Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Justice Is What Love Looks Like In Public"

What a difference a day or two--and a pen in Trump's tiny hand--makes! We've witnessed non-violent protests across the nation in support of Standing Rock and US Green Card holders as well as protests against various Trump cabinet nominees and executive orders. Photos of a local #NoDAPL event we attended are posted below the following article, a lecture about a man who knew a lot about non-violent protests, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In celebration of Black History Month, we're looking at the Political Revolution through the eyes of African Americans. First up, Dr. Cornel West speaks on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

"Justice Is What Love Looks Like In Public."
words and photos by Cindy A. Matthews

Dr. Cornel West spoke to a packed ballroom at Bowling Green State University with an estimated 1500+ in attendance. The noted author, scholar, lecturer, and former surrogate for both the Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein presidential campaigns, held the audience's undivided attention for two and a half hours. His insights on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. challenged previously held misconceptions of King as "tame, domesticated." Instead, Dr. West informed us: "Don't view him [King] as a static icon in a museum--he's a wave in an ocean."

It is often forgotten that in spite of King being seen by most white Americans as a proponent of non-violent protest and an ordained Baptist minister, he was labeled by the FBI as one of the most dangerous men in America. But why? Dr. West thinks it's because King was a "love warrior" and never forgot his true mission in life was to break through our materialistic society's indifference to evil. King never stopped seeking justice for those who were oppressed and to expose evil for what it was.

"Justice is what love looks like in public," Dr. West said, noting, "What kind of human will we choose to be?"

By resisting "deodorized discourse," King made people feel "unnerved, unsettled, uncomfortable." He is still seen as a threat to our commercialized society which wants to feel good at all costs and never uncomfortable. Dr. West in MLK's tradition challenged us to see through the "American lie" that people are "self-made."

"Did you give birth to yourself?" Dr. West joked, but turning serious he remarked how we are all molded and shaped by bigger things about us--our family, society, culture. Without piety and humility, we assume we are greater than we are and can act with impunity, something Drs. King and West do not see in their Christian tradition of human beings being instilled with love.

Dr. West admitted every tradition has its blind spots, but they are a starting place for us "to try again and fail better" next time. There is "fascism in every tradition," as fundamentalists exist in the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths, for example, and we must always be aware of their influence. Dr. King was an "organic intellectual" and "artist" who used his ideas to empower others. This came from his "prophetic faith" in the radical visions of Isaiah and Amos. King knew he would suffer for his outspokenness: "This is the price we must bear for the freedom of our people."

The U.S. government saw the danger in Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of how militarism, commercialism and racism were sucking the energy out of our democracy. King saw the connection between militarism and poverty, and he spoke out against the travesty of the Vietnam War. He sought "justice for righteousness" and used Matthew 25 as his measure of what makes a great human being. But decades later America still has a market culture which bases the worth of human beings on their "brand." Our heroes flaunt their upward mobility with their flashiness and their "biggest brand" mentality.

"Peacocks strut because they can't fly!" West taunted, adding, "Let the phones be smart!"

"What are you doing for your brothers and sisters?" is the question King would have asked in our era of "sell-outs" who demonstrate little integrity according to West. "Superficial spectacle" cannot replace "soul to soul" communication. The oligarchs don't want groups singing in harmony because they touch the soul and go beyond the pursuit of fleeting pleasure. The soul is about "sharing, sweetness, kindness and generosity." Our task is to remain tender in the midst of our market-driven culture by practicing "spiritual warfare." We can't live through the lives of the rich and famous. We need to seek justice--not revenge. Our motto should be according to Dr. West: "I don't have a minute to hate--I will seek justice."

 West urged us to stay on the "love train" or "justice train." Power without compassion crushes the weak, but Martin Luther King Jr. whispers, "Interrupt the cycle of hatred, oppression and exploitation." King's dream was not the American dream but rooted in it. It is a dream from one who has dealt with the debilitating effects of Jim Crow for decades. The "pretty words" on our sacred documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written by slave owners and those who condoned slavery. Dr. West says we must "critique the worse to bring out the best."

