July’s “Consider This”

It has been a very busy summer with flash floods and an incredible growing season. Thankfully I have had the opportunity to volunteer for WDRT’s programming and each Thursday at 5:30 CST, I am given a two minute window to speak out. Following are the four broadcasts of July. I hope you enjoy them.

Let’s Tell the Whole Story

Another Fourth of July has come and gone. We celebrate the birth of our country with beer and brats, fireworks and bravado. We lay claim to patriotism and salute the brave warriors who fought for independence. And we teach our children to be proud of their homeland.

Yet while we honor the fortitude and the vision of the founders of this country, perhaps we should recognize as well, those among us who are continuing the struggle to create a land of the free.

Today some of the greatest acts of love for this land and its people can be found in those who stand for clean water and our right to peace.

There are those among us who are refusing to diminish human dignity and are working towards prison reform, ending homelessness, forging fair and humane immigration policies, and are fighting to end human trafficking.

And let us not forget those engaged in the struggle to eradicate ideologies that promote separation and division. These battles are not waged with guns or any form of power. They are waged with love and respect and an unwavering commitment to peace.

These are not only heroes of our nation, but of our humanity.

Let’s teach our children the whole story. That July 4th is but a mile marker in our long walk to create a world of peace and equality, affording everyone “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

Stand up

Hatred is Not Welcomed Here

Sometimes here in the Driftless I feel as though I am living through Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

My predominant experience is of people who care for and about one another and that we are a kind lot.

Yet what I witnessed the other day at the roundabout outside of Cashton, gave me pause. I was following a white truck through the circle to continue on towards Westby. Waiting to enter was an Amish horse and buggy being driven by two young men. The flashy white truck went into high gear as it passed the sitting buggy, throwing the rear end into a tailspin that nearly hit the horse. It was daylight, no rain and no reason for the action except one: the corruption of hate.

It happened quite quickly. The well-trained horse did not buck, but did real back a bit. The two young men looked startled, but did not reflect back the anger that had just been dealt them. Those in my car were in shock, grateful that nothing more serious had happened, and though I tried in vain to read the license of the truck, I decided to settle for telling you this:

When we hate, we lose a piece of our self. It is called respect. And if you do not have it for everyone, you surely do not have it for yourself. When any one of us is compromised by the sickness of hate, we are all compromised. Every day is full of choice; to follow a path of respect and kindness, or to follow a path of hatred and malice.

We owe it to ourselves and to our family, friends and neighbors to choose kindness. And in this time of willful hatred, it is imperative for us to stand firm.

Hatred is not welcomed here.

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Look Behind the Curtain

Many of you have heard of the peaceful resistance to DAPL pipeline at the Standing Rock Reservation in ND. You may have heard of police water cannons dousing people for nine hours during 22-degree weather. You might have heard that these and other acts by militarized police were done in retaliation for the burning of corporate vehicles and other transgressions reportedly done by water protectors. The media has helped to assuage our fears that the police acted too violently. They have informed us that progress necessitates pipelines and oil spills and therefore the police were acting on our behalf to stop the water protectors. They have convinced us to ignore the man behind the curtain and carry on with life as usual…

But what happens when we learn that mercenaries who were trained against jihadists in Afghanistan were leading our police and government against American citizens at Standing Rock? What happens when we learn that these same mercenaries, when handed the reigns to lead did everything within their power to cause division – including illegal activities – such as burning their own equipment and blaming it on the nonviolent protectors.

Not only are we discovering the truth. We are becoming aware that these same mercenaries are now infiltrating citizen groups throughout the US on behalf of corporate interests.

Perhaps it is time we consider what is happening to us when free enterprise meets forced enterprise. Perhaps we should consider the cherished principles of governance that are being undermined and what the consequences may be.

Perhaps we all need to research the illegal activities of TigerSwan, Inc.

Perhaps it is time we know who is behind the curtain.

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Is It Worth It?

What if I told you that in Wisconsin you could purchase a fox, coyote, rabbit or other animal to train your licensed hound dogs in enclosed training facilities?

What if I told you that anyone can train hound dogs on free-roaming wild animals without a dog-training license?

Or that: unleashed hound dogs may be trained on free-roaming raccoons and rabbits from July to the following April?

Or this: With a license, you can train hound dogs on free roaming bear from July 1- Aug 31, unless of course you are under the age of 12, then the license is free – oh and you can have up to 6 dogs in hot pursuit of the bear while you are in “training”.

