Family Camp and Beyond

family camp

We got back Monday night from our annual family camp.  We spent four days at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, camping with our grown kids and grandkids, taking day trips to the beach, wharf, coffee shops, and out to eat in Santa Cruz, with campfires at night and in the mornings.  The kids were happy wherever we were, riding bikes and scooters around the campfire, fishing, making s’mores, happy just to be together.  (One of the games they made up had to do with “giant monkeys.” I heard them playing it while I was resting in the tent one afternoon.)

Guari and I even went Salsa dancing– once on Friday night to hear Broken English, our favorite band when we lived in Santa Cruz, and on Sunday evening to Salsa by the Sea, where we used to go when we lived there.  I went to Bookshop Santa Cruz and bought an Isabelle Allende novel, Island Under the Sea,” and started reading it.  Now that’s a vacation!

We’re home now, with lots of pictures, grateful for the memories and the times of bonding that we shared.  I’m still putting things away, doing laundry, still reading my novel.

As I get back to work, I carry my loved ones with me.  I know that all the larger patterns of history impact them and will impact their children and grandchildren:  global warming, endless war and threats of war, the gutting of public services, the siphoning of wealth up to the top, drone strikes that create more terrorists than they kill, trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that threaten to consolidate corporate rule.

There’s enough going on with my family, and I’m an involved enough grandmother, that I could spend my last years enjoying them, reading and dancing, and simply meeting the ongoing challenges of life.  But Love calls me to speak out for the sake of justice, peace, and the healing of creation.

I feel like Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, who was laughed at because he constantly felt that God was calling him to warn people about the dangers they didn’t want to hear about, who said,  “Whenever I speak I must cry out, I must shout, `Violence and destruction.'”  And if he didn’t speak, he said, “then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in and I cannot.”

Humanity is moving toward a precipice.  Love compels me to speak, work, and point in the direction of a more hopeful future, and calls all of us to live in a way that makes such a future possible.  Meanwhile, I plan to keep enjoying my family–and dancing.

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God Weeps

View from our deck on another smoky day

View from our home on yet another smoky day in August

Out on the deck under the trees early this morning in prayer, my sense of awe and gratitude are mingled with deep sadness and concern, not just for my family but for all humanity.  Breathing in the smoke from the out-of-control forest fires makes tangible the impact of global warming.  The drumbeats of war with Syria are sounding, and drone strikes continue.  I weep for our human family and for our beautiful earth.

I touch in for a moment with the heart of God, who is Love.  For a moment I share Love’s sadness at the damage we humans have brought about, and I share Love’s desire for healing and peace.

I first experienced this connection with the depths of divine sadness years ago, when I was a young mother, concerned about the nuclear arms race.  I wrote about this experience in Shaking the Gates of Hell, in the chapter on the military/industrial complex,  “The Iron Fist:  Enforcing Corporate Globalization:”

“I began my career as an activist in 1979 when I realized the extent of the danger of nuclear war and became involved with the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign.  One morning I was at home by myself, cleaning house while I listened to a tape of Helen Caldecott talking about the psychological effects of nuclear war on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as hibakusha.  Listening to the stories about what these people had suffered over the years, I imagined my own family going through what they had gone through and began to weep.

“Suddenly, I was struck with the thought: How must God feel about all this?  How must God feel about what we human beings have done to each other, and about what we intend to do, as we stockpile nuclear weapons?  I fell to my knees, praying for forgiveness, overcome with a sense of the depth of pain that God must bear because of the horrors we human beings create for each other.  To this day, I believe that God weeps for the harm we do to each other.”

May my words and actions today bring some consolation to others, and through others, to God.  And may we continue to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, for God’s will is the  reign of mercy and compassion in the world.

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No Jury Trial in Beale Case

Released from custody

Released from custody

Last October, I was arrested for civil disobedience with eight other people during an anti-drone demonstration at Beale Air Force Base.  Charges were dropped against four of my co-defendants.  The case against the remaining five of us continues.

Our trial will be held on August 12 in federal court in Sacramento.  We had hoped to make our case before a jury, but on Thursday U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn K. Delaney denied our lawyers’ request for a jury trial.  In other words, we will not be able to testify before a jury of our peers, some of whom might be sympathetic to our reasons for taking the action we did at Beale.  Instead, we will be tried before Judge Delaney, a representative of the very system that charged us with misdemeanor trespass for publicly challenging its drone warfare program.  Although we each face up to six months in federal prison, $5000 in fines, and five years’ probation, our case does not qualify as serious enough to warrant a jury trial.

