Enemy of the People

The elections have come and gone but the dilemmas of governance still face us. And if there is an enemy of the people, the enemy remains this: fear.

My first encounter with white fear came in my youth from an aunt who told me how the “colored” races were poised to outnumber whites. She showed me literature on it. She commented on the character of Jews. This was my first taste of fear and hatred. I did not like it then. I like it less now. My father, her brother, did not share her viewpoints. A Republican and a Veteran he taught me about respect of others, about patriotism and most importantly about respect of self.

I had a choice then and I have a choice now. To accept fear mongering, to pretend it’s not there, or to stand up and call it out for what it is. And what is it? Fear is the death trap of the living. It is the cold and dismal feeling that drains hope from our being. It is the precursor to anger and hate.

What does fear have to do with an election? This election was not only a race between parties. It was a choice between the politics of fear and the politics of hope.

And in this very fortunate moment, as people of color are stepping up and fulfilling the promises of this great country – we must support them. When people are grieving loved ones lost in violent and unforgivable ways, we must stand by them. When the earth weeps for the brutality we have wrought on her, we must come to her aid.

This is our moment of choice. Who we are and who we want to be is before us. Fear or hope. Kindness or brutality. It is no longer a choice between Republican and Democrat. It is a choice to be human.

 

The photo is of yarrow. From wikipedia: “In antiquity, yarrow was known as herbal militaris, for its use in stanching the flow of blood from wounds.”

This piece aired on WDRT’s “Consider This” November 8.

Walking

As I write, it is reported that there may be as many as 7, 000 Honduran migrants walking through the scorching Mexican sun to reach their destination – political asylum in the United States. Contrary to the wild reports made by our president of terrorists and gang members among them, the people are largely mothers with children desperate to seek new beginnings from our country, which is preparing to close our borders to them. And yet another wave of 2000 Honduran people are preparing to begin the journey north.

It is not because Honduran people like the treacherous journey that they walk. They walk out of desperation.

These caravans of human beings have been occurring for some time with people trying to escape the violence and poverty of their country. A country greatly diminished by the United States supported coup d’état in 2009. What we are witnessing is the end result of a series of missteps by United States foreign policy in the region. What they are fleeing is a repressive Honduran government aided by the financial and technical support of the United States.

And before we put blame on the Trump administration we must understand the role of the Obama administration and the actions of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in creating this human nightmare. We must recon with the reality that our military is and has been used to benefit corporate interests – both here and abroad.

To understand that our politics, regardless of affiliation has been imperialistic; that our military has been used to support corporate greed could wake us to the reality that it is our responsibility to rein in the unleashed power of the United States. It is up to each of us to fight for the preservation of our humanity.

It is time to lend a hand, not build another bomb.

 

You can listen to this on Soundcloud. It aired on WDRT Thursday Nov 1.

*photo on Facebook, no credit found, but it does tell the story…

With Our Consent

Our long term and complicit relationship with Saudi Arabia has recently become more insidious. It has come as our president – with unquestioned financial ties to Saudi Arabia – is unable to demand from the Saudis a full account of the gruesome murder of the Saudi born, United States permanent resident and outspoken journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

This is happening while audio of the torture and dismemberment of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is slowly leaked. This as his body parts and disfigured face are discovered buried at the consulate. This as CEO’s cancel trips to Saudi Arabia and German Chancellor Merkel stops the sale of arms to that country. This while the Turkish president insists on bringing the squad of killers to trial in his country where the brutal murder took place.

Trump has called the lame and ever-changing excuses put forth by the Saudis regarding the death of Jamal Khashoggi as “credible”. He has insisted he does not want to sanction the Saudis and cut off an arms deal.

Yet the world watches as we give up our humanity and any remaining moral leadership for money; money that will supply bombs to Saudi Arabia so they may continue to destroy Yemen and countless innocent children with our weaponry and our consent.

I am reminded of “thirty pieces of silver” as I listen to the president grovel at the feet of the Crown Prince.

