Friday, September 30, 2011

Dams, Bio-fuel, and Murder: Progress for Whom?

"Brazil, after a long battle, approves a dam."

Not too long ago, after reading a title like that (courtesy of the NYT), I'd wonder who the fools are that would oppose a dam. Jobs, opportunity, energy, water flow. Progress. These are things that the poor villagers need, surely...

But lately I've started asking who is it who benefits from such "progress".
Opponents said they would not give up the fight against the Belo Monte dam, which they said would flood a large part of the Xingu River basin, affecting local fishing and forcing tens of thousands of indigenous people from their native lands. 
“We will not cede an inch,” said Antônia Melo, the coordinator of Xingu Vivo Para Sempre, a group based in Altamira, a city that will be partly flooded. “Our indignation and our strength to fight only increases with every mistake and every lie of this government.”
Progress is yet another code word. Another sign of Newspeak.

We are protecting you. We are giving you access to fresh and healthy water and/or food and energy as well giving you jobs and equity and teaching you lazy leechers about responsibility.

But then you start questioning whether or not they truly need what they are being sold. And certainly for such a high cost.

The price of free capitalism, I suppose?

Q'eqchi' peasants mourning the assassinations of three young activists.

On March 15, 2011, Guatemalan police, soldiers and paramilitaries began a series of violent evictions targeting Q’eqchi’ peasant communities in Panzos, Alta Verapaz. The purpose of the evictions were to stop the production of basic grains and convert the land to sugar cane and African palm for the production of biofuel. Hundreds of homes were destroyed, several people were killed in the attacks, and thousands lost their only source of food and income...

Helicopters fly overhead with armed men leaning out the door pointing guns at peasants below. Masked paramilitaries attack communities at night. Murderers remain free and community leaders are arrested on fraudulent charges. Hundreds of families have had their houses and crops burned to the ground, leaving them with hunger and a desperate struggle for survival...

The Guatemala Solidarity Project (GSP) strongly condemns continued repression against 14 q’eqchi’ communities in Panzos which were violently evicted in March by the Guatemalan government and biofuel corporations...

Thousands of q’eqchi’ peasants near Livingston, Guatemala had been anticipating February 14, 2011 as a possible day of joy and celebration. Instead it became a day of unbearable grief after the bodies of three missing leaders affiliated with Encuentro Campesino (Peasant Encounter) were found floating in a lake near Livingston, covered with bullet wounds.

Encuentro Campesino is a peasant and indigenous rights organization which political prisoner Ramiro Choc helped form. February 14 was the first day that Choc became eligible for release from prison, and the three were expected to participate in activities to pressure for his freedom.
But who cares, right? I mean, we're talking about access to bio-fuel, right? We're gonna need that sh*t soon because we're approaching peak oil, right? Ain''t it better than dirty dino-based oil? And won't the production of it (and the dam) give good jobs to the economically devastated people of Guatemala and Brazil?

These are what we tell ourselves. I know that I've been conditioned to believe such quandaries. But the truth is actually not that complicated. We need to ask other questions:

  • Why are a people who live in such a bio-rich environment considered poor?
  • Do they actually need jobs - or do they already have them? 
  • And not only jobs, but meaningful ones - ones that give them a sense of accomplishment and meaning?

Going back to Brazil:
Conservationists have become increasingly critical of Brazil’s efforts to protect the Amazon rain forest. Brazil’s deforestation numbers increased sharply over the past nine months, and the lower house of Congress last week approved a revision of the Forest Code that would open up protected areas to deforestation while granting amnesty to agribusiness developers for previous forest-clearing. The Senate has yet to vote on the measure. 
The government has an important choice — to go back to a future of wasteful publicly funded mega-projects and frontier chaos, or ahead, to the future of a sustainable and equitable green economy leader, with rule of law, good governance and a secure natural and investment environment,” said Stephan Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund. 
The $17 billion dam, which is expected to start producing electricity in 2015, would divert the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch in Pará State. Environmental groups say it will flood more than 120,000 acres of rain forest and settlements, displacing 20,000 to 40,000 people and releasing large quantities of methane. The Ibama spokeswoman put the number of displaced people at 20,000 but insisted that no indigenous people would be removed from their lands.

There is a way out, a holistic change, a solution for all of this mess. It's living local, local sustainability. The idea is tied into a phrase attributed to Gandhi, "There is enough for everyone's need. But not enough for everyone's greed."

We don't need so much energy. We don't need to starve many while several gorge ourselves on fats. We just need to live within our means and share properly.

