About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Category: Public policy

A great day for justice

Yes take 3

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered. –Justice Anthony Kennedy, on behalf of the Supreme Court of the United States

Just wanted to post something brief and celebratory on this historic day! I’m really thrilled that the Supreme Court did the right thing today, announcing their 5-4 decision in favor of marriage equality. I was also happy to learn yesterday that my company filed an amicus brief in this case. Sixty percent of the country agrees with the Court–and I’m certain we are on the right side of history. There’s undoubtedly more work to be done on civil rights in this country, but this is a huge step in the right direction–probably the most important US civil rights milestone in my memory. (Loving v. Virginia, another key marriage equality case, was decided the year I was born.)

If you live in the US and want to show your support for marriage equality and the LGBT community who will be bearing the brunt of any backlash from the unenlightened minority, keychain tags and stickers are available from the Human Rights Campaign. Those who wished for the preservation of the unjust status quo need to understand that this decision reflects the will of the majority.

There’s so much more we need to do … but let’s savor this moment!

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage® card Yes!

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

We have the wisdom

Earth Day

This is the SoulCollage® card I made in honor of Earth Day in response to this challenge. I’ve called it We have the wisdom because I truly believe that we humans, who are in the process of destroying this planet as a habitat suitable for our own species–as well as many others–have the wisdom to reverse that process. We know what doesn’t work, and therefore what we need to do. I believe love and wisdom are stronger than greed and machismo, but there can be no doubt that decisive action is needed to ensure they win.

Pictured on the card are several environmental activists. Dr. Jane Goodall is well known for her work as a primatologist. Today, at 80, she travels 300 days a year advocating for her beloved chimpanzees and the environment. Her Roots & Shoots program aims to educate the youngest generation about the environment.

The women in the middle are Pershlie Ami, a Hopi elder, and Mary Lyons, an Ojibwe elder, at the 2014 People’s Climate March, where 400,000 people participated. It seems pretty clear to me that had we American settlers followed the aboriginal example in only one respect, considering the seventh generation in every decision, it’s unlikely we would be facing a climate crisis today.

On the right is Tim DeChristopher, 33, who served 21 months in prison for bidding $1.8 million he didn’t have on 14 parcels of land around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah in a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction. He attended the auction as a protester, not planning to bid, and was inspired to bid as the auction proceeded. The leases were later canceled, and the 14 parcels of land remain unexploited. While in prison, he was accepted to Harvard Divinity School. His website, bidder70.org, is named for his paddle number.

At the bottom of the card is a Spirit Bear in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Say something

Fawn

Last night, following the Ferguson grand jury’s failure to indict, there was a peaceful protest here, quite close to where I ate lunch today. The protesters started their march at police headquarters, and ended it by marching onto a major highway–and then sitting down. The police appear to have done their job well–closing the highway to ensure the safety of the protesters, and remaining calm. Eight protesters were arrested late in the evening.

Due to my news blackout, I didn’t know about the protest, but as is always the case, when something important happens, I do hear about it. Several of my lunch companions were discussing the protest–all in unfavorable terms. They felt that shutting down a highway–a highway!–was taking things a step too far.

I said, Well, it sounds peaceful–was that the case? And they admitted it was, but continued to shake their heads over the highway–the highway! I began to wonder if highways were sacred in some way I had never realized …

Then one woman said, I just don’t get it. What happened in Ferguson had nothing to do with them.

Say what?!

I said, Well, I get it. There’s a huge amount of fear out there, on the part of cops and other people, and black people are ending up dead because of it. That’s just not cool.

And, of course, what’s also just not cool is that over and over, it seems to be consequence-free.

“It has nothing to do with them” is something I’ve heard before from her. It seems she has not yet taken the opportunity to learn that we are all connected–that what hurts one of us hurts all of us. She doesn’t understand why, for example, someone who has no children would be concerned about a children’s issue to the point of being genuinely upset. So I wasn’t surprised to hear this again.

But from my perspective (and I’m sure I’m not alone), if you’re black, it takes about a millisecond to make the connection: Michael Brown could’ve been my son. My grandson. My brother. Or me.

And if you’re not black, it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to realize, If I were black, Michael Brown could’ve been my son. My grandson. My brother. Or me. And … why is it again that in 2014, 151 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the color of a person’s skin (a temporary condition, as souls have no color) continues to be so important that it can mean the difference between life and death?

For the record, any peaceful protest of injustice, hatred, loss of life, and fear is alright by me. Please, shut down a highway. Do it early, do it often. Do whatever it takes to get people’s attention.

