Holiday Peace

Ever play with one of those Chinese finger traps?  You stick your fingers in and they are stuck.  The harder you pull, the more stuck you are.  This is how I am feeling during this holiday season, and I know I’m not alone.  There seems to be a huge sense of expectation built up this time of year, to make this the “best one ever,” like life is some kind of Hallmark movie.  Worse yet, there is almost a sense of societal obligation to be cheery.  After all, who wants to be accused of being a scrooge? 

For a variety of reasons, there are several people who won’t be coming to Christmas in my family this year.  Some are no longer with us, some are in a life struggle that is taking precedence over family and holidays, and some have changed their religious views to no longer include Christmas, or the family get-togethers that have accompanied it.  For me, this time of year has always been about family, and the sights and sounds of Christmas this year have a hollow feel to them.  As a matter of fact, I have mostly avoided any shopping that is not absolutely necessary, in order to avoid the dreaded Christmas music, which makes me cranky or depressed, depending on the tune.

I’m not saying any of this for sympathy, or attention; my problems are miniscule compared to some people's.  I’m saying it because it’s my truth, and it’s been weighing on my mind.  So much is beyond our control, not only during this time of the year, but all throughout the year; yet there’s this undeniable pressure to “make” it a great holiday.  Sometimes you just can’t.  It is what it is.  Call me Scrooge, but I feel resentment at that expectation, because it minimizes people’s reality.  There are many times in life that we are walking with privilege and are unaware.  One form of privilege is getting to be with your family and being happy.  Right now, I have several friends going through divorce, several friends grieving a death, a friend dealing with major legal issues with her son, and another friend whose little grandson is at the brink of death from cancer.  Why do we have this pressure to “fake it” when things are not well, just because it’s the holiday season?

A couple of weeks ago, a man I know killed himself.  I don’t know why, and it seemed to come as a surprise to everyone who knew him.  I don’t know what pressures he faced, or what kept him from talking to someone and asking for help, but I don’t think our society is very good at encouraging that.  That expectation to “be tough” isn’t always very helpful.  I’m not blaming society for his death, just wondering what role this might have played.

The only way to get out of a Chinese finger trap is to relax, and push both ends of the trap toward the center.  Reduce pressure, find a place of balance, whether that’s in the center or wherever, because it’s different for everyone.  Stop pulling against the pressure.  And recognize that in the long run, we can attach meaning to a day but it’s still just a day.  We can find new ways to honor our lives, every day.

My friend Deb always ascribed to the Platinum Rule, which is to treat others as they wish to be treated.  I won’t assume that everyone celebrates Christmas and has a Hallmark life (or wants either).  I just think we are all here doing the best we can, in each moment, and that seems more than enough to expect.

Peace is a loaded term.  And for me, I am seeking peace this holiday season by providing joy and comfort where I can, to myself and others.  Staying out of the ways of others when I am feeling grumpy, because it’s not my intention to be a wet blanket.  Looking for the positive in people and situations.  And perhaps most importantly, not feeling guilt if I don’t choose to partake in the Santa hat-wearing, jingle-belling, fake cheer I’m “supposed” to feel.  It's a great opportunity to boil the season down to what is really, truly important.  I’m a little busy this year missing some people, and I’m going to concentrate on loving the people I can. 

If you are reading this, my wish for you is peace of mind and heart, comfort, and love.  If you are sad or struggling, know that you are not alone.  And it’s okay to be sad, because sometimes life is sad, it just is.  There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t feel “cheery,” or if you do.  Regardless of who or where you are, I wish you peace.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s that time again… sigh.  It’s not even Halloween and it’s already starting.  I’m not talking about the early Christmas displays in the stores, or the TV commercials urging us to buy, buy, buy… I’m talking about the silly, pointless, ongoing dispute about what words we are supposed to use to wish someone well during the holiday season.  The ongoing battle between “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas.” 

I feel silly even writing about it (again), but I’m taking a stand on how I feel about this issue, because I know by Christmas, Facebook and everywhere will be deluged with people very upset about which words people choose to be nice to one another.

Here's the way I look at it.  I have dear friends, who are wonderful people, who don't celebrate Christmas.  They may be Jehovah's Witness, or Jewish, or another belief system that doesn't observe this particular holiday, but have their own holiday traditions.  Or they may be Atheists.  Either way, wishing them a Merry Christmas would be like wishing you a happy birthday when it isn’t your birthday; it doesn't make sense.  It also assumes that everyone is a Christian, when everyone isn't.

