Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mentors for Us All

August 16, 2011
Good Will to All, With a Side of Soft-Serve


This American summer, the heat is the least of it. A pummeled economy. A credit-rating embarrassment. More tarmac ceremonies for dead war heroes. Tornadoes, floods and other disasters, including Congress. Presidential aspirants stalking Iowa like Barbie and Ken zombies.

Clearly, the country needs to pull off the road and take a break. It needs to treat itself to a soft-serve cone, chocolate-dipped and melting so quickly as to demand a tongue’s sculpting attention, while tiny tree creatures sing their carpe diem serenade, and reassurance comes with a stray evening breeze.

A tasty-twirly-twisty place has to be around here somewhere. There always is.

There’s one. In the Kenhorst Plaza, just outside the small city of Reading, a Dairy Queen shares asphalt space with a Dollar Tree, a Sears hardware store, a Fashion Bug, a food market, a pawn shop and a few vacant storefronts. It is the neon beacon of comfort in a tired commercial tableau.

Inside, though, this Dairy Queen seems different from the 5,000 others lighting up the country’s summer nights. It has the standard freezer filled with Dilly Bars, and the black-and-white photographs evoking a past that includes the first Dairy Queen, in prison-centric Joliet, Ill., in 1940. But plaques and letters and children’s handwritten notes cover nearly every inch of available wall, all praising someone clearly without Pennsylvania Dutch roots; someone named Hamid.

The Cumru Elementary School thanks Hamid. The Mifflin Park Elementary School thanks Hamid. The Brecknock Elementary School thanks Hamid. The Governor Mifflin intermediate, middle and high schools thank Hamid. The Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, the soccer leagues and the baseball leagues, the Crime Alert program, the home for adults with mental retardation — they all thank Hamid.

And here comes the owner, Hamid Chaudhry, in the midst of another 80-hour workweek, fresh from curling another soft-serve. As he makes his way to a corner table, customers hunched over chicken-strip baskets and sundaes call out his name, and he calls back theirs.

“Hi, Tracey; I have that check for you.” “Bye, Mrs. Brady. All good for the homecoming?” “Bye, Mr. Rush. How was the Blizzard? Want another one?”

With such familiarity, you might think that Mr. Chaudhry, 40, grew up rooting for the Reading Phillies and taking late-night rides up to the iconic Pagoda on Mount Penn. But in words inflected by his Pakistani roots and slight speech impediment, he explains that he has lived in southeastern Pennsylvania only since the uncertain year of 2002, not long after Sept. 11.

Then, as a couple of local officials he knows catch up by the window, and a former state police officer he knows picks up a frozen cake, and a Mennonite family, regular customers, eat his soft-serve out on the patio, Hamid from the Dairy Queen tells his American story.

He was the youngest of six in a Muslim family in Karachi. His father, an accountant, was physically and mentally damaged after being hit by a car; his mother, a schoolteacher, took care of her husband and insisted that her baby go to America for a better life. That meant Chicago, where a brother was driving a cab while studying to become a college professor.

Mr. Chaudhry took several years to earn a college degree in finance, partly because of language difficulties, and partly because he was always working — mostly at the celebrated Drake Hotel. He was the unseen busboy, working his way up to assistant manager for room service and minibars, serving Caesar salad to President-elect Bill Clinton, delivering unsatisfactory apple pancakes to Jack Nicholson, tending to the dietary needs of a guest named Lassie. The Drake became an immersion course in Western pop culture.

He became an American citizen and started a career in financial-accounting software, eventually moving to New York, where he got fired. (“Wall Street wasn’t for me,” he says.) But he did meet a medical student named Sana Syed. Their first meeting was with her parents; the second was for a coffee at Starbucks; the third a brunch at a diner; and, finally, a dinner date at an Outback Steakhouse.

After they married in 2001, she landed a residency at the Reading Hospital and Medical Center. While his wife worked 90 hours a week, Mr. Chaudhry mustered the nerve to ask the owner of the local Dairy Queen, at Kenhorst Plaza, whether he wanted to sell. When he heard yes, Mr. Chaudhry scraped, mortgaged and borrowed to meet the asking price of $413,000.

He completed his classroom training at Dairy Queen’s headquarters in Minnesota, where he studied everything from labor management to the proper way to hand a customer a Blizzard. On June 27, 2003, he finally opened the doors to his Dairy Queen, but he was so jittery, intent on making every customer feel extra, extra special, that one employee quit on the spot. Oh, and the soft-serve machine malfunctioned.

Once he found his footing, Mr. Chaudhry decided to give back to the community, and held an elementary-school fund-raiser in which he provided the parent-teacher organization with 25 percent of the sales. Though the $450 seemed a generous amount, the publicity he received did not seem right to him.

“It felt like I got more in return than what I was giving,” he says.

