Several years ago the Centuryinterviewed Sandra Steingraber and reviewed her most recent book, Raising Elijah. Now, after six years of scientifically informed activism, Steingraber and others are celebrating in New York state, where Wednesday Governor Andrew Cuomo
This week, at a refurbished camp for oil and gas workers, the Department of Homeland Security officially opened a new detention center for women and children who cross the southern U.S. border. In DHS director Jeh Johnson’s view, this is a move to prevent people from crossing the border at all. He wants to stem the tide of “illegal migration,” and he believes that detention is one means to do so. “Frankly, we want to send a message that our border is not open to illegal migration, and if you come here, you should not expect to simply be released,” said Johnson.
Last week we drove 350 miles to Smith College, where our daughter was singing with the glee club at Christmas Vespers. Each year at a pair of services, campus and community enter liminal space by hearing sacred music from student choral and orchestral groups, pondering poetry and biblical readings by students and faculty, and singing carols together.
This year it also became a setting to turn attention to other matters. As a Facebook event page put it, “You can’t sing carols if you can’t breathe.”
For many observers, the rebellion signaled not only the demise of TNR but the inevitable eclipse of thoughtful journalism at the hands of media gurus like Hughes, who purportedly value only the number of links clicked and webpages viewed.
The other day, a small group from my church joined others from our neighborhood in a march on Chicago's north side. As we swarmed the streets, temporarily shutting down traffic, I noticed a woman in a car. Some motorists were exasperated, trying to turn around or just glowering at us. Others were supportive, honking their horns to the rhythm of "Siyahamba" as we sang. But this woman did nothing but sit there, parked in the middle of the procession, and wipe tears from her eyes. With visible emotion, she registered shock at this small but mighty band of the faithful marching with a processional cross at our head, proclaiming that black lives matter.
While the crowd's emotion was jubilant and righteous, I couldn't help but feel sad.
Last Saturday was a stay-at-home-and-read-a-book-with-a-cup-of-something-warm-in-your-hands sort of day. It was the kind of damp cold that goes straight to your bones and chills your toes so that they don't get warm for the rest of the day. It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good parade-watching day.
And yet, there we were, lined up outside the library on Church Street, umbrellas in hand, peering down the street and waiting for the sirens to indicate that the parade had started.
Last year as part of a faculty group book-read I encountered Larry Rasmussen’s Earth Honoring Faith. In Rasmussen’s view, sabbath is one of the resources that could be deployed to apply brakes to a society that is over-consuming the resources of the planet and the lives of its own members. The suggestion of the healing possibilities of sabbath resonated with me not only because of my environmental commitments, but also on a more human level.
This summer, I went to visit novelist Kent Haruf at his house in Salida, Colorado, to talk about writing and life and death. Not quite a year before, Haruf had been diagnosed with a terminal lung disease. He was in hospice care, and I had not known what to expect when he invited me to come.
In the wake of the grand jury’s failure to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown—and in light of conflicting eyewitness accounts of the incident—many have argued that video evidence would have helped a lot. Body-mounted cameras offer a technological solution to what is otherwise a problem of human moral complexity: eyewitnesses can’t agree; officers can’t behave; human evidence can’t be trusted. Technology, the argument suggests, can supersede all of this.
And then, of course, a grand jury in New York City failed to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of another unarmed black man, Eric Garner.
I attended a rally last week in Athens, Georgia, expressing unity with the protestors in Ferguson after the failure to indict Darren Wilson. People gathered peacefully, even quietly, and held up signs. The protestors stood in quiet conversations, some with candles, some with children in arms, a mix of white and black and Latina/o.
The first speaker to address the crowd was Alvin Sheets, president of our local NAACP chapter. He thanked us for standing with the people of Ferguson and reminded us of the plight of black Americans, both recently and throughout U.S. history, and the great poverty that many in our own community face. As Sheets’s speech drew to a close, he turned to religion: he expressed his belief that the church needs revival.