Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Responding to the President's Speech

While the President seems determined to stay the course (however poorly that course is defined) in Iraq, it also seems clear that most Americans want troops home in 2006. And members of Congress are re-examining their earlier support of the war, as well.

For the next two weeks, MoveOn is sponsoring a petition drive to express -yet again- our concern that there needs to be an exit strategy for this war. They're planning a nationwide round of deliveries while the Members are in their home districts. The thinking is that each Congressperson is trying to assess whether or not the national numbers supporting the war (as in 2/3 of us DON'T)are reflected in his or her district.

Here's a link to the petition: MoveOn Petition.

Here's an interesting article re: our strategy in Iraq. I learned much more from it than I did from the President's speech -and no one could "accuse" this guy of being a bleeding heart liberal!: What's Wrong?.

The President's Speech

I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to think about it. I didn't even want to listen to it - so much so that I took a shower that I knew would be cold, in order to drown out his voice droning on at his oh-so-choreographed public relations jaunt at the Naval Academy.

But, I found myself later at the White House website, reading the transcript and later, thinking about it. Blast! Not that I'm going to have the definitive response; I'm not sure I have a cogent response at all. But we -the body politic- must talk about it.

On some level, he told us to.
So, today we're releasing a document called the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. This is an unclassified version of the strategy we've been pursuing in Iraq.... I urge all Americans to read it.

So, I did. I had a dentist appointment and I knew they'd keep me waiting. I'm on the third part of the grand total of four. I've learned who, apparently, our enemy is. This dreaded enemy has multiple dimensions or faces, but it's not who we were told at the outset, interestingly enough. I've learned all kinds of things in this glorified press release, except.... when do the troops come home. The President will accept nothing short of complete victory in this war, so the troops can't come home until then.

So, what's victory, you ask? Well, there you have the problem. Victory is defined for the purposes of his document; it has multiple parts as well. It's just that victory is defined with only the vaguest reference to the stated enemy. Am I missing something? It seems to me that victory in the context of war means vanquishing some kind of enemy. But here we have an enemy, it seems, a war, and a definition of victory that have very little to do one with another.

As a student paper, I'd give it a C-. You actually have to read it carefully to realize that there's no underlying logic. Someone went to a lot of trouble to make it seem that this plan hangs together logically. So, I wouldn't fail the paper, just based on the effort. But, this isn't cute or funny. It isn't even mostly a logical undertaking, as much as I value those. People are dying, we have a military presence in a country where we've already been asked to leave, and we were never "welcomed as liberators" as we were promised. So, the fact that his definitions and outcomes don't match isn't the primary issue.

On the other hand, the fact that it's so blatantly logically flawed tells us that the enterprise is doomed. Which we already suspected, heaven knows. So, the question on my mind is, does he really not know this? Without sashaying into treason or libel -or just malicious behavior- do we really have a President who believes his own rhetoric? The thought beginning to creep in at the edges of my consciousness is that there might really be mental health/social work issues here -and that doesn't help me to sleep well at night.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Good News!

Thanks to Mike and Kellie for this news.

Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia has granted clemency to Robin Lovitt, who was scheduled to be executed tomorrow. His sentence has been commuted to life in prison.

1000th Execution -Enough, Already!

As I write this post, the 999th execution is probably taking place. John Hicks was scheduled to die at 10:00 eastern time, this morning, in Ohio. Tomorrow night, Robin Lovitt is scheduled to be executed at 9 p.m. (eastern) in Virginia. It's an eerie and disturbing thought that someone is being executed, in my name, right this minute.

For Robin Lovitt, the case against him is acknowledged to be weak and the evidence circumstantial. The DNA evidence that might -or might not, I suppose- have exonerated him was accidentally destroyed by a court clerk. Two eye witnesses to the crime couldn't identify him. There are no fingerprints linking him to the crime scene. The primary person linking Lovitt to the crime was a fellow inmate.

John Hicks presents a more ambiguous case. A cocaine and alcohol addict, he admits to murdering his step-daughter and his mother-in-law as part of a convoluted plan to get money for more drugs. The murder of his step-daughter was particularly brutal. Yet, the jury was not informed that intoxication may be considered as a mitigating factor for premeditation -and premeditation is important if a death sentence is to be imposed. There's also a mental health diagnosis which might preclude the possibility of premeditation. Moreover, the jury was told that the decision of whether or not to impose the death penalty resides with the judge, which strictly speaking, isn't true. So, guilty? Apparently,yes. Fairly tried and deserving the death penalty? Obviously, this is a moral decision on my part, and people are free to disagree with me. But I vote no.

I don't want to minimize the pain that these people (may have) caused. My mind reels at the thought of having to deal with the murder of a loved one. I've watched friends have to deal with that -and deal with it gracefully and beautifully, I might add. But I'm not at all sure how they pulled it off. For that matter, I'm not at all sure how they manage to get up in the morning.

But I am sure that, were I to be the one killed, I wouldn't want the killer to be killed as well. I can say with certainty that adding to the death toll would not be what I want. It's a step toward truly disarming my heart, I suppose.

In the meantime, if you're so inclined, here's a link to Sr. Helen Prejean's prayer for the night of executions: Prayer for Peace.

If you want to take more politically-oriented action, try this link: 1000 Executions.

If what you're really interested in is prison reform, try this: Prison Reform.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Did You See This?

The local consensus (well, consensus-minus-one, since I disagree) is that I'm only stunned by this because we don't have television. Therefore, when I DO see TV, I'm more susceptible to its messages. Tell me what you think -but please be on my side ;)

It's one of the Wal-Mart Christmas commercials. A little boy is opening Christmas presents in a sort of happy frenzy, only to discover that he got underwear and fruit and school supplies. Then we flash to his bedroom, and he wakes up and realizes that it's all a nightmare. He really got all kinds of toys -obviously from Wal-Mart- and the gifts of things he needed were just part of a bad dream.

I don't even know where to begin to unpack this. First, there are plenty of children who will be getting things they need and they'll be delighted. Secondly, are parents who can only afford needs rather than wants supposed to believe they are providing a nightmarish Christmas? Thirdly, a hundred years ago, kids got an orange in their stocking and were thrilled. What happened?

