American Idol or American Ideal?

Jordi Comas took the people’s mic last Friday night and led Occupy Lewisburg in an unlikely exercise he called “American Ideal.”  Offering five creative options for collective action, he then challenged the occupiers to propose their own ideas and compete in an activist “beauty contest.”

Groups of occupiers put their heads together and came up with some darlings.

“This is just a beauty contest,” Comas continued to emphasize, seemingly to no avail.  After two rounds of advocacy and voting, here is what our local occupiers came up with.

Joanne F. Henry spoke eloquently on behalf of an intergeneration collective of artists/performers who would periodically create a mobile Occupation by the Arts in response to community concerns.  Occupying an old school bus, the performers would travel to a specific local site in need of an Occupy event and create an artistic performance/installation to draw attention to the need.  By filming the artistic endeavor, the Art Bus would use various media platforms to generate awareness of the particular community issue.

“Artistic expression cuts though our thinking in a way that reading words on a page does not.  It lets us take in ideas we may otherwise brush away,” Joanne said.  “This community has such a wealth of performers. I would like to see our creations cross lines of gender, race and class to include everyone in the community and slip into many different media platforms.”

Stacy Richards shared her experience with an ongoing project in New Berlin to create energy independence at the community level.  The Community-Wide Energy Independence Project has focused for the past two years on reducing energy use through conserving energy.  The project is also exploring further energy reductions through renewable energy options such as solar PV, solar thermal and bio fuels. Financial models are being explored, including individual and community-owned renewable projects in which community members would be shareholders.

“The community is well on its way to reducing its energy consumption by 20% within three years through energy conservation in homes, churches and businesses.  They are poised to create a real alternative to fossil fuels,” Richards said. “I think we can really do this.”

Don Stechschulte offered his vision of community-based health care.

“The two most important question that determine your odds of recovering from illness, be it cancer, diabetes, HIV, are not medical.  Are you economically secure?  Do you like your job?  These are not questions that doctors are trained to ask,” Stechschulte explained.

A community health initiative would explore ways of providing economic security and meaningful employment as a means of improving community wellbeing on all levels.

“We need to take responsibility for peoples’ health and wellbeing in this community beyond the hospital and the doctor’s office and put it back in peoples lives,” Stechschulte concluded.

Kate Parker spoke on behalf of the idea of creating a Community Kitchen.

“We have it in our power, probably within this room, to feed our entire community if we want to.  Yes, it requires work to create a meal, but if you take the time and if you do it with love, you cannot only feed people’s bellies, but you can feed their hearts and souls and help them feel cared for.”

A number of occupiers spoke up in favor of this idea, connecting the idea of the kitchen to the creation of community meeting space, space for kids and parents, community education and outreach and space for the performing arts.

“It is an opportunity to spend time working together, which is something we also need to do, and when you care for people, when you offer them something with no expectations, they remember that and it creates a community bond,” Parker added.

The Community Kitchen ended up winning the title of the “American Ideal.”

“We have decided nothing,” Comas insisted.  “This is just a beauty contest, just an opportunity to generate ideas.”  And it was clear that, indeed, those present had begun to see possibilities of combining these ideas into the first sketch of a plan of action.

“We need to put a human face on the Occupy movement,” Margaret Moyer insisted, “and sharing a meal is an ideal way for people to see the real people behind this effort, and perhaps to begin to question the information they are getting on the news.”

“If you don’t like what you see on the news,” offered Steve Mitchell, drawing on the wisdom of earlier protests, “Go out and make your own news.”

It seems the seeds planted on Friday night at Occupy Cherry Alley may have already begun to take root.  If you would like to be part of the Occupy Lewisburg efforts to support the American Ideal, go to OccupyLewisburgPA on Facebook or contact me at kristjan@bucknell.edu.

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How to Deal with the Money Changers

Submitted by Charles Sackrey; Dedicated to Karl Patten

We all know now that the money changers have ruined a good part of the world economy, brought millions to our knees and many more to the streets.   Yet, on the bright side these blue suited, repeat offenders have forced us to ask a crucial question:  Is our worship of capitalism simply another fantastic dream about a pie in the sky that was never there?

