Solidarity Wins!

We have one thing to thank Donald Trump for and that is the reawakening of passionate people across the country who refuse to accept as a “new normal” the erosion of the progress made thus far on issues domestic and foreign.

Everywhere, organizations formal and informal, local and national, are emerging to stand up for the common good, for the disenfranchised, for equity and justice and Mother Earth.

Locally, I am a member of the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club to stand for land, resources and climate change issues.

I joined Equity PAC, organized to support candidates who champion equity platforms while keeping watch over non-elected, appointed officials who influence public policies, reminding them they too are accountable to the public.

Just a few miles from my home town, the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance is formalizing their multi-issue strategies for this year, bringing together people who are passionate about any one or more causes.

On a national scale, the rise of “Our Revolution” is a movement inclusive of a broad range of key equity and social justice issues born out of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Another organization, “Indivisible,” published an online guidebook written by experts familiar with the workings of the national government. The publication is a great step-by-step, start-up manual for grassroots organizers.

All this is happening…now…as people emerge from their valleys of post-election despair  and begin mobilizing their hands and feet, hearts and minds and finding like-minded folk to join the struggle.

Each new organization has its own agenda, but, let us not be so “my cause-focused” that we divert ourselves from the overall national agenda of advocacy pertaining to the welfare of all, including the planet itself.

Part of my activism is to champion “Solidarity” – creating awareness and links among and between as many groups as I can come to know, in the struggle, no matter which cause is on whose agenda.

In my next blog I will detail my personal action plan for boosting solidarity!

All issues are linked. All organizations, I urge, need to link in mutual support of each other’s mission if we are to make our voices heard and actions count.

For starters, solidarity begins like this…

  1. Be aware of other organizations’ existence.
  2. Get to know each other’s missions and purpose.
  3. Attend each other’s events and encourage your supports to attend as well.
  4. Invite other organizations’ leadership to meet occasionally to discuss strategies, progress, challenges and ways to join together on common causes.
  5. Create a cross-organizations’ “watch lists” of legislators, candidates, (local, state, national) whose agendas threaten your or others’ causes. Prepare effective strategies to influence outcomes.
  6. Be aware of “open seats” on local commissions and advisory councils which you can urge people, who demonstrate equity and justice action, to put their names up for filling these open, non-elected seats. (Note: This is where real public policy happens.)
  7. Know the nominees for government appointments from the President’s Cabinet on down through all departments. Contact the review committees’ members and legislators and let them know your views on these nominees.
  8. Create and share an up-to-date “contact” list of legislators who are in positions to support your causes.  Demonstrate your solidarity with them. Encourage them in their struggle.
  9.  Start a multi-organization “call-chain”  with each member of each group contacting a chain of five others alerting each of pending legislation that must be blocked and defeated.
  10. Jointly sponsor and host local “teach-ins” to inform residents of the issues and their importance to their lives and how to get involved by taking action.
  11. Jointly host guest speakers, film showings, concerts, pot-lucks and other events to draw attention to key issues which are bound to impact some, and therefore, all of us.
  12. Live out what solidarity means by uniting in spirit and action, with your children watching and joining in when possible, advocating with and for each other’s causes…making these your causes too.

One more suggestion,  host a book reading or a book club, using Angela Davis’, “Freedom is a Constant Struggle.”

You will find, throughout the speeches and writings which make up this book, the theme of the importance and impact of solidarity among unknown, but dedicated, women and men, who collectively won great victories in struggles past and present.

There IS profound freedom IN the struggle!

Let’s find that freedom together…in solidarity!

Yours,

The unlikely student

“When one of us suffers at the hands of the few, all the people do!” from the song, “We The People Do!” by Dale Alan.  Album: “Where Does The Justice Go?”

 

Pilate to Jesus: “What is truth?”

On his way to his crucifixion, Jesus was asked by  Pilate,  “Are you a King?”

His reply, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Pilate then retorts, “What is truth?”

Indeed! And so we stand here, accepting the “fact” that we now live in a “post-fact” and therefore “post-truth” world where elected officials simply shrug their lies and mis-information off as part of the game of politics and therefore should not be taken at face value.

The audacity of such blatant admissions shocked the nation, or, I should say, some Americans.

This news came as no surprise to minorities, Native American and non-Christian religious communities, women, and persons living with disabilities. In other words, all who are not beneficiaries of “white male privilege.”

America has always been a land of fact suppression and truth revision throughout the historical record, up to and including, voter repression in the last election cycle.

