Carbon Colonialism: Just Say No!

Do ordinary people need to commit suicide to gain the attention of the global elites?

You may remember, back in 2003, a Korean farmer named Lee Kyung Hae committed suicide outside the grounds of the World Trade Organization meetings in Cancun, Mexico, as a protest against the impact of first world subsidies of grain production, which effectively pushed small farmers in developing countries out of business.

He set himself on fire right in front of the police barricades keeping him and others like him outside of the WTO talks.

Afterwards, there was a movement by the representatives of developing countries to form a bloc of resistance to the demands of the global elites.  It worked, for a while.

But now, 8 years later, the global elites are at it again, worse than ever.

At this year’s climate talks in Durban, South Africa, representatives of indigenous communities worldwide are protesting at the barricades again, locked out of the talks on complex trade negotiations over carbon offsets, sequestration and deforestation.

It’s not easy to understand the documents produced by the U.N. and government agencies, laying out what’s called the REDD accords: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

It all sounds very nice when you read the summary on the U.N. website.

“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

“It is predicted that financial flows for greenhouse gas emission reductions from REDD+ could reach up to US$30 billion a year. This significant North-South flow of funds could reward a meaningful reduction of carbon emissions and could also support new, pro-poor development, help conserve biodiversity and secure vital ecosystem services.”

Yes, well, it does sound nice.  But in fact, when that much money is at stake, corruption is not far behind.

As detailed in an important new report called the No REDD Papers, what’s been happening in the name of REDD is a gigantic forest grab, with major multinational energy corporations ruthlessly buying up and bullying their way into land rights to forests in the global south, so that they can not only make money by going on their merry way of fostering carbon emissions in the North, but also make money by collecting the rewards for forest conservation in the south.

And there’s more.  Under REDD+, reforestation is also potentially a growth industry.  But there are insufficient regulations on what constitutes reforestation.  A complex rainforest environment could be harvested, destroyed, and “reforested” with a monocultural non-native cash crop, like bamboo or eucalyptus or palm, which will be “sustainably harvested,” yes, but will actually store a fraction of the carbon of the original rainforest, and will support a tiny fraction of the original biodiversity.

It also results in Native people being pushed off their ancestral lands, by swindle or by force.

The indigenous people, from Niger to Alberta to the Amazon, are not stupid.  They’re wise to what they’re calling “carbon colonialism.”

“REDD/ REDD+ is bad for people, bad for politics and bad for the climate,” says Tom B.K. Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “It will inevitably give more control over Indigenous Peoples’ forests to state forest departments, loggers, miners, plantation companies, traders, lawyers, speculators, brokers, Washington conservation organisations and Wall Street, resulting in violations of rights, loss of livelihoods—and, ultimately, more forest loss.”

I don’t want to be part of this scheme.  To me, as to the indigenous forest defenders, it’s all quite simple.  We must reduce carbon emissions.  We must not only reduce deforestation, but encourage forest regeneration–and not of plantations, but of natural biodiverse forest habitats.

It’s not about making money any more.  It’s about sustaining life–our lives, our children’s lives, the entire web of life upon which we depend.

This time the neocolonial cowboys are not going to be able to get away with murder.  The glare of the internet is upon them.  We will not stand by passively and let a new era of displacement and exploitation take place under the euphemism of “conservation.”

Not this time.  Never again.

And we shouldn’t have to be committing suicide to get attention, either.  There has been enough death and destruction in our world these first years of the 21st century.  Let’s go forward under the banner of Eros, not Thanatos.

Let’s work together for Life.

Who’s Afraid of Women’s Writing?

Last night I participated in a panel discussion on Virginia Woolf and Margaret Mead called “Who’s Afraid of Women(‘s) Writing,” with Bard College of Simon’s Rock colleagues Maryann Tebben and Asma Abbas.

We were talking about how women’s writing is often oppositional, representing an outsider’s point of view to male-dominated mainstream discourse, whatever the discipline.

One of the students in the audience asked whether women’s writing would therefore always be reactionary, simply responding to the dominant rather than staking new ground.

I have been thinking about that question all day, off and on.

