Midnight Mind

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Til thoughts slow grind with mine,

til thoughts slow grind…

Tossing and turning, uncomfortable in my skin, mind is filled with nonlinear thoughts,

emotions tangled like hair caught in fists of passion, peeling back the scars,

which feels more like peeling away the shagbark of the hickory tree  

to find a bat hibernating,

shocked,

but not, to find it there-

vulnerable heart-

always seeking pleasure,

avoiding pain.

 

“The pigs worst day is his last. My job is to make sure they’re happy right up to the end,”

said the farmer in the interview with the fancy slick magazine

supporting local, organic farming practices.

Proudly he herds the lot of meat from sweet hay beds, and green pastures

To truffles and forest foraging before–

Thoughts slow grind repetitiously…

We are all doulas of death, or farmers,

either way, trying to maintain optimal happiness,

Avoid as much stress possible, and all things that hurt,

ease the burden where we can

and provide that long, slow drink of cool water…

ia tightrope act with no net.

 

I can’t sleep. Thoughts grind.

It’s humid and warm in the house on this November night.

A thunderstorm is brewing on the eastern edges of the plains, pressure is building.

There’ll be severe weather soon.

It makes me uneasy, this radical shift in the patterns of air,

unsettled in the warmth of this new Fall.

Spring Peepers sing out for a mate.

The weight, the responsibility of herding the community around me

is tiresome.

Like a shepherd always on the look out for the wolves, I guard,

anticipating the next threat from extraction industries and dirty politicians.

Maintaining a stable climate is all part of that balance of happiness,

and right now- well if we were the farmers

and climate is our “pig”- we have failed miserably.

Find your breath I tell myself in the dark.

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Over Burden

I don’t rest anymore. Exhausted, I sat at the dining table in a small ramshackle house along a rocky creek in the hollers of the Appalachia Mountains of so-called West Virginia.

The Hillbilly from down the road came to share beer, smokes, and stories with the “Northerners”.

“Bear is good eatin’—you ever try it?”

“I don’t believe in eating spirit guides,” I responded to what I only assumed was a devoted faith follower of Sunday sermons, Bible thumping and holy rollin’.

Puzzled, he looked at me and said, “Let me tell you a story. It doesn’t have a happy ending.”

I accepted.

“I worked down the road for Patriot Coal Company. I drove a bulldozer and land movers for ’em. My job was to move all the topsoil, trees, and stuff to the edge of the mountain and push it down the side. They would tie off the ass end of my ‘dozer to a cable and winch me back up. Talk about a rush. Scary as shit.”

Hillbilly continued, “One day I came to work early and saw two baby bear cubs playing down the mountain. Climbing trees, chasing each other, playing tag, just the cutest things. They went back into the den when folks started coming to work. The foreman come over and gave the day’s orders. He said to push off the trees and shit over there, pointing to the far side in the direction of where the bear cubs was playing.”

His sobering story continued, “I said, ‘I can’t do that. I’ll kill them babies and their mama.’ Bossman said, ‘Do it or lose your job.’ I said that weren’t very Christian to go killing a bear and her babies while they still hibernating. That bossman would hear none of that. Calling me a bleeding heart liberal tree hugger, he waved over one of the other dozer workers and told him what to do. Bossman went over to his truck and wrote me my pink slip. I was fired right then and there.”

Hillbilly said he thought about trying to stop the other dozer operator but figured he would have been pushed over the edge and buried along with the bear cubs and their mama.

I think about why I am persistent as hell, why I don’t take breaks, why I don’t completely unplug from the world, and I remember this story.

I do not rest for fear I will be buried alive by overburden and deemed a cost of doing business on the path to progress. Of course the word progress should be debated. Is it progress to poison an entire region’s water supply by blowing off mountain tops for coal, or injecting lethal levels of chemicals into your aquifer to get gas and oil, so you can turn on your lights, turn down the AC while watching your plasma screen TV, drive your car to the malls to buy plastic shit made in slave labor companies?

Is it progress to blow up a mountain, dump all that coal into train cars, ship it to a seaport, load it onto a barge, ship it halfway across the earth, deliver it to a factory that fires the melting pots of steel, dumped into molds stamping out weapons and ammunitions shipped to enemy lines that kill the child soldiers who enlisted because their hometown in the mountains is so economically depressed there are no jobs from coal mining becoming automated?

Have we rural people become overburden, pushed off the mountainside, not stopping to critically analyze what we are being asked to do before we are shoved off the side to our deaths? Do we stop to consider if our actions are burying someone resting below?

I can promise you that when you are pushed off the mountain, they won’t winch you back up. Best you carry a shovel to help all those who were buried before you.