And finally, I reject the notion that children are naturally crass consumers, driving the spending of the family disposable income. We've all seen the exact opposite a hundred times. You buy a baby or a small child something, and she plays happily with... the box it came in. In fact, the long-suffering spouse reports that three new toys have been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame: Candyland, the jack-in-the-box, and the large appliance-size cardboard box. That simple brown box is still, apparently, play-yard gold. Children can be happy with very little. They have to be taught to be consumers and allowed to become rapacious at it.

And maybe the reason that we parents let children learn this kind of behavior is because places like Wal-Mart encourage us to believe that we're less than optimal parents if we don't indulge their every whim. Of course, on most levels, we know better. But parenting is a project that creates its own vulnerabilities. We compensate where we shouldn't, sometimes.

So, what next??? Turn off the TV. Don't go to Wal-Mart. Put an orange in your kids' stockings. Let go of shopping as a recreational activity. Surely there's more than that we can do, without becoming Jerry-Falwell-esque "they're trying to steal our religious holiday" grinches.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Aung San Suu Kyi

I heard the news on NPR this morning; Aung San Suu Kyi will serve at least another year under house arrest in Myanmar. The most recent news I read indicates that the government has not confirmed this extension of her house arrest, but police cars were seen entering her neighborhood this morning -the day last year's house arrest order would otherwise have expired. You can read more of her story on line. Try wikipedia to get the background, Amnesty International to update yourself on what's being done to free her, and NPR for more updated news as to her status.

I have more personal reflections about what I've learned from her. I've never met her; she's been confined in her home for 10 of the last 16 years, after all. But she did work briefly as a social worker in New York. That little piece of her I do know.

Everyone knows that some people have it hard and some people have it easy. Social workers are the ones who say, "No- I'm not okay with that." (I know we're not the only ones who do this.) In that small way, I submit that we're subversives. We want to subvert the system that doesn't work for so many people.

If we're doing the work well, we're looking at some hard questions. Why are there so many poor and abandoned people? What is due to workers and to people who are unemployed? What is the relationship between political, economic, and social justice, and between these ideas and the common good? These questions might sound boring and pedantic, but really they're fascinating. They are, however, threatening, because when answered they're going to mean that we can't go on living the way we'd been living before.

Social workers try to make a world where there's some congruence between what we as a nation say and what we do. We do this work in different ways, of course. Only sometimes does social work frankly subvert by trying to change the economic or political structures that oppress. Clearly, that's the path that Aung San Suu Kyi has chosen.

But if we want to subvert one dangerous thing, we have to be sure to create something of merit to take its place. A world that makes sense for all its inhabitants, perhaps? That may sound like a spiritual project, and for some of us it is; Aung San Suu Kyi has written eloquently herself about the "essential spiritual aims" of the struggle for justice in Myanmar.

So, what it comes down to is this: the work that social justice advocates do is dangerous. It may or may not be politically dangerous. We may or may not have to face the consequences of our actions as starkly and bravely as Aung San Suu Kyi has. But the fact is, we're trying to change the world.

So, when you meet burnout in your life -and you will- try to remember her witness to something more important. She no longer has the option of just quitting. She faces the consequences of working for justice every single minute. The very least we can do is get out of bed in the morning and try to make things better for somebody.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

The 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence runs from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, through December 10, International Human Rights Day, thus linking the idea of eliminating gender violence to human rights. Moreover, this time of gender activism crosses World AIDS Day (December 1) and the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. (December 6).

Imagine a world where we didn't have to explain any of this. Just imagine. So, what can you do to move us closer to that day? What can I do?

Most of the ideas for official participation in the 16 Days campaign are for national governments or at least large entities. However, I'm more interested in what I can do, and what I can encourage other individuals to join me in doing. Here are some completely random ideas to get us started. I'm hoping for more from all of you.

I can "call the question" when people make jokes or comments that are abusive of women. Sigh... yet another opportunity to be a bitch.

I can avoid patronizing vendors whose advertising demeans women.

I can start sharing some of this information with my church, to see if they'll take any appropriate action. I've got to figure out how to do that in a way that's not antagonizing. That may be beyond my powers. I can always get someone else to do it ;)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Friday Random 10

Here it is again: the Friday public confession post. What's on your iPod? Put it in shuffle mode. Tell us the first 10 songs that appear -and no fair leaving out the embarrassing ones or adding in songs you think will make you look cool. Here are mine for this week:

  • Yemaya Assessu; Deva Premal
  • Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals (otherwise known as the Harry Potter theme music); Camille Saint-Saens
  • Beautiful Day; U2
  • Bang the Drum Slowly; Emmylou Harris
  • Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; Ella Fitzgerald
  • My Tears Don't Show; John Hartford
  • Holy Is His Name; John Michael Talbot
  • Good People All; Anonymous 4
  • Heaven When We're Home; The Wailin' Jennys
  • Peaceable Kingdom; Patti Smith

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ways to Help This Thanksgiving

Okay, so you're hiding out somewhere with your laptop, avoiding Great Aunt Agatha's Eggnog-of-Death and Sister-in-Law Susie's Turnip Surprise. I get that. You might as well accomplish something while you're hiding. That way, you can legitimately say you're working, if you get caught. Here are some ideas.

1) Fight for Health Care at Wal-Mart -and beyond. You saw the movie... Wal-Mart's poverty wages and expensive benefits are driving the race to the bottom for working families. The Campaign for America's Future is sponsoring the "Health Care Accountability Act" that would require huge corporations like Wal-Mart to provide decent health care for their employees. Send a message to Congress here: Sample Letter.

2)In the next few weeks, Congress undertakes the final vote on the federal budget. Grassroots outrage and outreach made a huge difference. The Senate was forced to strip some of the more appalling cuts, and the budget came within two votes of defeat in the House. We need to keep up the good work. Write your Representative and tell him or her that cutting $50 billion from services working families depend on to give tax cuts to the wealthy is no way to ensure their own job security. Learn more and write your letter on-line here: Move On.

3)Take action about the Patriot Act. Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives blocked an attempt to steam-roll the renewal of the Patriot Act through Congress. But both chambers of Congress will act on this issue when they get back from Thanksgiving recess, and they need to hear from us. And to make matters worse, the Republican leadership has now added proposed amendments to the Act that make it even worse than the 2001 version. They expanded the number of crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed and they seriously altered habeus corpus for domestic imprisonments. Interestingly, these provisions were added in conference committee, have not been considered by the chambers of Congress, and aren't in either the House or Senate bills. Moreover, the minority members of the conference committee were excluded from the meetings from which the conference report emerged. Heavy handed enough for you? Contact your Representative at his home office this week. Find out where it is by looking here: House of Representatives.