What I answered at the time was that while women’s writing is often a response to the dominant discourse, it also goes off in its own directions, which are not simply reactions to the mainstream, but rather true departures.

Of course, all writing occurs in dialogue with other writers, so even a departure is part of a larger conversation.  But I do believe that women, as outsiders, have something unique to contribute to any conversation.

Indeed, it is staggering to think of how impoverished literature, philosophy, history and all the other disciplines have been (and still are) in cultures where women have not been allowed to add our voices to the chorus.

Worst of all is that so few people (read: men) even noticed our absence.

I can recall so many times when have I had to fight for the inclusion of texts by women in our General Education curriculum at Simon’s Rock, arguing with colleagues who could say, with a sad shake of the head, that it was just too bad that women had never written any great, canonical literature.  For the past 20 years, out of the 16 required texts in our Gen Ed canon, which stretches from Gilgamesh to Achebe, only three are by women–though as of this year, after much lobbying, the ratio has finally improved slightly.

First deny women literacy and keep those few who do manage to become literate tightly locked in the private realm.  Then look back over history and note complacently that, as Woolf has the “odious Mr. Tansley” tell the artist Lily Briscoe in To The Lighthouse, “women can’t write, women can’t paint.”

In our time and place, young women now outnumber young men in higher education, and no one would dare to argue that women are innately less intelligent and talented than men.

But still, women in the U.S. earn 78 cents on the male dollar, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that we still shoulder more responsibility for housework and child care even when we work fulltime.

Women are still valued more highly as ornaments and service workers than as autonomous creative agents, and we still have to struggle harder to make our voices heard, especially if what we have to say is not what the mainstream wants to hear.

In To the Lighthouse, Lily Briscoe worries that her painting will be rolled up and thrown under a couch to gather dust.  Today, women still seem to have less self-confidence than men, perhaps because we’ve absorbed the prevailing ethos that considers a strong woman to be a “ball-breaker” or a “bitch on wheels.”

As MaryAnn Baenninger, President of the College of St. Benedict, wrote in a recent piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, studies continue to show thatwomen underestimate their abilities and express lower levels of self-confidence than their abilities suggest. Men overestimate their abilities and express higher levels of confidence than their abilities warrant. This difference arrives with them as first-year students and leaves with them as seniors. When I talk about this, or I hear researchers describe this finding, the audience always chuckles (boys will be boys, after all).”

Baenninger concludes that while American women “have access to just about every educational opportunity and every career…access doesn’t guarantee outcomes. A gendered culture, mostly in unconscious ways, limits women’s expectations for themselves and our expectations for them.”

In other words, our gender role conditioning as women too often tends to silence us, while amplifying the voices of our brothers.

Soon after the great poet Audre Lorde was diagnosed with the cancer than would eventually kill her, she gave an address at the 1977 Modern Language Association annual convention in Chicago, called “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” later published in the collection Sister Outsider.

In thinking back over her life, she said, “what I most regretted were my silences.”

“In the cause of silence,” she continued, “each of us draws the face of her own fear–fear of contempt, of censure, or some judgment….But most of all we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live….That visibility which makes us most vulnerable…is also the source of our greatest strength.

“Because the machine will try to grind us into dust anyway, whether or not we speak.  We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid.”

What we need to do, she said, is to “learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired.  For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

So many women today are still feeling the same fear and insecurity Lorde wrote about in 1977.  So many of us will go through our entire lives not daring to utter the truths we can hardly bring ourselves to acknowledge even in our most private thoughts.

In the same way that the richness of the Earth is diminished every time a species is lost, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant to the bigger ecological tapestry, the great canvases of literature, philosophy, science and all the other disciplines are impoverished and dulled when 50% of the population is not enthusiastically welcomed into the conversation.

Yes, we women can have our own conversations, outside the male-dominated mainstream.  There’s always “women’s writing.”  But what we should really be striving for is what Virginia Woolf called “androgynous writing,” where the masculine and feminine energies are brought together in a fecund explosion of cross-pollinating difference.

As Lorde put it so memorably in another of her important essays, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” “Difference must not be merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic.  Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening.”

