Posts Tagged ‘activism’

Three weeks ago today 20 little children, their teachers and a long-suffering mother were senselessly gunned down by a seemingly mentally ill young man with assault weapons.

The entire nation watched in horror.  We wrung our hands.  We tsk-tsk-ed.  We said some prayers that day.  We wrote angry rants on Facebook.  Some of us wrote our congresspeople.

Then it was Christmas, a fiscal cliff, a new  year, new stories.  We turned our attention elsewhere.

We must NOT abandon those kids and their families or the families of the brave schoolteachers.

We must NOT just tsk-tsk.

The NRA works every day of the year to ensure guns are plentiful.  What are WE doing?

Did you know that there are over 80 guns for every 100 people in America?

Can you think of one good reason why anyone, anywhere, at any time needs an assault weapon?

Please join me in REGULARLY writing our president, your two senators and your one representative to demand an end to assault weapons, to demand a tightening of gun control measures and to demand better funding and accessibility for mental health programs.

Will this prevent another Newtown, Connecticut?  Perhaps not.  But when the more civilized nations of the world have banned assault weapons or instituted gun control their mass shootings have disappeared.

We can make a difference.  We owe it to those small children to act on their behalf.

I pledge to contact my representatives at least once/month for a minimum of 26 months to demand positive change.  I plan to do it on the 14th of each month.

Will you join me?

Do not abandon those kids

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We are collectively waiting.  Corporations wait with huge coffers of cash (Apple, for instance, is sitting on $98 BILLION).  The unemployment rate, officially, around 8.3% in February 2012, doesn’t include the long-term unemployed – we can guess that 10-15% of working-age people are sitting on the sidelines.  Entire industries (construction, finance, and to some degree manufacturing) have a lot of sidelines going on – in terms of workers, production, etc.  11 % of US homes are vacant – and that number seems to be increasing.  Then there is the tsunami of Baby Boomers starting to cascade into retirement – and the sidelines.

So what is “the sidelines”?  In this sense it is “a sphere of little or no participation or activity.”  However, I think there’s a sense of impending and previous participation implicit – so to me it’s more like limbo “an intermediate or transitional place or state.”

I think of the sidelines as a resting place.  The coach has pulled me out of the game – but temporarily.  I am watching the action on the field, maybe drinking some Gatorade, catching my breath – and beginning to plan my next moves.

I believe any sentient being can see that we are on the brink of – and to some degree, amidst – great, sweeping change.  The old order is very rapidly dying away and yet the new one is yet to be born.  It is a gestational, liminal time, to be sure.

What then, shall we do?  I wrote about one such solution in this post – Power to the People! Let’s Turn this Country Around.  I wrote this post right after my beloved friend was diagnosed with what turned out to be terminal liver cancer – so I got distracted.  It may be time to revisit implementing some of these ideas.

I’m also participating in The 99% Spring and plan to be involved in that.

There is so much abundance – time, energy, talents and money – sitting in abeyance while people are hungry, lonely, angry and tired.  Isn’t it time to change that.

Please join me in the 99% Spring.  And if you are interested in beginning dialogue on the ideas I laid out in Power to the People, let’s dialogue about how we can begin.  Margaret Mead was right:  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

I’m in.  You?


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The problem:  Where to begin?  Income inequality in America, crumbling infrastructure, corporations trying to wrest control of the Internet, Citizens United, global warming….pick your issue!

The solution:  Say no! —- and — Say yes to an alternative!

I spent a lot of last year being outraged.  Well, I’ve been outraged a lot since 2008, watching America change into an entrenched plutocracy.  Being outraged, per se, only hurt me.  Not paying attention (the tactic I see many – most? – people use) is probably worse.

Now I’m focusing on two alternatives, both of which will create positive change (as you know, that’s my theme for 2012 – create positive change).

Say no to what you don’t like.

Or say yes, to a better alternative.

At a philosophical level, I feel the better strategy is to say yes to the better alternative.  My mom used to tell us “you become what you think about” (wise woman!) and one of the tenets of my church (Unity) is that “Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind” – i.e., our thoughts create our reality, so best to choose positive ones.  I agree with that.

But this pugnacious, passionate Irish girl still gets riled up at injustice and inequality.   Rather than wishing I were less bombastic, it’s occurred to me that I can do both – focus on creating good, put my energy into the new world I wish to see.  But also continue to say no.