Now go visit with your Aunt Agatha. Her eggnog may be bad, but she's probably not pulling off stunts that rival these Congressional travesties!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Catholic Church is breaking my heart -again -still

Honest to Pete, when will this end?

A 28-year-old teacher at St. Rose of Lima school in New York has been fired because she's pregnant and not married. From outside the church, looking in, of course that's ridiculous. But internally, the reason that has been given for her firing is that there's a "morals clause" in her contract, requiring her to promise -which she apparently did- to follow the teachings of the Catholic church in her daily life.

Inclusion of these clauses makes conservatives happy but has proven to cause nothing but trouble for the institutional church. The bad publicity is one thing, but as far as I can tell, it makes no theological or even legal sense to include such a clause. Absolutely, we want to encourage people to behave morally, and the church thinks it has a handle on what that would look like. But unless -or until- they are sure that no married teacher in their employ is using artificial birth control, no single man has ever fathered a child out of wedlock, no cafeteria lunch lady (Catholic or not, by the way) has divorced and remarried without an annulment.... then in fact Ms. McCusker is not so much being punished because she sinned, but rather because her "immoral behavior" shows. If she had quietly and invisibly had an abortion, she'd still be working. Would that be better? And if the father of that child works for the diocese and is still employed, I'm going to have a real fit -but I clearly have no evidence that he does. It's just a thought that crossed my mind.

The Church has find minds in it and fine lawyers on retainer. Did they get such terrible advice from them, or did they ignore the rational advice they did get? Because, these clauses are just an open invitation for the aggrieved party to call an army of lawyers and the New York Times -and every blogger they know- and just have a field day. Which of course is what's happened.

The question I think we're left with is when does this become such a fundamental question of justice that we can't participate any more? There's the "stay and advocate for justice, because you clearly have no voice if you're outside the circle" argument. And on the other side, there's the "by staying, you're affiliating yourself with decisions you hate" -and I don't use the word hate lightly. I can make a convincing argument either way.

Here's an interesting little tidbit too. A long time ago, I was at a meeting with the local bishop's representative and the topic at hand was this exact morals clause. I expressed my concern with its inclusion in the contract, and the response was essentially "let's just wait and see if anyone is unjustly fired and then see if we need to get all hot and bothered." I was so stunned and offended I actually said what I was thinking, which was "I think you can safely count on THAT!" Well, here we are.

Thanks to my buddies on the Vatican 2 discussion list for bringing this issue to my attention.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

If Everyone Lived Like Me...

According to this Ecological Footprint quiz, if everyone lived like me, we'd need 6.6 planets. Well, that shouldn't be a problem, because we have so many. Sigh. And the kicker is that I thought we were being so good. We ride our bikes. We recycle. We drive our car rather less than the national average. We messed up because we have a big house that only two people live in these days. That's unlikely to change in the next little while. (We aren't getting more people, lest the rumors start! I suppose someday we'll sell the house and move to something more realistic.) The quiz does a good job, though, of giving suggestions for changing behavior.

Since I'm not up for selling the house just now, the suggestion that would make the most difference is to buy more of my food from local farmers. THOSE we have, out here in the cornfields. I'm going to track down the Community Supported Agriculture guys that I know are out there.

So.... misery loves company. Tell me how YOU scored. On this quiz, I mean.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Make Torture Un-American

I've written about this issue before (look here for more information: More Hope), so I'm sorry to try your patience. Mysteriously, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives isn't getting it that torture and American ideals don't go in the same sentence. Specifically, Speaker Hastert is using a procedural loop-hole to block voting on Sen. McCain's anti-torture amendment to the FY '06 Defense Appropriations Bill. Everyone should write to him, but particularly those of us who live in his district.

There's a sample letter and more information here: Act for Change. It might not be a bad idea to remind him that he only has a job as long as we say he does. I hear there's a wrestling coach position open in Yorkville. Maybe he could go back to that.

Okay... that last part was mean. Sorry.

Popcorn and Social Change

Here's a resource for those of us who can't quite let social justice go, even in our down time. (How annoying ARE we to the other people in our lives? Do I really want to know?) The Film Connection offers a free library of DVDs on social change topics. A registered film group can borrow one movie at a time and they offer discussion materials, resources for starting your group, and more. The DVDs are for private use only, so groups are supposed to be small and in your home. I think we can safely arrange for the group to be small ;) They will take your credit card information in case you don't return the DVD, but for all practical purposes the program is free.

I signed us up. Possibly we'll be the only on-line discussion group in their membership. There will also be a local group of friends and colleagues and, of course, everyone is invited to my home for these sporadic movie opportunities. However, if we want to do an on-line discussion, you'll have to sign up too. Maybe you should wait a week or two and I'll let you know how smoothly the delivery and return process goes.

The first movie I ordered is The Circle, a movie about women in Iran. It's in Farsi with English subtitles, so I suppose knitting during the movie isn't really an option. I think I can live with that, just this once. I didn't see a review at imdb, but if you go here: The Circle, you can read a bit about this movie. I literally picked it at random, so no promises. It's just that I've been on a bit of a tangent in my own life re: women in fundamentalist regimes.

Who's bringing the popcorn?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

It's Sunday...

... and I fret about Catholicism and my role in it, on Sundays. Or so it seems to me, anyway. It's not as though that were a formal plan.

Here's the thing. You find yourself sitting next to, praying next to, in community with, some pretty odd people. And I don't mean merely eccentric. As a social worker in a small town -and just as a person who's lived here a long time- it's easy to know who's beating his wife, who's abusing their children, whose marriage is in trouble because of someone's infidelity.... I see those people at the grocery store, too, and I've learned how to make my peace with that. But sitting next to them in church is different. What does it mean to be in communion with -to form community with- those people?

