During one of George Lakey’s train-the-trainer for social activist workshops, people kept mentioning that some tactic or other was a “high-wire” concept for them. After around the third time I heard that, I finally asked “What does she mean by high-wire?” George reached behind him, pulled out a soap box, and explained “What if I told you that I wanted you to take this soap box and walk over to 16th and Mission, stand up on the box, and just start talking to everyone who passes by?” “That would make me very uncomfortable.” I responded. “Why?” “Doing something like that is way out of my comfort zone.” I responded. “Exactly! Teaching is always a balancing act, taking people just enough out of their comfort zones that they learn something. If people are too comfortable, they get bored. If they’re really uncomfortable, they switch off.”
High-wire acts make everyone uncomfortable, especially the person walking on that high-wire, whether he has a safety net below to catch him or not.
Finally understanding what they all meant by “high-wire” I figured we were ready to get back to the discussion we’d been having. Instead, George announced to the group “OK folks, we’re going out to 16th and Mission and each of you is going to get up on this box for five minutes and speak to the people.” And off we went!
This morning, George’s latest posting from Waging Nonviolence appeared in the mail, and it focuses on the reaction people had to a Bill McKibben article in Rolling Stone in which he called for activists to step up the fight against the fossil fuel industry and their role in global warming. Some say that what he’s calling for is “polarizing.” That’s a charge I often hear when folks suggest that we approach a problem in a more direct way than ways in which they are more comfortable. I’d like to share George Lakey’s post below (read more), after which I’ll share a little bit more about what happened on that soap box on 16th and Mission.
(Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
With Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate, this election has become very personal for me. In this posting, I’d like to share how the field looks from my perspective, using my 53 year-old lens, colored by my life experience and where I am in life right now. And, I think there are a lot more people like me that might want to take a glance at their choices through my lens because I am beginning to agree with the pundits, that this is one of the most important elections in a generation.
Last evening I attended the Global Women’s Leadership Network graduation for a group of amazing women who will now head off to spend the next six months working on projects to improve lives and make the world a better place. A young man approached me during the reception afterwards and introduced himself. He is an engineering student at Santa Clara University and was attending the ceremony as an assignment for a class focused on women in engineering. I asked him how many men and how many women were in the course. “Five men and two women.”
Interesting, don’t you think?
Empowering girls around the world to get equal education, especially in areas of math, science, medicine, and engineering, was a common theme among the dreams that last evening’s graduates had for their work. Sally Ride, who passed away this week after a battle with cancer, would have been there applauding these women and I think the discussion with the young Santa Clara engineering student would have been quite fun.
Bishop Gene Robinson speaking at MLP Dinner (Image courtesy of More Light Presbyterians)
You can hear about the vengeful and rather unmerciful God talked about on hundreds of radio stations across America, according to Bishop Gene Robinson who spoke at this year’s More Light Presbyterian Dinner during the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly last week. That’s the side of God that Rabbi Michael Lerner so vividly describes as “the Right Hand of God.” But if you try to talk about the all-loving, all-merciful, overly-expansive side of God, especially one that accepts GLBTQ people… the “Left Hand of God,” well then you’re going to be in big trouble! The openly-gay Episcopal Bishop Robinson, over whom the Anglican Church has been “in chaos” for the last number of years, quipped that we should not be surprised when preaching the gospel gets you into trouble since Jesus made it very clear in his words, actions, and in his death, that trouble would follow when you truly followed his example. Read more to watch Bishop Robinson’s talk at the MLP dinner plus a little arm-chair Monday morning quarterbacking from me (the Jew in the pew married to a Presbyterian who, together, have caused our own bit of a stir in the PCUSA over the last 20 years or so).
My earliest memories of my father are of him whistling down the hallway on his way home from work and him singing Old Man River. He loved that song, and he had the deep voice to pull it off. What I learned later in life was that he especially loved Paul Robeson. This afternoon I sat at my father’s bedside reading a book about Woody Guthrie, and found myself on a chapter about a concert in Peekskill New York at which Robeson had performed, and after which the artists and attendees had been ambushed by town-folk while the police looked on and allowed them to be mercilessly beaten. Robeson had two things going against him. He was an outspoken black man fighting for civil rights and he supported the Soviet Union. As I read about the “Peekskill Riots” my father’s breathing became more labored than it had been shortly before and I called the hospice nurse to ask if we should give him another dose of morphine.
