The First Walk Out

Today was a day of solidarity with all immigrants – those who are afraid to visit their homes and families in other countries because they could risk not being able to get back in, those documented, and undocumented. Many of us stayed home in the quickly planned protest, writing emails and calling all those to act according to their conscience – for some it would be about inclusion, others about safe places, yet others an economic point about how much immigrants contribute. For many, it was emphasized that the current action violates judeo-christian-islamic ethics where the moment of hospitality is sanctified by Abrahamic covenant with the angels visiting Abraham to save the destruction of the city. Abraham and his wife, alone in their wilderness tent, are obligated to offer the best that they had to the un-anounced visitors. G_d watches over this moment. I imagined protests in the tech and science industries where people, finding out at the last minute about the protest, went out into the street at their workplace and blocked traffic. Those who were immigrants, those who know immigrants, our friends, our families, our spouses…
People cleaned their own houses, did their own farm work, etc.

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To Be Silent or To Speak in the Face of Injustice

There are a few grievances already, and I’m bracing in anticipation of really bad news today.  When we live in one of the most secure countries in the world, and the leaders are advocating policies that justify mistreating people in the interest of national security – there is something else going on.

We need Gandhi.  We need massive faith and mobilization to know that Gandhi achieved independence from a polite colonial influence such as Great Britain for India.  Nelson Mandela achieved liberation from apartheid.  Can words really counter the guns of the most powerful?

If targeting of sanctuary cities begins to occur, this man has declared war on his own people.

There have to be massive good consequences for standing up to this level of threat to human dignity.  Divesting from wealth that pillages.  Will that stop the pillaging?  Nonviolent resistance already saw Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela.  The struggles become harder.  We need G_d.

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The Transition

The park service did an AMAZING job with the crowds. As one of my friends put it, “OMG. The pictures make America look great!”  Although I did not attend, I saw the pictures on TV at a local waiting room. I feel somewhat strengthened by the fact that the transition has been peaceful, although I, like many, continue to have concerns about what might or could happen.

As we move into a new era, with all of the political commentary, I have come to the following realization. We have had a long period of extensive sensitization to speech and respect for others, training in participating in less violent forms of authority and negotiation. Government has been very present, and has also been there for the little guy. Now, we are going to face big guys in power and there really isn’t going to be a lot of diversity in the political office. In order for them to defend this agenda, the presidency is surrounding himself with military people who support his agenda. OK. So let’s try to make this work.

The insight that I offer in this situation is the following. If one side has been able to isolate itself from the political discussion because of “political correctness” screening, then they deserve a voice and a chance to have their polar opposite position heard and tried (with certain restraints that I pray are in place in this country). This has the potential to make our country much stronger – to explore the other option.

So, what is the other option? As far as I can tell, it is much less government, much more private money replacing the government, some conservative restrictions on civil rights, conflicts of interest that become apparent in the interest of privacy, protection, and getting things done. If we are going to have less government, then the billionaires who have now taken responsibility for the state of the country are going to have to make this work with private money. It will take a lot of resources to do this.

So let’s give the other side a fair shot at making this work for 4 years. Let’s not be dragged into slipping into another Cold War with Russia over the election interference. As Putin pointed out, the Republicans generally won in many districts, so this was not just about Hillary. This was in line with Brexit, and although there were likely some problems with the election, let the chips fall where they may, our country has to be strong enough to handle this. Remember what happened when everybody started to disparage Trump when he said he might not accept the election results. The tables turned and then no one could say anything. So the Russian hacking thing is the same way. Two moves ahead, if the someone really wanted to fight Russia, this might be the way to get the other side to support this.  Let’s be happy this president doesn’t want to fight Putin.  The legacy of the Cold War is probably still present enough in some communities that there might be many others who still do.

The political problem may have more to do with the globalization of information. When we live in a world where information has been so instantly available and globalized that a walk in the park in New York can potentially translate into Benghazi, we need to step back and insulate ourselves a little. So, on that account, if we want to protect sovereignty, we need to work on building trustable networks that respect our right to choose what we want. We need to treat other countries nicely, not make enemies, and be helpful when we can.

So, let’s be hopeful!

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Love Your Neighbor, No Exceptions

It was MLK day, and I was blessed to spend most of it out of the political bustle on a 5K walk along a river with my pups. I don’t know how many other women felt like I did, but here we were being asked to perform a day of service yet again to honor a man. It felt better to be out alone. At the end of the day, I went to the community Martin Luther King, Jr. event, my spirit significantly buoyed by the fact that I had been able to complete the 5K (it had been 3 years since my feet had been injured, and I had only recently gotten out of a cast).
On arrival, they were considering closing the church it was so packed. They had prepared tables for about 130, and we were at least double that, so it was technically standing room only.  The fire marshal was called, but in the spirit of inclusion, he let it go.

