Monday, February 25, 2008

Ed Hale Transcends Iranian Conflict - Rock Star And Good Will Ambassador Will Visit Iran

by Keith Hannaleck

New York, Ny (PressExposure) February 25, 2008 --

14 delegates chosen from across the United States will be going on a Peace Delegation to the country of Iran with The Fellowship of Reconciliation ( – an organization headquartered in over 40 countries worldwide and started in 1914 in Switzerland to prevent war in Europe. Transcendence lead singer Ed Hale has been chosen to be one of the 14 delegates.
Along with 10 others the group also consists of writer Larry Beinhart, best known for Wag the Dog, and Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin, Carah Lynn Ong, Policy Analyst for the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation in Washington DC, and journalist Robert Dreyfus, contributing editor and writer for The Nation, Rolling Stone, The New Republic and other publications.

The group will tour Iran for two-weeks, primarily focusing on the major cities of Tehran, Shiraz, and Qom. The group will visit schools, universities, newspapers, radio, and TV stations to foster more harmony and solidarity between the American and Iranian people. They will meet with three reigning Ayatollahs and with the former Iranian President Khatami. The Fellowship of Reconciliation is a non-religious not-for-profit organization that has been sponsoring trips such as these for over eighty years all over the world. Their primary mission is to foster peace and understanding between peoples of different cultures to prevent war.

Hale sings in the rock band Transcendence (Universal) and is also known for his outspoken human rights and peace activism and volunteer work around the world. He just returned from two weeks of home building in Africa with Habitat for Humanity and made two separate trips to the Gulf Coast last year to help rebuild homes for Hurricane Katrina victims in Biloxi, Mississippi. He and his band mates have two new albums coming out this year, The Great Mistake, and All Your Heroes Become Villains.

A sign of the times, the funds to help pay Hale's expenses were raised entirely online using social networking sites such as MySpace and something known as the ChipIn widget. Fans and friends were encouraged to post comments and donate anything they wanted to. The “widget” tracked the progress in real-time so all could log-on at anytime to see how much money had been collected and watch as the goal was reached and read comments from fans from around the world.

Hale has been keeping a blog about the trip online and will continue to post reports while he is in Iran. Upon his return he will be speaking at various events about the experience and will be available for interviews and speaking events to talk more about his experiences.

TMG Records 304 Park Avenue South, 11 th Floor, New York , NY 10010 United States. 800-827-7763

To learn more about the Fellowship of Reconciliation organization and how you can become involved click here

For more information

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Purpose... Part One

One of the things that has intrigued me most about this latest adventure is the mixed bag of feedback and reaction from friends and strangers alike that it has delivered to my doorstep. Some are enthusiastic and thrilled. Some blase' and silent. And some are downright confrontational and negative about the idea of me and the other Americans entering the country of Iran at this time in history. One guesses that reaction is fairly normal and to be expected; not just during these times, but at almost any time throughout recorded human history. The proverbial 'we' has always had a proverbial 'them' as an 'enemy' of some sort. It is one of the last few pitiable symptoms of the human condition.

Of course where and when one is born determines which 'we' they are and relate to and just who exactly the 'enemy' is. It is all rather arbitrary if one dares contemplate it for any length of time. It was The Earl of Rochester, the enviably witty and perceptive Sir John Wilmot, who once commented "Life has no purpose. It is undone by arbitrariness. I do this. I do that. And it matters not whether I do the opposite. But in art every action has its impact and consequence."

His words may be notable when defending the arts; and indeed in a life left unexamined you couldn't blame a person for wandering through life with that attitude. I am Russian. I am American. I am Chilean. I am Canadian. In the end, what does it really matter? But we are getting ahead of ourselves a bit.

Let us stop and ponder for a moment the matter at hand. A delegation of 14 Americans are deliberately heading into a country who's current president has publicly stated that he wants to see the destruction of their own native country AND the nation of Israel. Our own president refuses to communicate at all with the government of this other country except to issue strongly-worded public threats and economic sanctions against this 'other country' to the international media. And on and on it goes. It makes for a great puppet show for the masses and it fills the hearts and minds of millions around the globe with disarming distraction so intriguing that they forget for a moment everything around them except that 'we' are 'we' and 'they' are 'they'.

Americans of course are not welcomed into Iran with open arms exactly. And yet, we know that the people of that great ancient country are no more responsible for their president's words than the people of America or Britain are responsible for the 24,000 Iraqi civilians who were killed in 2007 alone due to the invasion of Iraq by aforesaid countries. 24,000 innocent civilians killed in one year. Is the figure even imaginable to us? I dare say it is not. And yet 14 Americans are still willingly going to pay money to go to this other country of 'thems' knowing full well that they may or may not be fully welcomed. So just what exatly IS the purpose?