Maybe there will come a time when interdependency and androgyny will be the accepted standard of gender relations.  Until then, we still need to meet periodically and consider questions like “Who’s Afraid of Women’s Writing?” and why? and at what cost?


Occupy the Climate Talks in Durban–Virtually

If you lived on a small island nation that was losing precious feet of shoreline every year due to rising seas and storm erosion, you might be forgiven for having high expectations for the current international climate change negotiations going on in Durban, SA.

In the the heart of the developed world, meanwhile, you’d have a hard time finding any news about the climate talks.  You have to search the Web pretty carefully to even find a mention.

That goes to show how it’s all about location, location, location.

I learned yesterday, by careful Web search, that Canada is planning to pull out of the Kyoto treaty, just like the U.S.

Canadians want developing countries like China and India to also agree to reduced emissions.

But meanwhile, Canada’s government is pushing the extraction of oil from the Alberta boreal forests.

As Tom Zeller of the Huffington Post reports,””What’s astonishing is watching Canada emerge as a rogue among developed countries,” said Bill McKibben, the author and activist who has spearheaded a grassroots movement aimed at combatting a pipeline proposal designed to deliver some 700,000 barrels of oil each day from the tar sands to refineries and ports on the Texas Gulf Coast. “Of course, they have no choice but to ditch serious climate policy if they want to develop the tar sands in a big way — and that pool of gunky oil is clearly the tail wagging the dog up there.”

We’re all the dog that’s being wagged by powerful oil extraction companies.  If we don’t watch out, we’re going to be wagged right into extinction.

Notice how the climate talks are always held in inaccessible places where it’s hard for activists to congregate.  Who can afford a ticket to Durban, SA?

But now, with the World Wide Web, we can all hold ring seats to the climate talks, and we need to make our voices heard.

Read the Climate Connections blog, produced in Durban by the Global Justice Ecology Project, for up-to-the-minute information about what’s going on in Durban.

Check out the results of the General Assembly held there today under the Occupy Durban banner: #OccupyCop17

The climate talks may be far away, but they are one of the most crucial sites for “occupation” as we move into the 21st century.  We can’t let the big oil companies, with their deep pockets created from our dependence on an oil-based economy, dominate the agenda.

If you care about leaving a healthy planet to the next generation, the time to speak up is NOW.

Occupying the Climate Talks & College Campuses–Full Speed Ahead!

Could be an interesting day today.  Word has it that the less-developed nations are threatening to “occupy” the climate talks at Durban if the big polluters–that’s us, America, and you too, Europe and China–won’t get serious about limiting emissions and working for systemic change.

Meanwhile, a student movement begun at UC Davis is calling for a General Strike today–no classes, no work–to create a space for student-run General Assemblies to discuss issues like police violence against peaceful protesters, as well as sky-rocketing tuition and debt-funded education that is putting college out of reach for more and more Americans.

I continue to be amazed at the speed with which awareness now spreads, thanks to how many of us are now plugged into what is coming to seem more and more like a collective brain.

Could the collective consciousness represented by the World Wide Web be an evolutionary leap forward?  Or could it at least be speeding up our evolutionary progression as a species?

Of course, it’s all dependent on electricity.  If the lights go out, our collective brain goes dead.

Or maybe not?  The General Assemblies, with their human microphones and patient face-to-face discussions give me hope that the new connections that are being forged in this time of transition are real and could stand alone, without the crutch of the Web.

In fact, maybe that’s what this is all about.  Building the human connections, virtual and real, to withstand the great shocks that are coming our way as the climate shifts and the Earth seeks to return to a steady state.

In Durban, South Africa and on college campuses and public parks across the country, people are turning out to be the change we want to see.

It’s an exciting time to be alive.


Ripples of change, from kitchen tables to public parks

This morning, in my parents’ house, a scene took place that underscored for me the extent to which the Occupy movement has entered the collective consciousness.

The man who has taken care of my parents’ property for the past 30 years or so had come by to say hello, and was standing in the kitchen complaining about how the oil companies are making billions while the price of fuel oil and gasoline goes ever higher for ordinary consumers.

He is a lifelong Republican, but voted for Obama in the last presidential election, having had enough of the Bush crowd with their lies and their wars.