In the meantime, please support and spread the word about the Belo Monte dam project's destruction and the Guatemala Solidarity Project, as well as the people whose lives will be affected by these traps.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Did You See That?

My fiend Robin shares some wonderful stuff on my FB wall. She really seems to understand that a few of us twenty-first century (sl)activists try to grapple with a wide variety of issues, but those issues are generally framed by a more specific issue. The framing helps to keep us anchored and connected. We can understand multitudes of issues from pinpointing how this one issue affects so many people.

For Robin, that specific issue is immigration (and homelessness, as she shared with me this morning). To that end, she has helped to launch Starving for Justice! Human Rights for Immigrants in the USA - a community of folks who gather on Facebook to fast weekly to meditate, pray, protest, and raise awareness of unjust practices and policies toward migrants in the US. Although the plight of papered and undocumented migrants (and specifically Latinos who are targeted) is a grave concern of mine, I first became alarmed by their treatment while considering racism and white priviledge in the States. That is my frame.

The following video is one that she shared with me and I thought the story therein reflects very well why a white, male, Evangelical heterosexual is CONSTANTLY blowing the horn for black, Muslims, homosexual, Mexican, working class, feminist, atheist women, men, and children. The subject of this video is a bi-racial woman who passes for white, but uses her white privilege (something she recognizes early on because she grew up in a community and in families that address racial concerns) to speak up against an obvious injustice. Because this "white" lady speaks up, other white ladies also acknowledge the injustice as well.

And that, I believe, is what it takes. A few voices to speak with - not for - the ignored and marginalized.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

These children that you spit on As they try to change their worlds...

There are always going to be conservatives - those who, by definition, believe that society is working just fine, that we should not struggle so hard for new things. New developments, they argue, may be at odds with the natural and right order of the world*, or they may be good things that will come about in their due time if we only wait for the good timing of the good people running the town.

'P1190968' photo (c) 2011, peter - license: course nothing is perfect, they reassure us. So when we replace one system, we'll just get another imperfect one to replace it and we'll have to ask, why oh why did we ever waste so much time and energy? Because, rest assured, that system will be just as bad as - if not worse than - the one that it replaced.

It is understandable that the rich and powerful beat this drum. It is their livelihood that is in danger if the world were to turn upside down and every person demanded what was theirs to have. The only reason it's unsurprising that women and minorities and working class white males add their gongs and timpanies and harps and bongos and shakers and tom-toms and djembes and horns and keys and cymbals and whistles and chimes and congas to the deafening cacophony is because history has shown this to be the case time and again. The house slave is elevated above the field slave for the master's own manipulative purposes. The white sharecroppers often side with the white shareholders, not just because of their shared skin color (which is a component), but also because they are afraid of losing what little they have, not to mention losing the remote possibility that they may one day be rewarded for playing according to the rules and see a plentiful harvest in their days.

It all reminds me of teaching in the public schools. I wasn't the best. I wasn't anywhere near what I wanted to be as a classroom manager. A few managed to do all right, though. Some of my colleagues managed to excel. But at a great price. The odds were stacked against our students and they knew it. Whereas white kids in the burbs had a pretty good idea of the options in front of them, most of our Latino and African American students did not see a correlation between what we were offering in the classroom and what few options the world offered them after they left campus - whether for the day or for good.

Largely as a result of this disconnect, I think, and as a growing disconnect between the black young male and his environment (wherein many of the older would-be role models are incarcerated) male black students almost routinely envision themselves as pro-basketball stars. Against impossible odds, this is where they hope to be. The ONLY place they can see themselves. The very system comprised of systemically isolated and ostracized individuals within larger, but forcibly broken communities - made of impoverished youth and women, imprisoned and blackballed men, and a tiny sliver of very wealthy athletes playing for even wealthier white men - this system should not be questioned because it means the end of an impossible dream.

This dream will only be realized for 1 out of every 1,000 of those who are enthralled in it. For the other 99.9%, they are simply victims in its horrible wake.

As odd as it may be for the police state apologists to recognize thus, however, they are in a similar, fantastic and fatalistic predicament.