Martin Luther King Jr. was committed to the cross of Christ--to unconditional love. It's why he was organizing the poor and downtrodden sanitation workers of Memphis, Tennessee, when he was shot and killed. King spoke frankly. "We must come to terms with poverty," is what King was saying, according to Dr. West who also pointed out how King stated no democracy can survive with escalating poverty, militarism, racism and xenophobia. 

The challenge we face today is how to instill empathy. We've had a "rude awakening" under Trump, but perhaps it will awaken empathy for our brothers and sisters, West hopes, "shattering the sleepwalking, hardened hearts" who scapegoat the poor, Muslims, Jews, Palestinians, Latinos, Native Americans and others. Because "When you love folks, you wanna do something," he emphasized.

Catastrophe lyrically expressed is the Blues according to West. Martin Luther King Jr. "was a Blues man with a Christian twist." Dr. West states that we can learn from Blues people and prevent ourselves from falling into the pit. The question is, "Do we have what it takes, America?"

MLK stated, "I'd rather be dead than afraid." Dr. West challenged us to feel King's hope at the deepest level and do something with our lives to make the world a better place before "the worms get you."

After his talk, Dr. West took questions from the audience on a wide variety of subjects. He admonished us to "Lift every voice," as every voice is unique as a fingerprint and deserves to be heard. He encouraged us not to echo our culture of "joyless pursuit of pleasure" but be original, practicing love and justice, not hate and revenge.  "Go to where the people are. Do what you can with what you got."
"Love people because they are worthy, not because they'll love you back," West reminded us. The "diversity of our commonality" means our white and black history and cultures are intertwined in America. Cognizant of how we are linked together, we must treat each other fairly because, "Truths sooner or later have to be dealt with," and "The post-fact world is a lie!"

"Artists are the vanguard of the species," Dr. West stated. Creation is finding your own voice. Individuals possessing empathy and the imagination to glimpse a better world, and are willing to share it, are crucial to our society. We must conceive an alternative existence in the midst of a horrible one, remembering that social movements don't start at the top with elites but at the bottom with grassroots catalysts.

"Don't allow anything to dampen your call for justice!" he cried.


 From the recent Women's March in Ann Arbor, Michigan, an example of a call for justice expressed in a peaceful manner in the streets of mainstream America.

And now another example...

This Is What Democracy Looks Like!

Photos of a small town protest in front of a Big Oil corporation
by A. J. Matthews. "Non-Alternative Facts" supplied by C. A. Matthews.

With the wind, slush and damp, it was well below freezing. However, the protestors came out in numbers to make some noise in support of the Standing Rock Sioux in front of the Marathon Petroleum Building in downtown Findlay, Ohio. Marathon Petroleum is one of the Dakota Access (Bakken) Pipeline  investors along with Enbridge. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-02/enbridge-marathon-agree-to-buy-2-billion-bakken-pipeline-stake

 There were an estimated 60 to 70 participants at the height of the #NoDAPL protest.  We received honks and plenty of thumbs up, along with a couple of pro-Trump people whose sign demonstrated some interesting "alternative facts" "Oil Built Findlay." In actuality, Findlay was  a natural gas and glass manufacturing center and never an actual "oil town." It was originally built as a supply fort during the War of 1812 by the US Army on its march to Detroit, and not by Marathon Petroleum currently headquartered there as the sign implied. They came along in the 20th century.

How could these Trump supporters get their historical facts so confused? Public education defunded by Republican-held state and local governments? Fox News?
It was nice to see the young and the old, students and retirees alike standing up for Standing Rock. Findlay is a river town that has suffered its fair share of flooding in recent years, so area residents understand "water is life." (There's that pesky climate change fact rearing its ugly head again, as too much water can bring destruction as well.) They know we need to transition to a green energy system in order to keep Findlay above the flood plain, and they support the water protectors fighting to keep the water supply clean and safe for millions of other Americans.  
You never know who you'll meet at a small town protest... Maybe an alternative media journalist or two? If these ordinary folks can withstand the frigid cold to stand in solidarity with the water protectors at Standing Rock, anyone can. So, get out of your comfort zone and speak out today. Let's honor Dr. King's legacy of advocating for a more compassionate society and a better world for all humankind.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

