Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

"Memorial" is about remembrance. Paul wrote about forgetting what lies behind and reaching to what lies ahead - in particular, the upward call of God to fellowship in the truth and becoming like Jesus. But not everything in the past is behind, as the very same Paul pointed out in reminding us that in eating and drinking together we remember his death, which is certainly in the past but which is by no means behind us.

It's important to remember death, and in the right way, in the truth. It's really obscene to lie where death is concerned - even if it's lying by forgetting and averting our eyes.

I was reading in Second John today how clearly loving one another depends entirely on living in the truth. Love rejoices in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). As far as we have an argument with truth, we're not really going to love anybody. Indeed, Sentimentality = Love - Truth.

And sentimentality is cruel, just as it is written: "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel."

So as Spock said to McCoy in the Star Trek movie: "Remember!"

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Abuse of kids - a cloud of witnesses

My wife told of a kid who drowned when she was a kid in a crowded indoor swimming pool. He dived in, and then the bodies around him kept him from being able to surface. When he struggled, those around him grew irritated and kicked him, until he drowned. The problem was the kid struggling, not what was happening to him.

I had just watched the hearing on restraints, seclusion, and abuse in schools held on May 19th by the US House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee.

It's pretty hard to listen to. The teacher that had been torturing a traumatized kid by withholding his lunch, because she knew that he had been starved when he was little and was made frantic by such deprivation, sat on him and crushed his ribcage, killing him. Did she do time for this murder, preceded by sadism? Was she even arrested? Ah - did she maybe lose her teaching credential? Well, she did get put on a registry of child abusers in Texas, eventually, but she slipped off that and went to Loudoun County, Virginia and got a job teaching. And there she is, on administrative leave, now that it came out in the hearing. How about the many thousands that don't get to testify in Congressional hearings about what they do to our kids?

Today I was reading a bit in the Irish government's report on the abuse of children in Irish Roman Catholic schools, especially from 1930 to the 1970s.

This one, you'd better gird up the loins of your mind before you venture to read. I don't understand how human beings can endure some of the things people do to them. Growing up, I was almost completely destroyed by so much less.

Well, whether it's the US Dept of Education that never pulls its financing to violators, or the California Dept of Education that whitewashes complaints when they see that investigating properly will be serious trouble for the perps, it's the same thing.

Bishops protect predator priests, and educational bureaucrats protect predator school administrators. When someone is struggling in the water, don't rescue him; he's being a nuisance, so kick him until he disappears.

Governor William Brownlow of Tennessee defended black people from the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction by arming them. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1871 - now Section 1983 - empowering people to sue state officials for damages, because they understood that black people couldn't expect to be protected from above if they weren't put in a favorable legal position to defend themselves. School officials will keep on abusing, terrorizing, and sometimes killing students until the law is reformed to enable parents - even those without money - to hold them accountable, even when they don't have a lot of money.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"If you save a life you save the world"

I can't imagine adding anything to this, except to say that it's one of those things which deserve to be pondered and applied to ourselves, instead of just agreed with. You can miss truth by quickly agreeing with it, as we see in "Bible believers" in whom its words find no place:

Recently, the world commemorated Holocaust Day with memorials, moments of silence, and time taken to remember the lives of loved ones lost. For years this day has been a source of internal conflict for me as a Palestinian, so this year my wife Marie and I decided to hold our own memorial by doing something I have put off for a long time: we watched the movie "Schindler's List."

It was my first time seeing the movie, which tells the story of a German man who risked his life to save hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust. Although it may seem strange for a Palestinian to take time out to remember the Holocaust, I felt it was an important step for me. I needed to connect with those who suffered, and I needed to go beyond nationality to acknowledge the loss of human life.

I admit that growing up I did not know much about the Holocaust. As Palestinians, we simply did not learn about it. There was a stigma attached to it, an understanding that Israel would use the Holocaust to lobby for sympathy, then turn and use the sympathy as a terrible weapon against the Palestinian people. So when I was asked about the Holocaust, I always felt that urge to say "It was not my fault! I suffered for it too."

Deep down, I think I felt that by acknowledging the victims' pain, I would betray or marginalize my own suffering. Also, some part of me feared that if I sympathized with "the enemy," my right to struggle for justice might be taken away. Now I know that this is nonsense: you are stronger when you let your humanity overcome enmity. However, it took me time to learn this lesson.

Many years ago, I decided there is no way I can understand and communicate with my Jewish friends if I don't learn their history, their narrative and their story. I decided that the Holocaust Museum would be the place to start my journey. My heart was racing as I crossed the threshold of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. I began looking at the pictures and reading the stories with the distinct awareness that I was the only Palestinian there. As I walked through the museum, however, my self-consciousness was replaced with shock. I could not believe how denigrated men could become to commit such atrocities. How could racism strip men of all humanity?

A few days later, I shared with some of my Jewish friends about my trip to the Holocaust Museum. Many were surprised, and wondered what had prompted me to make such a visit. As I explained my reasons, I could see the walls that divided us crumbling apart. Yaacov, a Holocaust survivor, told me his personal story. As a young boy in Poland he had been separated from his parents and forced to pretend to be Christian, praying the Catholic prayers and attending church. His father was murdered during the war. One of my best friends, Rami, described the horrors his father suffered in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Again, my heart was gripped with pain and sympathy in hearing their stories.

Visiting the Holocaust Museum and allowing my friends to share their stories was pivotal for my relationship with them. I could understand where they were coming from. I could empathize with their feelings that the world is against them. The Holocaust had shaped their awareness of the world around them, and my understanding of this tragedy was important for them to successfully communicate with me.

