Once You Knew

Idle No More NC

A friend recently introduced me to the poem, Hieroglyphic Stairway, by Drew Dellinger.  The beginning of the poem grabbed me, because it speaks to my experience:

it’s 3:23 in the morning

and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?

surely you did something
when the seasons started failing?

as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?

did you fill the streets with protest
when democracy was stolen?

what did you do

After participating Friday evening in an Idle No More round dance at the Bark House in downtown Nevada City, I spent the weekend watching  films at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival that takes place here every year.  Many of these films showed remote or familiar places of natural  beauty.   Some focused on environmental dangers, including climate change, fracking, species loss, and toxic pollution.  Many told the stories of courageous individuals taking creative action to preserve human communities and the natural world.  After introducing and watching the films at the Vets Hall on Sunday afternoon, I went home and slept for twelve hours.

It can be overwhelming to be confronted with so much information and so many opportunities for action.  When the festival celebrations are over, most of us return to our day-to-day lives.  How can we incorporate what we have learned into a way of being that will enable us to be a part of the change we want to see in the world?

This is a spiritual issue.  How can we develop the capacity to face the extent of global destruction without becoming paralyzed?  How can we find inner peace and take care of our personal responsibilities while doing our small part to bring hope and healing to the world?

I’ve found this to be a lifelong challenge that involves ongoing personal transformation as well as social action.  There are many spiritual paths, many faith traditions that foster spiritual awakening and moral development.  For me it begins with entrusting myself to the Love that brought the universe into being and following wherever that Love may lead, as Jesus did.

I don’t always know what to do.  But I do know that I am not alone, that people in my community and around the world are also awakening to the multi-faceted global crisis and taking action that will make a more hopeful future possible.  And I know that Love is sustaining us even now and can work through us for the well being of the whole.

Regardless of how things turn out for us as a species, our great great grandchildren will look back on this pivotal time.  Will this be the time of descent into environmental collapse and global chaos?  Or will this be the time of “the great turning” toward more compassionate and sustainable ways of being human?

Regardless of the outcome, the question will remain:

what did you do


Idle No More

Tomorrow, Friday, at 5 p.m., community members are invited to meet at the Maidu bark house at the foot of Broad Street in Nevada City to join in a traditional round dance.  This event is being held in solidarity with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who has been fasting for weeks, and with First Nations people around the world who are rising up to demand that governments honor the rights of Indigenous people and the rights of Mother Earth.

The Idle No More movement began in Canada with a teach-in in Saskatoon that was held in response to the Canadian government’s introduction  of Bill C-45, an omnibus bill that Native activists claim weaken environmental protection laws and treaty rights.  On December 11, Chief Spence stopped eating all solid food and now only occasionally consumes lemon water, medicinal teas, and fish broth.  This hunger strike has drawn attention to the issues of First Nations and has mobilized support actions around the world.  Find out more in this article at TruthOut called “Idle No More Indigenous Uprising Sweeps North America.”

I’ll be in Nevada City at the Round Dance on Friday.  I wouldn’t miss it.  I hope that my grandchildren can come, too.  No matter what happens in the future, I want them to be able to look back and know that the adults in their lives were doing everything in their power to help create a world that would sustain them and their children and grandchildren for generations to come.  I want them to know that we were Idle No More.

Today’s Arraignment

Zinn quote

The courtroom was filled with supporters today as nine people faced arraignment in U.S. District in Sacramento for trespassing onto federal property at Beale Air Force Base last October  while protesting U.S. drone warfare.  Charges were dropped against four of the defendants:  Fr. Louie Vitale, MacGregor Eddy, Barry Binks, and Toby Blome.  We don’t know why their charges were dropped, but it could have to do with the fact that they were arrested separately from the other group, at a different gate.  The five of us who were arrested at the main gate are David and Jan Hartsough, Shirley Osgood, Janie Kesselman, and me.

The remaining five of us pled “not guilty.”  Yes, of course we engaged in civil disobedience.  There are videos showing that we blocked traffic, stepped across the line onto federal property, held signs, and refused to leave.  We tried to deliver a list of demands to the base commander.

I chose to plead “not guilty” by reason of necessity; that is, I acted in order to prevent a greater harm from taking place.  My co-defendants and I will be discussing defense strategy with our team of lawyers, who are working pro bono in order to help bring the issue of drone warfare into the public eye.

Our trial is scheduled for April 15, Tax Day.  That is the perfect day for this trial.  Beale is the home of Global Hawk Drones, which are used for surveillance and for targeting of weaponized drones.  According to the New York Times, the Air Force’s Global Hawk program costs $12 billion; the estimated cost for one of these drones is $218 million.  The Navy is on board with its own version of the program, for an estimated $11 billion.  That’s where our money goes.

For those of you who have Facebook, here’s today’s Facebook event site where pictures have been posted.  The Occupy Beale AFB website gives background and updates about scheduled events.  Earth Justice Ministries will keep people updated through our website, Facebook page, and email newsletter.  I’ll also be keeping people informed who follow this blog.

Thanks to everyone who is supporting our efforts to raise awareness about this issue.  Please pass on information and action opportunities as they become available so we can turn the tide against global domination through violence and sow the seeds of world peace.

Why Direct Action?