*c.f., Slavery, Apartheid, Jim Crow, the need for universal health care

Friday, September 23, 2011

Eating Local - The Necessity

Chicken today contains 266 percent more fat than it did 40 years ago.
What’s more, today’s chicken also has 33 percent less protein, according to a study from the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at London Mejtropolitan University. The problem is modern farming practices. Cramped environments and unnatural diets produce birds that have the same weight problems as the humans who eat them

University of Washington researchers calculated the cost discrepancy between healthy food and junk foods and found that 2,000 calories of junk food rings up at a measly $3.52 a day. Yet for 2,000 calories of nutritious grub, the researchers plunked down $36. To add insult to fiscal injury, out of every dollar you spend on food, only 19 cents goes toward the stuff you eat. The other 81 percent goes toward marketing, manufacturing, and packaging. Think about that the next time your grocery bill jumps into triple-digit dollars.
Image courtesy of Earth Song

Let's face facts, we're talking a lot about food these days. Food safety. Food desserts. Natural foods. Whole foods. Organic foods. Processed, frozen and thawed, unrecognizable food. Food shortages. Food security. Food democracy.

But the corporatization of our food supply leaves us less in touch with not only what we are eating, but our role in this planet and our identities as people.

And there's no shortage of talk about this phenomenon. Which is good. We need to have this conversation because nearly every other voice surrounding us in telling us that what and how we are eating is fine and great and can't really be changed even if we desired it to be (which we would never do, we're told).

Movies like Food, Inc., King Corn, The Economics of Happiness (highly recommended for this series), Super Size Me, and books like The Carnivore's Dilemma and Fast Food Nation have caused us to begin talking about doing something different.

Because, in case you missed the intro, Chicken contains 266 percent more fat than it did 40 years ago.

That's nearly three times as fat as in the early 70's. Not because the chicken has evolved and can handle all the extra weight. In fact, if you've watched any of those movies, you know that they can't. They can't stand up or move around. Their breasts are too heavy for their own body to support. So they're immobile. Which means that they are not healthy. And they get diseases. And those diseases are treated with all sorts of vaccines which is not helping to protect us from super-bugs - and putting more poison in our and our children's bloodstream.

Add to this that the blood and waste from dying (or slaughtered) and rotting chickens, pigs, cows, etc. is going directly to our water streams and affecting the down-hill vegetation, including spinach, peanuts, soy, oats... (Do any of these food groups sound familiar? What if we add in the word "salmonella"?)

And then there's that extra crap that goes into our food when it's being processed. The flavor of our natural orange juice - the ones that come in that carton which we associate with milk and farms and innocent childhoods, for example, is completely artificial - the work of chemists. Filler is made from wood chips. Pesticides were designed from as methods of warfare. Genetic modification means that - at the least - companies are owning copyrights on shared grains.

Steroids are killing cows and causing our children to develop too fast. Carcinogens can be traced back from rain water, pesticides, genetic modifications, bleachings and other treatments, storage, shipment, transportation, manufacturing, and processing.

Add to these factors the fact that those who sow, reap, pluck, gather our foods often, ironically, go hungry themselves as they work for nearly slave wages and are themselves distanced from the very bountiful harvest their hands touch... Those who pull roots from the ground cannot keep enough potatoes on their tables.

Our disconnect from our food reaps violence. Because we've so centralized our food system, only those with money have true access to the best of foods (and water). Most of us are stuck with modified, highly processed, bleached/frozen/de-nutritioned foods. That is, if we have access at all...

What we need is regain control, to establish a food democracy.

Photo from Interesting Green
As we noted last week, we cannot afford to maintain flying apples around the world from their place of origin, to a factory to be wrapped up in prettifying plastic, to the stores where they will be consumed. We must grow our own.

We cannot afford to remain in the left-right paradigm. We cannot afford to grow and consume and exploit at the rates we are.

I propose that we begin a new way of living. Let us call it: Radical Progressive Conservativism.


The movement toward localism - in any of its forms, really - seems to me to be a long one. One that must be grassroots and organic. One that must start with a few and one that must release from the cold, iron grips of oppression over a generation or even more before being realized. Although there are signs of progress (the World Bank and IMF have been pushed out of South America and much of Asia), there are still troubling signs that the powerful elite will not go without a few bloody fights, without gasping their last.

What, in the meantime, can we do to begin to live out the existence of this free and localized manner. How do we break the bonds of slavery to the large banks - as we are being asked to do by our brothers and sisters suffering for the struggle in New York and Greece right now?

I will take your suggestions and add them to mine come Wednesday. Practical ways to begin living local even as we dream of much larger ways of restructuring society.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lynchings, Draggings, and Strange Fruit

Last night it seemed as if most of us were Troy Davis. We all asked who will break the bonds of oppression in our land - the land of the free. We all sang "Will the Circle Be Unbroken", We all listened to Billie's "Strange Fruit".

We saw in Mr. Davis a symbol and a man. An innocent black person charged and executed for the mere fact of the color of his skin. And those who had never before given much of a thought to the fairness of the criminal system began to loudly render doubts and tear off old allegiances.