Where we are today, on all kinds of psycho-social levels, could have been predicted long before Trump, the Tea-Party, or any of its predecessors. We are living testaments of the  the latest version of the America founded of, by, and for white privilege, fueled by global economic power-brokering on the backs of those most oppressed, from 1492 to present day.

In this America, truth and facts in the high stakes, high-priced legal system, are afforded people of privilege, and are virtually absent in trials and sentencing hearings for Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and persons living with mental illnesses.

The same disparities exist regarding equity in schools, housing, hiring and wage practices, affordable health care, transportation, higher education, to name some under-reported truths and facts encountered on a daily basis.

Want another contemporary example? The Dakota Access Pipeline, and more like it, though never covered by the media. Here corporate America squares off with treaty rights which have been nothing but pieces of aging paper to every American administration.

Living in the media-dubbed “post-fact” and “post-truth” world does not negate the FACT and COLD, HARD TRUTH that facts and truth DO matter, have ALWAYS mattered. Those who pervert the facts and distort the truth must be exposed as the real “traitors” of this broken, ill-conceived, yet hopeful democracy.

I began with a quote from Pilate, representing the Roman Empire, which held vast portions of the world through slavery, persecution, military domination, intimidation and extreme taxation to support the Caesar, the rich and their military-industrial-complex. In the end, the empire was its own undoing.

But, it was Jesus, who told his followers, “If you listen to my words…you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

In the end, all we have is the truth and that in solidarity, standing up, and arming  ourselves with the facts, we can form a national movement, for such a time as this, to become the “land of the free” where “justice for all” must, in truth, demonstrate “for ALL!”

 

Sincerely,

The Unlikely Student

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost of Christmas Future

“The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and powerful, and to despise or at least neglect persons of poor and mean condition…[is] the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.” – Adam Smith

Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” meets the frightening “Ghost of Christmas Future”as a foretelling of what the world would be like if Scrooge (and those like him) would continue lives of utter disregard for humanity.

So changed he was by this vision, that, upon waking he became known as one of the most generous, caring people in town.

I invite you to use this Dickens technique and peer into the next four years, a.k.a. The Time of Trump.

Recalling Trump’s rally tirades, Twitter-babble, and statements by cabinet nominees, it doesn’t take much imagination to conger up a haunting ghost of what shall be…unless our collective ways are changed…by us.

Join me, as our ghost spirits us to a near-future American landscape, dodging toxic fumes of “clean coal” fired plants, across once-pristine tundras now pocked by oil drilling rigs feeding endless pipelines with that unmistakable petroleum-spill odor.

We soar above cities where infrastructures are falling into further ruin because tax dollars (from the working middle class) are diverted into the multi-theater war efforts which, under the guise of crushing ISIS and other “threats to American freedom,”are actually military actions to protect countries where Trump has his towers and investments.

We see our nation’s streets turned combat zones as peaceful protests escalate into armed conflicts put down, Kent State – style, by police and National Guard units, with live ammo.

Inside arenas, arrogant, militant hate speeches call out “No Lives Matter” unless they are White and Alt-Right!

Then, as if in lock-step, the crowds spill into this future America torching mosques, synagogues and Black churches.

Below, we scarcely hear the faint,  bewildered appeals from evangelical pulpits, pleading, “Can’t we just all get along?” “Let’s try to find some common ground.” “Don’t we really all want the same thing?”

As these scenes multiply, city-by-city, we find millions herded into open trucks heading for the border, with desperate children running after them shouting, “No. No. Mama. Papa.”

Our journey pauses at a tenement building. We are told to “look through any window.” We see people counting out their less-than-living wages trying to feed the kids, pay the now unregulated utility bills, with eviction notices posted on their doors.

There is something…a sound…getting louder and louder as we fly over city and town, urban and rural. It is  unmistakable wailing.

“Quickly move on,” we beg the ghost. “It is too disturbing! Too frightening. Too deafening.”

“You must hear it,” says the guide. “You must and never forget it. It is the cry of the mother, sister, brother, father who lost another to a shooting.It is the new sound track of America. It is the Second Amendment trumping ‘the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ ”

Though the sky is dark, no moon, no stars to light the way, we see flashing reds and blue beams below. We see bodies put into vans and others rounded up into police wagons heading off to jail.

“It’s called the new ‘stop and frisk,’ ” says the ghost, reading our frightened faces.

By now, we cannot bear any more of this. “Make it stop,” we cry out to the Ghost of Christmas Future. “Make it go away.”

“It shall be as you see it,” the  ghost replies.

