In One Hour
The usual Quaker meeting lasts for about one hour. In the traditional, unprogrammed style of Friends Meetings, that means sitting in silence, waiting on the Spirit. Quakers have become, over the years, devotees, patrons, even connoisseurs, of silence. The Eskimos are reported to have many different words for "snow"; like them, Friends can refer to different kinds and flavors of silent worship. Empirically, of course, there is no such thing as "silence"; one can hear one's own breath, if one attends to it (or tries not to!); the stillness of a natural forest is filled with joyful sounds of bugs, birds or wind; our silent worship at the Friends Meeting in Brooklyn, New York was always punctuated by sirens, horns, rap music or sidewalk chatter. But Quakers, anyway, to make a long story short, tend to gather once a week for an hour of silent worship.
The Henry George Institute, the nonprofit for which I work, has objectives that dwarf its resources (as, I suppose, any nonprofit should). The organization has not yet crossed the income threshold which, under IRS rules, requires it to submit its financial statements for public scrutiny -- but in the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you that its net worth stands at $290,000, give or take, and its annual budget averages about $38K. Readers can consult our website(s) to get a sense of the scope of the Institute's activities; I think it suffices for our present purpose to say that the Institute is as active as it can possibly be, and its efforts are supported by a group of dedicated, even zealous, volunteers.
Having gotten myself caught up in this work (and having joined the Society of Friends, which, despite rumors you may have heard, doesn't have much money either), I have had to try to make ends meet, raising a family, making what financial plans I can, while receiving only such income as lies inside my own (admittedly idiosyncratic) definition of "right livelihood"; in other words: not much.
I say all of these things to provide context for the state of mind in which I read John Murtha's recent, dead-on, courageous speech on US policy in Iraq, in which he reported that the United States of America is currently spending eleven million dollars per hour on the war in Iraq.
In the length of one Quaker meeting, the United States, the nation of which I am a citizen, whose Constitution I admire and uphold, is spending ELEVEN MILLION DOLLARS prosecuting a failed, fraudulent, counter-productive military adventure in Iraq. In one hour.
I would like to take this opportunity to tell you that eleven million dollars is approximately 38 times the Henry George Institute's current endowment. Having $11 million would provide for an annual budget of something like $1.4 million. My position of "Program Director" could command a comfortable salary, and a supporting staff could be hired. We would be in the position to offer grants to people who devise creative strategies for furthering our work. I would not be fretting, as I am, daily, about how in the world I'll ever send my kids to college. And we would be making many thousands, instead of a few hundred, people per year aware of the shape of achievable, sustainable economic justice for everyone. I believe we could do a great deal of good.
I hereby ask the President to sanction one hour of silence in Iraq -- one hour during which every US-funded troop, division, unit, platoon, contractor and operative -- would stand down. It'll save the taxpayers $11 million, and he'll still have 8,759 such hours in the coming year to go on with his endeavor in Iraq.
If he can bring himself to do it. It might not be so easy, after spending an hour in silence. Most Americans shrink from the prospect of an entire hour of silence. Has the reader tried it? It can change your life. It can provide an opening for peace to enter your heart.
Lindy Davies is the Program Director of the Henry George Institute.
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