Dependency

The Amish had it right. They did not want to become dependent on electricity. It wasn’t to make their lives harder. It was to not become dependent on a government or any other body who would seek to rob their independence or their character.

I have been thinking of this a lot lately as I weigh the urgent need for immigration reform in this country. There are many people who do not want to live in the United States, but would like to work here for a while and return to their countries of origin.

Considering labor shortages on farms and elsewhere, this would make good sense. But the current short-term work programs are severely outdated. Even the George W. Bush Center’s website, “A Nation Built by Immigrants” suggests the need for new worker programs.

Instead the current administration urges us to fear these people. We are encouraged to ignore our sense of humanity and continue to allow the separation of children from parents, overcrowded and dehumanizing detention centers, and perhaps worst of all, we ignore simple solutions because of our fear.

Creating humane worker programs would be one solution. Another would be to remove United States military from these countries, and instead offer aid to help them rebuild.

Many of the immigrants and asylum seekers are being forced from their homelands and ways of life because of extraction of resources – resources that our government and military pay heavily to protect. This “protection” has in recent years cost the lives of numerous environmental activists trying to protect their homelands and their communities.

No, it is not the immigrants we should fear; it is our ignorance. We must move towards becoming citizens of the world and realize how our choices directly affect others. Let us end our dependency on stolen resources protected by blood money. On this, the Amish had it right.

Seeking Asylum

I would like to clarify some misunderstandings regarding asylum seekers. An asylum seeker is not an illegal immigrant. An asylum seeker is one who because of the very real fear of violence, displacement, hunger or other persecution is forced to leave their home country in search of shelter in a foreign country.

Adopted in 1948, Article 14(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees all people the right to seek asylum. These people are known as refugees. This is international law, yet each individual country creates unique pathways for asylum seekers. Today we are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis on our southern border. Thousands of people, families and children are seeking asylum in the United States due to the inhuman conditions of life in their home countries. How we treat these people is within our domain.

When an asylum seeker enters our country at a legal port of entry and proves through documentation the facts of their case, they begin a process, which may take months to complete. During that time they have two options. If they can find a sponsor, they are allowed to live with that sponsor. They are not allowed to work and must strictly adhere to all court dates, check ins and other policies set forth by ICE. If they do not have a sponsor they are forced to reside in a detention center.

I am sponsoring a young family who were granted the possibility to seek asylum in the United States. Their journey has been ongoing for the past three months. They speak very little English and are at the mercy of strangers and a very complicated system.

Kindness and compassion must not slip away as bureaucracy steps in. Respect is imperative. At the end of the day we are all human.

 

 

The photo shown is of the ankle bracelets that must be worn at all times by asylum seekers.

Choosing Our Fate

Another human caravan is leaving Honduras walking to a new life. This community of people is attempting to beat the odds. They have learned that the journey north is best made with other like-minded people, not alone and not with the aid of outlaws.

Asked if they are aware of current United States policies and of what may await them at the Mexican – US border, they answer, “Yes”. But they will tell you that whatever awaits them cannot be as horrible as the tragedies they leave behind.

And this is what we have not yet comprehended. We are not recognizing the power of the very human need to live a good and simple life in peace. And we are not acknowledging, in any real way, the role our government and our ways of life have corroded the lives of our brothers and sisters to the south.

Nor do they understand the sickness that has taken hold of our people. They cannot comprehend that through politics and religion we are willing to ignore the very principles that allow each of us to be here: With the exception of first nations people we are all born of immigrants who searched for a better life.

Currently  white evangelical views are driving our government. And it is the white evangelical population that is using the sound bite of “law and order” to overshadow our mutual humanity.

Make no mistake. The leader of the free world has the power to convene with leaders of the southern hemisphere. We could use our capital and our good will to alter caravans at their inception. What is lacking is our will. Unless and until a majority of evangelical Christians return to their roots, no wall or law will save us from the disease of indifference we have cultivated.

Our fates now rest in our hearts, not in our laws.

 

The map above is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. For more visit the Missing Migrants website.

Thanks to WDRT for airing “Consider This” every Thursday at 5:28 pm CST.

Bear Witness to Good

Children remain in detention camps still separated from their families.

A seven-year old Black child is shot and killed by a white male terrorist in a red truck. Say her name: Jazmine Barnes.

A president, with a grudge, halts funds and plays politics with peoples lives…and on and on it goes.

I know many of us can no longer bear witness to the travesties. We have had enough of hatred and violence. Some of us now doubt that better times are possible. Some of us even question if better times are deserved.

