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.

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. 

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.

They Paved Paradise

Hello, I am writing from my old home in Western Pennsylvania and welcoming you to Consider This*.

Once there was a hillside by a river. The hillside was blasted and a city was built. Well, not really a city, but the bright lights can be seen throughout the rolling hills all over Beaver County as night falls.  No chance of star gazing here. It’s a multi story ethane plant, one that will feed on the Marcellus shale readily found in this state. Known as a cracker plant it will convert natural gas into ethylene and then into plastics.  Pennsylvania will allow the release of 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. The deals were sealed with the American subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell in 2012, as most of the world understood the need to move towards renewable energy and to step away from plastics. 

And what of the pipelines that will transport the natural gas to the plant? Well, in 2018 the Revolution Pipeline operated by Energy Transfer Partners breached when heavy rains caused a landslide that tore through it. One house was destroyed from the blast and other homes and vehicles were damaged.

I have family in the area. Emergency evacuations have always played a part due to the Shippingport nuclear site near-by, but now they have taken on new meaning. The oppressive air is noticeable and inescapable as will be the increase in breathing disorders. But those factors were not part of the agreement between the state and Shell. 

Why am I telling you this? I’m telling you because everyday decisions are being made about our energy and the costs with little to no input to or from us. We carry on and pay the price – both in finance and in health. 

It’s time we uncover the hidden costs of fossil fuels.

This photo was taken from the hillside behind my childhood home on November 8, 2022. Our home was located about twelve miles from the cracker plant. About 15 from the nuclear site (plum of smoke in the background). Numerous chemical plants like Valspar Corp. dot the area. This is a nuisance to all living beings in the area. And it will soon be shown to be unnecessary.

*Consider This is my 2 minute weekly commentary on WDRT, 91.9 FM Community Radio which airs Thursdays at 5:30 pm CST.

Which Side Are You On?

I’m traveling between Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, two bitterly divided states as the mid-term elections are upon us. These are states where millions have been spent on slick advertising designed to elicit straight party line votes. Advertisements have been fear baiting and relentless in divide and conquer tactics pitting neighbors against one another. The threat of violence and voter intimidation is on the rise and there are candidates throughout the country declaring they may not accept election results.  

There are candidates who would turn back the clock on LGBTQ rights in the same way the clock was turned back on a women’s right to choose her own healthcare. These are people who would be content to see our history whitewashed, immigration sidelined, and workers rights eroded. If Governor Evers loses, Wisconsin could face a MAGA governor who sees himself as an old western sheriff. Movements towards restorative justice and efforts to end racial profiling will be dealt heavy blows. 

The question before us cannot be: which side are you on, because it is not that simple. There is another consideration that we have not tried. And it lies in the question; can we choose to be human? 

Can we afford more escalation of violence? Can we continue on the ill fated belief that hard work alone is all that is needed for success, as we watch more and more of our people slide into poverty? Being human is not about following doctrines and leaders. It is about compassion and dignity. And government should not be about power; it is about caring for all of us.

I will always believe the violent are the minority of people, but I am equally certain it is the silence of those who know better that allow the violent to win.

This is not a moment for silence.

Enjoy Which Side Are You On, a labor movement classic sung by Natalie Merchant.

And then there is this: Power to the People by Patti Smith.

Regardless of the outcome, our effort continues.

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.

The Empowerment of Choice

The abundance of harvest and the beauty of the season are upon us. So are the bombardment of political ads and the ridiculous robo calls vying for attention.

Choice. It’s an amazing tool if we use it.

The stark contrast of the sublime and the degenerate surround us. Nature carries on and for a brief moment we are witness to her glory. And politics carries on and we are witness to lies and false promises. We really should replace the words “In God We Trust” with “We Have Forsaken Trust”. It would be more accurate.

When politicians pit us one against another and instill fear, they do so with deliberate aim. Power is the goal. Greed is the motivation.  The bitter seeds of hate are offered, often wrapped in the cloak of religion, and too many are swallowing those seeds and becoming very ill. Politicians scream of rising crime and boast of law and order, while they champion January 6th insurrectionists and scramble to elect them. The excuses given are to protect the unborn and to get tough on crime. Few blink an eye at the audacity of the claims and fewer still recognize the ignorance of electing those who will incite more division.  

We have become the parrots who learn to say the words, “Beware the hunter” and chant that mantra as we step into the hunter’s net. 

Who is served by the arousal of anger and fear? Ask yourself that. The inciting of racial division is real. The consequences of the choices we make may harm us for generations. We have the opportunity to learn from one another. We have the opportunity to heal and to emerge as one people for the good of all.

Choice. It’s an amazing tool if we use it.

Get Out and Vote: Enjoy this great video from  No Studio highlighting the need to register AND to vote on Nov 8th. Sponsored in part by WNPJ member groups Building Unity, SOULS (Solomons Outreach & Urban Learning Sessions) and Mother’s Against Gun Violence, Milwaukee. 

Discarding Straitjackets

My wife and I binged watched Heartstopper, a British coming of age romantic comedy. I was touched by the openness of the teens regarding their gender questioning, but startled by the hatred and fear that remains towards those not status quo.

In the fifty years that have passed since my own teen-age questioning things have changed. Youth who refuse the straitjacket of heterosexuality can more easily find support. Gender fluidity and non-binary concepts have replaced the need to take on stereotypical labels. Organizations like PFLAG have helped lessen the sting of abuse. Yet abuse remains

The morality police have made it their business to beg local school boards to prohibit any displays of gender questioning. How absolutely foolish this is on so many levels. 

I understand learning that gender is not binary and that gender fluidity has always existed in the human race must be hard for some who’ve been raised with blinders on. But to insist that your ignorance be law is a bit much. We are crawling out of the hole dug by puritanical thinking, and I’m sorry for your discomfort. But march on we will.

Perhaps your discomfort will be lessened if you learned about different cultures and their acceptance of the reality that gender is a spectrum. It would be kind of you to drop your shock and fear long enough to understand the pain caused by bigotry. 

Bigotry: noun

  1. obstinate or unreasonable attachment to a belief, opinion, or faction; in particular, prejudice against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group.

I can assure you from my own personal experiences, that your momentary discomfort over things that are not your business are nothing compared to the struggle and pain of being gender fluid in this culture. And the statistics on suicide and suicide attempts by gender questioning youth confirm this.

And to youth daring to be: Don’t be robbed by ignorance. Dance on.