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Women on Fire

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I could spend the day watching the last flickers of decency and integrity vanish from the Congress, but I choose not to. I spent enough time doing that last week.

Now the GOP has decided their best strategy for stacking the Supreme Court with extremists is to mock victims of attempted rape and other sexual abuse and to rally their voting base by stoking more fear and anger: “Your son’s lives will be ruined by fiery feminists making up sexual abuse charges!! No male is safe!!”

I need to step away from the screen.

Instead of watching my country circling the drain, I will do the laundry, wash the dishes, and clean the bathtub. I’ll do what I can to clear away the dirt from my immediate surroundings because at this particular moment, I can do nothing about the filth that floods the Capitol and the White House.

I say “at this particular moment” because November 6th is coming. If you, like me, have been overwhelmed this week by friend’s stories of sexual attacks, or if you, like me, are a survivor yourself, the thought of election day is never far from your mind. Whether or not you generally pray, you are praying now. Praying that somehow the “angels of our better nature” can pull America out of this spiral. November 6th will tell.

Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote, “What is to give light must endure burning.”

Well, ladies, we are on fire.

I pray that the intense pain, anger, and grief burning in the hearts of so many American women will not be extinguished by despair, but instead will burst into flames of tireless community activism and political engagement at every level. 

The radical misogyny of the GOP couldn’t be any more clear, beginning with the admitted sexual predator in the White House. The politicians need to hear us loud and clear. Regardless of your party affiliation, it’s time to call your nearest Democratic headquarters. Ask how you can help. Don’t sit this one out. 

Photo Credit: APA/Getty Image, circa 1920

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Lucky Charm: You!

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SPECIAL COUNSEL MUELLER’S LUCKY CHARM: YOU!

I don’t usually do this because, hey, who am I to tell you what to do? But I would like to make a strong suggestion that you —  yeah, you — can help protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian influence on our election.

You have a magic object that’s probably within reach right this minute, an object that could make the difference between whether our democracy stands or falls. It’s called a telephone, and there are hundreds of millions of them in our country. Even kids have these powerful talismans.

Today’s word prompt, talisman, means “anything whose presence exercises a remarkable or powerful influence on human feelings or actions.” It is “an object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.”

Special Counsel Mueller could use some magical powers and a good dose of luck as he battles the dark forces of the universe. (Have you seen A Wrinkle in Time? You gotta go!) His investigation is being attacked by this administration in the most blatant case of obstruction of justice I’ve ever seen.

Mueller needs protection. He needs our help.

It’s All About YOU!

Here’s where you come in. All you have to do is activate your talisman. It will take you three minutes, tops.

As you may know, there’s a bill in both the House & Senate designed to protect Mueller from being fired and to ensure that his investigation into Russian influence can be completed. The bill needs support, or cosponsors.

Here’s all you need to do: Call 202-224-3121. The voice will guide you into choosing House or Senate and then entering your zip code. Choose “House” first, and you will be connected to your representative’s office. Tell them your name and town, and ask that they cosponsor and be a leader on H.R. 4669 to protect the Mueller investigation. That’s it!

Now call that number again. Choose “Senate” this time. You will have a choice of two senators, and you want to talk to both of their offices, so choose either one. Once connected, tell them where you live and leave this message: you want the senator to cosponsor and be a leader on S. 1741 to protect Mueller’s investigation. Then call a third and final time, choose the other senator and leave the same S. 1741 message.

Now ask your friends to use their talisman to do the same thing.

Congratulations! You are a magical citizen activist!

Thank you for standing up for America.

Native American Wisdom

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When I was an environmental lobbyist, much of my work involved social justice activities like equipping and empowering low income communities and people of color to protect their families from pollution and irresponsible development.

As the Sierra Club’s Public Lands Director, I often traveled to the western United States to work with Native Americans who wanted to protect their land and water. Whether it was a proposed ski slope on a sacred mountain, water diverted from tribal lands for urban use, or lakes poisoned by uranium mines, there were plenty of challenges.

One of my first trips to tribal lands involved presenting a training on Persuasion Techniques to help the Navajo people influence administrative decision-making that affected their communities. I brought organizational charts and factsheets and how-to tips and talking points.

I knew what to do and all I had to do was teach them, right?

Well, halfway through the first day, my colleagues and I feared we weren’t getting anywhere. We had a schedule and an agenda to get through. We had goals to meet for our funders. But it turns out that the Navajo people run on a somewhat different timetable than do A-type D.C. lobbyists.

Our first clue that we weren’t in the nation’s capitol anymore was when the Navajo opening prayer lasted twenty minutes . . . we had scheduled two. We moved from prayer into introductions, which took forty-five minutes instead of the ten we had scheduled because each person talked about the land they were from and about their ancestors. Every commonality that was discovered necessitated a leisurely comparing of notes, “Do you know Grandfather So and So?” and “To the west of the river or to the east?”

