Challenging Center-Mass Shooting

Jason Pero died on Nov 8, 2017 when an Ashland County deputy’s bullets hit his heart and right shoulder. He was 14 years old.

Jason lived in the tight knit community of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He was learning the traditional ways of his people. He was a drummer. He was in eighth grade. Home sick from school, police reports say he was walking with a knife near his home and that he was the one who had made the 911 call describing himself. The deputy tells us that Jason lunged at him with the knife and that the boy refused to drop the weapon on command.

There were eight minutes from the time of the 911 call until the fatal shooting. Eight minutes. Eight minutes of thoughts running wild. Eight minutes and the training to shoot a suspect at center-mass was executed.

Eight minutes and now an eternity to understand why… The why that we may never know…

But there are some things we can know. No child should be cut down in the street.

We can send people to the moon, we can transplant human organs, but we cannot find a way to stop an assailant with a knife, or perhaps someone who is frightened or mentally distraught, by any other means than a lethal shot to center-mass?

I believe the time has come to end this dogmatic practice by our police forces or to at least begin a healthy dialogue on the possibility of ending it. The life of a 14 year-old boy is over and the life of the 24 year-old deputy will be forever changed. A community is reliving the trauma of centuries of occupation and people are once again blindly defending the actions of authority.

The time to remember our humanity is now. There are solutions that can be enacted but we must have the will to allow them to emerge. We are better than this. Our children deserve more than this.

The storyline will always be second to this fact: Jason Pero is dead. It’s time we care. Let us begin a conversation about the misuse of power, acknowledging that it is detrimental to the abuser as well as to the victim, and above all, let us find a way to quell the fears that too many of us harbor towards one another. Let us rekindle kindness. It’s time.

 

This piece aired on WDRT’s “Consider This”, Thursday, December 14.

The photo is of forget-me-nots.

But Not a Drop to Drink…

Most likely today you reached for a glass of cool refreshing water. If you took it from the tap it is because you are certain it is government approved, scientifically tested and safe. If you grabbed a designer bottle you are also trusting you will be getting the one thing that after air is the most essential for life – clean water.

Me, I drink water from a spring and enjoy some of the best tasting, cleanest water I have ever had…but then, this isn’t about me and my good fortune, it is about what is happening to far too many people in our country and around the world.

What if you lived in Flint Michigan, where elected officials consciously provided tainted water for nearly two years? Or the Reservation in South Dakota, where the recent oil spill has people questioning the unknown – how long does it take until oil seeps into the aquifer and harms drinking water?

The Nebraska PSC has approved the Keystone XL pipeline to course tar sand oil through their state – from Canada to the Gulf to be sold on the foreign market. We will get a drop of the $$ exchange – but not enough to run the risk of polluting one of the most important aquifers in North America – and jeopardize the water for millions of people and life there.

But before I glaze your eyes over with details… My point to you is this: the most sinister of all factors in this ugly assault of man over earth and greed over common sense… is about the fact that far too many of us do not care. We have our glass, it is easily filled and what’s a little oil spill in Nebraska or the Gulf have to do with me?

The enemy, my friends, is not the oil or the faulty pipelines or the lies about energy security and jobs…the enemy is that we can turn our backs on one another. The enemy is that we are willing to debate that which is not debatable: we all need clean water.

We still have a chance to get this right. Let’s make it right.

 

This piece aired on “Consider This” Dec 7. You can listen in to WDRT 91.9FM every Thursday at 5:28 pm CST.

photo: compliments of NOHO

End Game

“You have seen my descent, now watch my rising”. – Rumi

It seems the moment has finally arrived when the victim finds the courage to confront the aggressor. It is never a pretty moment and it likely comes from a depth of despair and disgust that a woman feels after rape or the degrees of dehumanization that come from being body identified. It is not only happening here in the United States, it is happening world over, as if a switch were suddenly turned on lighting up the dark corners, and bringing the courage that only light can give.

There are many men and women hoping this cup will pass them by without their names dragged through the mud. Leaders caution that we should not be hasty in our judgment, and too many women are still fearful of the backlash that will surely come.

Some anxiously await the moment the next perpetrator – victim might be exposed. With an appetite that borders on voyeurism, we devour the news and ironically it seems the focus is once again on the perpetrator. The one who has always been in control. The one who has mattered most.

I am over being shocked. I am not interested in vilifying or being titillated by this new form of porn. I am much more interested in celebrating the women, girls, boys and even a few men, who have come forward breaking the silence and exposing some of the deepest rooted sicknesses of our kind.

I am interested in saluting the strength that it takes to come forward at this time while the pinnacle of ignorance in patriarchy reigns.

I am interested in listening to the voices of young women who are calling out not only rape culture but also a culture of pedophilia that has grown up around most of us for the past few generations unchecked.