Here's how I handle it: since most of my friends celebrate Christmas, I wish them Merry Christmas.  If they don't, I say Happy Holidays.  If I'm not sure if someone celebrates it or not, I wish them Happy Holidays out of respect for whatever their spiritual belief is.  To me it's less about political correctness than common sense and respect. 

I also have friends who are really hurting this year; maybe they just lost a precious loved one or for some other reason are going through a horrible holiday season.  They may not want to hear a cheery, "Merry Christmas!"  It may be one more reminder that this particular Christmas is really going to suck.  I don't have a big investment in saying it to everyone.  My goal is to wish others well, not prove a point.

Back in 1941, when Irving Berlin wrote the song, “Happy Holidays,” where were these outraged people?  Nobody was accusing him of anything.  People just enjoyed the happiness and cheer behind the song.  Nowadays everything is a big fight.  If someone wants to be outraged about something on Christmas, it just seems we have better things to be outraged about like, oh I don’t know, kids who go hungry on Christmas, or the fact that our troops are spending Christmas away from their families to kill other people and their children, or those who are abandoned by their loved ones and are lonely and sad on Christmas, or elderly people with no heat.

Christianity has gotten a bad rap over the years because people have forgotten what being a Christian was actually supposed to mean. I’m not even going to get into the fact that Christmas has its roots in Paganism, or the widely held and scientifically supported belief that Christ would have been born in the autumn, not in December, because most educated people know that.  I’m just talking about “Christian values.”  I had always believed that the spirit of Christ embodied tolerance, trust, caring for the sick and elderly, gentleness, and meekness.  It would not be in the spirit of Christ to demand that people use a certain phrase to avoid being considered “less than.”  Christ was a guy who hung out with thieves and prostitutes, and talked about forgiveness and not judging.  What would he think of this silly pettiness?  I personally believe that he would be mortified at this twisting of his values, and in his name, and ashamed to see people judging others based solely on semantics.  Christmas is supposed to be about love, not picking fights.

As for my friends who celebrate other religious traditions, or none at all, I am defensive of them.  This attitude insinuates that they are not as righteous and good as the people who say Merry Christmas.  Not a very “Christiany” attitude, if you ask me.  I am secure enough in my spiritual beliefs that I don’t feel a need to put others down for theirs, and don’t expect the rest of the world to conform to mine. 

And I personally don't care if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday, or Holiday Season, a Joyous Yuletide, an Advantageous Advent, Seasons Greetings, or simply a beautiful day.  If someone takes the time to give me a kind word, I’m just grateful for the love and sentiment behind it.  I don’t assume they are a godless heathen.  Who really cares as long as we are kind to one another?

So regardless of your faith belief, what God you worship, or don’t, where you live, or what words you choose, I wish all who read this joy, peace, and love.

Vanquishing Columbus

It’s funny, but not so funny… how the victors write history.  If I were to believe the history books, Columbus, like so many other powerful historical figures, was a hero.  A great conqueror who “discovered” America; apparently, the people already living here didn’t know it existed.  One of the legacies left by the great historian Howard Zinn is that he gave us all a new perspective: history written by the conquered, the marginalized, the trampled, the disenfranchised.  In other words, the truth.  No need for propaganda to rally the masses, just the unvarnished and very ugly truth about some of the people our history teachers taught us to worship and adore.

None of us are perfect.  But the varnish on some of these despots and villains is so thick, it takes a while to get through it.  Then it’s pretty embarrassing to realize that we once thought so highly of them.  And once you’ve seen the truth, you’re no longer in the mood for a good shellacking by the spin doctors who have peddled our history books.  A good example of this is Christopher Columbus.

His name is so hallowed that books that are critical of him are still banned from schools.  In January 2012, Tucson schools banned Rethinking Columbus by Bob Peterson and Bill Bigelow.  The only people who would undertake to silence truth are those who would benefit greatly from lies.  And if we are compelled to believe those lies, we are complicit in the very sorts of human rights abuses they are trying to hide, that Columbus committed, and that our nation has continued to commit, against people of color and other cultures. 

It’s an effective way to keep those people invisible – those people with faces, names, families – who were raped, tortured, murdered, and enslaved by Columbus and his men.