Just like that, the Dairy Queen began to become the center of communal good, notwithstanding its contribution to the high obesity rate recorded among adults in Berks County. Mr. Chaudhry immersed himself in fund-raising, splitting everything 50-50 so that he only covered his costs. Good for promoting the business, yes, but also good for Hamid.

Fund-raisers for a father of four with cancer; for the Children’s Miracle Network; for soccer teams and Little League teams and the widow of a deputy sheriff recently killed in a shootout — he was a regular customer who liked Blizzards. Sponsorship of car washes and high school homecomings and blood drives four times a year. (Donate a pint of blood and get a $20 frozen cake.) Free parties held at every local elementary school, as well as at a Bible school run by the Mennonite church.

“My customers have made me well-to-do,” Mr. Chaudhry explains. “They patronize me, so why wouldn’t I give back?”

He gets up to hand a check to Tracey Naugle, the president of one of the local parent-teacher organizations who sits at a nearby table, enjoying a chocolate cone. Typical Hamid, she later says. She recently helped to organize a modest fund-raising event at Dairy Queen for a children’s swim team. “Hamid gave me a check for $1,000,” she says. “And I know we didn’t make $1,000 that night.”

Every community has its magnetizing place: a post office, a diner, a coffee shop. Here it is the Dairy Queen, Ms. Naugle says, mostly because of Mr. Chaudhry. He randomly shows up at schools with frozen treats for teachers. He once set up a petting zoo outside his store. He even bought his own dunk tank to use on the patio. He tries.

“He knows everybody and everybody knows Hamid,” Ms. Naugle says. “We’re so lucky to have him.”

The soft-serve has been a welcome balm, but it is time to toss those balled-up napkins and get back on the nerve-rattling road. Time to say goodbye to Mr. Chaudhry, who can tell you that younger people prefer Oreo Blizzards and older people prefer dipped cones, but he cannot say more about his motives than that he is lucky, thank God.

Just living in Pennsylvania, he says, with a wife, two children, a thriving business, and many friends. Hamid at the Dairy Queen is home.
For original postings GO here


Also read Rais Bhuiyan's Website and get involved with his campaign for a World Without Hate

Rais Bhuiyan is in the middle

Also see World Without Hate website GO or CLICK here

And see the article here

BIG concerns about US misuse of Authority

How easy to see why so many worldwide interpret US policies and actions as a kind of Crusade against certain peoples...

GO here

Amnesty International USA's Security with Human Rights campaign aims to gather, and then deliver to President Obama, 100,000 signatures either in on line response or upon paper airplane petitions by May 1, 2012, with the goal of prompting him to apologize to Maher Arar during whatever remarks he delivers to commemorate the United Nations' International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, observed annually on June 26.When the struggle to promote, protect and defend human rights seems overwhelming, try to remember the courage of Mr. Arar and the other victims and survivors of torture and their families.

There are links to the action via the North Carolina Stop Torture Now - NCSTN Web site: GO here

or, more directly: GO here

CUT PASTE for your friends:
or, more directly:

ALSO VISIT Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Find all these below at or GO here

Monday, August 15, 2011

Despite Crises: The People Still Have a Voice

Congress extends FBI director’s term, but Obama heeds BORDC’s call for a new inspector general

Last month, thousands of you joined us in opposing the proposed extension to FBI Director Robert Mueller’s term. Sadly, despite our calls for long-overdue transparency and accountability, Congress submitted to the president’s demands and within days voted to keep Mueller in office for another two years—the first time Congress has extended an FBI director’s term since J. Edgar Hoover.

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee is sorely disappointed that Congress has again abandoned its constitutional responsibility to monitor the FBI’s activities and protect the rights and liberties guaranteed to all Americans by the Bill of Rights. Whatever our “leaders” in Washington may do, however, We the People still have a voice. And together, our voices were heard. Although Congress kept in place the leadership that has overseen the FBI’s extensive rights abuses over the last decade, the White House did follow our coalition’s recommendation to nominate an inspector general for the Department of Justice.

Read the rest here

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rais Bhuiyan's Tranformative Love

I missed this article earlier - although I've followed the story somewhat when things were heating up in Texas...

Yet, reading this one today in the public library, couldn't stop the tears - it's one of the most moving stories of my life:

Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was shot by Mark Stroman, a white supremacist, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. First Posted at Huff Post: 7/18/11 07:54 PM ET Updated: 7/18/11 09:11 PM ET

Just weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, a masked man stormed into the Dallas convenience store where Rais Bhuiyan, a Muslim immigrant from Bangladesh, worked as a cashier. He asked where Bhuiyan was from -- then shot him in the face at point-blank range before he could reply.

His attacker was Mark Stroman, an avowed white supremacist and methamphetamine addict, who was caught and confessed to the shooting as well as two other attacks on South Asian convenience store workers. Those men died, while Bhuiyan survived, although he was blinded in one eye and still carries 35 shotgun pellets embedded in his face.