“But, this is not America! This is not MY America!”

“It is YOUR America…You allowed this to happen.You thought all that election rhetoric was a joke. It is your future. Your nightmare,” the ghost chided.

“Is there is no way to change the course of events?” we ask, choking every word.

“The future is in your hands. These events need NOT unfold if you are determined in your resolve to stand up in solidarity. To be counted, no matter the cost, for this cost shall be dear,” the ghost retorts.

We wake. The ghost is gone. It is morning. Or, isn’t it?

The Unlikely Student.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standing Rock: Ground Zero

img_1614

Since August, the Standing Rock resistance to the continuance of the Dakota Access Pipe Line has become an internationally recognized, ground zero for the ongoing struggle.

Before reading on…if you support the Standing Rock resistance camp…do this NOW!

Contact: Belcourt Hardware and Lumber, located on Turtle Mountain Reservation – Belcourt, ND) Call 701-477-0560. 

Per a very reliable source, the store is “willing to take orders over the phone and deliver supplies to camp. They have everything from gloves, shovels, propane tanks, building supplies, wood, tents, coffee, chain saws, ETC. They support Standing Rock and the Water Protectors. They would like to bring a load down on SATURDAY.”  #WaterProtectors #NoDapl#StandingRock #RezpectOurWater #MniWiconi #WaterIsLife#SacredStoneCamp #OcetiSakowin #RedWarriorCamp

Standing Rock is among the first harbingers of how the new administration in Washington, D.C. will honor or, more to the point, frustrate environmental efforts, Native American tribal claims, land fights in general, protest movements, the media, and corporate/public/private/ government policies.

Standing Rock, as per the pipeline issue, is a tale of two administrations. On one hand, Obama’s instructions to the Army Corps of Engineers to stop the permits for building the line over the tribal lands, was to create time to seek alternative construction routes. Those plans can be frustrated simply by inertia on the part of the pipeline company, all levels of government and the Corps of Engineers.

All indications are that, without final resolution before inauguration day, Trump will take his Bible-holding oath of office in D.C.and will soon make the sacred grounds in N.D. tremble with earth moving machines resuming construction,  once again creating a mockery of the biblical teachings of justice and righteousness.

As frigid as the plains winds and snows will be, bringing temperatures as low as 50-degrees or more below zero, is the equally chilling, numbing fact that Trump himself owns shares in the pipeline’s Energy Transfer Partners, which is reported to have contributed some $100,000 to Trump during his campaign.

I will say it now and loud,  I cannot abide any more  “let’s give the new administration a chance”  to prove itself, rhetoric!

Those words alone are proof that the the Trump tower of power has already placated both major political parties and most of the general public. Even those initially frustrated with the outcome of the election are retreating back to their “normal” work-a-day lifestyles, hunkering down for the winter.

I’ve lived through Manitoba winters directly above North Dakota. If you have not experienced it, you have no idea of what the Standing Rock people are willing to do on behalf of what is just and right, for you and for generations to come.

Believe me its not, “Jack Frost nipping at your nose” as that yuletide song sings.

 

But, enough of this rant!

Do something Today! Make that call at the top of this blog!

Yours,

The Unlikely Student

 

 

“Give Now!”………For What, Exactly?

These days following the Trump “upset,” non-profits are wasting no time sending urgent, almost panic-stricken appeals to  “give now”  so they may redouble their efforts to defend their causes which are in the path of Trump’s tornado.

Can’t blame them, really. Anyone who works for a non-profit knows how to turn any crisis into a cash opportunity.

I’m sorry. Was that too cynical?

My point is simply this; be editorially vigilant about how you posture the “how,” “why” and “to what end” you want to use donor’s funds. And, be specific, please.

Given, that Trump’s  campaign rhetoric and his “first one hundred day promises” is  good reason to imagine, no expect, strides made on so many fronts may unravel before the nation’s and the world’s eyes.

So, I suggest, don’t posture appeals using the same “fear” tactics used to rally the red-capped storm troopers. You’re better than that, aren’t you?

Blogger and fund raising expert, Mazarine Treyz recently wrote, “One in ten people in the US works at a nonprofit.” My guess is that some of these nonprofits rejoiced at the election results. Others did not.

So, if you are still standing and want to rage against the new regime, Trezy suggests,  instead of complaining, do something with the assets you have. If you are a fund raiser, give it your all. If you can throw a party, do one and speak to people. If you have tech skills, put them to use. (You can find her blog at mazarine@wildwomanfundraising.com)

In other words, be rational.