I am ashamed that we were never taught as children the perspective of Native Americans, who rightfully view Columbus’s arrival as an invasion that resulted in genocide.  It was only the beginning of hell for an entire continent of human beings, resulting in untold human agony.  How can we, in good conscience, celebrate this man?  To do so is to perpetuate that very harmful myth of American imperialism, and the notion that there is glory in being a bully.

This Monday is Columbus Day, and instead of honoring a murderous slave trader, let’s honor the people who deserve it.  Let’s do the right thing, and tell the truth… about the Tainos, who were raped and enslaved.  If they failed to deliver the quota of gold Columbus demanded, he had their hands cut off or had them chased down and attacked by vicious dogs.  He reveled in the sale of young Native girls as sexual slaves for his personal profit.  He was not a “brave adventurer.”  He was a rapacious terrorist with no regard for human life or dignity.

Others who feel like I do have renamed Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day.  This Monday, I hope you will join me in celebrating Indigenous People’s Day, by committing to learn the truth about Columbus, and vowing to support indigenous peoples all over the world, who continue to be terrorized.

The Zinn Education Project ( has some great articles about Columbus.  To learn more about the experience of the Tainos under Columbus, visit  There are many other informative websites as well.

Let’s remove the varnish and uncover the truth.  Let’s work together to create a world where perpetrators of violence are held accountable instead of glorified.  We may not be able to change past history, but let’s not forget that we are responsible for the history our children and grandchildren will be taught.

Response from Senator Merkley

For anyone interested, here is the response I received today from Sen. Jeff Merkley in regard to my email about Syria:

Dear Romy,

Thank you for your earlier email to me on the violence in Syria and the possibility of U.S. military intervention. I appreciate having heard from you and I want to share with you my thoughts as the situation continues to develop.
As I wrote in my previous message to you and have said in my public comments, I have had serious reservations about the proposed military action in response to Syria's chemical weapons attack on its citizens.  I have spent hours meeting with the President, Vice President, and officials from the Pentagon, State Department, and intelligence services, and those discussions have not resolved my concerns about the wisdom of the proposed plans. If the Senate votes on the resolution (S.J.Res.21) authorizing that proposed plan, I will oppose it.
I share the President's belief that the use of chemical weapons by Syria is horrific. But it demands a strong international diplomatic response incorporating an array of political and economic actions. The goal should be to deter any additional use by Syria or any other nation. The international community should hold Syria to its promise to transfer its chemical weapons stockpile to international control. While achieving this goal will be challenging, I applaud the progress the administration has made towards its goal in the last few days.
Thank you, again, for sharing your thoughts with me. I hope that you will continue to reach out to me about the issues that are most important to you.
All my best,

Jeffrey A. Merkley
United States Senator

Write your legislators!!

I recently wrote to Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley with my concerns about possible U.S. military action in Syria.  He wrote me a well-reasoned response, while still leaving room to consider military action.  To me, this is not acceptable.  As his tax-paying constituent, who has seen an overwhelming lack of support for U.S. military action, I think he needed to hear a stronger message.  Therefore, here is my reply to his email:

