Breaking Families Instead of Bread at U.S.-Mexico Border

Families who illegally crossed the Mexico-U.S. border walk up a dirt road near McAllen, Texas, last month. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

“It’s unjust for kids to be separated from their parents. It doesn’t matter the race or where the come from, because we all know, the fundamental base of society is family. So if we separate families, what we are doing, is destroying society.”—Yulio Bermudez spent 45 days trying to get his children, age 16, 7, and 3, back from the Department of Homeland Security

“God is Love and love enfolds us all the world in one embrace; with unfailing grasp God holds us, and every child of every race. And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow’s iron rod, then we find that self same aching deep within the heart of God,”–Isaac Watts, “God is Love” (sung to the tune of the Old 100th)

If you want to send donations to help families at the border, I recommend supporting Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. It is run by Sr. Norma Pimentel.

For more on the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that uses children as pawns for partisan political theater, see these articles below:

San Diego diocese launching program to prevent family separation at border

Doctors Say Kids Separated From Parents At Border Face ‘Toxic Stress,’ Serious Health Risks

HIDDEN HORRORS OF “ZERO TOLERANCE” — MASS TRIALS AND CHILDREN TAKEN FROM THEIR PARENTS

 

Rose Marie Berger: The Thing From the Oil Company Board Room

"Skin of Evil" Star Trek: The Next Generation

The Global North and West is addicted to fossilized fuel. Myself included. And we are trying to push our addictions onto the Global South.

Everywhere we look the fossil fuel pushers are in our face, luring us into our next fix.

Not a week after the elections, the American Petroleum Institute launched ads in Alaska, Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, Arkansas, and North Carolina targeting U.S. senators who are raising the issue of climate change; specifically, the ones calling into question oil company subsidies.

The oil and gas companies try seduction (“fighting for jobs”). They try fear (“we are too big to fail”). They accuse us of being unfair to them (“Discriminatory treatment of the oil and gas industry is a bad idea”). They try bullying and slandering.

Even when our court system recently convicted one of them killing (BP convicted of “manslaughter” for the 11 murdered on Gulf Oil spill rigs), they are not stopped.

We can’t unhook ourselves by ourselves. We have to fight the pushers by banding together and taking action through public policy, business, and civil society action.

The board of directors of these six corporations–ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP–will do anything to make money. They are terrorizing our planet. Just ask the folks in Rockaway, NY, the Jersey Shore, and the Caribbean.

Are they “good men”? Upstanding men? Do they love their families? Of course. Do they go to church? Probably. Are they nice to animals? Most likely. Are they perpetrating a great evil of transnational proportions? Yes, they are.

They are like “The Thing From Another World” rising up from under the ice to kill the scientists by altering the temperature in the research station. The Thing requires human blood to survive and reproduce. Ugh.

What do we do about them? How do we help them do what is right and protect ourselves and our earth at the same time?

First, pray for the salvation of their souls. Second, direct our communal action at the corporations’ bottom lines.

Here are three steps:

1. Divest. Start with churches, universities, and towns. For managed portfolios, commit to zero direct investment in fossil fuels. For those who operate through the use of exchange-traded funds, direct your fund managers to bias against fossil fuels. (Here is the targeted list of carbon reserve companies to give your fund manager to set up an bias against investment.) Unity University in Maine is the first academic institution to divest. Vancity Credit Union has also divested.

2. Demand strong carbon “fee-and-dividend” laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. Push for an end to oil company subsidies. This fight will be part of the “fiscal cliff” deliberations.

3. Take personal responsibility. Right now there are 11 people in jail in Nacogdoches, Texas, arrested for resisting TransCanada’s takeover of land for the climate-killing Keystone XL pipeline. Some of them are being charged with felonies for their nonviolent direct action to stop the mining company that will exponentially increase global warming if allowed to complete its project. What can you do?

The World Bank has just released a blockbuster new report called Turn Down the Heat: Why A 4 Degree Centigrade Warmer World Must Be Avoided. The World Economic Forum, the European Union, and other world bodies will be discussing its content over the next few weeks and months. Read it. Ask your representatives and leaders if they have read it. Stir up some conversation.