When one thinks about it, it is the Greek, British, and Roman Empires we fashion ourselves after here in the States and the majority of the Western World. Not the Islamic Empires. From very young ages in the West we learn of Plato and Socrates and Churchill and Caesar and Constantine and King Henry VIII even. But we don't hear much about the Islamic Empires or the rulers or kings or scientists or poets or much of anything about anything relating to Islamic thought or history.

It is an unfortunate result of whatever defect that one chooses to label it in the thinking and planning of our chosen officials and leaders. In school I, like many, was forced to read Aristotle but had to discover Rumi on my own. I was forced to read Shakespeare but had to discover Khalil Gibran on my own. I had to learn that Baghdad had the greatest library in the world on my own, before the Mongols destroyed it, along with the fact that Muslims at their peak were forerunners of the Italian Renaissance, innovators of modern day hospitals, paper making, textiles, soap, transcribed many of the most important writings of the ancient Greeks, and that their sophisticated bureaucracy is often credited as the basis of modern constitutions.

Of course there is more. There always is. As much as one cares to 'major' in things Christian or American or Western or British or Greek or Roman, there is just as much to study in the way of things Islamic or Babylonian, Arabian, Persian, or even Syrian. Much of it depends on where one is born and the indoctrination they receive as youngsters from those whose hands feed them their food. But don't go admitting simple truths such as these in public. For obvious reasons. People are very emotionally reactive regarding their home-country. Whether justifiably so or not. Some call it patriotism. Some call it jingoism. Some call it nationalism. Some call it terrorism. Some call it treason. I don't call it anything. I just observe that it is so.

Purpose... Part Two

Those that know me know that I am not patriotic in the traditional sense of the word; but that I am a very patriotic earthling and human. I am extremely emotionally reactive and passionate (read 'patriotic') when it comes to human beings. All human beings. All life really. Regardless of country of origin. The observation reminds me of what was once said of the great Greek warrior Achilles: "He is a man who fights for no flag. A man loyal to no country." Though in the end this would turn out to be not so true of the hero, I have never found this to be such a terrible human attribute when looked upon in the grander scheme of things.

For some reason I have never found myself too forcefully or formally attached to any particular country, just as I have never found myself too adamantly opposed to any particular country or people. I am a proud American. To be sure. I have had my moments. Sickening to others at times. Times when all I would read for months at a time was American History etc. But I am also a proud Italian. I am a proud Greek. A proud Jew. A proud English man. A proud German. A proud Hindu, a proud Muslim, and a proud Christian. I am just damn proud to be human.

This of course is where it gets tricky with some. I am lucky to receive very little hate mail. I read the occasional vitriolic rantings of a few on YouTube or MySpace or coming through to our poor webmasters about my allegiance to humanity over my supposed obligation to have more allegiance to the country I was born in. But I find this kind of patriotism very difficult when I find so much to like about all of the countries of the planet and all its peoples.

One could say I am an idealist in the fact that I look forward to a day when there was no such thing as countries being used as a means of war and separation but only as tools of learning and culture sharing. One big massive earth orgy of cultures colliding -- creating multiple global orgasms one after another. Metaphorically speaking of course.

Which leads us of course to the legend of the famously revered Jewish orphan Hadassah who later became Queen Esther from the Book of Esther in the Christian and Jewish Bible -- from exiled Jewish orphanhood to Queen of Persia; and in the end she succeeded in saving the lives of thousands of Jewish people living in Persia -- in what we now call Iran. Yes... we are onto something here... after all why would any of us venture from our relatively safe homes in the United States to Iran if there was not some great purpose? Why would we spend the money? Why would we spend other people's money? Why would we spend the time or the effort?

Again, I cannot speak for any of the other delegates on the trip, but I know that my heart longs suffers aches rejoices and celebrates as equally with the Iranians as it does with the Jews or the Palestinians or the Americans or the Romanians or the Africans or the Venezueleans or the Cubans for that matter.

One of my mentors, a man without whose influence I would be much less of the person I am today, gave me some rather sage advice when hearing about my latest adventure. Something to the effect of 'This might afford a very valuable and life-transforming learning experience if you let it Fishy. What I would do if I were you is say very little. About anything. But use the opportunity to do a lot of listening. And learn as much as you can." This of course is why he stands so influential in the lives of so many. His name is Stephen Bauman.

