The Mourning Is Over

15443041_10153945311930974_5238719969721483863_o.jpgIt's been a month since Trump won. Sometimes when we lose a loved one we mourn for a year, or two, or sometimes for the rest of our own lives. Losing the presidency to Trump seems something like that kind of loss, at least that's the way a lot of us are acting.

With the Trump win we can't afford to be in a woozy funk anymore. We need to admit that we are partly Trump ourselves, otherwise he would not have been possible. There is no "Other" here. We blew his smoke and positioned his mirrors. The reality shows and Twitter. We created this. We accepted it into our lives and into the lives of our children. We cooperated with corporate marketing even as it de-humanized our lives.

He understood something basic in his customers that a product campaign would want to know. He found that when he spoke so angrily that he didn't make sense, or remember the past or respect the future - that he was speaking intimately with the many Americans who are full of rage but powerless to carry it anywhere. Most Americans have no jobs or bad jobs and that is bad enough. More fundamental even than this: they have no listeners.

We are still in a state of paralyzed sorrow over 9/11. We have never been able to reform the violent security state that grew from it and grows to this day. Nothing in national life has been more damaging than the lassitude, the abandonment of knowing that followed the crashing of the towers.

We so thoroughly shrank from asking why these young men would fly those jets to their deaths. Did we actually believe that they were "jealous of our freedoms." What? We never ever came close to the question upon which we could mature, become compassionate and independent; that is, what is the rage that these young men experienced with so many American bases in and around their country.

I deeply appreciate that the San Francisco Gay Chorus abandoned their international tour to come back to the red states and sing. We need to be among them, and that will be very hard for some of us. The happy racism and woman-hating and warmongering... and the Earth-killing. But these people operate on a little-known radio band where there is only anger and no content. Our direct action must be to live with these Trump voters. I think I've got Trump people on my street. We have live with these forgotten Americans, oppose Trump the idea and not the human - and love the Earth.

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Welcome To The Resistance

15326266_10153939897605974_195589916554956065_o.jpgThis could take 4 years or 40 years, but you won’t be able to retire from this. You won’t be able to quit the danger and exhaustion.

Our job is the wall. We must smuggle people over it, dig holes through it and under it. We will take the young dancers on the Ghost Ship to Sophia Walinsky with her shattered arm. Black mothers will touch the whites who played God in the high school pageant and couldn't stop.

The pipeline investors doing expensive yoga in Chappaqua will come to care for the broken young men from Afghanistan and Iraq who stand in the blizzard firing sub-lethal projectiles at the children of Redwood Summer and Wounded Knee.

Many kinds of people immigrated to the United States when there was no wall. Why do we wear these walls around us?

Photo credit: Richard Misrach

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We can tell that something far-reaching is happening in the most ordinary transaction. That sensation of shallowness in us. That almost unnoticeable high. The loss of difference in the things around us. The monoculture within and without.

Oh we know. We know that the Earth cannot live with this. And we know that we are the closest living thing to the point of purchase. We know that we are the first little piece of Earth to know. So how do we say this?

We know. Somehow, we know. That the Earth cannot live with this shopping. We cannot live with this shopping. We know we can’t.

We know that the thing that was here before the products were placed between us and the Earth – that thing is still here, just behind the display case. Just beyond the dumpsters in back of the store. Folded in a secret place under the horizon. We hear a song …a song that seems to sing itself…

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Standing Rock: A Moment of Clarity for Progressive Activists

15109487_1146014782161972_7175156683577997372_n.jpgEarth-force meets money-force at Standing Rock. I’m so relieved I’m here. It scares me to think that I might have missed this.

We get up at dawn. Four hundred people walk slowly in a light snow to the river by the camp. A teacher is talking. His headdress is a crisscrossing of long, narrow feathers. He is of the Havasupai, the people who live by the blue-green waterfalls at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. He calls out across the river. “Water is life! Take me! My heart beats with you!”

It’s cold at 7am. The children don’t seem cold though. They run around in the mud and ice. There are 80 tribes here. Some say many more. As we stand on the shore with a slow drum beating, the people shout “water” in many languages. 