“Hope” is part if the DNA of Christians. So is courage. So be bold, my friends, be courageous. Take hope in Christ. Be heartened in the struggle. Remember that because God so loves this world, God gave God’s begotten child. And we are of that lineage and race.–Rose Marie Berger

Red Hot Patriots: 4 Blockaders Attempt to Stop Construction of Keystone XL Pipeline

Check out our testimonial video from four of today's brave blockaders!

At 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning, four blockaders locked themselves to a semi truck hauling pipe destined to be part of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This construction is part of the southern route and blockaders are taking action in Livingston, Texas.

The Livingston Four are: Denny Hook, a retired United Methodist minister; Ray Torgerson, a small business owner from Houston; Tammie Carson, a  grandmother and Occupier from Arlington, Texas; and Chris Voss, a farmer from Ravenna, Texas.

This morning they locked themselves to the underside of a massive truck carrying 36-inch pipe intended for Keystone XL construction. The truck was parked, idling at the entrance to the pipe yard. This action made construction activity impossible. Seven blockaders total were onsite risking arrest.

They have been threatened with pepper spray by the police, while local construction workers are bringing the protesters water in the hot afternoon sun. At last posting, the police were dismantling the truck axle. One blockader was still holding tight. The 3 others have been arrested. One journalist is part of the six arrested so far as part of this initial wave of citizens’ blockades against the Keystone XL pipeline.

This act of peaceful civil disobedience comes in the wake of a recent court decision condoning TransCanada’s use of eminent domain for private gain. Last week Lamar County Judge Bill Harris ruled in a shockingly abbreviated fifteen-word summary judgment that Texas farmer Julia Trigg Crawford cannot challenge TransCanada’s claim that it is entitled to a piece of her home.

Follow more on this breaking story here.

Largest Protestant Denomination in Canada Rejects Tar Sands Pipeline

The United Church of Canada voted on Tuesday to “categorically reject” the tar sands pipeline project that would carry highly toxic, climate-killing unconventional tar sands petroleum through pristine First Nation’s land in Alberta to British Columbia where it would be shipped on supertankers to China for processing. The so-called Northern Gateway pipeline is the Canadian end of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposed in the U.S.

In the U.S., some have argued that we should accept the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline because if we don’t the toxic petroleum from Alberta will just get shipped to China through a East-West pipeline. But the First Nations people and Canadian Churches are continuing to fight to make sure that pipeline never gets built. There may also be a strategic church divestment strategy to make sure that the United Church of Canada does not have any stockholdings in companies related to TransCanada, Enbridge, or affiliates.

In the U.S., we must do the same. In fact, ranchers and others in Texas are training this summer to nonviolently block with their bodies the pipeline construction bulldozers scheduled to begin clearing land soon.

Again, if we are to have any hope of reversing global warming, we must do these three things:

1. Divest or get active regarding all stockholdings in these six corporations: ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP. These are the primary oil, natural gas, and coal companies operating in or through the United States that top the charts as carbon polluters. If Americans focus on U.S. companies, then we can be the tipping point for a transnational shift. If you — or the portfolio you influence — own stock, then get rid of it and tell the company why. If you don’t want to divest, then you need to decide now to become a shareholder activist. If you’re not a stockholder, then pressure your faith institutions, universities, and local governments to get out of “planet-killing” profits. This is the economic part of the plan.

2. Push for carbon “fee-and-dividend” laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. No more free rides for oil, gas, and coal companies. You pay taxes to have your garbage hauled away. Why shouldn’t they? The fee is charged at the point of origin or point of import on greenhouse gas emitting energy (oil, gas, and coal). The fee is progressive (increases gradually) over time. The fee is returned directly to the public in monthly dividends to individual taxpayers, with limited-to-no government involvement. Australia initiated this legislation in June. We can learn from them. This is the legislative part of the plan.

3. Take personal responsibility. Everyone can continue to limit energy consumption, use renewable energy sources, and build out a sustainable footprint for our homes and churches. But we also need people to step up and put their bodies on the line to stop the mining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, and prevent the construction of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines that are being built to transport Alberta’s unconventional “tar sands” oil. Scientists around the world say that opening the Alberta tar sands and pumping this non-traditional oil through these pipelines will put the planet on a one-way road to climate disaster. That’s why fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline in the U.S. and the Northern Gateway Pipeline in Canada is critical. This is the direct action and personal responsibility part of the plan.