What saying no looks like for me:

  • Attending “Occupy the Courts” in Chicago this Friday
  • Writing about what needs changing
  • Boycotting companies that are egregiously wrong (top of my list:  Wal-Mart, followed by Target and BP)
  • Getting more involved in Occupy Chicago

What saying yes looks like for me:

  • Getting more involved in the Transition Town network
  • Getting food from local sources – farmer’s markets, CSAs, my friend’s garden, Farmer Nick (local eggs and chickens)
  • Buying locally in general
  • Seeking sustainability from the very small acts (cloth bags rather than paper/plastic), to the medium (buying a shredder with my friend rather than each of us buying one) to the larger (investigating co-housing)

I plan to explore more of these this year and will take you along for the ride.

How are you saying no right now?

How are you saying yes right now?

Which feels more natural to you?

I really want to know!


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Tuesdays are Ideas Day here at Taking it to the Streets

I promised you more about Tom Friedman’s new book That Used to be Us.  And since I wrote that post I’ve finished one book by Paul Hawken (The Ecology of Commerce) and am half way through another one (Blessed Unrest).  I have so many ideas I want to share with you from what I’m reading.

But, listen.  Something’s going on in America.  It’s big.  To quote earthquake forecasters and fishermen – “This could be the Big One.” 

Back in the hot month of August in Chicago in 1968, when I was 19, long before the Internet, or Facebook or Twitter, young people got the vibe that something was going on.  Come to Grant Park.  The whole world is watching.  I really thought the revolution we had all talked about was truly at hand.  That the America we dreamed about was right around the corner.  That war was over and we would Give Peace a Chance.

My generation blew it – and really, I think Pat Robertson was right – it was that event, more than anything else that caused America and the Left to break up.  If you ask me, we had the right ideas, but the wrong way of delivering the message.

We live in perilous times.  As I’ll tell you when I write more about That Used to Be Us (I promise! soon!), we are facing huge forces that so easily could crush us all – environmental peril, unchecked corporate greed and control, a crumbling infrastructure, economic meltdown.  We have failed to address the issues that are most important (quoting Friedman here):  globalization, the IT revolution, chronic deficits,  and our pattern of excessive energy consumption.

And the economic practices that were put into momentum with Ronald Reagan have coupled with unprecedented corporate greed to create a true plutocracy.

I work right now as an IT contractor at a large bank, right across the street from the Chicago Federal Reserve.  For the past three weeks a growing number of activists are outside my door into work as part of the now global Occupy Wall Street movement.  At first they reminded me of us – I saw a young man in pajama pants with his homemade sign and long scraggly hair and thought “oh, boy, your message is WAY too important to be diluted by looking like someone who the bankers and Fox news (who are out almost every day on my street) can dismiss.

But lately it’s a much broader mix.  Elders (yes! even older than me!), union workers, and many people holding signs that say things like “Yes, I have a job and I am here on my lunch hour so you can keep yours.”

I can feel it.  I can smell it.  It is coursing through my veins.  This time “could be the big one.”

A few years back my brother lent me a university course on CD on Plato’s Republic. I had not read any Plato other than The Symposium (which I greatly enjoyed) and I have to say I was shocked at how radical he was.  One thing that really stood out to me was his clear laying out of the succession of styles of government.  He said that what follows a plutocracy (a government by, of, and for the rich – ie., America) is violent revolution, then democracy.

I want our democracy back.  I smell the revolution coming.  I just hope it isn’t violent.  Because when I see the signs (not in Chicago, but in pictures of New York) saying “Eat the Rich” – well, you’d be dining on some people I love. And, really, some of you might think that ***I*** look like a hefty appetizer.  I don’t think that’s what we need.

But a change?  A way to get America back from the repeal of Glass-Steagle and from Citizens United (which firmly sealed the deal on making it an official Plutocracy)?  yes, we need that.

And as we chant in front of the Federal Reserve:

“The people


Can never be defeated.”

We ARE the 99%.  People – join me. It is time to WAKE UP.  Now.  Act!

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Wednesday is Community Day here at Taking it to the Streets

And today I am presenting to you, my first ever guest bloggers!  I asked my adult nephew Jonah P. Keegan and his wife Nayumi Mitsuka Keegan to write about what we can do to help Japan.  Here’s their post:

As you watch the tragic aftermath of Japan’s massive earthquake unfolding, you may be wondering how you can help.

Our family has relatives in Sendai we hope are safe, but still have not been able to confirm their survival.

If you are in America, or the Western Hemisphere, it might seem difficult to do anything effective, or find a cause that will make a different on the other side of the world. But, there are things you can do, whether contributing cash, or leaving comments for Japanese at home and abroad struggling to deal with the vast destruction in their homeland. Whatever you can afford, or feel comfortable doing, your thoughts, prayers, and messages do matter, and they will make a difference.

