police escort in the mirror image of the elevator. Ai was prevented from being a witness at a trial of his colleague. See article below.

Ai Weiwei Beaten and Restricted from Testifying at This Morning's Court Hearing for Tan Zuoren

This just in: Late into the night, by the cover of darkness, Ai Weiwei (one of the designers of the Bird's Nest Stadium famous as the Olympic Stadium) was roughed up by police. He was medically checked out, and is okay, but he has been restricted from attending the court hearing of Tan Zuoren, which is happening this morning. Ai had traveled to the Sichuan to be a witness at the hearing. With Chen Yunfei, the other witness already held by security, the Chinese state has free rein to get a conviction on Tan Zuoren. It appears that the Chinese government has successfully silenced the witnesses. Tan Zuoren, is an environmental activist on trial for investigating the deaths of school children in the earthquake last year. The following comes from the NY Times via China Digital Times. , a writer and also a prominent rights advocate, faces a potential five-year sentence for and is to go on trial Aug. 12. The charges are broad ones the Chinese government often uses to silence people who publicly challenge the government.

“These trials are not about a reasonable application of the law, but about silencing government critics whose work has considerable public benefit and sympathy,” Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group based in New York, said in a written statement released Tuesday. “The government is likely seeking to squelch those who cause it embarrassment, but in the process it is undermining domestic and international confidence in its ability to cope in a transparent way with natural disasters.”

The situation continues to develop: Professor Ran Yunfei, and others who intended to attend the trial have now been taken into custody or prevented from attending the trial.


A link to The New Yorker article on China's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -Dr. Xu Zhiyong, which I helped translate back into Chinese:

White House Health Care Reform Site

The White House has launched a health care reform site to give a reality check to what is being said.

Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver and Rebecca MacKinnon

Just a short shout out to Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver, who passed away today. Her work shows us how a mother, a grandmother, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a stranger, a member of a distinguished family, can contribute to the betterment of the world. Her belief in the dignity and worth of human life is a gift that we can all learn from. What would this world be without the Special Olympics, which she helped found?

Here is a link to an interview with Rebecca MacKinnon, a highly respected citizen journalist on the internet and its role and limitations in creating a space for democracy and dialogue.

In Amoiist's words, "How Did I Break the Jail?"

Just a short mention and a link to Amoiist's post in English! It is an amazing adventure, with the ending that Amoiist was released from jail, and continues to write thanks to quick wits and the support of twitter friends.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Towards the Etiquette of Democracy and Dialogue

As I have mentioned on facebook, watching the town hall meetings on health care, I have been alarmed that there is a growing problem with civility. This made me think about a book I have held in high regard on this topic. It was published in 1998. Here is what the inner jacket cover said, back then:
"Something terrible has happened to civility. We can no longer hold political discussions without screaming at each other, so our democracy is dying (my emphasis). We can no longer look at strangers without suspicion and even hostility, so our social life is dying. We can no longer hold public conversation about morality without trading vicious accusations, so our moral life is dying. All the skills of living a common life-what Alexis de Tocqueville called "the etiquette of democracy" -are collapsing around us, and nobody seems to know how to shore them up again."
The above lets us know, this is not just the current generations problem, but it does point to the urgency of solution. The book is Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy by Stephen L. Carter. The book is still available. Some of you know that Carter was criticized as a conservative back then... I only wish the conservatives of today could also follow these guidelines. I found it interesting that the book took its inspiration from Abolitionist sermons of the nineteenth century. So, at the risk of sounding old fashioned, and in the interest of democracy, here is some of what Mr. Carter, Professor of Law at Yale recommends:
• Our duty to be civil toward others does not depend on whether we like them or not.
• Civility requires that we sacrifice for strangers, not just for people we happen to know.
• Civility has two parts: generosity, even when it is costly, and trust, even when there is risk.
• Civility creates not merely a negative duty not to do harm, but an affirmative duty to do good.
• We must come into the presence of our fellow human beings with a sense of awe and gratitude.
• Civility requires that we listen to others with the knowledge of the possibility that they are right, and we are wrong.
• Civility requires resistance to the dominance of social life by the values of the marketplace. Thus, basic principles of civility -generosity and trust-should apply fully in the market and in politics as in every other human activity.
• Civility allows criticism of others, and sometimes even requires it, but the criticism should always be civil.
• Civility values diversity, disagreement, and the possibility of resistance, and therefore the state must not use education to try to standardize our children.
• Religions do their greatest service to civility when they preach not only love of neighbor but resistance to wrong.
Carter's book explains each of these bullet points and more, one per chapter. It is an interesting and provocative book, I recommend it.

It is a high order, in some countries people are jailed for it, but it is important for democracy. Only when we model it can others see the value of it. I am wishing to start a dialogue. What do you think?

Dr. Xu Zhiyong reminds me of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both defenders of the marginalized, working for justice and civil rights.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Is China's People's Armed Police Crying Wolf to Terrorize its Citizens?

Big Brother China is either jittery,
or has some explaining to do.
• First a hijacking is reported by the People's Armed Police in Xinjiang.
• Next it is reported that the hijackers have been subdued.
• Now it is reported that it is a bomb on the plane, and earlier hijack versions deleted. The plane is reported to be inbound from Afghanistan.
• Then a report that the plane will not be allowed to land in Urumqi.
• Pictures followed showing the Peoples Armed Police going to the Airport.
• Next, the English version of these pictures were labeled as if they were leaving the Airport.
• At which point the plane was said to have landed in Afghanistan.
• NATO reports that no plane with a bomb on board has landed, and if one had, they would know.
• NATO reports that a plane was turned back from China, but it was due to a paperwork problem, and that the reason it landed in Kandahar and not Kabul where it originated is due to bad weather in Kabul.
This really has the appearance of a Chinese news report that scares people about terror, ends up being followed up on by social and mainstream media... and paints China into a corner as the boy who cried wolf. So far, I haven't seen a decent explanation.
“I want to make people believe in ideals and justice, and help them see the hope of change.”- Xu Zhiyong