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Listening For The Undertone
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

WE HAVE FOUND a new perception of ourselves in the last months; a paradigm shift in the understanding of our human commonality. We have a foot in both worlds, rooted now in both the strong desire for peace and the reality of combat and struggle. The old way of accomplishing things seems so unworkable as to be archaic, yet we haven't solidified our way forward. Shift happened -- and I'm not sure that we, the citizens of the 21st century, have a feel for it yet. We have instinctual gifts to rely on, if we will. Consider that old saw, "I don't know what it is, but I know it when I see it." We can also hear it if we listen carefully; we need to develop an ear for the undertone.

There is a secondary tone to everything and it becomes obvious if you listen carefully -- a kind of whine, both literally and figuratively. It's a soul sound; a clear indicator of what is behind the words, the face, the posture of those you're listening to. This is true both publically and privately; you'll hear it at home, at work, in line at the grocery store and on CNN. The easiest place to experience this grating sound is in government; once you get an ear for it, you'll begin to hear it everywhere. The smoke of propaganda and pretense has begun to drift away, the mirrors we looked in have shattered with reflected realism and our old way of being on this planet: role-playing, and shifting for position, is fading away. What is inauthentic has a sound, a tinny hollow whine.

Case in point: it appears that Israel has taken opportunity, pre-Obama, to rid itself of the thorn in its side that Hamas has become; they have concerns, and rightly so, that Obama will not give them the free reign that Bush did. Much has been written about this dust-up, about the provocations and the response, the right and the wrong of it; clearly, in a troubled world this is the nut all the squirrels are focused on. When we talk about the big picture in Mid-Eastern affairs, the division in the Holy Land is always at the heart of it. This is the one problem that, if solved, releases the energy for everything else to take shape differently; in the last eight years, the peace process has been a black hole of indifference. Bush made few attempts at peacemaking, promoting instead his version of the democratic process itself, which yielded a fairly-elected Hamas and an immediate stonewall of their legitimacy.

While the press has been more even-handed in its coverage, here at the waning of Bush influence, there has still been very little written about Israel's complicity in creating the pressure cooker that is Gaza, or the clear overkill of its response; no one is questioning their right to respond -- it is the nature of their response that is at question, accompanied by an international howl of outrage for the civilian death and the bombing of schools and mosques.

The one voice that got my attention, and a Jewish voice no less, was the ever-bold Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, who grilled David Gregory, newly-appointed Meet The Press host, on the conspiracy of silence regarding Israel's actions. Jon is a mensch of the first order, he's proved it countless times in speaking truth to power; that he frames it comedically does not discount the fact that his points are potent and candid. In short, Jon helps us think by saying the unsaid. Me, I think he deserves a medal.

Yes, Jon has an ear for that whine behind the obvious; and we're developing a talent for it ourselves, now. Only 31% of Democrats support the Israeli position; perhaps because we came close to losing our minds over the faulty PR campaign of Shock and Awe, and recognize the flawed talking points, the us/them rhetoric and the smell of death. Indeed, some 50 or so percent of Israelis, themselves, support a transition to peace with Palestinians that does not include violence. Credit the hollow echo that now seems to accompany every governmental announcement, the self-serving tone in every advertising blitz, every defense put forward in every conversation we're having with one another. The trick to noticing what is slightly off is simple enough -- we have to learn to listen for it.
Humankind has become lazy in its thought process, perhaps because our experience in these last years has been regressive, not progressive -- or perhaps because we don't take time from our busy lives to think things through. We've been conditioned not to question, to sleepwalk through our existence. In times of prosperity, it's easy to get complacent; it's difficult times that shake us awake. Horace, the Roman poet and philosopher, told us that "adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it." Obviously, then, we are poised on amazing possibility; the choice of how we see this is in our own hands.
And in difficult circumstance, we have two ways to go -- we can rise to the occasion and aim to soar above it, or we can sink into the mire of soap opera. Too often we choose that last, the one with which we are most familiar. Obama has declared his government a 'no drama' zone -- that's a good thing; life is dramatic enough, we don't need a slew of Drama Queens making it more troublesome than it is. Think 'Bush years' if you want a compass for writing a script that had the nation by the nose; think 'working our every emotion' to take us on a journey through chaos.