READ the rest at another blogsite where I contribute called The Journey of Hope GO here

Also see the work of Texas abolitionists here and I hope to unfold more of this story soon...

US Mayors Call for End to War!

GO here

Children of Somalia: One Way to Help

Seven-month-old Minhaj (initially reported as Mihag) was one of thousands of children at risk of dying in the wake of the drought and famine in East Africa.

After their cattle and sheep died, Minhaj's family, like many others, was on the move in search of water, food and medical help. Weak from the journey and alarmingly underweight, Minhaj needed emergency nourishment and care. He got it at an International Rescue Committee field hospital. And within a week, the medical staff said he was in stable condition, had gained a pound and was recovering. His mother is jubilant.

At this moment, the IRC is helping many more children and their families at risk as famine and severe drought ravage Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and the surrounding region in Africa. At the IRC-run field hospital and clinics our expert staff is treating over 500 refugees every day.

Your contribution now can help support our emergency response efforts in the regions as well as other programs worldwide that are helping refugees and their families.

Right now, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries including the U.S. providing vital emergency services, health care, protection and education to displaced families in desperate need. Your generosity will help us continue to lead them on the journey from harm to home.


All of us at the International Rescue Committee

P.S. To learn more about Minhaj, click here

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A better way to practice a sport during Ramadan

Coach Fouad Zaban directed his Fordson High School team through drills in the middle of the night. See full article for photo info


At Fordson High School, in the predominantly Muslim community of Dearborn, Mich., football practice is held at night during Ramadan.

They were boys like other boys in countless towns, taught that football was important, but not as important as family and faith. Fordson High School’s enrollment is more than 90 percent Muslim, and this week of two-a-day practices coincides with Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, when adherents refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

For a second consecutive season, Coach Fouad Zaban has moved these grueling double practices to late night, from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. This allows players to break their fast at sunset, drink liquids and eat a light meal, practice in the relative cool of what has been a baking summer, then eat again before sunrise.

READ REST... GO here

Posted on Thursday 11 August 2011 by Connie L. Nash, USA Blogger/ Peace & Justice News

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Living on the Side of Hope (The Testimony of Tim Christopher)

Find photo at Common Dreams dot org

Find this article at Information Clearing House for 7-8 August, 2011
What Gives Me Hope

By Robert Meeropol

August 06, 2011 "FDL" -- Tim DeChristopher grew up in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. As a child he watched his mother unsuccessfully fight corporate outlaw Massey Energy’s destruction of his magnificent surroundings, and as a young man became an environmental activist. At age 27, during the closing days of the Bush Administration, DeChristopher submitted bids at a Bureau of Land Management auction of public lands to fossil fuel companies, even though he had no intention of purchasing the properties, in order to stymie what amounted to a gift to the oil and gas industry. The uproar that followed DeChristopher’s sabotage derailed this collusive theft of public property and saved 130,000 acres of wilderness from destruction.

Last week a Federal Judge sentenced Tim DeChristopher to two years in prison for his heroic action.

DeChristopher’s lengthy pre-sentencing statement to the Judge in his case, which includes a cogent analysis of corporate dominance in America and the enormity of the approaching environmental calamity, is worth reading in its entirety, but I only have the space to quote his closing paragraph here. ( See it in full here )

“I’m not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me. If you side with Mr. Huber [the prosecutor] and believe that your role is to discourage citizens from holding their government accountable, then you should follow his recommendations and lock me away. I certainly don’t want that. I have no desire to go to prison, and any assertion that I want to be even a temporary martyr is false. I want you to join me in standing up for the right and responsibility of citizens to challenge their government.

I want you to join me in valuing this country’s rich history of nonviolent civil disobedience. If you share those values but think my tactics are mistaken, you have the power to redirect them. You can sentence me to a wide range of community service efforts that would point my commitment to a healthy and just world down a different path. You can have me work with troubled teens, as I spent most of my career doing. You can have me help disadvantaged communities or even just pull weeds for the BLM. You can steer that commitment if you agree with it, but you can’t kill it. This is not going away. At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today is what side are you on.”

“Which side are you on?” It is a refrain many in the RFC community grew up with. It was always a potent command, a call to action that was hard to ignore. The difference I see between the struggles of the 1930s and the 1960s, and the environmentally-related ones of today, is that those earlier struggles did not contain a looming planetary deadline. I don’t say this to belittle their importance. Those struggles impacted millions and involved efforts to improve the quality of human life across the globe. But if you believe, as I do, that the world’s militaries, corporations and the governments that serve them are engaged in a course of conduct that threatens to decimate the productive capacity of our world in the coming decades, then we have a limited amount of time in which to alter that conduct.

Tim DeChristopher hit the nail on the head when he said “this is what hope looks like.” The odds seem long and the road looks steep, but Tim DeChristopher, and others like him, give me hope. And I know whose side I’m on.