So yes, there is a mission. In the biggest picture, like Esther, Queen of Persia, our mission is no less than to save human lives and to end human suffering. To prevent war. To prevent innocent lives from being needlessly snuffed out too soon and for no purpose. No small feats. To foster more peace and harmony and understanding among peoples and nations. To share smiles or handshakes even. The 'how' of it remains to be seen still. But I believe that this takes us closer to understanding our purpose and perhaps will satisfy a few who have emailed me recently with questions as to 'why would you ever want to go to such a place?' I hope so at least.

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's those little things...

It's those little that grab you by surprise... In Brasil it was all about the food. I didn't eat for days when i first arrived... It all seemed so foreign... dead fish heads staring up at you and pots of un-pronounceable stews filled with god knows what. But you get used to it.

In Italy it took me a few days of getting laughed at by locals when i would ask for 'breakfast' to finally just stop asking. "letta me a guessa... youa wanta thee american breakafesta. witha bacon and thee eggsa..." and then they would laugh and say no and offer me espresso and a pastry. You get used to it.

On the Gulf Coast of America after Katrina work trips it wasn't the fact that we were sleeping on air mattresses on the floor nor the fact that we were working all day in the hot sun for no pay till we couldn't breathe anymore... no. that was the easy part. It was dealing with the emotional trauma of seeing fellow americans lose their homes and family members and everything they owned that stung the most. that was the hard part.

Africa of course forget about it. Once you see poverty like that you pretty much lose sight of any discomfort you might be feeling on your own part. Seven vaccination shots that hurt like shit, malaria pills that give you nightmares every night, no electric half the time, no fresh drinking water, no hot water, eating rodent... nothing compared to the experience of seeing how most of them actually live themselves. It is still hard to type about it without getting choked up...

This newest adventure offers it's own cocktail of unexpected challenges. The American women in our group must all cover their hair in the customary Hijab manner, even in their visa photos they take here. I have much respect for them. They will have to become accustomed to things that we men on the trip will not have to.

And there is the issue of bringing our cameras or laptops. To me, not bringing my camera and laptop are inconceivable - in order to document my experiences for friends and fans and myself alike. I live for the moment. But i certainly live for the moment after as well. But evidently bringing our laptops is not such a good idea. The Iranian government has the authority to confiscate it and copy the hard drive. Of course i would be put to death if they ever saw what was on my hard drive. One can only imagine...

And the US Government now considers it against the law to bring a laptop back from Iran and also has the authority to confiscate it and copy the hard drive upon our return. All of this makes sense. I do not question it. It is a sign of the times that we live in.

Most delegates will choose not to bring a computer at all. But i have devised a plan. I called Dell today and will install a brand new hard drive in my trusty old companion. We will then ghost my current hard drive to the new one. And then we will delete everything off of the new one except just the operating system and MS Word and the Canon software i need to download photos and videos. It will be a lot of work and alot more expense. But in the end even if either government confiscates my computer, i don't lose much. For extra precaution, I can also make CD backups of everything i collect while there and hide them somewhere else. Up my arse if i have to. But the show will go on. American ingenuity at it's finest. Stay tuned.

And of course life still goes on...

Regardless of the prep work and press talk and studying and learning involved in a trip such as this, one is reminded hourly that life as it is for each delegate still goes on. Our normal day to day lives do not stop because of this trip or any other. Money still needs to be made. Errands run. Friends or family members still sick or in need or just want to talk, etc.

I cannot speak for the other delegates on this trip but i guess they are in similar positions. For me personally it is a balancing act that takes tremendous focus. My bandmates and our manager are constantly on the phone. In the last few weeks we have been negotiating two different contracts regarding the release of the two new albums we want to release this year. At any other time that would be the BOMB. It would be the all that i was thinking about. And indeed according to the guys in the band it should be all i am thinking about. "Frankly i think you have too much on your plate and i wish you would just focus on these record deals man," Fernando our guitarist tells me openly and honestly.

"So Mr. ambassador where are you today? Afganistan?" Our baritoned-voiced manager the Big Man in Black shouts at me over the phone. "How am i supposed to get a hold of you if you're always off on one of these effing peace trips? Jacobi is calling me nonstop. I would like to be able to tell him something,"

I'm listening to him and sincerely interested and at the same time I'm trying to soak in the complexities of the Suni-Shia conflict in a State Department Report in my left hand out of the corner of my eye...

