Sunday, August 31, 2008

I didn't know nothin'

Before I first arrived at the Border to start my retirement/volunteer life in 2006, I imagined I'd be moving into a land contentiously united against immigrants. Wow, was I wrong. I didn't know nothin'.
The folks who organized March of Peace and Unity against the border wall explain the how people at the Border think:

The people of the border share and are united by a history, a language, a culture. While this land may be separated by an international boundary, the people cannot be divided. As construction begins on the proposed border wall, it stands to not only further divide the land but to divide the people.

We of the border are one community. We are all affected when our neighbors are displaced from their homes, are all affected by waves of violence, by unemployment and anti-immigrant measures. As the borderlands experience a difficult time, we cannot be passive and simply hope for change. We cannot allow our community to be parted and so it is for ourselves and our future that we must stand together in an act of solidarity.

As the border wall cuts the land, it cuts the communities of the border and tries to create differences among them. This wall, imposed upon us by those who do not live here, is said to be a form of “security” but there can be no security when division and hate are created.

It’s time that we mobilize to stop the building of the wall.
The wall will disrupt the life of Native American communities, such as the Tohono O’Odham people located west of El Paso. They were there first, but now their homelands lie on both sides of where we whiteys put the international border. The Rio Grande, which provides water in the harsh, dry environment, was also integral to their religious practices. As the Rio Grande is walled off, the Tiguas will be cut off from graves and sacred sites.

The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (and other laws) should prevent this assault on their religion and culture. But the Real ID Act allowed Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff to brush aside any law that might slow construction of the border wall. On April 1, 2008 he waived 36 federal laws. April Fools, Everyone!

The Tiguas are challenging the constitutionality of the Real ID Act’s waiver provision, alleging that giving an unelected administration appointee the power to waive laws passed by Congress and signed by the President (for the express purpose of subverting the judiciary) is a violation of the separation of powers enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. (They are joined in this by El Paso County, the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1, the Hudspeth County Conservation and Reclamation District No. 1, Galeria 409, The Frontera Audubon Society, the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, and the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge!!!!)

The wide spectrum of plaintiffs just cited points to the broad range of negative impacts the wall will have. The Rio Grande is important for the survival of plant, animal, and human communities. The Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, for instance, protests that, “A fence would limit the ability of native terrestrial species to move...It would limit genetic exchange and would fragment populations that are currently connected.” As habitat is fragmented and access to the river is denied, animals, particularly those that are listed as federally threatened or endangered, may not survive.
(Info on Tohono O'Odham thanks to No Border Wall blog)

August 31: Day 5 of the March for Peace and Unity against the Border Wall
I guess that's enough reasons for now. NO BORDER WALL! Here's what's happening in El Paso. Today is the grand finale:
Depart @ 8am from Socorro to Ysleta del Sur Pueblo arriving at 9-930am. Community event from 930-11am.

From Ysleta, there will be a caravan on the border highway that heads to Anapra/Sunland Park area where the border mass has been held in the past. Close to Ardovinos Desert Crossing restaurant. Caravan expected to arrive @1pm.

Closing event will take place there w/ people from Mexico joining for a Bi-National act of protest.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

You may be a liberal or an intellectual if...

...the fact that we can't build a border wall without employing undocumented workers to build it strikes you as ironic.

Well, at least, that's what one anonymous internet poster says. He/she is quoted in the Austin Statesman article which asks the question:

Is it possible to build a border wall without the help of the very people it is intended to keep out?

Truth be told: much of the dirty, hot, uncomfortable, difficult, labor-intensive work done in this nation is done by workers from other countries. Since there's no avenue for them to be here legally, they are labeled "illegal aliens" by their detractors.

Apparently, building a wall to keep them out can hardly be done without them.

Muchas gracias to Maria/Maria for originally posting on this. She is a wonderful blogging friend and a great poster on border issues. She also posted this week on the way border walls play right into the hands of human traffickers, empowering their evil work. Check her out!

I'm reposting the 2008 Folk Alliance 'Song of the Year' from El Paso native Tom Russell: Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?, illustrated with the photography of David Burckhalter. It is just ever so appropriate today.

Click this to enlarge and read it...get the El Paso, TX flavor of the border:
Today is August 30, Day 4 of the Peace and Unity March against the border wall. The march schedule today is:
8 am Fabens: Leave to Socorro (take Socorro Road )
1 pm San Elizario: Arrive in San Elizario for a midday event (from 1-3 pm)

6 pm Socorro: evening community event (rest)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Seeking an American dream of a better life [updated with petition link]

The border wall forces potential crossers away from safer urban areas to cross deeper into the desert and in remote, dangerous places. This spring a friend's friend, who volunteers for a humanitarian organization in Arizona assisting immigrants, sent this message. Dan is doing front line work, as you'll soon learn, and he gave blanket permission to reprint this:

Border Eclipse by Dan Mills
Right now I am trying to decide if I want to write this. I think I do, because you need to know. And you need to do something. We all do.

