Books Unite Us…

In recognition of Banned Books Week, September 18 through 24, I took a deep dive into the list of Classics that are banned or challenged. Unsurprisingly I found some of my favorite authors: Faulkner, Hemingway, Morrison, Steinbeck, Alice Walker, and James Baldwin. Seeing Richard Wright’s Native Son on the list took me back to a high school English class and the horror I felt at the shocking truth it taught me about race. 

I’m forever grateful to the teachers who encouraged us to step out of our parochial view of the world. Through books they opened the door of our mutual humanity, in all of its complexities, glory, and ugliness.

I learned I had nothing to fear in words or ideas. I learned that the free will to choose is a powerful tool and that the ability to discern right from wrong is an inherited strength. In reading about diverse people, empathy grew. In understanding history from those who lived through wars and the Depression, I recognized the wisdom of not allowing ignorance to rule. 

Those who fear books and the ideas expressed within them cling to a worldview as skewed as the ones they fear. Those who would ban books are afraid to open minds and hearts to a broader humanity. They curtail understanding and are a curse to upcoming generations.

Fear is not what we need to propagate. Censorship is not a game to be played. Self-reflection is a worthy art and when we understand we are a fraction of the human kaleidoscope, life becomes a wondrous journey.

No one should have the right to clip the wings of freedom. In truth no one can. Ideas are born within the breath of every unique individual.

And that cannot be banned.

You can Support the Right to Read by signing the petition from the American Booksellers Association.


Inequitable Justice

When a president cannot condemn white supremacy we have arrived at a pivotal moment. When he attempts to whitewash our history by sidestepping the Doctrine of Discovery and governmental acts of racism, we must demand truth.  

When his Supreme Court pick proclaims to be a strict constructionist and pledges allegiance to Constitutional Law, many will find patriotism in her words. But the founding fathers were fallible. Their constructs were laced with racism and misogyny inevitably creating an inequitable system of justice.

When Trump uses the rallying cry of “law and order” we must recognize that the judicial system in this country has always favored property over humanity. It’s not a broken system. It’s a system working as it was designed to work. It protects wealth and maintains control over individuals of lessor means through unjust sentences, impossible fees and physical might.

Change will come when the majority of us understand that we cannot fix this system. It’s stacked against us. Instead we must continue to create new ways of restoring justice. We need to develop better means towards rehabilitation and reconciliation. We need to take the leap towards what has been called “beloved community”.  We need to seek out and conspire with others in this human effort. And we must be willing to let the old system die.

This is why activists proclaim, “Defund the police”. Defunding the police is only one piece of dismantling a corrupt system, which must undergo transformation, if we are to survive as a people.

The farce of an election will play out. Lobbyists and other power brokers wait in the wings to have their say. But it’s not too late; it will never be too late, for we the people to co-create a better day. 

It is time to end the division cultivated by racism. We are and have always been one people.

The poster of the movie, “Birth of a Nation” is public domain. The Birth of a Nation is a silent film from 1915. It is three hours of racist propaganda.

Nothing Less Will Do

Native peoples and environmentalists celebrated this week as a judge ruled that the Dakota Access Pipeline should be shut down pending a full impact review. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been cancelled and the Keystone XL Pipeline was stalled again in court. In addition, public pressure on a Washington, DC football team is forcing them to remove their racist name. Finally.

“Take your knee from my neck” is the silent and not so silent sentiment among people no longer willing to suffer senseless inhumanity.

While monuments of bronze and granite are being toppled, it is the ideals of colonialism and capitalism that are being unraveled. We are learning the torturous costs of building empire and the dismantling of it is long overdue.

Goliath does not go down without a fight, but the battle will not be won on his terms. The battle is won by conviction and the knowledge that there are better ways to coexist.

We do not have to fear this transformation. We have explored the brutal side of humanity; now let us lead with kindness and respect.

In these uncertain times, the certainty is this: to the people who have fought tirelessly for water and the earth; for those who honor their ancestry with a will to do more than endure; and for the ones who recognize that humanity is far greater than we have ever allowed it to be – this is our time.

Mainstream politics may not reflect it. Some religion may fight to conceal it, but this resurgence will not be stopped.

The strength and the resiliancy of our communities will be reflected by how we care for one another, how we listen to one another and how we honor one another. Nothing less will do.


Photo taken at Oceti Sakowin camp. My time in the camp continues to inspire and direct my course. Water is Life.

A Clarion Call

Ripples of fear can be heard in the voices of those reporting on the coronavirus. It is known that casual contact may spread the disease and that the incubation period may be as long as fourteen days prior to symptoms.

The admission, that Wuhan city officials were slow to provide information as they waited for higher authority, created distrust. People can be heard calling reassurances to one another from their quarantined homes in that city.

This information comes as the virus continues unchecked, causing people to feel victimized and paranoid. But even as the numbers of infected rise and the death toll climbs, there is more than fear that we need to heed.