Howard University students protesting

Sometimes we sat in front of the White House lawn with duct tape over our mouths and black power fists raised, symbolizing the power of a unified people that are shut up in a society that does not appreciate all its members. Sometimes we lit candles and knelt in humble petition to a greater Force of Love.

Last night, we all felt one with this man, this soul in Georgia. But how many of us cared for the soul of a white supremacist in Texas who's heart was so full of evil that he dragged a black man for miles from behind his truck until the victim, James Byrd, Jr., was virtually shredded? Shredded and bloody and bruised and left for dead, like our innocent imagination.

How many of us were Dick Gregory last night? Gregory, the famed boundaries-pushing comedian and civil rights activist attended Jasper County, where Lawrence Brewster was killed by the state of Texas last night, to commit a hunger fast over the moral crime of capital punishment.

When do the State qualify to kill somebody and the government qualify to kill somebody and it's all right? It's never all right to kill somebody intentionally. There are people who kill people. They are not the State. They are not the government. I don't pay taxes to them.

The heart of Lawrence Brewster and the heart of the men and women who convicted Troy Davis to die are not so different. They are motivated by violence and blood lust. And that is what is in much of our collective DNA in America. It is an evil that must be addressed and rooted out.

America will not be free as a society until we recognize that violence is evil in all its forms. State-sanctioned violence does not make the violence sacred. It demoralizes the state. The state that aggregates and cooperates in wars promotes and aggregates violence both abroad and at home. Citizens learn through the action, language and symbols of their state (and those that the state endorses) that when there are difficulties or differences with others, then the primary solution to the "problem" is through violence. When the Other is too difficult or asserts her power or humanity to the detriment of our profit motives and bottom lines, she is no longer a human who shares flesh and blood with us, who breathes in the same air and drinks the same water as us, but a lesser creature to be dealt with in extreme and severe brutality. Because, we assure ourselves, that is the only language such sub-humans understand: The whip; the bomb; the tank; the grenade.

This is what happens when souls and bodies are reduced to figures and numbers.

When entire people groups are labeled savage, uncivilized, barbaric, terrorist by another people group that is really no better. This is what happens when our response to being attacked is to wage war on those who attacked you, and those that live in proximity to those that attacked you. And those who look like those who attack you. And those who are not joining your efforts in attacking those who look like those who attacked you can also be expected to attack. Because, in our society, we are the true, the good, the virtuous, the right.

But are we truly?

What kind of strange fruit hangs from our trees?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Now Watch Me Resurrect These Fresh Beats

What can you say to counter this? Were DJ JC's disciples standing around in an old school way?

Took a test to become an emcee,
And Jesus Christ became amazed with me....

Monday, September 19, 2011

Occupation Is Nine-Tenths the Law

Former US president Jimmy Carter says there's no downside to recognizing Palestine's statehood.

But that's a bold-faced lie. Carter should be ashamed of himself. A. Shamed.

'Palestine demo woman 3' photo (c) 2007, sara marlowe - license: goodness' sake! What about the multimillion dollar pro-Israeli lobby? What of Caterpillar and other multi-nationals that will suffer from their loss of profits? Won't anybody listen to their cries??

Who will speak up for the poor multinational corps?? Don't they have needs as well as the Palestinians. If they prick, do the displaced not bleed? If they bulldoze, do not the occupied lose their centuries-old homes?

Woe, woe to the injustice heaped upon Caterpillar, Motorola, DefenSoft, RapiScan. In great sorrow am I for General Mills, Unilever, Bobcat Company, Volvo, Ace Hardware, Blockbuster, Siemens. Better they had not been born than to face such travesty!

Who is looking out for these companies' bottom lines? Who will protect their multi-billions? They are just trying to feed their families while Palestinians are forcibly evacuated from their lands and livelihoods. If someone suffers, isn't it only right that someone else profits from that suffering?


In other occupation news, I found one that I could ACTUALLY get behind. Who wants to fly to NYC with me and info-bomb (and sit-out) the freedom-hatin' Wall Streetians? Liberty Plaza, go!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Local Energy

I'm writing much of this content as I mass transit from the north side of Chicago to the far south side. Four days a week, I take two trains and a bus to get to work for roughly an hour and a half each way. About a third of that time is spent standing and waiting for the next bus or train, specifically if I don't leave during rush hour times. Time on the vehicles is spent standing, sitting, reading, writing, filling out (and being frustrated at) Sudoku puzzles, staring blankly off into space. Texting, calling, checking Facebook on my not-quite-smart phone. Closing my eyes and nodding off for five minute intervals.