Our training was in trouble and I didn’t have a clue how to proceed. I wanted to be respectful, but I wasn’t sure they even understood the concept of affecting decisions, let alone lobbying. “You know, like when you’re trying to persuade your parents to let you do something?” I suggested, which always connected with our mostly white student groups.

Blank stares.

Finally, a local Sierra Club guy who frequently worked with the Navajos asked the group, “What is the Navajo word for persuasion?”

Mumbled conversations and shaking of heads.

Then a young man spoke up. “We have no such word in Diné Bizaad (the Navajo language). We do not do that. We just ask our elders what is best. We would never argue with them or try to change their minds.”

In all my wisdom, I had designed a training around a concept that did not even exist in their culture. I looked at the local activist who had asked the insightful question and he started to laugh and then I laughed and pretty soon we were all hugging and laughing.

“Respect! What a beautiful thing!” I said. “So different from the way I grew up.”

Two elders sat at the side of the room. When the mirth died down, everyone looked at them. One of the men nodded and said, “This persuasion must be a job for our young people. It is new to learn and they must lead us.”

Humility is not a word often associated with lobbyists – or environmentalists, if I may poke fun at my fellow green-hearts. I got a massive dose of it that day as I watched the wisdom of the ages continue to guide this ancient people through the complexities of the modern day.

navajo

This post is in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge called Student, Teacher: Sometimes teachers learn the most from their students. Have you ever had the tables turned on you when you thought you were teaching, but underwent the largest change yourself?

 

 

 

Extremism in Defense of the Planet

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“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. The Nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

I might have agreed with Dr. King’s statement when I was a teenager during the Vietnam War, but it’s nothing that would have been ascribed to me as an adult.

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...

Dr. King

Like many people, I have been taught to be wary of extremists. Stick to the center, stray neither to the right nor to the left, and you won’t get yourself in trouble. People won’t respect you if you stray from the comfortable middle. You won’t be listened to.

Unless you are an athlete or an energy drink, you don’t want to be viewed as extreme.

When I worked in environmental messaging and communications on Capitol Hill, we learned that the best way to side-line someone was to label them as an extremist. “Out of step” is a good phrase. Likewise, industry PR reps labeled all environmentalists as extremists — “elitist tree-huggers who want everyone to freeze in the dark.” We tried hard to represent ourselves as mainstream. Just a bunch of soccer Moms over here…what, you think I hug trees or something?? (I do, get over it.)

I’ve noticed that right-wing commentators are even calling the National Rifle Association “extreme” and “out of step” these days. Curiouser and curiouser.

In Praise of Imbalance

Last night in my spiritual book group, we got to talking about whether or not we can really make a difference in the world. Should we focus on our inner growth, become the best humans we can be, and trust that this will make the world a healthier place? Is it better to march in demonstrations and wave signs? Do you have to go to Africa and build an orphanage? Or is it the simpler things that count, like working at a soup kitchen or helping with Habitat for Humanity?

“Balance,” several intoned, followed by much nodding.

This may true for individuals; I’m not sure. But I am sure that balance doesn’t help a society or a world that is badly in need of change. Balance doesn’t lead to change, it maintains the status quo. In order to move from the status quo, you’ve got to have people out on the edges tipping the scales. The type of people who go on hunger strikes, who march in the streets, who refuse to sit in the back of the bus.

The comfortable people in the middle won’t like these troublemakers on the edge; they knock things off kilter. They will label them:

Extremists.

Getting Out of Step

I’m headed for the edge. I’ve changed my mind about extremists — I’m with Dr. King.

Look where “the norm” has gotten us. If enough people don’t get “out of step” pretty damn quickly, our planet is in big trouble. It’s not enough to just vote anymore.

Hand holding a world on fire

The oil and gas industry has more money than God, and they are willing to spend whatever it takes to stop action on climate change. It is up to “we, the people” to make this change.

Even my former employer, the well-respected but slightly stodgy 120-year-old Sierra Club, has just announced that it will engage in civil disobedience because the time is so short and the stakes are so high.

Creative Extremism

I think that when Dr. King talked about “creative extremism,” he might have been talking about the kind of extremist that creates new things, builds towards a new vision, rather than simply deconstructing and criticizing.

It seems we finally have a leader willing to lead towards that kind of vision. In case you missed President Obama’s inaugural speech on Monday, he spent more time talking about climate change than any other issue:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

THANK GOD!

There’s going to be a huge climate rally in D.C. on February 17th. I’m going to make some signs and go act like an extremist. Will you join me?

Find out more about it here.

You can also make calls to help turn out other extremists — ahem, activists.

And check out this video:

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