Choose Peace Over Violence

It seems we blindly follow the trajectory of thoughts and beliefs that have gone before us. Old habits are so deeply ingrained that they are the last to go. 

The recent mass murders in California point again for our need to change. Yes, the numbers and types of guns available are out of control. And yes, there are many people distressed enough to harm themselves and others. We use the label “mental health” to bundle gun violence, suicides, and other anti-social behaviors as we seek solutions to an ever increasing problem.

We dissect behaviors and talk of laws, but seldom do we discuss the roots of violence. We refuse to acknowledge that the isolation many of us experience and the strait jacket / conformity we demand of one another are disrupting our humanity.

They are symptoms of a culture that glorifies masculine toxicity, symptoms of a culture satisfied with hierarchy and status quo. We are a culture who has successfully placed property values over human life

We have created systems where defenders of the earth are now intimidated by threat of death and unwarranted imprisonment. SAY HIS NAME: MANUEL TERAN – “Tortuguita”

We have created and accept a police state, where too often law enforcement has become judge, jury and executioner.  SAY HIS NAME: TYRE NICHOLS

And we have created a numbed populace who no longer knows how to identify right from wrong, let alone knows how to respond to the inhumanity enveloping us.

Yet, if we could look honestly at our illness, we would find the antidote is close at hand. We need clarity, courage and conviction to upend the ignorance we face. Those elements are within us and can and must be cultivated.

We can carry on unsuccessfully trying to eradicate symptoms, or we can dust off and remember the source of peace within.


Waking to the Strength of Love

I tend to believe it takes about a hundred years for innovative thought to become part of the fabric of a culture.

I remember reading Emerson and Thoreau in high school and how their thinking impacted me. Today their thoughts on Transcendentalism are integrated into our psyche. The effort they made to cut a new path becomes irrelevant as we take for granted our newfound wisdoms. The inherent goodness of people, the divinity of nature, and the need to have a personal knowledge of God or Creator, were all supported in transcendental thought. Few of us take the time to understand their journey or care to look where it may still lead. 

So it is with Dr. Martin Luther King. Everyone knows the cliff note version of the man, holidays and school lessons see to it, but I’m not sure that many have made the effort to understand the heart of his wisdom. And if we have an intellectual understanding, we must wonder if it has yet had the time to creep into our souls.

Martin Luther studied what he called “the only morally practical and sound method” of nonviolence taught by his near contemporary, Mahatma Gandhi.

With his mind and his heart Dr. King contemplated the importance of love. He dove deeply into it and understood Love to be the means and the end to human suffering. He rallied all to heed the importance and the strength of love – love for the divine and love for all humanity. In the face of hatred and ignorance, he remained resolute inviting us to walk with him. 

His words still echo in spite of very real efforts to make him obscure

Those who are observant and resilient will discover the strength of Love. 

And on it will go.

Lest We Forget

Ever heard of Enbridge? Unless you’re someone who has thought about preserving clean water for future generations, or keep stocks in oil, probably not. 

Enbridge is a multinational pipeline and energy company with headquarters in Canada. It owns and operates pipelines in Canada and the United States, transporting crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids.

It was Enbridge’s broken pipeline that caused the largest inland oil spill in our history. On July 25, 2010 at least 1 million gallons of bitumen, thick crude oil, leaked into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. 

Closer to home, Enbridge’s system includes Line 5, which travels 645 miles and passes under the Strait of Mackinac. With a history of unleashing environmental damage in its 50 years; the pipeline has spilled 33 times, leaking 1.1 million gallons of oil.  And in Minnesota, the collusion between Enbridge and law enforcement over Line 3’s damaging construction is reminiscent of Standing Rock. Arrests and discrimination mount on Water Protectors while polluters escape justice. 

I know the numbers of spills are dizzying and seemingly endless, as are the promises to never let it happen again. Also spectacular are the millions in fines assigned to the company – which brings no solace to environments destroyed by Enbridge’s negligence. 