I'm surrounded by a few hundred men and women and youth who are in similar predicaments - few traveling as far as me, but most traveling miles upon miles upon miles. And yet, outside of biking or walking, we are taking the most fuel-efficient mode to our far-flung jobs.

'Locomotives over the ash pit at the roundhouse and coaling station at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad yards, Chicago, Ill. (LOC)' photo (c) 1939, The Library of Congress - license:

Now, notice I didn't say it is an energy-efficient mode. That's because it doesn't seem to save much energy over using a fuel-efficient car* - although trains in particular use electricity, so they don't use up the oil supply.

Working so far from our homes is just not sustainable for a multitude of reasons:
  • The tremendous toll on our environment, 
  • The cost of our health as a result of environmental hazards as well as so much immobility
  • The limited supply of oil
  • The depleting nature of coal
  • The devastating usage of nuclear power
  • The evisceration of families
  • The amount of financial resources used by poor families
  • Time wastage
The connections between these (and other) factors has huge implications in terms of overall health of planet, body (sitting around for so long can do things to ya), soul, community. We are disembodied from our selves and our homes.

But even all transit is just one part of a larger, completely messed-up way of approaching life that enriches the globalization forces (multi-national corps) and depletes the rest of us.

We fly apples from South America where they're grown to Asia where they're packed in plastic and then to North America where they're consumed. We spend several hours a day standing or driving in lines, wasting time and gas, to go to those grocery stores where we buy pre-packaged, highly processed and rarely, actually fresh foods and drinks (if we can call them that) that are made using tons and tons of non-renewable energy. Our televisions and computers and other toys that we use to distract us from the mendacity and meaninglessness of our days are also produced from and by massive, massive quantities of energy. Not to mention our clothes. All of which are, of course, manufactured in different countries - sometimes piecemeal - and shipped thousands upon thousands of miles to ports which take them on freight trains and then on .

Lack of adequate weather-proofing means that we use even more power.

And then there's the razing and destroying of old property to make way for new property - both of which use (waste) tremendous energy.

And how are these things powered? Dangerous coal, nuclear power, and oil.

Need we remind anybody of the toxic danger of oil?

To live locally is to reduce the waste in air, water, land pollution that is killing our children, that is making us unhealthier as it is also damaging our food supply. Simply having better fuel economy, although it is a step in the right direction, is not nearly enough. We need to rethink how we live and the space in which we live.

Which is to say, we need to begin the process of living locally as organic grassroot communities.

Dare to dream with me. What can we become if we live and commute locally?

*Buses are only more fuel efficient than cars when the car is single-passenger. And then only by 20%.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Confessions of a Political Junkie

"I believe we need to start a grassroots solidarity movement for true revolution that builds healthy systems in opposition to the current cystem we live under. If you believe that salvation lies through one man, then I would like you to remove yourself from my friends list so I can add revolutionaries. It's as simple as that. It's a class war and there's no time to collaborate with the Robber Class and Robber Class cystems, like federal elections."

I agree with Cindy Sheehan here (taken from her Facebook page this morning). And yes, I believe that "systems" was spelled that way intentionally; though I'm not in any hurry to remove people from my life.

I've been beating this drum that politics is just a frakkin' dirty game. It's ugly and it draws out the worst in people. Case in point from last night's Tea Party debate among GOP candidates, when presented with the scenario of leaving a young man who got sick, fell into a coma and did not have insurance (though he had the option earlier) to die:

Ron Paul: That is what freedom is all about and taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to take care of everyone…

(Crowd cheers)

Moderator: But congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?

(Crowd screams YES!)
The crowd goes wild!!!!

The same type of crowd that was cheering Texas Gov Rick Perry for the death of over 200 inmate prisoners.

At this rate, I worry about the propulsion of any true democracy. Are our people mutating into the extras from "Gladiator"?

Not that our dear Republic is working so well.

In response to some controversy about the so-called Safe Communities Act (which is working out to be anti-community, anti-family, and not-very-safe), a fair representative for his people's welfare, Massachusetts State Rep Ryan Fattman argued that undocumented victims of rape should have not flaunted their illegal bodies anyway, or something to that effect:

When asked whether or not he would be concerned about an undocumented woman, beaten and raped, the rep. said that he was not worried about those implications.

