Tag Archive: Friends Committee on National Legislation

A Guest at William Penn House

When I arrived at the William Penn House to teach yoga tonight, there were a couple of suitcases in the room. I asked one of the interns to help me move them. A guest came to help as one of the suitcases was his. I invited him to join us for yoga class. He expressed interest though declined this visit because he had a plane to catch. He stayed to chat while I was making the room ready.

The conversation started with snow and New York State and then Quaker peace activities–the latter hardly surprising for someone staying at William Penn House. The guest was older than me and had been an activist for a long time. I thought he would certainly know my Dad who has been doing peace-related volunteer work in New York for 50 years give or take a few. Yes, he knew my Dad and so I will send regards.

The guest said on parting that he thought all workshops for activists should start with some type of movement practice such as yoga. I agreed. Not only does it help bring the group together, but it invites all the participants to be stronger, healthier, and more flexible to better carry out their purpose.

My students began to arrive–the first, who came in the middle of the conversation, expressing the opinion that the guest would have been a great addition to the class. The guest went on his way, saying he would be thinking about yoga as he waited in the airport for his flight. And I brought the sense of deepened community and purpose from this chance encounter into my teaching.

Photo of marker outside the Friends Committee on National Legislation

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


Letter from Friends Committee on National Legislation on Budget Priorities

Wanted to share with all of you the text (plus link) of an email I received today from FCNL:

Here in Washington, everyone agrees that the current level of federal budget deficits is unsustainable. Our FCNL policy is that – with a few exceptions – government should take in sufficient revenue to cover the nation’s needs.  But as our lawmakers debate how to cut the deficit, we need to insist on truth telling; a serious consideration of all federal spending, including the Pentagon’s budget; and open discussion about priorities. Contact your representative today.

take actionThe plan that the House leadership offers for a vote on Friday fails that test. The plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (WI) reduces the $15 trillion federal budget debt by about $155 billion over 10 years – that’s a drop in the ocean. This plan “saves money” by transferring resources from programs that assist people with low and moderate incomes to wealthy individuals and corporations.

Rep. Ryan’s plan, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, would cut $4.3 billion in federal spending – two-thirds of that directed at programs for people of low and moderate incomes. The plan would then give $4.2 billion of that sum away in tax cuts that benefit primarily wealthy individuals and corporations.

We at FCNL want Congress to be serious about federal government spending, which means looking at ALL expenditures and balancing priorities. Cutting waste, fraud and abuse makes good sense. The place to start  is with Pentagon spending. Fair and adequate taxes and other government programs should also be examined.


Take Action

Urge your representative to reject the Ryan budget and to support efforts to make at least $100 billion a year in cuts to the Pentagon budget, as recommended by the Sustainable Defense Task Force.

Ask 5 friends to contact their representative too.


Find Out More

Who says we can and should cut Pentagon spending? The answer may surprise you.

The Sustainable Defense Task Force outlined how nearly $1 trillion could be cut from the Pentagon budget over the next 10 years. Read the summary and share it with others in your community.

Read the analysis of Rep. Ryan’s budget that was done by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Find out more about the Our Nation’s Checkbook campaign to shift money from the military budget to advance other priorities.


Spiritual Unity in Religious Diversity

It has been heart-rending for me to read about the growing rancor and bigotry about religion and race as we approach the mid-term elections.  I am concerned as a peace-loving and community-minded citizen.  I am also concerned as a personal matter.  My great grandparents fled the pograms, and my parents felt free to become members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and bring their children to Friends’ meeting.  I both honor my ancestry and religious upbringing and can study and practice yoga without fear of societal condemnation.  Current events remind us all too painfully that the importance of religious and spiritual freedom can never be taken for granted.  It is a matter of constant attention to seek spiritual unity in religious diversity, to recognize the spirit in every one, no matter the form of practice they choose (including choosing no practice or faith at all).

Today, I received the following email from Joe Volk at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.  I invite you to join me in taking action if you are so moved:

At FCNL, we’ve been sick at heart and concerned at the hate speech, confusion, and misinformation about American Muslims that has spread across the country in the last month. Many of you have told us that you share our concern.

The controversy is not over yet.  Between today and the September 11 anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, we at FCNL expect another outpouring of bigotry and misplaced anger at the proposal to build an Islamic cultural center in downtown New York City. 

In the first eleven days of September, please state publicly that you stand with our brothers and sisters in the American Muslim community.  We support their proposal to exercise their religious freedom by building an Islamic Cultural Center in downtown Manhattan, where they have lived and worshiped for years.

Worship, Talk, Take a Stand

Our country needs this cultural center and the public discussion that it is generating. The proposal for this Islamic cultural center can be transformed from an ugly controversy into perhaps the most important public opportunity in this decade to celebrate and exercise the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.

Many of you are taking this opportunity. From New York to North Carolina and from Maryland to Illinois, we have heard about local community groups using the public focus on the cultural center to organize opportunities for Christians and Muslims to find out what they have in common. To counter the distrust and misinformation, more people need to state publicly that they support the freedom of American Muslims to worship and to gather together.