The Earth-force is represented by this river and these eagles and these water protectors. We see the Money-force, standing over there on the bridge, just a couple hundred feet from the edge of long meadow of white tipis along the Cannonball River. The police look like a long row of Darth Vaders. 

In the environmental movement, we have yearned for the success of the Civil Rights and the Gender Rights movements. Few of us, though, face the police like the freedom-fighters of old. Arrests and trials are only one indicator of a movement’s power, but an important one. As environmentalists we fall back on soft confrontation dominated by data. Data is bloodless. Lobbying, position papers, endless graphics and electronic petitions might as well be abandoned in the age of Trump.

Evidence points to the need for a quasi-religious transformation of cultural values.  —Dr. Anne Ehrlich and Dr. Paul Ehrlich

Who has undergone this “quasi religious transformation” the Ehrlichs call for now in the time of the Earth’s crisis? I think of Wangari Maathai and her billion trees, Edward Abbey and Earth First and the dreams of freeing western rivers of their dams, Judi Bonds and Larry Gibson in their danger-filled opposition to mountaintop removal coal mining.

The transformation of Standing Rock needs to be carried to many towns and cities. The Earth’s response to its own fever is everywhere all the time, and our activism must this as our map.  We need to press up against militarized and consumerized citizens at all points, and then convert them to life.  Can we pull them across the border between death and life?

Suddenly there is clarity for Earth activists.  With extinction accelerating and climate changing, we must transform with the intensity that one associates with religion.  If some of us wouldn’t be able to convert an actual faith, at least a new Earth politics must be strong enough to break up the over-scheduling, the debt, the traditional careerism - the things that make it impossible to freely act.  We have the time if we take the time.

Three movements in recent years galvanize us.  In these citizen movements we did take the time, took the risk, and made a difference. Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock. The lesson in all of them, the thing they have in common is that so many changed their own individual lives in order that they could then change the rest of us.  In all three, the spiritual element is carried by the act of living together, literally living together, without the supervision of the corporations or government.

Zuccotti Park and the stretch of sidewalk in front of the Ferguson police department and the meadow near the sacred stone… these three places are lived in. Here is where activists cared for each other and shared food, clothing and medicine. The force that upsets entrenched power the most is this compassionate living, this community in plain sight.

Standing Rock offers us our moment of clarity.  We can physically commit now. We must face the Devil. It is life and death. And living actively in a time of life and death must be a spiritual act. It should  be you and I in service getting something done, in our daily life.  Public caring and going through  the quasi-religious transformation must go hand in hand.  It was always so, from Pettis Bridge to Stonewall.  

When we are at peace with the Earth, we are able to hold our ground.  The ground is the point.  We hold our ground and the Earth holds us.  In prison and in pain and in loss the Earth holds us.  And then in the time of forgiveness after the struggle - the Earth still holds us.  

We must fearlessly love until there is no hate!  Earthalujah!

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North Dakota's Governor

15194337_10153908381025974_7080896281738731209_o.jpgThis executive order from the North Dakota governor is dangerous. It seems to permit the police to do whatever they think is required to clear Standing Rock. The governor is a sad case, alleging all sorts of things about the people of that community that are untrue. He points to people whom he will harm, and says that he is doing it because they are harming themselves. He is telling people who have survived the dakota winters for millennia that they cannot be trusted to live here, because suddenly they won't be equal to it, or he, the governor, cannot assure their safety, their fires and plumbing are illegal... I fear for my friends at Standing Rock.

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From Standing Rock To Joe's Pub

IMG_1708.JPGIn a few hours we have leave these wintry northern plains to return to New York for our performance on Sunday. We'll visit my 91 year old father in Northfield Minnesota tomorrow night after an eight hour drive. He's recovering after a fall and we'll sing for him. Last night we sang for 800 native americans from throughout the world - a thrill to take home in memory. I say "we" - there are 7 of us from the choir, Dragonfly, Gina, Pat and Keith, Lizzie, John, Savi, Lena and myself. Marnie our admin goddess and her family David, Cloe, Pressley and Calliope and finally Markus the film-maker. Our little community navigated this strange and wonderful scene nimbly. There is nothing but gratitude and openness frpm the Standing Rock Souix, gentle but strong people. The main lesson from this is: there is such a spiritual richness in Earth activism. An important Hunkpapa Souix elder "Jay Taken Alive" sort of moans out "We are all from the stars!" as we prepare for another hike toward sacred ground covered with broken young men, mostly vets from racist wars in the mideast, who stand there with submachine guns... 