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Each table had general topics for discussion. I went first to the table on “Poverty”. People were preparing bulletin boards with little post-it notes regarding their thoughts on the topic at each table. There were clearly a couple of folks at the table who had been there:
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There was no room at that table.

I went over to the immigration table, and looked over some of the notes.  The anxiety was palpable in spite of the rally for immigrant rights on Saturday.  I had been too afraid to attend.  The opportunity for arrest on this weekend was too present.  That table was also full.

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There was an extensive public discussion on pre-trial bail reform that everyone participated in, with a presentation by a judge and the local public defender.  The presenter showed us the rise in bail over the years, and how unequally it was assigned across counties.  A woman gave a very moving personal account of how she had been wrongfully accused, and bail had been set at half a million dollars (probably because she was muslim although she did not say this), and then lowered the next day to 2500.  Her 4 year old daughter had had heart surgery while she was in detention, and they had struggled to pay rent, keep her job, etc. throughout the whole experience.  Thankfully, she had been cleared; her daughter was with us; and she was socially integrated.

The only space left in the room was at the Gay and Lesbian Integration table.  I sat down there.  The header on the discussion panel had been discretely covered up, and there were no comments.  It was sad.  This being a historically military community (although the MLK community is by choice not militant), the legacy of homophobia seemed still present in the community.

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At the end of the evening, there was a drum group that played, and I got up and started to do a tribal dance, and then we all held hands and sang “We shall Overcome”.  I felt somewhat strengthened by this community that had committed to fighting injustice with nonviolence.  I left with a good feeling about the banner we had decided would represent the local Quaker community:

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It was actually an old Jewish line.

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On the Question of Permission

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one where the 2 sides have
really interesting culturally-based points of view. What I have
observed is that well-meaning sympathy for the little guy and a
smaller Israeli state (by division with a Palestinian one) can
be very rationalized antisemitism. What many people have not
understood is that Jews have had to beg for permission to “live”
in some countries. When allowed to live, they have been
experimented on and subjected to forced starvation and labor. Over
6 million were lost to the Holocaust (about the size of the
population of Israel). Putting them in the middle of one of the
most hostile to them areas of the world (their traditional
homeland) has allowed them to externalize a will to survive. Now,
some countries are saying that they have to ask for permission to
enter the west bank. I agree that they have to get along with
the Palestinians, but let’s understand what is being asked for
here. Is it really just another acknowledgment of submission?

The forces at work on both sides of the argument are very powerful,
but without a deep historical understanding of where the Jews are
coming from, there are many superficial arguments that can be
made to rationalize “justice”.

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Resolutions, Even More Thinking, and the New Year

I spent New Year’s eve at an interfaith service. It was well-attended – we were about 200 – community leaders addressing homelessness, the head of the local community college, chief of police, army, various religious leaders from the community (Muslim, Christian, Jewish), the mayor, African churches. I don’t think anyone there thought the event uninteresting or superficial. They had some beautiful singing and Muslim chanting from the Qu’ran.  A young Jewish boy gathered all his breath for a few minutes to render an impressive wail from the shofar (a ram’s horn). The organizers had prepared a nice reception afterwards that included vegetarian and gluten-free options. My humble friend walked away excited that the mayor had shaken his hand.
101_0645So, who wasn’t there?  I should preface this section by saying that unlike previous years when the event had been held in less religiously symbolic surroundings to reduce discomfort, this year it was held in the sanctuary of a newly built Catholic church replete with religious objects.  The priest noted that he had hesitated to hold it there, because of the interfaith discussion about using religious objects, but had decided that the religious objects – rather than being objects of contention, could be objects of study to other groups.  He had been intrigued by the Mosques in the past, and thought that others might consider the objects interesting to think about, to see how others worship the same G_d.  I thought he did a great job of addressing and changing the point of view about discomfort with other forms of worship.

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The discomfort was surely there for me initially.  Antisemitism, in an analogy to racism, has many subtle forms, and one is pushed into a defensive position when surrounded by people trying to convert others.  Christians by virtue of their inclusiveness (a good thing) sometimes lack a respect for other ways of worship.  They don’t understand (often to the point of intolerance) Jewish and Muslim rules about resting, praying at certain times, and food.  So, I’m looking at this very Catholic symbol hanging over the stage and wondering at my own discomfort with the image.  Seeing someone crucified and tortured at the same time as having to think about G_d must be like a Jew having to look at images of the Holocaust and pray to G_d at the same time.  In my world, even though I know that these atrocities still occur, I don’t accept their usefulness to anyone, much less G_d.  Still, the Catholic church does many things right, even if it subtly glorifies this suffering.  On the question of pardon and forgiveness of others, they generally, but not always, lead, while maintaining an authoritative structure.  It is worth reflecting on the compatibility of authority and forgiveness.

