Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thank you, Jimmy Carter

I've been in a lot of discussions lately about Carter's book, Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid. I am so grateful for his book which is indeed effecting his stated aim, to stir debate. I found the below article very interesting, a response to the book from Rabbi Michael Lerner, published on

Thank You, Jimmy Carter

Rabbi Michael Lerner

December 06, 2006

Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun magazine, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue, which meets in San Francisco and Berkeley, and national chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. He is the author of Healing Israel/Palestine (North Atlantic Books, 2003) and of the national best-seller The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right (Harper San Francisco, 2006).

Jimmy Carter was the best friend the Jews ever had as president of the United States.

He is the only president to have actually delivered for the Jewish people an agreement (the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt) that has stood the test of time. Since the treaty, there have been bad vibes between Israel and Egypt, but never a return to war, once Israel fully withdrew from the territories it conquered in Egypt during the 1967 war.

To get that agreement, Carter had to twist the arms of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat. Sometimes that is what real friends do—they push you into a path that is really in your best interest at times when there is an emergency and you are acting self-destructively.

When the U.S. government is following a self-destructive policy, even a policy backed by people in both major political parties, its best friends are those who try to change its direction and are not afraid to offer intense critique. That’s why a majority of Americans, and 86 percent of American Jews, voted in the 2006 midterm elections to reject Bush’s war in Iraq and his policies suspending habeas corpus and legitimating wire-tapping and torture. Not because we were disloyal, but precisely because we love America enough to challenge its policies even when Vice President Cheney questions our loyalty. We know that critique is often an essential part of love and caring.

That is precisely what Jimmy Carter is trying to do for Israel and the Jewish people in his new book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

So it’s astounding to see the assault on Carter that has been launched by the ADL chair Abe Foxman, law professor Alan Dershowitz and a bevy of other representatives of the Jewish community. I recently received a mailing from our local Jewish Community Relations Council containing four such attacks on Carter, with zero representation of American Jews who support the Israeli peace movement.

Of course, any selection of facts is always going to be a choice, and those who buy the mainstream narrative of either the Palestinian or Israeli partisans are going to be unhappy with moments in which their narrative is not the dominant one in this book.

Carter recognizes the mistakes on both sides—precisely what the “You are either for us or against us” crowd in both camps cannot stand. Nuance, recognition that both sides have at times been insensitive to the legitimate needs of the other, insistence that both sides need to take steps that are currently rejected (by Hamas in the Palestinian world, by the Israeli government in the Jewish world—this is what makes for rational discussion.

Here’s an easy way to tell an extremist on Israel/Palestine issues: Just ask that person if he or she can list at least three terrible errors his/her side has made in this struggle, errors that deserve moral condemnation. If they can’t, chances are that no amount of evidence or moral reasoning is ever going to open their minds.

Instead, you’ll hear Palestinians who talk about their own refugee status but never acknowledge that, when Jews were refugees trying to escape the Holocaust in Europe, the Palestinian leadership convinced the British to not allow any Jews to come to Palestine. Nor will they talk about the human suffering that results when Palestinian terrorists explode bombs in cafes, movie theatres or dance halls in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Or you’ll hear the right-wingers in the Jewish crowd claiming, quite mistakenly as we’ve demonstrated in Tikkun, that Palestinians rejected a reasonable deal presented to them at Camp David in 2000. They’ll make the equally absurd claim that the Gaza pull-out of troops in 2005 “gave the Palestinians what they’ve been asking for and yet they continue to fight.” In fact, the Palestinian Authority had pleaded with Sharon not to pull out unilaterally but to negotiate an end to the occupation of both Gaza and the West Bank, recognizing that negotiations would give credence to the Palestinian Authority for being able to deliver something in return for the nonviolent stance it had taken since the death of Arafat, while unilateral withdrawal would give Hamas an important chip (which it was able to use to parlay itself to electoral victory, claiming that it was their violence that had driven the Israelis out). Similarly, the apologists for the current policies of the State of Israel simply ignore the ongoing suffering that constitutes collective punishment for the entire population of Palestine when Israel cuts off food and funds and allows tens of thousands of people in the Occupied Territories to suffer from malnutrition. The partisans always have to see themselves as “righteous victims” and the other side as “the evil other.”

