Tar Sands Protest

The large white banner in our back row today was new in honor of the State Department’s final report on the environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline, which Sierra Club calls “an insult to anyone who expects government to work for the “interests of the American  people.”

“Which side are you on Obama, which side are you on?” So sang the women on the other side of our paddy wagon wall. We seven from seven different states, ranging from age 23 to 73 joined in: “All we are saying is ‘Give Earth a chance.’  All we are saying is ‘Give life a chance.'”

That was the best and worst part of the NVDA (non-violent direct action). Best for the joy of completing our demonstration, making a strong statement, adding our voices and bodily presence to those  of the 300+ arrested on the six prior days and 1000+ yet to come. Worst for our sweaty arms and sore wrists bound behind us as we slid against each other on the metal bench, seat belts hanging, necks craned toward one of the small ceiling vents or to catch glimpses through front or rear grated windows. Worst for our impatience waiting for what seemed way too long while the women ahead of us were processed before we could disembark. Best for the solidarity, compassion, understanding among us, and gratitude for endurance, for trees and sky always in sight, for kind officers and for cups of cold water available after they uncuffed us.

Non-violent Civil Disobedience Training

This was my first and I trust not last preparation for action on behalf of our hurting planet, indigenous brothers and sisters, and our children and grandchildren. Around 60 people of all ages and from many states gathered at Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church last night. Enthusiastic, youthful and experienced leaders got us telling our stories and walked us through our day of planned protest.

I met a young woman who’d driven 30 hours with three friends from Denver, would be sleeping in a church basement (at $4 per night) this weekend and then driving back.  An Environmental Studies PhD student recovering from jellyfish stings had taken the MARC train from Delaware. I could identify with many of my age — Quakers, Presbyterians, Mennonites, Methodists, Catholics concerned for God’s creation.  One man said he didn’t participate in civil rights demonstrations or anti-war protests like he wished he had, but now was glad to stand up and sit-in against the destruction of the planet. Author Bill McKibben and Ms. Lightning from the Tar Sands area of Canada were among those who gave us encouragement.

This Tar Sands Action started last Saturday and continues each day until September 3.  Monday is the official day for religious communities, but today (Friday) is the day I am free to be there.  I appreciate the prayers and encouragement from family and friends, especially my sister Joyce Ribbens Campbell in Guinea, West Africa.

Each of us has a “buddy” for today. Mine is Gwyn of DC Sierra Club. She’ll be next to me holding the lower banner if you see the photos on the news or website.

We’ll be meeting at 10 a.m. at Lafayette Park where we can use the bathroom one last time.  At 10:40 we’ll line up in the order we practiced last night, and at 11 will walk slowly and calmly to the area in front of the White House between the lampposts. When we and the two large banners are in place, many photographs will be taken and we will probably do some chanting in unison (practiced three chants last night). After an hour or so, the park police will begin arresting (handcuffing) people one by one. We’ll be taken in “paddy wagons” to Anacostia where we’ll need to fill out forms and pay $100 (called “post and forfeit”). Our trainers will be there to direct us to the nearby Metro station.




Tipping Point

We laugh and cheer for Minny’s “terrible awful” as Hilly eats humble pie. We applaud Skeeter’s clever word change which brings dozens of old toilets to Hilly’s yard. But hopefully The Help‘s huge book and movie success is born of and will generate more than sensational entertainment.

As a writer driven to expose injustice and awaken compassion, I identify with Skeeter. My mother-sister heart cries with Aibilene, Minny and Yule May. Skeeter and the maids each have a tipping point, a time when grief, hurt and anger which has been brimming for years finally spills over.

I’ve had several tipping points. Two resulted in books, Mulled Words and Mulled Psalms, as the contrast between God’s Word and the “Christian” world kept bringing tears to my heart-eyes. Now I’ve reached a new tipping point. It’s time for protest.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. The creations waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God (Romans 8:19-23).

In front of the White House each day from Saturday August 20 through Saturday September 3 a parade of citizens will protest the proposed Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline. On Thursday evening, August 25 I will join 50 or more of these citizens at Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church to receive training in non-violent protest in preparation for joining the demonstration on Friday, August 26. Because we will be illegally occupying space that is reserved for tourists taking photos of the White House, there is a possibility of arrest with a $100 fine. To me it’s worth it. The decision to stop the pipeline is an opportunity for President Obama to begin living up to his promises and ideals of ending dependence on earth-endangering fossil fuels and supporting clean energy sources.

What’s the connection between racial and ecological justice? Both advocate for God’s kingdom and against the kingdom of money that threatens basic human rights and the well-being of children and grandchildren. Today corporate environmental devastation and oil addiction, like slavery and segregation in the past, are society and often church-sanctioned signs of serving mammon rather than God.

Picnic Table

I’ve lived in lovely old Greenbelt for over 13 years and had this table in the yard for around 10 years. We eat out here probably two or three times a year when we have guests and the weather’s not too hot or cold. Tonight it will be good I think, 82 and slight breeze, nephew Philip’s last day and newlyweds Duff & Mary coming.

Jim & I or Mom & I play Scrabble out here once or twice a year. But most of the time this sturdy, Amish-built boat-shaped table with its continuous bench sits empty. When Seren was here he and Jim excitedly exclaimed, pointing and laughing every morning at birds and squirrels nibbling yellow popcorn (from a movie theater trash bagful a senior friend gave me).

Some may say the table is most photogenic covered in white. But I frown for the moisture-ravaged wood. Why did I stop varnishing it or covering it with a tarp? It’s turning gray like our name and our hair with green mold tinges like the hedge, grass, moss, and trees all around.

I remember that first time we ate out there with Judah. He was probably around 8 or 9 and said it was the best dinner he ever had. Several years later the table came in handy as Judah nailed together pieces of our new shed.

Once or twice more friends from church came than could fit around the table, and we set up Jim’s old table plus a card table. I think Byung Jae and Nah Oak, who are now back in Korea, were here one of those times, and marveled at the towering willow oaks, planted in the late 30’s when our co-op homes were built.

This week I’m newly grateful for the table as the Spirit has drawn me here daily for an hour of joyous writing.