Or less dramatically (maybe) what does it mean to be in communion with people whose theology is so fundamentally different from mine? There's a woman who goes to my church. As it happens, we were in graduate school together about a hundred years ago, so we've known of each other for a while. She was annoying to me then, but she's making me crazy now. In terms of her pieties (and I assume, therefore, her theology) she's very conservative. She genuflects before receiving communion. If she could get away with prostration, she'd probably do that. She goes out of her way to be sure she's in the line where the priest is distributing communion. Why? Is his communion bread holier? She wears a chapel veil. She won't kneel on the kneeler. She kneels on the floor -which means that the people next to her can't use the kneeler, either. I could rant for a while yet, but I'll pull back now. Thank your lucky stars.

Clearly, none of these pieties is a problem -although some of them are rude and a little Pharisee-like. The problem is that I have given her all my personal power. Every week I just beg her to control my emotional response. The social worker in me says that it's time for the tried and true intervention: get a bloody grip. Theologically, it is interesting, though. Dorothy Day used to quote Dostoevsky and say that love in action was "a harsh and dreadful thing." Is it possible that this woman is in my life -again- to allow me to practice that difficult love -to give me the opportunity to love someone, I.... you know.... don't? And that's what being in church again -for me, right now, is for? That would mean that I need this person, and as an explanation that would stink. However, it still might be true.

Go back for a minute to the person beating his wife. (I don't actually know of a particular person in this category right this minute, but it has happened several times in the past.) I have no need to claim that people should be perfect or holy to come to church. If that were true, they wouldn't let me in either. I do have a need that we try to live the message. I wish that there really were a way to practice "fraternal correction" in a safe and loving manner -both to give it and receive it. (But then would it be sorroral correction?) But for now, getting in the communion line next to this person teaches me... what? Certainly to acknowledge my own brokenness and to deal with the beam in my own eye. More than that? Something different entirely? I'm still musing.

And there's always the hope that I'm as annoying to these people as they are to me. No wait.... what I meant was... I hope that I offer them the opportunity to learn something important about community, too ;)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wal-Mart: The Movie

I saw the movie last night. Oh, man! Sometimes I feel like such a naif, because most of it surprised me.

I knew that the presence of a Wal-Mart in a small community caused small, locally-owned businesses to close. It would be hard to miss that much, especially in a small town like this one. I didn't know that it is the stated policy of Wal-Mart to close those stores. I didn't know that Wal-Mart sets its health insurance prices so high that the full-time employees can't afford to sign up, and then they encourage the employees instead to rely on state medical-welfare programs. They're using public assistance as their employee "benefit" program, in other words. I didn't know that all those security cameras on the roof and on the light poles in the parking lots aren't for patron security. They're for union busting. One of the camera-array packages that a store can purchase is even called "the union package". I REALLY didn't know the conditions of the Chinese factory workers who make the toys that Wal-Mart so proudly states are "made in the USA". I didn't know that Wal-Mart employees can choose to have money deducted from their paychecks to assist other Wal-mart associates in crisis -and they donated $5 million last year. The Walton family donated.... $6000. And, to save you the trouble of doing the math, if the corporation had put that money in a regular passbook account it would have earned $50,000 interest in that year. So they didn't even contribute as much to the account as the account earned for them as it sat in the bank, until employees needed it.

So where do I go from here? This is the sad part. I think, even as sick as I am about this, I can't swear to you or to myself that I will never darken the door of a Wal-Mart again. I just think that's a promise I couldn't or wouldn't keep -yet.

I can, though, start to reduce my reliance on Wal-Mart and replace it with more ethical alternatives. Just as, when I started to purchase organic food and fair-trade food, I couldn't say, "I will on such-and-such a day cease and desist from buying anything that isn't organic and fairly traded." But I could -and did- say that I would stop buying anything other than fairly traded coffee. One thing. And soon enough, that was easy and no longer causing financial angst. Then I switched to environmentally correct cleaning products, and now that feels normal and easy. I think the biggest category of stuff we get at Wal-Mart is toiletry items -toothpaste, shampoo, etc. I'm going to start whittling away at that category and see what can be done about getting that to zero.

I'm going to give myself a year to get used to the "no Wal-Mart" idea. But it WILL happen.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday Random 10

Here's our weekly "face the music" post. Take out your iPod. Put it in shuffle mode. Tell us the first ten songs that appear, and no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork or adding ones that you think will make you look cool.

Here are mine for the week:
  • Peace, Salaam, Shalom; Emma's Revolution
  • Shanti Mantra; Ravi Shankar
  • The Casting of the Circle; Jessica Gill
  • Lincoln Park Pirates; Steve Goodman
  • Who Will Sing for Me?; Emmylou Harris
  • Don't Know Why; Norah Jones
  • The Women Gather; Sweet Honey in the Rock
  • Southland in the Springtime; Indigo Girls
  • Gracias a la Vida; Holly Near
  • Slumber My Darling; Allison Krause

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Child-Slavery and Chocolate

This may seem unimportant when compared to the renewed Patriot Act or the President's plummeting approval numbers, or any of a whole host of issues -and we'll get to those. But there are only two times a year when I eat chocolate (in ...ummm... significant quantities): Christmas and Valentine's Day. And here we are, starting chocolate season.

So, let's review. Slave traders sell boys ranging in age from 12-16 to farms in Cote d'Ivoire. They work in inhumane conditions across the country. Slave traders prey particularly on children who are alone or who are begging for food. And about 50% of the world's chocolate comes from Cote d'Ivoire. Suddenly, chocolate isn't tasting as wonderful anymore.

There's an excellent and well-documented explanation of the problem here: Chocolate and Slavery.

A question to ponder.... How can it even be that I know if my can of tuna is dolphin-free, but I can't find out if my chocolate bar is slavery-free?

A few suggestions, if this issue captivates you:
  1. Stop buying chocolate from the major corporations and substitute Fair Trade chocolate.
  2. In 2001, the chocolate-producing companies promised to self-regulate. So write to them and encourage them to actually DO it.
  3. Spread the word to your family and friends.

Some sources for fair-trade chocolate if you just have to have it -which could happen in my little world:

And finally, to improve the situation of the children already trapped in this life, you might want to check out what's happening here: Free the Children.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

1000th Execution

The 995th person to be executed since the United States re-established the death penalty (in 1977) was Robert Rowell; the execution was yesterday. The 1000th execution is scheduled for November 29th.

