It seems that there have been times throughout our history when the ordinary person realizes that our elected officials, those who have been entrusted to serve the common good, are only serving their own interests and the interests of a very small percent. It seems like we are in that time again and the cost to the common good is devastating.
In my 62 years on this earth, I have often felt that lives and societies have been put in lethal danger as a result of decisions and policies made in the name of “national interests”. I listened to all the political propaganda about why our nation would go to war, overtly or covertly. About why I should trust our lawmakers and our Constitution. About why I should remain silent in the face of a trillion dollar nuclear weapons program. About why I should trust that the agro-corporations, pharmaceutical corporations, and oil corporations have our best interest at heart as they poison our food, make it impossible for the average citizen to get healthcare, and risk all of creation for the profit of the 1% of the worlds richest people who own more than half of the world's wealth.
It's a bit overwhelming and disheartening to have to sift through all the lies, the betrayals, the deceit, the suffering, the feelings of despair, the consequences to the human family, and to feel that I, as one person, can change this deadly course that we seem to be on.
While I was in college, I listened to the song, “We are the World”. It was a call for us to come together as one, to lend a hand to life, to make the choice to save our own lives. When I heard all those musical artists cry out together in this song, I prayed to God that I would find a way to contribute to the betterment of our world. In tears, I begged God to use me and whatever talents and virtues I was given for the good of the whole and I made a promise that I would follow God's direction.
In 1991, I left my career as a pathologist assistant at a local community hospital after the US began the Gulf War in Iraq. I liked my work but I knew it was time to fulfill the promise that I made to God back in 1985. So I listened to all the voices of all the great peacemakers throughout the ages. I read their stories, their motivations, their sacrifices, successes, and failures and I wanted to be a link in that long chain. I eventually joined the Catholic Worker Movement which was started in 1933 by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. I lived to follow the mission of the worker which in a nutshell is to commit to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry and forsaken and to protest injustice, war, racism, and violence of all forms. I've been living that life for over 2 ½ decades to the best of my ability.
I have lived in houses of hospitality offering the works of mercy to the marginalized and outcasts. I have followed God's laws which have many times put me in direct opposition to our nation's laws particularly when those national laws were no longer protecting the common good of its citizenship, but instead were protecting corporate interests. This became particularly evident when corporations were given the legal status of person-hood. I don't intend to break the law. I intend to fulfill the spirit of the law which is to safeguard and protect the human family, God's creation and the common good. All of this requires constant prayer and spiritual attention as we siphon out the noise of consumerism, materialism and individualism and we try to survive in an empire.
Have I made mistakes? Yes. Have I at times acted with anger? Yes. Has most of what I've done been successful by the world's standards? Hardly ever. Have I enjoyed some of the luxuries that we have in our society? Yes. Am I willing to turn down my thermostat, drive less and cut back on the use of fossil fuels in order to make a path for renewable energy technologies? Yes, and I can do better. Am I willing to put myself on the front lines of hostilities using only the tools of nonviolence to build bridges rather than destroy them? Yes. Do I feel that it is sometimes necessary and is our responsibility and duty to nonviolently protect and defend life even if it means risking my own life and freedom? Yes, especially if I believe there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for their friends.
Once again, I feel frightened and threatened by this deadly course of expanding our reliance on fossil fuels. Over 6000 scientific references were used by 91 science authors and editors from 40 different countries to warn us that in order to halt the devastating effects of climate change at its current level, it will require unprecedented and urgent action and we have 12 years in which to do this. I. At least, will have lived a relatively full life. My daughter will have lived way less then half of her life expectancy. This threat is real and personal to me. I have many friends with recently born children who won't get a chance to live out their childhood, never mind reach adulthood if we don't act now as sane and reasonable adults whose nation is being steered by tyrants and bullies that use tantrums, threats, and fear tactics to keep their power and control for their own benefit.
All around me I see angels and saints and I hear the ancient wisdom crying out from our ancestors begging for a chance, a space, a place, an opportunity to make things right for all of us. Our Native elders and spiritual leaders are here to lead the way. They have knowledge that most of us from the western world aren't willing to acknowledge. Our world world has has already lost so many plant and animal species and relatives that have offered so much to the world's well being. Let's not let their deaths be in vain. We have the technology, we have the people power, we have the resources to do it. What we don't have is the political will or courage to open up the way. So as a baby step, I am called to turn off the poison; to stop the flow of this deadly tar sands fossil fuel, and to give the earth time to heal even if it's just a moment in time. I am begging for a longer time out from this destructive course of oil extraction and expansion of the fossil fuel industry.
The clock is ticking. May it tick for many, many more seasons and years to come.