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.

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.

One Life Lives On

A young woman stands with her brother on a train station in Tehran. They’re Kurdish and visiting the city from a small town. She is approached by the morality police for not wearing her hijab properly and is taken into detention. Three days later she is dead. Her name is Mahsa Amini and her death has unleashed protest and demands for human dignity in Iran and throughout the world. 

Hospital records, photos and eyewitnesses tell us that Mahsa was beaten and fell into a coma from which she never recovered. From her family we know she was a healthy twenty –two year old.

For forty years the morality police have been sanctioned with the task of ensuring the dress codes for women are followed. But today even women who wear the hijab willingly are saying, “Enough”. There is no need for violence; there is no need for coercion. 

For the past two weeks the women led protests carry on. Burning hijabs, cutting their hair, and defiantly rebuking government authority. The death toll of protesters is estimated at seventy-six, but no one really knows.

Here is what we do know: the death of Mahsa Amini has ignited a roaring fire from the smoldering outrage of young and old, women and men. What we do know is that there are people willing to sacrifice human dignity and life to follow orders. What we can do is to stop giving our power to those who are so very willing to destroy us with it.

This is not an Iranian issue, not a hijab issue. This is not even a woman issue – although women have paid the highest price for living under unchecked power. 

This is a human issue and one we must all work to change.

I stand with the women and men of Iran and throughout the world who are demanding human dignity and freedom from tyrannical leadership. I am saddened by the loss of life and I know we can all do better than we have done. Violence is a sickness and has no justification. It perpetuates itself.

I have always appreciated the song Bella Ciao now sung in Persian by an Iranian woman. Please feel the spirit of resistance it upholds. Please join in resisting the urge to comply with ignorance. That is something we can all do.

In a September 25 video, Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi called for the support and participation of the creative community: “I invite all artists, filmmakers, intellectuals, civil rights activists from all over the world and all countries, and everyone who believes in human dignity and freedom to stand in solidarity with the powerful and brave women and men of Iran by making videos, in writing or any other way,” Farhadi wrote.

Let us carry on in confidence that our day has come.

Reunion

I enjoy listening to BBC World Service through the night. I stay in touch with friends all over the world this way. Listening to the voices of people trying to survive 127 degree temperatures and drought in Iraq brings the suffering home and reminds me of a dear friend. 

Sami Rasouli is an Iraqi – American. After the bombing of Iraq in March 2003, he returned to Iraq and founded the Muslim Peacemaker Teams. His hope was to build reconciliation between his two countries. With his supervision many United States citizens visited Iraq. Our nonprofit contributed to the Water for Peace Project bringing water purification systems to schools after U.S. bombs had corrupted the water supplies.

A thank you for our help in getting a water purification system to their school.

In 2017, he created an NGO, the American Institute for English, in his hometown of Najaf. It was to be another attempt to bridge peace.

But peace can be elusive. And while on a visit with his three children to his home in Minneapolis, this dream in Najaf was shattered by a bomb. Gratefully no one was injured in the blast, but on September 18, 2020, the institute was completely destroyed. Two Iraqi security agencies and the FBI contacted Sami, interrogated him and then warned him not to return to Iraq because he was a target. Granted an extended stay in the United States, Sami and his three children, all United States citizens, have been living in Minneapolis for the past two years while his wife, their mother has been living in Iraq.

Suad Jassim is their mother. Her paperwork qualifies her to come. All she is waiting for and has been waiting for, for two years now is an interview, that and to see and to hold her 8, 9 and 14 year old children once more.

The top photo was a visit with Sami August 8, 2016. The photos below are from Sami and Suad’s children during their recent visit to Echo Valley Farm.

Please sign this petition to reunite the family. Thank you in advance for caring.

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.

There is Enough

It took a huge effort to get the family of groundhogs eating and sleeping in our garden to leave, but we did it. And then of course we discovered the deer have been eating our corn. It’s always smart to plant enough for everyone I reckon. 