Catholic social teaching is very clear that the death penalty is as abhorrent as any murder. We're supposed to be as opposed to it as we are to abortion. (Andrea squirms in her seat.) Yet, we know that most Catholics don't accept this. Statistically, it seems to be easier or more compelling to be against abortion than it is to be against the death penalty.

Naturally, I have to do this backwards. I find it much easier to oppose the death penalty than abortion.

And really, one doesn't even need the church's social justice teaching to formulate a reasonable argument against the death penalty. It's irreversible, it disproportionately affects minorities, it turns us into what we hate.....

I feel a need to mark this disturbing milestone in some way. But I'm also feeling rather idea-free at the moment. Do I just buck up and send an e-mail about this date to the social justice coordinator at my church and see if she does anything? Do I host some sort of event in the community? Do I light a candle and meditate or pray, keeping vigil through the night?

I await your wisdom, oh wise ones. I need help here.

May we come to honor, even in those whom we fear, your image and form. -Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Once more with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.
- Alice Walker

Background: The Senate rejected an amendment that would have prohibited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (I hate double negatives; the Senate allowed drilling.) However, moderate Republicans in the House were able to convince the leadership to remove Arctic drilling from the House version of the budget.

Now for a Schoolhouse Rock moment: Next, the budget has to go to a Conference Committee, where committee members work out identical language to be sent on to the President for his signature or veto.

So now it becomes important that the language out of Committee prohibits Arctic drilling. Once more, please write to your Senators and Representatives about this issue. Some salient points include the facts that we could save more oil by raising fuel efficiency standards and that the livlihood of the Gwich'in people would be destroyed by the drilling.

On a completely unrelated, but fun, note, you can see the lyrics to "I'm Just a Bill" from Schoolhouse Rock here: America Rock lyrics. Scroll down the page a bit. And phooey to those of you who are too young to even know what I'm talking about ;)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Wal-Mart: the Movie

As we gear up to start buying Christmas presents, you might want to give this movie a look: Wal-Mart the Movie: The High Cost of Low Price. This is from the movie's website:

Everyone has seen Wal-Mart's lavish television commercials, but have you ever wondered why Wal-Mart spends so much money trying to convince you it cares about your family, your community, and even its own employees? What is it hiding?

WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price takes you behind the glitz and into the real lives of workers and their families, business owners and their communities, in an extraordinary journey that will challenge the way you think, feel... and shop.

Amazingly enough, there are several local screenings, free of charge. I thought for sure I was going to have to go into the city. Go here to find a screening by entering your zip code: Walmart Movie.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Is THIS God's Will for Women?

Andrea Yates, the Texas woman who killed her children by drowning them in the bathtub, might be re-tried. Or there could be a plea bargain. But the general idea is that the first trial failed to serve justice and they're going to give it another shot. Of the 6 psychiatrists who testified, only one said that Ms. Yates was sufficiently mentally competent to understand that she was killing her children. And that doctor gave faulty testimony on other points, which the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agrees could have inappropriately influenced the jury.

Legally, the trial is about how we care for people with mental illness. And there's plenty to look at there, heaven knows. But socially, I think we have to give ultra-conservative Christianity and "submitted" relationships a good hard look. (Whether or not that hard look can become a legal inquiry is for someone else to know.) What is their relationship to violence? In spite of their lofty rhetoric, is this working for women and children? Or for men either, for that matter?

Why, in conservative Christian churches, is family planning a sin? Even in Catholicism, it's not inappropriate to control the size of a family. It's how you do it that they want to legislate. However, some conservatives in Catholicism and in very conservative evangelical churches have gone farther. Let God determine the size of your family -no family planning whatsoever. So Andrea Yates had six pregnancies (one miscarriage) in eight years of marriage.

Moreover, she had no authority within the marriage to even suggest that they consider something else. When her husband moved her and four of the children into a bus, where she was supposed to home-school (and I use the term "home" loosely) the children, her only possible response was "yes, dear." Ms. Yates was isolated from other relationships and from loving, external critique of her situation. She could see one friend, they had no church because the husband couldn't find one that met his needs or standards, and she was only allowed to go out on rare and special occasions.

I have grave ethical concerns with medically treating the almost-inevitable suicidal depression that she experienced. Why not look at the power dynamics that (possibly) created the depression in the first place? I hasten to add that I know very little about Ms Yates's actual diagnosis or mental health history -only what's been reported in the news. She may well have had life-long mental illness that can't all be attributed to the marriage that so robbed her of personal power. But there are thousands and thousands of women living in similar submitted relationships. They can't all have life-long mental health issues.

Are they really "liberated from feminism" as the rhetoric suggests -or is Christianity truly this willing to take such grave risks with women and children, who -after all- are also created in God's image? It seems to me that we're right back to "the personal is political." These decisions that conservative Christians want to think of as private and centered in the home really aren't. They have enormous societal consequences. And frankly, I think the power structures that allow or even foster this kind of tragedy need to be critiqued both within the church and externally.

Do we need more evidence that submitted relationships don't liberate anyone -least of all women and children? Women and men of faith need to stand for a more powerful (and harder to figure out) faith. The truncated, isolated life that Andrea Yates was forced to lead is not consistent with God's hopes for us. How we affirm that statement in a way that makes a difference for people is less clear to me, but it could certainly start with removing the onus of sin from family planning. From there, we could move on to helping men let go of the notion that they were put on earth to be stewards of women.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday Random 10

This is our weekly confessional post regarding what we listen to when no one else is listening. I'll post mine here on the front page. Everyone else is invited to share lists in the comments section.

So, take out your iPod. Put it in shuffle mode and tell us the first ten songs that appear. And no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a total dork or adding ones you think will make you look cool. Here are mine.

  • Veni Sancte Spiritus; Taize
  • Rambles of Spring; Tommy Makem
  • O Rey Chhori; Udit Narayan
  • No Easy Walk to Freedom; Peter, Paul, & Mary
  • Never Say Goodbye; Hayley Westenra
  • Shall We Gather at the River; Anonymous 4
  • De Ruada/ A Herba de Namorar; Luar Na Lubre
  • Radha Kaise Na Jale; Ahsa Bhonsle
  • Requiem for the Giant Trees; Anne Hills
  • A Pirate Looks at Forty; Jimmy Buffett

Thursday, November 10, 2005

ANWR Update & What Does This All Mean?

