Clean It Up

Abolition is a fearful word for those who insist on living in fear. When Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tim Michels spews about maintaining “law and order” he’s actively seeking the fearful, people who have all but forgotten their humanity. The ones who desperately try to erase the historical context of this country. Content to live with division and superiority, they are willing to sacrifice the common good. But our history is not merely in the past; it’s hauntingly in the present. 

It’s present every time a Black man is brutally killed by police. It’s present in our schools and in the stories we omit to teach. It’s present as the Supreme Court attempts to whittle away the sovereignty of Tribes, and as we ignore the hideous truths of boarding schools. Our lack of accountability for past harm and our care-less approach to reparations of any kind are testaments to our inhumanity.  

The cry of many politicians, to escalate the police state, is in direct opposition to the voices of Abolition. And while the unyielding word “Abolition” is turned into “All That Should Be Feared”, the truth is this: the more human we become the less tolerant we are of inhumanity. And that is as it should be.

The violence of the dominant or those who would be dominant is escalating. They are and have always been the minority. We’ve been taught to believe otherwise and have cowered because of it.

Being human is not radical. We have the tools for transformation: clarity, kindness and love. Add conviction to the mix while maintaining the recognition of what is possible and we can begin to make it happen. Let’s have a new beginning.

Roll up your sleeves; it’s time to clean it up.

Rescind the Doctrine

Hubris comes to mind as I read about the Pope’s apology tour of Canada. But this isn’t about the Pope who is gagged by power and the ignorance of ages.  It’s about the dominant culture that continues to ignore the gross and inhumane facts on how indigenous people were and are treated. It’s about the Doctrine of Discovery, how so very few of us know what it is or don’t care about how it still influences our thinking and behavior.

When the Si Pih Ko stood before the Pope and sang the “Our Village” song, dominant media raced to explain that she was singing the Canadian National anthem in Cree. You can see her sing, tears rolling down her cheeks, defiance and dignity emanating from her. And the media whitewashed it as “the Canadian anthem in Cree”. 

I call hubris: excessive pride that leads to downfall. 

The Doctrine of Discovery originated as edicts by the Catholic Church in the 15th century. They empowered Portugal and Spain to colonize West Africa and the Americas by all means necessary. It’s estimated that twelve million indigenous human beings died since 1492. Unmarked graves of children at residential schools tell the story of brutalization and erasure of native people by all means necessary.

At the stand at Standing Rock when Christian clergy approached the sacred fire and asked to burn the Doctrine of Discovery, they were told “No. Because it’s not over.” In that moment I witnessed the depth of pain and the ignorance of dominance collide.

No, it’s not over. It’s alive in the trauma of remembrance and in current Supreme Court decisions. It’s not over, until we purge the hubris, or succumb to the downfall. We must rescind the Doctrine of Discovery from our beings.

What Part Do I Play?

Many are weary of hearing the phrase “systemic racism”. They don’t want to think about racial inequity. They’re sorry for the loss of life brought on by white supremacists but are not ready to call them domestic terrorists. Ok, you can keep playing your word game, but I’m more than ready to call out the disease for what it is: white christian nationalism.

What is christian nationalism? It’s the twisted ideology that arrived on these shores and allowed the attempted genocide of Native people and the enrichment of capital through slavery. It gave wealthy men like Carnegie and Mellon king-like status and continues to glorify extreme wealth even as many suffer. It was and is used to promote imperialistic wars with the claims of American exceptionalism.  

It is the thought process that disavows anyone who is different. It is the steadfast belief that white ethnocentrism is superior and “others” may harm their “way of life”. 

It has reduced a gospel of Love to a gospel of abundance and power. Perhaps the most deplorable of all, it has people believing there is nothing to be done, just sit back and wait for your heavenly reward.

But christian nationalism has nothing to do with Christianity. 