Nor will we be able to explain why we found it necessary to break the law by trespassing a few feet onto Beale Air Force Base property.  Judge Delaney granted the prosecutor’s motion to disallow “the necessity defense,” that is, a defense based on taking action to prevent a greater harm.  By denying us the necessity defense, the judge prevents us from testifying about our motivation, which was to interfere with, call attention to, and prevent the grave harm taking place through the U.S. drone warfare program.

A bit of good news:  the judge’s ruling resulted in a front-page article in the Sacramento Bee, which I hope helps to open peoples’ eyes to the issue of drone warfare (which was the intent of our action at Beale) and to the eroding of our constitutional rights.  See the full Bee article here.

I don’t relish the idea of being locked away.  I’d rather be here among the trees, watching the birds, and playing with my grandkids.  But at what price?  I refuse to go into denial about the far-away families, not that different from my own family, where U.S. drones hover overhead, threatening and delivering death in my name, with my tax dollars, and (supposedly) for my benefit and security.  The only way I can face this reality and be at peace with myself is by taking a stand against the policies and institutions that perpetuate such killings.

I understand why people in this country want to keep a low profile, especially now, considering the NSA surveillance program and the targeting of whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.  The whole point of such policies is to use threat and violence to engender fear and unquestioning obedience to the domination system.  That is what Empire does when it has lost its legitimacy.

But the more of us who speak out and take a stand, the more hope there is for transformation.  In “Naming, Masking, and Engaging the Powers,” an excerpt from Shaking the Gates of Hell, I write:

“When we refuse to live in fear of and obedience to the Powers, their stratagems no longer work. When the Powers can no longer count on fear, selfishness, and apathy to keep us in line, they cannot do business as usual.

“For engaging the Powers exposes not only their evil effects, but also their folly. When we refuse to live in denial and instead speak truth to Power, the lies and pretensions of the Powers are exposed. When we challenge their morality, the Powers lose their legitimacy. When we choose lifestyles that reflect creative, life-giving values, the Powers lose their ability to dominate culture. When we enter actively into solidarity with the poor and oppressed, with victims of war and unjust economic policies, the brutality of the Powers is exposed. When we take part in organized actions of nonviolent resistance, the futility of their attempts to rule through domination is exposed. When we refuse to live in fear and are willing risk even death, as Jesus did, the ability of the ruling Powers to govern life through violence and intimidation is lost and the triumph of God’s love is revealed.”

I pray that whatever comes, I can witness to the transforming power of the God of love.

Check here for past blog postings related to the Beale anti-drone case.

A Resurgence of Humanity

Kathie and Sherry

Tomorrow my sister Kathie plans to go to a “Moral Mondays” demonstration in Raleigh.  She may even participate in civil disobedience there.  Because she lives in Asheville, I’ve been watching the right-wing coup that has been taking place in what has been a relatively progressive Southern state.   The state took over Asheville’s public water district, which has always been locally-run and locally-funded, without negotiation or compensation. The legislature is now in the process of dismantling voting rights, firing environmental regulators, cutting unemployment, firing teachers’ aides, increasing class sizes, and ending safety net protections for the most vulnerable people.

Powerful billionaire Art Pope, active in ALEC, is now North Carolina’s Budget Director.  Pope has been called “a cross between the Koch brothers and Karl Rove.”  Big money, corporate sponsors, and entrenched political players are clearly at work here, aligned to make true democracy irrelevant.  And yet, in the face of incredible odds against them, people are rising up to say “no.” 

This is not just happening in North Carolina, but around the world:  in Taksim Square, in Brazil, in Idle No More and related actions against the Keystone XL pipeline,  in anti-drone actions, in appearances of still-alive Occupy movements.  People are also engaged in smaller but persistent struggles taking place around the world.

It is heartening to see people rising up in resistance to the Powers that Be.  Why?  For one thing, many of us know that only through “we the people” is there any hope of turning back the ascendant evil of today’s domination system, which consumes life and threatens the future.  For another, when people join together, rise up, say “enough,” and organize new ways of being in community, it is an expression of our humanity. I’m convinced that the Spirit is present wherever people resist dehumanization and come more fully alive.

During the Nazi Regime, theologian William Stringfellow claimed that in times of great social evil, resistance enables us to maintain our humanity.  We live in such a time.  Stringfellow wrote, “In resistance people live most humanly.  ‘No` to death means ‘yes’ to life.”