And, if so, two other questions:  “What is to be done?  And, just whose advice should we follow?”   We will all have our favorite words of wisdom in these matters, ranging from the soft and resolute murmurs of the advocates of non-violence to the shouts of those demanding that we raid Goldman Sachs amd the home office of the Koch Brothers’ empire, and capture the felons as they try to slither their way to safety.

About these questions, I have found myself lately thinking about two of my own mentors who most usefully to me now about how to unseat these corporate criminals.  Well, first off, there’s Jesus, who led my family to raise me as a Southern Baptist and made me come to believe that you had to worry about the fellow down the road who was in trouble.  I’ll say more about Jesus in a minute.

Second, when I went to college in Texas, I was inspired and radicalized by left wing professors and I became in a predictable order first a communist, then an anarchist, then the democratic socialist that I am now.  That path meant that along the way I would gather wisdom and inspiration from Joe Hill, the most famous member of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Wobblies.  The Wobblies were anti-capitalist unionists who, began in the early 1900s to wage a mighty class war with the bosses.  This is one war you should read about if you haven’t already.  The Wobblies were crushed in 1917 by the federal government for their opposition to capitalism and to World War I, only to rise again to organize farm workers in the 1920s and 30s.  And, they still exist on a much smaller scale.

Joe Hill, an immigrant from Sweden, was an active organizer, speaker, and troubadour for the Wobblies from 1910 to 1915.  Then in 1915 he was executed on trumped up murder charges by the state of Utah. He was enormously popular within the union, and famous for many of his songs and great courage in organizing.  He is especially famous for a comment to a friend just before he was executed.  He said, “I will die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize.”  He also added, “Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

The Wobblies believed in resisting the bosses in every way possible, but the weapon they considered the most powerful was the general strike.  In such a strike, the workers – knowing that they are the ones who produce the output — simply would lay down their tools.  The Wobblies knew that without their wage slaves, the capitalist bosses could not produce anything, and the system would stall and become vulnerable to being overthrown.  In my anarchist days, I, too, used to dream about the general strike, and once again it seems to me a promising weapon in the war with the corporate bosses.

Given these views, I see the Occupy Wall Street movement as at least in part, a fabulous reincarnation of the spirit of Joe Hill and the Wobblies. And, I know that many of the older ones are being urged forward by remembering Joan Baez, or someone else, singing “ I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night. Alive as You and Me.”   My hat is off to those in this movement, in my town and in all the others around the world, because they switched from being complainers to being organizers.  Now, I dream happily that they and I will become worthy ancestors of the Wobblies.  And, as they talk among themselves about short and long strategies, surely the idea of a general strike somewhere down the road will find its way into their discussions.

So, what about my second mentor, Jesus, himself, And, here, I’m not talking about the one who claimed his to be the son of God, and whose followers claimed he healed the sick, and could turn water into wine, among other miracles.  The Jesus that most influenced me after I grew up was the rabble rouser who loved the poor and loathed their oppressors. Like many radicals, my favorite story about Jesus is the one, told by his disciple, John, and confirmed by many other witnesses. According to John, this is how Jesus answered the question, “What is to be done?” Just before Passover, Jesus went to the Jerusalem Temple and found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove the men and animals from the temple area.  He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

Jesus apparently was particularly perturbed about the burden of Temple commerce on widows and their children.  Given this story,  and whether we are faithful followers of Christ’s sacred word, or just an admirer of the parts of Jesus that were like Joe Hill, we might see this story as a mandate to do something like this:  we organize a caravan and go to the offices of Goldman Sachs and of the Koch Brothers where, armed with whips made from cords, we demand that they follow us to the jailhouse where they can begin to pay for their crimes against humanity and democracy.    

It is also interesting that, according to his disciples and other witness, the fracas as the temple was the only time they ever saw Jesus really angry.  In fact, if you didn’t’ know this story, you might think Jesus spent most of time talking about love, grace, forgiveness and how awful things would get for us if we didn’t behave. I think we can all understand at this point why it was the bankers of his time who helped to push Jesus over the line into violence.