And this: if a hound gets caught up in a fight with a wolf defending her cubs and the dog is killed, the owner of the dog will receive a check in the sum of $2500 from the state. I am not making this up. 37 hound dogs were killed in 2016. Some in well-known high risk wolf areas…you do the math.

It is estimated that during these training months 4.6 million gallons of grease and other foods will be used to entice bears towards humans…now what could possibly go wrong here?

Hunting with hounds is outlawed in nearly all states, keeping the state of WI in the business of courting license revenues from hound hunting individuals and clubs.

And I ask you, is it worth it?IMG_0276

You can listen to “Consider This” any Thursday 5:30 PM CST on WDRT 91.9 FM or on livestream. 

June’s Consider This

I am producing a short piece called “Consider This” that airs on WDRT 91.9 FM every Thursday at 5:30 pm, CST. You can read the month of June’s entries here, listen live or stream it

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Bhutan is a small country in the Himalayas that measures its wealth in the happiness of its people. Its economic structure includes self-reliance, environmental conservatism, cultural survival and good governance.

Throughout the world there are ventures of shared economies and cooperatives springing up. These undertakings are putting people and the environment before profit and are working to ensure good living conditions, education, clean food, water and air to all residents. They are doing simple things like setting up tool sharing, or more complicated efforts like rehabbing city blocks and welcoming small, local businesses to support the needs of local people… helping one another to ensure a good quality of life for all.

Here in the Driftless, there are discussions brewing about sourcing local energy through solar and other means; considerations of shared tools, skills and labor; and the possibility of creating small coops with local products and basics for everyone to utilize.

Consider what you need from your community and what you have to give to it.

Perhaps it is time to measure our wealth by quality of life instead of capital.

Making a community thrive is everyone’s business.

soulDuring a recent event held by Pax Christi in Viroqua, Sr. Marlene Weisenbeck, of The La Crosse Task Force to Eradicate Modern Slavery, introduced some very interesting facts.

Sex trafficking is not only those kidnapped and held as sex-slaves. Girls, boys and women are targeted by handlers seeking to profit from their exploitation as prostitutes, often right in our midst. These profiteers seek children who are runaways, or those in need of physical, or emotional support. They prey upon the vulnerable. In some cases, the profiteers are family members.

This business of seduction and entrapment of human flesh for profit is not limited to sex but also includes labor servitude, drug trafficking and the stealing of body parts. While it is estimated that 45.8 million human beings are currently enslaved, 63% are held for forced sexual prostitution.

Where are the hot spots for sex and drug trafficking? Interstate highways, man camps, shipping ports and recreational places where children like to frequent – such as waterparks – have been found convenient for this trade.

This business dubbed by Pope Francis as the “Merchandising in Human Flesh” is one of the biggest moneymakers in the world. Could this be a reason it seems illusive to law enforcement? Or could it be that we have looked the other way, as the estimated 1 out of every 7 men engaging in the purchasing of illegal sex may be our fathers, brothers, or sons? Or perhaps because it is found that many of these perpetrators work in professions of “trust” and are people of authority and power?

Wisconsin is about to pass a law indicating that minors are always victims in these crimes – hopefully this will end the nightmare of children being treated as criminals and may allow us to address the abuses of power and economic statuses afforded men in our system. Most importantly, it may get help to the victims so desperately needed, instead of more imprisonment.

This is not a time for silence. We all suffer in this abuse, all of us.See something suspicious? 1-888-3737-888 is the number of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. To learn more: La Crosse Task Force to Eradicate Human Slavery.

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Worth the Effort

They tell you it is not worth the effort. They give reasons and excuses to impede your hope. When stories don’t work they hit you with facts. But it is up to you. It is always up to you. To accept defeat or to give yourself to the wonder of what-can-be.

So when I saw the baby birds lying in the drive-way as cats lurched about, I had to think fast and act faster. All the while the thought, “Don’t pick up a bird, the mother will smell you on it and will refuse it later, ” and other such negativities danced through my head trying to halt my progress.

The grass was high, but I spotted two babies. Others told me they had seen the birds down as well, so we were in agreement. Two. As I chased away the cats, I asked friends to stand guard and went to find a makeshift nest. I found a plastic-covered wire basket that I was glad I had not disposed of, and some twine. Time of the essence, I scooped some drying grass which would become their cushion and hopefully keep the little ones from falling out.

As I approached the babies, I realized we were being observed by a red winged black bird and I swung the makeshift nest into the tree. Then the fun began as I picked up the little ones and an adult bird decided to dive at me. OK, good, parents still around: confirmed.