I'm hearing a lot of that telltale whine in Congress, newly back in session. Obama, not even sworn in at this point, has succeeded in changing the game, and not everyone is thrilled with that. Republicans, for instance, are busy planning a strategy to obstruct his recovery plan; they're suddenly fiscal conservatives, which would be laughable if it wasn't such sad commentary on their character. A little late, I'd think -- if you're going to spend eight years giving away the farm, you’ll have no leg to stand on in demanding first class production and accountability while the paint's still wet on the eviction notice.

The Democrats, particularly the moderate Blue Dogs, are fussing about Obama's cabinet picks; his recent selection of Leon Panetta for CIA Chief has miffed some of the highly placed Blues that have spent this last decade enabling Bush policy. It seems obvious that Panetta's surprise nomination has much to do with his absence from public service in the last eight years and his criticism of torture, rendition and Constitutional assault. Obama is sending a message to those who just 'went along': not on my watch.

Powerful Democratic Senators Diane Feinstein and Jay Rockerfeller have a stake in the intelligence game; they were not informed by the Obama team before word of Panetta's nomination leaked out. DiFi, particularly, was irate, suggesting she might fight the nomination. She has since accepted the apology from Obama but we can sense the kind of tantrums 'No Drama' Obama is going to have to deal with from both Left and Right. Her record of giving Bush a free hand to spy on Americans, as well as her Stepford votes on his Supreme Court and Cabinet nominees, factors into her decision to make a public fuss; feeling threatened, she's making an ego stand, a show of power -- hear the whine? There is always an obvious tonality in CYA propositions; you can certainly hear it in the Bush administration, as it attempts to rewrite history in its favor.

Here's the thing -- we've spent decades on our position-pedestal, especially in these last hard-edged years; in order to stay there, we had to push back anything that would knock us off. It may or may not occur to us that stepping down from it now, in this change from old to new, would not only be a relief but allow energy to open up around us. Changing our minds seems unthinkable, when we are in a defense posture. It would be a productive idea to question not only our defense, but our position as well; just a little reality check to make sure it's still worthy of putting our personal reputation on the line for. Life is changing around us constantly -- does it make sense for us to never change to accommodate new information and circumstance?

We have to break a wall of codified resistance to do that, of course. We've been conditioned to have the attention span of a gnat, to take our life in sound-bites and infomercials; we've been denied nuance and realism, and encouraged to foreswear critical thinking. We were shoved away from our higher angels, and toward dividing ourselves along simplistic, tribal allegiances. We've been taught to ignore the undertone that tells us the truth of the matter, although it has always been there -- in short, we've been made tone deaf.

But we aren't any more; we're developing an ear to hear -- and while we can't ignore what's thunderous any longer, we still have to work at pinpointing the subtleties in order to hone our instincts. Some things are more obvious, they echo like a striking gong. We use the same arguments to achieve the same old ends; we don't even try to be clever. As usual, the defense given for the presumptive occupation of Gaza -- with hundreds dead and thousands wounded -- was that dissidents were lobbing shells: the "they're trying to kill us" argument. Yes, quite probably; but in order for that argument to work effectively, one's own hands have to be scrupulously clean. Israel's are not; it is, so the wonks say, America's 51st state, and they pretty much remind me of my own country.
"What?" you say, "My own country isn't trying to kill me!" Oh, well, no phosphorous shells in your backyard, that's true enough; but no one is protecting you (let's face it) from lead in your toys, contaminants in your water, additives in your food and surprises in your pharmaceuticals. No one is making health care easier to come by or medication cheap enough to purchase; that's certainly a corridor to slow death.