Yesterday afternoon three young volunteers and I were on a No More Deaths patrol in a remote desert canyon. We were dropping off water, food, blankets, shoes and socks along some remote migrant trails. Walking up the canyon, I saw some green shoes, and, thinking they looked pretty new, began to yell, as we always do, "Hola, hola! Tenemos agua, comida, somos de la iglesia, blah blah..." [B.E.'s note: "Hello, hello! We have water, food, we're from the church, blah blah..."] I only got to the second "hola" before I saw her teeth, and spun around, and told my friends: "Stop."

I had never found someone dead in the desert before. The feeling is horrendous. So ugly, frustrating, tragic. I just looked at my feet and said "Goddammit." I'm still mad. Joseline was only fourteen years old. She was from El Salvador, heading to the West Coast to reunite with family members there. I can't stop thinking of all the freshmen I taught at VVS - she could have been one of them.

Because obtaining a visa through official means is next to impossible, she, and thousands like her, can't cross the border at a port of entry. Instead, our spineless government builds walls to force them into the furthest, most inhospitable stretches of desert. As crossing without documents becomes more difficult, the price of the journey rises. Now smuggling people is as profitable as smuggling drugs, so cartels are more involved and violence is increasing. "Securing the border" is a stupid term that just means speeding up this vicious cycle. Each year, hundreds of people die trying to cross the southern borderlands, walking north for a better life. Still, it is very rare for humanitarian aid organizations like No More Deaths to find a deceased migrant in the desert. It only happens about once a year. I guess this year my friends and I are the unlucky ones.

I'm not writing this message asking for sympathy. I'm asking for action. Though the many calls and kind words I've already received are appreciated, I don't feel comforted. How can I take solace when what we ran across yesterday is a regular occurrence here in the U.S?

...How can we feel secure when our neighbors are being rounded up and scapegoated in our own communities, far from the border? How can anyone feel comforted when a kangaroo court called "Operation Streamline" is forcing poor and hungry people to beg a judge for forgiveness for their "crime" of trying to feed their families? or face jail time and criminal records?

U.S. border policy is designed to neglect, berate, scapegoat, humiliate, torture, and kill innocent people. Let's change it. Now, goddammit!
Your friend Dan

August 29: Day 3 of March for Peace and Unity against the Border Wall Many are marching and demonstrating against the Border Wall in the El Paso, TX area. What can I do today?
Today's Action Suggestion:
Sign the petition against the border wall found at the No Texas Border Wall website.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Border Fence Folly--with an update!!!


Don't miss the post at "The Mex Files" today on the environmental impact of the border wall!!! A picture is worth six of my blog posts!!! I'm serious!!!

Even conservative The New Republic published not one, not two, but six reasons the border fence is bad policy in "The Border Fence Folly." [Hat tip to Project Steev for this info. ] The Six (6) Reasons (you don't even have to follow the link to find out!) are:

#1. It doesn't work.
That's because 1) a majority of undocumented immigrants arrived here legally anyway. They overstayed their legal visas. AND 2) People who are considering an illegal crossing know it's dangerous but are going to do it anyway (at at least that's what 90% of them say).

#2. It exacerbates the problem.
The people who used to return to Latin America for part of the year annually now have to stay put once they get into the U.S. Our unauthorized immigrant population is getting larger and more permanent because it is harder to cross.

#3. It's inhumane.
The wall pushes would-be crossers into more harsh and dangerous places. Deaths on the border have increased sharply, particularly for women and children.

#4. It's enormously costly.
They estimate $49 Billion for a partial wall. My blogger friend eProf's wife quipped, "Is is made out of gold?" Another, Ruth Hull Chatlien remarked here yesterday: "That money could do so much good put to other purposes."

#5. It's environmentally damaging.
The wall crosses numerous areas of federally protected lands, but Chertoff has gotten the thing fast-tracked, so no environmental (or any other kind of law) applies! No studies will investigate possible environmental problems. This homemade YouTube video takes a look at the problems: Border Wall=Environmental Disaster.

#6. It's legally dubious.
A 2005 law allowed the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive "all legal requirements" in order to speed up the construction to the fence. The bill sharply limits judicial review to a single District judge; any appeal from that ruling can only go to the Supreme Court at the Court's discretion. The Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, along with New York Times columnist Adam Liptak, argue that Congress's voluntary delegation of powers to the executive branch threatens the basic Constitutional principle of separation of powers.

Cecilia Muñoz, of the Hispanic advocacy group National Council of La Raza calls the fence "a monument to Congress's efforts to look like they're doing something."
---my sentiments exactly!

[August 28: Day 2 of March for Peace and Unity against the Border Wall. This is why they are marching!]

--cross-posted at Uncommon Sense, a new site devoted to defending the U.S. Constitution.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

World Premiere of My Very First Music Video!!