“My thought is that if someone is here illegally, they should be afraid to come forward,” Mr. Fattman said. “If you do it the right way, you don’t have to be concerned about these things,” he said referring to obtaining legal immigration status.
Which isn't to say that the Republicans or conservatives (whatever that title may mean these days) are the only ones that we should worry about. Despite constant soft threats made against big business, President Obama is clearly on their side when push comes to shove (notice even the dropping of Elizabeth Warren for the delegation that she is clearly gifted for). And then there's the constant drum-beat bat bat of war. And the fact that, with the notable exception of "enhanced interrogation", there is little differentiating the way that Obama's administration and Bush's administration handle the War on Terror - aka, War Plaguing Fear (TM).

So what is the point, then? As I started writing this piece, a friend asked me if I thought one could be a conservative and a Christian. Or, to put it another way, that since I believe my Christianity has led me to be a liberal, then shouldn't it fall that all other Christians should, if they're to be truly Christian, move to the same place I'm at. A slightly edited version of my response:

Growing up, I was very conservative. I thought it was the Christian thing to do. Anti-abortion. Business and choice help poor people. Welfare, not so much (I know from my own experience and my community. Didn't have a clue how to help people get off welfare in areas that have no jobs, let alone living wage jobs). I voted for George W Bush because he told me he was a compassionate conservative. With the onset of war, and little appreciable care for the victims of Katrina, I understood that to be a lie. I got really behind Obama because he promised to be a smart diplomat who would pull out of war and not sell our bodies to the corporatocracy. Obviously, neither of those have panned out so well. Now, I'm starting to pull away from political labels together (I'm kind of writing right now about that) because I don't see them to be honest.

What does it mean to be right, or left, or moderate? Seriously, what do those titles mean? Obviously, it's not some grading scale, though we keep pretending it is. How can one person honestly say to another that he is more liberal than she is. I've been thinking we need a different model for a long time.

But I believe that overall I'm influenced by my eschatology. The idea of the coming and present Kingdom of God. This Kingdom, I am convinced, is not one of power, or manipulation, or sermons. But one of healing, inclusion, spiritual wholeness. One of feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, freeing the captives... You know the things.

The political question for Christians, I can't see it as being "Are we a part of this or are we not a part of this", because we have no choice. It's in our scripture, it's commanded of Jesus." The question, how I see it, is "How?"

I'm exploring the "how" right now through localism. Others through variations of capitalism, or democratic socialism, or through incarnational living (including the CCDA approach), or through this candidate or that candidate.

But I can't see a Christianity that doesn't ask, "How do we get involved in Christ's Kingdom on Earth now in a way that all men and women can see and glorify God through our good works? (not through trying to enforce our standards of righteousness, which the bible would call 'being busy-bodies.')" Some of what we call Right Wing Christianity (I'm thinking particularly of the Fox News crowd) impresses me that they're NOT interested in that vision. And I guess those guys frustrate me more than I should let on.

I was explaining basic politics to a family friend last night as our kids played and our Cuban dinners were getting ready. And eventually, I answered, "I'm becoming more and more frustrated by it. It's all rigged to play like a game. It's not a democracy in any true sense of the word. It a game. Just a silly game."

And yet, I am addicted to this game!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fear and Loathing on 9/11

Now, the American people have got to go about their business. We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don't conduct business, where people don't shop.
- George W Bush (October 11, 2001)

9/11. Thousands of Americans were murdered senselessly through acts of aggression.

I can't but think what might have been. If we had true visionaries, true leaders, some ten years ago. But our society is one based on greed, consumptive consumerism, and violence. And our leaders are in place to keep us on task. And so that is the route we went. We could have stood in union with the suffering around the world. We could have moved towards lasting internal and international peace. But we were told - and we bought - that shopping is brave, that retribution is psychologically healing, that violence is strength.

We reacted through war and buying until we killed nearly a million people and destroyed many other lives through our economic policies.

from Dr. K Trotter blog
As I ponder and think back through my own natural jingoistic reactions, (how upset I was when I saw fewer flags on one block than on another. How I laughed at jokes at local Muslims' expense. How I wanted to get them sumsobiches) I wonder that 9/11 should have been a time for somber solidarity - for recognizing that even America is fragile. That we are connected to the thousands upon thousands who die daily in countries ravaged by starvation, AIDS, malaria, genocide, widespread poverty, oppressive regimes, and (largely connecting all these dots) globalization.

Globalization, by the way, was one of the primary rallying points for the Al Queada terrorists. When we deploy American imperialistic forts throughout sacred shrines, we are dismissing people groups and what is most important to them. How do we rationalize that our felt needs are more important than theirs?