If I were a money changer, or a political hack in their pay, I would be worried about the collective rage now building about their actions. What they have done and are doing is likely to cause many of us to cross all sorts of lines in our struggle to regain the power they have seized.

A final note here is about a wonderful irony.  While Jesus was the founder of Christianity, and Joe Hill was an atheist with a deep contempt for the church, they were as one in their unfettered anger for the money changers. And, as the Baptists in my family would put it, they were also both great witnesses for the good.

Occupy Cherry Alley Interview with Mark Lawrence and Robin Jarrell

This interview highlights the importance of worker participation in corporate decision-making and the connection between Occupy Wall St. core principles and Christian values.  Robin Jarrell is rector at the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.

http://www.wkok.com/1070_WKOK/OTM.htm

 

Occupy Wall St.: Interview with David Kristjanson-Gural

Here is a link to a recent interview on WKOK with Mark Lawrence.

After you click on it, you will see a screen that says “no preview available.”  Never fear.  There should be a link in the upper left that says “download.”  You can download the file and listen to it on a computer, transfer it to an iPod or other mp3 player, burn in it on a disc and voila!  a good Chanukah or Xmas present.  Ask if you have problems.

https://docs.google.com/a/bucknell.edu/leaf?id=0B2lA_mBM6QWtZGMxNjg0OGYtNDEzYi00OGMzLWE2NDEtMTMxNTA2M2U0MzZi&hl=en_US

An Open Letter to Supporters of Occupy Lewisburg

Let me start by saying I get how difficult things are, and how busy we have all become.  I get how overwhelming it can be to just keep up.

Part of what we are fighting, what we’ve all agreed is the problem, is the way that we are being disabled by the 1%.  After all, if these folks had not conspired to rig the financial system in their favor, we would all have approximately 50% more income to use to help us meet our needs, and at least 20% more time.  That’s one extra workday a week, and, for many families, one extra income.

So our efforts to restore sanity and justice to a system gone mad are hobbled by the insanity and injustice of the system we are up against.  I get that.

I want you to know, too, I appreciate the efforts you are already making.  I know we are all, daily engaged in unseen and unrewarded efforts to help those near and dear to us, and, for some, just to meet our own needs.

Several of us have managed to go beyond our immediate friends and family and it is important to acknowledge the work these folks are doing.

  • Sam Pearson is working tirelessly on a number of fronts, the Local Action Network and the Sierra Club, among other things addressing the environmental threat from natural gas fracking,.
  • Charles Sackrey is working with OUE on opposing the proposed tire burning plant upwind of Lewisburg.
  • Jove Graham and Steva Stowell-Hardcastle and John Peeler and others are working to prevent the worst-case electoral scenario.
  • Barb Sundin, Charles Facka and Lexie Orr are working on electoral reform so we can vote with ballots not dollars.
  • Kathy Kristjanson-Gural is working to shore up community ties to help families in our community.
  • Cindy Peltier is working with CARE on racism.
  • Judy Peeler and others supporting the work of the Heiter Center to provide support for working families and their kids.
  • Pat Rock and others are working on a Clean Water Initiative.
  • Joe Manzi is promoting non-violence through the CNL;
  • Joe and Jackie Detelj, Johnny and Leah Tewks, Jen and Harvey Partica are helping to restore sanity to our food system.

Each of these people are working with many others, and many other organizations and individuals deserve mention.  Most are doing this work on top of paid jobs that also serve the community.

So, yes, I am going to ask us all to do more, but please know that I get how much we are already doing, privately and publicly.  And I get that what I am asking is completely unreasonable.

It’s a bit hard to wrap our minds around what is happening to us.  I think about Virginia Zimmerman’s comparison to the Elizabethan era explorers who first gazed out across the unbelievable expanse of the Grand Canyon.  They saw evidence of the true dimension of time, the incomprehensible scope of our past, and they simply had no conceptual framework to understand it.  They literally couldn’t see what was before them.  That was a moment like the one we are in now.