If you are an organization that is sending these “Give Now” appeals to “fight back” please use facts. Organize, not just for a few days in the streets with raised fists to Trump Towers, but, as thinking people, who do not let emotions cause non-profits to turn on each other competing for the post-election, knee-jerked, “anger-based” contributions.

My only “fear” is that like most protests, they fade without organized strategies on how they “will never give up.”

Sorry, but too much of this election postmortem talk sounds like those well-meaning people who come to your side when a death or divorce comes to your family. They say, “We’re here for you. We will be on your side through this.” And, then, within a month, a week, or even a day or two, you never see or hear from them again.

You want my dollars? Tell me what you are planning to do? Who will you partner with? What is really at stake? Show me the numbers, the stories, the evidence that you have a way forward.

How serious are you about raising watchtowers on the plains of battle to minimize the impact of the new administration’s executive orders, appointments and bills sent to a friendly Congress?

Are you so serious you are willing to merge? To join forces rather than protect your donor and program turfs? Solidarity comes with costs. Are you ready to pay up?

Yours,

The Unlikely Student

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

.

 

Pipeline to the President

 

stop-dakota-pipeline-180

Next Tuesday, do one of two things…Join the Standing Rock National Day of Action event being organized in Dover, ND, or, send an email, letter, or call President Obama with an urgent message to end progress on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

See act@credoaction.com for location and other helpful information about next Tuesday’s event and how to sign a petition to send to, our still president, Obama.

This matter is a direct federal issue, which Obama (or, if we procrastinate, Trump) can influence, on many levels.

First the sacred, tribal lands in question here are part of a tribal treaty made directly with the federal government, not oil companies or even state governments. The president controls the Interior Department.

Second, the Army Corps of Engineers, which permitted the project without due process, is under the direct command of our Commander in Chief.

Third, if not now…with this president…then most likely never…in a pro-fossil fuel Trump administration which takes control on Inaugural Day in January (a cold, cold day indeed).

Slate Magazine’s Will Oremus, reports, “Trump’s stances on climate and energy received shamefully little attention throughout the campaign, partly because he barely bothered to articulate them. His avoidance was enabled by the national mainstream media, whose representatives allowed three presidential debates to come and go without asking the candidates a single direct question about what might be the most pivotal issue of our time. Nonetheless, his views on climate change are clear to anyone who cares to look for them.”

And, that is the point, really, isn’t it?

The media, our national, so-called, “free press,” did precious little to call either candidate on this question, the single most important issue affecting the country and the world, down to the “Seventh Generation.”

Grieve over the election results all we want, we cannot stay in that limbo of a first grieving stage called “denial.” We would be fools to hook our hopes on the stage called “bargain,” and we cannot resign ourselves to the last grieving stage of “acceptance.”

We cannot simply “accept” a Trump-cated view on climate change, or, any of the issues so long fought for, such as Native American rights especially over sacred lands designations, civil rights, equal pay, equal treatment, gender equality, equal education and a step up on health care coverage.

Our, “one nation, under God” IS divisible when it is not “with justice for all.”

I am told by therapists that when we believe we are threatened, or sense fear, our responses are  “flight, fight or freeze.”

As for “flight”, we cannot, must not, go anywhere. We cannot afford to simply “freeze” as these rights and progressive policies are dismantled around us. Which leaves but one response, “fight.”

Thousands in the street of our country’s major cities, in protest over Trump’s electoral (but not popular) win, are, in a way, giving voice to the “fight” option. We all know, however, this too is likely to evaporate like the “Occupy” movement, because what unifies them is  being”anti-Trump” – with no pro-active steps toward positive change.

Trump calls his win the beginnings of a “movement.” But, there is a spoiler in the game, something Bernie Sanders termed, “a social revolution.”

“Make America Great AGAIN,” infers Trump wants to revert back to some past glory days, and be that “again.”

Revolutions always go forward…toward what has not yet been seen or even imagined. It is organic and grassroots in the face of intimidation.

So, if we are to have a real, social revolution…let it begin at Standing Rock.

This event, Tuesday, will be perhaps the FIRST social action since the election. The first opportunity to stand up to the new regime about to be visited upon us all. God help us!

Yours always,

The Unlikely Student

 

 

 

We Are “Titanic”

titanic

We are on a collision course with the end of life here as we know it. The “icebergs” toward which we are heading “full-steam ahead” are the consequences of our failure to heed the warnings,  deafened by the sound of our greed or, worse yet, apathy or denial.

Imagine us all, the human race, being aboard the fated ship Titanic. Only this time, its called Planet Earth.