Traditional medicine tells us we can maintain good and upright health through simple means. Beneficial sleep, good eating, clean water, maintaining our bodies through gentle movement and focusing our minds on good thoughts and emotions all promote health. Feeling our breath and allowing our lungs to fully expand and contract is important in relieving stress and in revitalizing our bodies and our spirit. And while this may not keep a virus at bay, it may provide the strength needed to overcome disease.

This is what individuals can do, but more is needed to live collectively as citizens of a healthy world. We are being asked to look at every aspect of our lives and the choices we have made. The virus mutated from wild animals, which were being sold in a Wuhan market. It jumped from animal to human and now is spreading from human to human with little impediment.  Our consumptive and exploitive attitude towards the natural world is causing our animal relatives great harm.  That harm now endangers us, and will continue, until we remember and live in a symbiotic way with all of life.

A clarion call has come.*



*a strongly expressed demand or request for action is a clarion call.


The Thinning Veil

As the weather turns towards winter our interaction with Nature offers another window of understanding. Shorter and often cloudy days are a transition away from the busy buzz of summer. The waning of the green and the falling leaves remind us of the finite nature of life. For those who live of and from the Earth the impending winter teaches us to prepare for what will surely be the stark contrast of summer’s plenty. So it is of little wonder that centuries of people have held the end of October and the beginning of November as a time of reflection.

Samhain, the Day of the Dead, All Souls Day and more were created by human beings who wanted to honor and celebrate this unique season. This passage of time brings with it the recognition of death and of those who have gone before us. Ancestors are honored and homage paid to them, in hopes that any darkness that had stalked them would let them rest in peace. There is also a hope to chase away any demons that may have been left behind.

The end of October and beginning of November is often referred to as the time of the thinning veil. The veil is the cloak that keeps us from the awareness of our true nature. When the veil thins, we have the opportunity to see differently. It is as if Nature has given us this time to make peace with our finite nature and to begin to comprehend our nature of infinite consciousness.

To distil this time to a holiday marked by fear and titillation is a commentary on our culture’s discomfort with death and our lack of connection to life’s more subtle invitations. When ceremony looses its roots, we are left with superstition.

Let the season remind us.


photo: wikipedia commons

Choose Clarity

What’s the dirtiest part of the human body? I know what you are thinking, but traditional people will tell you the dirtiest part of the body is the head. That’s due to uncontrolled thinking that can lead to depression and despair, anger and hate. To some, the washing of the hair and the head when done with intention and care, is a sacred and loving act.  It’s designed to help a person rid unwanted and nagging thoughts. Intention and love are indeed powerful weapons in ridding darkness.

The Chinese also have this saying or so I have been told, “You can not keep the birds from flying around your head, but you can keep them from nesting there.” This appears to be another way of combating nasty thoughts. It implies two very important concepts: One is that you cannot stop the thoughts from coming to you and two is that while you cannot stop them, you still can choose what will alight upon you.

Fear based thinking is loaded with dark thoughts. And our culture is currently loaded with fear-based thinking. Not surprisingly our darkest thoughts generally cast aspersions on others while allowing our own nasty inclinations to go unabated.

Let’s face it we’re all plagued with this “devil” within.

But what if we take some tips from old wisdom? What if we choose to ignore the rumblings of our lessor selves and seek clarity instead of confusion? What if love and good intention can keep the birds of prey from nesting on our heads?

Bad habits can be reversed.

I heard an old friend and teacher, Prem Rawat, sum it up this way, “Our thoughts are a gift to us… but what we choose to think about is a gift we give ourselves.”

Open the gift of clarity. It is closer than we think.


Big Thanks to WDRT for airing these 2 minute commentaries, “Consider This”, every Thursday, 5:30pm CST. Community Radio. Support it.


Engaging Love

Let’s begin by acknowledging that there are many horrible things happening. Federal concentration camps; children removed from families; the dropped charges of the police murder of Eric Garner; and closer to home, Monroe County’s legal counsel informed us that a referendum to halt sand mining would not hold up in court…

These are but a few of the leaps ignorance has taken of late. It can knock the wind out of the sails of anyone trying to respect the planet or to be kind to one another. And yet, that is exactly what we must continue to do.

There are many more people engaged in doing Good than the alternative. Clearly that is true or we would have imploded long ago. And while the threat of ignorance is very real, it is all the more reason for us to carry on.

Lots of people call for indignation and outrage to fight back. OK, if that is how you source yourself, have at it, but for me I have a need to call upon Love. Love for the Earth, Love for my ancestry, Love for those yet to be born…these are compelling reasons to engage in life and to work towards a more humane and peaceful world.

We cannot turn back the clock to undo the harm that our society and our government have created, but we can stand together in Love to ensure that ignorance no longer wins.

We must act consciously to unravel the threads of hatred that have wound their way into our lives. We must ignore the fear that would hold us back from speaking truth to power.

And this I know: freedom from fear, the courage to act, the conscious refusal to be a puppet of hate can only come from an unwavering allegiance to Love.  Let it be.