So, who wasn’t there?  The first group that I noticed were the Latinos.  Traditionally Catholic, I wondered at a possible cultural divide with other New Year’s traditions.  Their absence raised to consciousness the anxiety that I feel about policies that might be implemented in a new administration.  Not every Latino will be undocumented, but many will be confronted with an initial doubt as to their right to participate in our world, because most undocumented are Latino.  The undocumented may not have arrived lawfully, but many of them have chosen to make their own way, ethically, quietly, and independently of rules that have been written by others.  It has been a decidedly difficult life with many disruptions and the inability to achieve visible positions and often justice in society without papers.  Sending these people back when they have already had a harder time than most simply to have the arrogance of being the one who wrote the rules be acknowledged shows disregard for the relative value of suffering to the acknowledgment of power.

Some other groups that were (predictably) not visibly present were those of other sexual orientations than the majority.  And here the church has to accept some responsibility for their absence.

Finally, among those I noticed not present, were predictably the orthodox (Jews and Muslims).  Conservators of their faith traditions, they resist any intermingling of faiths as a matter of policy.  This does not make them unwanted.  Simply, in a diverse world, they, although welcome at the discussion table for inclusion and representation, cannot lead everyone because of their intolerance to inclusion of others.  If authority cannot be shared in some form, then the other has no voice, so why try to participate?  Nevertheless, the act of their inclusion at the discussion table is not a gift, it is an ethical right.  Their right not to participate is also okay.  They don’t need to be converted.  That tradition has been too painful.

So, where are the resolutions in all of this?  As I contemplate the environmental divide and the fact that both parties in environmental discussions are often not welcome in the same communities much less discussion tables, I realize that it is a little hypocritical to judge the other side so harshly.  How many of us, knowing that we were going to feel horrible the next day, were able to exercise self-restraint about New Year’s eve?  How many, knowing that a night out on the town might mean the difference between passing an exam and failing are able to say no to the date?  The environmental problem is like telling someone that there are going to be health consequences to the decisions that they make today for their ability to feel well 30 years from today.  How many people can put down the cigarette, the extra calories, etc. to feel better 50 years down the road?  How many of us made it through the holiday season much less the rest of our lives without going into debt? Most of us fall short.  And therein lies the root of the environmental problem.

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Some More Thoughts on the Way Forward

I’ve been wanting to do some water quality tests, and it has been quite a shock to me to realize the enormous level of resistance to this. I’m confronted with “We don’t want people like you in our community…We are oil drillers, anything that gets in the way of farming and drilling is not going to happen.” It’s quite depressing and disappointing. It’s not about getting in the way – it’s about solving a potentially solvable problem before it gets worse. From what Trump has said previously, I could be talking to him when I talk to these people.

So given what is likely to happen to the EPA, and the fact that most of us are excluded from circles that hold don’t hold an environmental point of view, and therefore our ability to influence through dialogue is limited, I’ve been thinking of maybe privatizing the EPA. Form a nonprofit that helps companies become eco-friendly, then certifies companies and properties as being eco-friendly. So, for example, this is a product from Tasty Bite that I enjoy:
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No stamp – people divest and isolate them from the business and social community.

It may be the best that can be done for the next few years.

All of this happens at the same time as the Israel dialogue. I have to say, thinking about puppet governments, Kerry’s speech was offensive in that its overall tone was that Israel is a puppet of the U.S. (which many Arab countries believe anyway). The suggestion that an Israeli one-state could either be Jewish or democratic but not both is also offensive.

Two states is an extreme solution to tension within one state. It would be like a foreign country saying that the U.S. should split into 2 territories – one ruled by Trump, the other by Clinton (or an Obama 3rd term). Under what conditions would a separate state be a desirable solution?

  1. If a sizeable population has no voice in its living conditions (no ability to work, go to school, worship freely, and live freely from most harassment).
  2.  If people are unable to live together without loss of life.

Most conflicts can be diffused with time alone.  The window of escalation is time-dependent.  So, how hard is it to make people want to have you a part of their community?  Settlements should be about people finding stable housing, not surveillance posts.  If you settle somewhere offering jobs, schools, and friendship with a concern for the values of the community, you should be welcome.  If you are a refugee with no home, then the community is, I believe, ethically obligated to help.  The standard for integration is less.

So, to keep things interesting, let’s leave both options on the table – one state, two states, but let’s all try a little harder to make the other side like us, and love the differences when they occur in the context of tolerable tension that allows for interesting solutions to be produced.

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