Too many of us continue to believe we are “unsinkable” as an eco-system, preferring the myth that Earth heals itself.

Using this Titanic metaphor came to me while re-viewing the television mini-series “Titanic: Blood and Steel” which I would recommend to anyone as a perfect case study in the domino effect of wrong thinking coupled with failed leadership to listen to engineers’ cautions, while driven by pride and profit.

Ultimately, Titanic’s sinking tallied up to a massive 2,224 lost souls, with just 710 survivors. It should not escape us that the greatest loss of life was among the steerage, or lowest-paying, emmigrant passengers, at 78% lost, as compared to less than half that toll among the first-class, wealthy voyagers. Let us not forget also, that among any age group, the death toll among children was highest at 51%.

What can be learned here?

First, we see the sheer arrogance of finacier, J. P. Morgan, who commissioned the Titanic, emboldened by the vision that his White Star  line could continue building larger and larger ships defying the mathmatics of scale vs. science and nature itself. After Titanic, another even larger ship was on the drawing board. To him and the Titanic builders, gambling with the environment, with nature, was never going to end badly.

Secondly, with the mini-series story centered around the trials of a hired metallurgist, we witness how he, on several occasions during Titanic’s construction, warned the shipyard owners of stress points, shoddy riveting (due to hiring unskilled workers during a labor dispute), and bulkheads not being strong or high enough. This last factor alone could have saved the ship’s compartments from collapsing so rapidly.

The bottom line, and why the ship now lies at the bottom of the Atlantic, comes to greed. At every turn, the protagonist in this story was denied his requests for improvements. His warnings, like scientists today, were ignored because of the potential “costs” to correct matters in time to avoid disaster.

This callous disregard even extended to the life boats. Refusing to place an adequate number to hold passengers and crew, was based on thinking the sheer number of boats would scare the passengers and ruin the deck’s ascetics.

Now for an eerie added note.

Some 14 years before the Titanic met its fate, a novel was published, ironically called, “Fatality: The Wreck of the Titan.” The ship in this story hits icebergs and sinks with great loss of life.

We have such harbingers of doom in the environmental realm too, in films, books, presentations, and with growing media attention.

Could it be that we simply do not have the “will” as a global community, despite the accords and agreements, to correct our course?

Alternative energy strategies and products are beginning to balance off dependency on fossil fuels.  Prices for such tools are becoming more affordable and available on the “average consumer’s” level, though still far out of reach for most.

We have not choice.  We must continue demonstrating the evidence-based realities of climate change, including rising temperatures and sea levels, erratic weather patterns altering hundreds of years of growing seasons, floods and droughts.

Could it be that most of the seminars, teach-ins, conferences and conventions on these matters are like preaching to the choir?

Will the last gasp be as Titanic’s Captain Smith said in is farewell to the crew, “Women and children first,” adding, a look-out-for-yourselves too.

“Women and children first?”

Well, yes, in this case, as in all struggles, aren’t they the first to absorb the shock of indecision, and will they not be the first victims of “too late” half attempts to save the planet from ourselves and for generations to come?

The more “fortunate” among us will be clamoring for the too few life boats (higher ground and safe places)  while most of us will not escape.  North/South, Have/ Have Not and
“class” conflicts will escalate over disputes for land and water. Wars instigated by religion, power, philosophies and even oil and minerals will be nothing compared to fights for survival.

Yes, we ARE Titanic! We are either passengers or the crew. We are the ship builders or the scientists who see the stress points, but they are silenced by “denial.” We elect politicians without knowing their true colors on climate change or their true allegiances and patrons to their campaigns.

If the good ship “Mother Earth” goes down, we are to blame. We, who refused to see the icebergs on the horizon.

 

When we fear, experts say, our human reactions are either “fight, flight, or freeze.” I am growing more concerned that we are caught in the “freeze” mode. To “fight” is not acceptable, not civil, and we cannot truly detect the real enemy anyway.  We cannot take “flight” because we have no where to go.

So, if YOU are not ready to head for the life boats, try this:

Go to DoSomething.org, or any such environmental website, and take ACTION!

At risk of pushing the “Titanic” metaphor too much, PLEASE watch, “Before The Flood,” created and narrated by the “Titanic” film star , Leonardo DiCaprio, which airs on the National Geographic Channel, and FREE everywhere, October 30!

The film captivates DiCaprio’s three-year exploration of climate change  and its devastating impact which is coming soon, too soon,to a continent nearer to you than you think.

Yours,

The unlikely student