Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Postville--When good things emerge from disaster

Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I started writing here just prior to the major ICE raid on a meat processing plant in tiny Postville IA. It was a multiple layer disaster: wave after wave of bad news emerged from that "action hero movie"-style event (complete with Blackhawk helicopters and cop car caravans).

In a story entitled "Postville detainees embrace role as rights advocates" the Cedar Rapids Gazette newspaper reported on how the immigrants themselves were changed by the experience.

They have become human rights advocates and activists!

The YouTube video at the top of this post illustrates the article. Pastoral minister at St. Bridget's explains how God works through disaster when people step up to the plate.

Globalize hope in 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

...Where the Treetops Glisten...

Injustice can be eliminated, but human conflicts and natural limitations cannot be removed. The conflicts ... cannot be controlled or transcended. They can, however, be endured and survived. It is possible for there to be a dance with life, a creative response to its intrinsic limits and challenges ...

[Sharon Welch, A Feminist Ethic of Risk]

Here in the Chihuahua Desert, Christmas presents a different face from its holiday song and the winter carol image. December here is dry and mild. No snow. No sleighs.

Trees, when nurtured, can grow in our sandy soil. But there are almost no traditional evergreen trees in our yards.

We celebrate the season, nevertheless.

One humble home in Central El Paso displays a creative response to annual seasonal decorating, even starting before Thanksgiving each year. The branches of its front yard tree glisten in the Sun City's daylight beams, catching the sun with sparkle and color that is reflected from an array of ordinary cans...something others might merely discard.

By night, the branches' twinkling lights illuminate the yard.

Life will never be without challenges, conflicts, and limitations. But we can always choose our

response, making the most of what we have with

creativity and joy.

And maybe that is a message of the season.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Obama's Nobel war speech By John Dear SJ

Created Dec 15, 2009 (copyright info at bottom)

President Obama’s speech last week in Oslo, where he received the Nobel Peace Prize, undermined the example of all the peacemakers of the ages. Standing before the world, he defended America’s military misadventures, dismissed nonviolence and endorsed the just-war theory as the way to peace.

The peacemakers Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received particular attention. With a kind of rhetorical sleight of hand, Obama admired and scorned them at the same time, saying in effect: here are good men but, in our modern world, impractical men. With that, Obama undercut his own soaring campaign rhetoric espousing audacious hope. Hope withered on the moment. Here is yet another American president beating the drums of war in the name of peace. Nothing makes the heart sink like the notion, a very Orwellian nightmare: “the way to peace is through war.” His speech was a veritable call to despair.

I leave it to others to comb through the speech’s details. I prefer to regard matters more broadly. Namely, Obama struck me as a modern-day Constantine who, in the fourth century, pulled off the unthinkable. He beguiled the early church into renouncing the nonviolence of Jesus. And he placed in the church’s hand something more “practical”--the pagan Cicero’s justifications for war. Pure legerdemain.

Obama reminds me, moreover, of Augustine, who himself embraced Cicero’s notions and hoodwinked further with the idea that sometimes “the best way to love an enemy is to kill him.” Just as Constantine banished the nonviolent Jesus, Obama has, in effect, banished Gandhi and King. And he did it oh so subtly, like a New York pick-pocket, giving with one hand and taking back with the other. His speech has been a big hit here in Washington, where I write this.

Obama cited an excerpt from King’s Nobel acceptance speech in 1964. “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem. It merely creates new and more complicated ones.” And he paid King due respect: “As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work,” Obama said, “I am living testimony to the moral force of nonviolence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.” But then Obama branded both as ineffectual and naïve. Nonviolence, he said, could “not have halted Hitler’s armies” or convinced “al-Qaida’s leaders to lay down their arms.” And my heart dropped when he concluded: “Instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace.”

On both counts I disagree. King and Gandhi were not naïve. When actually put into practice, when enough of us do the hard work, nonviolence works. Hearts change and structures of injustice and war begin to unravel. From India to South Africa we have seen how nonviolent change happens.

I disagree on the second point, too, the point that says war makes for peace. The chief axiom of nonviolence says the very opposite. The ends lie within the means, just as the tree exists within the seed. How can the anguish of war -- destruction, displacement, hunger, terror, torture, martial law, summary executions, civilian casualties, oceans of grief -- how can these ever favor us with peace? The only way to peace is through peaceful and loving means.

Obama has arrogantly overstepped his bounds. If Obama is right, then St. Francis and St. Clare were wrong. If Obama is right, then Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King, Dorothy Day, and Mother Teresa were wrong. If Obama is right, then the nonviolent Jesus is wrong. And we should put his memory aside.

But no, Obama is wrong. We as Jesus’ followers need to insist on the Way of nonviolence. We need to practice and demand love for enemies. We need to renounce the just war theory. It’s inapplicable because no longer can its conditions be met, if they ever could. The fire power of modern warfare had made the theory obsolete. But even so, it is inadmissible because Jesus commanded otherwise.

I realize mine is a minority voice. Sarah Palin applauded Obama’s speech. So did Newt Gingrich. One wonders how many Catholic bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders did the same. To their minds nonviolence doesn’t work. Sometimes you must destroy a village to save it. Apply the right rhetoric and every war can be justified.

These are the notions of our times; they hang in the air. But I urge people not to believe the president’s war rhetoric. More, I urge church people to take up the work of making nonviolence more widely understood and accepted.

Ken Butigan, a teacher of nonviolence with the Franciscan group Pace e Bene (see www.paceebene. org [1]) writes this week that Obama was able “to discredit nonviolence -- and thus buttress his argument for war -- because there is no sturdy conviction in the mind of the larger public that nonviolence is anything but limited, weak, passive, utopian and ineffective.” The zeitgeist deprives our imaginations of alternatives to war.

We need, Ken says, to “mainstream nonviolence.” That is, to launch a systematic campaign to educate. Only then will the stigma of nonviolence be lifted. “Just as we have gradually mainstreamed the rule of law, human rights, and the vision of democracy,” he says, “we have the opportunity to mainstream the power of creative nonviolence.”

Then would the world learn how nonviolent resistance, when put into practice, did indeed impede Nazis killing; how it brought down dictatorships in the Philippines, Chile and Serbia; how it led the Velvet Revolutions throughout Eastern Europe in 1989 and brought down the Soviet Union in 1991; how it informed successful movements in South Africa, Ukraine, Georgia, Indonesia, and East Timor.

Then we would all begin to become aware how people around the globe, this very day, are engaged in nonviolent movements. (See, for example, Eric Stoner’s daily Web page, www.wagingnonviolence.org [2].)

I agree with Ken. The world urgently needs good people to take up this ministry of teaching Gospel nonviolence. Ken’s program, “Pace e Bene,” offers an excellent course on nonviolence that can be taken over a weekend or a semester; participants can later become facilitators to bring the course to their local communities.

If we are to widen the understanding and practice of creative nonviolence, many more people will have to teach it. We need to teach nonviolence -- its history, its methodology, its spirituality, its daily practicality -- widely. It needs to be taken into our schools, our churches, our libraries, our government offices, our workplace, our media, our prisons. And this ministry needs to be equal with every other church work, if not central.

