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11 months ago

In LOVE with Humanity

A tribute to some of humanity’s greatest Heroes; 153 men & women who have chosen, via their brave words &/or noble deeds, to reflect the deeper Greatness residing within us all

Hero #098: Ken O‘Keefe

Hero #098: Ken O‘Keefe Kenneth Nichols O'Keefe is an American-Irish-Palestinian citizen, a peace activist, and a former United States Marine and Gulf War veteran. By his own admission, he was discharged from the U.S. Marines because he ―spoke out openly about abuse of power by my 'superiors,' and as a consequence I paid a heavy price. I realized that honor and integrity were virtues which are often punished rather than rewarded and the Marines supplied me with my first serious taste of injustice‖ … In 1996, O'Keefe created a marine conservation social enterprise ―to protect and defend the marine environment‖ in Hawaii. This enterprise conducted ghost net recoveries and rescues of endangered Green Sea Turtles entangled in fishing line. During this time O'Keefe became a pioneer in sea turtle rescues in Hawaii and led a campaign to create a marine sanctuary (Pupukea MLCD) on the North Shore of Oahu … Later, in 1998, he joined an antiwhaling campaign in which he was bloodied when attempting to retrieve a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society boat of which he was a crew member. He remained with Sea Shepherd for a time and was mentored by the great Paul Watson himself, eventually serving as the regional director for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Hawaii. In December of 2002, O'Keefe started the Human Shield to Iraq, a group that intended to ―make it politically impossible to bomb‖ Iraq by placing western civilians as ―shields‖ at nonmilitary locations. About 75 of these activists – including O‘Keefe -- traveled over land from London to Baghdad in two double-decker buses. At the time O'Keefe correctly argued that the people of Iraq would suffer the most from a war, even while publicly acknowledging that Hussein was a "violent dictator". At its height about 300 human shields were in Baghdad, but due to challenges internally – including O'Keefe's eventual deportation from Iraq, the numbers dwindled. In June 2010, O'Keefe continued his humanitarian peacekeeping efforts by being among the passengers who clashed with the Israeli military during the Mavi Marmara Gaza flotilla raid. In the course of the clash, O'Keefe was involved in providing initial first aid to a seriously wounded passenger, as well as disarming two Israeli commandos. Afterwards, O'Keefe was among those arrested and detained in Israel … In October of that same year, O'Keefe joined the ―Road to Hope‖, a humanitarian aid convoy delivering vital supplies to the occupants of Gaza … O‘Keefe continues to speak out for justice and freedom – especially in the name of those still denied the same – to this very day. 114

Hero #099: Thomas Paine Thomas Paine was an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. Considered to be one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Paine authored the two most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, and was a primary source of inspiration for the rebels in 1776 to declare independence from Great Britain. His ideas reflected the higher ideals of justice, equality, freedom, and transnational human rights … Born in Thetford in the English county of Norfolk, Paine migrated to the British American colonies in 1774 with the help of Benjamin Franklin, arriving just in time to participate in the American Revolution. Virtually every rebel read (or listened to a reading of) his powerful pamphlet Common Sense (1776), a writing which crystallized the rebellious demand for independence from Great Britain. One distinctive idea in Common Sense was the reflection of Paine's beliefs regarding the peaceful nature of republics; an early and strong conception of what scholars would come to call ― democratic peace theory‖ … He also propagated other highly profound ideas, among them, A) that ―ordinary people‖ can indeed make sound judgments on major political issues, B) that there exists a body of popular wisdom that is readily apparent to anyone & everyone, and C) that common sense could be used to refute the false claims of traditional institutions. These ideals empowered the common man and became powerful weapons people used to delegitimize monarchy and overturn prevailing social structures – in essence, paving the way for the potential blossoming of freedom, equality, and democracy. Paine persisted in being a radical voice in Britain even after the Revolution. In 1792, he issued his Rights of Man --Combining Principle and Practice, in which he suggested a representative government with enumerated social programs to remedy the intense poverty of commoners. Radically reduced in price to ensure unprecedented circulation, this pamphlet was sensational in its impact and gave birth to numerous reform movements. An indictment against Paine for seditious libel followed its publication, and government agents followed Paine wherever he went and instigated mobs, hate meetings, and burnings in effigy. Undaunted by these oppressions, a fierce pamphlet war resulted, in which Paine was defended and assailed in dozens of other works. The authorities ultimately chased Paine out of Great Britain, tried him in absentia, and found him guilty. That summer, he answered the sedition and libel charges thus: ―If, to expose the fraud and imposition of monarchy ... to promote universal peace, civilization, and commerce, and to break the chains of political superstition, and raise degraded man to his proper rank; if these things be libelous ... then let the name of ‗libeler‘ be engraved on my tomb‖ … In December of 1793, Paine was arrested and was taken to Luxembourg Prison in Paris. While in prison, he continued to work on his masterpiece The Age of Reason (1794). James Monroe used his diplomatic connections to get Paine released in November 1794, whereafter The Age of Reason – which championed deism (the belief that the Divine is infused in everything, and directly witnessable within the grandeur of Nature), promoted reason, encouraged free thought, and argued against institutionalized religion (the Christianity of his day in particular) -- again made him notorious, and he was ostracized for his intellectual & moral courage (even in the United States after his return there in 1802) until his death in 1809. ―Thomas Paine had passed the legendary limit of life. One by one most of his old friends and acquaintances had deserted him. Maligned on every side, execrated, shunned and abhorred – his virtues denounced as vices – his services forgotten – his character blackened, he preserved the poise and balance of his soul. He was a victim of the people, but his convictions remained unshaken. He was still a soldier in the army of freedom, and still tried to enlighten and civilize those who were impatiently waiting for his death. Even those who loved their enemies hated him, their friend – the friend of the whole world – with all their hearts.‖ ~ Robert Ingersoll 115