Listening to his critique of the mega-oil companies, my mother turned to him and said teasingly, “So who should we occupy now?”

We all laughed and the conversation moved on, but there is an underlying element of seriousness there that amazes me when I think about it.

A few months ago, we might have complained, but without any thought of actually doing something to bring about change.

Now, suddenly, options are open to us.  We could go down and occupy the local gas station with some homemade signs, and probably get a lot of support from people filling their tanks.

Yes, we all do fill our tanks.  But instead of holding the resentment inside, there is now an outlet for it, a way to talk about it together that is not about the two parties and their endless childish jockeying for power, but about something deeper: the longing for and the pull to real change.

I have to admit I was disappointed that apparently Black Friday consumer shopping was more vigorous than ever this year. But it’s surely no accident that fights broke out at WalMarts across the country, where people who have precious few dollars to spend on their holiday shopping turned out on Black Friday to try to get some bargains.

What’s fascinating, and under-reported, is that on Black Friday, thousands of Chinese factory workers went out on strike to demand living wages and job security.  These are the workers who are supplying the products being sold as “bargains” in America, mostly to workers whose jobs have been outsourced–to China!

Marx’s dream of an international uprising of the proletariat has never been more possible, thanks to be magic of the internet.

And somehow the barriers between American consumers and Chinese producers–or between professional-class employers like my parents and blue collar workers like their property caretaker–are coming down.

There seems to be a new zeitgeist stirring the stagnant air of American social relations.  Is it the age of Aquarius?  The alignment of the planets?  The infamous Mayan 2012?

Whatever it is, let’s seize the moment and make the most of it.  Let’s talk up a storm, sharing ideas and encouragement with everyone we meet.

If a butterfly in Brazil can cause a hurricane in Texas, then maybe a casual conversation in your kitchen can be the catalyst for a change that will sweep the nation, and the world.  It’s certainly worth a try.

Human beings are not lemmings–so let’s get organized and get away from that cliff!

This happens to be my 100th post on Transition Times, and to mark the occasion I want to reflect on where I’ve come with this blog project, and what themes have emerged along the way.

When I started Transition Times, back in mid-July, I was away in Nova Scotia, trying not to think about the crazy shenanigans going on back home, where the Republicans were threatening to shut down the U.S. government and destroy our credit rating in the world, rather than negotiate reasonably towards consensus with the Democrats (otherwise known as “the debt-ceiling crisis”).

I was also reading Mark Hertsgaard’s Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years On Earth, along with Bill McKibben’s Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, both of which paint a stark portrait of how the climate change crisis will be affecting our lives in the foreseeable future.

All in all, I was in a pretty gloomy state of mind.

But then surprising things started to happen.

In the middle of the dog days of August, Bill McKibben and began a sit-in next to the White House, protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline and the development of the boreal forests of Alberta (otherwise known as “the tar sands”).

A month later, the Occupy Wall Street movement sprang up seemingly out of nowhere, protesting the government’s collusion with the super-wealthy (otherwise known as “the 1%”) and abandonment of ordinary Americans (otherwise known as “the 99%”).

The Occupy movement spread like wildfire, and the Keystone XL protest succeeded in at least postponing the pipeline and American support of Alberta tar sands extraction, giving the nascent climate change movement a boost and more of a chance to grow.

Along the way a historic hurricane ripped across the Eastern Seaboard, and a freak snowstorm dumped a good two feet of heavy wet snow on leafy trees in southern New England, knocking out power for some folks for days, and even weeks, and reinforcing the unavoidable reality of climate change.

Most recently, public awareness of the militarization of American policing has suddenly taken a giant leap forward, thanks to images of police brutality inflicted on old and young white people of the well-dressed, college-educated variety.  Over in Europe, the debt crisis threatens the dissolution of the euro zone, something unthinkable just a few months ago.

All in all, it’s been a dramatic few months, and blogging my reactions to and thoughts about all this has been a rewarding experience.

I’ve been struck by the power of the World Wide Web as a vehicle for social communication and movement-building.  Just as the Arab Spring showed us how cell phone texting technology could be used to ignite and build, at lightening speed, an effective resistance movement, the Occupy movement has demonstrated the extent to which Americans are plugged into the vast collective consciousness we call the Web.