The thoughts that keep buzzing about your head are generally more harmful than the reality. “What if the parents don’t come to feed? What if the cats come back? What if they fall from this nest?” Then someone told me if they really were red winged black birds they didn’t nest in a tree… Doubt at this point was fully loaded. But I had to try. I stopped back a bit later in the day and dropped a bit of water into each gaping mouth and hoped the parents would take over where my capabilities would fail. They did.

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One day passed and both were still alive and growing. Two days passed, and while the cats prowled, they respected the nest and all was well. Three days and as I came upon the nest as one of the wee ones took flight.

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Four days with mom and dad still observing my intentions but no longer dive bombing me, the little one still looked unsure of departing the nest. Later that day, it was gone, and the scat and the intact nest told me all I needed to know. It was fine and off to its new life.

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Never give up trying to make things better for someone. Far better to lend a hand than to turn a back. Ignore the wisdom of people who put too much faith in what they have heard or read and invest instead in the reality of being alive.

I think we call it kindness.

“From The Ground Up”

Like it or not, we live in a pluralistic society. Diverse beliefs, life style choices and ways of doing things weave their way around us daily. We can hold on tight to what we call “right”, but in doing so we just might miss out on some very innovative and helpful possibilities.

Community is a dynamic and living experience. Learning about and from one another is essential and fun. There are many ways to cultivate community and one of the greatest assets to us here in the Driftless is WDRT 91.9 FM, “Community Radio From the Ground Up”.IMG_0270

What began as a dream in 2003 has become a household treasure to many of us. While WDRT runs syndicated programming from around the nation, much of the content is locally produced. You can learn more about WDRT’s history and the history of community radio here.

And if you can’t get the station on your radio, you can listen in via the internet.

Unlike commercial radio, community radio is organized as a non-profit and incorporates volunteers into the operation. Their programming mission is to serve the community, and WDRT is a fine example of this.IMG_0276

WDRT’s “Songs to Memory” program is an innovative way to reach Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients through music, connecting them with family and improving their quality of life.

A new program called “Conversations” airs Thursdays at 9:00 AM; nine local hosts bring the voices of local people to listeners on a myriad of subjects. One of my first attempts at hosting was with Conscientious Objector, David Kopitzke.

I am looking forward to bringing a short segment called “Consider This” to WDRT to be aired on Thursday evenings at 5:30 PM, beginning this week. And my next “conversation” is with Karen Parker, editor of the award winning local paper, The County Line and author of Always the River, the History of Ontario, Wisconsin and Indomitable Pluck: One Railroad, Three Tunnels and America’s First Road-to Trail Bike Path.

The strength of a community is dependent on all of its members, not simply a few. To be able to hold onto your uniqueness and play an intrinsic role in the whole can be challenging, but it is possible. WDRT is paving a way.

And the challenge is on!IMG_0277

 

 

 

Echoes of the Past

There are kindnesses left to us from long ago. People thought of us well before our time and with great consideration and effort, they left behind monuments of love. These gifts from the past are today’s state and national parks. The idea to preserve and protect land for everyone to enjoy began in the 1800’s throughout the country. In 1878, Wisconsin designated huge tracks of northern forest for preservation, but within twenty years most was sold to lumber companies. Thankfully today, Wisconsin still boasts 66 state parks, covering more than 60,570 acres.

Whether a day trip or an extended stay, the wonder, adventure and the remembrance of our connectedness with nature is revitalized through this gift of “parks”. Our forbearers saw the need to protect and preserve historical and beautiful places for future generations, and today the protection and the preservation is handed to us to ensure the same.

On a recent tour of sand mining operations in Jackson County, We took the day to enjoy the gift of Black River Falls State Park. The forest and geology is very different from our home in the Driftless and it was awesome to stand next to the ancient rock formations. Black River Falls St

However, when we climbed the stairway to view from the highest peak, we found that we were still touring sand mining operations. The pictures below show the dust whirling around the operation within the pristine area. It was a sad reminder of the day before and one that seemed important to share. sand dust

Continue the kindness. Protect the earth for future generations. Keep it in the ground. Find other ways.

It is that simple. Let’s get at it. Someone you have never met is counting on it.

Sand Mining Sacrifice Zones

About fifty people traveled from eight counties in Wisconsin to tour an area hard hit by sand mining operations, in and around Hixton in Jackson County. We met and listened to many people caught in the ravages of mining. Here are a few of the points I found most compelling.