And there are a few little problems we're dealing with that don't look very life-encouraging to me. States are running out of unemployment funding, homes are being given over to predatory lenders, social services are being cut due to coffers emptied by warring. Food banks are running short due to overwhelming demand. After months of siege in Gaza, there were reports of children being fed grass by anxious parents; here, in the wealthiest country in the world, that has an equivalency in the skyrocketing demand for food stamps. Obama has said that our economic situation is 'dire' -- are we going to pretend that our circumstance isn't the direct result of a philosophy bent on squeezing every dime and bit of compliance out of us? Are we going to hide our eyes from the plight of Palestinians when it clearly smacks of apartheid? Can we ignore our commonality? Really? Anybody got recipes for grass they'd like to share?

We know a lot about death; we've learned plenty about it these last few years, despite the press blackouts and the political correctness that kept it from our view. And now we're hearing the tone of it everywhere we turn. What might have been a little buzz in 2002, or the hint of a soft rumble in 2004 became a squeal of cogs slowing in 2006 and has become a full-blown whine of outdated behavior now. We can quickly recognize mistaken thought process, ego squeak and squall; we can sense the uneasy feeling of tribal drumbeat and death culture, of old paradigm posturing and ignorance. We know the tonality of exploitation and corporate arrogance. There is a soul sound to it, and it's everywhere we turn these days.

Can you hear it? Of course you can. Perhaps that's why Obama has become such a Neptunian quandary for many of us -- he doesn't sound like the rest. Maybe that's why those who refuse to give up the old are doing everything they can to make his assent more difficult; it isn't Obama that scares them, it's the new thing that is going to ask them to give up their tired-out game plan and step into an authentic self. That frightens some of us senseless, of course, especially those who have stuffed down their own conscience. I think that self-loathing is the pathway into nihilism; and that's not only easy to spot, it's becoming effortless to hear.

Not a single life lost in the last decade -- not one -- was worth the geopolitical posturing that took it. Government itself became a passive war against its own citizens, world-over, in the last decade; we could not continue on that path and expect to survive. It's time to leave the darkness behind, to move out of the shadows, turn our faces toward the Sun and ask to learn about life. Those who whine that the world is going to hell in front of their very eyes have done very little to help, haven’t they? It's those who speak a positive message that are moving forward into the light; it's those who hold out a hand in helpfulness that will teach us to live.

If what is old has that telltale tone, then what is new has a feeling to it. It's energizing in its hopefulness. It turns up the corners of our mouth. It opens up our heart and asks us to find our courage, our stamina and our intention to collaborate with one another. It wells up in our eyes, like it did recently in mine when I read about Obama's determination to return to Constitutional law. We came so close to fascism -- so very, very close; we danced so near to the darkness.

Hearing the sound of what's old is just the beginning of the new skill set we need: more will come as we open to the possibilities. We have talents and abilities we've just begun to tap. A Course in Miracles tells us that humans have no ability to judge events, not having access to the larger picture; but it does not ask us to surge ahead mindlessly. We are clearly able to discern what is workable, judicious, fair and worthwhile; and we are given the ability to constantly make new choices, accommodating change in circumstance and consciousness. At some point, we must begin to strip the words and thoughts of violence from our society -- that feels far away to me, but we're beginning a journey toward sanity. It must be our ultimate intention, if we are to arrive safely in this new century.

If you think that non-violence is a worthy goal, join me in signing this petition. I think it is the starting point and the end game, both; the place we must make our way toward if we are to become the people we were meant to be. We're looking up at the stars, we're moving toward the light, we're reconfiguring our common future as brothers and sisters. As intentions go, I can think of none so radical and game-changing; none so worth our dedication and hard work.
We have determined to take our lives back into our own hands -- we've awakened to our own power and stepped up to prove we're not afraid to stand in it. We're becoming sentient creatures, remembering forgotten talents and learning new ones. As we clearly determine what the folding paradigm sounds like, lets put out a new tone, one that is our highest affirmation and intention -- there's even a song to hum, a hedge against the undertone, if you will: Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

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