It makes perfect sense to be thrown off balance.  Our hearts are telling us something is true that our minds simply can’t comprehend.  Our minds are encountering truths that our hearts are just not willing to take in.  I get that too.

Here is the rub.  Our inaction is the only guarantee of our defeat.

This week, in Durban, South Africa, the representatives of the global poor are dashing themselves on the rocks of those who represent us, the nations of privilege, desperately hoping to get our representatives to see reason.  I listened to Apisai Ielemia, Foreign Minister of Tuvalu, whose nation will be entirely underwater in my lifetime, asking, in vain, only that we set and enforce a limit on what we are entitled to spew out into the air, the ocean of air on which we all depend.

The planet is warming and the polar ice caps are melting faster than even the most pessimistic scientists predicted.  That’s not just bad news for Tuvalu.  It means the storms we’ve seen this fall, storms that our neighbors in Bloomsburg are still recovering from, will become commonplace.  It means that we can no longer depend upon the weather patterns we require to grow our food.  We’ve seen the effects already on the bee populations, these unpaid, unsung heroes of the food system without which we would be hamstrung in our efforts to feed ourselves.

How many of us are already feeling the effects of this emergency?  How many have more friends sick or dead from cancers and other chronic ailments than they believed possible?  How many have seen their households striven by divorce or their children founder on the way to independence?  How many have already lost their jobs, our homes to this scandalous betrayal by our corporate elite?

So there is the problem.  We are all too busy, and feel too powerless, to undertake the collective actions we need to change our deadly course, but unless we change course, we will only become more embattled.

The only answer I can see is this:  We have to act together.   And we have to do it now.

We have to act on two fronts.  One is to interrupt business as usual in order to change the course we are on. This means challenging the priorities of the institutions we are part of and the institutions on which we depend. The longer we wait, the more serious the disruption to the planet and its people.  The other is to continue to maintain and extend a safety net for each other, to mitigate the harsh effects of this increasingly heartless system on our community.

So I know it seems that coming together on a monthly basis to hold signs and listen to each other seems futile.  But despair is the very glue that holds this immoral system together.  And the only thing that dissolves that glue is our unrelenting determination to show up – to show up against the odds, against the dictates of our unmanageable schedules, against the ongoing demands of our children, our jobs and our marriages.

And, I know it is counter-intuitive, we need to celebrate.  Yes, celebrate.  Because unless we find some joy in this most perilous moment that we inhabit, we will surely be pulled under by the tides of resignation.   We need to call on the better angels of our most resilient selves to laugh at the absurdity of the army arrayed before us, to weaken their hold on us through our ability to sing, to speak poetry, to enact on stage our refusal to be swallowed up.

We need to activate our most creative, most resilient selves in order to be able to imagine what we can do in the face of this deepening crisis.  We need to draw encouragement from what we see in each other, our faces that reflect back to us the knowledge that we can do this impossible thing.

That is the reason I am asking you to continue to lend your support to the Occupy Lewisburg gatherings.  That’s why I am asking you to come to Cherry Alley on Friday night.  Just show up once a month, on top of everything else you are doing, to lend your encouragement and support to others and, in turn, to gather strength of purpose and resolve to continue to insist that we can learn to live with each other with respect, in solidarity, and in mutual recognition of the enormity of what we are facing.

If you can’t make dinner, come after dinner.  Read the attached articles and think about what you would like us to all to take up. If you can’t come Friday, join us at the Post Office from noon to one on Saturday, bring your homemade sign, and share your abiding presence.

If you can’t make either, I get that, but please, somehow seek to make visible your continuing support for our courageous collective effort, the effort to create a world that makes sense for us, for the people of Tuvalu and for all those who come next.

In solidarity,

David Kristjanson-Gural

Occupy Cherry Alley!

For Immediate Release: Occupy Lewisburg Downsized

Early this morning official sources within the Mayor’s office confirmed that Occupy Lewisburg had been downsized. “We just can’t put this many protesters to good use,” Mayor Judy explained, “I mean, how much civil unrest can we handle with just a part-time staff? Really.”