Good evening, Senator Merkley,
Thank you for my response to my concerns about Syria.  It sounds like you have been very diligent in exploring a very complex situation.  My views on this are less complex.  I was against military action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and everywhere else, and am now against military action in Syria.  I am not some Johnny-come-lately who is anti-war because "it was Obama's idea."  To be fair though, this is not a partisan issue; I literally have not heard a single one of my friends on either side of the aisle defend the idea of attacking Syria.  The concept of "limited strikes" leaves me with the same sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as the image seared into my brain of G.W. Bush in his ill-fitting flight suit, proclaiming "Mission Accomplished."  I'm not buying it for one minute.
Our military was founded to protect our country.  It was the clear intent of the founding fathers to wisely mind our own business.  Since then, the war profiteers have convinced decision makers otherwise, much to the horror of the people in the countries we occupy.  I have yet to hear exactly what attack Syria has launched on us that we need to defend.
I currently have a young friend, an Iraqi refugee, who has traveled to Syria to support the people.  The people of Syria DO NOT want us there.  Since they are the proported victims of the attack (and there is contention about who exactly used the chemical weapons in the first place), shouldn't the victims have a say as to whether or not they will be further victimized?  The people of Syria are being used as human shields; any attack on our part will merely further the corrupt agenda of the current regime.
Why is it that force is our first option instead of our last?  What have we gained by this?  I can tell you, sir, what we have lost... we have lost our standing and reputation internationally.  We have lost generations of young men and women to combat, suicide, chronic disabilities and illness, exposure to deadly chemicals, PTSD, broken families, and ruined lives.  Sadly, the children are watching, and our society's children are being raised on war, and learning that force is the way to solve problems... gee, I wonder why we have so much violence!  We have destroyed our economy, while people are jobless and homeless in the streets.  In Tillamook, our local Salvation Army Food Bank is shutting down, another victim of the war economy reality.  Last Saturday, I spoke to a friend of mine, a middle aged woman raising grandchildren, who was in tears, because she doesn't know how she is going to survive without the food bank.  We don't have the dollars to feed Oregonians, but we have them to send missiles to strike innocent people?!  As your constituent, while I respect your research and willingness to see all sides, I am also waiting for you to condemn any military action in Syria, or anywhere.
We have sprayed chemical weapons such as white phosphorus, in violation of international law, near civilian populations such as Fallujah, causing some of the most horrific birth defects imaginable, not to mention the soaring illness rates in those areas.  We use a drone program with an 80% accuracy rate.  Would 80% be accurate enough for you if it were in your neighborhood?  We have bombed villages, killed countless innocent people, destroyed schools, hospitals, entire neighborhoods, in our bloodthirst for the "terrorists."  Then as the children's bodies are buried, we call it "collateral damage."  Can you imagine, for one moment, trying to raise children in one of the places we invade?  The horror is unthinkable.
Enough is enough!!!!  Please speak out against this newest threat by the U.S.  It is becoming increasingly obvious to the entire world who the real terrorists are.  The Syrian people don't need our kind of "intervention."  Better yet, let's provide the war dollars to the agencies who are actually reaching out and providing food and medical care.  The profiteers will be mad, but they are obscenely wealthy already.  It's not our job, and never was, to police the entire world and play God in the process.  I am in full agreement with you that the international community needs to join together to address human rights abuses in Syria; I just think for once we need to be creative and find a non-military way to do so.
I am against all war, I am against this war, and, to quote a bumper sticker, I am already against the next war.  Please join me in opposing more death and destruction. 
Thank you for your time, again, and your willingness to hear all sides of the issue.  That is why I voted for you.
Romy Carver

History Repeats Itself

This post will be a little shorter than some of my previous posts.  This is such an important issue, and I am hoping that people all over the world will become aware of what is happening and step up to do the right thing.
Right now, as we speak, the Greek government is detaining people in internment camps.  They started with migrants (who were racially profiled).  Then they moved on to drug users.  Next they targeted sex industry workers, forcing them to have HIV tests.  Their latest target: transgender individuals.
What “Operation Zeus” amounts to is a “cleansing” effort to dispose of human beings Greek’s government considers to be undesirables.  Transgender people are told to “return to normal” or be locked up.  People are being incarcerated simply for existing.   Right now, there are 5,000 individuals who are locked up, and the Greek government has announced that camp capacity is about to double.
If this doesn’t give you chills, I encourage you to read the history of Nazi Germany.  Who knows who they will come for next?  Are you differently abled, or do you worship the “wrong” god, or are you gay?  Perhaps you have the wrong skin color, or have strongly stated public opinions.  Who knows… but this is unacceptable.
After WWII, we all said “never again.”  Now it’s happening again, and we must put a stop to it.  The question is not so much “who will be next,” as “who is going to speak up?”  WE MUST.
I hope you will join me in signing this petition to the European Union, demanding a stop to this outrage.  To do anything less is to be complicit in human rights abuses.
To learn more details about this situation, please visit: 
To help even more, please share this information with others.

Organizing for Peace

What were you doing in 1992?  I was going through a divorce, and on welfare, with three small kids.  I was living in the small rural town where I grew up, and unbeknownst to me, a movement was being born right under my nose.

That year, a group called Oregon Citizen’s Alliance, headed by extreme conservative and homophobe Lon Mabon, proposed a measure designed to deny civil rights to lesbians and gays in Oregon, and all hell broke loose.  Measure 9 said all governments in the state should not support homosexuality - or "pedophilia, sadism or masochism" - in any way and that they "must assist in setting a standard for Oregon's youth which recognizes that these behaviors are abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse and they are to be discouraged and avoided."  (The group had already succeeded in 1988 in repealing former Governor Neil Goldschmidt’s executive order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in state government, via Measure 8.  The 1988 measure also prohibited protection for lesbian and gay workers from job discrimination.  In 1992, the Oregon Supreme Court overturned it, declaring it unconstitutional.)

