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Jubilee and Debt Abolition: A Bill Collector’s Perspective

Feb18

by: Jerry Ashton on February 18th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

As a “bill collector” by profession, I am the last person that many would expect to advocate for the abolition of debt. If all debts were abolished, my profession would not exist!

But my experiences as a bill collector are exactly why I have arrived at the belief that here in the U.S., if not the world, a Jubilee is in order. I believe that every personal debt of any magnitude needs to be evaluated and – meeting certain qualifications – abolished.

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Oliver vs. Cleveland: Beyond Right & Wrong

Feb17

by: Elizabeth De Sa on February 17th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A graphic that reads 'Defy Labels.'

Judgmental labels are pervasive in our society. Did Bryan Oliver identify with the messages he heard and blame himself? Credit: Judy Rose Sayson / Creative Commons.

In the light of Bryan Oliver’s plea bargain and sentencing for the shooting of alleged bully, Bowe Cleveland, increasingly polarized conversations have flown back and forth about who was to blame and whether the sentence is just. I generally enjoy reading comments sections until they become too personal and vitriolic. Is the implicit purpose of commenting to convince someone of a particular opinion and is it effective to do so? Is it possible to be convinced of something just by hearing an opinion in opposition to our own or do we need to be deeply heard first? Do such debates serve as a forum for where the loudest voice wins? Some of the milder comments include telling Bryan Oliver to suck it up, that he deserves his sentence, and that there is no excuse for attempted murder. Other voices include exculpating him and holding the school and authorities culpable for neglecting their duty to protect Oliver from bullying and sexual harassment, and leaving him no choice but to seek protection and justice himself.

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Rising in Death

Feb16

by: Metis on February 16th, 2015 | No Comments »

One of my most favorite film dialogues is from Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium:

Mr. Edward Magorium: [to Molly, about dying] When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He’s written “He dies.” That’s all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is “He dies.” It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with “He dies.” And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it’s only natural to be sad, but not because of the words “He dies.” but because of the life we saw prior to the words.

A sign underneath a tree that reads 'Love Prevails.'

Deah’s brother, Farris has explained that whether this tragedy is classified as a hate crime or not, “so much good has come out of it” and it may help people understand that “hate can kill.” Credit: mcwooten 92 / Instagram

I have quoted this several times but never has it made more sense than now with the triple homicide in North Carolina on February 10, 2015. 23-year old Deah Barakat, his new wife 21-year old Yusor Abu-Salha and Yusor’s 19-year old sister Razan Abu-Salha were unarmed and gunned down (execution style) inside their apartment by their neighbor Craig Hicks. Police claim the murder of all three took place in response to a parking dispute with the neighbor. Hicks is a self-identified anti-theist and the dead were all Muslim.

Most of us didn’t know the victims personally. We will probably never meet their families. Yet there is more than simple empathy that makes their death so real to so many of us, and some have come to realize that it was not their death or how they died, but because of the lives we saw prior to their death that makes their loss so painful to accept. Social media has that power. Within hours their Facebook pictures, messages, evidence of active social work, and even wedding photos were all over the Internet. In less than 24 hours the world knew the lives the young man and the two young women had lead.

In their death, they had risen.

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‘Yes, we have no bananas’

Feb13

by: Matt Canfield and Phil Bereano on February 13th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

The drive by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to introduce a genetically engineered ‘super banana’ into the Ugandan market can only be viewed as part of a powerful and coordinated effort to transform Africa’s agricultural systems to serve corporate and foreign interests.

Yes, we have no bananas

We have no bananas today.

Yes, we are very sorry to inform you

That we are entirely out of the fruit in question

The aforementioned vegetable

Bearing the cognomen ‘Banana’.

We might induce you to accept a substitute less desirable,

But that is not the policy at this internationally famous green grocery.

I should say not. No no no no no no no.

But we have no bananas today.

– as sung by Eddie Cantor, 1923

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At the March for Real Climate Leadership with the Network of Spiritual Progressives and Beyt Tikkun

Feb13

by: Meaghan Kachadoorian on February 13th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

People wearing yellow shirts holding their hands up at a protest.

The March for Real Climate Leadership drew thousands of people to downtown Oakland to support a ban on fracking in California. Credit: Meaghan Kachadoorian

On the weekend after the driest January in recorded history, the Network of Spiritual Progressives partnered with student, labor, and community organizations for the March for Real Climate Leadership. Thousands marched through Oakland to highlight California’s climate crisis and call on Governor Jerry Brown to ban fracking in California.

Before marching to the convergence place at Lake Merritt, indigenous groups came together in song and prayer, high school student groups demanded a habitable planet for their generation and generations to come, and an intergenerational commitment to a more equitable world filled the air at the Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall.

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Muslim Lives Matter: Double Standards and Islamophobia in Chapel Hill

Feb12

by: Jacob Klein on February 12th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

The news that three young people – Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha – were killed Tuesday near University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is finally making its way into the mainstream press following social media outcry over an initial silence on the evening news and in local newspapers.

Picture of a man and two woman smiling at a graduation.