Advent reminds us that the whole point of life is God, love, compassion, and peace. Each Advent, we hear eloquent speeches that contradict the president’s. The voices of Advent espouse the wisdom of nonviolence which bears good fruit. Isaiah speaks of a world where swords will be beaten into plowshares, where the study of war falls away, where everyone lives in peace. Mary of Nazareth, in her noble Magnificat, proclaims God’s nonviolent transformation of the world. John the Baptist calls us to prepare a way for the God of peace. Angels appear, a heavenly choir, and sing during a brutal season of “peace on earth.” Thank God for these Advent voices! Our true hope lies with them.

As Christmas approaches and I prepare to leave for Gaza, I pray that we will hear their voices, heed their words, and take hope from them. Let us embrace their message and give our lives anew to the nonviolent Jesus and his way, even if we do not understand it all.

The Baptist King and the Hindu Gandhi both walked the nonviolent path of the Gospel. As for Obama, he is set to go the way of all presidents. The lives of King and Gandhi, by contrast, still bear the fruit of peace. Their words and teachings are worth following for they point us back to the methodology and life of Jesus himself.

I hope we can reject the eloquent despair offered last week by President Obama and choose instead the hopeful examples of Gandhi, King and our Advent messengers. As we prepare for Christmas, we turn from war and empire, and look to the margins, among the poor and powerless, the humble and childlike. There we will discover the meaning, presence, wisdom and power of peace.


John Dear’s latest book, Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings, along with his recent autobiography, A Persistent Peace, and his collection of essays, Put Down the Sword, and Patti Normile’s John Dear On Peace, are available from www.amazon.com [3]. For information, see: www.johndear. org [4].

On the Road to Peace
Copyright © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company
115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111
(TEL 1-816-531-0538 FAX 1-816-968-2268)

Source URL: http://ncronline. org/blogs/ road-peace/ obamas-nobel- war-speech

[1] http://www.paceeben e.org
[2] http://www.wagingno nviolence. org
[3] http://www.amazon. com
[4] http://www.johndear .org

Monday, December 14, 2009

Firearms used against the poor who defend homes against the rich

caption: Typical home in Lomas del Poleo (April 2008)

On Friday evening, December 4, Adelaida Plasencia Sierra was gravely wounded by a firearm during what seemed at first just a common robbery. But things aren't always what they seem in her poor neighborhood just outside of Juárez: Lomas del Poleo.

At 6:00 PM two men arrived at her house, claiming they had run out of gasoline. Oddly, they then tried to sell her a cellular phone, and she replied that she had no money. But the mood quickly turned ominous when the two strangers abruptly asked if "Vicente" (her husband) or "Aurelio" were around.

Lomas del Poleo is no ordinary slum neighborhood. Aurelio, Adelaida's neighbor, is the Plascencias' companion in a civil struggle for the land they live on and believe they own.


Years ago some poor, formerly landless citizens had squatted---a time-honored and lawful method of acquiring land in Mexico---on the worthless desert wasteland of Lomas del Poleo. It was a remote mesa top that nobody wanted. Gradually these poorest of the poor constructed dwellings of their own, huts that were often built of warehouse pallets covered with cardboard.

Now, however, in the wake of NAFTA, Lomas del Poleo property lies directly in the path of proposed international economic development interests. The real estate value of the land has risen exponentially.
And now their ownership of the land is in dispute.


Adelaida then noticed that the men had their faces covered and were carrying a pistol. The supposed thieves grabbed her by the arms, pulling off her jacket. However, she managed to free herself and retreated into her house. As she was standing in the doorway, the assailants fired nine shots at both her and the house and then fled in the car.

Earlier that day, a white car without license plates parked in front of Adelaida's house for over three hours. Now, this same vehicle was silently circling Adelaida and Vicente's property.


After NAFTA passed, Pedro and Jorge Zaragoza Fuentes of the Mexican billionaire family claimed ownership of the land that comprises Lomas del Poleo. Two years ago, a group of Lomas residents initiated a legal process against the Zaragozas, disputing Zaragozas' rights to the land and asserting their own ownership. In 2008 and 2009 this group suffered various acts of aggression perpetrated, they say, by paid guards employed by Pedro Zaragoza.

Amnesty International issued this statement in January 2009:

"People living in an area northwest of Ciudad Juarez called Lomas del Poleo, are being harassed and attacked by private security guards hired by landowners who dispute their ownership of the land. The incidents appear to have intensified since the end of last year, and the safety of the inhabitants is at particular risk as the Agrarian Tribunal in charge of deciding who the lands belongs to, started a series of hearings."

In the last few months the Mexican Agrarian Tribunal has issuing rulings in favor of the residents of Lomas in their legal case. The case is in its ultimate stage and the Zaragoza Fuentes family as of yet has not successfully demonstrated their ownership of the land to the Tribunal.


Adelaida is in the hospital, still, recovering from the bullet wound to her chest, according to Rev. Bill Morton, the Catholic priest who has been accompanying the Lomas community.

Father Morton framed the incident optimistically:

"The doctor said if it had been just a couple centimeters lower she would have been dead. That she is alive is a miracle, then, and a sign of hope that violence and aggression will not always win the day."


This video, taken in April 2008, is of the landscape seen while driving through Lomas del Poleo. Shortly after the video was filmed the property was closed to any but those who occupy homes in the area. Gatekeepers employed by the Zaragosas screen any would-be entrants. Non-residents are prohibited from entering the area:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The REAL First Thanksgiving Was in El Paso

Actually the Pilgrims weren't first.
True: the US celebrates Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday each November in their honor. And, yes, family members and friends hold a hearty Thanksgiving dinner, gathering in memory of how they celebrated at Plymouth Plantation in 1621. Their three day harvest celebration of feasting with fowl and with five deer brought by the Native Americans is an important element in the American story.
But the Southwest remembers a different gathering, and it is older. From the New Mexico Genealogical Society:
On April 30, 1598, Spanish nobleman Don Juan de Oñate and a group of settlers traveling northward from Zacatecas, Nueva España (now Mexico), reached the banks of El Rio Bravo (Rio Grande). The first recorded act of thanksgiving by colonizing Europeans on this continent occurred on that April day in 1598 in Nuevo Mexico, about 25 miles south of what is now El Paso, Texas.
The 400 person colonizing expedition is well recorded by Gaspar Perez de Villagrá, Spanish poet who traveled with the group. They were in quest of land and honor, but, Villagrá says: "We were sadly lacking in all knowledge of the stars, the winds, and other knowledge by which to guide our steps."
On April 30, 1598, the scouts made camp along the Rio Grande and prepared to drink and eat their fill, for there they found fishes and waterfowl.
Villagrá wrote, "We built a great bonfire and roasted meat and fish, and then sat down to a repast the like of which we had never enjoyed before." Before this bountiful meal, the expedition leader Don Juan de Oñate personally nailed a cross to a living tree and prayed.
So on April 30, many with roots in New Mexico commemorate that First Thanksgiving, not with "turkey and all the trimmings" but with the knowledge that its ancestors helped settle and develop this land-through tenacity, perseverance and deep faith. It is partly through their contributions that America was destined to become unique; providing freedom as well as opportunity to all people wishing to come to its shores. -- The New Mexico Genealogical Society

This report is illustrated with photos of a well-known painting by preeminent El Paso artist Hal Marcus: El Paso Thanksgiving/El Paso Gracias a Dios. It hangs at Chamizal National Monument in El Paso, Texas. The artist's statement accompanies the oil on canvas:
"This is my imaginative scenario of El Paso's first Thanksgiving. I tried to convey the celebration of life that makes this theme the cultural banquet that it is. It's a poetic vision. In 1598, nearly 23 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, a large group of Spanish colonists rested from their hard march northward and gave thanks along the banks of the Rio Grande long before there were borders. They feasted with the Jumano Indians who greeted them. This scenario is my dream with all the spirits, archetypes and imagery of Mexico past, present and future in El Paso.