As you go about your business in my country or any country, as you hear people expressing fear of the (supposed) other, hatred, prejudice, harsh judgment, or indifference to suffering–and they will–I hope you’ll say something. It doesn’t have to be perfect. What I said today wasn’t perfect, but I’m glad I said something anyway. I do think it helps to speak from love rather than anger. I believe it helps to say something.

Imagine if hate were always challenged. If lack of empathy were always met with compassion. If misunderstanding were always countered with thoughtfulness. If those labeled “other” were always relabeled “one of us.”

All of that is possible–if you say something. When we say something.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card of my throat chakra totem (a fawn), Opening the gate.

How to make a difference II

Not a loan

The opposite of rich is not poor; it’s free. The more weighed down we are, the harder it is for us to move when the Spirit says move. When were encumbered by baggage such as credit-card debt, we are unable to follow the Spirit’s lead. –Reverend Lynice Pinkard

Taking on debt indentures you to do future work in order to pay for past purchases. –Cynthia Eells

And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. … Ye shall not therefore oppress one another … –Leviticus 25: 10, 17

At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbor shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother … –Deuteronomy 15:1-2

As soon as I read about the Rolling Jubilee project–I think it was in Yes! magazine‘s poverty issue–I knew I wanted to be part of it. Rolling Jubilee, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, buys “bad” debt that’s in collections and is being sold for pennies on the dollar–and then they forgive it, cancel it, no strings attached. Or, as the Strike Debt folks like to say, they abolish it.

They focus on debt that has been incurred for basic services like medical care and education. (Most student loan debt is inaccessible to the Rolling Jubilee due to the federal government’s role, but the project has acquired private student debt.) The kinds of things that could be considered–but in the US often are not–basic human rights.

I know what a good feeling it is to retire debt. I’ve been working for several years to abolish my own debt, and starting next month, major chunks of it will be gone–paid the old-fashioned way, I might add–I haven’t gotten creative, in case you’re wondering! Early next year, I’ll owe money only on my house–and the end of my mortgage debt, though not immediate, is in sight as well. I am thrilled, so the thought of bringing freedom from debt to other people who may have despaired of ever having it, is really nothing short of awesome. I unequivocally love the idea.

According to Rolling Jubilee’s website, one in seven people in this country is currently being pursued by a debt collector. I’m comfortable calling it harassment. Just last week, after weeks and weeks of robo-calls for Hyacinth [my last name], a human finally called and I was able to put a stop to it. I’ve also gotten calls for Helen [my last name], and a number of other people who are not me and have never been members of my household. I certainly feel harassed, and it’s not even my debt.

Critics of the Rolling Jubilee have said that its approach doesn’t reduce the debt burden because it’s “bad debt” being discharged. This seems to me a banker’s view, not a people’s view, of the matter. It seems clear to me that those who owe the debt are unable to pay it–but the harassment of the attempts to collect that debt, and the felt burden of that debt, are no less real than if the debt were “good debt”–and probably both are increased.

To date, the Rolling Jubilee has discharged over $18.5 million in debt at a cost of a little over $700,000. They state that “all proceeds go directly to buying and canceling people’s debt.”

Now no doubt many people associated with the Strike Debt and Occupy movements have ideas a bit more radical than my own. I’m fine with that … I think a few radical ideas will be useful in moving our country away from the current tyranny of the 1%. And I love the idea of creating freedom from debt.

The term jubilee comes from the Bible, and as I wrote this, I wanted to refresh my memory on the details. I remembered a cycle of 7 years, and a complete cycle of 7 x 7 (49) years plus the 50th or jubilee year, when all debt is forgiven and all indentured servants go free.

Perhaps part of the reason I couldn’t quite remember the details (my family read the Bible through each year for much of my childhood) is that, like the Creation story, there are multiple different versions of the jubilee rules–one in Leviticus, one in Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy presents just the 7-year cycle, with the release happening in the fixed seventh year (the Sabbath year). Leviticus presents the 50-year jubilee cycle I remembered.

I was disturbed to see that it wasn’t quite all debt forgiven, all indentured servants and their children going free (and not empty-handed, either), and all land returning to its original owner. The Old Testament writings draw a distinction between the debt your ‘brother’ owes you, or your ‘brother’ being in servitude to you, and the same being true of a ‘sojourner,’ ‘stranger,’ or ‘heathen.’ According to these laws, such others could be held in servitude or indebtedness in perpetuity. Jesus took care to correct this error with his parable of The Good Samaritan, which makes it clear that all humankind are our neighbors, our brothers.