Please start by signing this petition supporting American Muslims and the proposal to exercise their religious freedom to build an Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan. Ask 5 friends to sign it as well. We’ll add the names of those who sign to the bottom of the petition to show the support that’s out there.

That’s the first step, but we encourage you to do more if you can. Here are some suggestions.

  • Ask 5 friends to sign the petition too.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper supporting the Islamic Cultural Center.
  • Find out if the American Muslim community in your area might welcome a public or private opportunity to get to know your own local church, meeting or community group;
  • On Friday, September 10, many local American Muslim communities around our country organize public celebrations of Eid ul-Fitr — the end of the holy period of Ramadan. Find out if Muslims in your area might welcome the participation of people of other faiths.
  • Write your senators to ask them to speak out in support of the Islamic Cultural Center.

A Slow Metro Ride, A Missed Yoga Class, and Meditations on the Costs of War

Yesterday I wrote to my DC elected officials and to the budget office to let them know how important it is to me that local municipalities fully fund public transportation, as the budget year comes to a close.  Metro officials are threatening to close down many bus lines entirely, which will mean that far too many people will be unable to get to work, especially for low-paying jobs.  Hundreds of workers are scheduled to  be laid off, which means (as an icy cold budgetary matter — the budget after all being a moral document) that they will need services and no longer will be paying taxes.  Disrepair, injuries, and accidents will become even more prevalent, and service will be slowed at already overtaxed and overcrowded times.  Our air quality will go from yellow/orange to orange/red from the increase in gridlocked traffic.  I discussed the issue and the urgency of making our voices heard with several co-workers today.

I left the office at 5:40 pm this evening to go to take Suzie Hurley’s 6:15pm class at Willow Street, Takoma, Park.  I was standing on a metro train at 5:46pm.  The ride is supposed to take 13 minutes from Judiciary Square metro.  We reached Takoma Park at 6:27pm.  I went over to the studio when I arrived.  If the door was open, I would have looked in and caught Suzie’s eye and quietly seen whether I could slip in.  The door was closed, and I could hear that the class had already started doing standing poses.  Under circumstances where being late is clearly not my fault (and I try to avoid those by being willing to be early if it turns out the travel has been optimally sequenced), I will join the class just after centering and before the asanas begin.  As much as I would have liked to have taken a yoga class after the slow metro ride, I felt that I shouldn’t risk disturbing the other students by coming so late.  I instead will be doing a long, deep, slow, inward-moving practice when I am finished writing, corresponding, getting ready for practice and sleep, and doing some preparations for tomorrow’s work day.

In my growing acceptance that I would be arriving too late to Takoma to take class, I thought about the email I had received earlier in the day about the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s “Our Nation’s Checkbook” campaign.  The email reminded me that a third of my tax dollars are being spent on war.  “What about investing in green jobs, preventing more home foreclosures, and funding diplomacy to prevent wars?” I was asked.  “What about public transportation,” I thought, as I sat on the stationary train between stations.  “How many trains could be operated efficiently and safely for each fighter aircraft?”

How do I want to live?  What are my priorities?  When does short-sightedness or immediate personal satisfaction impact my long-term health and happiness and peaceful co-existence on a crowded planet?  For what purposes do I practice?  How would I like to invite others to live?

The ride home, of course, had nary a problem.  A train arrived in under five minutes.  The ride back to Union Station was exactly 11 minutes.  Everyone had a seat, and the car was nearly full,  so it was at perfect capacity.  It was still light, and lots of people were out because of the balmy night and the beauteous blossoms, and I felt safe strolling home instead of taking the bus.  What a beautiful night!


Two Tangible Things You Can Do in Response to the Earthquake in Haiti

Donate to support the peacekeeping efforts of the American Friends Service Committee (or other organization of your choice).

Write to your elected official about granting temporary protected status for Haitian immigrants.  The Friends Committee on National Legislation has made it easy to take action.



I found the 1934:  A New Deal for Artists exhibit at SAAM quite moving.  The exhibit was put together for the 75th anniversary of the New Deal; it is merely coincidence that paintings commissioned by the United States government to depict American life in a time of dire conditions happen to be on exhibit at this time.  It is a good companion to view along with Robert Frank’s Americans at the NGA West Wing — also on view because of an anniversary, not because of its coincidental timeliness.

The art is not great art, and it is stuck in the period in which it was painted, in part because of the nature of the commission.  The depictions of America show any resilience and beauty inextricably intertwined with hardship and struggle.  In its very datedness, the art on exhibit raises questions about what are society’s priorities today, how we are responding to the crisis of war, environmental devastation, and economic crisis and how we could enhance and celebrate humanity and the planet rather than continue to decimate the earth and ourselves.

According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, approximately 43% of your 2008 taxes will pay for war.   President Obama’s proposed budget has a smaller increase than previous years, but does not lower in any way military spending.  I’d rather my tax dollars were buying art.