[Tim DeChristopher is a climate activist and board member for the climate justice organization Peaceful Uprising. For more information about his case and his related activism, or to contribute to his legal defense go to either here or here

MANCHESTER: Ramadhan Event (one week to go)

BUY YOUR TICKETS ONLINE NOW - GO here And Annual Dinner Themed:

A decade of Ramadhan in Guantanamo fundraising event - MANCHESTER

This August, the detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay without charge or trial will be spending their tenth Ramadan away from their families. Despite the promises that Guantanamo will be closed by Barack Obama, the prison camps remain open and the cost to human life increases on a daily basis. Join Cageprisoners for an evening where we seek to understand the impact of a decade on the lives of these men.


Please note - that non-segregated group tickets will only be accepted as a group of 10.

IRELAND: Dublin City Council Opposes Use of Shannon Airport by US Troops

Find this article and related at ShannonWatch dot org or GO here

Fri, 05/08/2011 - 00:36 by admin Tags:pressrelease Shannonwatch welcomes the passing of a motion by Dublin City Council supporting calls to terminate the use of Shannon Airport by US troops. The motion which was proposed by Cllr. Larry O’Toole of Sinn Fein at the request of PANA (the Peace and Neutrality Alliance) states

“That this Council supports the Irish Peace Movement’s campaign to terminate the use of Shannon Airport by US troops on their way to and from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and calls for Shannon Airport to be established an an international hub for the storage and distribution of emergency humanitarian supplies as outlined in the Programme for Government”

"This motion reflects the fact that there is widespread public and political opposition to the use of Shannon to facilitate U.S. wars" said a Shannonwatch spokesperson. "There are still over 90 troop and other military flights landing at the airport every month, and this is without the permission of the Irish people. A decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in untold human suffering, political instability and widespread profiteering and corruption. It is high time Irish involvement in this was ended.

Roger Cole, Chair of PANA said that the resolution passed by Dublin City Council resolution reflects the continuing opposition of the people to the destruction of Irish neutrality and this state’s support for war. "What the Irish people want is jobs at home and the end to war. We are convinced that this is a view widely shared by people throughout the rest of Europe and the USA. The Hiroshima Day event this August 6 and the continuing monthly protests on the second Sunday of every month at Shannon Airport shows that the peace movement continues its struggle.”

In 2008 Shannon Town Council, Galway City Council, Cork City Council, Limerick City Council, Derry City Council and Kilkenny County Council passed motions opposing the use of Irish airports for rendition flights. PANA and Shannonwatch hope this latest motion will be passed by these and other councils throughout the 32 counties

US Accountability Sorely Needed: various articles

Find the Following News Digest for August 5, 2011 at No More Gitmos dot org or GO here

08/05 / Jeffrey Kaye / TruthOut / Despite New Denials by Rumsfeld, Evidence Shows US Military Used Waterboarding-Style Torture

08/05 / Ian Cobain / Guardian News Service/AP / Britain’s secret policy on torture revealed

08/05 / Tom Whitehead / Telegraph (UK) / Torture inquiry 'pointless' as key groups plan boycott

08/05 / Carol Rosenberg / Miami Herald / Captive Omar Khadr fires Canadian lawyers

08/05 / Natasha Lennard / Salon / New "sick details" emerge about water torture

08/05 / Demotix (UK) / The Future is Orange protest against Guantanamo at US Embassy - London

08/04 / Maureen Cosgrove / Jurist / Federal appeals court says Ashcroft immune from post-9/11 detainee lawsuit

08/04 / Andy Worthington / Ten NGOs Withdraw from UK Torture Inquiry, Citing Lack of Credibility and Transparency

Again, find all the above articles and more here

Thursday, August 4, 2011

SERENITY Prayer (Original Version)

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

British and International Human Rights Groups pull out of torture inquiry

Ten NGOs Withdraw from UK Torture Inquiry, Citing Lack of Credibility and Transparency. These include Amnesty International, Liberty and Reprieve, who've announced their intention to boycott the government’s proposed inquiry into UK complicity in torture following the 9/11 attacks, on the first anniversary of Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement that an inquiry would take place. Although the inquiry was initially greeted with guarded optimism, it rapidly became apparent that it was intended to be a whitewash.

Human rights groups and lawyers intend to pull out of the inquiry into British complicity in allegations of torture because it does not have ''credibility or transparency'', they said today.

Human rights group claim suspects were tortured with the knowlege of British security services

...This follows the publication of the inquiry's protocols which show the final decision on whether material uncovered by the inquiry, led by Sir Peter Gibson, can be made public will rest with the Cabinet Secretary.

The protocols also stated that former detainees and their lawyers will not be able to question intelligence officials and all evidence from current or former members of the security and intelligence agencies, below the level of head, will be heard in private.

In the letter, the campaigners wrote: ''Plainly an inquiry conducted in the way that you describe and in accordance with the protocol would not comply with Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights.