EL SOL is the gloriously golden Sun Carnival Host gazing at us with the eyes of perception and ageless beauty."

The painting is dedicated to the Chamizal National Memorial.
Prints of the work are available for sale at the Hal Marcus website.
Everyday, think as you wake up: Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself to expand my heart out to others for the benefit of all beings. ~ His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama
Living with an attitude of Thanksgiving is more important than quibbling over who was first. Give thanks for this day. Thank you for reading this report. Billie Greenwood
The New Mexico Genealogical Society website: "The First Thanksgiving (The Pilgrims Missed It)" by Pauline Chavez Bent
Word for the Day: www.gratefulness.org

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

From Today's Inbox

Found in my email inbox today. This was sent from the man we worked with/for at the day shelter for the past five months~

Subject: Good news!

[Name omitted] came by today, after calling to see if it was okay. "I don't want to be a bother or anything" he said. That right there was a difference that startled me. He walked in, all smiles, calm, cool, and collected. He's like a different guy. He's still [first name], but without the negative. He is clean and looks healthier, too. He's back with his parents and it's working out.
He wanted me to pass on a thanks to the both of you. He said you two made a good difference in bad time in his life.
That's the kind of thing that makes it worth it to me.
I didn't get to say my "See ya laters!" properly either, doggone bronchitis, but I wish you both safe travels and pleasant days! Look forward to seeing and working with you again soon.

I read this message aloud to my husband when I opened it and started crying before I got to the end. I'm crying now just from re-reading this message. The young homeless man referred to had so very many mental health problems! He was a tremendous pain in the neck (I mean that in the most loving way possible!) but somehow he took a liking to my husband and myself and the fellow who sent us this note. And we all took a liking to him. Even though it was not easy sometimes.

Receiving this message comes at a very good time of closure for us, as we leave Iowa tomorrow. I wanted to post this message here so I would not forget. So I can come back here and read this again and again.

If you have the opportunity to volunteer, do yourself a big favor and accept that role--whatever it may be. I know I will die happy because of the opportunities I've had to experience moments like this.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Blog Blast For Peace: On my way to a war zone

A week from today I depart from my home state of birth (Iowa) to spend five months volunteering along the US-Mexico border in El Paso, TX. Blog Blast for Peace means something concrete to me: I'm moving to a war zone.

Drug cartels are battling for control of the valuable portal into the U.S. which is Juarez-El Paso. In October the murder average was 10 per day in Juarez, an easy 40 minute stroll away from my front door.

Here are today's (11/4/2009) newspaper headlines:

El Paso TX, the sister city of Juarez, is ranked one of the safest cities in the US for its size. While the murder total so far for this year in Juarez is over 1900, the number stands at just 10 for El Paso. But can you imagine living just a mile away from that murder and mayhem? Even reading the morning newspaper is daunting. Mangled women's cadavers discovered in vacant lots...maybe even right downtown. Lawyers assassinated in the downtown streets. Ten thousand federal troops occupying the city. Juarez is one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has a friend or relative in Juarez. The war affects us all.

The United States is implicated in all the violence in many ways. But we have institutionalized our "innocence." Our drug czar is bound by law to resist any discussion of the legalization of drugs which are currently illegal. We build a wall to defend ourselves. It is then possible to point fingers: Why can't Mexico handle the problem? Why are they so corrupt? We can ask questions self-rightously from the other side.

If we want peace, we need to work for justice.
If we want peace, we need to dismantle racism.
If we want peace, we must promote economic opportunity for all.
If we want peace, we must do the inner work of healing and recovery, both personally and as a nation.

If we want peace, we can begin by opening our eyes to the realities from which we are largely insulated.

War is not so very far away.

Walking the line between pleasure and pain
Biding my time between loss and gain
I've run out of roads, I've traveled them all
Down at the border by the one-sided wall

Down at the border, facing that wall
Racking my brain for the cause of it all
No one to point to, no one to blame
I can't be the only one stuck in this game

Borderless love, the land of the free
Borderless love, how far can you see?
Borderless love, there's no border at all
In a borderless love there's no need for a wall

When I feel what I feel, when I see what I see
Why do my heart and my head disagree?
A one-sided wall, is it all in the mind?
Who can see more than one side at a time?

A wall is a mirror that can only reveal
One side of a story that passes for real
But break it all down, it all becomes clear
It's the fearless who love and the loveless who fear

Borderless love, the land of the free
Borderless love, how far can you see?
Borderless love, there's no fear at all
In a borderless love there's no need for a wall

Over, under, around and through
Life is love and love is true
Over, under, around and through
Walls of thunder, skies of blue

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Address Climate Change as a National Security Threat, Urges Bipartisan Group

post for Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

A group of top U.S. foreign policy and national security leaders issued a statement last month urging Congress and the Administration to "transcend the political issues that divide us - by party and by region" and engage cooperation on climate change because of national security concerns. The bipartisan group, convened by the Partnership for a Secure America (PSA), calls for "a clear, comprehensive, realistic and broadly bipartisan plan" that will allow the U.S. to lead the development of a global strategy to mitigate and adapt to the climate change crisis (emphasis is mine). Their statement is timely with international negotiations over climate change action slated for this December in Copenhagen.

The statement terms climate change "a national security issue." Calling for immediate U.S. action, it suggests that "the longer we wait to act, the harder it will be to mitigate and respond to [climate change's] impacts." The bipartisan statement is signed by eight former Senators, three former National Security Advisors, two former Secretaries of State, a former Secretary of Defense, and both the Chair and Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission. The statement, entitled "Climate Change Threatens All Americans. We Must Work together on an American Strategy," and its signers are found on the PSA website.

"American leadership is necessary to address the threat of climate change," said PSA Advisory Board co-chair former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN). "The United States must work to forge a consensus, both domestically and internationally, with leaders from around the world and both parties, on a unified strategy that can succeed in countering this threat to international security."

"Our efforts to combat climate change will be only as enduring as they are cooperative, as effective as they are concerted. The United States urgently needs a bipartisan solution that recognizes climate change as a critical security issue," said PSA Advisory Board co-chair and former Sen. Warren Rudman (R-NH).

Source: Partnership for a Secure America. Press Release 9/8/2009. No copyright restrictions.CONTACT: Michael Landweber

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Video: "Resistance Silenced in Honduras"-10/1/2009

HONDURAS UPDATE 10/9/09: DAY #104 OF THE COUP ** Urgent action bulletin from Pastors for Peace


President Zelaya, along with 313 of his supporters, is still holed up in the Brazilian Embassy.