Carter does not claim that Israel is an apartheid state. What he does claim is that the West Bank will be a de facto apartheid situation if the current dynamics represented by the construction of the wall, by the passage of discriminatory legislation and by the inclusion of racists in the leadership—most recently that of pro-ethnic cleansing Israeli Cabinet member Avigdor Lieberman—continue. The only way to avoid Israel turning into an apartheid state is a genuine peace accord.

In an interview that will appear in the January issue of Tikkun magazine, Carter points out that he is “not referring to racism as a basis for Israeli policy in the West Bank, but rather the desire of a minority of Israelis to occupy, confiscate and colonize Palestinian land.” To enforce that occupation of Palestinian land, Israel has built in the West Bank separate roads for Jewish settlers and Palestinians, built separate school systems, has totally different allocations of money, water, food and security for each population, wildly privileging the Jewish settlers and discriminating against the Palestinians whose families have lived there for centuries.

What Carter is arguing is that the best interests of Israel and the United States are not served by the current policies. Some still cling to the fantasy that holding on to land in the West Bank will improve Israeli security, but, as the recent war with Hezbollah conclusively showed, increasing sophistication of military technologies makes holding land no serious barrier for those who wish to send rockets and bombs hundreds of miles away.

The only real protection for a small country like Israel is to have good relations with its neighbors, and that is precisely what the occupation systematically undermines. The Geneva Accord provides a good foundation for the lasting peace both sides say they want. And it will eventually provide the foundations for any settlement: the creation of a Palestinian state on almost all of the West Bank and Gaza, with full control of its own borders; full recognition and security agreements for Israel with all of its neighbors; joint coordination on security and anti-terrorism between Israeli and Palestinian police and military forces; reparations for Palestinian refugees; and a peace and reconciliation process that dispels the lies and propaganda that have become “accepted truths” in the diaspora communities of both Jewish and Arab worlds.

Jimmy Carter is speaking the truth as he knows it, and doing a great service to the Jews.

Unfortunately, this peace is impeded by the powerful voices of AIPAC and the mainstream of the organized Jewish community, who manage to terrify even the most liberal elected officials into blind support of whatever policy the current government of Israel advocates. Ironically, this blind support has had the consequence of pushing many morally sensitive Christians and Jews to distance themselves from the Jewish world, which makes blind support for Israeli policies the litmus test of anti-Semitism. Younger Jews cannot safely express criticisms of Israeli policy without being told that they are disloyal or “self-hating,” and elected officials tell me privately that they agree with Tikkun’s more balanced “progressive Middle Path” which is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. But we’ve found that even Jews in the mainstream media have ignored or condemned our new organization, The Network of Spiritual Progressives, which is, among other things, trying to be an interfaith alternative to AIPAC.

It’s time to create a new openness to criticism and a new debate. Jimmy Carter has shown courage in trying to open that kind of space with his new book, and he deserves our warm thanks and support.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Hotel Rwanda and Saddam's Mass Graves

My dear friend from grad school, Sara Farley, works for the World Bank and is also a consultant for the African Development Bank, with whom she's on the continent right now doing assessments. She shared with me her experience at visiting Hotel Rwanda--a chilling account and to me, a vivid reminder of the Kurdish mass graves I saw in Northern Iraq. We had to observe the graves during the period they were uncovered to collect data for Saddam's trial. A horrid scene--two of the estimated twelve mass graves were exposed--one of men and the other of women and children. The men were shot by machine gun and then bulldozed into the grave while the women and children shot at close range right at the back of the head. It's difficult to explain the emotions surveying a scene like that and now Sara has had a similar experience. I've included the poem I wrote about my experience below Sara's account.

Thursday, February 9, 2007

A driver told me on Monday that all roads in Rwanda lead to only three places: up the mountain, around the mountain, or down the mountain. Yesterday my hilly journey took me down the mountain, down to the very lowest possible place.