On January 8, the day after tomorrow, my codefendants and I will be arraigned in federal court in Sacramento, 501 I Street, for trespassing onto federal property at Beale Air Force Base in October as a protest against U.S. drone warfare.  A legal team has been assembled to defend our actions in light of our claims that the drone program violates international law.

Our hope is that our action at Beale and the subsequent trial will help shed light on an issue that has been shrouded in secrecy, and expose the false statements that have been used to justify the program.  Supporters are invited to gather with us at 8 a.m. for a rally and press conference, followed by courtroom solidarity during our arraignment, which begins at 9. Go to the Occupy Beale website to find out more about the case and about other events scheduled later that day.

As this case develops, I’ll be writing more about the harm done by drone program itself:  about civilian deaths, including the deaths of children and rescue workers; about the widespread accessibility of drones and the dangers of a drone arms race; about the use of drones for surveillance against people within the United States; about the use of drones as part of a larger U.S. strategy to “dominate the earth from space in the 21st century.”  All of these issues and more contributed to my feeling that it was necessary for me to take strong action.

Today, though, I want to talk about why I found it necessary to go so far as to break the law by crossing the line onto federal property in order to make my point in this matter.  Why not just speak out, hold signs, write letters to the editor, visit our congressional representatives?  Why nonviolent direct action?  I answer by quoting from a chapter in my book, Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization:

Nonviolent direct action is an effective and viable form of active democracy. Many may prefer to take a less confrontational role, hoping that social change will come about gradually through education, negotiation, and advocacy. I have become convinced that there is nothing like nonviolent direct action to boost these very necessary activities to a whole new level of effectiveness. Disciplined, creative actions of nonviolent resistance have the potential to reveal the bankruptcy of the current system that dominates the earth, to awaken conscience, kindle hope, and demonstrate freedom and creativity.

Civil-rights-movement leaders recognized that calls for incremental change often merely stalled real progress and reinforced the status quo. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “You may well ask, ‘why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, etc.? Isn’t negotiation a better path?’ You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

Global Agreement from Hell

Shaking photo

The Trans-Pacific Partnership:  

A Global Agreement from Hell:

In Seattle in 1999 and again in Cancun in 2003, I joined in nonviolent direct action to shut down the meetings of the World Trade Organization, one of the most powerful and anti-democratic global institutions this world has ever seen.  Public opposition has taken its toll on the WTO, but the US government is working around this problem by negotiating bilateral and multilateral “free-trade agreements” with various countries.

The latest of these is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a secretive system of rules for government to follow.  It masquerades as a trade agreement, but is actually a corporate bill of rights.  Of its twenty-six chapters, only two have to do with trade.  The TPP would give corporations more power over governments and continue the movement toward the global consolidation of corporate power.

I describe this top-down form of globalization in my book, Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, and I join with others in proposing as the remedy a “people’s globalization” or “globalization from below.”  Such a remedy would require a widespread awakening of the earth’s people to the damage of the current global system and to the hope of transformation.

The TPP, like the WTO and NAFTA, would give corporations more power over governments by restricting the ability of member nations to enact domestic health, safety, environmental, or human rights laws that could infringe on corporate profits.  With the WTO, corporations must convince their home governments to file disputes against other countries, but the TPP (like NAFTA) would allow foreign corporations to directly file disputes against governments that have such laws, and to claim reimbursement for lost profits, past, present, and future.  The position of the US government, which initiates and promotes such agreements, is that we will change our laws in order to comply.

As Lori Wallach from Global Trade Watch explains in this video, “Leaked TPP Draft:  Corporate Dictatorship,” the TPP at present includes only nine Pacific countries, including the United States, which initiated this agreement, but it will be left open for other countries to join.  Once fully instituted, it could essentially replace the WTO, becoming a binding global agreement of corporate rules for governments to follow.

The text of the TPP is shrouded in secrecy.  While corporate leaders have access to negotiations and have helped to draft it, members of Congress, even those with security clearance, have not been allowed to see it.  Why?  In the words of US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, “In the past…, when the text was revealed, we couldn’t finish it. ” They “couldn’t finish it” because global civil society successfully organized against agreements such as the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in the WTO.  Trade negotiators don’t want us to have time to get organized against this one.

The negotiations are secret because the negotiators are aware that the TPP, like all bureaucracies, can only function with the consent of the people.  They want to consolidate their rule before we awaken to what is at stake.

There are many ways that we can respond to this underhanded attempt to push through a binding global agreement that will have such profound impacts on federal, state, and local governments.  First, find out more.  Watch this video with Lori Wallach, learn more and take action at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. 

Need I say that this is a spiritual issue?  Everything we care about is at stake.  Consent to the current direction being taken by this idolatrous global system is spiritual death.  Spiritual awakening and organizing ourselves for nonviolent action is a direction toward transformation.

The TPP threatens to consolidate corporate power on a global level.  Now is the time for us to awaken to what is at stake, step fully into our humanity, and take responsibility for what is going on in our name and with our tax dollars.  The corporate domination of cultures, economies, and governments can only happen with the consent of the people.  Join with me in withdrawing your consent.  Keep current on these issues by following my blogs or by “Liking” the new FaceBook page for Shaking the Gates of Hell.  Don’t buy corporate rule.