President Obama talks about mutual respect among nations, but does nothing to condemn the gross miscarriage of justice and constitutional law in Honduras.

1) GUNFIRE INTO THE BRAZILIAN EMBASSY: Radio Globo from Honduras has reported that snipers have been shooting into the Brazilian Embassy where President Zelaya and 313 others have taken refuge. We do not yet have word about injuries.

2) BREAK-IN AT THE GARIFUNA HOSPITAL: The Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH) reports that 15 soldiers and "preventive police" of the coup regime broke into the Garifuna Hospital of Ciriboya at 5:00am on October 6. The military entered the hospital through a window, using the pretext that they were engaging in a anti-narcotics operation.

The Garifuna Hospital of Ciriboya is the center of the Luagu Hatuadi Waduhenu project, the first-ever hospital and health network in Honduras' Atlantic Coast region, founded by Dr Luther Castillo [see his interview on YouTube vid at the top of this post.] The coup government recently downgraded the status of the Garifuna Hospital from hospital to simple health center, to the detriment of the local Garifuna and indigenous population.

The break-in is seen as a message to the Garifuna community because of their active participation in the resistance against the coup, as well as an example of the racism of the coup regime. "The only thing this hospital can be accused of is that we've provided health care to 300,000 people," said Dr Castillo.

"It is unheard of that one of the paradigms of community health across our continent should suffer the aggression of a government made up of a crew of mercenaries at the service of the US Southern Command and the banana, telephone, and oil corporations who want to preserve the status quo in Honduras," declared OFRANEH.

3) The 10/8/09 New York Times reports that lobbyists for the Honduran coup have already spent more than $400,000 in Washington. Some of the lobbying firms have close ties to Secretary of State Clinton and to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Key Republicans are urging the Obama administration to lift all sanctions against the coup government. "Several former high-ranking officials who were responsible for overseeing US policy in Central America in the 1980s and ‘90s... — including Otto Reich, Roger Noriega, and Daniel W. Fisk — view Honduras as the principal battleground in a proxy fight with Cuba and Venezuela..."

We want to be clear that this is not just an ideological ‘proxy fight,' but rather a brutal violation of the rights and sovereignty of the Honduran people. Our neighbor nation is at a standstill; many lives have been lost, and many more are at risk. Reich, Noriega, Negroponte and others who had a hand in initiating this coup are trying to punish President Zelaya for being too friendly with progressive governments in the region. While President Obama talks about a US foreign policy based in "mutual respect," these former functionaries of the Reagan/Bush administrations are operating as rogue agents, trying to impose the agenda of the US right wing (as was done in Haiti, in Guatemala, in Chile), and showing a total lack of respect for Honduras' democratic process.

ASK YOUR REP TO SIGN ON TO REP GRIJALVA'S LETTER ABOUT HONDURAS! Rep Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, has taken leadership on this issue by writing several strong letters to President Obama. His current letter urges the Obama administration to "clearly and unequivocally reject and denounce the repression by this illegitimate regime," to state that the elections planned for November "cannot and will not be considered free and fair by our government," and to "step up its efforts to bring about a prompt restoration of democracy in Honduras."

Ask your representative in the House to sign on to Rep Grijalva's letter — and let him/her know that we OPPOSE the coup in Honduras, and that the US must be on the side of democracy and constitutional process in Honduras — not on the side of the thugs and murderers perpetrating this illegal coup.

CALL CONGRESS! CALL THE WHITE HOUSE! CALL THE STATE DEPARTMENT! Demand that they stop the violence and bring about an end to the coup!

Congressional switchboard: 202/225-3121
President Barack Obama 202/456-1111 www.whitehouse.gov
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: 202/647-9572 secretary@state.gov

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Unanimous, bipartisan vote this week, praises Catholic sisters!

In a unanimous vote this week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution (H Res. #441) praising Catholic Sisters in the United States for their work in the country throughout US history. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) was the lead sponsor. I think it is amazing that anything could go through unanimously this Congress. Good on you, Sisters!

For the sisters, the Congressional commendation comes at a good time. The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has launched a sweeping investigation of them. This unprecedented inquiry which is already underway is termed an "apostolic visitation." The U.S. congregations of women religious will receive a questionnaire from the Vatican this month. On-site visitations of some orders will follow.

The House resolution, on the other hand, includes an endorsement of the goals of "WOMEN & SPIRIT: Catholic Sisters in America," a traveling exhibit sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in association with Cincinnati Museum Center. It celebrates this group of innovative American women who helped shape the nation's social and cultural landscape. (For more info and two short videos on the exhibit, follow this link.)

The Congressional Resolution passed this week reads as follows:

Whereas today, there are approximately 59,000 Catholic sisters in the United States;

Whereas Catholic sisters participated in the opening of the West, traveling vast distances to minister in remote locations, setting up schools and hospitals, and working among native populations on distant reservations;

Whereas more than 600 sisters from 21 different religious communities nursed both Union and Confederate soldiers alike during the Civil War;

Whereas Catholic sisters cared for afflicted populations during the epidemics of cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, smallpox, tuberculosis, and influenza during the 19th and early 20th centuries;

Whereas Catholic sisters built and established hospitals, orphanages, and charitable institutions that have served millions of people, managing organizations long before similar positions were open to women;

Whereas approximately one in six hospital patients in the United States were treated in a Catholic facility;

Whereas Catholic sisters have been among the first to stand with the underprivileged, to work and educate among the poor and underserved, and to facilitate leadership through opportunity and example;

Whereas Catholic sisters continue to provide shelter, food, and basic human needs to the economically or socially disadvantaged and advocate relentlessly for the fair and equal treatment of all persons;

Whereas Catholic sisters work for the eradication of poverty and racism and for the promotion of nonviolence, equality, and democracy in principle and in action;

Whereas the humanitarian work of Catholic sisters with communities in crisis and refuge throughout the world positions them as activists and diplomats of peace and justice for the some of the most at risk populations; and

Whereas the Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America Traveling Exhibit is sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in association with Cincinnati Museum Center and will open on May 16, 2009, in Cincinnati, Ohio:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) honors and commends Catholic sisters for their humble service and courageous sacrifice throughout the history of this Nation; and

(2) supports the goals of the Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America Traveling Exhibit, a project sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in association with Cincinnati Museum Center and established to recognize the historical contributions of Catholic sisters in the United States.


In a thirty-second video trailer, the sisters explain the significance of the traveling exhibit "Women & Spirit."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Beginning of the Fall of the Hondruan Military Coup

Carlos Marentes is a regional leader of the global agricultural laborer movement La Via Campesino. We work with him in El Paso. I edited and reprinted this report with his permission.

By Carlos Marentes, La Via Campesena regional leader. September 21, 2009 -
Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Tonight, the heroic Honduran resistance, represented by thousands of workers, peasants, women, teachers, indigenous and afro-descendent people, students, human rights activists, and people in general, is outside the Embassy of Brazil. Inside the embassy, President Manuel Zelaya, who returned surreptitiously to Honduras in the morning, after a 15-hour trek, has already declared: "From now on, nobody will take us out of here, for this reason our position is homeland, reinstatement or death..."