''We are particularly disappointed that the issue of what material may be disclosed to the public will not be determined independently of Government and, further, that there will be no meaningful participation of the former and current detainees and other interested third parties.

Read more here

Monday, August 1, 2011

What You Can Do for Aafia This Ramadan

JFAC Vigil


jfac vigil
by Andrew Purcell
Houston, Texas.

Ramadan 2011. Or 1432. Which calendar you prefer doesn't change the beginning of Ramadan. That new moon will be sighted early next week. My healthy Muslim friends will be spending the daylight hours refraining from food and drink, and all of them will spend the month contemplating the good things God has provided. And of course they will be spending the month with family and friends celebrating the tradition of God revealing his message to humanity through the prophet Muhammad...

In any year there will be Muslims who are unable to celebrate with family and friends. Many of them tell stories of injustice and oppression, and there is nothing you can do as individuals to correct those injustices and oppressions. You can, as individuals, ease some of the suffering.

If you have managed to find this page I don't need to repeat the story of Dr. Aafia. None of us can bring her home for Eid with her children and her mother. You can't arrange a visit for her brother.

There is something you can do. Send her a postcard. It doesn't have to be fancy. Aafia is partial to nature scenes. You can't talk about her case but there isn't that much room on a postcard so any message would have to be short. All you really need to do is write:

Dear Aafia,

We believe you. We are praying for you and your children and your mother.

Ramadan Mubarak.

It will take you longer to break your fast than it will to write this on a postcard and put a stamp on it, but the joy it will bring to Aafia will last longer than filling an empty stomach.

Aafia's address is:

Aafia Siddiqui
P.O. BOX 27137

SEE ALSO Andy's earlier article:

Who was Dr. Aafia? An eyewitness account.
Posted also by MuslimMatters

A family friend reacts to the plight and case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

This document began life in October 2008 as an e-mail to the author’s family and friends to explain why he cared so much about what happened to this “terribly dangerous woman.”

This story has been getting uneven play in the news in this country. Some of you may not even recognize her name.

The FBI began looking for Aafia Siddiqui in March 2003 for reasons never explained and the internet is full of guesses, ranging from the almost believable through outlandishly lurid.

These internet stories became sensational fantasy. “Lady al-Qaeda Leader Totes Three Small Children, Ex-Husband, New Husband, Boyfriend Around World While Directing Bin-Laden’s Biological Weapons and Internet Programs, Smuggling Diamonds from Africa, Laundering Money, Planning Attacks On Gasoline Stations In Maryland…”

These were all real headlines in 2003. Even a James Bond villain would have trouble matching them.

There is even one web site claiming that she can be found in the Bible, mentioned by name, as a sign of the coming Rapture, by using information published in the popular book “The Bible Code”.

You get the idea. The first story I came across read “FBI Looking for Female al-Qaeda Leader”. That was so odd. Don’t those bozos realize that al-Qaeda has no use for female leaders? They barely consider women to be human…

READ the rest of Andy's and find another "Surely the real point about Aafia Siddiqui is being missed?" From CagePrisoners By Asim Qureshi - GO

Nurturing the Positive

Hope: The Care and Feeding Of
By Rebecca Solnit

Recently, Nelson Mandela turned 93, and his nation celebrated noisily, even attempting to break the world record for the most people simultaneously singing “Happy Birthday.” This was the man who, on trial by the South African government in 1964, stood a good chance of being sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead. Given life in prison instead, he was supposed to be silenced. Story over.

You know the rest, though it wasn’t inevitable that he’d be released and become the president of a post-apartheid South Africa. Admittedly, it’s a country with myriad flaws and still suffers from economic apartheid, but who wouldn’t agree that it’s changed? Activism changed it; more activism could change it further.

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch, who’d amassed a vast media empire, banked billions of dollars, and been listed by Forbes as the world’s 13th most powerful person, must have thought he had it made these past few decades. Now, his empire is crumbling and his crimes and corrosive influence (which were never exactly secret) are being examined by everyone. You never know what’ll happen next.

About 1,600 years ago, Boethius put it this way in The Consolations of Philosophy, written while he, like Mandela, was in prison for treason: “As thus she turns her wheel of chance with haughty hand, and presses on, fortune now tramples fiercely on a fearsome king, and now deceives no less a conquered man by raising from the ground his humbled face.”

Still, that wheel didn’t just turn. It took some good journalism -- thank you, reporters of the Guardian! -- to bring Murdoch to his knees. Just as it took some dedicated activism to break Mandela out of prison and overcome the apartheid era.

Everything changes. Sometimes you have to change it yourself.

Unpredictability is grounds for hope, though please don’t mistake hope for optimism. Optimism and pessimism are siblings in their certainty. They believe they know what will happen next, with one slight difference: optimists expect everything to turn out nicely without any effort being expended toward that goal. Pessimists assume that we’re doomed and there’s nothing to do about it except try to infect everyone else with despair while there’s still time.

