Post Election Depression/Finding the Courage to Seek Common Ground

I did not vote for Trump.  And is there anyone out there who truly knows me and is still somehow surprised that I did not vote for him and his brand of hatred and white privilege?  I won’t say who I voted for, as keeping my vote private is something I do whenever I find the options limited and opinions on all sides highly volatile.  Suffice it to say I did not vote for Trump for many reasons, and all of them have to do with the division, racism, bigotry, and hate-speech he has brought to this campaign, and no-doubt will bring to his presidency.  Sorry.  I will pray for him and his conversion, but I won’t hold my breath.

I work with Apache and Hispanic children.  My own children are part black, part white, and part Cherokee.  I’ve worked with migrant workers in Florida.  I’ve been friends with and have worked with many undocumented workers, some of whom are trying to gain citizenship through legal channels, while others I know are prevented from applying.  I have many friends who identify as LBGT who continue to work for equal rights and simple respect.  I also have family members and friends with disabilities.  All of these “groups” have been verbally and viciously attacked by Trump’s insensitive and hateful rhetoric.

I understand the concerns of white Americans who struggle to find work and struggle to put food on the table for their families, but so do many American people on the margins.  Hunger, poverty, and unemployment affect all Americans, but people of color and people with disabilities are still hit harder than white Americans.  It’s a fact.

Our nation has taken some very courageous steps in the last 60-70 years to create a safe place for all.  I truly see the election of Donald Trump as a huge step backwards.  I also see his election as a serious threat to the very liberties, freedoms, and protections we all claim to hold so dear.  Even as I write this Trump is busy filling administrative positions with ultra conservative white men who are known for their racist, sexist, and homophobic views.

In an effort to sort through my own emotions over the future of our nation, and remain true to my faith and my integrity, I’ve been quietly reading and contemplating on the many wise and thoughtful post-election reflections of some of my favorite teachers.  Teachers I respect for always shedding light on darkened places, always opening hidden doors to a better way of being, and always bringing the issues back to a Christ-centered, love-centered whole:  Fr. Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, Sr. Jamie Phelps, Christena Cleveland, and other wise and mystic voices from the past.

Mostly they all say the same thing.  We need to find common ground, and we need to be inclusive, not exclusive.  As Rohr says, “Everything belongs.”  While this is true, when dealing with political realms there is only dualistic thinking at play.  So how do we hold both, yet continue to move forward?

I think those of us who have expressed our fatigue with the “hate-speech,” the “us vs. them” mentality, the negative social media posts, and the news media bias must make a deliberate and conscious effort to eliminate these things from our own speech, attitude, and postings.  I also think we have a responsibility to lovingly point it out when we see the fear, anger and hatred being perpetrated by our friends and family.  This isn’t easy, but then Jesus never said it would be.  He was put to death.  The worst that could happen to me (I think) is that I could be “unfriended” or “unfollowed.”  That’s what tissues and hugs from real friends are for.

My ex-husband is fond of reminding me that we met while I was out with my college Poli-Sci friends, and we were all engaged in a heated conversation about politics.  We always laughed at the irony of my later declaration, “I hate politics!”  It’s true; I do!  But it is really the game playing and the dualistic nature of politics that I hate.  Like it or not, we all have to be engaged in politics if we want to affect change in our world.  Now more than ever we must stay on top of what goes on in Washington, and in our state and local governments.

Our planet, our water, our air, our freedoms, and our very lives are at stake.  We can no longer afford to just relax and let others do the dirty work for us.  We all need to snap out of our “post-election depression” and seek common ground, get involved, stay informed, make our voices heard, hold elected officials accountable, and work hard for justice for all, not just a select few.