So while everyone is focused on getting out the vote – which is good and fine – we are losing something more than an election.

Talk to one another. Bring decency back into the narrative. And bring your courage to speak out. Your silent vote is good but your standing up now is what is needed.

 

Photo credit: Cash. (Jericho/Wikimedia Commons)

Love’s Opposite

It has been 20 years since the gruesome murder of Matthew Shepherd. Shepherd was a young gay man and the violence surrounding his death led to the creation of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act. It is an American Act of Congress, passed on October 22, 2009, and signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009.

Controversy came to this case in the form of a challenge as to whether it was in fact a hate crime. The claim is that one of the men accused of the murder previously had sex with Matthew. Drugs and theft were also given as the reasons why the death of Matthew Shepherd should not be considered a crime of hate.

I had to dig a bit to understand all of the twisted thinking regarding this case. After a bit of reflection and reading about the case, the statements made by the killers and the reasons given to dismiss this as a crime of hate, I have come to this: people wanting to dismiss Matthews murder as a hate crime are willing to ignore the obvious. And what is the obvious? Self-loathing is the darkest form of hate. It leads people to do all sorts of horrific acts. And while the secondary drug and robbery issues may be credible, they are symptoms, not answers.

Self – hatred born of society’s judgment of good versus bad, the demand for strict adherence to gender, the hierarchical construct of hyper masculinity and the acceptance of violence are not new.

It was witnessed in the early rise of Nazi Germany and the acceptance of an openly known homosexual leader, Ernst Rohm. Rohm was instrumental in the early rise of Hitler; some have even suggested sexual relations between the two. Hitler’s early discussions regarding homosexuality were to ignore it or to consider it the outcome of “raucous warriors”. But as the purification of the Aryan nation took a stronger hold, Hitler began the “cleansing” of anyone deemed to have imperfect character. Rohm was the most prominent homosexual and highest-ranking Nazi official to be killed during the Night of the Long Knife, June 30 – July 2, 1934, at Hitler’s request.

Closer to home we have Roy Cohen, a lawyer who worked for Joe McCarthy, Ronald Reagan and eventually Donald J. Trump, to have a closer look at self loathing which manifests in harming others. Cohn was instrumental in targeting many government officials and cultural icons for suspected Communist ties, and also for alleged homosexuality.

In a 2008 article published in The New Yorker magazine, Roger Stone (who worked closely with Cohen during Reagan’s presidential run) was quoted as saying: “Roy was not gay. He was a man who liked having sex with men. Gays were weak, effeminate. He always seemed to have these young blond boys around. It just wasn’t discussed. He was interested in power and access.”

Roy Cohn died in 1986, of complications from AIDS, at the age of 59. He never admitted he had the disease.

So when you tell me the young men who savagely killed the well-known gay man were not consumed by hate, I think there is plenty of historical evidence to the contrary.

Self-loathing is the darkest form of hate. It leads people to injustice and to murder. We would be wise to not ignore it. We would be wise to not encourage the mindset that breeds it.

Our Greatness

I believe the time for shaking our heads is over. The time for feeling despondent over current affairs must be left behind. And no, I am not telling you that there is a new politician or a political platform that you need to rush to support. If you haven’t noticed, the political body is broken. We have handed the reins on things that matter to people who have left their humanity behind. Both sides.

In recent days the president has again reminded us of our “greatness” and asserted “we are not going to apologize for America”. Almost simultaneously the Supreme Court upheld a North Dakota law designed to shut out the voting rights of the five tribes in that state. And while the media runs wild with the story inciting anger and helplessness, something very interesting is happening. The tribes are helping one another jump through the nearly impossible hoops to enable our disenfranchised citizenry to vote on Tuesday, November sixth. They are not giving up.

To me, this is the story.

And in the end whether they succeed or fail, it will not matter. What matters is the fact that they are not giving up. What matters is they are drawing upon the wisdom and the resilience available to all of us. They are being creative. They are being human.