Hope, on the other hand, is based on uncertainty, on the much more realistic premise that we don’t know what will happen next. The next thing up might be as terrible as a giant tsunami smashing 100 miles of coastal communities or as marvelous as a new species of butterfly being discovered (as happened recently in Northern Ireland). When it comes to the worst we face, nature itself has resilience, surprises, and unpredictabilities. But the real territory for hope isn’t nature; it’s the possibilities we possess for acting, changing, mattering -- including when it comes to nature.

Burger King CEO Apologizes to Farmworkers

Not all hopes are created equal, and sometimes their failure is the good news. The mass murderer who rampaged through Norway last week hoped to change that country forever. Sophisticated when it came to plotting a massacre and building a bomb, he was naïve when it came to political cause and effect. He attacked the ruling Labor Party in its office headquarters and its youth summer camp. The consequences will almost certainly be the opposite of what he hoped for.

His bloodbath is unlikely to aid the advance of an anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic right-wing agenda. It will expose what is vicious about the far right in Europe and elsewhere, bring more careful scrutiny to extremists at that end of the spectrum, and likely help discredit politicians who pander to them.

If we’re lucky, it might even have some repercussions in the United States, where demonizing immigrants and encouraging violence are common right-wing tactics (discredited a little in January when Tucson Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot and Sarah Palin was rebuked for the map on her Facebook page with crosshairs over Giffords’ district).

History’s pendulum tendencies always need to be factored in, and such assassins for the far right, like Timothy McVeigh before them, may do for that ideology what the Symbionese Liberation Army and Baader-Meinhof did for the left four decades ago. Think of a wheel of fortune.

Russell Pearce, the powerful Arizona state senator who created and promoted AB 1070, the 2010 state law punishing all brown-skinned immigrants (and people who resemble them), is up for recall on the November ballot. He will have to fight to be reelected in the special recall election (though a court challenge to the petitions has been mounted).

At a Tea Party event in May, Pearce dismissed the efforts that have now put his career on the line this way: “People know who these folks are, they've tried it before, they're simply open-border anarchists who have no respect for the law. We'll deal with it."

Oh, and about that Tea Party which the media was romancing with stories inflating its scale and significance not so long ago: its national convention got cancelled for lack of attendance. Meanwhile, Palin’s documentary “The Undefeated” has been… well, defeated at the box office, big time.

The wheel of fortune spins, and sometimes it even comes up our way. Sometimes we win. Look at the people who led that recall drive on Pearce. At one point, it seemed beyond unlikely. “Russell Pearce Recall Drive Supporters Face Uphill Battle,” said a typical headline in the unsympathetic Arizona Republic. They persevered anyway. Which is why they won their special election. They turned the damn wheel themselves.

Hope is not about guarantees and certainties. You don’t know you’ll win, but you don’t know you’ll lose either, so why not try?

No one is more remarkable in this light than the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a nearly two-decades-old organization of mostly immigrant and undocumented farmworkers in a particularly bleak part of Florida. They pick tomatoes at a rate of 32 pounds for 50 cents, meaning they have to pick more than two tons in a workday to walk out with the equivalent of a minimum wage. (Most U.S. farmworkers make less than $1,000 per month, and thanks to a New Deal compromise three-quarters of a century old, they are not guaranteed a minimum wage, overtime pay, or the right to organize and bargain collectively.)

This tiny group of profoundly marginalized people decided to fight the biggest food corporations on earth -- and they won. Ten years ago they started a campaign for “fair food,” pressuring the major buyers of those tomatoes to pay more. Within four years, with the help of college-student organizers and brilliant strategy, they got Taco Bell to meet all their demands, and by 2007 McDonald’s had fallen in line.

Florida growers managed to stop a penny-a-pound increase in payment, but Burger King (whose CEO personally apologized to them) and Whole Foods got on board, and in 2010 food corporations Aramark and Sodexo signed on as well. They’re taking on Trader Joe’s this summer, and given their track record…

Watch them. Or join them.

The News You Don’t Get

Speaking of the little-known Coalition of Immokalee Workers, you’re not likely to get a good picture of the state of the world right now from the mainstream media (which is why alternative media like matter so much). Mainstream outlets don’t cover a lot of what we might consider the good news and they don’t necessarily shed much light on the bad news, even when they notice it.

The Casey Anthony trial got infinitely more coverage in Florida than that state’s refusal to accept $50 million from the federal government to prevent child abuse. Sometimes it seems that the more you read and watch the MSM, the less you know. They don’t add up the details to give you the big picture, and they often do a remarkably good job of distracting you from the issues that matter and the real machinations of power.

They are Goliath, not David, and their reporting on David’s victories (and Goliath’s failures and weaknesses) will never be particularly satisfactory. They are definitely not interested in popular power, except when it’s a color revolution far away.