Consumers Hold the Keys of Change

When I read stories or hear news about the brutal violence that laborers in the fields suffer, I am horrified.  Although conditions in most US agricultural areas have improved, pockets of inhumane conditions still exist.  But this is not the case in Mexico, South America, China, and other parts of the world.  For many of these countries and regions modern slavery is the norm, not the exception.  In October 2014, 43 Mexican students were disappeared and murdered by an extremely corrupt political system in partnership with a local drug cartel.  The more I read the CIW’s story “Fear and Fair Cannot Coexist,” the more I wanted to vomit.  The phrase “man’s inhumanity to man” doesn’t even begin to describe the gruesome acts of violence committed against ordinary people who simply want to work, raise their families, and live their lives free of violence, fear, and injustice.

How is it that, in the 21st Century, we still have slavery and a seemingly never ending supply of people willing to commit such acts of violence?  How is it that we have not grown in a more positive way as a society?  Poverty is certainly part of the problem, but I have come to believe that we consumers must also share in the blame.

As with any complex issue, we cannot expect to find a singular solution, and I am not interested in finger-pointing.  Many factors contribute to the problem of modern slavery and a culture of violence, fear, and intimidation.  A solution to this systemic problem will happen only when all the contributing factors seek change, but we must begin somewhere.  I cannot hope to change the corrupt governments of foreign countries; that’s just unrealistic.  But, I can use my personal “power of the purse” to affect change.  We all can.

As consumers we hold the keys of change in our wallets.  We must stop demanding lower prices for everything from produce and meat to clothing and manufactured goods.  Our addiction to stuff is out of control!  Statistics show that most Americans throw away food at alarming rates, and change our wardrobes with the seasons or according to the latest trends. We consume far more than our share of the world’s resources, we are #2 (China’s #1) in our production of greenhouse gases, and we demand products that cost next to nothing.  Our very lifestyle is not only unsustainable, it is what drives modern slavery and encourages unsafe working conditions in factories and fields.  It is also what is contributing to Climate Change and the destruction of Earth’s land and water, but that’s a whole other topic!

So I started this year by asking myself (again), “How can I change my patterns of behavior to help create a society that is both fair and sustainable?”  For starters, I have re-committed myself to eating as much local and seasonal food as possible.  I’ve gotten pretty good at putting-up fruits and vegetables, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.  Some staples such as coffee, flour, olive oil, and coconut oil are not available locally, so I make sure I purchase Fair Trade and organic as close to home as possible.  I am also stepping up my game in the clothing department.  My sewing skills are basic, but I do enjoy learning new tricks (I just learned how to make continuos bias tape!).  Besides, sewing my own clothes using US organically grown cotton just feels good on so many levels!  I know what your thinking:  “But your creative, Maria!  I’m not!”  My mother says that a lot!  With Pinterest, YouTube, and all the technology out there, I believe anybody with a passion for sustainability and justice can discover ways to do just about anything.  There are no excuses in this modern age.  We can do better!

As always, personal actions help, but getting friends and family on-board is necessary.  The more people are aware of injustices in our world, the more impact our buying power has.  As consumers each of us has a voice, and we voice our opinions and express our values every time we make a purchase.  Eventually places like Mexico will be ready for justice in their fields and factories, but we consumers will have to take the first step using our buying power.

Holiday Activism for the Family Dinner Table

My classroom is tidy again, I’ve left school behind for Christmas break, and I have NOT taken home any school work!  I hope my fellow over-achievers out there are able to do the same in the coming days & weeks (especially you teachers!!!).

So much is going on at this time of year; I am always amazed at the busy-ness around me. Some of it is necessary, but much of it is not.  Support for, prayers for, and the work for peace and justice, however, never takes a holiday!

With so many issues in the news lately I wanted to focus on some things to consider taking part in and passing along that don’t involve demonstrating en masse in Ferguson, NYC, or DC (although I do encourage that!).  Many of us will be spending time with family, and this is the perfect time to drop little seeds of knowledge about the issues we care about.  Now, I am not advocating for starting family feuds over politics, religion, or other potentially volatile subjects!  Try a more subtle approach.  I have found some links of interest below that I think will help with re-educating the family.  If your family is anything like mine, you’ll have some explaining to do, and at some point you’ll just have to “agree to disagree” until Easter (or Passover)!  I can get away with a lot around our holiday table:  I bring desert & rule the homemade whipped cream bowl.  No whip for the unruly!