Last night, the House of Representatives dropped the controversial plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Rep. Charles Bass, a Republican from New Hampshire, apparently led the way in persuading the leaders to drop the proposal.

As a person of some environmentalist principles, I'm convinced that this isn't just a victory for environmentalists. It's a victory for everyone. However, there is the fact that President Bush had declared arctic drilling to be his "number one energy priority." Whoops. So, from the perspective of the White House this is another "number one priority" to be scuttled. I'm not terribly sympathetic, but still, this has to be getting a little old.

The question becomes, what does the left do now? How do we (or, DO we) capitalize on this turn of events? Who's on the bench for political leadership? Are there any Democrats who are substantively different from Republicans? Can we do anything other than mimic the right in our organizing strategies?

About the last question... I do have some ideas. I think any leadership from the left MUST look different from what the political right does. I don't think we can or should use their tools for our agenda. I think it's going to be all about grassroots, community organizing. But we need to get started -yesterday.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More hope????

Yes, there are the elections and the general political conniptions. But really, Mike over at Musing's Musings has covered those quite nicely.

Last night, I was so steamed with Dennis Hastert I could hardly see straight. He is my Representative and I think it's safe to say that we are mutually dissatisfied with each other. He's not going to be exactly shocked by the news that I'm irritated with him.

As a "decisive" response to the information that the United Sates has secret prisons where we torture political detainees, he and Sen. Bill Frist called for an investigation. Okay... but they aren't interested in how such a travesty occurred; they want to know who tattled. It's so obvious where I'm going to go with this, I'll just spare you my rant.

But here's where the hope comes in. Republican Senators are stepping right up to the plate. (See below.... I don't usually have much in common with Republican Senators.) The Washington Post quoted Sen. Lindsay Graham (R -SC) as saying, "Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. The real story is those jails." Sens. McCain, Hagel, and Warner aren't letting go of this issue, either.

The Republicans aren't just jumping when the White House says "jump". This is remarkable behavior from elected officials of either party. There is hope here that the White House has dealt itself another losing hand.

As David Batstone of Sojourners Magazine states so nicely, opposing torture is not a partisan cause. The practice of torture so fully embraces evil it dehumanizes both the torturer and its victim. No just cause can be won if it relies on torture to succeed.

Maybe I should whisper. I don't want to tempt fate. I haven't felt this hopeful in.... a long time.

But do write a note to Rep. Hastert if you get a chance. I wouldn't want us to lose the opportunity to point out to him that there's no political percentage in his position. Not to nag (much), but REALLY write if you live, as I do, in Representative Hastert's Congressional district. He only has a job as long as we say he does.

Where There is Despair....

...a little smidge of hope. Just a little one.

I have a much-fretted-about, definite-maybe relationship with the Catholic Church. My discomfort wasn't exactly eased by a meeting last night, but that's another story for another time.

What could help (definitely.... maybe....) is the news that the Vatican has issued a defense of Darwin's theory of natural selection, coupled with a strongly worded (by their standards) critique of Christian fundamentalists who want to interpret the creation stories literally. So there, Kansas!

Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, describes Darwin's theory and the Genesis account as "perfectly compatible". His statements have been interpreted as a rejection of "intelligent design" as some sort of competing theory to describe the origin of life. I can't find a copy of the full text in English, but presumably it will show up here: Pontifical Council for Culture eventually.

Of course, it's not as though I was waiting for the Vatican to tell me what to think about so-called "intelligent design". Moreover, the Catholic Church has supported something like evolution since before Darwin even formulated the theory. Check out Augustine's De genesi ad litteram if you don't believe me. Nonetheless, it's nice to note that some tiny part of my life isn't taking this long march to the right of the political spectrum.

Or am I grasping at straws?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Who's Surprised?

I am:
"You're a complete liberal, utterly without a trace of Republicanism. Your strength is as the strength of ten because your heart is pure. (You hope.)"

Are You A Republican?

I saw the quiz referenced here: Easy Bake Coven.

There is a theory...

There is a theory which states that if anybody ever discovers exactly what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory that states that this has already happened.
-Douglas Adams

In our family, when someone becomes entangled in a ridiculous argument, another person chimes in with "There is a theory....". The implication is that perhaps in some other bizarre and inexplicable universe the argument would make sense. Sometimes it lightens a tense situation and gives the poor-argument-constructer a humorous way out of a situation.

Every time I hear the news lately, it seems, I just shake my head and say "There is a theory...". President Bush says -in the same speech, in the same SENTENCE: "We don't torture." and "Any activity we conduct is within the law."

Okay... what could that mean? There are only three possibilities that I see.

1) Torture is legal -except it isn't. Torture violates the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, which of course we could say we're ignoring for this conflict. Except, we don't say that. Check out the Air Force's documents re: Laws of War and Laws in War. They explicitly say that the armed forces hold to the policy that the Geneva Conventions are applicable in any armed conflict.

2)If it's legal, it's, by definition, not torture. It's a subtle difference from the first possibility, but it could make a difference. If only it were legal, the argument would make sense. Alas for their side... not so much.

3) Bush is lying. It's against the law AND we do it. Sadly, this one explains the data.

There is no humor possible here. There is no light-hearted way out of this logical (and moral) jam. I'm just plain ashamed of the people inhabiting the White House and horrified at the work that's being done in my name.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Stand Up and Admit It!

Admitting you're wrong.... I don't like it when I have to do it. I don't know anyone who's crazy about it. But when you're wrong, you're wrong, and a grown-up admits it and tries to rectify any harm that comes from having been wrong. Dick Gephardt did it a few weeks ago in Seattle.

It was a mistake... I was wrong.

Of course, he was talking about his vote to give President Bush permission to take us into war. Admitting it is not enough, of course, and it doesn't bring back anyone who has died so needlessly. Any admissions and apologies will probably be cold comfort to the parents who have lost children in this debacle.

But still... while it may not be sufficient, it is necessary. And I think he deserves support for standing up and admitting it.

Where are the rest of them, one wonders -the 77 Senators and 296 Representatives, Democrats and Republicans, who voted to take us into war?

Let's find out.

Act for Change is sponsoring a questionnaire for all members of Congress who voted on October 11, 2002 to give the President unilateral authority to invade Iraq. The single question will be "Knowing what you know now, would you have cast a different vote when President Bush asked you for a blank check for war?" If you'd like the answer to that question, go here: Act for Change petition to affix your name to the letter.