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Rev's Black Friday Message

christmas-shopping-frenzy-checkout.jpgDo shoppers know? Our heads and our hands hover in aisle number 4, and we are about to remember the whole thing. We are about to remember everything that was here before the products began circling us with ballooning eyes like the Macy’s parade.

Shoppers are a haunted people. What is happening to our minds when our shopping folds into our intimate pixels? Our message to a lover is no longer an escape from the general rain of imagery, the smear of a new car, Trump’s teeth, the ad for a beach body, the stinking death of a family in a village under the grinding buzz of an American sky.

Do we know? Do we know that the drone drops into the flames of hell when our self is lost in our selfie?

We know. We can tell that something far-reaching is happening in the most ordinary transaction. That sensation of shallowness in us. That almost unnoticeable high. The loss of difference in the things around us. The monoculture within and without.

Oh we know. We know that the Earth cannot live with this. And we know that we are the closest living thing to the point of purchase. We know that we are the first little piece of Earth to know. So how do we say this?

We know. Somehow, we know. That the Earth cannot live with this shopping. We cannot live with this shopping. We know we can’t.

We know that the thing that was here before the products were placed between us and the Earth – that thing is still here, just behind the display case. Just beyond the dumpsters in back of the store. Folded in a secret place under the horizon. We hear a song …a song that seems to sing itself…

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A Thousand Standing Rocks

14917191_10153846883865974_4728606932821631939_o.jpgAfter this year of living hate, we are wobbly and woozy and haunted and hurt. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to gather together and heal? Offer some support and listening? At a fun spot like Joe’s Pub?

Healing. Is that the right word? It’s not like we want to recover back to some idea of normal living – some life that we imagine existed before these campaigns. The election is only a symptom of a raging epidemic. 

The deadly culture that makes each month the hottest month, and continues to kill a thousand unarmed Americans each 12 months, with 60 million people searching for their home… all of this isn’t caused by these two competing 1%ers. No, the flood and the drought, the racism and the extinction – is brought to you by all of us. The institutions that enforce racism and rape of the natural world are permitted to continue by you and I. The beginning of revolution is too imagine that it is possible, and then to sing and march, to organize and occupy.

It is a gift to have Standing Rock as an alternative to commercial democracy. The choir wants to go, but we wont get there by the opening show. We’ll have some of the Standing Rock faithful who will describe events. And if our heart heals right, then there will be a thousand Standing Rocks. 

Join us at “GATHER! …After The Year Of Living Hate.” A review and revue, at Joe’s Pub at the Public, 425 Lafayette, New York City. Five Sundays November 20 to December 18, 2 PM doors open 1:30. Tickets $12 - $15. Discounts and youth and

Photo is from "Not An Alternative" and their current writing in e-Flux. This photo is from their Houston museum project, examining the relationship of sacrifice communities in Houston and the big art institutions, dependent on oil money.

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Night Tree Climbing

14902737_10153844554375974_4775948394475148163_o_(1).jpgJust when we thought that it was impossible to express yourself anymore in the public space of New York, the 6 year old teaches us that there are more places, more stages, more pages - you can go up into the trees at night like an owl! (I've seen Barred Owls in this woods in Prospect Park, and I suppose that we were witnessed last night by our animal citizens.) This is near the Nethermead, a large sloping lawn that really should be a meadow. The ground is trimmed like a crewcut, and flooded with controlled crowds celebrating something or other, wearing identical t-shirts. 

The sad drama of American regimentation is played out with fearful severity here at the edge of wildness. When a coyote finds its way here, she is treated very much like a renegade citizen who refuses to be gentrified, sold a credit card or shot. 

Now I'm dreaming of a new protest form. Imagine thousands of citizens - a sit-in up in the trees! - is that an Italo Calvino story? They would write a law and find a judge, but the idea would be that we evolve as fast as nature. If it became "a danger to the public" to tree climb at night with 6 year olds, we would have already moved on to something else beyond the security state. (The rapidly evolving super-weeds are our moral heroes in 2016!) 