For two days I have been under the watchful care of the Dean of the Agriculture University within the National University of Rwanda. Through his contacts, I had 25 different interviews. I saw fish firms and met acquculturists, talked to coffee farmers and met the heads of farmer cooperatives, and spoke with the Dean of the only Medical School here. I even attended a celebration for the School of Crop Science (where I had to give an impromptu speech about Rwanda’s future crop scientists “…And may your harvests be bountiful!” I must have sounded like a Pilgrim). I even met luminaries—the Ministers of course, but more importantly, the first ever Ms. National University (think Ms. America but more gracious, enrolled in the crop science Bachelors program, and without the swimsuit), and the Pride of Rwanda—a young girl (she couldn’t have been more than 20) who has developed a perfect sense of taste for coffee. She works as something called a cupper on the big new Quality Coffee Cooperative. She tastes over 150 cups of coffee a day to score them and determine which export markets are likely to buy individual coffee harvests based on the level of quality her talented taste buds assess.

The Dean insisted, however, that my visit to Rwanda wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t go to the genocide memorial outside of Butare. I had wanted the opportunity, so I happily agreed to the trip between field interviews. What I saw there yesterday is something I will never forget, no matter that I already wish it were possible.

High on a mountain outside of a small village called Murambi sits a technical and vocational school much like any of the same such schools that dot the countryside across Rwanda. 24 class rooms still stand clustered near a large dining hall within an easy walk of the village. In April 1994 as the genocide was reaching a fevered pitch, Murambi became the site of one of the worst single events of planned killing. The chaos in the surrounding area meant confusion for most people—where to go, who to trust, how to find safety in the night for children and mothers. Officials told villagers the technical school would be used as a dormitory until peace came. Instead, machetes, clubs studded with nails, axes, and guns met the babies, children, men and women—55,000 in total—at Murambi.

“You must be strong to see this,” the Dean warned. “But you’ve now seen the good in Rwanda this week. To know our country, you must know the bad. You must know this.”

We were met by a stoic Rwandan woman who met our car to lead us to a large pit. She explained this was the site of the septic tank for the school. With the help of the French government, it was unearthed and opened to provide a receptacle for “the needs of the soldiers.” 600 bodies were dumped inside of it the night of the attack on Murambi.

Next we walked toward the classrooms. The Dean warned that unlike the Genocide museum in Kigali, Murambi is much more “unsanitized.” Since the people that were killed were not buried under ground, the bodies did not decompose. To remember the tragedy, they have been left the bodies in the classrooms for people to see. I felt my breath shorten as I walked across the bright green grass in the glaring sun toward the first bank of six rooms.

Bodies? How many? What will they look like? Are they covered? Should I be here?

We walked through the open door of the first classroom. Three rows of six cots 12 inches off the ground lay in the room. On top of each cot 15 maybe 20 bodies lay side by side. Covered in a white powdery preservative, the bodies looked more skeletal with creased dove-white leather skins than corpses. I looked at the first room fighting to maintain some kind of mental divide between dead people and these white-washed prunes that I saw. One room. Two rooms. At the third room I felt the divide I’d tried to erect in my mind crumble as I heard a moan and a loud gasp. The sound came from my own mouth as an almost autonomic reflex when I panned the bodies to find a baby on the cot nearest to the door—the white substance his tiny body was caked in hadn’t permeated all of his hair. The black tight curls looked so healthy, so real, so undeniably human.

“You see there where the machete cut his head?” asked the Dean pointing to another child lying next to the one I was staring at.

In a single second I was in a room of 100 brutally murdered people. Crushed skulls from axe wounds, missing limbs, fingers and mouths frozen in the terrified moments when a mother reaches to shield her child, a father grips his wife’s hand as death comes…

The woman escorting us through the memorial wrapped her arms around me, hearing the sobs I couldn’t contain. I cried in her arms surrounded by her dead friends, her dead father, her dead children. “I am so sorry, I am so sorry, I am sorry…” the only words that I could utter.