Read the United Church of Canada’s statement on Enbridge Corporation’s tars sands pipeline. Here’s an excerpt:

The 41st General Council has instructed Nora Sanders, the United Church’s General Secretary, to make a public statement “categorically” rejecting construction of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, which has a proposed route stretching from northern Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia.

Due to the timely nature of the pipeline review hearings, commissioners asked that this be accomplished soon. In addition, Sanders has been asked to communicate this decision to all courts of the church, the governments of Canada, Alberta, and British Columbia, Enbridge, and all Canadians through media outlets. …

Read whole article here.

Breaking News: Western Canada Tar Sand Pipeline Decision Delayed Until Late 2013

Sliammon First Nation member Ta'kaiya Blaney at pipeline hearing (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

While citizens across the United States have been demanding President Obama deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadians and First Nations folks have been organizing as well.

One question I’ve been asked repeatedly during the Tar Sands organizing is: “If we stop the mining and oil company from building a pipeline from Alberta to Texas, won’t they just a build one from Alberta to the Pacific and ship the oil to China?”

The companies were only too happy to have us buy their logic. But the truth was that our job in the U.S. was to keep the pipeline out of our backyard, and trust that the Canadian movement would do the same. Well, it turns out they have. First Nations folks pledged to block construction with their bodies and widespread public concern has forced the Harper government to review environmental concerns.

Thanks to Brendan DeMelle at DeSmogBlog for his summary:

The Calgary Herald reports that the decision on the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline was delayed today until late 2013, a year later than planned. The three-member panel said it “would anticipate releasing the environmental assessment report in the fall of 2013 and its final decision on the project around the end of 2013.”

The joint review panel of Environment Canada and the National Energy Board announced that it will take the additional year to review the widespread public concern over the proposed pipeline, which would cut through First Nations lands in order to shuttle the dirtiest oil on the planet, Alberta tar sands, to Asian export markets.

The delay is not a good sign for Enbridge or KinderMorgan, the two major tar sands pipeline interests hoping to enable the export of Alberta’s climate-killing product overseas. As we learned last week, the oil industry will face a powerful adversary since BC’s First Nations pledged, as a united front, to halt construction and prevent the proposed pipelines from crossing their territory.

Marking their commitment against the pipeline projects, 55 First Nations leaders from across BC signed the Save the Fraser Declaration.  “These First Nations form an unbroken wall of opposition from the U.S. border to the Arctic Ocean,” said the group in a statement.

In response to the firm commitment of First Nations leaders, federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said today that Northern Gateway “shouldn’t be held hostage by aboriginal and environmental groups threatening to create a human “wall” to prevent construction,”according to the National Post article, “Oil industry’s ‘nation-building’ pipeline won’t be stopped by protesters.

“The joint review panel will begin community hearings in Kitimat, B.C., on Jan. 10 to hear from both sides on this contentious issue.  The hearings are sure to attract a lot of attention, and chances are pretty good that much of it will not be favorable to Enbridge or any other proposed tar sands pipeline.

In the wake of the delay and likely demise of the Keystone XL pipeline, all indications point to a difficult, and perhaps insurmountable, challenge ahead for any tar sands pipeline construction. …

Canadians have been very active in supporting the U.S. fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. Now it’s time for us to return the favor. If you can get to any of the community review hearings to support organizers there, please back up your kit bag and go!

Read Brendan’s complete article.

Is Sheol in Preston Hollow, Texas?

Whilst reading in the prophet Isaiah, I popped down to the grocery store to buy orange juice for Sojourners’ Mardi Gras pancake breakfast tomorrow. With the prophet’s searing poetry still curdling inside me, my eyes fell on that this week’s edition of that fish-wrap, scandal rag The Globe trumpeting:

globecoverbushorig1Just weeks after leaving the White House, depressed and paranoid George Bush is suicidal, insiders fear. In a blockbuster world exclusive, sources tell GLOBE the ex-President is boozing up a storm – and reveal why he is terrified of Barack Obama and his own wife Laura. Don’t miss a single word!