The 300 strong supporters of Occupy Wall St. have not taken the downsizing sitting down. “Fine,” said organizer David Kristjanson-Gural, “Just fine. Be that way.” The organizing committee has proposed a new action that will involve, well, sitting down.

“Occupy Cherry Alley!” the rallying cry of the new, smaller, leaner occupying force, intends to take over the local café on December 9th, beginning at 6 pm.

“We will not be silenced,” Kim Daubman emphasized, “Except during the actual part where we eat.”

“The whole town was just getting to be too… roomy,” Robin Jarrell added.

“No progressive movement can sustain itself long, in the absence of art, humor and song,” rhymed David Kristjanson-Gural. “We hope people will come, express their views and support the movement, but not be too windy.”

To submit proposals for the open mic segment of the evening, contact kristjan@bucknell.edu

Tickets are $14 available in advance at, where else, Cherry Alley.

Oh, yes, Earl Pickens will perform. You don’t want to miss that.

Actual Useful Information:

Friday, December 9th, 6-10pm

Dinner: Indian (Chicken or Vegetarian) $14

Tea, Coffee and Dessert a la Carte, BYOB

Tickets available at Cherry Alley beginning Wednesday, Nov.30th. Seating is limited.

Open Mic:

During Dinner – Tell us what you envision for Occupy Lewisburg community

After Dinner – Skits, stories, songs, theatre, humor, express your views creatively.

Please let us know what you intend to contribute by emailing (kristjan@bucknell.edu) by Dec. 7th.

Earl Pickens will close out the evening with a fine solo performance.

Why I Protest Injustice

by Fred Wilder

I am 64 years old, the child of parents who lived through the Great Depression, fought in Europe and on the home front in World War II, fought for union rights in the post war years, had high school educations and managed to have 7 children all get higher education.

  • I am old enough to remember when this was a fairer nation, when the feeling of despair was not everywhere I went.
  • I am old enough to remember when what is normal behavior on Capitol Hill and Wall Street today was a crime, and when crooks got arrested, tried and if convicted jailed.
  • I am old enough to remember when education was a right, not a commodity.
  • I am old enough to remember what shared sacrifice really meant, when there was no debate about how to pay to help your fellow citizens out after a disaster.
  • I am old enough to remember when the Republican Party put Country ahead of Party.
  • I am old enough to remember when the Democratic Party represented working people.
  • I am old enough to remember what I was taught in elementary school, secondary school and college and to use it to help make my community a better place to live rather than taking advantage of it as a resource to exploit.
  • I am old enough to remember when tuition was free at the state colleges in Pennsylvania.
  • I am old enough to remember when people were encouraged to vote rather than legally denied their right.
  • I am old enough to remember a time when America had declared a War on Poverty and was actually winning it until another war took precedence.
  • I am old enough to remember what that war was like for those who fought in it, as well as those who fought against it since I did both.
  • I am old enough to remember the Governor of Pennsylvania, a moderate Republican (now extinct) stopping by to visit my dad, a union leader,  whenever he was in town, simply because the two of them served in the same air crew in WWII.
  • I am old enough to remember when America was truly a kinder and gentler nation, long before the birth of compassionate conservatism.  When people actually cared about holes in the safety net.
  • I’m old enough to remember where I was when Rosa Parks rode the bus, when Ike warned of the Military/Industrial Complex, when  Dr. King had a dream, when 4 little girls were killed in Birmingham, when a President was shot in Dallas, when man landed on the moon, when a President resigned (was there for that one), and to see a black man elected President (helped out in that one).  I am grateful that I have lived in interesting times, and shamed by the fact that my generation will be the first to leave our children and grandchildren a world worse off than we found it.
  • I’m old enough and I hope wise enough to appreciate the history I’ve witnessed and to use that wisdom to help following generations use it to better mankind.
  • I’m old enough to be cynical, yet I’m still an idealist.
  • I’m old enough to not care about the consequences of my action enough to do what I believe is necessary (non-violently) to help assure my grandchildren a life of dignity.

I may be old, I may have slowed down physically, but my mind still works and my idealism is still strong and my motivation strong enough to say that the only way I will give up is when I breathe no more.