All of this is readily available to those who care to dig a bit. The links I have shared here are but a few. Don’t expect mainstream media to cough up too much truth and the Biden administration has already outpaced Trump in the numbers of offshore drilling permits granted. Most of the work to track Enbridges’ trail of destruction are led by Indigenous organizations like Honor the Earth. Or grassroots organizations: Environmental Defense, Stop Line 3, and Oil and Water Don’t Mix, to name a few.

So it comes down to this, my friends, we can go on living as though this finite earth can and will sustain our assaults, or we can pull up our big pants and tackle the hard truths in front of us. Reduce consumption. Transition to renewables. Support the people on the ground fighting the corporate elites. It’s time.

Photo: Tania Aubid of the Milles Band of Ojibwe holds a bullet-riddled sign opposing the Enbridge Line 3 project in February 2021. The sign had been in front of her home. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember, Indian Country Today)

Step Out of Normal

When I bought this farm 20 years ago, I hadn’t heard of Landback or colonizer. I bought the farm with the idea that it should go on in perpetuity with no more buys and sells, no more profiteering from extraction. I learned from Dine’ friends that land was not mine to own and I respected that understanding.

I was counseled, “Buy the land and it will teach you”, and I have learned from it.

I have learned that the symbiotic relationship with the land is key to understanding my humanity; and that the dance with the seasons is in direct relationship to my understanding of myself as a finite being. The satisfaction and fulfillment I garner is testament to a Greater existence.  And the whole experience is one of beauty and peace, regardless of the difficulties that arise.

I believe the capitalist system has shortchanged our worldview and has cheated us of the most valuable of commodities, our humanity. I’m very grateful to have taken the plunge away from social norms and that very kind people took the time to help me heal. Because stepping out of normalcy is a healing.

It’s not easy to live in a world where bad deeds and actions are legitimized. It’s not easy to force innocents to close their eyes to the horrors of hunger, homelessness and violence. But that is what we do everyday. We teach our children to stuff the question, “Why?” And we carry on with the charade.

This country’s wealth is based on land theft and stripped resources. Trying to rectify poverty or heal generational traumas without acknowledging the assaults of our history will be fruitless.

We’re all damaged by cruelty. We must all take time to heal.

Step out of normal.

Facing Our Demons

Let’s call it what it is: illegal and inhuman. More than 2.4 million migrants have been turned away under Title 42 since 2020. According to US Customs and Border Patrol these individuals are seeking humanitarian protection.  The recent Supreme Court decision to allow the continuance of Title 42 is in blatant disregard of human rights and a violation of International Law.

In the guise of a public health measure we have once again turned our backs on migrants fleeing poverty and violence. And we have allowed a right leaning court to uphold a pandemic health excuse to keep human beings in dire situations and in freezing weather at our border. Judges Gorsuch and Jackson articulated their dissent and in clear terms explained that this should not be in the courts domain; rather it is up to legislators to create avenues that support migrants seeking asylum. 

That’s the rub, isn’t it? To get legislators to agree on a subject that will force them to unravel the racial biases that still dominate. There are legal and just ways to bring migrants seeking asylum into this country. Ukraine and Afghan refugees can attest to this.  But let us not forget the photos of immigration enforcement on horseback rounding up Haitians to be deported. There were 20,000 Haitians deported in five months, and all under Biden’s watch. 

Title 42 is an immigration enforcement tool. And we, as a country, should be ashamed.  Instead, we make a wish for peace and celebrate the glories of a new year while in our name horrible racist and inhuman acts continue. 

We pride ourselves on an exceptionalism that we have never earned.

May we become the humans that we are capable of being.

photo: creative commons licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0

The Gift of Acceptance

It’s the season of gift giving. A lot of us are out of ideas on what to give and many are wrung out of cash even if we have great ideas. Besides, think of all those presents you’ve received through the years. How many do you still have? How many were returned, broken or tossed?