Communities are divided as high percentages of acreage within townships are being devoured. Much of the land that is sold for mining is by absentee landowners, who do not share the common love for the area, nor its history.

One particular brilliant statement challenged the idea, “I can sell my land to whomever I want”, with this, “Yes, you can sell your land to anyone, but it is not permissible or legal for whomever buys your land to cause a nuisance for the people living here.”

For some, the battle to save their land and way of life is only a few months old. For many we heard from today, it has been years in the making. Some spoke honestly of the toll that has been taken. Some held back tears.

People have told me to think of all the jobs that would be lost if we moved away from fossil fuels like the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania that is sucking up Wisconsin’s sandy hills…but perhaps it is time we consider the lives that are being disrupted with the destruction caused by extreme extraction.

Perhaps we should all take a turn living day after day, 24 hours a day, year after year (some mines are guaranteed to operate for 25 years) with explosions, sand dust, shaking homes, children afraid and made ill by the constant disturbance…and much more.

The mining industry has done an excellent job hiding these people from sight. It has done a great job in declaring “mom and pop” status, while in fact most are huge corporations with international ties.

I am not sure what was harder to take in, the visuals of the raw hillsides being raped of the sand as we stood on the handsomely manicured farm …or the deep sorrow in the voices of these good, hard working people as they once again told the story that has become their shared existence.IMG_0167

All I know is that I can not sit by and continue to allow the unchallenged story line that all is well in Jackson, Trempealeau and other counties here in Wisconsin, while my neighbors are being victimized, the earth raped and with the reality that companies are lining up to shred more of the pristine beauty of this land.IMG_0205

So here are a few of my photos of the day, and my promise to continue to report on the status of Wisconsin’s sand mining operations. And to be sure, I will continue to urge all of us to reconsider our energy usage, the high toll it requires on the earth and her people and to move to more peaceful and possible renewables. It is past time.

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Pictures below: 1.Why sand particles can blow away. 2. While they are creating “covered” carriers – and eliminating trucking jobs – these covered tubes are not enclosed – allowing more silica to escape…3. And coming to a church near you…

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From Sheila Danielson, an organizer of this sand mining operations tour: “We want to thank those who made this tour possible, Dwight and Ruth Swenson, who allowed us to be a part of their life living with sand mining;  Mike and Stacy Sylla, Bill and Angie Sylla, Tom Reininger, Cecelia Kraus, Jane Justesen, and Ronnie and Lori Casper for their stories; and to those who worked in the background:  Pat and Gaylord Oppegard and Ruth Swenson for setting up lunch and cleaning up the kitchen when we were done and Greg Krueger for arriving early and helping wherever needed.
The day would not have been possible without you and the grant funds ACT NOW received from the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and  Western Mining Action Network (WMAN) 2016-2017 Grassroots Communities Mining Mini-Grant Program.”

Potential

“That which is possible.”

I live in an orchard. When I first bought the land I didn’t know there was an orchard. Honestly. I was intent on making the old farm house livable and I didn’t get to explore the acres for some time. And truth be told, it was probably the sheep and goats who brought the orchard back to life and made me take notice. Nonetheless, over the years I  have come to measure the seasons by the fragrances and bounty or lack thereof.

Last spring began much as this one, the apple blossoms graced the trees and the air was prolific with their sweetness, but a late May frost came and decimated the flowers before they could transform into their sweet fruit. So I have waited to see what the orchard would give us this year and I am very happy to see the fruit ripening despite cooler temps and much rain.

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Every morning, as I open my eyes, this is my first glance of the day through my window. And today, I thought about “potential”.

I thought about potential as I moved manure. I thought about potential as I tilled a field for indigenous corn. I thought about potential as I reckoned with this being the last day of my 61st year…and I realized how in so many ways I am just beginning.

Potential. The ability for the orchard to roar back after last year’s defeat. Potential. The seeds are making their way through the soil and hopefully their fruit will make their way to mine or another’s table…Potential. What can be. What lies within waiting to be tapped.  Waiting to be fostered. Waiting to be supported. Waiting to be loved.

We are all, my friends, little balls of potential. Take care. Plant wisely. Choose good soil. Nurture with the water of kindness. And don’t forget the manure. Sometimes it takes a loss to see the gift of what you have. I missed the apples last year, and this year looks like we will be working overtime to tend to them. Potential.

Life is full of sweet surprises, look for them and be amazed.