Phone calls, Faxes, Petitions Oh MY!

Rallies, and Protests OH MY!

Since January 20, it has been a non stop political chess match. Whether it is the censorship of the EPA on climate change, the fossil fuel makeover of the BLM webpage, the repeal of the ACA, the giveaway tax cuts to the .01%, the display of military power, the dumbing down of the education system, abuse and militarization of police,  the mass deportation of immigrants, or the sharp increase in hate crimes: we are two stepping to a tempo that is not sustainable.
Mind you, much of this has been occurring to some degree in previous administrations. It’s just that so many woke up on November 9 with a WTF look on their faces and decided they better get moving. Glad you decided to join us.
As a small, environmental advocacy organization, it is important that we comprehend that none of these issues exist in a silo. That all these problems are symptomatic of the bigger underlying problems: neocolonialism, capitalism and the patriarchy. Not only is the system broken, it is parasitic to every aspect of itself, feeding on the demise of the other agencies within the system, so much that the more dysfunctional that agencies becomes the more another agency benefits. An over generalized example: environmental destruction and deregulation creates sick people which feeds the for profit healthcare system.

A most disturbing instance of a system in an utter state of chaos involves the budget cuts to schools, some, in part to capitalism based economies built on the boom bust cycles of extraction. Without businesses and residents, the revenue flow into the coffers of tax collectors decreases, and the budgets of local schools is reduced. Often, the first programs in schools to be cut are music and arts. Art Departments in turn ask children to pawn off raffle tickets for a semi automatic handgun to raise funds for the department to continue. Grasping at the “golden carrot” of economic opportunities and subscribing to group think mentality, “it’s no big deal, this is how they raise funds for school programs now.” Unquestioning children are enticed by monetary rewards that perpetuate a capitalist model of normalizing violence and the subjugation of others. It’s not just about the raffle of a pistol, this is a symptom of how degraded the overall system has become.

We have systematically created a class of citizens that do not question authority and lack ability and courage to break from the herd and think critically about what is happening around them out of fear of reprimand and punishment. By implementing a curriculum that teaches for the sake of testing, we lose creative problem solving skills and continue to eviscerate our communities from opportunities that create solutions to the issues we face, but instead fuel the other systems dependent on a group think and kowtowing to the deep state.

If you think that we have a snow balls chance in hell of keeping the EPA functioning in our favor just look at the loss of healthcare to more than 24,000,000 people. Just look at Flint Michigan, and East Chicago.  If Congress doesn’t care about people, then why on Earth would they care about ecosystems, biological diversity, or water and air quality? What are willing to do to protect what’s left?

As constitutional rights to speak freely, protest and petition the government with our grievances continue to go unheard, devolve and disappear into the ass cracks of politicians groveling in the slimy shadows of Oligarchs, we must become practitioners of dissent. We must fight for justice in every facet of society and protect human rights. We must become ungovernable.

A democracy that is no longer accountable to constituents and has run amok is a bully and I have zero tolerance for bullies.

What does this have to do with SAFE? Our mission states: “we strive to awaken a community spirit among the people of Southern Illinois and create a popular movement that educates people to their rights and mobilizes them to act in the protection of these rights.” The right to a healthy environment expands beyond our water, air and soil. A healthy environment includes a safe surroundings. As we see rights eroding in places near and far, remember what they do to others, they will do to us.

“‘First They Came’ Martin Niemöller’s lines, written just after the Holocaust, argued against apathy—and for the moral connectedness of all people. My hope is that SAFE is a jumping point for connectedness. Be mindful and vigilant, manifest compassion in all that you do and to those around you. Mother Jones said “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

Raffling off a pistol for 6th grade band?

What are we teaching our kids?

Dear District 37 School Board,
We are deeply concerned and hope that our children will not suffer any ill will for our beliefs and speaking out. We are asking that the board, the administration and teachers take our quandaries seriously and respond to the ethical dilemma we, as a community, find ourselves in.

We’ve sat with our concerns for a week, wondering the best way to deal with the flyer that came home in our daughter’s folder: the raffle of a 9mm semiautomatic weapon for the music program. We’ve questioned own values, beliefs and principles as well as our upbringing in a small rural community. We are dismayed that the board has allowed for the raffle of a 9mm pistol and that this has become a normalized form raising funds for school programs. We are distraught that school budgets are gutted to the point that this idea was even proposed by a local organization to our teachers. Don’t get us wrong, we are not mad at the teachers for accepting what seems like a golden carrot in a state where fiscal uncertainties grow deeper by the day. The financial crunch of District 37 is an epidemic to small schools everywhere, and we are not blaming teachers for this situation. Surely, there is a better, less divisive way to raise funds. We are concerned that we are not honoring the principles and values we are educating and instilling in our children.