While the captains of industry sold us smart phones and tablet computers intending to make us more agile shoppers and financial traders, they unwittingly put into our hands the tools of our liberation from the capitalist machine that has dominated us for the past 50 years or so.

Marx predicted long ago that the very instruments that enabled capitalism–globalization and technological prowess–would also be the instruments with which the bourgeoisie would dig their own graves.

In the age of global warming and climate change, this has never seemed more prescient.

But Marx also imagined that out of the ashes of the old world a new order would arise.  He believed that it would be possible for the proletariat, the working class, to create a better world, based on collaboration and compassion rather than ruthless competition.

It seems like Americans are finally awakening out of a long, dark sleep of obliviousness to the ways in which our corporate capitalist economic and governmental system has been leading us down a blind alley, at the end of which, it turns out, is a steep cliff.

Are we waking up in time to back ourselves out of that alley, away from that fearsome cliff?

It is too soon to tell. But those of us who are aware of the gravity of the situation today not just for our society, but for our species and the planet as a whole, need to be out there on the frontlines, both physical and virtual, making the connections that may enable us to successfully build a movement for change and avert disaster.

Human beings are not lemmings, but we are indeed susceptible to being led.  We want to believe that our leaders are competent and have our best interests at heart.  We hold on to this belief even when all evidence points to the contrary.

It’s time now to stop putting our faith in our elected officials and their paid enforcers, and listen instead to our own hearts and minds.  We know what needs to be done to bring the ecological web of life on this planet back into balance.  It is time to reach out to each other and find the determination to get the job done.

Honoring Native Americans on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in the U.S. is about gathering together with friends and family and giving thanks for being able to stuff oneself with a huge meal.

It’s one of the most important holidays of the American capitalist religion, second only to “Christmas.”

Its founding myth is the fateful meal shared by the indigenous peoples of Massachusetts with the starving English Pilgrims.  The Pilgrims “gave thanks” at that meal for the generosity of their hosts, and thus was born the tradition of a November Thanksgiving feast.

To my way of thinking, Thanksgiving should actually be a day of atonement marked by fasting, in the spirit of Yom Kippur, Lent or Ramadan.

We Euramericans should be reflecting and repenting on this day for the way our ancestors turned on their Native hosts, once the time of starvation was past.

We repaid their kind welcome with a shameful record of stealing, swindling, enslavement, displacement and deliberate infection.

We waged vicious war that slaughtered children and old people along with warriors both male and female.

We occupied their lands without a second thought, and proceeded to cut the primeval forests to make room for our livestock, roads and cities.

This pattern started with the Puritan Pilgrims in Massachusetts, and spread inexorably West, all the way to California and Texas, where indeed the brutal work had already been begun by the Spanish.

I don’t really expect Americans to give up the tradition of the jolly Thanksgiving feast.

But we do need to be mindful of the real historical background behind the custom of gathering to celebrate with family and friends.

American Thanksgiving is a holiday that honors the spirit of sharing the bounty.  When we dig into that heaped plate today, we should be giving thanks to the rich Earth that has nourished human beings for millennia, and for the Native peoples of this continent, who learned how to live in harmony with the flora and fauna of this place, cultivating the first corn, beans and squash, and craftily culling the abundant indigenous turkeys.

And we should pause in our feast to reflect on the ignoble history that unfolded after that original Thanksgiving in Plymouth MA, where America repaid her hosts not with honor, but with persecution, scorn and hate.

In the act of repentance springs redemption.  The indigenous people of this continent are not gone–they are alive and well and living among us.  Let us raise a glass to them today and give them the honor and thanks they deserve.

Wamponoag leader Massasoit

This Thanksgiving, Imagine Another World…

The idea of Occupying the Malls on Black Friday, which I first posted about here, is gaining momentum day by day.

Occupy Seattle and other Occupations in various cities will be protesting WalMart this Friday, and I have a feeling that between now and Nov. 25, Black Friday, the idea will continue to gain traction.

The movement is not just protesting against what it objects to (in this case, excessive consumerism); it’s also offering positive alternatives, like the massive Occupy Thanksgiving that will take place in Liberty Square tomorrow, offering free Thanksgiving meals to all comers.