This is why I decided to remember the Holocaust this year. Watching "Schindler's List," I was moved by the story to a degree that I cannot describe. The connection I made with those who suffered the Holocaust goes beyond nationality, religion or race; it was the connection of one human being to another in the face of universally understandable pain.

At the end of the move, Oscar Schindler was given a ring inscribed with the words "If you save a life you save the world," a phrase from the Talmud. Today this statement stands true for all those active in bringing an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But in my story, I want to deliver a message to the cynics, the hopeless, and the ones who have given up on the quest for peace. This message is also to the many people who have questioned the grassroots initiatives, the meetings, the dialogue groups, the interfaith projects, the demonstrations against the killing of people, Arabs and Jews. If you can save one life, you are saving the world.

My challenge is this: Oscar Schindler regretted not doing more to save more people. He cried for not selling his car, his pin and everything else in his possession just to ransom one more life. Governments, nations and even some religious groups donate billions of dollars for weapons, yet when it comes to promoting understanding, life and coexistence, our governments and people are broke. I want us to consider, can we put a price on saving one life? Can we put a price on saving the world?

It is vital to protect our values and humanity regardless of the cost. Oscar Schindler saved a thousand lives, and it was worth it. How many lives can you save?

Aziz Abu Sarah has spent the last 10 years working as a peace-building practitioner and is now serving as the Palestinian chairman for the Bereaved Families Forum, a group of 500 Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Families who work for peace. He can be contacted at THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary, which is published by permission, in collaboration with the Common Ground News Service (

Thursday, May 07, 2009


I went to Sacramento on the bus with California Association for Parent and Child Advocacy (CAPCA), to lobby the legislature, chiefly concerning SB701 and AB1124. SB701 changes the governing boards of Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPA) to be run by school board members instead of Superintendents as today, and AB1124 keeps 3-year-olds in their current placement when they move up into the school system if due process is filed.

But we also attended a hearing on SB1538, which is to restrict the use of restraints in schools. So they asked for witnesses in favor, and there I was, so I got to testify how CVUSD had abused my son, and how nothing has been done about it, and the committee took my website. I was completely unprepared, not expecting it, but I was told I did pretty well up there. I have testified at my first legislative hearing in favor of a bill. CDE spoke in opposition: everything is fine, since they do such a great job of investigating complaints!

I need some sleep now. I shall be busy tomorrow. It seems I need to go to Joshua's IEP meeting first thing, file two compliance complaints, and catch up on work, before going to the Chino teachers' rally and speaking at the board meeting.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

"But it's not as though the word of God has failed"

If you've ever wondered why the letter to the church in Pergamum in the Revelation says that Satan's throne is among them, look no further. Just as our fathers were foremost in flogging and mutilating black slaves back in the day, we find the "believers" in Jesus being the most enthusiastic disciples of Satan the Torturer today. But the word of God holds true, however apostate his so-called servants may be. Did not Jesus say well that the whores and tax-gatherers would get into the kingdom of heaven before the scribes and Pharisees? Should we be surprised to find that he is still right about that today?

Churchgoers more likely to back torture, survey finds
Posted: 01:55 PM ET

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new analysis.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified — more than 6 in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only 4 in 10 of them did.

The analysis is based on a Pew Research Center survey of 742 American adults conducted April 14-21. It did not include analysis of groups other than white evangelicals, white non-Hispanic Catholics, white mainline Protestants, and the religiously unaffiliated, because the sample size was too small.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Latest school news

Best Best Krieger finally threw another Notice of Insufficiency at me late this afternoon. However - and this is remarkable for an experienced law firm - they didn't do it in time, so they lied about when they got my amended request. So I asked OAH to throw it out for not being timely. We'll see what they do about that, but in a way it doesn't matter much either way. If we do have to appeal to the district court, it all gets reviewed de novo, and if OAH rules indefensibly an appeal should have better chances - if we have to go that far.

I also had some slap and tickle with the Superintendent today about the contract CVUSD has to provide services to my son, and I should see that soon. And then it's time tomorrow for another compliance complaint about the other report that the Superintendent is refusing to release. Also, we have a date Friday for the first of the new round of district evaluations that we agreed upon at the April 29th IEP meeting. And finally, we have finally found someone Stephen can trust for psychological therapy, who knows on her own hide what school districts do to kids like mine. I have to call to hook up the insurance tomorrow.

A sad thing is that one of the board members, Bill Klein, fell off a patio and smashed his face last week. He has certainly been no friend to my son, but it was painful even to read of it. He bashed his face against a pole when he fell and broke his eye socket from his teeth to his eye, and his scalp was yanked from the top of his nose to his hairline. 200 stitches in Mexico and some more work in Fullerton when he got home. He's out at least until July. God knows how to bring good out of bad things, so it's good to pray that it might be so in this case.

Following the email exchange with Heatley about the contract he doesn't want to cough up, a board member called and we had a good conversation. I'm going up to Sacramento on the bus Wednesday with lawyers, parents, and advocates to lobby the legislature. The Chino teachers are having a rally before the Thursday board meeting to which they are inviting people, and various other developments are in the works, which I hope to report on next week.

Finally, the Superintendent yanked his application for the job in Washoe County, Nevada, saying he'd rather take the job in Clayton County, Georgia that he's been offered - but now it turns out that's not yet a sure thing. Maybe someone among the thousands he has hurt here gave them a heads-up in Nevada, and maybe someone will give them a heads-up in Georgia. We certainly won't miss his departure here - cast out the scoffer and contention stops, as it is written. But do those people in Georgia really need this cruel and vindictive man among them with all the other troubles they have already?

He has brought all kinds of trouble here to us because the board is weak. Just now, the board in Clayton County appears to be no stronger. Woe to them if on top of all their other troubles they have to contend with this bully!

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