Rose Berger: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

As we celebrate the final defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline, I’ll repost some of the spiritual power that led to this day.
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[Originally published Oct. 9. 2013]

Keystone protest @ Environmental Resources Management headquarters, D.C.
Photo by Jay Mullin. Used with permission.

I had fun this summer with a great group of folks who came to be known as the ERM 54 (explanation below). After getting arrested, three court appearances, peeing in a cup, negotiating the D.C. community court system, and promising not to get arrested again before Valentine’s Day, I’m ready for the autumn to begin. But that’s not to say that the summer wasn’t fun!

Here’s an excerpt from my most recent column in Sojourners:

OFFICER MARIO normally worked for Homeland Security. On this Friday night he’d been seconded to the Washington, D.C. Metro police, who had their hands full. Not only did they have the usual “drunk and disorderlies,” but now 54 people who looked like card-carrying members of the AARP were filling up their holding cells. Officer Mario, of retirement age himself, was feeling fortunate. He’d been assigned to the women’s side.

“Ladies, ladies, ladies!” Mario said, sauntering in with a mischievous smile. “This must be my lucky night.”

The evening before, we’d all been at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church running role plays on how to “flash mob” the corporate headquarters of Environmental Resources Management (ERM), the firm hired by the U.S. State Department to provide an environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL pipeline. To the disbelief and concern of climate scientists, ERM claimed that TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline would not significantly contribute to climate change. ERM was suspected of “misleading disclosures” regarding conflict of interest and material gain from the pipeline’s completion.

Our white-haired mob of mostly grandparents converged on ERM headquarters at noon to shine a light on such shady dealings. While six silver foxes blocked the elevators by chaining their arms together inside a PVC pipe, I watched two D.C. police lift Steve, age 70, and toss him into the crowd behind me. I knew this nonviolent civil disobedience wasn’t going as planned.

For the next hour the police threatened us with felony charges, and we chanted complicated ditties on Big Oil, Mother Earth, and the merits of transparency in a democracy. Then they slipped plastic cuffs over our wrists and charged us with “unlawful entry.” …

Read the whole essay here (Sojourners, November 2013, “Unlawful Entry”).

E. Ethelbert Miller: The Prisoner, The Pope, and the President

emillerNewsphotoD.C. treasure and literary activist Ethelbert Miller invites America inside prison to see what we are paying for. Keep your eye on the images of a pope and a president who go “inside.” Below is an excerpt from Miller’s short essay:

If one believes Babylon is falling there is then a tendency to stand around and do nothing.

We cannot wait for a celebrity prisoner like Martha Stewart to make us want to talk about prisons. We can’t place all our attention or focus on the “outdoors” and police brutality. Nor can we talk about unjust laws and the black nets that trap and scar the sufferers. Prison is hell and the Devil lives elsewhere.

Too many sufferers coming out prison are going to show the signs of mental illness. A caged human being can slowly grow fur on a daily basis.

In September when the Pope goes into a U.S. prison the cameras will follow. One wonders how the “indoor” black men who are Muslims will receive him. How will the media respond if the Pope decides to wash the feet of black men? Might this be a reversal of the Help?

Meanwhile, our Obama will visit a prison in Oklahoma. Look for him to be surrounded by a number of white inmates. I was hoping the Brother from the White House was going to a prison in Maryland to talk to people from Maryland and DC. I wanted him to sit down in the middle of a circle of black man and talk about fatherhood, work, and reflect on the blackness of the times.–E. Ethelbert Miller

Read Ethelbert Miller’s complete essay at E-Notes.

Video: Living While Black and Michael Brown

More at The Real News

In 1917, white mobs attacked a black neighborhood in East St. Louis. The memory remains. Michael Brown’s murder happens in a context of 40 years of a mass incarceration strategy. (Here is a good primer and bible study on Mass Incarceration and the New Jim Crow by Correctional Ministries and Chaplains Association in 2013. It’s perfect for a traditional Christian or evangelical audience.)

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement released a report on police brutality against African Americans and extrajudicial killings called Operation Ghetto Storm. Read this report while holding it in one hand and Lamentations 3 in the other.

I have been hunted like a bird
by those who were my enemies without cause;
they flung me alive into the pit
and cast stones on me;
water closed over my head;
I said, ‘I am lost.’
I called on thy name, O Lord,
from the depths of the pit;
thou didst hear my plea, ‘Do not close
thine ear to my cry for help!’[c]
Thou didst come near when I called on thee;
thou didst say, ‘Do not fear!’