We walked through all 24 rooms, each one an above-ground cemetery. With every room, any iota of faith in human beings as “evolved creatures” capable of morality or empathy dribbled away and down my cheeks. After room 24 the woman escorted me to a tiny latrine and shut the door. I didn’t know what to expect. Did she think I needed to use the bathroom? With the door closed, was it her turn to cry? Time to wipe the mascara off my face? Yes, that must be it.

She took a roll of toilet paper from the cement floor and wrapped a long piece of paper into a little bundle. She knelt to the ground in front of me and began to wash my feet that had become speckled in dirt from the walk through the memorial. In silence, I watched her cleaning me—me this person who did nothing to deserve her compassion for my sadness. No words were exchanged between this woman and me. She spoke in Rwandan to the Dean, he would translate for me. But as we walked out of the restroom, she took my hand in hers. Something in that gesture and the foot washing felt to be as profound a connection as any I’ve had with someone I’ve only just met--empathy and understanding in its purest form.

Out of the restroom an old man met us whose head was horribly disfigured. I learned he was one of only FOUR people to live through the massacre at Murambi that killed 55,000. He began to cry when he saw me and took my other hand. The three of us walked together to a long formal grave. Here the bodies that were too disfigured or decapitated were buried under the ground, four crosses atop a cement slab above them.

I learned that when the French soldiers “arrived” at the site of Murambi they were quick to act: they erected a tennis court above the septic tank that served as the largest of the mass graves and plunged a French flag in the ground. There is no active French embassy in Rwanda today as the Rwandan people are still waiting for any acknowledgement or apology for the role of the French in aiding and abetting those who perpetrated the genocide.

As we drove away from Murambi, down the mountain, little children dressed in the bright blue national school uniform ran after our car screaming, “Mazunga! Mazunga!” (i.e., “Whitey! Whitey!”). We were stopped at a police barricade in the road, the children excited for the opportunity to wave and smile. The police interrogated the driver—“Who is she? Why is she here? Is she French?” The driver assured them that I was not French but rather American, here on an African Development Bank mission. The policeman bid us through the check-point and wished me best of luck in my mission.

I wished him best of luck in his.

~Sara Farley
Hotel des Mille Collines Kigali (aka Hotel Rwanda)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

After the Afterthoughts…

The biggest impression I take with me as I fly high above the clouds over Rwanda en route to my next destination, Johannesburg, then on to Maputo, is an enduring hope in Rwanda. The creation of the Gacacas—the 10,000 local courts for the prosecution of Category 2 crimes committed during the genocide (i.e., meant to maim and accidentally killed, was forced to kill by a higher authority, assisted someone else in killing) and Category 3 crimes (facilitated racist crimes in preparation for genocide, such as taking property from Hutus)—the massive reforms in education designed to ensure every child has access to basic education and to ICT, and the sheer beauty and happiness observed in the people of Rwanda each validate my cause for hope. It is amazing to me the joie de vivre that lives in societies with incomes below $300 per person per year. Without shoes or regular meals, access to running water or electricity, people still smile, they hug, they laugh, they dance. Man, do they dance. Development in Rwanda is as much about preserving this happiness as it is about ameliorating disease, obliterating hunger, and promoting education.

I wrote in the Memorial Guest Book at Murambi—“Any society that can endure this [the genocide] and survive, can achieve anything.” After meeting the heads of government, universities, the private sector, research institutions and technical schools along with Rwandan entrepreneurs, farmers, physicists, doctors, fishermen, students, drivers, mothers, fathers and children, my optimism for this country only grows.

And here's my poem written November 2004 after seeing the Kurdish mass graves in Ninewa province, Iraq.

Al Hatra

I’m no artist.
I can’t use witty metaphors or paint poignant images of death.
I can only tell you of the smell that burned my nostrils,
Of the searing heat beating down on the already-beaten…
Baking their mangled remains.
I can tell you of the mother clutching her baby through the blanket,
Of the outlines of clothes and shoes once filled with little bodies and little feet,
Clothing adorned with bright colors, elaborate decoration
Impossible to mistake the traditional Kurdish designs…
so many layers as they took all of their possessions with them
the bags crammed with the necessities—
Food, spare clothing for their children.
It’s said they were told they were going for a picnic,
The shots to the back of the head told a different story.