Although their rallying cry was “no special rights,” Measure 9 was really about no rights whatsoever, not even the right to live and exist in our society.  This created arguably one of the most hotly contested elections in Oregon history.  More people voted in this election than in the presidential election.

At kitchen tables across Oregon, groups were coming together to talk about LGBT rights, and they were starting to organize.  In larger urban areas, it was easier to find like-minded people, but in the small, rural areas of the state pockets of awareness were forming.  Small, isolated towns were forming human dignity groups in response to this attack on our fellow citizens.  I had a “No on 9” sign in the front window of my house, much to the annoyance of my next door neighbor, a very conservative Christian, whose lawn was peppered with “Yes on 9” signs. 
Meanwhile, a small group was traveling across Oregon, from kitchen table to kitchen table, connecting ideas and people.  The Rural Organizing Project was born.  By connecting like-minded people who had been geographically isolated from one another, local human dignity groups, under the statewide umbrella of the Rural Organizing Project, banded together and soundly defeated Measure 9.  Many younger people in Oregon have never even heard of the OCA, or Lon Mabon, but those of us who remember will do whatever we must to prevent the hostile takeover of state law and government by hate groups.  Perhaps we should thank Lon Mabon, the creepy little bigot for kicking a hornet’s nest of fair-minded activists. 

In 1993, the Rural Organizing Project held a Rural Caucus and Strategy Session, bringing together human and civil rights activists from all across the state, and the permanent organization was formed.  On June 8, 2013, the 20th annual ROP Rural Caucus and Strategy Session was held in Woodburn, and for the first time, I was able to attend.  I was honored and humbled to be in the company of people who had spent decades defending the rights of others.  This year’s was the largest ever, with over 160 people in attendance.

I firmly believe that in the absence of justice there is no peace, and there is no peace activism that does not include the responsibility for social justice.  I came away from the caucus believing more firmly than ever before that, while peace rallies are great, every single one of us can be a peace activist every single day.  We all have our niche in which we can create peace through social justice. 
Some of the issues discussed: preventing corporate takeover, treatment of the homeless, LGBT rights, immigration reform, the drones program (and of course war), privatization of public services, fair housing, marriage equality, Guantanamo Bay, self-sufficient living, economic justice, creating welcoming communities, poverty and hunger, youth leadership.

I left with a packet full of information on a variety of issues, feeling empowered and happy.  You don’t have to sign every petition, attend every rally, or march every march to be an activist.  But if you can find something, one thing, that matters to you… that’s where it begins. Everyone who was there had their passion.  I had the privilege of hearing so many voices, and it was overwhelming, but in a good way.
I am hoping, over the next few blog posts, to highlight a few of the efforts taking place, some of the partnerships that are being formed, and maybe some stories of how they got started.  But for now, I’ll simply share the overriding values identified by the Rural Organizing Project… democracy, human dignity, justice, and solidarity… and encourage you to go to their website and learn more:

In closing, I will share my all-time favorite story about my dad.  When I was growing up, my dad was not known for his open-minded spirit. He used to remind me of the character Archie Bunker off the TV show All in the Family.  At about age 68, he quit drinking and I saw his demeanor become kinder.  At age 72, he went completely and irreversibly blind from macular degeneration.  In 1992, at the height of the OCA debacle, he was 76 years old and eating lunch with my mom at the local senior meal site.  The discussion turned to politics, and inevitably to Measure 9.  My brave dad, in spite of his blindness, in spite of his awareness that since World War II, he had lived in an extremely conservative community, STOOD UP, and spoke out loudly and boldly to his peers AGAINST Measure 9.  My dad, who I had once compared to Archie Bunker, took one small action that will forever define him in my book as an activist.  I have never been so proud as I was of him when I heard about it from my mom.  He didn't define himself as an activist, but he believed in fairness.

My dad would have turned 98 yesterday.  He passed away in 1994.  For the past 19 years, I have tried to live in a way that would make him proud, but most of all, to be as brave and outspoken about my truth as he was that day.  That one moment changed my perception of him forever, and sometimes all we need is one moment to speak out for justice to create peace.

Father's Day

I spent this last Father’s Day in silent, burning rage at my dad, and it’s taken me three months to sort it out enough to write.