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.”
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.
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.
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.