Zelaya, surrounded by his wife, Ziomara Castro, members of his government, leaders of the National Front of Resistance Against the Coup, like Rafael Alegría, leader of La Vía Campesina in Honduras, and others, said to a large group of reporters: "I am committed to the Honduran people and I will not rest for a day or a minute until we bring down the dictatorship... The first time, on June 28, they took me off guard, sleeping, but not anymore..."

Outside the embassy, people began to arrive from all the corners of the country to join the massive presence of residents of Tegucigalpa and members of the National Front of Resistance, who have gathered to welcome Zelaya and to demand his reinstatement as the legitimate president. The jubilant crowd was yelling: "¡Si se pudo! ¡Si se pudo! ¡Ahora la constituyente!" ("We made it! We made it! Now, on to the constitutional assembly!")

Immediately, the coup regime sent thousands of military troops and national police officers to intimidate the resistance and attempt to stop the masses marching to the Embassy. Throughout the entire day, many persons were attacked violently, but the military and police forces were unable to stop the massive wave of people. The terrible military team "Las Cobras," famous for using aggressive and violent methods, came in to repress the resistance. Several military helicopters started to fly over the protestors and the embassy. Unable to stop the massive gathering, the military and police forces then surrounded the multitude in a ostensible gesture of provocation.

However, many Hondurans were unable to join the throng because their buses were stopped by the army and the national police. According to human rights activists, the military blocked at least 2,000 persons from the municipalities of Danlí, El Paraíso, Jamastrán and other border towns. Military trucks at blockdes prevented caravans' arrival into Tegucigalpa. Four buses and many vehicles were detained in Colonia Villa Nueva, outside the capital. Military officers also detained members of the press from China, Reuters and Associated Press.

The usurper Roberto Micheletti, appeared on television to give several messages during the day. One declared a "state of siege" from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m. and warned that the curfew may be extended. He stated that his regime will not tolerate agitation either from inside or outside. He stated that they had delivered a letter to the Brazilian Ambassador demanding him to hand over Zelaya "so he can be tried before a court to respond criminal charges." He also reminded the international community not to intervene in the interior affairs of Honduras. When asked about the declaration made by Secretary Hillary Clinton that since Zelaya had returned to Honduras it was the moment to reinstate him in the presidency, Micheletti responded: "We respect the opinion of the gringos, but we don't care what they said..."

During the day, several sources had continuously announced that the General Secretary of OAS and other diplomatic ministers would be arriving the next day to help find a solution, so coup mongers closed the four international airports for two days. Next, they shut down communications in several sectors of Tegucigalpa and turned off the electricity in the Brazilian embassy's sector. Some members of the resistance expressed concerns that the intentional black-out might be used to attempt a break in into the embassy and/or to repress the mass of people who decided to spent the night outside there in defiance of the curfew.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C, the Organization of American States (OAS) held an emergency meeting to discuss the Honduran situation. The United States with Canadian support proposed a resolution which was basically a directive to have the "parties involved in this problem" immediately sign the proposed San José Accord prepared by president Oscar Arias of Costa Rica and then move into elections. Several ambassadors, including those from Venezuela and Nicaragua, rejected the resolution because president Zelaya had not been consulted. But the majority decided to approve it anyway saying that "it was not a perfect resolution, but that it was better to have a bad accord than to have a good fight." Once the chairman of the meeting declared that the resolution had been approved and that the ambassadors were standing up to leave, the Nicaraguan Ambassador, Colonel Denis Moncada, suddenly raised his hand and asked for permission to approach the mic. He said that he had just received a call from president Daniel Ortega to ask him to inform the OAS ambassadors, that Zelaya had called Ortega to say that "he did not support the San José Accord" and to ask OAS to demand that the "dictatorship and the coup mongers to lift the state of siege because it was dangerous to the lives of the Honduran people."

Everything that occurred today in Honduras is a clear signal that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the military coup. It may take more days and more sacrifices and more suffering, but there is no way to stop now the struggle of the Honduran people under the inspirational leadership of the National Front of Resistance Against the Coup. The usurpers may attempt to bring a blood-bath to hold onto power. But that will not happen if we are alert and fulfill our moral responsibility to offer our concrete solidarity to the sons and daughters of Morazán.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A City Divided. A Hemisphere at War: It's time for a new conversation

When Mr. B.E. and I decided to relocate to the U.S.-Mexico border as volunteers in the immigration arena, I braced for confrontation, based on the image I had of the border. I thought I'd experience hot opposition to Mexican and Latin American immigrants. I was largely wrong.

Of course, there is dissention. And, yes, there are some fearful people. But I learned immediately - and much to my surprise -- that the border is a community. Growing up on the Mississippi River, I could relate. I knew that cities in Iowa and Illinois, although perhaps located on opposite banks of the river, are more alike than different. And so are El Paso and Juarez: sister cities on opposite sides of the same river, the Rio Grande.

In my El Paso neighborhood, four out of five people are Latino. Spanish is the predominant language. Everyone has friends in Juarez; most have relatives there. Commerce is done on both sides of the border. People appreciate what each side has to offer. But, in the three years that we've been part-time border residents, militarization has escalated. The border has morphed into a drug war zone. Unprecedented violence has spiraled out of control. Fear and horror take hold.

Our border community now is painfully divided. It's a microcosm of our hemisphere, our world embroiled in a war on drugs. The violence is a wake-up call, not only for Mexico, but also for the US.

So, to open up a continental-wide conversation on 40 years of US drug policy, faculty at the University of Texas at El Paso are convening a precedent-setting two day conference this week, "Global Public Policy Forum on the U.S. War on Drugs." It will look at alternatives to the status quo, in light of the war both in Juarez and across Mexico. The presenters will be key experts with diverse viewpoints from the entire North American continent.

A parallel event simultaneously occurs in Juarez, featuring the mayor of Medellin, Colombia, a city that has significantly reduced drug violence.

The conference is directed at organizing a far-reaching dialogue, engaging you, the public. Dr. Joe Heyman, an event organizer, told El Paso's The Newspaper Tree: "What we want to do is rise above kind of bland, official policy statements or pure academic research into the public discussion of drug policy."

From the event website:

We would like to invite you to participate in an honest and critical dialogue on the successes and failures of the U.S. ‘war on drugs' at the 40th anniversary of the policy. Please share your important perspective and expertise to develop better policies that fit the new social, economic and national security realities that we face in our globalized world. This dialogue is crucial, as nation-states all over the world like Mexico and Afghanistan are faced with tremendous consequences of U.S. drug policies. In a highly interconnected world, we must endeavor to create policies that take into account the subtle nuances of relationships among countries. As such, we must also structure policies that will better aid communities that are affected by drug use and drug violence. Your presence is essential for this dialogue.

The event's promotional video, found at the top of this page, sets the tone. For those unable to attend the conference, viewing that short video is educational in itself. [Viewer discretion is advised.]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Iowa's Little Love Affair with Tomatoes (and a recipe to share the love)

True story: Saturday, I visited the historic two-room Iowa house where President Herbert Hoover was born. To my astonishment, one of the first things the park service ranger said to me was: "Would you like a tomato?"

caption: tomato plant in operating garden at Herbert Hoover birthplace in West Branch, IA

True Story: My mother, who will be 90 years old, still grows her own personal tomato plant-in a pot outside her apartment's patio door-every single year. So does my octogenarian mother-in-law.

In Iowa we're coming to the end of tomato season, a revered time of vine-ripened heaven. What passes for tomatoes in the supermarket most of the year is but pink Styrofoam compared to the deep red, juice-laden, home-grown delights that we devour annually as summer fades into autumn.

Every windowsill is lined with ripening goodness lest bugs or worms get them first. We gather the greens ones before the first frost and bring them indoors to stretch the flavor on into the fall. Farmers and gardeners bear boxes filled with the red orbs proudly into the food pantries to share with the poor.

caption: My windowsill--these guys fell off the vine early...wouldn't want to waste them!

People eat them in sandwiches, sliced thick on bread. Families beat the late summer heat by enjoying bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches for supper. Kids grab tomatoes out of the garden and eat ‘em like an apple.

We can tomatoes. We freeze them. We eat fresh ones until our mouths break into canker sores. We can't keep up with the harvest. And then it's over until next year.

Our love affair is not exactly a secret. And we don't ever repent. If you want to belong here in Iowa, you don't have to adore tomatoes. But it helps.

A wonderful way to use lots of tomatoes, and also save a caboodle of money, is in homemade tomato salsa. This freezer recipe is easy and quick. I've never made it with canned diced tomatoes from the grocery store (because I've never had to) but I bet that would work, too.

caption: A big batch of freezer salsa ready to cool.



8 cups diced, seeded, peeled tomatoes (about 10 large) [My friends and I don't bother peeling the tomatoes, and we don't mind the seeds either. Just pulse the tomatoes in a food processor. Zip, it's done.]

2 medium green peppers, chopped

2 large onions, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped

¾ cup tomato paste

2/3 cup condensed tomato soup, undiluted

½ cup white vinegar

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons salt

4 ½ Tablespoons garlic powder

1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper

In a Dutch oven or large, heavy saucepan combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring often. Pour into small freezer containers. Cool to room temperature, about an hour. Cover and freeze for up to three months. Stir before serving.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Take this Tune: "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire

Six years ago, the fall equinox--September 21--became a special day of the year for me.

Since we retired, Mr. B.E. is writing some of his favorite life memories. He let me share this selection about it (from a chapter of his hitch-hiking stories) with you:

In 2003 we spent a semester in Merida on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula as visiting professor/s of Central College’s (Pella, IA) experiential learning program. Billie and I had both received leaves of absence from our teaching jobs to join them. We had no car, but we were bound and determined (Billie more than I) to witness the twice annual celebration of the equinox.

In historic Dzibilchaltun archaeologists discovered the amazing celestial sophistication of the sun-calendar of Mexico’s indigenous. The Mayans constructed a remarkable ceremonial building. Only on the days of equinox (Sept. 21 and March 21) did the sun come up at the precise angle that allowed it to shine fully through its two narrow doorways. [Similarly there were windows, diagonals from one another, designed so that the same thing happened at the bi-annual solstices!]

We caught the earliest bus north out of Merida on Sept. 21 hoping to witness the event. That bus left us off four miles from our destination, however, and the time factor made it seem unlikely that we could hoof it there on time. After a mile or two, our chances dimmed even more as the sky began to lighten with the approaching dawn. Then a car came barreling down the narrow road in the dark and slammed on its brakes.

“Do you need a lift?”

Yes! We both squeezed into the back seat of the vehicle already carrying four hippie-type European youths who were on the same mission. We arrived at the site just in time for me to take a photo of Billie framed by the rising sun shining through the structure’s doorways behind her. It’s one of her all-time favorite photos:

Later, on the walk back to the highway where the bus left us off, the Yucatan state patrol (who normally appear quite officious and stern) offered us a ride; they even pointed the best spot to stand in order to wave down the bus from Progresso on its return to Merida from the Gulf beach. They seemed quietly appreciative of our interest in their heritage.

We don't know what this fall will bring. May it be a good one. I hope that a dream you risk to achieve will come true for you. Keep dancin' in September!

Thanks, Jamie, for initiating "Take This Tune"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Susan Boyle sings "Wild Horses"

photo credit: Mirror.co.uk 13/09/2009

PerezHilton.com got the scoop: Susan Boyle's newest release is a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses." For now, if you want to hear it, you have to go to the Perez site:

WORLD PREMIERE! SuBo Does The Stones!!!!

It is worth the trip. Click the link above, or click the title of this post.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Iowa Pow Wow Action for the Labor Day Weekend

The Native American Nations converged here for dancing, singing, crafts, yummy food, and outdoor fun at the Labor Day Weekend Pow Wow. A forested hill towering above the Mississippi River was alive with regalia from tribes across the United States, sporting ribbons, feathers and bells galore at Black Hawk State Historic Site.

It was my first Midwestern PowWow, so I appreciated the announcements stating correct etiquette: stand as directed during important songs and dances, ask before taking individual's photos, don't touch the regalia, and feel free to add some money on the blankets at designated dances. Easy. I relaxed and enjoyed the proceedings.

The two-day event kicked off with a flourish at noon with the Grand Entrance. I hadn't expected the patriotic import given to four Native American veterans who formally led the procession carrying US and Vietnam MIA flags along with two flags representing local tribes.

The semi-annual event, sponsored by the Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities, hosted 2500 visitors last June with even more expected for this event. What with picture perfect weather and free admission to welcome the public, the sunlight-dappled clearing in the forest likely drew a new record-breaking--and appreciative--crowd.

We watched a variety of dances and even participated in a few! A beauty of the celebration was seeing the children taking part, learning pride in their heritage from observing their parents and elders. Two extremely short video clips (below) catch a glimpse of the drumming and the dancing--everyone danced!

But, I'm sorry I don't have any photos of the Indian Tacos! The taco meat, shredded Mexican cheeses, onions, sour cream, and salsa that crowned a lovely circle of Indian fry bread--well, it didn't last long enough to photograph.

Monday, September 7, 2009

September Song

My husband was 20 when his mom died. He and his 11 brothers and sisters lost their mom to cancer. His youngest sister was only 2 years old at the time of her mom's death.

Mr. B.E. recalls being called home as a college student to be present at his mother's deathbed. It was bittersweet because was unable to change the prognosis or prevent her death. But understandably, he still needed and wanted to be there.

By analogy, being present to the needs of those who are oppressed means being willing to be with them. Most likely, I cannot solve their problem--but by simply showing up...by being there...I am where I need to be to symbolize where my heart is.

September Song was a favorite song of the father-in-law I never met as he recalled his first wife's premature death--each November. It is one of my husband's favorites, too.

With thanks for the memories to my blogging friend Jamie who began Take This Tune.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Just Check Your Fourth Amendment Rights at the Border

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit last week against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). CBP's policy allows them to search travelers' laptops--with NO suspicion of wrongdoing required! The ACLU would like more information about that. So would I.

It seems the CBP claims they have the right to read information on travelers' laptops "absent individualized suspicion." That allows them access to all files saved on anyone's laptop: personal financial information, photographs, histories of Web sites visited--everything. They don't need any reason--or even any suspicion to believe that a traveler has broken the law!