August 27: Day 1 of Peace and Unity March against the Border Wall

I can't walk in the protest march of the border wall today, because I'm in Iowa and the march is in Texas. So, in honor of the event, I've produced my very first music video, "They're Building a Wall" by David Rovics. David's song is about the Israeli/Palestinian wall, but I apply it to the U.S. Mexico Border Wall. The video lasts less than 3 1/2 minutes.

I hope you like it. If you do like it, pass it on. The border wall has got to go.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cheer 'Em On: Marching for Unity against the Border Wall

The Peace and Unity March in opposition to the US-Mexico "border wall of apartheid" begins tomorrow. This 56 mile walk stretches from McNary to El Paso, TX for five days, August 27-31.

Texas has 1250 miles of border with Mexico, about 65% of the entire US-Mexico border. That means at least 65% of border residents are opposed to the border wall because, representing their border citizens and communities, the Texas Mayors all along the Texas-Mexico border have stood up against this border wall, even entering into a lawsuit against the federal government to stop the construction.

Now it's time to convince Congress that America cannot be the world leader of "liberty and justice for all" while walling itself off as country...and becoming an international gated community.

El Paso is the Far West Texas anchor city of the Texas-Mexico border. The El Paso section of the border wall--56 straight miles, will cut through heritage and culture, through lives, through beautiful crop lands. The wall will harm everything that the border community reveres. A coalition of local, state, national as well as border organizations--including groups Mr. BE & I work with when we're in El Paso--are galvanizing, organizing, sponsoring and endorsing the walk.

Express opposition to the "iron curtain" at the southern border of our country. Texas is standing up to the imposition of this demented scheme. I hope you'll support them.

In honor of the the Peace & Unity March, my posts here will consider the Border Wall during the coming five days of the walk. Tune in tomorrow for My Very First Music Video--the world premiere here. You're invited to the red carpet. Formal dress optional.

photo caption: Mr. & Ms. B.E. walk parallel in different countries--separated by a border fence which has since been replaced with a wall.

Monday, August 25, 2008

JFK--Martyr for Peace, Killed by the State

"We are all jurors in an ongoing trial to find the truth of John Kennedy's murder. Most of us have fallen asleep; some left the chamber, and others don't even care anymore. But a few, a very small few, have been paying attention for the last 45 years as arguments for the prosecution of Lee Harvey Oswald, headed up by government lawyers and their lackeys have been constantly countered by a volunteer and unpaid defense team for the truth..." so begins David Neil's review on Amazon's website of James Douglass's thoroughly researched tome, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters..

At a book reading/signing event this weekend, Douglass himself summed up his 500 pages in a few sentences:.

On our behalf, at the height of the Cold War, John F. Kennedy risked committing the greatest crime in history, starting a nuclear war..
Before we knew it, he turned toward peace with the enemy who almost com
mitted that crime with him. .
For turning to peace with his enemy (and ours), Kennedy was murdered by a power we cannot easily describe. Its unspeakable reality can be traced, suggested, recognized, and pondered. That is the one purpose of this book. The other is to describe Kennedy's turning. .

For an hour, Douglass told the story, now traceable thanks to the JFK Records Act, of how our government--the national security state--conspired to assassinate Kennedy, who became a martyr for peace. The depth and deceit of this evil, which words cannot describe, can only be called "The Unspeakable," a term coined by Thomas Merton. .

For an hour, Douglass led me from denial to a new level of awareness of the total failure of the Constitution in the Kennedy assassination, a failure from which the nation has never subsequently recovered. The event, in effect, was a coup--orchestrated and overseen from the highest levels of government. That historical moment was a defining one for my Baby Boomer generation. At the time the succession of presidential leadership was touted as an example of the ongoing effectiveness of the Constitution, a peaceful and effective passing of the chief executive office at a critical and chaotic time. The truth was exactly the opposite; the cover-up completed the deal. .


Douglass cites Kennedy's speech at The American University as pivotal in expressing a vision of world peace, turning him into a "marked man" on the hit list of the forces of the state security team. Kennedy's vision: .

What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children, not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. .

It was, Douglass asserted, no coincidence that Edward and Caroline Kennedy selected American University as the location from which they proffered their endorsement of Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate for president. Rather, in so doing, they suggested that in Obama they saw a man who, like JFK, could once again take up and promote a true vision of peace. .

While 75% of Americans believe that there was a conspiracy responsible for JFK's assassination, it is hard to imagine just how many will believe it was a conspiracy of this magnitude. I'm sure Douglass's skeptical critics won't let 100 pages of end notes prevent them from nay saying his thesis. Read the book and decide for yourself how credible the account. We can not allow entrance to the Unspeakable again. .

Photo caption: Mr. B. E. and I visited briefly with Jim Douglass prior to the event at Border's. Mr. B.E. participated in the White Train action that Douglass organized in the 1980's to document the passage of nuclear materials as they were transported throughout the United States. .