And don’t forget to factor in media attention deficit disorder, whereby a terrible story will just sort of peter out because something hotter comes along. The reporters go home, and the readers are left hanging. In Japan this spring, news of the nuclear power plant crisis eclipsed news of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people, and there just haven’t been many updates. Heard anything about the BP spill in the Gulf lately? It’s not over either. The biggest fire in New Mexico’s history -- more than 160 square miles -- has slipped from national coverage amid other weather disasters, and yet it’s still burning as I write.

The left-wing media is guilty of this too. You probably don’t even remember the last time you heard about East Timor. The mainstream media never spent inordinate amounts of time or space on it, but it was a big story on the left throughout the 1990s.

East Timor was then a war-ravaged, colonized corner of the Indonesian empire and it was in the news because of the way the Indonesian government had invaded and brutalized it from 1975 to 1999. Since its liberation in 2002, however, hardly anyone says anything about the democratic republic of East Timor. There are evidently other things that require our attention so much more.

When it stopped being one of the world’s most appalling tragedies, it fell off the media map. It got better, but few noticed. You can think of journalists and political analysts as doctors who treat the sick and not the well, but who forget that sickness is not therefore and inevitably the ubiquitous human condition.

You have to learn to tell the story yourself. For example, some weeks ago, the New York Times led the global media with a story suggesting that the sexual-assault-on-a-maid-in-a-New-York-hotel case against (now former) International Monetary Fund (IMF) director Dominique Strauss-Kahn was likely to be dropped. Actually, that turned out to be an overstatement. It hasn’t been, and there are as yet no indications that it will be.

If you accepted the Times interpretation, however, the prosecution, and maybe feminism and justice were already defeated. Tell the story a different way, however, and you might react differently as well: a man with, apparently, a long track record of barbaric behavior was outed and lost his (colossal) power as a result.

After all, Strauss-Kahn resigned from the IMF. And recently another alleged victim of his sexual violence stepped forward saying, “I want to be heard because perhaps, finally, there's a chance I will be listened to.” She was not alone. Thanks to what happened in New York, sexual politics in France changed, with assault and harassment charges suddenly on the rise now that women think they might have a chance of being listened to.

In the meantime, the dubious doings of the IMF, an organization that assaults whole nations economically, were further exposed. Think of the IMF as the global version of an inner-city lending or furniture-selling racket that lures in the desperate -- people who need a small loan, poor countries that need a bailout -- and bleeds them for years, bending them to its will.

Nor has it been a good year for the men who are accustomed to ruling the world, whether via a global string of tabloids, the IMF, or by holding dictatorial power in any of a string of Arab states. They are being held accountable in ways they clearly never anticipated. You can add the former and present tyrants of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and a few other countries to the list of men whom the wheel of fortune has knocked down or rocked lately, and you know that the rulers of countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are scared.

And here’s a hopeful story that didn’t get a lot of play: rebellious Egyptians prevented their interim government from taking an IMF loan. Years earlier, Argentina had freed itself from the IMF and its imposition of economic measures that favor international corporations (while immiserating ordinary citizens), thanks to loans from oil-rich Venezuela. Freedom from the IMF, the World Bank, and the United States is, in fact, part of the remarkable achievement of Latin America in the past decade -- and part of what you probably haven’t read much about.

It’s nice that the Arab Spring continues to get attention into the summer of its discontent, but hardly anyone adds up the amazing developments in South America over the past dozen years: a very successful revolution in slo-mo in which even Peru elected a progressive this summer. And yet the elected officials -- including Brazil’s first woman president, a former left-wing insurgent, political prisoner, and torture victim -- are just the tip of the iceberg. Indigenous resurgences, growing popular environmental and human rights movements, reborn civil societies, and a new language of political possibility matter more.

Climate of Resistance

You probably also haven’t heard much, if anything, about the sixty-one First Nations -- as Canadians call them; we’d call them sovereign tribes -- that have signed on to oppose building a tar-sands pipeline across western Canada. And speaking of climate change, you might not know that environmental activists in the U.S. have prevented more than 100 coal-fired power plants from being built here, a signal victory when it comes to keeping more greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere, and so a signal victory for the climate movement.

If you were just reading your local newspaper or watching the TV news, you also might not know that a potentially massive action to protest the possibility of President Obama approving a new tar-sands pipeline that would stretch from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is taking place in Washington this August. Nor might you realize that antinuclear activists have been successful in preventing any new nuclear power plants from being completed in this country since the 1970s -- by raising public awareness and safety standards high enough to make them unprofitable. Of course, they would always have been unprofitable if the private profiteers who build them had to pay for insurance and radioactive waste disposal (costs that you, dear taxpayer, are expected to pick up for them).

Mostly the news on climate change, when attention is paid, focuses on the fact that it’s here in terrifying form: heat waves, gigantic forest fires, torrential floods, record tornadoes, massive droughts, the increasingly usual faces of the apocalypse. By the way, 223 heat records were just broken in the summer heat wave that has gripped North America, and that number is still rising.

