Disabling Gun Violence

It appears we may be at a tipping point with gun violence in this country. The seventeen lives lost last week in Parkland, Florida may well represent the final blow to a country enamored with violence and guns.

We are not willing to take it anymore.

From organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety to individuals like Emma Gonzales, a Parkland teen, who passionately called out the simplistic excuses of the administration and the NRA as BS – the voices for common sense gun control seem to have finally reached a fevered pitch.

For far too long the voice of the NRA has reigned supreme with millions of dollars being poured into the pockets of politicians. Bought and paid for our leaders have been rendered impotent when it has come to saving the lives of innocents and children. There is blood on the streets and in the hands of everyone who has enabled the violence that we have witnessed.

While the numbers are hot in debate we know that since the beginning of 2018 there have been 7 school shootings during school hours, 5 of which have resulted in deaths. Total numbers of shootings around schools with no injuries or fatalities in the past 7 weeks is 17.

Now people can debate and dissect these numbers in many ways, but I agree with Emma Gonzales as she called out the excuses used to justify lives lost: BS.

The time has come for all of us who understand there can be no more tolerance for lax gun laws. There can be no tolerance for the greed, which has eroded the innocence of our children and has increased the paranoia of communities that should be thriving in trust.

On Friday, April 20th, there will be a student organized #National Walkout. Students will attend school and the walk out will begin at 10am. It will be a peaceful protest. Another Walkout is scheduled for March 14.

nationalwalkout

I think we owe it to our youth to stand by them, to ensure they are treated with respect and dignity as they exercise their civic and moral obligation to one another and to those whose lives have been lost.

Most importantly we must follow their lead and walk with their courage as they announce: “We are students, we are victims, we are change.”

 

You can listen to this piece which aired on WDRT, Thursday, Feb 22.

Grappling With Suicide

I recently learned of another young friend who took her life. Another bright shining star extinguished. It seems we have entered into a new normal. I am old enough to remember when it was not a frequent occurrence. And now suicide has become a common guest. Rates of suicide have increased by 60% since the ‘60s.

Now it’s whittled down to numbers. 22 veterans take their own lives every day – one every 65 minutes. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among our young taking 4,400 lives per year. For each of these deaths, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. With LGBT and indigenous youth among the highest numbers.

Our culture has not yet begun to grapple with the roots of this inhuman unrest. We keep secrets and speak in hushed tones as our beloveds depart. And rarely do we openly admit that the gross behaviors of our culture are more than symptoms. We have become numb to violence. Bullying is now an art form. And #metoo has just begun to pull the scab off a disease that has haunted us since our inception. We hide behind electronics and many now live in fantasy worlds where death is a non-reality that allows you to rise again.

When it comes to “brotherly love” our faiths have failed us and the rise of atheism has thrown the sacred out with the profane. Very little is precious to us. We traffic human lives while presidents boast of our military might and the desire to annihilate entire nations. Militarized police protect corporations destroying the earth in total disregard of the people who live here. Hopelessness is mirrored back to us everyday with anger and fear mounting as dreams slip away.

Apparently we’re not yet ready to reverse this trend. We are certain we are not part of the problem. But we are all part of the problem. Every time we choose hatred and anger and doubt we are part of the problem. Every time we allow inhumanity to win we are part of the problem. This lost humanity can be found. It is a choice and we can make it. But we must summon up the will to live the promise that was placed within us at birth. As long as we breathe there is hope.

 

Consider This airs on WDRT Driftless Community Radio every Thursday at 5:28 pm CST.

You can listen here.

Flower photo: Forget Me Nots

What Price Peace?

I wrote the following a few weeks back, it aired  on WDRT‘s Consider This. The winter games have begun and this moment of unification of the Koreas is being duly noted by most as a significant step towards peace. It is the first time a member of the royal family of North Korea has stepped foot on South Korean soil in over 67 years… Regretfully this step towards peace is being marred by the Vice President of the US continuing to rattle swords, refusing to sit at the table of the North Korean diplomats and adamantly calling for military exercises to begin with South Korea immediately after the conclusion of the Olympic games. Really, US? It seems we are no longer interested in peace. War is too profitable. People like to say having a big stick brings peace. But throughout my life when people presented a big stick, they never won my respect, nor my allegiance. In truth they found a worthy foe. The big stick went the way of the Neanderthal, let it rest. Let’s get on with peace.

Consider This 2/8/18

In case you haven’t heard – North and South Korea will be sharing the spotlight in the winter Olympic games in Pyeongchang. This isn’t a dream; it’s fact. The Korean women’s hockey team will be comprised of players from both North and South Korea and they will enter the games together under one unified flag. If you recall the vitriol of recent months you are either scratching your head in disbelief or eking out a scream of halleluiah.

Perhaps we are not far from seeing common sense and common ground outlasting the folly of war. Perhaps chest thumping is no longer winning favor among sensible people and war weary humans are seeking solutions that may be longer lasting and far less destructive.

The Olympic games were meant for this. A truce of war called for a celebration of what is possible. When the president of the United States spoke of annihilating the entire nation of North Korea, I am hunching the president of S. Korea Moon Jae-in realized his opportunity to bring peace was shortening. When elected he had declared his goal was to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem and solidify peace between the two nations.

Now, there are conservative nationals in South Korea who are against this unity. The South Korean president’s ratings have dropped markedly since his agreement to work with the North. And of course our own military and government are still rattling swords and preparing for the worst.

The path to peace is not for the weak of heart. But I am betting on this man, this son of North Korean refugees, and on the 60,000 South Koreans still on the list of families wishing to reconnect with loved ones in the North. And after 67 years, there are those in the North praying for the same.