We must take action in memory of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha so Islamophobic violence like the Chapel Hill shooting doesn't happen again. Credit: Our Three Winners (www.facebook.com/ourthreewinners).

The media’s slow response to this tragic loss – something that would otherwise be all over the 24-hour news cycle – is a painful reminder of how racism and Islamophobia distort reporting on crimes like these. This wasn’t a favored story because the victims were Muslim, and because their alleged killer is a white man.

Most sources that have reported on the Chapel Hill Shooting, as it’s come to be called, make mention of a parking dispute as a potential cause for the killings. Some highlight this more than others, a Fox Nation post going as far as to say in the headline that “Parking dispute, not bias, triggered triple murder.”

However factual the parking dispute may be, how does it come to pass that neighbors disagreeing over parking turns into an execution-style murder spree? Police have reported that all three were shot in the head, an act that undermines potential arguments of a heated fight. And according to some reports, gunshots may have numbered up to ten.

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Earth’s Climate Circle and the Rising 400ppm Human Tangent

Feb11

by: Kritee Kanko on February 11th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Can our spiritual paths help us to choose heroic and just transitions over global chaos?

A remote landscape of rocks and trees at twilight.

Above is the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, where the author and her husband reflect on the dire state of our Earth. The multi-faceted crisis that we face calls for both a tremendous sense of urgency and a limitless reserve of patience.Credit: Michael / Creative Commons.

Imtiaz was still speaking when Jean started sobbing. At first, gently; then, she really cried hard. What I felt unfolding in me that afternoon, was something I had not allowed to happen to myself for more than a decade of being an environmental scientist.

We were standing with Ilusha, our beloved musician friend from Brooklyn, along with his friend Jean at the foyer of the visitor center of “Garden of Gods.” In front of us were the panoramic paintings depicting a wide range of climatic conditions that had existed at that very spot over many millennia.

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Looking Truth in the Eye: A Political Calling

Feb11

by: Donald W. Shriver on February 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

Von Weizsaecker speaking to an audience.

Richard von Weizsaecke speaks to an audience in Berlin at Transparency International's 20th birthday celebration. Sebastian Schobbert / Creative Commons.

Last month came death to one of the twentieth century’s great political leaders: Richard Freiherr von Weizsaecker, Bundespraesident of the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1980s.  He will long be remembered as the author of a speech on May 8, 1985 to the hushed parliament of his newly democratic country.  Anthony Lewis of the New York Times called it “one of the great speeches of our time.”

Delivered on the 40th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe, it  achieved instant worldwide  attention:  for the first time a high-ranking German leader took occasion publicly to recall, in painful detail, the evils of the Nazi past.  Only a few days before President Ronald Reagan had visited the Bitburg Cemetery—with its graves of SS troops—against the counsel of Elie Weisel and many other survivors of the Holocaust. 

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Distributing Power in Social Movements

Feb5

by: Robyn Henderson-Espinoza on February 5th, 2015 | No Comments »

A protest sign that reads: Sorry for the inconvenience, We are trying to change the world.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement has the capacity and momentum to enact new forms of power and knowledge. Credit: Rose Colored Photo/ Creative Commons.

Historically, there are three different types of organization in social movements that reflect the style of leadership: centralized, decentralized, and distributed. The Occupy movement here in the U.S. utilized a horizontal approach in leadership. As the #blacklivesmatter movement continues to grow, we see more of a decentralized style of leadership irrupting in society. My question is: what style of leadership do we need to see radical social change? To see the eradication of oppression? To hear the amplification of marginalized voices?


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This Is Not a Travelogue (With American Jewish World Service in Central America)

Feb3

by: Aryeh Cohen on February 3rd, 2015 | No Comments »

The word that kept coming up was “accompaniment” (acompañamiento in Spanish). In the second floor offices of the poetically named sex workers’ rights organization Flor de Piedra (Flower from the Stone) in San Salvador – ten or fifteen off-white plastic chairs set in rows on a tile floor under a glass roof; coils of barbed wire on the wall between this building and the next – a reflection of the high rate of violence and fear pervasive in El Salvador – four or five staff in their thirties and forties, sex workers of the same age who were members of the organization.

Purple flower growing in sandstone.

Professor Aryeh Cohen traveled Central America with the American Jewish World Service to meet partner organizations like Flor de Piedra (Flower From the Stone) which advocate for sex workers

In the heavily secured (thick metal gate at the top of the steep staircase, barbed wire visible through the window) second story offices of COMCAVIS Trans – a necessity because of the violence faced by trans women on a daily basis – sitting in a cramped corner office with the slightest hint of a breeze on a typically hot San Salvador afternoon. Listening to Natalie, a member of the board of directors, speak about the dangers that the trans women who are members of COMCAVIS trans face on a daily basis. The mission of the organization is to represent, defend, and promote trans women’s human rights. However, when Diana, a native of San Salvador, who joined after a friend was assassinated, spoke of the importance of COMCAVIS, she spoke of accompaniment. Sullai spoke about the fact that COMCAVIS helped her get a restraining order against her brother who had threatened her. Other members recalled sitting in the hospital with a member who’d been attacked because her family refused to come see her.

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