9/11/01 should have been a moment of recognizing our shared humanity, the fact that we are all precious, that we all bleed, that we can live in moments of fear. But it became a time for more hubris. Instead of asking, "Why does violence happen to any of us?" we asked, "Why should violence happen to US?"

Now is the time to reflect. Now is the time to empathize and hear the suffering of not only our next door neighbors, but of our neighbors in Cambodia, in Nigeria, in Laos, in Ukraine, in Mexico, in the Phillipines, Puerto Rico, in North and South Korea, in Vietnam, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now is the time for healing and strength that can only be found by banding together.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lazy Sunday Readings: Follow Me to Freedom, by Shane Claiborne and John M Perkins

I am currently enjoying reading several books at once (as per usual). A book that I've re-picked up (stole) from my wife. The two authors shared a few conversations and the book, Follow Me to Freedom: Leading and Following As an Ordinary Radical, is probably one of the more important books on leadership that a Christian should read. John M Perkins is one of the very few (sadly) civil rights figures in contemporary Evangelicalism, he is also a visionary who helped to set the stage for the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) one of the leading bright spots unifying Evangelicals to strive for justice. Claiborne, a bit of a self-styled red-neck hippy Christian is also a bright spot in Evangelicalism.

Well, I should say they're bright spots for me. Perkins and Claiborne are also provocateurs. Claiborne was banned from speaking at my brother's alma mater - a conservative Christian college - by some concerned pencil pusher or another because of his outspokenness. One time I saw Perkins was the only time I went to Cornerstone Festival (a great music/arts/film/sessions week-long festival put out by Chicago's own Jesus-hippy commune, Jesus People USA, that is, well, like much of Evangelicalism, predominately White [I mean the fest, not necessarily the commune]). He was preaching about the need for racial reconciliation between music shows (maybe before The Choir?) and some of my friends were mocking the old man, and how he was always going about that business. The other time I saw him, he was speaking at a fundraiser gala for my brother's npo (which is decidedly focused on growing Christian leaders and disciples from within overlooked areas of Chicago) and spoke to the audience - much of whom are decidedly conservative - about the need to love our neighbors through voting for politicians that do not harm them. That helped to solidify my appreciation for him and my appreciation of being a leftist politics.

Some take-aways from early on in the book:

On the "Theology of Enough":

Shane: There are enough resources. God did not create an economy of scarcity. God did not make too many people or not enough stuff. Gandhi once said, "There is enough for everyone's need but not enough for everyone's greed." So why do a few have more than others, and so many feel that they do not have enough?... We have not trusted in "this day our daily bread." Instead, we stockpile our money in banks, like the guy Christ spoke about who stores all his stuff in barns, when God is leading us to give it away. Stashing away our resources is not how we are supposed to live.

On Leading Through Shared Pain:

John: The leader who can tap into our pain part right and walk through it with us - bearing our burdens like Jesus bears them - is going to be a real leader.

Shane: Too often, well-intentioned leaders are quick to stand up to be a voice for the voiceless rather than being a voice with the voiceless. We assume that because people's voices are not being heard, they're not speaking. And the truth often is that people on the margins are weeping, wailing, and crying out from the depths of their souls, but the rest of the world has hands over their ears. Leaders are folks who can remove the earplugs and the blinders so that we all can hear and see and feel the pain of others; so that the ache touches us and we cannot help but begin to carry the burdens and wipe the tears away... People most affected by the pain and closest to the injustices make the best leaders... Every leader who is not indigenous to struggle needs to take that pilgrimage into pain.

John: Today, Christians tend to put leaders on a pedestal. We have megachurch pastors, televangelists and Christian celebrities. It is hard for the leader to enter into the pain of the people when he only sees it from the other side of the camera or sitting at the boardroom table. We do leaders a disservice sometimes. We think we are protecting them, prioritizing their time and doing wonderful things for them, when in actuality, by shielding them or filtering what information they get, we distance them from real people and real needs. By always having a catchy slogan, a positive spin, a trendy campaign or a big reward, we end up not dealing with real issues or the heart of the matter. I am not saying we cannot have slogans, campaigns, or rewards. And I am not saying that megachurch pastors cannot be justice leaders. But some leaders are talking out of that place of pain and others are just talking.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Fire Them!

So, the president of the United States has been blocked from doing any major job creation through the use of the federal government - even for much-needed infrastructure projects. The reason, we are told, is because this is not the obligation of the federal government, of the president or government.

It is the job of the Job Creators (T) to create jobs. Job Creators is the proper title for what progressives have class-warfaringly been calling the Uber-Wealthy, the richest 1% of Americans who only control a mere 42% of the nation's wealth.