So here’s what I’ve found to share at this year’s Christmas dinner with the family:

With gift buying and giving come concerns about child labor, workers rights and their dignity, as well as Fair Trade and sustainably made items. Even if you make your gifts, it’s worth going that extra mile to make sure your supplies are sourced with these things in mind. Some good sources for guides & information include Fair Trade USA, US Department of Labor, and Free2Work, among others.

Many of us will eat out over the holidays. Many restaurant chains are being urged to take steps toward buying produce from sources that respect the workers dignity, and provide fair wages for their labor.  Those of you who know me know how much of an advocate I am for the CIW (Coalition of Immokalee Workers) and the Fair Food Program.  They have made such amazing progress over the last 20 years!  Corporations like Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, Chipotle, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Wal-Mart have signed the Fair Food Agreement and are now part of the solution to improve the lives of farmworkers and their families.  But now, in the wake of the LA Times investigative report into the labor practices of Mexican farms, we find several Corporations  who are guilty of being complicate with the growers in Mexico who deny their workers the most basic of human rights.  As we gather ’round our plentiful tables, we must consider where our food comes from, and who harvests the apples in our pies, the celery in our stuffing, the grapes for our wine, and the mined minerals in the devices with which we capture our precious moments on social media.

There is a new petition addressing some of these concerns. Click here to add your name to this petition letting Subway, Darden, and Safeway know that we insist on oversight and victim compensation.  If it’s wrong for US children to labor in the fields for 12 hours a day, with few (if any) breaks, and for a mere pittance, then it’s absolutely wrong for children of other countries to do so.   If you click here you’ll find this petition and several others from Fair World Project.

And, finally, I ask you to pray for peace.  No matter what your beliefs are, no matter what formal, informal, traditional, or non-traditional faith foundation you may practice, prayer is powerful.  You may call it by another name, but if you are silent with your thoughts, you are in prayer, and your prayerful energy is joined with that of others.  That’s what makes prayer so powerful!  I ask that you join me & my community in prayer on January 6th as we pray for 3 special Sisters on a special mission.  I also invite you to pray for peace daily.  Peace in our world, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts.  Every day.

Merry Christmas, everyone!



Climate Change, March, Action & Ribbons

As International Day of Peace draws to a close I pour over news reports, tweets & images in absolute awe of the power of the human spirit! Corporations are certainly NOT people! The 310, 000 participants who marched for climate action in NYC and around the globe are people. The thousands who participated in some peaceful action today are people. Those who couldn’t march, yet prayed for peace today are people. I am awed & inspired by such powerful people!

I look forward to tomorrow afternoon when my 8th graders begin work on their Climate Ribbon Project inspired installation piece in our school’s garden. Last week we sent our ribbons to NYC to be added to the thousands of ribbons that would become part of Swoon’s installation “Tree of Life” at today’s People’s Climate March.  Now, as part of a year-long effort to keep Climate Change on our priority lists long after the UN’s Climate Summit ends, the students I teach will create their own “Tree of Life.”  Each quarter I’ll see a new group of students who will add to the installation.  I hope the grown-ups will take notice!

I will post pictures of our work soon.

Happy International Day of Peace, everyone!  May it last for more than a day.  Peace.

Reflections On Peace Day 2014

Last summer I visited the Motherhouse in Adrian, Michigan for the first time. I was there again last month for the annual Justice & Peace Promoters meeting, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and sharing with the other promoters whom I had only seen or heard through our web-ex meetings. I arrived Saturday afternoon just in time for supper. Afterwards I went on one of the nature trails and saw a Blue Heron, a family of ducks and their four little ducklings, and two doe who gracefully pranced by me as I picked some wildflowers. They were about 20 feet away and just about the most peaceful creatures I had ever seen! With the conflicts, wars, violence, and overall un-peacefulness of the world these days, I felt a little guilty at being blessed enough to be in this place. It was a great opportunity to be at rest and at peace with my thoughts in such a beautiful place. I rarely get to relax at home once school starts, so I welcomed the tranquility.

