Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's

Wishing all a Happy New Year from Danang. Our driver arrived early, so that is the message for New Year's day. May we step toward a peaceful world this year with growing humility.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Local people

The spirit of the local people we have met so far is best exemplified by a woman I met on the streets of Ha Noi. She was selling tee shirts with beautifully woven flowers and other decorations. (Woven may not be the correct word, needle point?) I expressed disinterest, not in the market, and kept walking. A little later, she asked again if I would buy one, or a cap. I kept on. Again, she approached me and asked what I was looking for. "A copying business." She pointed further down the way. Several blocks later I had not found it. She offered to show me the way. "Okay." When we arrived where she thought the business was located, she found upon inquiry that it had relocated. After we sat on a step to a storefront, she used my map to point out the way. Then, we began talking. She knew English and started a conversation about how years are calculated locally. Nine months in the womb is the first year, followed by the next nine months, the second year, etc. In contrast, conventional annual calculations begin with birth. Turns out she is has two daughters and is the same age as my daughter. At some point, she returned to requesting that I purchase something and we looked over her beautiful tee shirts. She said that she knew I will buy one because of the way I greeted her at the first encounter. She was right. I bought one which caught my eye for my daughter. After showing on my map where the copy business was, she offered to show me. I said that I could find it. However, she stayed with me and we found the establishment and I had my copies. We talked enroute. I asked what her husband does for work. "He is a farmer." I said, "That's wonderful!" She looked at me like I was crazy. I said he grows food and we need food to eat. She replied that it is very hard work and does not pay enough to take care of the family. "That's not right.'' This woman, named Ba, rides her bicycle 16 miles into Ha Noi everyday to sell beautiful tee shirts, hand decorated, to make ends meet. She had not had a sale in four days before she met me and knew I would buy one. She parted with a request to make other purchases from her.

Our articulate interpreter described the farmer women who are everywhere in Ha Noi, carrying food and things to sell with a pole having baskets suspended at each end. They all travel from rural villages into Ha Noi to sell. What strikes me is the warmth and dignity of these women. Ba is a talented and self-determined woman who could do well in middle class America. I hope she continues to do well in Vietnam.

Friday, December 26, 2008

First visits in Vietnam

We have just completed our first three days in Ha Noi, Vietnam. Commemorating the near 40 years since the DC Nine action challenging the United States government and the Dow Chemical Company, Catherine Sagan and I are undertaking visiting the victims of Agent Orange and concerned persons for the next 16 days from Ha Noi, Hue, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City and nearby villages. We want to lend support to the efforts toward reconciliation and healing needed since the war with Vietnam ended in 1975.

Catherine and I began by visiting VAVA (Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange) on Wednesday afternoon. We met with three leading members led by Dr. Nguyen Trong Nhan. It was a rreunion for me sisnce I had met Nguyen at Portland State University in 2005 when he was touring the United States about Agent Orange. This reception committee share basic information about VAVA's efforts to educate the public, to move the US government to address the need for redress to victims, families, and the environment. A lawsuit has been proceeding through the U.S. Courts to little avail to date, next stop the United States Supreme Court. Readers can begin educating themselves by going to

Putting the human face on the issue, we visited The Friendship Village yesterday. Here we met the persons running this place of peace and reconciliation, along with students who are victims, ages two to twenty. These children were not alive when Agent Orange was sprayed over the jungles of South Vietnam, but suffer the effects anyway because their parents unintentionally pass them on or because the water and soils speread the deadly dioxan. Not only do these children suffer from Agent Orange, but they are like orphans at the Village. The staff and volunteers cannot fully replace the nurturing care and love of parents and sibblings. We enjoyed visiting them, but felt that there was not much you can do to help during a short visit. Smiles and hugs. This was a gratifying way to spend Christmas day, a day to remember the immigrant child Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.

Today we met Thao Griffiths, who works with a peace organization to assist with the effects of unexploded ordinance from the war. Each year thousands of rural people die from tripping the firing mechanisms on personnel bombs dropped during the War. With each of these visits, we not only listen to their stories and work, but also share the work we are part of making peace. Needless to say, each of these organizations is doing wonderful work, but do not have the necessary resources to address the full problem. The United States government needs to step to the plate along with the corporations which profited from War.

Saturday, December 20, 2008



The PLU psychology class
A small student group in a warm evening classroom
The American Gandhi invited by a middle age student
Activist, alive with inquiry.
Questioned and explored, Gandhi laid out his wares
Penetrating the human, the evolving human
From the primitive
To the scientific primitive of this day
Live truth, the truth in you.
Discover by experimentation
Let integrity develop by self-realization
Be authentic.

And, Jesus brought the authentic—by acceptance—
Into the Ordinary.
With Jesus acceptance entered the world.
Find your truth and live it.
Accept yourself.

But, acceptance is social. Our identity is social.
We find ourselves among others.
The human way. “I am” in the midst of you.
Jesus acceptance.

Tabitha—a student presenting her inquiries
Late in the class.
My family members see things differently.
Searching questions, emerging analysis, how handle this?
Reaching out, trying to grab hold…what’s the answer,
Find your truth. Do you want it?
To be integral, human, authentic.
Struggle for acceptance.

Jesse Jackson in the Obama election crowd of millions.
Jesse Jackson, Martin’s lieutenant of many
Civil rights battles, of latter efforts “to be” …….
president. To find acceptance in
Jesse, one in the crowd, not on the stage,
Jesse with tears running down his cheeks.
A black had found acceptance—elected in
America. Among other blacks with tears
Among all seeking acceptance.
Wanting acceptance.
The primal human desire.
Tears of acceptance.

Tabitha’s query, Tabitha’s searching struggle
The struggle of all.
Gandhi—my only purpose is to attain God.
Only done by service.

The American Gandhi’s service—the truth of
Acceptance. Stand strong in yourself.

By Bernie Meyer
November 2008

Touring Vietnam as the effects of war continue

On December 22 I am scheduled to fly to Vietnam, if the weather allows. We are having a snow fall with cold snap. The occasion is the commemoration of the 40Th anniversary of the DC Nine action in March 1969. We decided to have a reunion next May. Most of us have not seen one another since the sentencing on May 5Th, 1970, the day after the Kent State University killing of four students and wounding of 12 by the National Guard. Catherine Sagan, one of the nine will meet me in Seoul Korea airport, from which we will fly to Ha Noi for a 16 day tour.

The DC Nine entered the Dow Chemical Company's lobbying office in Washington DC to protest Dow's production of napalm and Agent Orange used in the Vietnam war to defoliate the jungle. Nine of us entered the office on a Saturday, hung photos of napalmed children, splattered blood, broke office equipment, and threw files out the window. Then, we waited for the police to come as the media covered the story. My role was to lead the media to the site. (This is more fully described in my book, THE AMERICAN GANDHI, My Seeking Truth With Humanity at the Crossroads.) Catherine and I went to prison for this action.

Agent Orange has not stopped maiming and killing. 3,000,000 Vietnam citizens suffer the effects because the dioxin remains in the soil and the water. American Veterans also suffer along with many of their family members. For the next two plus weeks I will journal the experiences of this trip on this blog.

We will begin in Ha Noi at The Friendship Village, later proceed to the Central Highlands and Hue, and end up in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly, Saigon). The Vietnam Association for the Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) is facilitating the visits with treatment sites and their work to redress the wrongs. Peace Tours will facilitate our itinerary.