We believe the raffle of a 9mm handgun is hypocritical and wrong. From Pre-K until high-school graduation, our children are taught that violence is not the answer and will not be tolerated. Students are taught to respect themselves and others, to be courteous, to be responsible for their actions and to make right choices. No bullying or harassing, no threats of any kind, or being involved in any acts of verbal or physical aggression. We insist our children use appropriate language and gestures. The handbook has a long list of actions and behaviors that will not be tolerated.  Many of those actions refer to prohibition of weapons and firearms, and zero tolerance for verbal or physical violence. However, we are sending mixed messages by asking our young children to raffle off a 9mm pistol for the music department.

This raffle is misaligned with the core values of nonviolence being taught to our children and what is written in the school handbook. The purpose of this weapon is nothing other than to kill another human being, is it not? As a gun owner, we must be prepared, mentally and physically, to shoot and kill another human being if we intend on using a pistol for self defense weapon. Target practice is secondary to the purpose of this weapon. We are not against responsible gun ownership, or using a shotgun to procure food for the family, but we question the board’s judgement allowing this raffle to happen and using our children to sell tickets for a weapon.
This raffle is incongruent with the values being taught at school, namely zero tolerance for violence. We are saying to our children “Do as I say, not as I do.”

We’ve heard the argument that this 9mm is a tool. Yes, but ask yourselves, what is this tool’s intended use? A shovel is a tool used to dig holes. Yes, it could be a weapon, but that was not its original intent. The original intent of a 9mm is to kill humans.

We’ve heard that only licensed FOID card holders may acquire this gun once the raffle is drawn and that the gun will never be on school premise. Not that that makes me feel any safer.

“At least 265 children under the age of 18 picked up a firearm and accidentally shot themselves or someone else with it in 2015, according to numbers compiled by the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, and 75 children have died in 2017.” In Illinois, 1,247,398 gun background checks were conducted in 2015 using an incomplete database, which fails to block gun sales to the hundreds of thousands of prohibited purchasers whose mental health records are not in the system. (http://everytownresearch.org/notanaccident/)” 

Will the winner of the pistol be required to give a complete mental background check before taking the gun from the dealer? Does this person have a history of physical, mental  or substance abuse? How is the school board protecting our children from harm? Is there a gun safety class being taught?

Children are exposed to gun violence on television, on the internet, and on video games. Why are we encouraging our children to sell raffle tickets for a weapon? Why aren’t we raffling off a lawn mower, fishing gear with tackle, or compound bow, something less lethal?

If the rational behind raffling a 9mm pistol is because it’s a “good money maker” for the music program, then why not raffle off a $500 goodie basket of medical cannabis from the local dispensary? It’s a strictly regulated industry, people must be examined by their physician, and go through intensive background checks, including fingerprinting. (Seems silly this is not required for a FOID card.) It appears the same “rules” would apply: the winner needs to have a licensed card to win the raffle item, the cannabis basket, or gun, are never allowed on school grounds, and it would make about the same amount in fundraising proceeds, if not more. Sounds nuts, doesn’t it? Is it an appropriate raffle item? Probably not.

Our final concern is the future of this raffle item. We all would hope this weapon would go to a responsible owner, one that understands the importance of safety locks and gun safes. However, life doesn’t always turn out as we hope. Should THIS gun ever be handled by a child and cause death, accidental or willful to another child or adult…ask yourselves, “was it worth the $1000-$2000 the school received in fundraising monies?” We would hope deep in your hearts, each and everyone one of you responsible for allowing this raffle to happen, consider the potential consequences of raffling a weapon, using our children to sell tickets and the mixed message it sends. Sit with the potential outcome and tell us you still made the right choice.

We wish things were simple like they were back in the “old days” when bake sales, car washes and spaghetti dinners were cool things to do for fundraisers. We understand our school is in dire straits, but our expectations of the board is to practice what is preached. This, my friends, is far from a “right choice,” when there are less lethal options available for fundraising.

Sincerely,

Tabitha and Eric Tripp

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Snowflakes

It is the beginning of the end.

For the second year in a row,
it rained on Solstice at the North Pole.
Snowflakes are now victim of contumelies.

Feedback loops exponentially unravel
as our tightly woven knot of existence
frays from the helix of the known universe.