What’s ignored is that we could do something about it, that people are doing something about it. Australia, for instance, just passed a stiff carbon tax, and while some climate activists don’t consider that a particularly constructive way to go, it is a case of a large nation trying to take a serious step to address a truly threatening problem.

More importantly, a host of small and not-so-small nongovernmental organizations across the world are doing a host of things about it. Speaking of surprises, recently Mayor Bloomberg of New York gave $50 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, about the biggest and most unexpected contribution to the climate-change campaign in this country.

Another World Is Here

It’s hard for me not to get distracted by victories that matter. There are not nearly enough of them and they’re not on the scale I... well, hope for, but they are evidence of what’s possible. Sometimes they’re tiny. There was a traffic accident the other day in my hometown, and the local newspaper said that the doctor who was killed was married with children. A day or two later, a bigger feature made it clear that the deceased man had left behind a husband as well as two children, and I was pleased to see that, amid a private tragedy, what was once extraordinary is now ordinary. Victory sometimes seems so quotidian that you have to look twice to notice it. And if you’re not careful, you’ll forget what heroic toil over so many decades transformed the world, making the impossible become ordinary.

Think of hope as something that requires care and feeding. You feed it by finding news sources that give you information about alternative movements, overseas developments, and new possibilities. You feed it by choosing companions who are neither apolitical nor defeatist. (Good place to find them: the climate movement.) Or you feed it by feeding your friends who do feel defeated or as if nothing they could do might matter. You feed it with a surly insurrectionary attitude: if you’re tempted to feel powerless and passive, remember that the bogeyman we call “they” wants you to feel that way. And then don’t.

Certainly, you feed hope by being aware of the big picture that the news doesn’t give you. For example, look at the past dozen years when it comes to putting a halt to or undermining free-trade agreements and organizations, and educating the public about how the innocuous-sounding term “free trade” means sabotaging local, regional, or even national control over labor, environmental, health, and economic conditions. Free-trade agreements free up corporations from regulations and laws, so that nothing impedes their profits.

Successes against “free trade” are, by now, pervasive and generally too subtle for many people to notice. In 1999, five years after the Clinton administration brought us the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to oppose corporate globalization was to be considered, at best, on the radical fringe and at worst (in the words of super-rich New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman), part of a "Noah’s ark of flat-earth advocates, protectionist trade unions, and yuppies looking for their 1960s fix.” By 2008, however, free-trade agreements were so unpopular that Hillary Clinton felt obliged to lie during her presidential race, claiming she had always been against NAFTA.

In those same 1990s, the World Trade Organization was gearing up to run the world for the sake of the corporations -- before, that is, it hit the first round of a buzz saw of protest in Seattle in 1999. By 2003, it was clearly an organization in trouble and never became the powerhouse it was planned to be.

The Free Trade Area of the Americas that was supposed to put the whole hemisphere in corporate harness was stillborn, thanks to the amazing anti-corporate-globalization and anti-Washington-consensus mentalities existing in many Latin American nations (and governments as well). And in these years, the IMF and the World Bank became far more widely known, feared, and loathed, thanks to activists on the streets and in the media who made their exploitative natures visible.

In 2011, we live in a different world. The corporations still have way too much power and influence. But activists have undermined the institutions by which they sought to increase that power and the facts about their unholy penetration into policymaking have become a lot clearer and more widely known. That is at least a good foundation which sets us up to get to work on the big fight between profit and humanity (in part via revolts against corporate personhood -- the endowing of corporations with citizens’ rights -- across the country).

I don't love the old anti-globalization movement slogan "another world is possible," simply because that world has always been here -- in acts of altruism, generosity, and democracy; in organizations, movements, and communities that embody the best of what humanity has to offer; in what’s still so valuable in older ways of being that are not yet lost; in the methods and the lives of groups ranging from small farmers to indigenous hunters and gatherers. We just need to be better at seeing what is already magnificent and heroic, nearby and far away, and know that alternatives are already here waiting, like so many invitations, to be taken up.

That’s certainly a foundation that hope can build on, but don’t think that’s hope. Hope lies in the future. Look at what’s already here. If 61 native nations oppose a tar-sands pipeline, it’s because they’ve survived the last 519 years of Euro-invasive attempts to eliminate their rights, their identities, and sometimes their lives. They’re still here. So are the Immokalee workers. And the feminists. And the climate-change activists. And Nelson Mandela. So are you. Do something hopeful about it, just for the hell of it. There’s no reason not to.

Rebecca Solnit’s most recent hopes were realized: she got through an entire essay without using the words “Obama” or “military.” On the hope beat for TomDispatch since 2003, her first round turned into the book Hope in the Dark. Right now she’s hoping to get arrested in D.C. with over that tar-sands pipeline and hoping you’ll join her.

Copyright 2011 Rebecca Solnit