Far too many of us are content with being malcontent. We are ok throwing emojis at our screens to prove our indignation. We are ok with feeling helpless and divided. But that is not being human.

Here is the heart of it: wherever we are, whatever we are doing: Do not give up. There is strength in our humanity that we have yet to draw upon. There is power in our unity that we have not yet touched. Our greatness awaits us.

 

This aired on 10/28 on WDRT‘s Consider This. You can also listen on Soundcloud

What We Can Do

This week brought us two game changers: Hurricane Michael and the United Nations’ report on climate change. Michael is being touted as the fourth largest hurricane to hit the United States and the United Nations’ report issued a dire warning. We have twelve years to reduce our emissions or face catastrophic challenges worldwide. Lessor known was the explosion of a gas pipeline. Pipeline ruptures continue to disrupt peoples’ lives and destroy the environment.  Yet our fracked gas and tar sands oil are heralded as “progress” and an economic boon, as we supply the world with fossil fuels.

Indonesia lost over 2000 people to the tsunami. If national or international news is too much to bear, we have the flooding of the Kickapoo to understand this perilous moment in time. The devastation wreaked on our communities followed by unprecedented rain is forcing us to realize Nature can no longer be ignored.

What we know is this: the amount of fossil fuel energy we burn is no longer sustainable. The destruction to the environment is not justifiable. We must face the simple truth: Our dependent relationship with fossil fuels must end. The brighter note is this: the conversion to renewable living will help enliven our communities.

Creating local renewable energy, buying locally produced foods and goods will dramatically reduce our carbon footprint.

There is nothing to be confused about; there is nothing to fear. The report’s reckoning is that it has finally come down to each of us. Consume less. Period. We have educated ourselves into becoming a consumer nation and we can educate ourselves into becoming a sustainable one. There are critical choices ahead. Choices we each must make regardless of our corporate government. We are not victims. We hold the key. Choose.

 

*I found the poster pictured here at a recent event in La Crosse and discovered the amazing work of Christi Belcourt

**You can listen to this offering for “Consider This” on my Soundcloud page.

You can listen to “Consider This” live every Thursday evening at 5:28 pm CST on WDRT

Bring Love to Desperate Times

In these times that seem so desperate, I reflect upon the life of my Grandmother, Josephine Paparella, who came to this country at the age of sixteen searching for a better life. She married a hometown sweetheart, Anthony Mignanelli and began a family in Pennsylvania. Within months after bearing their eighth child her husband was killed, leaving her alone to raise the children through the Depression. She grew the family’s food and baked bread in an outdoor oven selling it to make ends meet. She did this with the support of family and community, but she also did it against mounting pressures of a society fearing immigrants and a government who thought it best to take her children away.

She fought to keep her children and she won. Much of this I learned after she had passed.

What I knew of her was that she loved me. What I know is that she did not express remorse for her lot in life. She cared if I was warm and fed. She cared about her children, the garden and her neighbors. What I know is that she taught me about  determination and will through her actions.  What I know is that she did her best. I have heard that she used an Italian expression very often. It loosely translated to this: “If everyone were to leave their troubles in the middle of a room, you would pick your own troubles and carry on.”

She carried on. She endured. And I carry her legacy proudly.

These are desperate times, but the solutions remain in front of us. Love. Carry your burdens with dignity and hope. Work to make it better, not just for yourself, but also for everyone. We have fallen prey to the worst the human spirit offers. Now it is our turn to rise to the best. I remembered my Grandmother today as I awoke to a new reality before me. The floods and constant rain have made it a desperate time here. It is much the same or worse in many places throughout the world. I refuse to be desperate. As long as I have a heart full of love, as long as I give myself to appreciation for this life and for the Good that continues to find me, I am at peace.

Armed with peace, we will be able to make a way out of no way. Arm yourself with peace, my friends, and roll up your sleeves. There is work ahead. Remember those who came before you and work for those yet unborn. Let love win.