They Are Us

I have a habit of waking in the middle of the night and tuning into BBC. It’s a way to keep a pulse on what is happening around the world. It was how I learned of the slaughter of Muslim people in prayer by a white supremacist in Christchurch.  It was when I first heard the phrase, “They are us.”

I have followed the reactions and actions of the Prime Minister of New Zealand and of her countrymen. And I have found a glimmer of hope.

“They are us.” That was one of the first pronouncements regarding the massacre. And then came acknowledgements and commitments, “We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage.”

And, “We cannot allow this to happen again.”

The compassion of the leadership is a triumph of the human spirit. It is in stark contrast to the language of division common in United States politics. The efforts of New Zealand’s Prime Minister are like balm on torn flesh.

Human beings are not designed for hatred. It is so abhorrent to the majority of us that when confronted by it, we often become numb and impotent. For some of us fear guides our silence. Fortunately Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will not be silenced.

In her words: “Safety means being free from the fear of violence. But it also means being free from the fear of those sentiments of racism and hate that create a place where violence can flourish. “

“And every single one of us has the power to change that.” 

For the sake of “They Are Us” and “We Are One”, let us stand up to hate and say “no more”. Let us find the courage, the clarity and the power to close the door on racism and fear. Let this be our time.

 

As they carry on…One week later the prayers continue.

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.

 

Enemy of the People

The elections have come and gone but the dilemmas of governance still face us. And if there is an enemy of the people, the enemy remains this: fear.

My first encounter with white fear came in my youth from an aunt who told me how the “colored” races were poised to outnumber whites. She showed me literature on it. She commented on the character of Jews. This was my first taste of fear and hatred. I did not like it then. I like it less now. My father, her brother, did not share her viewpoints. A Republican and a Veteran he taught me about respect of others, about patriotism and most importantly about respect of self.

I had a choice then and I have a choice now. To accept fear mongering, to pretend it’s not there, or to stand up and call it out for what it is. And what is it? Fear is the death trap of the living. It is the cold and dismal feeling that drains hope from our being. It is the precursor to anger and hate.

What does fear have to do with an election? This election was not only a race between parties. It was a choice between the politics of fear and the politics of hope.

And in this very fortunate moment, as people of color are stepping up and fulfilling the promises of this great country – we must support them. When people are grieving loved ones lost in violent and unforgivable ways, we must stand by them. When the earth weeps for the brutality we have wrought on her, we must come to her aid.

This is our moment of choice. Who we are and who we want to be is before us. Fear or hope. Kindness or brutality. It is no longer a choice between Republican and Democrat. It is a choice to be human.

 

The photo is of yarrow. From wikipedia: “In antiquity, yarrow was known as herbal militaris, for its use in stanching the flow of blood from wounds.”

This piece aired on WDRT’s “Consider This” November 8.

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…

Beyond Prison Reform

On August 21st, inmates in 17 states began one of the largest prison strikes in our history. The two-week peaceful protest will end September 9th. Inmates are abandoning their work duties and some are refusing food to call attention to the exploitive conditions in United States prisons.

We have the largest prison population and the highest per capita incarceration rate in the entire world. Nearly one in every 100 adults is in prison or jail.

Ok, so much of that is known, but how many of us know that corporations and businesses use the prison work force for manufacturing and service jobs? And there is little to no compensation given for injuries resulting from their work. Recent news exposed the story that inmates were given $1 an hour to fight the California fires.

Less widely known is the fact that investment companies enable prison industries to thrive. Your retirement accounts are most likely contributing to these practices amounting to modern day slavery.

This is what we need to know. We need to know these are peaceful protests by inmates asking for their humanity to be recognized and restored. We need to know they are asking for proper wages and for more rehabilitation services. And they are demanding an end to the over-sentencing and parole denials of non-white inmates.

There is much more to this story, like the way lobbying groups fight for more industrialized and privately owned prisons. Much is done behind the closed doors of politics and the media is slow to rise against its master. We cannot fight what we do not see. It is time to open our eyes and unravel this horrible mess we have created.

Support the protest, boycott the companies and divest. It is time.

 

This aired on WDRT’s Consider This, Thursday, August 23. You can listen to it here.

photo is creative commons on Pixabay.

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.

 

The Dream Continues

There are many reasons to celebrate this time of year. The lengthening of days, the brilliance of stars, the hitting of the refresh button with the turn of the Gregorian calendar…the strengthening of hope that we can make it all just a little better, beginning with each resolution and echoing out.

In the midst of all of these reasons for us to get it right, January is a fine month to celebrate the life of a man who challenged the status quo of racism and the ignorance of war. A man whose words and actions still inform us and shine the light of hope. For all the time that has passed and all the inhumanity that has persisted, the fervent will of Martin Luther King continues to reach us.

And this is as it should be. It is never to late to cultivate a will of love.

There are many today who criticize the man for having human faults. But I think it is not the man, but the wisdom, that we need.

If in remembering his words, his actions and his sacrifice, a fire is rekindled towards peace, kindness and good will, what harm is there in that?

This season will move swiftly on and the business of spring planting, tax time, elections and other worldly activities will take center stage. Our challenge is to hold onto the spirit of this time, regardless of what comes.

We are here to help one another. We are here to experience peace and to share Good times even in the hard times. We are here to love.

Anything less, my friends is not part of our birthright, anything less is not part of The Dream. Yes, let us begin again. With renewed vigor let us write a new story. We are alive… we still have time to get it right. And yes, it is a worthy effort.

I will leave you with theses words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. : “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

 

 

This piece aired on WDRT’s Consider This, Thursday, January 25. You can listen to it on soundcloud.

You can hear more about the life of Dr. King and a see clips from a new HBO documentary about King’s last years, titled “King in the Wilderness,” on Democracy Now. which also aired Thursday January 25.