Still, my thoughts in that God-kissed place turned to those who are displaced in Iraq because of their faith or religious sect.  Those who are persecuted for their faith by ISIS or oppressive dictators or regimes. I think of them, and I think of the Palestinians, the people of Ukraine, Syria, Immigrants in the US facing uncertainty & deportation, and those suffering with the fear and loss that comes with Ebola. Where is their opportunity for retreat, peace, and sanctuary? When will they get relief from fear, anxiety, suffering, and death?

On the first day of our meeting we talked a lot about Immigration Reform in the US.  We watched the movie “Who Is Dayani Cristal?” This powerful film “tells the story of a migrant who found himself in the deadly stretch of desert known as ‘the corridor of death’ and shows how one life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration. As the real-life drama unfolds we see this John Doe, denied an identity at his point of death, become a living and breathing human being with an important life story.”  I recommend this film to anyone who works with Immigrants, supports Immigration Reform, and to anyone who thinks of these people as anything less than our brothers and sisters.  There was one man in the film who said basically, “What number of dead is the ‘magic number’ that will make us sit up and take notice?  What number of dead will make us care?”

Day two of our meeting focused on Environmental Justice, War & Peace, and Conflict Zones (specifically Iraq, Gaza, and Ukraine).  Yep.  We crammed a lot in!  So often I get overwhelmed by all the devastation in our world and I’m left feeling numb.  Meetings like this can make me feel hopeless, except it didn’t.  In such a place of peace & hope, I left feeling energized and full of promise.  We made some decisions on actions to take, projects to share, and avenues to pursue in our ongoing work for peace and justice.  I can’t change the world alone, but (cliche as it sounds) together we can make a difference.

With International Day of Peace coming up next Sunday, September 21st, there are lots of opportunities to make a difference and bring a bit of peace & justice into your corner of the world.  Peace One Day is a site full of ideas, resources, and inspiration!   Started in 1999 by Jeremy Gilley Peace One Day strives to raise awareness of International Day of Peace through coalitions, the arts, and education.  If you can, join the thousands of people who will be in NYC for the People’s Climate March.  Oh, how I wish I could be there!  Some Adrian Dominican Sisters will be there with the LCWR.  I will be sending my ribbon along to be part of the “Tree of Life” installation. You might want to do this; there’s still time to mail it!  Just write what you don’t want to lose to climate chaos on a two-foot length of ribbon & include your name, age, & where you’re from.  Of course, one of my favorite Peace Day activities is the Pinwheels for Peace!  I’ll be planting pinwheels in my yard while praying for peace and the success of those marching in NYC.

And in the coming year, when I’m feeling overwhelmed and a bit hopeless, my peace a bit shaken, I’ll reflect again on my mini-retreat in Adrian, and the good we do working for peace and justice.

Peace to everyone!


Now Is The Time Tour: It’s a New Day, Publix!

As the night gave way to a new day Julia made her way up and down the sidewalk waking the weary with “Up! Up! It’s a new day!”  <sigh>  Yes.  I fell asleep somewhere between 4:30 & 5:30 am.  If it’s “always darkest just before the dawn,” then I think it stands to reason that the coldest hour of the night is also just before the dawn.  I think the cold finally made me succumb to sleep.  Lots of us took one or two little “power naps” throughout the night.  The naps, the coffee (did I mention there was a 24-hour Starbuck’s less than 2 blocks away?!), & the breakfast burritos helped give us the energy to make it through the night, into the morning and another day of action.