The days will be shortening and the winter’s wood supply is coming in bit by bit. I always feel a touch of relief at the Solstice, knowing that the reduction of light will shorten workdays as well. 

The apple harvest looks to be promising this year and I marvel at how human beings survived this dance on the Earth. I guess our ancestors did, as we must now do, be thoughtful, be creative, be frugal and above all be grateful.

Being thoughtful implies deliberate and careful consideration of the land, what it offers and how best to care for it. Being creative happens with the realization that we’re inextricably bound to the Earth in a realm of endless possibilities. 

If that’s confusing to you, stop by and watch the wizardry of my wife (welcome to Pride Month) as she gathers from the gardens and the wilds to create delicious life sustaining foods. And while some of that comes from being frugal, at its core it is an act of love and gratitude. It’s in recognition that the Earth can and does provide all that we need if we can take the time to remember what some have always known: There is enough. 

Another lovely awakening of this time is Juneteenth. Celebrating the beauty and the strength of those who survived the inhumanity of slavery are steps towards all of our healing. We have much to overcome, but we are one people finding our way on this precious Earth. Let’s get to it!

The Will of Life

I found a pile of feathers and straw in the barn. It was a barn swallow nest that had fallen from the rafter. When I moved the fluffy haven three fledgling birds were struggling underneath. Instincts kicked in to save them and I found a basket to hold them in hopes that their mother would hear their cries.  A closer look on the ground showed another seemingly lifeless sibling. I decided to hold it; in case it was not dead and in hopes that the warmth from my hand would ignite its will to live. Within moments it was squirming and I delighted in the will of Life to live. 

This on the morning I learned of the massacre of nineteen children and two adults at the hand of an eighteen year old. And I wondered what experiences had ripped compassion out of that eighteen year old heart? What twisted mindset had found a home in this unfortunate that had him ignore the will of Life?

Gratitude kicked in for all that has been given and for the choices I have made. I have learned to choose compassion over inhumanity, and I have allowed myself to hold kindness over hopelessness. It appears that many are struggling in an abyss of darkness, letting the will of Life pass them by. We have all participated in this growth of despair. It is a choice to belong to the voices that champion our goodness over our evil. And to still believe there is a way out.

We are born with a will to live, to thrive and to flourish. Circumstances will come and go, but the key remains. The will to love life is ours to protect, to learn from and to share. 

We cannot let fear destroy it.

  • The photo is not a barn swallow, but another fledgling that found its will to live.

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.

Find Better Ways

The world has been upended again. This time by a leak of something that has not and may not happen. Reactionaries on both sides are swift to lay blame, while caring people are scrambling to salvage what bit of sanity may still prevail. 

The issue is abortion. It’s successfully divided people for fifty years. And while nearly 60 % of us favor legality, those of religious dogma and political control use it as a power grab. And people who oppose making abortion illegal have yet to garner the clarity, unity and focus to make the issue go away.

Abortions will happen. Safely and legally or unsafely and illegally should be the most important consideration. Women suffer through patriarchal dominance and prohibitive laws will add to the suffering.

What is needed is not a battle. What is needed is a change in behavior and a revival of consciousness. Ensuring human rights would be a good starting point.

There are doctors, social workers, ministers and the like scrambling to find ways to help women who are caught in states criminalizing abortion and removing health-care facilities. These state laws are creating a health crisis that is unnecessary and inhuman.

Women with difficult pregnancies; ones who miscarry and are held suspect; those raped by family or friend; and those who did not know the rapist will all be harmed. Mothers who cannot afford to have another child will suffer, as will their families.

We need to stop the battle and deal with reality. Abortion may again become illegal in some states. Abusing women with antiquated laws is not the solution. Teaching respect and providing adequate free health care including birth control would be a better way. Caring for one another might actually be the key.

Image is Creative Commons. Author is Becharaia.