Tag Archives: Peace & Justice

Losing Ourselves on the Side of the Street


May 31, 2015

“If a panhandler comes near you and you are fearful, call the police.” The statement is not exact but it is close to what I’ve heard on the radio once a week for a number of months.

I don’t so much find this statement bad as I do evil. Built into such a message is “you ought to fear those folk you see on the side of the road.” My guess is, if folk did not fear panhandlers in the City of Yakima yesterday, they will tomorrow. Like too many messages we hear in our communities, this message is not one of peace and wellbeing for one’s neighbor, but one of, if you don’t look, smell, and think like me, you are questionable at the least and a danger at the most.

It would seem this announcement lead’s toward one path—the imprisonment of panhandlers and homeless people (Homeless folk are a small percentage of panhandlers, however, I’d guess most folk think the opposite). The hope, it would seem, for those supporting and funding this announcement, is to eliminate those who struggle greatly within our society—under the guise of justice.

The absurdity of such an announcement is not only hurtful to those who have little societal voice, but damaging to the whole of community. To make our sisters and brothers on the street, who struggle to make a dollar, as something other than ourselves—into folk to be feared, we damage our sense of justice, of peace, and our spiritual wellbeing. To lose our brothers and sisters, whose lives are so different from our own, to our fear and possible imprisonment is to jail our own created self.

*KIMATV.com: File photo

A Practice Of Reverence, Honor, And Spirit


May 17, 2015

Knowing food is a spiritual practice. Paying close attention to food is living a practice of knowing creation.

To know food is to move beyond myopic buying of food with little thought of its origin: the people involved in its growing, the weather that supports its growth, the community of production, or the sources of its growth—soil, water. To know food is to step beyond a big-box grocery store existence to life of creation.

This desecration eliminates harmony within the landscape. In part, the dearth of harmony comes from a food system that says there is a “right” way of eating. The system cares little if one is a meateater, vegan, or vegetarian, what matters most is that folk believe their way of eating is correct. Such thinking keeps a food conversation of justice at bay, and folk looking at one another believing they could do better. When a friend posted Beefing Up Justice on their Facebook page they commented, “Thank you…for the sacred work you do. And for providing ‘happy meat’ for those of us who just can’t quite commit 100% to the vegetarian way of life.” Obviously, the response made my day. Here is a meateater giving serious thought to becoming vegetarian, who has not fully embrace that way of eating, but is trying to live well in the transformation. Soon thereafter, someone responded to my friends posting saying, “I believe you will be able to give up killing to eat one day. I have faith in you!”

Both my friend and the responder gave faithful responses. Yet, I’d like to ponder the latter response.

I understand the want to give up killing. I figure few of us want to kill. However, only in our modern non-agriculture society might one convince themselves they can eat without killing. Continue reading

The Richness of Suicide, The Lack of Sin, and Robin Williams


March 29, 2015

(The media is deliberating if this weeks tragedy of Germanwings Flight 9525 is a suicide. Having written prior to the crash, I don’t deal with the tragedy. However, I will say at this early moment after the crash, I believe when one takes the lives of others along with their own, it is not an act of suicide, but something very different. What that difference is, I don’t know.)

A friend of mine, Daniel, sent me a note soon after Robin Williams’ suicide last August. The note has nagged me ever since. He gave a few of his thoughts on Williams and suicide and asked if I might have a few of my own. Schooled in a Catholic high school, Daniel received an earful on the sin of suicide from a particular perspective. Gaining the wisdom that comes with living life, he is now a young adult who has allowed the idea of suicide as a Cardinal sin barring one from heaven to go by the wayside. As he puts it, “how can a truly all loving God turn his back on someone who is filled with so much dread, torment, and affliction that in their greatest time of need his love would not be shared?” Fleshing out his thoughts, he answered his own nagging questions. Good for him, but that did not get me off the hook.

When it comes to suicide, there is little difference between my protestant upbringing and my friend’s Catholic high school. The elders and pastors of the Christian church of my youth were clear suicide is a sin and if you choose such you’re going to hell. No much slack on this one.

Suicide didn’t come up much in my young life. Once, in the preteen years, a friend headed home from a day of hiking Iron Canyon and came across a pickup truck parked at the end of road that was hardly more than a trail. Continue reading

Across Border Impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery


March 22, 2015

Last week’s entry Reestablishing Heritage Languages: Sustainable Thinking brought about a question. “Let me or us perhaps know Dave what you know about whether the DOD operates in some way south of the border with Mexico to the extent it does on the other side.” The question comes from the writer of Erasing Borders, Doug Smith, a worthwhile reading!

Any longer, most every nation economy has the virtues of the Doctrine of Discovery embedded in their business, environmental, and political structures. In the America’s alone, though the political and cultural structures of nations north and south of the US border are different, the economic drive is much the same. Like a cancer, the DOD has tendrils entrenched in every American government, their law, business, religion(s), and environmental policies. The easiest sector to notice the DOD is in economy and business.

The DOD has always been about gaining wealth for governments through the extraction of resources. Those who financed Portugal’s Vasco da Gama, Spain’s Columbus, Balboa, Cortés, Pizarro, and Coronado, England’s Cabot, Drake, and France’s Cartier had one goal, find resources, extract the, (or develop a plan of extraction) those resources, and bring them resource. Finding examples of how the DOD operates south of the US border become easier when one is sympathetic with the idea that the primary component of the DOD is extracting resources.

For comparison sake, consider a recent US example. The land of Oak Flat sits just outside the landscape of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. Continue reading

From Brando to Arquette: There Is More To Justice Than a Oscar Speech


March 01, 2015

Okay, truth be told, I don’t watch the Oscars. For the most part, I find the Oscars wanting. They do little more than lift up rich folk and make them a little richer, for which I feel there is little need. However, one may not watch the Oscars, but if you read a paper or watch any television, you’re going to hear plenty about them leading up to and after the event.

When it comes to the Oscars I am the product of Marlon Brando’s 1973 refusal to accept the Best Actor award for The Godfather (and yes the streak of the 1974 Oscars probably influenced me as well, but that’s for another day…). Sending Sacheen Littlefeather in his place, Littlefeather told folks Brando regretfully would not accept the award as a way to protest Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans in film. I, like others, didn’t give the speech as much thought at the time as I have in the following years. What I’ve learned over time, is actors can act in a social justice film, but not have a social justice bone in their body. Therefore, and actor risking their words off-screen (or lend power so one who is voiceless has voice) matters. Only then does an actor build a reputation that matters, for their livelihood on the line.

I read this was a year of speeches on social issues. Fine and well. However, I along with others have a more critical ear today than when Littlefeather gave her ’73 speech. Today there is the “so what” factor, which says, “so what are you going to do now and in the years to come?” After all, what Native American organization do we attribute to Brando’s support today? Any longer, you cannot give a speech and not immerse yourself into the issue of justice. Any less is a self-marketing stunt. Continue reading

How Do We Talk About Our Unpeopling A People?


February 15, 2015

Last fall I came across an article about a partnership between Disciples Center for Public Justice (Center) and Disciple Home Ministries (DHM). In this article the author wrote,

This…ministry deals with such diverse issues and concerns as criminal justice reform, human trafficking, gun violence, capital punishment, and the rights of Native Americans in the United States and First Nations in Canada.

My first read through I wanted to say, great! Second read though had me saying, again? Fair enough, I read church articles through a pair of glasses with one anti-racist lens and one Christian Doctrine of Discovery lens. Sometimes they have trouble focusing, but sometimes they lead to a question or comment.

This time, the again led to comment. I find the above sentence problematic because the author created a list of items. I have no problem with the first four items, “criminal justice reform, human trafficking, gun violence, capital punishment.” The kicker is the fifth item, “and the rights of Native Americans in the United States and First Nations in Canada.” By including the rights of Native Americans and First Nations in the list, the author converts Native American and First Nation (Native) people from people to items.

Grasping at straws? Well, consider the first item. Criminal justice reform is concerned with the rights of all people, African-American, Latino, White, Asian, etcetera. There is no mention of concern for African-American, Asian, or Latino rights. Continue reading

An Old Word to Honor and A Modern Word “That’s For the Birds”


February 8, 2015

“That’s for the birds,” has an interesting undertones these days. The avian influenza, a highly contagious and deadly virus is ramping up across the countryside. Who knew that when the flu rolled out this year, we’d be talking bird flu rather than should we have gotten our flu shot or not. For a chicken though, getting the flu and getting shot is a bit different than for us. Today, the government is dispatching birds right and left.