One would think we would be over the seasonal hype by now, but advertising knows our sweet spot and the economy needs our money more than ever, even if we are in debt up to our ears.

You’ve got to love the grandmas sewing pillows for the grandkids and teaching them how to bake cookies. You’ve got to love the effort of people who are not of the Santa Claus culture and hold dearly to their understandings about what is sacred this time of year. And yes, those include the celebrations of the return of light and the sweet remembrance that the seasons will turn and spring’s renewal will come. The ones who champion their communities and understand that true giving is the reciprocity of existence. 

At a time when many of us struggle with the loss of loved ones and with what we now term as “mental illness” and more, isn’t it time we re-evaluate the gifts we give?

I’ll offer you a couple of tips, free of charge. How about giving some of your time to listen to the old ones who are still with us? And try not to look at your device as you listen. Or to the children, not necessarily your own, who are stuck in a world constantly clamoring at them about how and who to be. 

Wouldn’t it be a great time to give the gift of acceptance? We owe ourselves this gift. 

You can learn about PFLAG and become an advocate for human rights and kindness.

The Dreaded Season of Goodwill

Here we are again, the dreaded season of hope, goodwill and glad tidings. I was quite young when I realized how few were the genuine well wishes and how quickly they evaporated. Before you decide I’m jaded and cynical, please understand I’ve never disbelieved in Hope and Goodwill. I’ve built my life around them. Yet the conundrum persists. I want to celebrate the hype of the season, but the realities of our society come crashing in. How can we who hold the sweetness of love and kindness, and still allow the most hideous acts of inhumanity?

As I write I’m reminded that December 14th is the 10th year since the massacre of children at Sandy Hook. 

How do we go from the sacred to the profane so rapidly? And more importantly, why? 

I’m convinced the answers lie in the inauthentic ways we live. 

Prayers are often wish lists to a god we have not taken the time to know. Acts of kindness are accumulated points towards some heavenly reward. And the real tell is that our beliefs are taught to us and seldom do we make them our own.  If they belonged to us through effort and acceptance, we wouldn’t need assurances from anyone. 

Those who express doubt are hushed. Yet doubts about superficial beliefs may be a most genuine expression of our humanity. The need to know, not simply believe, may be an essential prerequisite. 

Perhaps societal ills are a reflection of this silenced need. And while reliance on belief may pacify some, it’s harmful to many.  Life calls us to celebrate our uniqueness. But that uniqueness is something we must know. Belief will never cut it.

My wish for all of us: May our doubts become our knowing. 

Workers Rights Are Human Rights

On December 10th we acknowledge Human Rights Day. Established by the United Nations in 1948, the Declaration chronicled fundamental human rights to be protected throughout the world.  Article 23 addresses the right to work and to unionize, to have fair pay and safe working conditions and as it is written: “ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity”. 

On Friday December 2cd, President Biden signed a bill into law that blocked a railroad-workers strike. The House had passed a second bill, which would have given the workers the paid sick leave they requested, but the Senate did not approve that concession. 

Clearly the passage of the bill was a win for corporate profit and dealt a blow to railroad workers and to our workforce in general. It set a dangerous precedent that Congress may strip workers of their right to strike. By ignoring the requests for seven days of paid sick leave and safer working conditions, we continue to rob workers of basic human dignity.

We must also acknowledge workers who are misclassified as independent contractors by employers seeking to cut costs. These workers lose much of the social safety net granted to those classified as employees and are among the most disadvantaged workers in our country. They are shut out of minimum wage, overtime pay, workplace health and safety requirements, and are ineligible for unemployment insurance. They are also not eligible for organizing rights or anti-discrimination protections.

The Declaration of Human Rights is a proclamation of what can be if we have the will to do so. Workers are not expendable assets to be used for capital gain. Work must be reciprocated in fair and just ways. Human beings deserve dignity. 