As we stand together, respecting all aspects of our diversity as human beings, joining in solidarity with people of every race, class, and nation, resisting the powers of death, we express our humanity.  We are connected!  We are in solidarity with each other as we take our turns standing against the takeover of our world by institutional forces that would have us believe that they cannot be stopped.  As I wrote in “In Resistance is the Secret of Joy” from Shaking the Gates of Hell:

“In resistance to the institutions and systems that destroy the earth and crush the life out of people, hope comes alive. As we withdraw our consent from these Powers, practicing noncooperation, finding or creating life-supporting alternatives, what has seemed impossible becomes possible because we are willing to pay the price to make it so. It is like the difference between being a spectator in the stands and being a player on the field. As Dorothee Soelle says, “Only when we ourselves enter the game and bind our own life inextricably to the game’s outcome does hope arrive.”

As we begin the process of breaking free, we recognize others engaged in the same process and we see that change is not only possible, but is happening now. Then, in spite of the risks, losses, and even sacrifices, the struggle becomes joyous, even fun. Fun? Yes, fun, energizing, inspiring, hopeful.”

People rising up in so many places is hopeful.  It is evidence of a resurgence of humanity.

I wish I could go with you tomorrow, Sister.  I’ll be with you in spirit.

Have fun.

To find out more about North Carolina and Moral Mondays, read   “Protestors Shake Up North Carolina’s Legislature.  Read more about how the state takeover of Asheville’s water district is motivating people, about clergy involvement in Moral Mondays, about Art Pope pushing the ALEC agenda, and “Why North Carolina’s Moral Mondays Matter for Democracy and the Planet.

A Call to Resist

Occupy Wall Street 053

Chris Hedges has again issued a call to conversion, a call to leave behind the moral inertia that the global system of corporate domination instills in its subjects, a call to rise up for the sake of life.  He says, “It is time to build radical mass movements that defy all formal centers of power and make concessions to none.” He goes so far as to say, “Resistance to tyranny saves our souls.”  Read the article here:  We, the Vast Underclass, Must Rise Up Against Global Mafia – or Die.

In this article, Hedges likens the global system of unrestrained free-market capitalism to the doomed ship Pequod in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  He writes, “We are sailing on a maniacal voyage of self-destruction, and no one in a position of authority, even if he or she sees what lies ahead, is willing or able to stop it. Those on the Pequod who had a conscience, including Starbuck, did not have the courage to defy Ahab. The ship and its crew were doomed by habit, cowardice and hubris. Melville’s warning must become ours. Rise up or die.”

This is a call to conversion because Chris Hedges warns not only of the economic, social, and environmental results of corporate domination, but also of the spiritual effects:  “habit, cowardice and hubris.”  He also points a way forward:  “Rebel. Even if you fail, even if we all fail, we will have asserted against the corporate forces of exploitation and death our ultimate dignity as human beings. We will have defended what is sacred.”

I, too, issue this call in Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization.  In the excerpt below, “The Spiritual Effects of the Powers:  A Paralyzed Conscience,” I address the inner, spiritual effects of the Powers, the political, economic, and military institutions that make up the system of global capitalism, and I point to resistance as a way to respond as fully human beings:

“The negative external effects of the Powers at work in the world today are not too difficult to see: environmental destruction, growing inequity, violence, and so on. But the internal effects are what prevent most people from effectively engaging the Powers. These internal effects are apathy and moral confusion.

“At some level we all know that if we do not take responsibility, our children or grandchildren will have to deal with the consequences of our inaction. For instance, at some level everyone must know that society’s addiction to fossil fuels is unsustainable. But people feel powerless to stop, hopeless about significantly changing what seems to be the inevitable course of events.

“The demons of anxiety, apathy, denial, despair, rage, helplessness, and hopelessness are pervasive in our culture. They are the other side of the colorful media images of seemingly endless choices of products and entertainment opportunities. People try to lock out the reality that threatens the future, and the Powers are quite willing to help. In fact, that is what they require of human beings: to become less than fully human and to leave the Powers in control.

“How can we live humanly, enmeshed as we are in a global system that is creating misery, destroying life, and threatening the future? In times when social sin and institutional evil are pervasive, the only way to remain human is to resist.

“Resistance can take many forms. Resistance grounded in faith begins with spiritual struggle. In the words of Jim Douglass, from his book Resistance and Contemplation, ‘In solitude, in the depth of aloneness, lie the resources for resistance to injustice. Resistance arises first from a perception of suffering and from the assumption of one’s own responsibility to seek the transformation of a murderous system into a human society. . . . In the age of genocide, to be human is to resist.’”