But of this I am 100% certain: Today is a new day. And we owe it to ourselves, to one another and to those not yet born to stand up. There are people throughout the world – and yes, right next door – who are doing the impossible every day. They are waking up and carrying on with love and hope. They are finding the determination and the fortitude to make a better way. Some have moved towards politics, some are working to bridge religious or racial divides, some prepare the soil to bring good food to our tables, some are sitting in treetops stopping pipelines and environmental destruction, some are offering shelter to asylum seekers.

We are the heroes we have been waiting for, if we have the eyes to see.

Look to this new day. Grab the inspiration that comes – however it comes – and hold on.

Inhumanity can bring us to our knees. But it is in rising that we see we are not broken. There is power in that. Human beings have shown us the worst that we can be, let this new day and each new day bring the best that we can be. Bear witness to that. Bear witness to the good in your heart and let it shine.

 

Choice Not Chance

As the stock market drifts downward and holiday cheer dances on, we are forced to reckon with the death of another child in the custody of United States Border Protection. He was an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy, Felipe Gómez Alonzo and he is the second child to die within a month. It seems our history is filled with the abuse of children. This is glaringly obvious to most people of color. And it is a fact that continues to haunt us as we pretend not to see.

And while the president tweets endlessly about his wall, the reality remains that there are human beings lawfully seeking asylum at our border. These are people being threatened by horrific conditions and death in their countries of origin. And they have the legal right  – by both international and national law  – to seek asylum.

United States Immigration and Customs released hundreds of migrants at an El Paso, Texas, bus station a few days before and during Christmas. Many had no food or money. Most do not speak English. They were given an ankle bracelet and court date before being released.

Local nonprofits and churches act as liaisons for these people, but due to the government shut down communication was halted and many were released without aid.

We are dealing with leadership who no longer hold moral authority. If not for the caring of individuals, churches and non-government agencies, the fate of these people would be far worse. But hearing of their plight, many continue to arrive to help those in need. With hearts of love, their efforts are proof that the human spirit is alive and flourishing. They remind us that when one is lifted, we all rise.

It is said, “Choice not chance makes destiny.” Let us then, in this moment of chaos and heightened fear, choose love.

 

You can send donations to help the migrants in el Paso to Annunciation House.

It Has Come To This

On December 10th, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights celebrated its 70thanniversary. This visionary document addresses how human beings should treat one another.

And while the United Nations celebrated and a few academics discussed human rights, other exchanges occurred.

As people took nonviolent stands to uphold human rights they were met with paid enforcers keeping peaceful demonstrators in check.

On the San Diego – Tijuana border over 400 interfaith leaders and advocates gathered in support of asylum seekers. Domestic and international law grants people the right to seek asylum. Our government has engaged unlawfully to deter them. And yet it was thirty-two faith leaders who were arrested during the peaceful demonstration.

And when 1,000 of the youth–led Sunrise Movement descended on Washington, DC to promote the Green New Deal, over 140 were arrested as they peacefully addressed climate change and offered real solutions.

It has come to this. When leaders refuse to listen and government abandons its sovereign duty to obey the law and care for its citizens, it is our moral right to nonviolently resist. It is also our sacred duty to support those arrested and to help in anyway we can.

 

photo:  Faith leaders gather in support of the migrant caravan in front of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, at the border fence between the United States and Mexico on Dec. 10, 2018.               Credit: Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

 

Listen to it on Soundcloud.

Tear Gas and Children

On Sunday November 25th, tear gas was used against people attempting to cross into the United States at a legal point of entry near Tijuana. A few people had rushed the border during an otherwise peaceful gathering. Photos show canisters of tear gas being hurled over the Mexican border at those gathered there, children among them.

Here is what occurs when tear gas touches a human being: the gas inflames the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs. It takes thirty seconds of contact before the burning and watering of eyes begins. Difficult breathing follows along with chest pains, copious saliva, excessive coughing and irritated skin. Some may have temporary blindness. The effects of tear gas can last thirty minutes to hours depending on length of exposure.

As with all less-lethal weapons, there is risk of permanent injury or death. The canisters that contain the gas are projectiles that can also cause harm.

Many international treaties prohibit the use of tear gas in warfare. It is legal however for police use and has been used extensively in our history.

As our world deteriorates into “us and them” and the United States government amps up its use of militarized police and border patrol, we will be challenged with the ongoing use of these less-lethal weapons, often against unarmed, peaceful and innocent human beings.

We had plenty of time to be prepared for the arrival of the asylum seekers. We knew they were desperate and exhausted. Instead of using our resources to process the arrivals of those legally seeking asylum or to provide care for the weary, we chose instead to use tear gas.

We are walking down a very dangerous path. Our ignorance creates division among us. We must step out of the shadows. Wisdom calls for respect and peace to prevail. Humanity demands it.

 

Photo by Rob Wilson

You can listen to this piece on Soundcloud.