Rather than list some of the trustworthy programs already working to help the people of Japan, I will point you to the Christian Science Monitor, which has assembled a great list:


One of the fastest ways to help is with a text message to either the Red Cross or Salvation Army, both of which are active in major Japanese cities and many local communities. To donate to the Salvation Army, text ‘Japan’ or ‘Quake’ to 80888. Text ‘RedCross’ to 90999 to donate to its fund set up in response to the disaster.

 I hope you will keep the people of Japan in your heart as rescue & recovery efforts continue, and the threat of radioactive contamination remains.

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The last 6 weeks have been full of sturm und drang for me.  To paraphrase the bumper-sticker “Life happens.”  And so does disease and death.  A close friend, not quite 46 at the time of diagnosis found out she has secondary liver and secondary bone cancer (and they still don’t know primary source).  My beloved feline companion of 14 years, Caitlin Marie, very abruptly died on Halloween morning.

Life happens.

So what can we do in the face of disease and death.

As Emma Goldman said “Mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living.”  Including our own dear selves.

With Becky’s diagnosis – and the fact that I now have 8 friends with cancer, most of whom are younger than I am – I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about what to do in the face of what feels to me like an epidemic.

Here’s where my interest in food, health and politics all come together.  Right now I’m reading a great book on cancer: Anticancer, A New Way of Life, New Edition which I think ALL of us should read – those of us who don’t (seemingly) have cancer in order to prevent it.

The quote that really popped out at me on Friday was “Like patients, doctors are caught in a pincer between two powerful industries.  On one side, they have the pharmaceutical industry with its obvious  logic, offering easy pharmacological solutions rather than encouraging patients to take themselves in hand.  On the other side, they have the food industry, protecting its interests jealously by discouraging the dissemination of overtly explicit recommendations on the links between food and illness. And what they have in common is the most profound desire for nothing to change.”

Wow!  Right on Dr. Servan-Schreiber!  I would add two other industries to the indictment – the mainstream allopathic medical community (ask your doctor how many classes they took on nutrition in medical school.  Then ask yourself – does the answer make an ounce of sense?) and the insurance industry.

So what can we do?  I DO think there is a place for political activism and lobbying for change.  But meanwhile, people are dying – we can’t wait for “them” to get it right. WE HAVE TO GET IT RIGHT!!

I always ask, in all matters, “Who benefits?”.  So when the Harvard study comes out and says “no, really, you don’t need that much vitamin D” I wonder “who funded that study?” I can tell you one thing – it’s for sure not Vitamin Shoppe or Dr. Andy Weil or us.  I’d love to see the funding on that one.

I truly believe they are all in cahoots – Big Pharma, the medical industry, insurance companies and the food companies.

So we need to ignore them, educate ourselves and take measures to heal ourselves and this planet.  And I can tell you that won’t involve Ho-hos and Big Macs.

Because, my friends, we are killing ourselves with our forks (or worse, our drive-through packages – and hey – didya know that not only is fast food itself carcinogenic, but the wrappers are too?  nice job, food industry…).

I’ve been interested in health and food since my 20s so whether or not I’ve practiced what I know, my interest has kept me at least reasonably informed.  But a lot of people still don’t know that microwaving food in plastic containers or covering it with plastic wrap in the microwave is carcinogenic.  Or that sugar is cancer fertilizer (do you know they use a sugar solution to find cancer in allopathic/AMA-approved tests?  That tells you something!). 

I really believe that in all of life, and in this case, we’re all in this together.  As I said in my Lifeschool post (no, I haven’t forgotten that, I’ve just been catapulted into some other roles in my life right now) “each one, teach one.”

Here’s my recommendation for today:

– Read and learn all you can on food and behavior and illness.  A small percentage of disease is genetic alone. Even with genetic predisposition lifestyle choices, especially food, make a huge difference

– Apply what you learn (doh! but I didn’t apply my knowledge of the perniciousness of sugar for, oh, 30 years or more…)

– Teach those you love.  Don’t preach, don’t nag.  DO present the facts.

That last piece is hard for me when life and death are involved.  I want those I love to get that they are the architects of their own recovery and to seize the day.  But food is a complicated subject, fraught with emotions and memory and sometimes can be used as a drug (including the fact that dairy and wheat both create opiates in the body – no wonder we all love pizza, eh…).

I’ll be posting some more resources. Reading more myself.  And I ask you – what is YOUR take on health?  Do you believe food/nutrition/exercise/lifestyle is the major determinant of your health?  If so, what are you doing to protect your greatest resource?  What works for you? What resources do you want to share?

If I sound passionate, it is because there are 8 people I love who have a life-threatening illness.  And I really believe Dr. Servan-Schreiber is right – there are forces at work, focused on their own greed, who are killing us.  We have to ignore them and take back our own lives.  As my wise father says, “food isn’t entertainment” – I would add it’s the TRUE insurance.