Popcorn and Social Change

A few days ago, I invited people to join me in watching Chasing Freedom. I hadn't seen the movie. It just seemed like the sort of thing that people interested in both film and social justice might enjoy. I don't want to spill too many beans here, but please watch this movie.

It's the fictionalized account of a true story. It isn't "change my life" great, although I think it could be for, say, students in an international social work, or international relations, or women's studies class. I'm an easy sell on issues of social justice; I care about them all, it seems. But even so, the movie energized me on issues of women's rights in fundamentalist regimes. Moreover, I didn't exactly need to be sold on the importance of education as a tool for creating social justice, but the movie reinforces that point as well.

So, in short, renting this movie would be time well spent. Someone please watch it so we can talk about it less elliptically!

The movie inspired me to track down these organizations, focusing on similar goals:

I'm still in the beginning phase of exploring these organizations, so don't jump in with both feet on my say-so! If anyone else has any ideas for ways to get involved with these issues, I'm definitely interested.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Lord, hear our prayer....

October in the Catholic Church is a hard month for me. I made it through another one, though, and I learned a thing or two.

October is Pro-Life Month in this church. Now I think I have a dandy and solid argument as to why, in fact, I am pro-life. However, I must concede, anti-abortion types don't agree with me. To them, a person who supports a woman's right to choose and Roe v. Wade can not, by definition, be pro-life. So, we're a bit at loggerheads and usually just ignore each other.

And, to make things tougher for me, pro-life month usually devolves into an anti-abortion "let's protect babies" love-fest. We don't have special Masses offered for the people on death row, although the pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church are quite clear about capital punishment. We don't have prayers of the faithful even for the people (possibly) killed by the people on death row. We don't define "life issues" any more broadly, and discuss war or poverty or workers' rights... or any of the apparently infinite ways that humans design to truncate the experiences of other humans.

To be fair, most parishes do at least some of these things most of the time. It's just that they/we focus in a particular way in October -and that way gives me pause. I think it misses the mark most of the time.

And I figured out one thing that would help me.

This sex-abuse scandal, at least here in my parish, is the elephant under the rug. Membership in the Catholic Church is a tough sell on a good day, and priests who abuse children and bishops who protect those priests against all the evidence have made it way harder. And we're just not talking about it. It starts to feel like embattled priests want to divert attention from sins they commit back to sins we commit. It's even better if it's a sin only a woman can commit. (I'm not suggesting that's their explicit intention. I'm saying that's how it feels to me.)

All I want (well, all I want to start with) is one prayer, every once in a while... and here it is: "For those who have had their faith shattered by the current scandal in the church, that they find peace and reconciliation."

We pray to the Lord.

It's such a modest proposal, really. What do you bet it doesn't happen?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Updates on Petitions and Legislation

I've been "offering everyone the opportunity to participate in the political process" (okay... nagging) on several issues lately, and I thought I'd let you know how they are moving along.

MoveOn got the 500,000 signatures opposing Samuel Alito's nomination and will be running an ad in Roll Call. The fight continues by hiring community organizers to mobilize local groups. (Remember when President Bush's "number one priority" was privatization of Social Security? Grassroots organizing was an effective tool for the political left on that issue, and it's being used again.)

The support for the anti-torture amendment is growing, which makes the threatened Presidential veto a politically dangerous move -not to mention unethical, but I've already covered that part. 90 Senators, including 46 Republicans, support the amendment and the US Catholic Bishops have come out in favor if it as well. Watch, though, for a proposed exemption for the CIA. That's the new idea from the White House and it would effectively gut the amendment.

As for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it's still close. Sen. Maria Cantwell fought the good fight with a floor amendment yesterday. She came within three votes of stopping the plan for drilling. Unfortunately, a miss is as good as a mile. So the discussion moves to the House of Representatives. The house is likely to vote on the budget bill next week, so.... you know what to do.

Popcorn and Social Change

Now playing, for the month of November:
Chasing Freedom.

Here's the link to the imdb review: imdb.

I haven't seen it. It could be terrible, but we'll find out together. Don't accidentally rent Chasing Liberty, which should be similar but REALLY isn't! Ask me how I know.

My idea is that sometime during the month, everybody who wants to, rents the movie. When you've watched it, report back and let us know what you think. Would it be good for a class to watch? Did you like it? Did you learn anything? Did it seem to portray issues fairly? Were you energized about the issues that the movie raised? Add whatever else you want to tell us.

I have it from netflix now. I'll see if I can con the long-suffering spouse into watching it with me. But if anybody kisses anybody else, he's out. That boy and romance..... but that's another post for another time.

Friday Random 10

Here's the game: Take out your iPod. Put it in shuffle mode and tell us the first 10 songs that show up. And no fair leaving out songs that make you look like a dork or adding ones that make you look cool. Here are mine for this week:

  • Manic Monday; The Bangles
  • Cursum Perficio; Enya (wasn't that on Mike's list last week? I really did already have it!
  • The Sound of Music; Julie Andrews (Oh, good grief.... there really is a reason for this. I made a playlist for an Oscar night party -music from movies- and this obviously had to be there.)
  • Take Lord, Receive; St. Louis Jesuits
  • Romeo and Juliet Suite; Prokofiev
  • Etude in E Major, OP. 10; No. 3: Chopin
  • Roll With the Changes; REO Speedwagon
  • My Give a Damn's Busted; Jo Dee Messina
  • Tour de France; Kraftwerk
  • New Attitude; Patti LaBelle

Geez, have I embarrassed myself enough this week?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Today, Congress is discussing whether or not to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling. The arguments are going to be couched in terms of a balanced budget and long-term energy security.

Now, how could we be against those things? But here's the thing. The first oil from the arctic wouldn't be available for 10 years and estimates are that it would lower the price of gasoline by one cent per gallon. We could do more and faster by raising average fuel efficiency standards.

Moreover, industrial development of the Arctic refuge would decimate local wildlife and destroy the livelihood -and possibly the culture- of the Gwich'in people, who depend on the Porcupine River caribou herd.

For drilling to be allowed, language needs to be added to the budget reconciliation bill and approved by the entire Congress. The votes on the reconciliation bill are likely to be close and under the rules, the proposal can't be blocked by a Senate filibuster.