I am betting on diplomacy born of a shared humanity. There is a growing recognition that North Korea needs to come out of isolation and engage with the international community. That makes total sense, to bring people into conversation, not to shun them.

For all the nay saying and dooms day enthusiasm, I am hoping the intention for peace will prevail. It seems at least for now we are off to a good start.

 

Picture: Wikimedia commons

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.

 

Environmental Heroes

Perhaps it is time we take a look at our concept of hero. Most of our heroes are long gone or have something we want – like great athletic ability or the skill of amassing wealth. However, we often emulate people at a cost of ignoring the heroes in our everyday lives.

And most significantly, we forget that we are each our own hero.

Not only do we admire the powerful, it seems we have now become adept at ignoring common sense as we cheer on the heroes we have come to adore.

This phenomenon is not new. It has been a curse of human kind for all of recorded history. But I am not one to follow a trend simply because it is commonplace and I am especially weary of one that has become so destructive to the human spirit and to the Earth.

So what I want to tell you today is about a gathering of environmental heroes right here among us. A group of people who come from diverse backgrounds, beliefs and lifestyles but share one common understanding: The land we are living on is precious and must be protected from those who have forgotten these simple truths: we are of the earth, we are totally reliant upon her and to allow her destruction is folly.

And here is the good news. These environmental heroes are standing up, and saying, “No more” – and they are inviting you to be a hero, too. Your own hero, as it should be.

On Saturday, January 20th from 1pm to 5:30 pm in Boscobel, Wisconsin, there will be a gathering to discuss our precious environment, what is occurring that could cause great harm to the Driftless and what solutions we can take to avert that harm. There are numerous organizations and individuals who are co-sponsoring this free event. It may be live-streamed and recorded.

Let this be the year we all step up to protect the earth, to learn more about her care and our unique role in protecting her. Everyone is needed. It is time to become our own hero.

 

photo: Driftless Area Slope Map by Joshua Wachuta

listen to it here

#MeToo Tenfold

It appears that the #MeToo movement is on course to end gender-based violence. Tarana Burke, the founder of #MeToo, pushed the button that began the ball drop on New Year’s Eve at Times Square. Irony aside, we are witnessing an unprecedented coalescing of women in support of one another.

700,000 women farmworkers of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas wrote an open letter in support of the women of Hollywood and helped spark the launch of Times Up.

Times Up is a Hollywood based initiative to fight systemic sexual harassment. It includes a $13 million dollar legal defense fund to support women who might not have the resources to fight back.

And here I must acknowledge the tireless local effort to end human trafficking by La Crosse’s Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Their Task Force to End Modern Slavery partnered with Breaking Free, to create a video series entitled, “The Faces of Human Trafficking”. That series will premiere throughout this month.

And we must never forget the ongoing assault on indigenous women due in large part to extreme extraction of resources. Man camps are on the rise with every pipeline, construction site and refinery. Mainstream media and voices of the status quo have long ignored the plight of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women. Sometimes we must work very hard to learn the truth.

And so it was with great surprise that on a recent visit to my birthplace, Beaver County Pennsylvania, I learned of the effort by police to prepare for the onslaught of construction workers entering the county making way for Shell’s new ethanol plant there. And to what end are the preparations?

Police concerns are not merely the increase in traffic or the drain on social services –but it is an awareness that with transient workers comes an increase in human trafficking…

Yes, #MeToo has been needed for a long time – and while it is too late for far too many, let us pray that we can continue this courageous effort to end gender and power based violence once and for all.

 

This piece aired on WDRT’s “Consider This” on Thursday, January 11. You can listen to a recording here.

For more information listen to Democracy Now’s coverage of from January 12.

 

Indomitable Spirit

It is -7 degrees F, and I am wondering how Louise is doing. Today is January 13. It is the coldest of the cold snap that will hit us this week. We had a break for a while and the temps hit 40 degrees F. I have begun to give Louise massage and physical therapy on her hind legs since she showed me that she had no desire to leave the planet just yet. (This might be the moment that you want the back-story posted on Dec 30.)

Louise is a sheep who I have had the good fortune to know for nearly fifteen years. She had been down for nearly three weeks. One of those weeks I was away and she had not gotten up at all. What I didn’t realize is that she was often moving her legs to push herself closer to hay or maybe she did it knowing she had to. I do not know. What I do know is our friendship, our communication and our relentless spirits are enjoying this time that we share.

Over the past few days she has stood up on all fours, with help of course, and has taken a few steps. The boldest steps took her outside of her pen into the warming sun. She had to step down a bit. She did it. And all the other girls came round to check on her and to see what goodies she might have for them to eat. They had been noticing that her water is warmed, and her apples cut. They had also caught on that if they were close to her pen there was hay left for them and sometimes a piece of squash came their way. Oh, and they definitely smelled the grain. They only get a bit of grain at shearing time, so that caught their attention as well. They are an observant lot.

The camaraderie does her good. I have contemplated putting her with the others but sheep lack the niceties of proper company and would never give her time to eat. I think she knows that, too. So a bit of time together – not meal times – works out well.

Many of you ask about her and I tell her that you are thinking of her. I am cherishing this time. I am continuing to learn about indomitable spirit and the sweetness of each moment. She is strengthening me as I help her. I am still under no illusions. But like my good friend and best veterinarian on the planet, Dr. Burch said with a giggle as we acknowledged the unlikelihood of this moment, “She just isn’t ready to go yet.”

So that is your update as I go to the barn, heavily layered and knowing one thing for sure: Wear your woolies. The sheep got it going on. She is so warm in her au naturel. And today will be brilliantly sunny. That is Nature’s way of compensation for the deep cold. I erected a plastic door to let the sun shine in on her. I feel her gratitude as I learn about her needs. So very grateful to have this moment. Very Best to All.