I am interested in keeping the cut open allowing the pus to drain. I am interested in this healing for ourselves, our children and for our ancestors as well.

Peace is not possible without transparency. Not in our being, not in our family, not in our community, not in our world.

We are not victims. We are human beings who have been violated. It is time to restore dignity. Thank you to all who find the courage. It is for all of us.

 

This piece aired on 91.9 FM WDRT’s “Consider This”, Thursday, Nov 30, 2017. You can live stream “Consider This” every Thursday at 5:28 pm CST.

photo compliments of NOHO

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving. Hard to argue about a holiday geared towards gratitude. The month of November, has been decreed “Native American Month”. I am not a hallmark person. I prefer celebrating every day, month and year with: “I am alive. Thank you.”

But living in our culture and being inundated by White House turkey pardoning, pumpkin pie and the ridiculous story about Pilgrims and Indians, one is inclined to ask, “Is this what gratitude looks like?”

I have learned that some texts are teaching children that Native Americans gave their land to the new settlers, you know, as an act of kindness. Now that may be a comforting thought, but not even close to the truth as we are still breaking treaties and stealing resources from First Nations People.

What harm is there in telling the truth this Thanksgiving day? We are here due to the willingness of our ancestors to conquer other human beings; that settlers perpetrated on human beings the same barbarous acts that had been perpetrated upon them; and that we are still caught in the cycle of victim, oppressor, and savior.

Perhaps our prayers might actually be to find a way out of the violence and the dehumanizing culture that we find ourselves immersed in.

I really enjoyed the advice given by Mary Annette Pember in “Yes” magazine’s article, “This November, “Try Something New: Decolonize Your Mind”

Quoting her here: “Ojibwe know and value the power of visiting. Unencumbered by agenda points and outcomes, we trust that through prayer and community we can determine how to honor and care for the environment, each other, and ourselves. So during the month of the Freezing Over Moon, why not spend time visiting with others especially those whose ethnicity and social class differs from your own? Eat, drink coffee, let silence fall, and wait to find out what needs to be done. At first, it might be just about being human together; decolonization needs these roots to begin.”

How lovely to have the opportunity to begin again.

May gratitude hold us and may we, as one people, find our humanity again.

 

Enjoy the day and take some time to understand the relationship the U.S. has with Native people.

thanksgiving 2017

The photo is from 2017 Thanksgiving, and this is from 2016:

A New Tradition Emerges
I feel blest to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Standing Rock Sioux (with all others here at Oceti Sakowin Camp) . I never use the words “blest or blessed”, but in my heart it applies for this moment in time. We cannot undo the atrocities of the past, but we can allow for reconciliation and peace and we can cut a path for those atrocities to end.
We can all take a moment as we bow our heads over the food we will share with family and friends and ask for forgiveness for our silence. We can ask to be pardoned for our unwillingness to embody the values of our faiths – whatever they may be. We can acknowledge that we have ignored injustices and have allowed fear to take hold in our hearts. We can hold space for conversations that allow the truth to be told. We can be silent and listen as we learn how those who came from Europe transgressed and attempted – and in far too many cases were successful – genocide. We can begin to tell the truth on this and all of the racism that has damaged all of us in our country’s history.
We can call forth the strength to demand that our government and the media end the silence and the lies being told about everything that is related to DAPL. We can honor the valiant human beings – of every nation – who are standing with Standing Rock. And we can add our voices of prayer to theirs.
For those who do not pray, please hold the possibility of peace in your heart.
It is our collective doubt that allows ignorance to prevail. It will be our unified cries for peace that will break the strangle hold of fear that binds us.
On this auspicious holiday, at this auspicious time, let peace prevail.
Your voice is needed – internally spoken or out loud.
Please find your strength to show up.
Use this holiday in the spirit of all it can be. Best wishes to all.

 

“Thanksgiving” aired today, 11/ 23/ 17 on WDRT’s “Consider This” at 5:28 pm CST

In Defense of Life and Territory

I was fortunate to attend an evening of youth activism. Members of the Kickapoo Guatemala Accompaniment Project welcomed youth activist Alex Escobar Prado to speak. Alex represents youth in Guatemala in association with NISGUA,  who are nonviolently educating and resisting the ongoing extraction of resources from their lands.

In straightforward and humble strength, Alex told us the stories of his community. He shared with us the importance of youth taking action to ensure a future of clean water, good air, and healthy, productive lands. He emphasized the importance of honoring the martyrs who have been killed, protecting their communities’ right to self-governance, and their homelands from profiteering and resource extraction.

He spoke softly but passionately about the need for peaceful and nonviolent approaches towards change. And told of the assassination of his 16 year-old activist colleague, Topacio Reynoso, holding her in the highest regard.