When an 18 year old walks into a grocery store and kills ten people because of the color of their skin, it’s time we ask ourselves: What part did I play in this? Is my silence worth the suffering of those victimized families? Does sheltering myself from hate fulfill my divine destiny? Or more importantly, how can I help my human family end this division we call race?

Christianity taught me about Love, not fear. It was hopeful and inclusive. Anything else, my friends, is illusion.

Wake up and call it out.

The photo is public domain from the Library of Congress.It is entitled Cross Burning, KKK from 1925.

How far have we come? Where are we going? And while the 18 year old killer proclaimed he is not a Christian one only needs to look at the beliefs that radicalized him to see the root of the disease. White christian nationalism. Hopefully White Christians will stand firm against this ignorance instead of turning away and ignoring it. Call out your pastors who preach hate. Stop supporting the fear mongering on your radio stations and virtual forums. Stop voting for racists. End this human betrayal.

A Singular Choice

The victors of war are those who manufacture war machines, those with financial gain from doing so and those who will rebuild cities after the dust settles. Arbitrary boundaries are established to benefit profiteers. And those boundaries will change with the will of the powerful who are never quite satisfied with what they have. The earth becomes a pawn in humankind’s reckless extraction and human beings are sacrificed at the altar of greed.

The cycle of violence is encouraged. Our need to belong is manipulated into what we have termed “nationalism”. Those without deep roots in their humanity succumb to the acts of brutality that nationalistic thinking allows. The genocides that we are witnessing in Ukraine, in Mali, in Yemen, in Somalia…and so many more, are not new. Our inability to stop them is also not new.

We need to come back. As individuals, we need to discover and replenish our love of life and of living. We need to feel our humanity, not simply talk of it. It’s not impossible. But it requires that we become abolitionists.

Abolition is defined as the action or act of abolishing a system, practice, or institution. To end our addiction to the violence of war is an act of abolition.

It is a defiant and determined act to think and live differently than we have been taught.

We have been taught to take sides. We have been taught there are winners and losers. We have been taught consumption and competition and we have been indoctrinated into systems where violence is the default.

Yet we will always have the singular choice to say, “Unhand me, I chose peace. I belong to the human family. The earth is my home, and its inhabitants are my relatives.” 

We have choice. We need will.

In light of all the lies that are told, for more on genocides past and present:

The photo is a Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.) Mokke is the photographer, licensed under Creative Commons share alike


It is hard for the old slaveholding spirit to die, but die it must.” — Sojourner Truth

As we witness the violence of racism creep steadily into our school boards, our libraries and into the discourse of our legislators, it’s important to galvanize behind ideals that are more powerful and more compelling. 

I’ve never been interested in fighting ignorance; I think it’s far better to light a way out of it.  And over the past few weeks I have found solace and kinship in the movement known as Abolition.

Building upon the efforts of Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and many more, the Abolitionist movement of today speaks to the heart of humankind. Like its forbearers it is unapologetic in its declaration for freedom and courageous in its truth-telling.

And despite the hardships and the cruelty that has been the legacy of colonialism and capitalism to all marginalized people, Abolition is a Phoenix and it’s on the rise.

Abolitionism today calls for creativity as we emerge from the darkness of separation. And perhaps in the most dignified of ways it calls for the celebration of humanity and insists on the importance of joy.

You will find Abolitionists in our schools, creating safe environments for all children. You will find them in the fight to replace penal punishment with compassion. 

You will find them resurrecting communities through mutual aid and harm reduction.

You will not find them in discussions on reform. You see, Abolitionists understand the phrase “None of us are free until we are all free”*, and reform is an illusive coward that allows racism, sexism, and other unnatural qualities to continue.

So, if you are looking for a bit of fresh air, I suggest you get to know the Abolitionists of our time. Dr. Bettina Love’s book, “We Want To Do More Than Survive” is a good starting point. 

  • This quote is attributed to Emma Lazarus, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Maya Angelou and perhaps others. It is a common understanding of compassionate human hearts.