There is Strength in Our Diversity

There is Strength in Our Diversity
words and (most) photos by C.A. Matthews 

We've had a whirlwind week of making history together in our country. In the span of two days, I marched in two "sister marches"--the Unity March and Celebration through downtown Toledo, Ohio, and the Women's March in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It's been an exhausting, yet exhilarating experience. Here are some of my thoughts and photos.
Typically, you can expect generally miserably cold and damp weather conditions not conducive to large turnouts at outdoor events in this part of the world in January. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The "early spring" cannot alone explain the large crowd at the Unity March and Celebration on January 20, 2017. Approximately 1,000 participants lined up at Toledo's International Park gazebo in mid-afternoon on a workday. Children and infants in arms and strollers were bundled up, since the route included crossing the wide expanse of the Maumee River over the Martin Luther King Jr. drawbridge.
The march was organized by the YWCA of Northwest Ohio and welcomed a wide variety of area organizations such as pro-immigrant groups, LGBTQIA teen groups, Ohio Single Payer Access Network (health care issues), clean water groups, environmental groups (including anti-fracking), social justice/church groups and women's groups

Young adults sang songs as we gathered at the pavilion and learned how our route would stretch across the MLK Bridge into the downtown area, symbolizing the unity in our diversity and our pledge of non-violent action. Participants were given the opportunity before the march to create their own heart-shaped signs expressing their love for the community.

Messages were positive and supportive of Toledo's diverse population. As we walked from the park and up and over the massive drawbridge, we were greeted by the happy honks and cheers of passersby who didn't seem put out by a parade of approximately a thousand persons blocking normally busy downtown streets at rush hour on a Friday.

The route ended at Trinity Episcopal Church with a rally featuring speakers, music, snacks and tables of literature and sign up lists for participants and the general public to learn more about area organizations working to build a better city, a more just society and a greener world. 
In a state that went to Trump in the recent election, the enthusiasm and excitement of the Unity March and the positive response of the public to it and the rally afterward cannot be downplayed. Toledoans of all ages, races, religions, sexual orientations and socio-economic backgrounds joined in marching, cheering and celebrating the beauty of the diversity of the Glass City.

I have officially "joined the Resistance." (This is from a quote from a great Star Wars-inspired sign I spied with an image of Princess Leia after my good camera broke--agh! Luckily, my cell phone camera worked fine and others like Carol graciously shared their photos.) On January 21, I joined 10,000+ human beings at the Women's March in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan.  

Photo by Carol K. (of yours truly & marchers)

The home of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, hosted a "sister march" which saw both phenomenally warm weather and fantastic attendance.  I couldn't see the start or the ending of the marchers once we arrived. No doubt about it, there was a yuge amount of people squeezed into a relatively small city. (Perhaps there were 20,000+  present? The "start" of the parade ended up almost at its "ending point" we learned later.)

Contrary to what you might think, the march wasn't attended primarily by U.M. students but by ordinary folks from the area. Babies in carriers and toddlers in strollers were everywhere. People of all ages, races, and physical abilities were evident. Pink knitted "pussy caps" peppered the crowd, and the t-shirts, costumes, signage and banners declared a festive, jovial mood while simultaneously making pertinent political points.  

Half the participants were male, not what some would expect at a "women's march." Many fathers, sons, brothers, boyfriends and husbands expressed their solidarity with women on matters of health care/reproductive rights, equal pay, equal access to education, discrimination/anti-immigration concerns and other vital issues.  Their signs expressed their love and support of the women in their life, giving a touching witness to the fact that when one part of society suffers, all of society suffers
If I ever hear how Americans simply don't care about their communities or feel any empathy towards the struggles of their fellow human beings, I will simply look back on the photos of these two marches and know that statement is a lie. We the people are resisting the negativity of a Trump administration with positive and progressive actions  and much compassion for our neighbors in our hearts.
Photo by Carol Kimbrough

The bought-off politicians and corporate-owned media pundits may say  insulting things about the 99%, but they need to get outside of their "bubble" and walk the streets with the rest of us sometimes. The strength of our unity in diversity cannot be denied.