He spoke to us as a human being. He spoke to us in hopes that we could awaken to the urgency of now. He spoke to us with wisdom born of deep reflection and of commitment to life and land.

He told us with great confidence that he knew there are people the world over supporting their efforts. And as I thanked him after he spoke I assured him that he was heard.

I will never forget his sincerity or his sense of purpose. He is grounded in a history and culture of human beings resiliently refusing globalized development and extreme extraction. He represents the tide that is turning. Where people and land are more important than profit. Yes, Alex, people are waking up to the fact that we must respect one another’s right to live without corruption of land and water and without fear of militarized police.

Perhaps it is time more of us awaken to this transformation. To recognize the harm caused by our insistence on using fossil fuel energy and other resources. To stand in solidarity with people around the world who are saying, “Enough.” To take one more step towards this end. It is worth it.

You can listen to Alex on his tour of the US

 

You can also follow NISGUA on Facebook.

This blog aired on “Consider This”, Nov 9, on WDRT 91.9 FM community Radio

A Myth Buster

Perhaps one of the biggest traps for humankind is the desire to be led. I have been fortunate through the years to meet people who insist on directing me back to myself, to my own strengths, to my own wisdom. I have been blessed with a keen desire to be free and a passion for peace. More importantly, I hold the conviction that we all share these blessings and the need to have them awakened in us.

Perhaps the greatest gift we give one another is to simply say, “You do it.” Not, “This is how to do it.” When someone can weave you into an understanding of what is possible, in spite of the reality of what has been and then can turn you lose unto yourself to make it right…that is a person to know.

LaDonna Redmond wove her story and her clarity today at the conference for Women Food and Ag Network and I had the good fortune to be there.

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Upending the myths concerning “food deserts”, LaDonna boldly asserted there is no food justice system in America and then enlisted everyone to envision and create a fair and just system to be shared by all.

She had me when she pointed out that ending the colonial narrative would be liberating for all of us. And I cheered quietly when she called out the privilege in the current food trends. But what touched me most was to see her love and conviction cut through the ignorance that has blinded us throughout our history.

There is always something one can do to make things better, to make things right. That no one should be hungry, I have always known. That the earth is capable of feeding all of us, I have never doubted. To admit that the inability to ensure good food, clean water for everyone is due to the ignorance and injustice that we have allowed is a great place to begin. To envision the possibility of something new and then to be able to take the bold steps to change course is the remedy.

We all need to be reminded of who we are and what is possible. And we all need to be reminded that it is up to each one of us to make the changes we can in our lives and in the lives of those around. Thank you LaDonna for the reminder.

Know where your food comes from. Know how it gets to your table. Know the hands it passes through and the way the human beings (and all life) are treated who are providing life sustenance for you.

Know and be ready to change when you see the injustice. Don’t close your eyes. Act. Do what is right. Now. Because we can.IMG_0878

LaDonna Saunders-Redmond’s book, “I Don’t Live In a Food Desert and Neither Do You” will be out spring, 2018.

For more visit her website: LaDonna Redmond

 

 

Civil Disobedience

There is a resurgence of civil disobedience in this country. And it is not just the young and the “quote un quote” fringe standing in defiance of the ongoing assault of land, water and air that has become the norm. Extreme extraction of gas, oil, and sand for profit is waking people to the reality that there is little left them to do but to resist. Communities are uniting, with people of all religious, and economic strata coming together to find creative nonviolent ways to stop the violation of their homelands.

One action most recently in the news was the arrest of 23 people in a cornfield near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. More than 100 people gathered early morning October 16th. The property is owned by a group of Catholic nuns who are suing to block the pipeline, citing religious freedom. Earlier this year the community erected a chapel on the land and hold regular religious services there as a form of nonviolent and peaceful resistance.

Mark Clatterbuck a member of the group, We are Lancaster said, “‘the way the system is set up, there is not a way to legally protect our communities and our water and our land from a project like this. And so it comes to civil disobedience where the community says, “We are not going to let this happen anymore.”‘

And so it appears our newest way to create community is to unite in peaceful ways to stop the corruption of our homeland. We are learning from one another. It is common to see the people who were at Standing Rock, Mississippi Stand, Flint and other resistance communities supporting one another on social media or by physically showing up.

Having traveled to the area known as Lancaster Stand to witness the nearly 4-year effort of these people preparing for nonviolent resistance, I can tell you they are steadfast and resilient. The first court cases of the 23 arrested will be coming up Oct 31, 2017. The police and now the courts have become the playing fields for this unfolding of human beings protecting the lands they love.

 

update in photos: Stand with the Sisters

Civil Disobedience – the refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes and fines, as a peaceful form of political protest.

This piece aired on WDRT’s Consider This, October 26, 2017