Isn’t that just the problem … those who wish to enslave us by having us forever in their debt don’t see us as their brothers, their neighbors, their landsmen, but as entities or objects to be used in their own enrichment. I think one of the beautiful things about the Rolling Jubilee debt buys is that they are blocks of debt, the individual debtors completely anonymous and unknown until after the buy is complete. Some of them no doubt would be recognizable to me as ‘brothers’ in Old Testament terms … people who share my ethnicity. And yet there is no doubt that every one of them is my neighbor.

If you’d like to contribute, you can do so here. (The original How to make a difference is here.)

All is well

All is well

All is well.

There are changes, and all is well.

More changes are coming, good ones. You will see.

“All is well.” This is the perennial #1 tune on my inner guidance channel. It is always the first thing I hear. I have come to understand that it is always true.

There may be changes, there may be difficulties, there may be storms. But all is well.

Awhile back at work, layoffs were announced, to occur over the next 6 months. They began immediately, department by department. Some really key people have been cut. People who were a joy to see and interact with. People who had depth and breadth of knowledge that is virtually unmatched. People whom I would make a point of saying goodbye to if I left myself are now gone.

Last Friday was another layoff day, this time in my own group. I got to work, saw unhappy faces, and heard rumblings that today was the day. When I heard that a friend and former manager was among those affected, it felt like someone had died. In all, nearly 40 people in my larger department were affected.

A couple of people cracked callous jokes; I was seriously unamused. (I suppose occasions that call for empathy must be quite trying for those who care only about themselves.) When all of us survivors were sprung for the day, it was a real relief.

I’ve been there myself, once as part of a WARN layoff. Careers go on; you find the way forward. You do what must be done. There is undeniable loss, and also gain.

All is well.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, All is well. 

The essence of a soul

Soul Essence

We are a living, breathing manifestation of this beautiful and generous planet. –Thich Nhat Hanh

In a SoulCollage deck, there are several Transpersonal cards–Source, Witness, and Soul Essence. I made a Source card some time ago, I haven’t found images for my Witness card yet–and here’s the Soul Essence card I made today. The Soul Essence card represents the maker’s eternal soul and its unique potential.

I found this card a challenge. It’s difficult to conceptualize your soul while you’re incarnated, or so it seems to me. A number of Soul Essence cards I’ve seen include images that reflect the maker’s current gender, but that didn’t feel right to me.

Thanks to various past-life explorations, I know that I’ve been Jacob, a shepherd in the Bronze Age; a master mason who worked on Rouen Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral; and a stern, humorless, old-school English fisherman–none of whom shared my current gender.

I do see a couple of threads running consistently through these lives–one being strength, the other mastery. In my life as Jacob–a calm, peaceful, idyllic life–I was known for my wisdom about nature, and was a leader among the other shepherds. In my current life I have a tendency to become an expert on whatever I’m working on, almost without intending to. I have to say, I do not enjoy my own incompetence.

I am undeniably an incompetent bowler–unless we change the rules and gutter balls become a good thing–and I would much rather watch others who have grace and skill play, than play myself.

The other common thread is that, as far as I know, all of my incarnations (I’ve been told more than a hundred) have been on this planet. It makes me quite sad to think that due to our foolhardy destructiveness over a relatively short period of time (i.e., the Industrial Age), it might not be possible for me to finish my soul’s education here on planet Earth. I’ve read in several places that our little planet is generally considered a difficult school. Would it be the Harvard of the universe? Perhaps it’s more of an MIT, Penn, or Duke. All I know is that it’s been my home–or perhaps better, home away from home–for millennia. I hope enough of us wake up to reality and take action in time.

Long may we be nurtured by Mother Earth.

What would Jesus do?

Speak out against hate and injustice whenever and wherever you see it. –Morris Dees, Founder, Southern Poverty Law Center

Tonight I came home to find my alumni magazine had arrived. I flipped it open to the letters, which are always interesting.

A couple issues back, the first news of a same-sex alumni wedding appeared, and the letters for and against commenced. Those in favor, of course, see this as no particular big deal–simply another step as the country evolves and legalizes marriage equality state by state. Those against are more fired up.

In this issue, there were several letters against, none for. As usual, alumni were citing Christian values as a reason not to publish this news.

I decided it was time to fire off a letter of my own …

Thank you for publishing all alumni news, including all wedding news. I would expect nothing less of The University Magazine. I want to know what’s going on in the lives of everyone I knew at University, regardless (need I say) of sexual orientation.