It seems that life in the Bushes’ new home in Preston Hollow, a wealthy Dallas suburb, is not all he expected it would be. It struck me that the prophet Isaiah is much better at explicating the daily headlines than I am and in words much franker and bolder than I usually give myself permission to use. Isaiah 14:6-10 says:

You persecuted the people with unceasing blows of rage and held the nations in your angry grip. Your tyranny was unrestrained. But at last the land is at rest and is quiet. Finally it can sing again! Even the trees of the forest–the cypress trees and the cedars of Lebanon – sing out this joyous song: `Your power is broken! No one will come to cut us down now!’ In the place of the impotent there is excitement over your arrival. World leaders and mighty kings long dead are there to see you. With one voice they all cry out, `Now you are as weak as we are!

In fact, Isaiah describes Yahweh’s specific instructions to Israel to taunt the deposed leader of an empire, saying, “When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon”  (Isaiah 14:3-4).

Theologian Walter Brueggemann, in his explication of Isaiah 1-39, makes the argument for why this taunting is important, saying that when the people are free from their oppression then “one of the important opportunities, in such freedom, is to engage in a mocking song against the tyrant.”

Brueggemann goes on to describe the toppled ruler’s arrival in Sheol:

“Sheol” is not a place of punishment, but it is where the dead are kept in their impotence. As the deposed oppressor arrives in Sheol, now completely removed from authority and utterly impotent—a suitable resident for Sheol—all the others who used to be active authorities and great powers in the earth (now become impotent) present themselves as a welcoming committee for the new arrival in Sheol. They gather around the new arrival and recognize him as one of their own, formerly powerful, now completely powerless.

In high irony, the poet [Isaiah] has them welcome the new member of the powerless to their company—“You are like us”—powerless, no longer a force to be reckoned with. … The speech “rubs it in,” so that this now feeble has-been should be recognized for what he is, completely broken and irrelevant, warranting no attention at all. (Isaiah 1-39 by Walter Brueggemann, 1998, p. 127-128)

elliottsorig-crop1In light of Isaiah’s description, it seems entirely appropriate that Kyle Walters, president of Elliott’s hardware store in Dallas should offer George Bush a job as a store greeter, saying, “Like you, many of our greeters are retired from the corporate world, so we’re sure you’ll have no trouble making new friends.”

How many American retirees have had to do just this in order to make their Social Security checks stretch farther and cover their medical expenses?

And, the LA Times reports, that while the former first lady is working on a book, “the former president has yet to interest a publisher in his memoirs. In fact, several have advised him to wait a few years until his reputation is less, well, in need of a good hardware polishing.”

Of course, having compassion for George W. Bush, the man, the husband, the father, is part of the Christian calling, as is extending him the hand of mercy when he repents of his sins.

But for President Bush who sought the status of emperor and who claimed divine right in his exploits; who tortured strangers in secret prisons; who opened the nation’s treasuries to privateers; who unleashed the dogs of war on civilians for the purpose of working out old vengeances and hoarding resources, I have a few good taunts left in me.

In fact, I imagine that, right now, Sheol may have taken up an address in Preston Hollow, Texas.

Alice Kesner’s “The Peace Vigil”

6830081_550x550_mb_art_r0I’m not sure what to think about ending up as a minor character in a short story, except to say that I’m honored. Alice Kesner posted “The Peace Vigil” at Political Affairs magazine (tag line “Marxist Thought Online”).  I think she makes a good effort at crafting the “stuff” of life into the art of life–carving away what’s less important, so that the essential tensions and beauties stand out. Thanks, Alice! Here’s an excerpt:

Dusk, in the living room of a rambling, country-style house in Texas, where three women and two men are about to mark an important occasion. It’s the second anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, and while in urban places people are commemorating the day with antiwar marches and demonstrations, in this small Hill Country town these five folks are about to hold a peace vigil. …

At this moment, Bruce, who reclines at the other end of the sofa, waves some sheets of paper in the air. “Folks, I’ve got me some copies here of a humdinger responsorial by a Rose Marie Berger, hot off the Internet.” Bruce, who owns a thirty-acre pecan ranch, is slim, loose-jowled and rugged in blue jeans, sports jacket and the cowboy hat he always wears, even indoors. A friend of Mary’s from school days, and for a brief period a long time ago her lover, he finds himself, now twice divorced, drifting back into Mary’s emotional orbit.

Read Alice Kesner’s whole story here. If you want to read the litany she references,  see below.

Continue reading “Alice Kesner’s “The Peace Vigil””