Crazy times indeed. So how does this fit in with the band? Are my bandmates right? "It doesn't man. This is you. It has nothing to do with the band or with music." Or is there something bigger that we aren't seeing yet with all of this? How does it fit in with my love of all loves -- music? I don't know yet. But i'm willing to keep on with the balancing act. I know this: people are balancing much more than this quite sucessfully all over the world.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Preparation Part Two

On and on it goes. To Esfahan, more palaces, more meetings, to participate in traditional Sakris church services. A meeting with the Islamic Consultative Assembly and then Tehran University to meet with Ayatollah Amid Zanjani, Chancellor of the University. On to Qom and the World Center for Islamic Sciences, and a few more universities. Then the Research Center of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Most impressive to me at first glance is the fact that we will then be meeting with the Former President of Iran â?? Hojjatol Islam Khatami. A man whose name we have read about a lot in the last ten years all over the world. I will remain quiet and humble and gracious throughout and try to take it all in as best I can. We then visit the Jewish Temple â?? yes there is a Jewish Temple in Iran and in fact the largest population of Jews in the middle east live in Iran outside of Israel which many of us hadn't realized. Then we meet with Ayatollah Taskhiri, Secretary General of the World Forum for the Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought.

To think that for the last four years I have sat for hours exhaustively studying books and documentaries about this culture, this religion, this history, these people, and will now get to experience at least a glance of it firsthand is still not an entirely real idea to me. I suppose it will not be fully until we are actually there.

Two things come to mind when I reflect on the opportunity: One, when we set our sights on something, we have the ability to achieve it. God and/or the Universe begins to shape itself around our thoughts and actions and our reality becomes shaped by it. Be careful what you think â?? it just might happen. Two, I stay in a constant state of gratitude and appreciation of the many friends and fans and family members who have contributed to this newest adventure. It keeps me on my toes. Watchful. Grateful. Blessed.


It is a lot to take in. hundreds of pages of information to study and learn and put to memory. Studying the Qurâ??an, the language of Farsi, the history of Iran/Persia, the current climate of the country and the region, and trying my best to not only learn and memorize the many customs that are so different from our own so as not to offend but rather honor them with our presence in their world, but also to show respect and courtesy. But also doing my best to put to memory the many requests and requirements made by the organization â?? the Fellowship of Reconciliation-- itself and their mission and why they are having us delegates partake in it in the first place.

Again there is a lot to take in. It is by all accounts overwhelming unless I keep myself firmly seated in the present moment at all times and just keep reading and studying. Stacks of books all around me. Pages upon pages of information from many sources continuously shooting out of my printer for me to soak in. I fall asleep each night to an assortment of Iranian historical documentaries and classic and contemporary film DVDs so that it sinks in all the more.

The itinerary looks merciless at first glance. 15 solid days of travel with not many breaks to be had. It is not only our responsibility to attend numerous events without ceasing each day but also to write detailed reports about our experiences and send them in to the organization for evaluation at night. I am eating as healthily as I can, sleeping even more, and working out twice as vigorously as normal to prepare.

Upon our arrival we will immediately visit Iranian radio and television stations in Tehran to introduce ourselves to the people at large and announce our presence. Then we meet the Vice President of the ICRO and Director for the Center of Inter-Religious Dialogue. We will then fly to Shiraz - the Jewel of ancient Persia, the Tomb of Hafez, Persepolis - the ancient palace of what was once the mightiest city on planet earth when the Persians ruled the world.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Well this isn't going to be the Bahamas...

We are less than two weeks away from this trip... not enough time to write much now. We are being bombarded by an absolute ton of information in something known as Civilian Diplomacy Training as well as the usual assortment of basic info, book and movie recommendations, and the like. I am find myself at once overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material i need to put to memory and the reality that I am actually partaking in such an adventure -- the event made all the more intriguing as dubious news pieces continue to come across our American airwaves and international news media about US/Iran relations...

I also find myself extremely humbled once i got a glance at the bios of the other American delegates who were chosen to go on this trip. Not a rocker in the bunch except for yours truly. Each of them entirely successful and well rounded individuals in numerous and various fields of activist, volunteer, philanthropic, NGO, and civilian activities. I find myself often wondering "why me?" and "How can i possibly add anything to this already stellar cast of individuals?"

I also find myself very humbled and honored by the generous donations and contributions that have been coming in from people in order to make this trip possible. I am so humbled by it, so honored, that it makes me take heed of every word i say, every thought that i notice in my mind, and every action i take, for fear of dishonoring one of those who donated for such a noble cause.

more later. i will that i will do my absolute best to do whatever it is that i am supposed to in this newest venture.