But since our unemployment levels are consistently steady at over 9% (and twice as high for the Black population) since they've assumed sole responsibility well over a year ago, and since they have yet to report their plans to the un- and under-employed, nor have they set up an accountability system with those of us who create their wealth for them, it seems obvious to me that the Job Creators are not up to the task.

My fellow Americans, I propose that we fire them.

That's right. Call up security. Call 'em to the office, give them their pink slips and recover our property.

Let's start with John Fleming, the poor multimillionaire who only has $400,000 left every year after he's done paying his bills, feeding his family, paying taxes, business expenses, and all that big mean stuff that the rest of us poor people don't have to deal with. $400,000 that he is using for ...what??

That is all...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

More about Christendom

Post-Note at bottom

Last week, our friend Kurt Willems blasted our post "Christendom Against the Kingdom of God" on his popular Pangea blog. The post has to do with the bass-ackwards approach to politics that much of Christianity has done for the last 1700 years or so. Certainly with the empire-ness aspects of the Catholic Church, the racist Inquisitions, how missionaries were used to conquest and dominate culturally and socially, the Holy and Bloody Wars between the Catholic and Protestant churches and between different factions of Protestants, the Crusades, Calvin's Geneva, etc, we can see how Christendom - the idea of an earthly kingdom ordered by what leaders imposed was "God's will."

One of the primary benefits of the US, however, is the intentional separation of church and state. The nation was largely founded by religious refugees. Many had forgotten the roots of their exodus from Europe and hounded those of other faiths or even doctrines within the larger faith framework, but the Constitution itself guarantees a good amount of religious freedom. Including the freedom to keep the church undefiled by the state and the state undefiled by the church. Which makes it all the sadder that this is happening here, now. What the Dominionists and others like them want to do is to kick that provision to the side in order to create an insane theocracy.

This isn't a new fad. And though it may be from the fringes, it seems to be moving more to the center. I see Rick Perry's Prayer Convocation as evidence that more and more of the mainstream of Evangelicalism is accepting of this theocratic language and signage. Certain elements of Evangelicalism (by which I mean, largely white, largely apocalyptic in its tenor and preoccupation) have always, of course, leaned toward the conservative side. But either that was very loose and not organized (such as the resistance to the Civil Rights movement by both Southern and Northern churches) or organized from the top-down (by Falwell, Dobson, Schlafflys, etc).

This Dominionist/Hierarchist movement isn't spread by the old medias of idiot boxes and radio. Preachers and famous "child psychologists" - though they may lead credence to the events - are not the primary forces behind this. And though Evangelicals are being possessed to lead the way here, it seems more like a slow movement that has now caught stage and is using momentum from other anti-government (and often, anti-minority or anti-poor not to mention anti-feminist) movements. Whereas the Moral Majority took a nose-dive from publicity in recent years, the Dominionists and Reconstructionists (a subset of Dominionism) seem to have been waiting in the wings and growing in power for decades. And they're not idle. If/when they lose this election, I have a feeling that they'll just feel MORE empowered.
Post Note:
Seems that Slacktivist has also been thinking of the Dominionists and Reconstructionists recently. He quotes an excerpt from a book by a disciple of the godfather of Christian Reconstructionism, Rushdoony, that states:
So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God. Murder, abortion, and pornography will be illegal. God’s law will be enforced. It will take time. A minority religion cannot do this. Theocracy must flow from the hearts of a majority of citizens …

Yeah, so that's some scary...

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Local Mechanisms

I've begun to spell out some of the reasons we need to begin to localize - energy and raw material usage, education, access to healthy food for all, medical and health purposes, environmental, refuse, etc, etc. These are all vastly important and cannot be misunderestimated (did I just pull a George W?).

However, on the flip side, we must be careful to not continue in the ways in which a few people have benefited over the vast majority - or that the vast majority have benefited over the few - that have been practiced and practiced since before Hamurabbi's Code was set to stone. Basically, they're ones of tribalism.

The questions that need to be wrestled with going forward are not so much, "Do we need anti-racist, feminist, anti-tribalist, peace-making, components?" Rather, the question is, "How do we implement these components so that we are not constantly at war with other countries for cheap labor, so that we do not kill others for resources - let alone possessions and property? How do we whole-heartedly involve the entire community into inclusiveness so that everyone's voice and spirit is equally valid, but in such a way where we do not ward off strangers? How do we build on communication and trust internally as well as inter-communally?"

These would be the questions I'd like stabbed (is this also an unfortunate word choice?) as we go along here.