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Building on yesterday’s post here’s my initial proposal to start a TRUE revolution in this country.  The America I grew up in was the leader of the world in virtually all measures – not a plutocracy, with people’s day-to-day quality of life falling behind. I think we can use the Army of the Unemployed to turn this ship of state around.  Please dialogue with me – this is simply an initial offering.


  • LifeSchool – learning what we REALLY need to know; each one teach one
  • BodyShop – real HEALTH with CARE – taking back our bodies, not turning them over to BigPharma
  • Earth Forces (the REAL “Green {Hats}”)
  • S.O.S. – Save Our Society

Program overview

We all have talents and abilities.  The unemployed, the retired and the generous have time to donate.  There are ghost-towns of empty buildings available.  Instead of “wasting time in the unemployment lines, standing around waiting for a promotion” (nod to Tracy Chapman); instead of waiting for the government or (imho, worse yet) the corporations or the rich – let’s roll up OUR shirtsleeves ala Greg Mortenson and turn this ship around.  So this is all about things regular people could do by, for and with each other (remember the Gettysburg Address).  OUR country – not the rich people’s or the corporations (or, to give a nod to my friends on the right – of the government).


Let’s set up free schools with volunteer teachers and administrators (or – someone who can write grants, write a grant to get money for building space and a SchoolMom/SchoolDad – someone to organize the thing).  “each one teach one” – people who know things can teach people who want to learn those things.  I see 5 initial curriculum:

  • Strengthening your Self (personal skills, including a tie-in to BodyShop)
  • Strengthening your Relationships – relationships of all kinds:  parenting classes, negotiating skills, marriage-strengthening, getting along at work, etc.
  • Work and Money Skills – Create your own job, find a job, job skills, money 101, investment classes, frugality, buying a house, anti-foreclosure classes
  • LifeSkills – cooking, plumbing, fix your car, write a grant, gardening, etc.
  • Save the World – getting beyond yourself to help your community, the world, how to make a difference, setting up your own Grameen-Bank-like skill/money co-op, etc.

BodyShop (REAL Health CARE – taking charge of your own health)

  • Natural Healing classes of all kinds (herbs, Chinese medicine, ayurveda, first aid)
  • Fitness Camp – personal training you can do at home with very little equipment or info about cheap gyms, etc.  Free classes (spin, aerobics, circuit training)
  • Food & Nutrition – cover basics, nutritional defense for specific diseases, build your immune system, fast and easy nutritious meals, eating healthfully when you’re broke, good food for people who don’t like to cook, etc.
  • Cooking classes – beyond just educating – big kitchen, group cooking, hands-on fix a meal.  Use Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution idea – learn a meal, then teach your neighbor.  Eating healthfully, inexpensively with meals that are tasty and easy/fast to prepare.
  • Emotional Health – things YOU can do to help with what ails you – EFT, support groups, exercise, nutrition, mentoring

EarthForces (Green Baseball Hats? – smile and nod to the other Greenhat guys…)

  • Classes on sustainability
  • Green your home
  • Habitat-for-Humanity like group to focus on weatherizing homes for the poor, elderly, infirm, etc.
  • Johnny Appleseed Corps – tree planting  – help people, public spaces, unused land – fill it with trees
  • WaterWorks – water conservation – from in your house to in your country – water action!
  • Garden Guerrillas – turn this land into food  – teach gardening, encourage community gardens, ask to put gardens in unused land, etc.

S.O.S. – Save our Society

  • Take back Food:  localvorism, CSAs, food co-ops.  Move AWAY from the industrial agriculture that is killing us and is outrageously inhumane to animals.
  • Take back Money:  Buy local! Say no to Big Box stores
  • Take back Money, Part 2:  barter economy, skill banks, stop outsourcing your life

What’s Next?

Your “yes, we can” ideas.  I’m sure some of you have 100 “that will never work” ideas, which you are welcome to ponder while we move into action ala Greg Mortenson.

What I’m interested in:

  • Feedback on these ideas
  • YOUR ideas – what else can the army of unemployed, under-employed, retired or generous folks do with their ‘spare’ time?
  • Interested folks.  You don’t have to be local.  I somewhat suspect Chicago is not the only town that could use an initiative like this.  Start a school/movement/group in YOUR town!
  • But if you are local and would be interested in seeing what we could collectively create let me know – send an email to lifeschool.chicago@gmail.com

“We can change the world.  Rearrange the world.  It’s dying.” (nod to CSNY for lyrics, nod to YOU for wanting to change the world).

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