Yes! Our protest is out of your control! Now we are making nightmares in the sleeping heads of fossil fuel CEO's, in which silent owls and feral radical children and opportunistic coyotes pull millions of consumers from their obedience to products, up in to the trees... The super malls are empty! We're up in the trees!

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Environmentalists: Make Your Stand Like Standing Rock

croppedarrest.jpegThe First Nations peoples in North Dakota are showing us the future of direct action. In the path of the Enbridge pipeline, the “black snake,” they’re making something that traditional environmentalists don’t have words for.  A friend of mine who is there put it this way:  “It’s not like a protest.  It’s a ceremony.”

There is a crucial lesson here that we environmentalists must learn.  At Standing Rock, the cops and courts, helicopters and drones and Dobermans - face their opposite: the pipe-line of pure life is pouring onto them from a hundred tribes.  It must be astonishing for Dakota Access advocates to come face to face with their anti-world.  

All the life that they would have killed over many years is anticipating events and concentrating here now.  All the antelope and burrowing owls and prairie rattlers and eagle feathers catching the wind with the dancers.  It’s all the beings of the Earth that aren’t oil!  Let’s watch Standing Rock long enough to make our stand.  We’ve got to keep this earthy pipeline of flowing over the drill’s puncture, the pipe-lines tunnel, the bomb train’s rails…  

After the power of what we have seen among the Squamish canoeists and kayaktavists and now of the Standing Rock Souix and their many guests - this is a good moment for us to return to these teachers, without anxiety that we’re headed back to the sixties.  Many of the American Indian Movement heroes were murdered by the feds.  But this time - if we stand by and don’t defend these first people; if all we do is watch, the way that white settlers stared from their front porches at the walking and dying on the Trail of Tears - then we won’t be able to save ourselves.  

And the First Nations people always tell us the same thing.  “The Earth is a living being.  The Earth communicates with us.”  This changes everything.  Our activism is completely turned inside out.  All questions of ego and courage are lifted from us.  We are acting now with the Earth flowing through us.  

A couple days ago I was in a police cruiser in hand-cuffs.  I had tried to crash an annual and immense Monsanto party, in which the chemical and seed companies lease the entire State Capitol and Supreme Court Building in Des Moines, Iowa.  State troopers  actually took the role of bouncers.  It was simply corporation as government.  Outrageous.  Orwellian.

I was standing there with my Occupy the World Food Prize friends, this their fifth year in opposing the soiree of the great poisoners.  Father Frank Cordaro was there, fresh from the southern pipeline tunneling under the Des Moines River, the one that is supposed to join the Standing Rock pipe somewhere in the Dakotas and complete the Black Snake.  The young men in uniform talked with us for their amusement and then arrested three of us quickly.  

The ground our little band held sacred was an earthy memory of pre-GMO Iowa.  My great grandparents from the Netherlands, William and Lena Talen were farming near here and the joke in the family is that they were such devout Calvinists that they were bad farmers.  The prayers got in the way of the plowing.  Now their great grandson is another over-mediated white guy looking for a ceremony.  I yearn for an endlessly complex Earth.  Don’t we all?  Don’t we have that in us somewhere?  Even these police?  Who wants the numbed mono-culture of toxic corporate farms?  

As the police cruiser took me toward the highway and the prison – the branches of great, old trees swept over the car.  The tires crunched acorns in the drive.  Arrest is a bad dream that I try to re-write as it happens.  Doubled over with my hand-cuffs, I forced myself to marvel at these trees above us.  I remembered a tree-fact:  when sunlight enters a leaf and photo-synthesizes into energy, this energy can flow instantaneously to any point in the tree, to the deepest tendril of its roots… the energy transfer takes no time.  Western science can’t explain this.  It is as if the trees defeat distance inside themselves.  Any energy in the tree can be everywhere in the tree at once.  And it pierces my incarceration.

As their grand gestures slide over the windshield, I promise myself that I will receive the interior of trees into my voice, somehow, the way that the plains is pouring toward the pipeline through the people who have loved that Earth.  

Yes!  We will be wise in the ways of the trees by the time Monsanto turns Iowa over to Bayer.  See you next year.

Photo by Nehemiah Luckett

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