I see that the current University Student Handbook states that “University does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, ethnic origin, disability, or covered veteran status, or any basis protected by law, in any phase of its employment process, in any phase of its admission or financial aid programs, or in any other aspect of its educational programs or activities.”

It appears that several other alumni are asking you to violate university policy in the name of Christianity–that is, in the name of Christ. I often think Jesus needs to be divine to bear with equanimity all that is done in his name.

Thank you for following University’s anti-discrimination policy, which I suspect is quite similar to Jesus’s anti-discrimination policy.

Stunning

In one study, just the act of having to identify one’s race caused black college students to perform half as well on questions from a standardized examination as they did on versions of the test that didn’t ask about a student’s skin color. –Paul Schneider, in a review of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”

I honestly find this stunning. The key words here are half as well and college students. Not a 5% difference, not a 10% difference, but a 50% difference. That’s more than the difference between an A+ and an F. And these were not just any students, but college students, young people who scored well enough on the ACT or SAT to get into college, who believed they could go to college in the first place, who applied and were admitted to college. So it seems reasonable to hypothesize that the differential could be even greater for younger students.

Wow, just wow.

For those who think it’s over–it’s not over. It’s not time to gut the Voting Rights Act. It’s not time to assume that any person of color who doesn’t find life smooth sailing has only him or herself to blame. It’s not time to end affirmative action. This much is clear to me.

I recently read in The Sun an essay by Ross Gay, a black poet and college professor, in which he recounts that he has worried that he might have committed a crime that he knows full well he didn’t commit:

I’ve had to struggle not to absorb those stares and questions and traffic stops and newscasts and tv shows and movies and what they imply. I’ve been afraid walking through the alarm gate at the store that maybe something’s fallen into my pockets, or that I’ve unconsciously stuffed something in them; I’ve felt panic that the light-skinned black man who mugged our elderly former neighbors was actually me, and I worried that my parents, with whom I watched the newscast, suspected the same; and nearly every time I’ve been pulled over, I’ve prayed there were no drugs in my car, despite the fact that I don’t use drugs; I don’t even smoke pot. That’s to say, the story I have all my life heard about black people — criminal, criminal, criminal — I have started to suspect of myself.

Clearly we have a ways to go. Racism is not only alive and well, but it’s being internalized by people of color, really in just the same way that sexism is internalized by women, and it’s clearly not a matter of ignorance. These are all educated, intelligent people. We’re all marinating in the same toxic soup.

In August of this year, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint with the Department of Justice against the state of Florida over its setting educational expectations by race, with Asians expected to perform best, followed by white, Hispanic, and black students.

In reading, the plan sets goals of 90 percent of Asian-American students reading at grade level by 2018 versus 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanic students and 74 percent of black students. In math, 92 percent of Asian-Americans are expected to perform at grade level versus 86 percent of white students, 80 percent of Hispanic students and 74 percent of black students. –Orlando Sentinel

Obviously these goals send just exactly the kind of message that results in the lowered performance found in the standardized test study.

How can we create true equality in our society? Because it’s time we did.

A good use for guilt

Last night at dinner, I was the only one who ordered dessert (let the record show that I shared this rich and wonderful dessert with five other people). One of the other women commented that she really liked a local restaurant chainlet–known for limiting the calories in each dish–because the desserts are small, and she can order dessert without feeling guilty.

I said–with complete honesty–that I don’t feel guilty about ordering dessert, and that I wished people could stop feeling guilty about food. (Really … does it ever help?)

I posed a question to the table: If people stopped feeling guilty about food, and started feeling guilty about being assholes, wouldn’t that make the world a better place? My dining companions seemed to agree it would.

Imagine this for a moment … all the unproductive guilt about food felt by people (and I assume overwhelmingly women) in the first world, gathered up into one big prod that could be set loose upon those who are starting wars. Who are conceiving legal strategies to give corporations the standing of real people. Who know about harmful contamination taking place in huge factories and are turning a blind eye.

Frankly, Dick Cheney comes to mind.

Not only did he pull the trigger on an entire war, costing hundreds of thousands of people their lives, and countless others their sanity, homes, sense of safety, and assorted limbs, he was also the evil genius behind the Halliburton exception, which exempts fracking from both the Clean Air Act and the Clean Drinking Water Act. I literally shudder to think of the karmic consequences of just these two things (and you know the guy’s got more where these came from).

One could be pardoned for assuming that someone like Dick has no conscience, but still I’d like to see him pitted against this massive ball of guilt. And then I’d like to see both of them placed where they can do no more harm.

That is my fantasy, and I’m sticking to it.

%d bloggers like this: