Seeking Asylum

I would like to clarify some misunderstandings regarding asylum seekers. An asylum seeker is not an illegal immigrant. An asylum seeker is one who because of the very real fear of violence, displacement, hunger or other persecution is forced to leave their home country in search of shelter in a foreign country.

Adopted in 1948, Article 14(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees all people the right to seek asylum. These people are known as refugees. This is international law, yet each individual country creates unique pathways for asylum seekers. Today we are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis on our southern border. Thousands of people, families and children are seeking asylum in the United States due to the inhuman conditions of life in their home countries. How we treat these people is within our domain.

When an asylum seeker enters our country at a legal port of entry and proves through documentation the facts of their case, they begin a process, which may take months to complete. During that time they have two options. If they can find a sponsor, they are allowed to live with that sponsor. They are not allowed to work and must strictly adhere to all court dates, check ins and other policies set forth by ICE. If they do not have a sponsor they are forced to reside in a detention center.

I am sponsoring a young family who were granted the possibility to seek asylum in the United States. Their journey has been ongoing for the past three months. They speak very little English and are at the mercy of strangers and a very complicated system.

Kindness and compassion must not slip away as bureaucracy steps in. Respect is imperative. At the end of the day we are all human.

 

 

The photo shown is of the ankle bracelets that must be worn at all times by asylum seekers.

Resiliency

The melting snow that brought the most recent flooding added to the widening creeks and changed topography of the Driftless. As I surveyed the battered roads and considered where to place culverts, I realized we are embarking on a dynamically changing time. The new flood planes have already forced many from their homes with more likely to come. And discussions of relocating businesses have taken on a whole new meaning as rural towns face the inevitable decisions that lie ahead.

Politicians talk of dams. And I wonder if they are seriously considering this costly and limited solution that seems akin to putting a finger in the dyke.

It makes much more sense to me to hear old time farmers talk about growing varieties of grasses that root deep into the soil and help absorb runoff, rather than build costly fixes like dams.

Then came the news of the wipeout in Nebraska and surrounding Midwestern states. Water is showing us who is king. We have gone horribly astray as we tried to outmaneuver Mother Nature instead of living in sustainable harmony with her.

Unprecedented flooding has also crippled the Pine Ridge, Rosebud and Cheyenne River Reservations wiping out roads and corrupting water supplies. Help there is also desperately needed.

We are being forced to reckon with this new reality. We are being asked to think in new ways and to help one another.  We are coming to the realization of the preciousness and the destructive nature of water and the clock is ticking.

Here in the Driftless we are cleaning up our waterways. We are helping neighbors relocate; and we are talking about community in very real terms.

The differences among us are melting along with the snow and that is how it needs to be as we face this new day and discover our resiliency.

 

Check this site for more updated information on recovery / resiliency efforts in the Driftless.

You can listen to the hour WDRT program  “Conversations” with Jen Schmitz as we discuss resiliency and recovery happening in the Driftless.

You can listen to this WDRT broadcast of “Consider This” on Soundcloud

Engaging Community

A quote by Helen Keller reads: “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”

The obvious truth of these words can only be known as we engage in community. And while it appears that some are lost in independent silos and more interested in entertainment than in civic responsibility, that has not been my experience.

Even before the horrible floods that devastated our region last year, many were engaged in trying to find ways to curb the rising tide of farm loss, homelessness and hunger, and the isolation of people due to drug and alcohol abuse.

Then came the floods making mockery of our efforts and forcing us to reckon with the reality that there is very little we can do alone. We need one another.

And so I, like many, have sought community and ways to lend a hand. It is not always easy to offer support. As a whole we have learned to be distrustful. We have bought the story line that says, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and we are ashamed to admit it does not always work. The truth is, we need one another.

Today it seems we are engaging in a great renaissance of community. For me it involves organizing the Ontario Farmers Market. Or showing up to discuss the importance of protecting the natural resources in our area from unwanted usury. It means writing these two-minute posts for our community radio station in hopes that someone will be inspired to act.

This renaissance of caring means we must be willing to listen to one another as well as ensure that we are heard. If we do, we just might find this quote by Margaret J. Wheatley to be true,  “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”

 

photo: planting trees, 2016

you can listen to Consider This on WDRT Community Radio every Thursday, 5:30pm, CST or listen hear on Soundcloud

They Are Us

I have a habit of waking in the middle of the night and tuning into BBC. It’s a way to keep a pulse on what is happening around the world. It was how I learned of the slaughter of Muslim people in prayer by a white supremacist in Christchurch.  It was when I first heard the phrase, “They are us.”

I have followed the reactions and actions of the Prime Minister of New Zealand and of her countrymen. And I have found a glimmer of hope.

“They are us.” That was one of the first pronouncements regarding the massacre. And then came acknowledgements and commitments, “We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage.”

And, “We cannot allow this to happen again.”

The compassion of the leadership is a triumph of the human spirit. It is in stark contrast to the language of division common in United States politics. The efforts of New Zealand’s Prime Minister are like balm on torn flesh.

Human beings are not designed for hatred. It is so abhorrent to the majority of us that when confronted by it, we often become numb and impotent. For some of us fear guides our silence. Fortunately Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will not be silenced.

In her words: “Safety means being free from the fear of violence. But it also means being free from the fear of those sentiments of racism and hate that create a place where violence can flourish. “

“And every single one of us has the power to change that.” 

For the sake of “They Are Us” and “We Are One”, let us stand up to hate and say “no more”. Let us find the courage, the clarity and the power to close the door on racism and fear. Let this be our time.

 

As they carry on…One week later the prayers continue.

Cut a New Path

When winter takes full advantage of every day left to her to douse us with rain followed by snow and frigid temps, what do we do?

We stand up and carry on.

When the road to home is made impassable by snow and ice, what do we do?

We cut a new path.

There’s no time to bemoan the situation. There is no surplus energy to be wasted. There are chores to be done and needs to be met. And there’s just enough hope and strength to cut a new path and make a new way.

These frigid times challenge us to retain our dignity and sense of humor.

It is not only here in the Driftless that we are being pushed to the furthest reaches of our capabilities; the entire United States in is the throws of a harsh winter. Not simply from Nature, but in the depths of our soul. The systems that were built to provide for people are crumbling and the divisiveness leads to despair.

We are coming to an impassable situation.

For those who can stomach it, the news of the day grows ever more alarming. Our inability to address the humanitarian needs at our southern border, the ever-increasing risk to our water and air, and the insatiable lust for power and war, rivaled by an insatiable lust for trafficking women and children are but a few of the obstructions to our walk.

As I listened to the proceedings on the Cohen hearings, I heard an insistence that we stand up and carry on. There was hope in Representative Elijah Cummings words when he chided us to not stand on the sidelines and say nothing. “Come on”, he told us “we are better than this.”

Yes, sir, we are. And it is time to shake off the chill and cut a new path.

 

Thanks to WDRT for airing Consider This every Thursday, 5:30 pm CST.

Prefer to listen? Try Soundcloud.

Ode to Human Beings

There are many who take the bold steps to be human.

In honor of Black History Month I am sharing the words of Shirley Chisholm, “We must reject not only the stereotypes that others hold of us, but also the stereotypes that we hold of ourselves.”

There is great wisdom in these words. There is freedom in these words. Far too often, we are content with the labels that have been placed upon us, or the ones that we have chosen. In doing so, we often forget that our greatest gift, our greatest strength is found in our humanity.

I am currently engaged in discussions about protecting the environment of the township where I live. When we first met everyone was a stranger to me. Knowing the political climate here, it would have been easy to categorize everyone and prepare for battle. But I chose not to.

Instead I gave my ear to their concerns and when I offered my thoughts, it was without expectation. Confrontation was sidestepped with respect. And as we continue to meet, I am grateful to be in the company of people content in being human rather than in strict adherence to a label. And it has reminded me how very possible it is for all of us to live in this way.

Our country is poised to invade Venezuela. The economic squeeze that we have placed upon that country is undeniable. Our government has orchestrated a potential coup that may come to violence. What can stop it? Only our humanity can stop it.

We must encourage one another to be human. We must free ourselves from the stereotypes that have entrapped and paralyzed us. It is time we emerge as human beings, caring for the earth and caring for one another. It is our way out.

 

Special Thanks to WDRT Driftless Community Radio 91.9 FM for airing “Consider This” every Thursday 5:30 pm CST. Or you can listen here on Soundcloud.

 

Kiss Patriarchy Good-by

Traditionally February 14th has been set aside for love. The history of Valentine’s Day is uncertain, originating with pagan fertility rites and morphing into a celebration of Valentine, the Christian saint of romance.

Since 1992, this day has been held in commemoration of indigenous murdered and missing women and children. Beginning in Vancouver, marches to honor and remember lost sisters, mothers, friends and aunts now happen throughout Canada, Minnesota, Colorado and North and South Dakota.

In past years, I have participated in these walks. The heartbreak of loss juxtaposed with the resilience to end this nightmare is powerful. The attempt to un-silence an epidemic that has endured since the coming of Columbus has largely been lost to the dominant culture. Our inability to hear and respond has added to the tragedy.

Yet as the cries for justice, protection, and awareness have multiplied, so too have the accounts of rape, sex trafficking, child abuse and femicide in our society and throughout the world.

Recent admissions by Pope Francis on the sexual abuse of nuns by priests, and the most recent study of child abuse within the ranks of the Southern Baptist Convention is ripping the scab off the silenced truth. The abuse of women and children is a direct result of patriarchy. And unless and until we acknowledge that truth, we will be incapable of changing it.

We have been quietly secretive, allowing the systematic and intentional degradation of women and children. We have refused to stop the spread of the cancer within our culture. It has been upheld in our courts, our churches and temples, our military, our medicine, our politics and our schools.

We have taught our sons to cover their tracks and we have taught our daughters to hide their shame. It is beyond time to end this grotesque relationship. Kiss the abusive nature of patriarchy good-by. It hurts everyone.