Cross-posted on Uncommon Sense, a new site focused on defense of the United States Constitution.

Friday, August 22, 2008

3 Cheers for Church LEADERship:

Rhode Island Roman Catholic bishop Thomas Tobin stood up to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a formal letter this week calling on them to halt mass immigration raids until the nation adopts comprehensive immigration reform. In an AP news story he says agents who refuse to participate in such raids on moral grounds deserve to be treated as conscientious objectors! Yes, he calls on the feds "to fully respect the well-founded principles of conscientious objection" in such cases.
Hooray! A leader with some leadership. (It's getting to be a rare commodity.)

Tobin puts the Christian spin on this:
"We often ask, 'What would Jesus do?' I know for sure what Jesus would not do, would be to sweep into a community, gather up large numbers of people, separate them from one another and deport them to another country. In my own mind, in my own conscience, that's crystal clear: Jesus would not do that."

ICE was not pleased. Spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said the agency respects Tobin but believes his diocese "would be better served by helping individuals to comply with the law or working to change those laws rather than asking law enforcement agents not to enforce it."

If ICE agents are also former viewers of the television series "Hogan's Heroes" perhaps Ms. Nantel would cite Sargent Schultz of said program as an ICE authority on enforcement:
"I know nothing! I see nothing!"

Anyway, hooray for a U.S. Roman Catholic bishop actually taking a controversial stand. It's been a long time since I've noticed that kind of action. The Diocese of Providence website has more info.
Also, I've discovered: Letters and Papers from Postville, a blog for all who have concerns about the unfolding tragedy in Postville, Iowa, where a raid in May at Agriprocessors resulted in the arrests of over 380 people on immigration related-charges. It's on my Google Reader now.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mexican Crime Wave (or maybe Crime Tsunami?)

A recent kidnapping and murder of the 14 year old son of a Mexican industrialist threw Mexico’s crime problems into a national spotlight. President Calderon hopped on the bandwagon calling for tougher penalties for criminals and helping organize an August 30 march against crime in Mexico City. But, the Mexico Solidarity Network (MSN) wonders, just exactly who is this march against? In the wake of the massacre at a church service in Juarez this month, the MSN analysis helps me grapple with the question “Why?”

Kidnapping’s on the rise, they say. Calderon’s war on drugs forces organized crime into new ventures. And the economy is tanking, so more Mexicans turn to crime. Corrupt police get their slice, so victims have to cough up the ransom. Kidnappings aren't the worst problem Mexico has, but since the victims are rich and well connected politically, it gets the attention.

Much more widespread are common crimes and pervasive government corruption. This starts at the top: officials turn a blind eye...and then “anything goes.” Organized crime rules much of the country and controls important politicians. Drug sales hauled in at least $22 billion from the U.S. since ’03. Many politicians get their cut of this cash, depositing that income in banks (obviously), not stashing it in shoeboxes.

Calderon’s failing drug war has focused almost exclusively on interrupting transport routes and production facilities--and NOT the money laundering. That’s why we have not only the massacre in the church, but also murder and mayhem in the newspapers every day. Monday August 11 was in many ways a typical day, with 17 executions reported in the state of Chihuahua [the state directly south of El Paso, TX], including the second most important official in the office of the state Attorney General. Other states of Mexico reported 13 additional victims that day!

Several thousand troops deployed to Chihuahua this April and initially delighted beleaguered civilians. But the honeymoon was short. The army conducted hundreds of unwarranted home searches, beat homeowners and pedestrians at will, and killed innocent citizens. In Chihuahua, the army got caught up in a war. Most of the local police are aligned with the Juarez cartel. The Juarez and Gulf cartels are involved in open warfare over lucrative territories. The army may be hoping simply to return to the earlier status quo: murders in isolated rural areas rather than during highly public gun battles in city centers.

This would help account for the government's lack of action on money laundering, which is the heart of drug trafficking and should be its most vulnerable point. But politicians don’t want to interrupt the flow of illegal money. That money greases the political system and provides one of the most important sources of foreign exchange in this country on the verge of an economic crisis. With the Mexican economy suffering its worst performance in the second trimester of this year since the depression of 2003, politicians don’t particularly want to stop the money flow. With a GNP that declined 1.7% during the second trimester, about the only growth industry is illegal drugs and kidnappings.

So if you're on top in Mexico, you really don't care about some poor recovering addicts getting creamed in a church in Juarez. You're watching your own back...and pocketbook.

And if you're in the United States, sitting on top of the world's economic pyramid? Well, I wonder, just how do we feel about all this?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Bloodbath Next Door

Few Iowans I speak to know that there's a bloodbath right next door to the U.S. Nearly 150 Juarez murders so far in August brings the 2008 total to nearly 850 (compared to 12 murders in sister city El Paso, TX). The stats are incomprehensible.

No one in Iowa I've spoken to yet knows there's a U.S. advisory against travel in Mexico. Perhaps that's NAFTA posturing--

U.S.: "Shape up, Mexico."
MX: "Yeah, we've got it under control. We've sent federal troops to the border cities."

Nevertheless, the "single most deadly violent incident in Juárez in recent times" occurred Aug. 13 when masked and hooded gunmen let loose with 15 solid minutes of high calibre gunfire to mow down a worship service for recovering addicts at the CIAD drug rehab center. Whether you're a church-goer or not, if you're a human being you'll want to know this story : 15 Minutes of Hell in a Juarez Prayer Assembly.

We're all busy and don't have time to follow all these links, so here's one detail:

When the shooting stopped, bodies lay all over the room. The director of the center ... lay with his body over another pastor’s wife. She and her unborn child survived. The man died. Joel Valles, 47, a deacon of the church, was also killed in the attack. Other witnesses reported that before commencing to shoot everyone in the room, the assassins dragged several people out to the patio, threw them face down and shot them at point blank range.

So the next question is: Why? What does the reporter say about that?
No one knows why the centers were targeted. “All we do is detox, counseling, we try to get people jobs.” Again, I quote the article by reporter Molly Molloy:

What is going on in Juárez? “Something evil. Something very very evil.”

And I go away thinking of recent mass murders in my country and of all the cop and crime scene shows so popular on TV. And I realize that less than 48 hours after this horrific crime, no evidence remains at all. No investigation will ever take place. Not one shred of crime scene tape can be seen. The blood is mostly washed away. The bodies are buried. The family next door saw the killers drive away up the street toward the main avenue that leads to the cement plant. The soldiers sped away to their barracks about a mile to the south.

[B.E. interrupts story: Note the role of the soldiers (we read about them above) sent by the feds to save the day! An eyewitness states: "We are sure that the soldiers were guarding the killers or maybe they came with them so that the police would not be able to intervene. They had to have known what was going on because they passed right in front of the center.” The witness, quoted in the newspaper, asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.] Now back to M.Molloy:

The newspapers print verbatim the communiqués from the state investigators: 61 ballistic elements of various calibers secured at the scene, 9 mm, 7.62 x 39, .223 and 40 mm. The names of the dead and injured appear in neat lists. The numbers never quite match up. And there will be no arrests.

When I tell this story to friends, they ask why? Some say it is like El Salvador in the 1980s, except that there is no Cold War, no ideology that can explain it. U.S. press accounts say it is a drug cartel war, but nothing about the sad faces of the CIAD workers or the defeated families of the dead in this poor barrio can be connected to these cartels generating billions with their commerce. The newspapers, the politicians, the academics never say what the victims know: something evil, something very very evil...

And in Colonia First of September in Juárez, families hold funerals for the drug addicts, workers and church people killed at CIAD #8. The rehab workers head back to their headquarters in Sonora where they hope they will be safe. Blankets [which covered the dead] are dumped, perhaps to be burned but more likely to be reclaimed, washed and used again.

upper photo caption: Conference room, CIAD #8, four or five people were shot to death in this corner when killers burst into a prayer meeting on the evening of Aug. 13.

lower photo caption: The CIAD secretary fled down this passage during the shooting on Aug. 13; AK-47 bullet holes through window frame. He made it up the ladder to the roof but was shot in the back. He survives in critical condition.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Were you stimulated?

The tax stimulus checks are distributed. Do we notice a difference? Has there been a positive impact on your life? On our economy?

I signed our check over to my husband. I live on his retirement pension, so as a "kept woman" I thought it was the least I could do.

How in the hell can the government hand out free money when China more-or-less owns us and our national debt is in the trillions?
What did you do with your stimulus check?

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Border Explorer Sports Report

photo caption: Cuba's Yuliesky Gurriel, left, joins the celebration as pinch runners Hector Olivera, centre, and Eriel Sanchez scored go ahead runs against the U.S. baseball team Friday. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

The Cuban Olympic baseball team, fresh off a thrilling win over Canada, returned to the diamond Friday to edge its arch-rival Americans 5-4 in 11 innings, according to the CBC.

This didn't get a lot of news coverage in the United States, so I thought I'd give them a shout out here: Hasta la victoria siempre, muchachos!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Holding on to a Hero

photo caption: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, newly ordained Roman Catholic priest, appears second from the left. Church authorities regard such ordinations as valid but not licit.
Photo Caption: myself, Fr. Roy and Anne Herman (former Prisoner of Conscience for action against the School of the Americas) taken April 2007 in Las Cruces, NM

On Saturday August 9, 2008 Janice Sevre-Duszynska was ordained a Catholic priest in Lexington KY. Those present called it an inspiring concelebrated ceremony with many women priests joined by Maryknoll priest Fr. Roy Bourgeois, who preached an inspired homily at the service.

Roy Bourgeois, a priest for 36 years, was the very first male Catholic priest in good standing to openly participate in the ordination of women as Catholic priests. Janice Sevre-Duszynska has been a long-time peace activist and active in the School of Americas Watch movement. She spent several months in federal prison for crossing onto Ft. Benning to protest the training of human rights violators by our government.

Now Roy is summoned to an August 18 meeting with his superiors in the Maryknoll community at their home office in NY – apparently at the request of Cardinal Egan of New York. Roy faces suspension from the priesthood, dismissal from the Maryknoll community, and even excommunication from the Roman Catholic church.

In the realm of church politics, his was a symbolic act of non-violent self-immolation. Roy--who I understand is battling cancer--has spent his entire adult life as a voice for the vulnerable of Central America railing against the U.S. School of the Americas. This clip from his homily proclamation is revealing:

Conscience is something very sacred. It gives us a sense of right and wrong and urges us to do the right thing. Conscience is what compelled Franz Jagerstatter to refuse to enlist in Hitler’s army. On this day, August 9, 1943, this humble farmer was executed for following his conscience. Conscience is what compelled Rosa Parks to say, “No, I cannot sit in the back of the bus anymore.” Conscience is what compels Janice Sevre-Duszynska and the other women to say, “No, we cannot deny our call from God to the priesthood.” And it is our conscience that compels us to be here today. How can we speak out against the injustice of our country’s foreign policy in Latin America and Iraq if we are silent about the injustice of our church here at home?

If you'd like to support Fr. Roy Bourgeois and womenpriests, send emails to his Superior General, John Sivalon at and to the three-member Maryknoll Council at mklcouncil@ and/or fax to 914-944-3600.
Write to: Maryknoll Council, P.O. Box 303 Maryknoll, NY 10545

Friday, August 15, 2008

Kickin'? You know it.

This week for me was Christmas and my birthday combined. Diane of Faith in Community and Randal Graves of L'ennui-Melodieux each bequeathed me the Kick Ass Blogger award. My "wowie factor" scale reads "10."

Both of these established bloggers are new friends of mine. Their generosity and kindness are apparent in their encouraging my newbie Blogger efforts with this recognition. I'm thrilled when someone reads and comments. If I get blog rolled, I squeal. This award puts me over the top, especially coming from these two. Diane integrates her spirituality into her life and blogging. I leave a better person whenever I visit her. Randal's amazing talent defies description (or at least my ability to describe.) Intelligent, succinct, witty, hilarious, creative...heck, just go see for yourself.
Sincere thanks, Diane and Randal Graves. I respect you both so much.
Readers, what are you doing here? You could be reading them!

Now I've got a job to do. Here's the fine print on the Kick Ass Blogger award:
1) Choose five other bloggers that you feel are “Kick Ass Bloggers”
2) Let them know that they have received an award.
3) Link back to both the person who awarded you and also to
4) Visit the Kick Ass Blogger Club HQ to sign Mr. Linky and leave a comment.

How to choose?? Teh internets are so filled with kick ass bloggers, it's overwhelming. No, it's wonderful. In looking for bloggers who don't already have this award, who kick ass in some ass-pect, I announce without further ado that my five winners are:

1) MariaMariaCuchita: literally a woman of the border, liberal, smart, savvy, and kind. Not repetitive, pulls no punches. Always interesting and eclectic. She's a new friend, too.

2) eProf: He's sage, thoughtful, affirming and insightful. His posts represent original thinking and critical thought from a liberal perspective. Someone once described him as "like your favorite professor" from college. If you had one like him, you were lucky.

3) Allison at Catholic Worker in Training ministers on the front lines of homelessness in LA. What an inspiration! Her occasional posts are both reflective and honest. (I especially love blogs like hers that serve up a slice of life I don't see everyday.)

4) Finding Essential Estrogen was, for me, a blessing of the ICE raid in Postville IA. Lynda, a journalist who writes for The Iowa Independent, and her team post on all things Iowan and feminist. She's an Iowan gold mine!

5) I hope Under the Overpasses accepts awards; he sure deserves them. Finding Under There recently has meant the world to me; he values the margins of society. Last on this list of 5 definitely doesn't mean least. Actually, Under the Overpasses specializes in the last, the least and and the lost: the homeless. He keeps it real.

Now, taking advantage of receiving Kick Ass from two people, I'm going to overstep a bit and nominate a 6th person for an honorary Kick Ass Award. He wouldn't post it or formally accept it. He's build a readership the hard way: by serving up Kick Ass posts day after day at Dada's Dally. Dada, my unknowing mentor, attracted me to the Blogger community and supported me through my initial posts. If I had to choose just one blog to read (a horrible dilemma to consider!), his would be The One (Mom always told me: "Go home with the one that brung ya.") He goes beyond liberal into the realm of radical. That's where I wanna be. I'm lucky to know him, his family and his editor, Sam, in real life. Thank you, Dada, for all your help.

I used to say "so many books, so little time" and now it's "blogs" that consume me. I'm grateful to anyone who spends any of their life time and energy here on Border Explorer. The blogging world is a true gift: a virtual community that opened up for me in a wonderful and unexpected way. Thanks for being part of that gift. Thanks again, Diane and Randal!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Does my laptop have a right to remain silent?

The following peace of mind is brought to you by the Department of Homeland Security, border search division: Traveler, beware! (Terror alert: Red.)

PC World reports that U.S. border agents can "seize and detain indefinitely" all laptops, cell phones, portable music players or storage devices such as portable hard drives.

Unsuspecting Good-guy retorts, "I've got nothing to fear. I've never done anything illegal!"

The new DHS policies allow customs agents to analyze the contents of laptops without any suspicion of wrongdoing, says U.S. Senator Russ Feingold's statement.

"The policies that have been disclosed are truly alarming," Feingold wrote. It could blur the distinction between "search" and "seizure," which could also allow DHS officials to steal personal documents from laptops it has retained.
[The temperature of the vat of water on the stove in which the frog swims just went up two degrees.]

If you'd like to know how best to cope with intrusive tactics in airports (or at home) take a tip from the experts--the Muslim community in the U.S. Their video "Got Rights?" shows how to deal with the inquisition.
[Who knows? If you're reading this blog (Remember, I was busted), you may be on the fed's list]:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Packerland Family Reunion Vacation

Mr. B.E.'s stepmom, 11 bros/sisters, and all descendants get together each year, often in their hometown, Green Bay, WI. Niece Ellen's family hosted this year (an historic first dip into the next generation) & pulled off a great party for all 60 of us last weekend.

There was lots of talk about Brett Favre, Green Bay Packer "quarterback no more." And how nice to have the televised Summer Olympics to enjoy! We didn't play volleyball this year, maybe cuz we're getting older.

The weekend is otherwise known as "3 days of love and food." We enjoyed a Friday night fish fry, celebrating my sr-in-law's retirement (her third, she keeps returning to work), games, talking and marshmallows around the campfire.

Youngest grandchild from Colorado was a special guest. (Recognize her daddy from Cuba caravan? Ten years later, he's married with two children.) Our other son and his wife's two nieces are in the collage above. Someday I'll share my other three grandchildren with you.

The weather was clear & comfortable. The house & yard--beautiful. The people--so nice. I married into a wonderful family: not bragging, just appreciative. Our nation's economic downturn wasn't apparent. It was a weekend vacation from my central-city, urban neighborhood into a lovely suburban home. Next year, Mr. B.E & I will team with his sister and her guy to host the deal. Awk! I'm already planning!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Power to the People as Media Gives Us a Voice

The power of the people's media...yes, the power of the people's to tell the story of reality on the ground. This video coverage was shot by a brave and articulate 17 year old teen. We ordinary people can make a difference when we use our power to connect and communicate.

And, do we really want to see our tax money support this kind of cruelty?
[If the embedding does not come up for you, I strongly urge you to follow the link to the Guardian site for the very powerful 5 minute video.]

Shooting Back: 100 Cameras film Israeli Occupation
from The Guardian: Palestinians film abuse from settlers and Israeli military with cameras supplied by B'Tsele

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rick Steves on Faithful Travel

Holy cow, Rick Steves has a whole lot more going for him than I ever realized.
Like him, I believe that travel is all about getting out of our comfortable environment, broadening our perspective, and connecting with a bigger world. I relate to sooo much he says in this narrative; I was amazed.

Here's a huge thank you to Diane of "Faith in Community" for posting this. I nicked it from her. It lasts 12 minutes or so. If you don't make it to church today, you can use this for your meditation.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Nagasaki Day

This only takes 90 seconds.

The bomb that demolished Nagasaki on August 9 was named "Fat Man."
Another reason to elect a skinny president.

I found this from Jan who got it from someone else. Keep sending it on...and on...and on.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Good News for the Underdogs!

photo caption: Menorah adorns site of alleged labor and legal atrocities: Agriprocessors.

Bad news for Agriprocessors:
Iowa state labor officials are turning over 57 cases of "egregious" child labor violations to IA Attorney General with the recommendation that they are prosecuted to "the fullest extent of the law."
Each of the 57 cases has multiple child labor violations in each case. Further investigation results may unturn additional cases, they say.

You can bet on IA attorney general Tom Miller, folks. Personal connection: Mr. B.E. taught him. B.E. was notorious for being a tough/fair prof with very high standards (who taught ethics), and he will publically praise Miller at any opportunity. That is rare, indeed.

So do what you do when you get good news. We haven't won yet, but things are indeed looking up. Nice follow-up to yesterday's hopeful reflection from H. Zinn.

Monday, August 4, 2008

On Point: On Postville

NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook nailed the Postville, IA story last week. Click on "Listen to this Show" and get the info direct from the source.

But if you lack the 45ish minutes it takes to listen to the show, let me hit a few important highlights:

The raid was conducted as a criminal--not an immigration--raid. This explains the Blackhawk helicopter, agents clothed in black riot gear crawling the roof and wielding AK-47's we saw on local news coverage.

Thus the raid and subsequent processing of the apprehended workers was "a major assault on democracy." The system bypassed due process and constitutional rights. e.g. The 6th Amendment right to reasonable bail was unavailable due to the immigration status of the accused.

The government cooked up a "scheme" to unite criminal and immigration proceedings. This is one ploy of totalitarian governments. The accused were presented a package deal plea agreement which required them to waive their immigration rights. Now they've been sent around the country to serve their sentences of 5 1/2 months.

A special court room was set up in a "ballroom" at the National Cattle Congress grounds into which the accused were herded for arraignment in groups of 10 at a time to face federal proceedings, despite the fact that these were each individual cases. With all prosecuted in one week's time--it perhaps set a speed record in the U.S.!

Workers' testimonies reveal a "slave-like" working environment at Agriprocessors, including reports of a man with eyes duct-taped shut being beaten with a meat hook.

It goes on and on. Outrageous. Quote from one program caller: "I want to see the CEO's do some time."

And so do I. (Further investigation are underway.)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

You Are What You Eat...(urp!)

Sojourners blog tackles the topic of kosher food as prepared at Agriprocessors in Postville, IA in the article Exploitation Isn't Kosher by Allison Johnson. She reminds me not to point fingers at Orthodox Jews. Yes, I am what I eat, too.

Agriprocessors, the single largest kosher food production plant in the nation, was responsible (before the raid) for 60% of the nation's kosher beef and 40% of kosher poultry. Stories pour out of Postville about the inhumane treatment of the immigrant workers. Underage workers were arrested in the raids, some as young as 13. Many workers were forced to put in overtime without extra pay or breaks. Vulnerable people were exploited by religious business owners who systematically violated immigration and workplace laws, acting--as one union official put it--like "the poster child company on how to exploit a broken immigration system."

Two Jewish organizations helped sponsor the July 27 rally in Postville, IA to illustrate their concern that kosher food represent the Biblical value of righteousness, wraping the food in an ethical envelope. Allison's application of this principle extends to every human person:

If anything, the Postville raid has opened up conversations about how people of faith look at the products they consume and the value we place on the treatment of those who prepare it. We should not allow this issue to focus on just the kosher meat industry. Rather, we should be compelled to look at where all our food comes from and explore ways to spend our dollars that support businesses that treat their employees with dignity and value justice in the workplace.

Organic or commercial?
Local or transported?
Processed or natural?
Free range or factory farmed?
Picked by whom? At what wage? In what kind of conditions?

Food is basic to life and inseparable from social justice.
illustration caption: T-shirt logo seen in Postville, IA. "Aaron's Best" is the brand name of the kosher meat.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Talkin' About Law & Order

Neocons who scream against “illegal aliens” are all for Law and Order. One July 27 counter-protestor’s sign in Postville IA (site of ICE raid May 12) read “What would Jesus Do? Obey the Law.” Leaving aside her failure to grasp the Christian Scripture, we can accept her emphasis on obedience as characteristic of the right wing.

Good. Let’s all obey the law. Let’s enforce all the laws. Let’s begin at the top of the Postville, IA food chain.

Point 1: Federal Government
Congress heard testimony July 24 that the government process used to arrest and convict undocumented workers in Iowa in May was illegal and violated the immigrants’ due process rights. Our democratic principles hang in the balance; “a line was crossed at Postville” according to government interpreter Erik Camayd-Freixas.

Point 2: State Government
Residents of Iowa should enjoy the protection of the state’s Civil Rights Commission and the Department of the Attorney General. Children should not be sent out of state without parental consent and approval. Some alarming initial (although as yet undocumented) reports from Postville indicate this may have occurred after the raid.

Point 3: Agriprocessors
Corporations need to follow the laws of the land. When corporate employees provide illegal identification to workers, there must be corporate accountability for their actions and corporate repercussions for the failure to adequately monitor. Why has no upper management been charged at Agriprocessors?

Further, the New York Times reported on July 27 that when federal agents raided the kosher meatpacking plant in May and rounded up 389 illegal immigrants, they found more than 20 under-age workers, some as young as 13. Perhaps our nation needs to first regulate “illegal jobs” as a means of regulating illegal immigration. Let’s put the emphasis on the proper syllable.

While conservatives beller about “protecting our borders,” the Constitution, the labor laws, the environment, our moral system, and our family values are teetering. Let’s think about protecting the core and the foundation of our nation before we get overly concerned about the margins.