What's more, they're also asserting their right to search "documents, books, pamphlets and other printed material, as well as computers, disks, hard drives and other electronic or digital storage devices." [Note to self: Yikes, even my iTouch?]

And, by the way, don't think your U.S. birth certificate will protect you. This policy includes everyone crossing the border, whether or not they're U.S. citizens.

We're used to customs offices in the U.S. and other countries inspecting goods being brought into the nation. But it is a radical new step for the government to claim that it can also inspect the information being brought across our borders.

From the ACLU blog:

"In a DHS press release, Secretary Janet Napolitano said:

‘Keeping Americans safe in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully screen materials entering the United States.'

Clearly, by "materials," CBP now means electronic data as well as physical materials."

The damage to our personal privacy is profound. However, the assistance to the country's security is minimal. Because, the ACLU notes: Who is inspecting of all the data that enters the U.S. via the internet?

Therefore, says the ACLU blog:

Clearly this policy really has nothing to do with "securing the borders" of the United States in the sense of CBP's right to search and seize for contraband goods. Rather, it is about giving border agents sweeping new powers to peer into the lives and invade the privacy of individuals crossing the border.

So, US citizens, until this gets straightened out, you can check your rights to privacy at the border on your way in. And don't expect a claim check. It could be that your coat at a banquet is worth more than your privacy is worth at the border.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Anne LaMott to Obama on Healthcare: "You promised!"

Los Angeles Times OPINION

President Obama: Healthcare; you promised.

An open letter reminds the president of the major campaign vow that got him into the White House.

August 27, 2009

I am afraid there has been a misunderstanding since that election in 2008, during which 66,882,230 Americans cast their votes for you. Perhaps one of your trusted advisors has given you bum information. Maybe they told you that we voted for you -- walked, marched, prayed, fund-raised and knocked on doors for you -- because we hoped you would try to reunite the country. Of the total votes cast that long-ago November day, I'm guessing that about 1,575 people wanted you to try to reconcile the toxic bipartisanship that culminated in those Sarah Palin rallies.

The other 66,880,655 of us wanted universal healthcare.

You inherited a country that was in the most desperate shape since the Civil War, or the Depression, and we voted for you to heal the catastrophic wounds Bush inflicted on our country and our world. You said that you were up to that challenge.

We did not vote for you to see if you could get Chuck Grassley or Michael Enzi to date you. The spectacle of you wooing them fills us with horror and even disgust. We recoil as from hot flame at each mention of your new friends. Believe me, I know exactly how painful this can be, how reminiscent of 7th-grade yearning to be popular, because I went through it myself this summer. I did not lower my bar quite as low as you have, but I was sitting on the couch one afternoon, thinking that this adorable guy and I were totally on the same sheet of music -- he had given me absolutely every indication that we were -- and were moving into the kissing stage. Out of nowhere, I thought to ask him if he liked me in the same way I liked him.

He said, in so many words, no.

And Mr. President, that is what the Republicans are saying to you: They are just not that into you, sir.

This may have thrown you for such a loop that you have forgotten why you were elected -- which was to lead your people back to the promises of our founding parents. Many of us no longer recognized our country after eight years of Bush and Cheney, and you gave us your word that you would help restore the great headway we had made on matters of race, equality and plain old social justice.

People, get ready, you said; there's a train a 'coming. And we did get ready. We hit the streets. We roared, whispered, cried, whooped and went door to door, convinced that even if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had not
specifically dreamed of you, his dream of justice and equality and pride might come into being through your vision, your greatness, through the hope that your words gave us, through the change you promised.

He dreamed of a leader like you. Just like you. And something in the deepest part of this country's soul heard.

After eight years of Bush, and then the Palin nomination, we were battered and anguished and punch-drunk. But in rallying behind you, we came back to life, like in Ezekiel when the prophet breathes the spirit of bearing
witness and caring onto the dry bones, and those bones come back to life, become living people again, cherished and tended to.

We did not know exactly how you would proceed to restore our beloved Constitution. It seemed beyond redemption, like my kitchen floor did briefly last week after my dog, Bodhi, accidentally ate 24 corn bread muffins. You said you would push back your sleeves and begin, that it would take all of us working harder than we ever had before, but that you would lead. While acknowledging the financial and moral devastation of the last eight years, you said you would start by giving your people healthcare. You would do battle with the conservatives and insurance companies. You said in your beautiful way many times that this was the overarching moral and spiritual issue of our times, and we understood this to mean that you took this to be
your Selma, your Little Rock.

I hate to sound like a betrayed 7-year-old, but you said. And we believed you. Now you seem to have abandoned the dream. That is why moderates and liberals and progressives like myself all seem a little tense this summer. It is time to call your spirit back. We will be here to help when you get back from vacation. We want to help you get over the disappointment of Mr. Grassley's cold shoulder, of Mr. Enzi blowing you off, even that nice Olympia Snowe standing you up. We can and will take to the streets again, march and hold peaceful rallies, go door to door, donate to any causes that will help get out the truth of what a public option would mean. But we need you to shake off the dust of the journey and remember the promises of Dr.
King, and we need you to lead us toward what is no longer so distant a shore.

Do it for Teddy Kennedy, boss. Do it for the other Kennedys too, for Dr. King, for Big Mama, for the poorest kids you met on the trail, the kids who go to emergency rooms for their healthcare, do it for their mothers and for Michelle. Just do it.

Trusting you, Mr. Obama.

Anne Lamott
Copyright © 2009, <http://www.latimes. com/> The Los Angeles Times

Anne Lamott's latest book is "Grace (Eventually) : Thoughts on Faith." I listened to it on tape about this time last year, thanks to the encouragement of Fran who now writes on There Will Be Bread.
Anne is the bomb. Just my opinion.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hunger in the Heartland: Reflections from Our Food Pantry

The US Department of Ag's figures in May broke a record: 34.4 million people used the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program of aid to low-income people. Now one out of every nine Americans qualifies for "food stamps." That's an increase of over 2 percent from the previous month. And it's a staggering increase of 6 million new qualifiers over the past year.

Our central city neighborhood runs a small food pantry that provides a food supplement to anyone who lives nearby. Once every 60 days a household can receive a box of food, whether or not they receive food stamps. One simply shows a photo ID to receive the free supplement of food. I volunteer at the pantry six hours a week; I see the face of hunger close to home.

From my "ringside seat" on the need in the heart of this nation, I know that the USDA figures are right. But they don't go far enough. They don't reveal the human degradation of being down so far that you must ask for food.

When I started working here a few years ago, I suspected that I'd be scammed or taken advantage of by people who were "working the system." There's some of that from time to time, but I am far more often impressed by the opposite phenomenon. Viewing the records as I check people in, I might comment to them: "We haven't seen you here since last year." And they respond: "I try not to come here unless I'm really in need." or "I don't like to come here too often. But I got laid off..."

Our numbers more than tripled last month, compared to last year. In August 2008 we served 23 households; August 2009 we served 81. We don't have a sponsoring organization, relying on free-will donations to provide funding for food that we can purchase for less than $.20 a pound at the River Bend Food Bank. Everyone who works at the pantry is a volunteer, as are the few women who head it up. We're just people helping other people.