Bird flu fear is so great, China, the European Union, and many more countries have banned US poultry and eggs. Other nations, like Canada, have placed trade restrictions on exports from Washington and Oregon. These actions have folk wondering the economic impact of the flu. Fear has also led chicken folk, industrial, and small farm alike, to take precautions like requiring farm visitors to walk through bleach tubs before entering the farm. This is what the government, the agricultural industry, and media has termed as best biosecurity practices.

The bird flu is clearing muddy agricultural industry waters and three problematic areas come into focus: dispatching birds, economic impact, and biosecurity. While not spending much time on the first two, I will say, using the word dispatching other than “kill” is a tell of an industry who fears public knowledge that animals are killed at unimaginable numbers today, healthy or not. When it comes to an economic impact because of export restrictions, one has to wonder why chickens, chicken meat, and eggs are exported in the first place? Chickens and eggs are so easy to raise, very few communities need US farm poultry and eggs. What has my goat though is the idea of biosecurity. Continue reading

How The Young Are Taught The True Celebratory Holiday


January 25, 2015

Sunday January 18: Seahawks vs. Green Bay
Morning, eleven thirty, driving through town.
Oddly few cars on the road.
Everyone must be with family and friends.
Waiting for the game to begin.

Businesses are closed.
Except for the grocery store, the new Buffalo Wings,
the new Dave’s BBQ,
and McDonalds

Monday January 19: Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday
Morning, eleven thirty, marching through town.
Lanes filled with cars.
Folk are walking, eating, working, most everywhere
But in the march.

Businesses are open.
Employees work, many at minimum wage.
Little profit in celebrating voting, housing, civil rights.
My mocking subconscious—white owned.

[Watercolor: Tobacco Barn Workers by Jack Lewis]

Bending Gates and Bending Wills or High Tailing It


January 18, 2015

Last October I picked up a number of weaned steers. They came from an Angus herd, raised on grass, and certified natural. Just the animals I look for to bring to the farm.

I trailered them to the farm and unloaded into the holding corral where they would stay for the next two weeks. Giving them a chance to settle down and get use to the new landscape and people (and giving us a chance to see if the new animals are sick before turning them out with the herd). I kept my distance from the corral, other than to feed, figuring the trailering and new space is enough stress for a day. Figuring out humans could wait a day or two. Just the same, I keep an eye on them with binoculars in case something comes up.

I noticed one steer in particular kept its tail in the air and its head raised all day. While a high sense of alertness might serve well on the high range, a raised tail is not a good sign for our farm. An hour after arrival, where the others have their heads in the hay trough, he is moving about and edgy. By the end of the day, the others are well fed, watered and quieted down—not him.

After two weeks everyone continued to look healthy and mostly settled in. Not as settled as I’d like, the one continued to have its tail in the air every time I fed. But I figured once they were on pasture, with acres of space to roam, his tail would drop and everyone would claim the calmness of the existing herd. Continue reading

Engaging Justice Prior To Movement Status


January 4, 2015

When speaking about the Christian Doctrine of Discovery and asking folk to consider if their life-ministry-vocation is to help the movement by raising their communities awareness of the CDOD’s structural injustice, a question sometimes asked (perhaps it isn’t as much a question as it is a comment), “what movement?”

I think we all have an ingrained desire to participate in justice. Justice may look very different to each of us and sometimes we find ourselves as if across a wall from one another believing ours is the justice side. Regardless of which side of the wall we find ourselves, we want justice for our friends, neighbors, and relations. To make it so, we often prefer being part of a movement. In other words, we want to do justice, but we would a whole lot rather not do it alone.

Not being alone has much to with the question. Though many are engaged in raising awareness of the CDOD, there currently in no single organized movement. There is the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, but most people don’t see themselves related to such a world structure. Then there are churches who have begun asking questions and wondering what change might look like within their own organizations, like the Methodist, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Quaker, and Disciples of Christ churches. And there are a few universities with groups who are actively engaged in questioning the CDOD. Continue reading