We continued our vigil and greeted the new day with prayer, singing, sharing and more coffee.  We all began peeling off the “layers” as the chill of the early morning quickly became another warm, beautiful, sunny day.  More sharing from members of the CIW and the supporters helped keep us focused on our mission and before we knew it, it was noon.  After eating lunch the tents, tables, and the “stage” were disassembled & loaded onto vans & the truck that would lead our 3-mile march.  One final announcement from Gerardo before unplugging the mics:  “The two Port-O-Pots have reached capacity & are no longer in service!”  I wonder if perhaps Publix can find meaning in this tongue-in-cheek metaphor?

The newly energized vigil-keepers were soon joined by many, many more supporters.  People began arriving from all over Florida and goodness knows where else.  The shuttle vans carrying supporters ran non-stop until 2:00 pm when it was time to begin the 3-mile march to Kryger Park at Mirror Lake.  The line of supporters, marching two-by-two, extended the length of the sidewalk, across the street, and down another sidewalk for at least 1/2 a block!  Although I don’t have an exact number, all reports indicate that 1,000 (maybe more?) were marching.  I watched Gerardo going through the line counting us all.  I also know that there were plenty of people who were back at the park setting up tents, chairs, water stations, and a new stage.

The 3-mile march didn’t drain me, it energized me!  Naturally I ended up next to the Reverend from the Orlando UU church, and Elena laughed when she found us bringing up the end of the line “talking shop!”  I caught up with Gwen, Rob & Gail at the rally.  I welcomed the shade, the water, and the chair to sit in.  Fun fact:  Rob was one of Michael Livingston’s professors when he was in college.  Small world!

I’m happy and humbled to have been able to join the CIW on this vigil.  What an incredible experience!  I truly am blessed to know such amazing people.  The CIW, their families, and their many supporters hold a special place in my heart.  The 10-day, 10-city tour came to an end Saturday evening, March 15th, but the struggle for systemic change in the agricultural industry continues.  The women of the CIW closed the rally with a very powerful message for Publix, Wendy’s, and others who would profit from their abuse, “We will not take one step backward.  We will only continue forward.”


My brother & mother picked me up around 5 pm Saturday. They said I looked like a vagabond! At least they brought coffee & bought me dinner!

Archbishop Romero’s Call to Serve

This week marks the 34th anniversary of the martyrdom/assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. I find that the more I read and learn about horrific wars, massacres, and violence in places like El Salvador, Colombia, Syria, Venezuela, the Middle East, and the many other places both in the news and those suffering silently beyond the media spotlight, the more I doubt myself. I doubt that I can have any affect on any of it. I feel hopeless some days, and frustrated at the complacency of the people around me. I also feel a great sense of sadness and shame for being a citizen of a nation in the grip of a culture of violence and whose government is obsessed with war: The United States of America.

In a post by Pax Christi, this quote by Romero hits home for me:

“There is no doubt whatsoever that here there is no room for neutrality. We are either at the service of the life of Salvadorans or we are accomplices in their death. And it is here that we are faced with the most fundamental reality of the historical mediation of faith: either we believe in a God of life or we serve the idols of death.”

There is no room for “neutrality.”  I like Paul’s description of the church as the “body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12-31), and I believe we are all indeed parts of the one body, but with different gifts and functions, yet I struggle within myself on what God has planned for me.  I have been blessed with many gifts, but I still struggle with how best to use them.  As Paul continues in 1 Cor. 13 (the famous “love is patient, love is kind” discourse), I do not want to be just another “resounding gong,” and yet, so often, I feel like a voice in the wilderness that no one hears.  So how can I help end violence & injustice in the world?  How can I help & be of service to my brothers & sisters in need?

Perhaps it all boils down to that pesky thing we call “free-will.”  What do I choose for myself?  If, as Romero put it, I believe in a “God of life” (and I do!), then I choose life.  I choose life, love, and compassion!  I know that I can only change myself, and I think that’s how nonviolent leaders like Romero help bring about systemic changes.  By changing my response to the “idols of death,” I pray that my life may be an affirmation of nonviolence and love, too.  As Paul’s letter to the Corinthians sums it up, “So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).