On Thanksgiving, it’s traditional for the privileged to donate food to the needy, so that they can celebrate this foodie holiday too.

This Thanksgiving we need to be thinking about more than turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, and simply extending charity is not going to make the grade.

We should be asking why it is that some people have so much, and others nothing at all.  It’s not about laziness or inherent intelligence, as some social analysts have tried to suggest.  It’s about a society in which the playing field is sharply tilted from the beginning in the favor of those who already have certain characteristics.

People who are tall, thin, fair-skinned, attractive, Judeo-Christian, male and born into educated families are far more likely to succeed in America than anyone else (with attractive white women a close second).

For these privileged people, extending charity on Thanksgiving or Christmas may make make them feel better about themselves, but it does nothing to change the circumstances for those born on the other side of the playing field–the other side of the tracks.

In 2010, 46.9 million people were in poverty, up from 37.3 million in 2007 — the fourth consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty .  This is the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty rates have been published (USDA Economic Research Service, 2011). 

In 2010, 17.2 million households, 14.5 percent of households (approximately one in seven), were food insecure, the highest number ever recorded in the United States (US Census, 2010). 

These numbers are unconscionable for the wealthiest nation on earth.

We’re often reminded that the U.S. spends more on its military than the next FOURTEEN military powers combined–seven times more than China, the nearest competitor.

Imagine if even a portion of those billions of dollars being spent on bombs, mines, drones, fighter planes and tanks were redirected to civil society.

Imagine if we thought not in terms of charity and “food aid” but restructuring social systems so as to stitch together a global safety net.

Imagine if the U.S. really got behind the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, announced in 2000, calling for an end to world poverty by 2015.

This Thanksgiving, let’s usher in a new era, in which competition and consumerism give way to collaboration and a focus on using the wealth of our nation–and our planet–for positive, life-enhancing purposes.

Whether we occupy the malls this holiday season or serve soup in a food kitchen, we should be thinking seriously about how to reshape our society to bring our national spending in line with our ideals.

Occupy Democracy! Reich is listening….


Is Anybody Listening?

Just curious: why is it that today’s NY Times front page features social protest in Egypt, Yemen and Hamas, but nothing about California?

Way below the digital “fold,” in small print, there’s a piece with the bland headline “From Crowd Control to Mocking Images,” but it’s more about pepper spray itself than about the serious issues raised by the UC Davis incident.

The opinion pages are similarly focused on Egypt and Israel–nothing on the Occupy movement.

Somehow it reminds me of the classic situation where a kid is trying to get her parents’ attention, and Dad is buried behind his newspaper, Mom is talking away on the phone, and NOBODY IS LISTENING!

What does that kid have to do to get the adults’ attention?

Something outrageous. And even then, the focus will most likely be more on returning things to the status quo as fast as possible, rather than on talking through the issues deeply and seriously considering change.

That seems to be the posture of the UC system officials, who are in the current hot seat of the Occupy movement.  They want this whole mess to just go away, so that students will return to their classrooms and dorm rooms and keep paying their ever-higher tuition to earn degrees for jobs that don’t exist.

Things turned violent in the Middle East when people had enough of leaders who refused to listen.  There, soldiers and tanks were called in against civilians.  Here, we have armed riot police called in against students who were doing nothing more challenging than sitting cross-legged in a quad.

 Imagine what could happen here if protesters stopped being so polite and nonviolent and began demanding attention in a no-nonsense way.

How far would our leaders–from university chancellors to mayors to governors and the politicians in Washington DC–go in choosing to repress and stifle dissent rather than listening and engaging in thoughtful dialogue about the best way forward for all?

A couple of decades ago, when people took to the streets to protest working conditions and lack of freedom in Latin America, the U.S. demonized “the Communists” and sent military aid to the dictators to maintain order in the banana republics.  The civil wars there claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

It is impossible to blame “the Communists” this time, and the unrest is not far away in some other country, it’s right here in our own heartland.

It’s our own sons and daughters who are feeling the crack of the police baton, the burn of the chemical sprays.

What are we going to do about it?

First of all, we’d better start listening.

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