I can tell you of the sickness in my stomach hours later,
The inability to wash myself clean,
To rid myself of this sight, that smell, the sin
I ran to the pool to dive into clean waters—
To Uday’s pool.
Ha, clean is not the word.
How strange to go from the worst of their destructions
To the best of their pleasures.
The extremes make me dizzy.

But who am I to see this?
I am not their loved ones,
I did not suffer their trials, their injustices, their deaths.
I can only shed a tear for them,
And beg God to help me understand,
That the innocent never suffer.
My sympathy goes to the accuser, the afflicter,
Whose self-inflicted punishment
is surely relentless.
The heat…so much more than
Baking sun.

“Shepherd, wash them clean.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Middle East Engagement Forum a Success

On February 8th, a colleague and I hosted the first "Middle East Engagement Forum" here in Washington. We had an incredible group of over 20 individuals from various countries, regions, and religions, who contributed to substantive and constructive conversation on Middle East issues. We had the discussion "WorldCafe" style, (, which if you are not familiar with it, is a wonderful way of eliciting the most constructive and creative ideas and potential from a large group. In just two and a half hours, we just scratched the surface on these topics and there was a feeling of needing more!

I'm looking forward to many more forums and exploring Middle East issues and foreign policy with a conscientious, smart, and energetic group. Here are the results from the meeting..not surprisingly, dealing with the Israel/Palestinian issue was a winner.

Middle East Engagement Forum
February 8, 2007

Reason for starting the forum and our long-term vision:

To be a world-wide network of committed citizens who are bettering the relationship/policies between the Middle East and US.

World Café Discussions: (top 3 reasons in each category bolded.)

Forum Question #1: Why is the Middle East important to you?
# of Stars

Israeli-Palestinian conflict 3
US presence—because we’re there.
September 11, 2001 1
where the action is
A personal connection, my faith, my neighborhood.
philosophy of Islam that drives extremism; fundamentalism; unhealthy expression of Islam; ME culture backsliding into fundamentalism. 7
oil-energy 1
not important to others—no national movement
Religious conflict (epicenter) 1
Security issues--terrorism
Cultural misperceptions
Global/local identity (west vs. east; tribe vs. tribe; core vs. gap)
Trillion-dollar war 2
First must define the region: Arab or Muslim? Does it include Iran, North Africa?
The way governments treat their people has implications for everyone. 4
Middle East instability/radicalism affects global security.
Secularism under attack.
America and ME governments: rock and a hard place. 1
Contrast/tension between acceptance and rejection of Western liberties/values/lifestyles.
Jihad vs. McWorld—nation-state under attack 2
Question #2:
How can the US improve its relationship/policies in the Middle East?

Do not impose values. 2
Understand tradition is different than religion. 1
Interact/communicate (town hall meetings) 1
Mediate/facilitate Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Balance our support between the two. 9
Engage more /less?
Fight the ideology 1
Become energy independent
Improve US institutions
Learn more about the language and culture. 5
Improve educational institutions
Mitigate US arrogance. 1
Global community- less cultural isolation
Public diplomacy 2
New leadership-clean start
Work for basic human rights, including women’s rights. 5
Don’t support dictatorships 1
Ask what “they” can do for themselves 7
Break cycle of dependency. 1
NGO/independent initiatives. 1

Question #3: What can we personally do?

Take an interest 1
Try to get Arab news on US cable 2
Educate who we meet—talk to others 4
Travel there! 5
Share information; send emails.
Read the Quran. 2
Educate and inform ourselves. (what are the traditions, terms used, language?) 6
Be open-minded—listen.
Pray 3
Have meetings like this 1
Talk to Janessa. Janessa for President. (Very funny, guys.) 2
Lobby Congress.
Internet. 1
Marry an Arab. 3
Talk with Muslims. (Azim) 3
Visit a mosque. 1
Eat more hummus.
Go green-energy conservation 3
Networking/mobilizing. (Use technology to connect to the M.E. & to community here.
Donate time/labor/$ to human rights initiatives. 2
Political activism 1
Prepare yourself/invest in your specialty/ contribute/be an expert 2
Think critically about media coverage. Look for the positive stories and get the stories OUT. 2
Get rich and give. Follow the money—a lot comes down to resources 2