Valuing Human Life

A new farm bill will be drafted in 2023. In a public letter to senate committees that will negotiate the bill, fifty diverse organizations asked for an agricultural system that values human life.  Yes, in 2023, we are finally asking to value human life. 

The letter goes on with requests to transition to chemical free agriculture, and to support community based farming and food marketing systems. It asks for improved housing for farmworkers and to redirect federal finances from industrial operations towards farms that are using regenerative methods. Basically it’s asking to resolve all of the inhuman aspects of our chemically driven industrialized food. 

It’s a comprehensive letter and it represents thought leaders from a variety of areas. From fenceline communities who live and work within miles of hazardous chemical plants to food system workers and farmworkers, family farmers, businesses, scientists, and environmental health and justice organizations, all are human beings with skinny in the game. But then again aren’t we all?

There was another request that got my attention. It’s to amend the Farm Bill’s Conservation Title to include protecting human health in addition to soil health. Imagine that. All these years we’ve waited for the government to codify protecting human health in agri-business. Maybe we are remembering the ancient wisdom of food as the first medicine. 

Ever wonder how the chemical manufacturers and agricultural industries have been able to diminish our health and well being for decades? Thank lobbyists, advertising and Wall Street … but there can be no excuse. Where are we in all of this? Isn’t it time we all value human life?

Learn more at Coming Clean From their website: Coming Clean is a nonprofit environmental health collaborative working to transform the chemical industry so it is no longer a source of harm, and to secure systemic changes that allow a safe chemical and clean energy economy to flourish. Our members are organizations and technical experts — including grassroots activists, community leaders, scientists, health professionals, business leaders, lawyers, and farmworker advocates — committed to principled collaboration to advance a nontoxic, sustainable, and just world for all.

You can also listen to my conversation with John Peck, Executive Director of Family Farm Defenders on WDRT‘s show Conversations, December 8 at 9 am. Listen live or at the website.

We Are All Blessed

If you are celebrating a day of gratitude with family or friends with eyes wide open to the violent history of the United States and that awareness is bringing you to some form of compassionate activism, this is not for you.

If you are aware the riches of our society come from the history of stolen lands, slavery, poor laborers and extreme extraction of natural resources, this is not for you.

If you have come to understand that we live in a society that continues to propagate and champion violence in the name of peace and are readying your self to transform it, this is not for you.

For you, may Peace, Love, Joy and Clarity stay alive in your heart.

Today is Thanksgiving. Apparently someone thought we needed to mandate a day for gratitude. Expressing gratitude has been a fundamental human trait throughout time. Many Indigenous people offer gratitude as a daily practice and in truth many of us do, too. But somehow our culture has found a need to celebrate Thanksgiving as a day of opulence and telling antiquated lies about pilgrims. And of course it’s followed by a day of hedonistic consumerism, which demonstrates the lessor god we choose to honor.

If you ever wonder why people consider atheism, look no further than our hypocritical version of piety. Recently, someone reflecting on his families’ good fortune told me they are blessed. After bristling at the implied notion that wealth is a blessing and the poor are blessed-less, I responded, “We are all blessed, some of us simply don’t know it.”

There is a lot we don’t know, but we are great pretenders. 

I know this may seem very uncharacteristic of my writing. But what is not uncharacteristic is my need to confront ignorance head on. 

So when this great Christian nation bows their collective heads I hope they ask for forgiveness for all the hate and violence they have allowed and continue to allow. I hope they pray for strength to become accountable for the beliefs that continue to make “others” targets of derision. Because we all know children are not born with hate or division. They are taught, either by word or by example.

The white crowds that gathered for lynching and murdering of Blacks often did so in a celebratory manner.  And when someone at your feast cracks a joke about gays or flat out lies, please remind them of the terror that was brought upon human beings in Colorado Springs. 

We are ALL blessed; some just don’t know it.