I blog, therefore I am.
I’m not a poet, but a number people in my life are. When Rev. Jim Burklo sent out his latest “musing” and the title used the word “service” and the post included a look at poetry, it sparked my interest. As a shopkeeper, I got a kick out of the way he describes two different types of salespeople, feeling good that I was the first you’ll encounter rather than the second. Then, the idea that he shares about poetry being a form of service, as a gift to others, or to the cosmos, stopped me in my tracks. I’d always thought of poetry being a gift to one’s self, first. A way of capturing some joy or angst and putting it down on paper to keep. Yet the poets in my life do like to share their poetry, often packaging it in beautifully bound parcels and handing it to me as they might share the sacraments of communion. So I gift you Jim’s musing and hope that it might stop you for a moment too, and perhaps comment.
Felt red square, via Free Education Montreal
My friends at Waging Nonviolence have been putting together some amazing articles about successful nonviolent movements from the past and present, with a hope that today’s activists can learn from history and current actions. I was intrigued when I was sent this article about the “Red Square” movement in Canada.
Started because of increases in tuition, the movement is rapidly growing and judging from reports of mass arrests, beatings, and pepper spraying, it is starting to really annoy the powers that be. While our friends to the north are complaining about “staggering” student debts of nearly $30,000, US students are facing debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Both sides of the border are feeling the pain and more and more young people are starting to stand up. Read more to get an on-the-ground perspective from recent actions in Montreal.
Those who know the Reach And Teach story know that a significant reason we do what we do today is because of the experience we had in Afghanistan in 2002. Having witnessed the horrible destruction from 30 years of civil war coupled with the massive bombing campaign waged by the US and its allies after the September 11th attacks, we knew that the people we met were weary of violence being the only solution to their problems.
Sadly, 10 years later, violence still rages on.
It breaks our hearts when we hear people say that Afghans are simply a violent people. We disagree. Afghans, we believe, are like the vast majority of people, wanting to live in peace, raise families, work with dignity, be treated fairly, and have opportunities for joy. We also know that Afghans have their own history of nonviolence and we were heartened to see this story in the Waging Nonviolence newsletter about groups of Afghans working to find ways to change the situation in their country, through nonviolent means.
We’d like to share the following hopeful story of seeds being planted in Afghanistan, in fields that perhaps have been too long dry, but which nonetheless can bear fruit, with a little water, love and support. Having “Realistic Alternatives” in the title also made us think about Rabbi Michael Lerner’s constant reminder to us all that being “realistic” isn’t necessarily a good thing! So, as you read this, realize that few would have thought it “realistic” for Afghans to gather together to attend a nonviolent workshop. Yet… they did.
Our thanks to Waging Nonviolence for allowing us to repost this story (which you can also read on their web site).
Friend and prophet Rev. Jim Burklo shares his thoughts on a quite powerful border experience in his latest “musing.” I’m honored that he lets me share this with all of you on Tikkun Daily. Click here to visit his blog site, Musings.
A small wooden cross stands next to a cholla cactus in the desert of southern Arizona. Across it is written a word in Spanish: DESCONOCIDO. In English, it means “unknown”.
To get to it, I and seven students from the University of Southern California trekked from a dirt road through a mile and a half of rough country. Every one of us was scraped by spines of cacti or spikes of mesquite branches. We slipped on stones, slid on sand. All of us sipped regularly from our water bottles as the mid-day sun and the arid air wicked our bodies dry.
The cross marked the spot where bones of a human being were found by a member of the Green Valley Samaritans, a group of volunteers who put gallon jugs of water on trails where migrants cross into the United States from Mexico. The volunteer called the county coroner to retrieve the remains, which so far have not been identified.
Image Courtesy of Crip - FLICKR
Ever since I heard the news about a law in Arizona prohibiting the teaching of ethnic studies courses in public schools, and banning one of the books we sell (Rethinking Columbus), I’ve been wondering what it was like to be a teacher there. What did enforcement of this new law look like? How were the students reacting? This morning I received this email from Curtis Acosta, who now teaches English (formerly taught Latino Literature) at Tucson High School. His message is heartbreaking and frightening. I asked Mr. Acosta’s permission to share his message with Tikkun Daily’s readers. He agreed.
The question that I’d like us to answer is this: What do we do about it? At the end of his letter, I’ll provide context about the law that is at the root of this situation and ask that question again. What do we do?