Enjoy photos from women's marches all over the world:


Please read the following directions and take Hugh's advice...

Open Them Now!
by Hugh Campbell

Our political parties left to their exclusionary desires get to set the agendas which all American voters must live with during the general election process. Is there little wonder that the United States has such low voter turnout rates and low trust in Congress? One antidote to the stranglehold the political parties have over Democracy is to open the primaries. Please click the petition Incoming Chairs of the DNC & RNC: Open the Primaries, NOW!

A patchwork of restrictive registration rules prevented 26.3 million independent voters from participating in the Presidential Primaries/Caucuses in 2016. The same restrictive rules prevented millions more registered Democrats and Republicans from voting for the candidate of their choice. Voters from New York to Arizona, whose tax dollars fund the primary process, were denied the right to fully participate. It’s not hard to understand why voter turnout has hit a 20-year low, and 70% of all Americans now support open primaries.

By signing the petition-- Incoming Chairs of the DNC & RNC: Open the Primaries, NOW! you are sending a message to new DNC and RNC Chairs to break with the likes of Debbie Wasserman Schultz who was the poster-chair for closed primaries in every state.

BIO: Hugh Campbell is a seasoned financial professional, currently providing subject matter expertise on a variety of regulatory topics, including the Dodd-Frank Act, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and overall compliance monitoring. Hugh has previously held positions as Chief Risk Officer (CRO), Chief Audit Executive (CAE) and Director of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Compliance.

2017 Peace Essay Contest
The West Suburban (Chicago) Faith-Based Peace Coalition is sponsoring a Peace Essay Contest with a $1,000.00 award to the winner, $300 for the runner-up, and $100 for third place. Essays have to be directed to a person who can help promote knowledge of the Kellogg-Briand Pact (KBP)   and, from whom a response is expected. Essays will be judged not only on the quality of the essay but on the impact of the response. Everyone is eligible to participate; there are no restrictions regarding age or country of residence. Participants are required to take the following 3 steps: 

1. To enter the contest send a Peace Essay--
Request email to coordinator Frank Goetz at frankgoetz@comcast.net. Provide your Name, Mailing Address, Email Address, Phone Number, and, if under 19, Age. Also, provide the Name and Position of the person or persons to whom the Essay will be directed. Your application acceptance as a contest participant will be acknowledged in an email containing your assigned 4-digit Essay Number. [If information is missing or confusing you will be contacted by email or phone.] 

2. In 800 words or less write your essay on: How Can We Obey the Law Against War? As soon as possible but at least by April 15, 2017 send the essay to the person named in your application and a copy to frankgoetz@comcast.net with your Essay Number in the Subject line. 

3. By May 15, 2017 send Essay Response documentation to frankgoetz@comcast.net with your Essay Number in the Subject line.
Some examples of impact:

  1. The President agrees to explain the limitations placed on the government by KBP.
  2. A member of Congress supports a resolution to make August 27 a Day of Reflection.
  3. The ACT or SAT administration agrees to include questions regarding KBP.
  4. A newspaper includes a KBP story.
  5. A school board revises its curriculum to expand KBP studies.
  6. A religious leader calls for nonviolent actions.
We will announce the winners at a festive event honoring the 89th Anniversary of the Kellogg-Briand Pact on August 27, 2017.
Sign the Declaration of Peace.
Find events all over the world that you can take part in.
Join us on Facebook and Twitter.
Support World Beyond War's work by clicking here.

Fundamental human rights are all we're demanding... Is that really too much to ask?

If you agree, it's time to get out of our caves and take it to the streets. Follow the bold examples of these marchers/activists. It's not difficult--show up and follow the crowd! (Signs are often provided.) We'll be seeing you at the next event.

(And, Mr. Trump, remember this:  "Keep your tiny hands out of my underpants!")