Our patrons often share their stories with us, explaining their family's situation. We try to listen as best we can. When it's possible, we stretch the rules to provide for exceptional needs. Occasionally we encounter people who live in a tent or a car. We help families with kids, lots of single parents, the elderly and people who are challenged--mentally and physically. Sometimes I choke back tears. Sometimes I let them show.

Watching the news and volunteering in our neighborhood, I know that all is not well in our nation. You can read statistics. Or you can observe the reality at a local food pantry. I bet you'll benefit more from the latter. I know I do.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Possible Dreams International begins operations

Welcome to the world: Possible Dreams International!

Regular bloggers may have met Maithri of The Soaring Impulse. This young Australian physician is one of those amazing people you rarely encounter. Gifted in many ways--perhaps his greatest gift is his compassionate heart. He fell in love with the people of Swaiziland--some of the most forgotten people on the planet. He says:

Swaziland is a country where 42% of the population are infected with HIV/AIDS. That’s almost one in two people. As I have written before on these pages, in Siteki there are more coffin salesmen than grocery stores; 75 % of people live on less than one dollar a day; 10% of the population are orphaned children; And there are well over 15,000 orphan led households.

Armed with his belief that we can be the change that's needed in the world, Maithri has already made a difference. Today he launches Possible Dreams International, Inc. It's an avenue for all of us to join him on the front lines of international poverty. If you're serious about wanting to help the poor [and I know you are!] check it out:
WEBSITE: http://www.possibledreamsinternational.org
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Possible-Dreams-International/119742974805?ref=ts
TWITTER: http://twitter.com/pdiwecan

But, it just may be better to start with Maithri's blog entry today. Get the whole story in short form--"Possible Dreams International" on The Soaring Impulse.

Isn't it great to get GOOD news today?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Violence is Easy. Peace is Hard.

"I will offer you a simple litmus test to determine whether a person has healthy or unhealthy religion. What do they do with their pain-even their daily little disappointments? Do they transform their pain or do they transmit it? People who are practiced in transforming actual life pain, like Jesus on the cross, are the only spiritual authorities worth following. They know. They can lead and teach. The rest of us just talk." ~Richard Rohr, OFM

In our neighborhood this month, a local man named Steven Mallory unprovokedly assaulted a volunteer at the free meal site for the poor. After fleeing the scene, minutes later, he brutally attacked the police officer who stopped him for questioning. In self defense, the policeman had to shoot, and he killed Steven. Our "inner city" neighborhood, although not a stranger to crime, was shaken to the core. So much violence! A life ended, others severely damaged--all within minutes [for the complete story and video: Violent End to a Violent Life: Our Neighborhood Nightmare].

From the moment I heard there would be a prayer service in response to that horrid sequence of events, I knew I would attend. The service was last week.

The short, simple event attempted to respond peacefully to that violence. People who knew or were related to the perpetrator, people who serve in the neighborhood, neighbors--we all gathered in the site that provides free meals. We sang, reflected, and shared. We stood and extended our hands, symbolically calling down a blessing of peace on the area--in each of the four directions.

Unquestioningly, the testimony of the volunteer, Rylan Bebermeyer, who had been assaulted at that very room, moved me deeply. His lip was split in the unprovoked punch, an attack he did not even see coming, an attack that required 15 stitches to fix. As a neighbor to the Café myself, seeing his bloody gurney going into the ambulance had been my first indication of the trouble that day. He had looked like a character from the movie Rocky--and he even almost chuckled as he recalled that fact himself to the group.

Rylan also recalled that he had prayed early that morning that he would be open to whatever the day would bring to him. As he spoke of the incident his face mirrored deep peace. He expressed no anger--only gratitude: "I never once had a feeling of anger toward Steve. What good would have anger done?"

Instead Rylan remembered gratefully the many people who assisted him--including even the woman upon whom he fell: "...right over there [pointing]. I fell on her. She kept me from hitting the corner on my way down."

Nonviolence is not "goody two-shoes," otherworldly, nor something vapid or "feel good." The person who can integrate undeserved pain deliberately inflicted on him is not taking the easy way out. Our neighborhood is healing. Violence is easy. Peace is hard.


Thanks to the blog "St. Anne, Pray for Us" for bringing the quotation from Rohr to my attention.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Arrested Activists Claim False Imprisonment by Army Police in Wisconsin

"...a virtual kidnapping." Attorney Larry Hildes

Four peace activists who were arrested and jailed by Department of the Army Police at Wisconsin's Fort McCoy at an antiwar protest on August 9 are exploring possible legal responses to what they charge is their false imprisonment and various violations of posse comitatus laws that restrict the military from acting as civilian police.

The nonviolent protest commemorated the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Over 50 participants of the "Walk for Peace," a three day demonstration march, ended their march at the gates of Fort McCoy, a military training center which deploys National Guard units to Iraq and Afghanistan. Nine activists who carried their protest onto the base received citations for a federal petty offense that required them to appear in court at a later date. Normally the cited person is immediately released pending that later court appearance. But in this case, military authorities released only five of the nine and continued to detain four, telling them that they would be jailed because they had each been apprehended at previous protests at the Fort.

U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil told Wisconsin Public Radio that a glitch in communications between his office and military police at the base led to the four's jailing.

Representatives of Fort McCoy told the four prisoners, media, and public inquirers that the four would be held at the base until they were turned over to United States Marshals for transport to the Dane County Jail in Madison, WI. However, the four were instead held on the base for over three hours before being chained, loaded in a van by Fort McCoy police, and driven seventy miles to the Dane County Jail where they were incarcerated as "federal holds." The US Marshals' office in Madison claimed no knowledge of the four and had no record of their detention.

The four were released the next afternoon, 24 hours after being apprehended by Fort McCoy Army police. They never appeared before a judge. Jail guards told them that "Fort McCoy wired that they were lifting their hold" on the prisoners.

The incident raises many disturbing issues, according to the Mass Defense Committee of the National Lawyers Guild attorney Larry Hildes of Bellingham, Washington. He says the bizarre events in Wisconsin constitute a "virtual kidnapping." Hildes represents other activists around the country regarding a growing number of alleged violations of the Posse Comitatus Act. He says the Dane County Sheriff's Department "should have been asking a lot of questions" before accepting the prisoners delivered by Army police.

Joy First, co-convener of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance and one of the four, stated: "...the officials at Fort McCoy acted as judge and jury as they illegally detained us and took us to Madison to be held overnight in the Dane County Jail."

Another of the four, Bonnie Urfer of Nukewatch, sees parallels between Fort McCoy police treatment of the protestors and military policy regarding detainees abroad: "The four of us received just a small taste of what it feels like to be rounded up and punished by a military out of control and operating outside the law... In the U.S., illegal military detention should not be happening for any amount of time at all."

"What the US Attorney calls a ‘glitch in communications' is in reality a crime and a part of a larger pattern of illegal government activity that needs to be resisted on many levels," says Brian Terrell of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. "Wars of aggression and illegal occupations not only take the lives of civilians and soldiers without distinction, they also inevitably erode civil liberties and freedoms here at home."

More acts of nonviolent protest are being planned at Fort McCoy until all US troops are brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan, say the activists in information they provided.