Species cling to the fragile webs of ecosystems;
polar bear, bees, even hardwood trees
precariously dangle on the precipice of extinction,

While we exhume the dinosaurs of past epochs for fuel,
the light grows dim. Anthropocene.
I want to feed back into the loop of existence

but my hope grows too thin.
The tipping point has become a downward spiral spin.
Arctic permafrost belching methane,

Thawing microbes, breeding, feeding and flatulating into the air.
We have maxed our planet’s ability to sequester carbon,
the oceans have acidified, bleached the corals too

Zombie emissions from forest floor respire
whilst the management exhales
Categorical Exclusions that “do not pose an immediate threat”

To the surrounding communities
yet sadly, omitted from the equation
and calculations, how much time we have to cut our carbon?

There is no time left. None.
Our priorities amiss, economic nationalism trumps
biological diversity, healthy streams and clean air,

While we drown in our collective fight for basic human rights.
The Rhetoric is all the same, it is the beginning of the end.
It’s raining at the North Pole.

Make snowflakes great again.

Kindling Action

How do I kindle the spark in someone else?

You know, the spark that motivates them to do something other than attend a meeting or sign an online petition. As an organizer, we always hope our three minute personal story of “how I got here” inspires a wanna be activist to retire from the “concerned citizen” role and become fully engaged in the campaign.

I’m starting to think this is a form of alchemy, sheer wizardry at best. As I sat through another two hour member meeting where after a list of issues from Pipeline to fracking, EJ to clean power plans, film festivals to fundraising and media, the same 6 volunteers took home the brunt of the work load and no new help stepped up. It’s not like there isn’t anything to do in the environmental movement, but why is it that we have so few leaders and so many followers?

What inspires a person to action, what enrages and motivates, what dreams are vanishing in the space between acknowledging the issue and the desire to do something about it?

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Building your organization’s base is a full time job. It’s a slow process, one where you have to get to know your volunteers, what their dreams and hopes are, and what enrages them, who inspires them and what their bottom line is. It is time and energy consuming to manage 12 volunteers, heck even two volunteers is a task for a talented organizer, while continuing to answer emails, media reporters, phone calls, read the latest news on list serves, post the most recent science, repeat and share the endless request for funding and petitions, while researching relevant technical data for comment periods and hearings, while lobbying your elected officials to pass resolutions and legislation to protect our communities; all this in addition to family life. Yes, it’s a dizzy life.

My activism was born out of a need to protect my water source. After spending nearly a decade building a home I never planned on leaving; our artesian water well was threatened by the prospect of fracking and I jumped into the flow of fractivism, head first. I learned as much as I could, as fast as I could and I didn’t stop to ask for permission. Sometimes that didn’t work out in my favor, and it did ruffle some feathers, but most of the time, it worked out.

As I looked around at the meeting last week, I tried a different approach. A comrade, to whom I expressed concern for the slacktivism, suggested that I may be perceived as being too enthusiastic and set too vigorous a pace in my environmental defense. I am into several issues and have created a helluva network across America because the issues are not insular and there is no sense in recreating the wheel. So I sat back, I let someone else facilitate and just gave my reports back, and added if anyone wants to jump into the action leave your name here and I sent around a clipboard for folks to leave contact information.

No new volunteers.

As an organizer this is a big red flag in assessing how a meeting went and time for self reflection too. Was it me? What could I have done different? Was I approachable enough? Was I open to constructive criticism? Was I critical of someone else’s idea? The mental monkeys are chattering non-stop with what I could have done different to engage more people into action.

In hindsight, I’m not sure anything I do is going to break down what I see as a culture of engrained hierarchy and power systems which teach people to obey. People are waiting for permission to do “something”— so many people seem to be waiting for top down orders from a “leader.”

We, as a nation, have effectively, eradicated free thinking and self motivated leaders, and have fallen victim to group think: the practice of making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.

If everyone reading this would walk away with one nugget of information from this publication of Heartbeat here it is: you don’t need permission to act. Act on climate issues; act on extreme Energy Extraction; act on changing systems that oppress marginalized communities; act on racism; act on human rights abuses, act on the injustice, but act and act regularly and repeatedly.

We are running out of time and looking at a long difficult road ahead, waiting for group consensus, while it is nice and polite to get permission to move forward, is not working. We need to move faster and with love in our hearts. We need to break away from the colonial mentality of pyramid power and trickle down orders that has been engrained in our behaviors by 12+years of education based on conformity and control. Question authority. Push back against the need to have consent to protect the places and people you love. You don’t need permission to do the right thing.

Using constructive, creative activism methods, be it weaving poetry into your public comment, playing guitar at the public hearing, letters to the editor, performing a one person protest, banner drops with 20 of your closest friends at board meetings, launching an effective blockade or tree sit, find what motivates you to act. The spectrum of doing “something” is wide and opportunities are endless if we push the boundaries of non violent direct action and move forward.