Large Group Debrief:

Things unexpected:

• Met new neighbors; surprised to learn many Arabs supportive of the US.
• Level of personal interest; so many in DC not jaded.
• Learned lots of diversity within the Arab world
• You can become an expert if you want
• Movement that can start
• Not radical; normal to be engaged and care about these issues.
• Hearing about human rights issues, (such as women not being able to get passports without male consent.)
• Learned form of US democracy may not work; not one size fits all. will take time. What is the right model to use to influence?
• Realized how difficult it is to think of how we can help.

Things that resonated/ideas especially important:

• LISTEN so you can understand the other.
• Personal connections/sharing
• More intelligent conversation.
• Awareness!
• US policy well-intentioned, but uninformed.
• Go there/ travel.
• Be open-minded.
• Use better terminology.
• Learn Arabic/Get Arabic channels.
• Learn more about Islam; go to a mosque.

Ways that this forum can help/be a vehicle.

• Should have a practical goal to work towards
• Cultural exchanges: movie night, book club, field trips, Arab dance lessons
• Networking- meet with other similar groups and individuals.
• Speakers: balanced perspectives who engage the group for discussion (no lectures!)
• More discussions
• To do vs. to be

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Nothing is impossible

Tonight was the Superbowl, with its attendant physical feats, catching and holding onto the unwieldy football in the pouring rain. Even so, the Bears and Colts don't hold a candle, however, to the story of overcoming limitations of Dick and Rick Hoyt. Their story expresses what a determination motivated by selfless love can accomplish--the impossible. Their triumph really hits home since my brother David (pictured here) is mentally disabled and can't speak, but has also defied the doctors' predictions. They said he would unlikely live long, would have physical difficulties throughout his short life, and would never be able to swim or ride a bike. Well, they couldn't have been more wrong. David is still going strong, loves swimming and biking above all else, and has never had any physical problems.

So, what does this have to do with the Middle East? I suppose if Dick, a self-described "porker" who didn't know how to swim could do 212 triathlons pushing and pulling his son, perhaps peace in the Middle East is possible after all. Also, if we viewed "the other" as having real value, whether they're from a different country, a different religion, or a different mental make-up, perhaps they would stop being "the others" and become our friends.

[From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly]
I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay For their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.

But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in Marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a Wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and Pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.

Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back Mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. On a bike. Makes Taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much--except save his life.
This love story began in Winchester , Mass. , 43 years ago, when Rick Was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him Brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

"He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;'' Dick says doctors told him And his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. ``Put him in an Institution.''

But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes Followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the Engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was Anything to help the boy communicate. ``No way,'' Dick says he was told. ``There's nothing going on in his brain.''

"Tell him a joke,'' Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a Lot was going on in his brain. Rigged up with a computer that allowed Him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his Head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? ``Go Bruins!'' And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the School organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, ``Dad, I want To do that.''

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described ``porker'' who never ran More than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he Tried. ``Then it was me who was handicapped,'' Dick says. ``I was sore For two weeks.''

That day changed Rick's life. ``Dad,'' he typed, ``when we were running, It felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!''

And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly Shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

``No way,'' Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a Single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few Years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then They found a way to get into the race Officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the Qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, ``Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?''

How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he Was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick Tried.

Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii . It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud Getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you Think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? ``No way,'' he says. Dick does it purely for ``the awesome feeling'' he gets seeing Rick with A cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best Time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the world Record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to Be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the Time.

``No question about it,'' Rick types. ``My dad is the Father of the Century.''

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a Mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries Was 95% clogged. ``If you hadn't been in such great shape,'' One doctor told him, ``you probably would've died 15 years ago.'' So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass. , always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.

``The thing I'd most like,'' Rick types, ``is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.''

And the video is below....