Helping those in need of our help…some organizations on the ground and doing good.
https://alotrolado.org/programs/refugee-program/
https://www.pueblosinfronteras.org
https://www.immdef.org
http://www.carecen-la.org
https://www.borderangels.org/

Walking

As I write, it is reported that there may be as many as 7, 000 Honduran migrants walking through the scorching Mexican sun to reach their destination – political asylum in the United States. Contrary to the wild reports made by our president of terrorists and gang members among them, the people are largely mothers with children desperate to seek new beginnings from our country, which is preparing to close our borders to them. And yet another wave of 2000 Honduran people are preparing to begin the journey north.

It is not because Honduran people like the treacherous journey that they walk. They walk out of desperation.

These caravans of human beings have been occurring for some time with people trying to escape the violence and poverty of their country. A country greatly diminished by the United States supported coup d’état in 2009. What we are witnessing is the end result of a series of missteps by United States foreign policy in the region. What they are fleeing is a repressive Honduran government aided by the financial and technical support of the United States.

And before we put blame on the Trump administration we must understand the role of the Obama administration and the actions of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in creating this human nightmare. We must recon with the reality that our military is and has been used to benefit corporate interests – both here and abroad.

To understand that our politics, regardless of affiliation has been imperialistic; that our military has been used to support corporate greed could wake us to the reality that it is our responsibility to rein in the unleashed power of the United States. It is up to each of us to fight for the preservation of our humanity.

It is time to lend a hand, not build another bomb.

 

You can listen to this on Soundcloud. It aired on WDRT Thursday Nov 1.

*photo on Facebook, no credit found, but it does tell the story…

Bring on the Radicals

There is a lot that gives me pause these days. We seem to be ignoring our basic right to common sense.

Common sense tells us that when a Native water protector is sentenced to 57 months while ranchers who triggered a militarized standoff with federal agents are pardoned, we are signaling that justice in the United States is a sham.

Common sense tells us that when the “shoot to kill” training of United States police officers is mixed with a tolerance of racism; people of color will be targeted.

Common sense tells us that oil and water don’t mix; yet the public service commissions of numerous states continue to increase potential contamination of our water by allowing oil pipelines through waterways.

Common sense tells us that refugees the world over are not on holiday when they travel, but are acting out of a will to survive. Our mutual humanity should override our fear. Common sense would guide us to help not hinder them.

Common sense tells us a divided nation will not stand. Yet it seems we insist on being aggravated by our differences rather than awed by our similarities.

There comes a time when common sense is radical. Today we need radicals. We need those willing to suspend current thinking for common sense. We need those willing to put humanity and the love of earth above identities and labels. We need those who will no longer compromise in order to fit in. Bring on those radicals; the ones who love too deeply to intentionally cause harm. The ones who give respect to friend and foe, but never compromise their humanity. The ones who hold the keys for us to flourish not merely survive.

Bring on the radicals and the return to common sense. It’s time.

 

This aired on WDRT‘s Consider This July 12.

You can listen to Bring on the Radicals on Soundcloud.

Photo was taken at an anti-racism rally in La Crosse, 2017.

 

The Flight of the Hummingbird

Once again the news of the week is a lesson in the worst of humanity. The Supreme Court continues to prove that man’s law is fallible with its decision to uphold the bigoted travel ban on Muslims. Our Keystone Cop government is proving incapable of returning nearly 2500 children to their parents after forcibly separating them at the border –incompetency or ignorance, you decide.

A thirty-three-oil train car derailment flooded part of the Mississippi watershed with crude tar sands from Canada. This is further vindication of the actions of water protectors – even as our government is increasing federal penalties on those who dissent. And another unarmed young black man succumbs to a bullet in the back by a police officer in East Pittsburgh.

Despair can come easily in these times for those of goodwill. But it would be unwise to surrender our humanity to despair. Anger can come easily at these times, but it would be unwise to surrender our humanity to anger. Now more than ever we need to revel in life. We need to allow the beauty of this amazing land to touch us. We need to bear witness to the flight of the hummingbird and know that is teaching us that the seemingly impossible is indeed possible. We need to feel the gratitude hidden in the fresh green salad or the gentle rain. And we need to allow the love of a friend to remind us of who we are…for the actions of governments and courts, of corporations and bureaucracies are not meant for the living.

And while we must not remain silent in the face of ignorance and unjust laws, our struggle is not only to end the inhumanity that drives our world. Our struggle is to hold onto the joy, the gratitude and the clarity that is our given right as the living. And it is my firm belief that as we do this, individually and collectively, our nightmares will end.   Man’s laws are fallible and mutable. The gift of life is not. While we breath there is hope. Live. Store up joy. Step into clarity. Capitalize on the gratitude you feel – and fight like hell. No matter what comes, this is our time.

 

This piece aired on WDRT’s “Consider This”

You can listen here on Soundcloud.