Transgender Violence

I remember when the Berlin wall came down and someone posed the question, “Whom will they hate next?” I remember squirming a bit as I realized targets of hate are people who are different.

It has been fifty years since the Stonewall Riots, which launched the modern Gay Rights movement. At that time the term “gay” covered it all. Many lesbians, gays and bi-sexuals now enjoy status quo lifestyles. Many attend churches and synagogues that are accepting of “gay” life. Some hold public office and climb the corporate ladder. And then there are those who do not fit so neatly into straight packages.

June is Pride Month and it began in New York’s Stonewall Inn with trans people leading the charge to end police brutality and harassment. And while much has changed since 1969, many are left behind in the push for equal and human rights.

People, who define themselves as transgender, questioning or two spirit, are too often marginalized by race, gender and socio-economic disparity.  It is a systemic issue based in prejudice and ignorance, leaving some at the mercy of human trafficking and survival sex work.

Young, indigenous and black transgender face some of the highest suicide and murder rates in the world. Violence and harassment are epidemic.

Many transgender migrants, who seek asylum, have been punished with solitary confinement and denied health care by our government.

In a dominant culture that fears the “other,” transgender people are persecuted for being different. Indigenous people are often the very first to defend their humanity.

It is time for people of faith to set aside their fear of “sin” and their judgment of right and wrong in order to conquer the greater evil, which is hate. And the LGB community needs to step up the fight for human rights for all of us.

This lack of humanity must end.



This transgender flag* from Wikimedia Commons: The Transgender Pride flag was designed by Monica Helms, and was first shown at a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona, USA in 2000.

The flag represents the transgender community and consists of five horizontal stripes, two light blue, two pink, with a white stripe in the center.

Monica describes the meaning of the flag as follows:

“The light blue is the traditional color for baby boys, pink is for girls, and the white in the middle is for those who are transitioning, those who feel they have a neutral gender or no gender, and those who are intersexed. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it will always be correct. This symbolizes us trying to find correctness in our own lives”.

*Unlike the wider LGBT communities worldwide which have adopted the Rainbow flag, the various transgender individuals, organizations and communities around the world have not coalesced around one single flag design.


Beyond Tolerance

There is an affliction haunting human beings throughout the world. Some refer to it as hatred. Some argue it has always been among us. Some proclaim that it will always be. Decades of reflection and numerous experiences of being “the hated”, as well as discovering the need to check my own ability to hate, I have come to the conclusion that we must go beyond tolerance.

Tolerance means that while you may hold differing opinions and beliefs you are graciously allowing others to do the same. And while that may look good in polite society it has done little to undermine the currents of hate promoted by faith leaders, political tyrants, and street gangs looking for triumph.

No, it is time we move beyond self-righteous tolerance. We must be willing to see in “the other” our own selves at every turn. It is time for our humanity to be championed. And with that comes the multi dimensional spectrum of diversity, which is the human condition and our human right. We are, each and every one of us, unique and special, a gift to be enjoyed.

We teach our children to fear the other and then confuse them with the notion of tolerance. Let us begin with the very real truth that has eluded us in our affliction; we are one people, one planet.

We wring our hands as we learn of each violent act of hate, but continue to participate in the very cultures that allow it to be. It is up to each of us, this reclamation of our humanity, this championing of the voice of clarity and the wisdom of peace.

No religion, clergy, political or charismatic leader will be able to save us from this moment of despair until we do this.

Go beyond tolerance.

Discover the splendor of being human.


Thanks to WDRT for airing “”Consider This” each Thursday at 5:30pm CST. Or you can listen here on Soundcloud.

Thanks to Meg Novick for the photo.


The Amish had it right. They did not want to become dependent on electricity. It wasn’t to make their lives harder. It was to not become dependent on a government or any other body who would seek to rob their independence or their character.

I have been thinking of this a lot lately as I weigh the urgent need for immigration reform in this country. There are many people who do not want to live in the United States, but would like to work here for a while and return to their countries of origin.

Considering labor shortages on farms and elsewhere, this would make good sense. But the current short-term work programs are severely outdated. Even the George W. Bush Center’s website, “A Nation Built by Immigrants” suggests the need for new worker programs.

Instead the current administration urges us to fear these people. We are encouraged to ignore our sense of humanity and continue to allow the separation of children from parents, overcrowded and dehumanizing detention centers, and perhaps worst of all, we ignore simple solutions because of our fear.

Creating humane worker programs would be one solution. Another would be to remove United States military from these countries, and instead offer aid to help them rebuild.

Many of the immigrants and asylum seekers are being forced from their homelands and ways of life because of extraction of resources – resources that our government and military pay heavily to protect. This “protection” has in recent years cost the lives of numerous environmental activists trying to protect their homelands and their communities.

No, it is not the immigrants we should fear; it is our ignorance. We must move towards becoming citizens of the world and realize how our choices directly affect others. Let us end our dependency on stolen resources protected by blood money. On this, the Amish had it right.