So, what can you do?

Learn more about this issue here (but do it fast, please!): World Wildlife Federation and ANWR Fish and Wildlife Service.

This issue has to be discussed in both chambers of Congress, so contacting your Representative and Senators would be great. Follow this link if you aren't sure how to do that or who they are: Contacting Congress.

How hard can it be to reduce personal fuel consumption so that we save one penny per gallon consumed? I'd need to save about 30 cents a month. I bet I could do that by turning off the engine while waiting for trains to pass, checking tire pressure, and changing the fuel filter (all those things my dad told me to do, but we'll let that little tidbit slide...). Share other ideas here; I'm all ears.

So, women are expendable... that what you're telling me?

No one is going to fall over dead from astonishment if I say "the religious right has gone too far this time." It's neither shocking that they've done it nor that I'm ranting about it. Here's the deal.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection that in turn causes about 70% of cervical cancers. It kills about 4000 women each year. Let me say that again. It KILLS 4000 women a year. Okay, you heard me. I'll move on.

There is a new vaccine that seems to protect against it; clinical trials are looking good. You can find more information about mortality from cervical cancer as well as the new vaccine here: MedicalGeo. What could be better? Surely, the pro-life position would be to save the lives of 4000 women? Once again, "naive" and "Andrea" go in the same sentence.

The immunization has to happen at about puberty. So the idea is to immunize 12-year-olds. And the religious right is concerned that these 12 year olds will now feel like they have free rein... permission, even.... to be sexually active. Because 12-year-olds are going to decide against being sexually active because of a cancer they might get when they're 60. Has anyone in this camp actually MET any 12-year-olds, for crying out loud????

It's such a ludicrous argument that surely they've noticed that it's ridiculous. Of course, no one with a brain wants 12-year-olds to be sexually active. And having had two 12-year-olds of my very own, I can tell you that premature sexual activity is a very scary thought. Scare parents about this enough and they are very likely to jump onto this unstable bandwagon.

The wagon is unstable because there's not a reliable study to be found that suggests that we can scare kids into behavior that's good for them. Not with sex. Not with drugs. Not even with safe driving.

So, the religious right either believes something that's ridiculous and is trying to convince us to believe it too, or something else is going on. Assume for the moment that they're not stupid (they just think we are). What is their real agenda? It's hard to step back from suggesting that they want women to be virgins until they marry ... or to die.

Well now, there's an edifying pro-life position .

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

And Another Thing....

I know you've probably already had it up to here with Samuel Alito, but this is important. If MoveOn can get half a million signatures to their petition opposing his nomination by tomorrow, they will run an ad in Roll Call, the Congressional newspaper, advising the Senators of the total number of signatures. They need about 5,000 more signatures from Illinois.

Yes, they will ask you to also make a donation, but you don't have to do it. Follow this link to sign the petition and to send a message to your Senator regarding the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court: Petition.

The 24-hour deadline is important because the "Gang of 14" -a group of centrist Senators from both parties- is meeting tomorrow to discuss their commitment to keeping a filibuster off the table -or, more properly, I suppose, off the floor. We need to let them know that the electorate is fully engaged in the Confirmation process and that Samuel Alito would not be our choice.

Okay, he wouldn't be MY choice!

Rule of Law???? Prove It!

Three years after the initial request, the Pentagon has finally given quasi-permission for United Nations human rights investigators to visit the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. But -and this is a big "but"- they won't have access to the prisoners. Well, why the heck not?

The International Committee of the Red Cross has had access, and they have a long track record of this kind of work. But -and this is another big "but"- they also have a policy of keeping their findings confidential. This seems weird, but it makes a certain sense. The confidentiality is the trade-off for improving the situations of the prisoners and also for allowing unscheduled access. Surprise visits, in other words. And it seems likely that surprise visits would result in the most accurate information.

But the Pentagon and the Bush administration are hiding behind this confidentiality. They want us to believe that national security requires that humans rights investigations be kept to a minimum. Really? Why?

We've already violated the Geneva Conventions in untold numbers of ways. Refusing to register the names of the detainees is only a small example. Much worse, the administration acknowledges in an official report to the UN Committee Against Torture that there has been torture at Guantanamo Bay. And, to his and our shame, Vice-President Cheney is actively campaigning to formally adopt cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners as a legal instrument of U.S. policy.

Reject torture as a policy option. Why must this even be said, for heaven's sake? In the most recent State of the Union address, President Bush committed our nation to "stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity" and to protect "the rule of law." Well, stand up. Do it. Show me that you're protecting human dignity and the rule of law in Guantanamo Bay, because at this point I'll only believe it when I see it. And if, as I suspect, you didn't mean it about human dignity, then understand that there is no political percentage in this. A series of polls (one summarized here: Retro Poll) suggests that somewhere between 72 and 89% of Americans oppose torture as a tool of U.S. policy.

So, what do we do now? I don't mean "the body politic"; I mean you and me. One thing we can do is call our Senators and encourage them to stand strong against the threatened veto of the anti-torture amendment added to the defense appropriations bill. And we might consider reminding Donald Rumsfeld that he's using our money to pay for this war, and we want to know what's happening to prisoners we're detaining. Let the U.N. investigators have access to prisoners.

edited to correct egregious grammar errors.... See what happens when I'm upset?!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Year of Living Generously -first thoughts

Once upon a time, there was a good bishop. No, this isn't fiction. There was at least one: Ken Untener, of Saginaw. And about 10 years ago, he started a diocesan policy that every meeting on church property had to start with the question "How is the situation of poor people improved by our gathering?" Everyone always wanted to reframe the question to mean "poor in spirit", but he wasn't having it. (There was just a remnant of autocratic bishop; I don't think they can help it.) He wanted to be sure that poor people were kept front and center in the mission of the church. Two things happened. First, people did start to recast meetings and events so that the lives of poor people became the tiniest bit easier. And secondly, and no less importantly, they let go of some meetings and events where that just couldn't be done. (Oh, hallelujah... fewer meetings. Where do I sign up?)

So, in my quest to lead a generous life, my first thought is to keep that question in the front of my mind.

Now what that means specifically is still a little unclear. Being me, I need to think first. I think I'm going to spend this first week of my "new year" just noticing if any changes happen more or less seamlessly, just because the question is out there. We'll see.