Get creative, engage your rage. You have permission to protect our world.

Sundown on Solstice

In the dusk of Solstice, the sun has sunk below the horizon and I grieve, heartfelt angst and pain. Two steps forward and three steps back. 2°C is the hopeful mark and with swift stabbing of political jabs, “a big fuck you”to Paris agreements and COP#21, our elected congressmen lifted the crude oil export ban, states granting 32” pipeline the right of eminent domain gouging a trough through farmland and watersheds, and a new export terminal on Lake Charles; all traded for renewable energy rebates, bonus bucks to mountain top removal states, decriminalizing of pot and forest saved from clear cut-logging by the hair of our collective chin.

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I sit in pre-holiday anxiety of the foreign made “gifts” that come from family who don’t seem to understand that I do not want cheaply made crap from indentured slave labor children in another country. I would rather eat ice cubes than GMO and CAFO “food,” that I would prefer to drink myself into oblivion than to listen racism and prejudices after Holy prayers to Christ–that I would rather do without than to have those “things that make it Christmas”– don’t call me ungrateful, just listen to what I’m trying to teach you about the Global economy of American consumerism based on material gluttony.

Much to my dismay my awakening has become a nightmare of guilt and nervousness, of avoidance and silent anger.

For the last four years, I’ve made gifts to exchange with the relatives. Home made toothpaste, flu remedy, liver cleansing “Golden Milk,” fire starters, dish soap, homemade detergents…what a pleasure it was to share the recipes. Until the kids came home and said how “so and so” made fun of your homemade gift. This year, I won’t even bother with gifting.  No offense, just tired of the polite bullshit.
Living with less, using less, wanting less: all this had led me to this pivotal  place of accepting I am but a grain of sand in an ocean of solar systems cascading inward to what most would call an existential cunundrum. After another year of busting my ass for a better world, I’ve come to the conclusion, that what I do doesn’t make a difference, that what I resist has persisted and that in the end, I have done nothing more than wear myself to the bone. Torn and tattered, I hold on to some ridiculous idea of hope. Hope that others will wake up, that our collective intention will out weigh the oblivious, the war mongers and the greedy ones.

I hang on; just a sliver lingering at the edge of the horizon on the longest night of the year.

 

 

Headlines read “Endless Vigil”

It is an endless vigil
of prayers for massacrers
validated with false justifications
of blood letting leaches,
endless oppression of privilege
in the name of
religion
national security
capitalism
fear, “yes, but…”

Dogmatic theories of extremism
from either end of the superficial spectrum
with a failure to find common ground
in the constant striving
for survival of the armed
and against nature’s evolution

Chained, we are bound
to repeat the mistakes of many a man
whose ideologies swing along the
one dimensional pendulum of the war to be right
and blinded over an eye for an eye
rather seeing the human plight

The seas of change intensify
our air grows heated and stale
with abundant methane and carbon dioxide
as warm oceans acidify
Water has been forcefully transformed
into chemical concoctions
and food is genetically modified
to weather chaos and crisis storms
Distractions from true threats which
propels us into perilous games
where drones and bombs rein
and come before ultimatums

The focus shifted,
drowning in white tears of loss loved one
who were caught in the friendly fire of power
while our Brown skinned families receive no news,
no light, no candles glowing in the fall night
of the mass killing of Beruit,
they cry alone in their pain and rage
no support from your Facebook profile pic
no scrolling news on your home page.
spreading apathy and separatist views
of me first
then maybe you,
tit for tat
continue this endless vigil indeed
s_s01_0RTXY6MK photo credit The Atlantic

Remember

November 5th, warm rain drizzles down on my skin
hope dissipates from each meeting I attend
to protect our water and our land
from fossil fuel extraction and excess infrastructure demands

Agencies held captive, democracy breaks
before it gets a chance to flex and bend

Corporations sucking the teat of capitalism dry
while citizens crouch on bent knee
silent in complicity, palms up, begging for crumbs of austerity

Accountability has become a vague idea only seen of Utopian society;
appointed and elected officials point the fingers of blame
ignoring public trust and join the circle jerk of plutocracy

Daughters and Sons growing up in apathy
seeing disappointed faces of elders who pushed back
beaten, broken and into the system of conformity
of greedy corruption and forgotten pacts.

Remember, remember this November
Sentinels scream warnings into black nights
but instead you turn a deaf ear, your
Silence begets white flags of surrender

Breathless

The feeling of squeezing
every last atom of oxygen from my lungs
the pause in my reality
when I realize what I am looking at
is a missing mountain

Crushing
Pulverized
Exploded
Discarded
Exploited
Stolen

my breath
for what is now missing