Happy Earth Day!!

In honor of Earth Day, April 22, 2017, I’m inspired to post my tremendous gratitude to Mother Earth and all she provides. I encourage everyone to take a moment and offer up love and gratitude in whatever way you choose. Our planet is a glorious, wondrous home that is teetering on a perilous future. Whatever side of the issue you happen to fall on regarding climate change, it doesn’t require politics or bias to connect with our planet and take a moment to reflect on the beauty of Mother Earth!

I’ve been a passionate activist for decades. In addition to my work on mass incarceration (see my book, Celling America’s Soul) the planet–and our future as planetarians–continues to be a critical cause for me. The opening chapter in my book, The Global Kindness Revolution, Kindness to Mother Earth, presents my personal perspective and guidance on how together we can help heal the planet:

Chapter One: Kindness to Mother Earth

“A Poem for the World”

by Warsaw Shire

 Later that night

I held an atlas in my lap,

ran my fingers around the whole world

and whispered

where does it hurt?

It answered

everywhere

everywhere

everywhere.

Imagine you’re an astronaut looking down on Mother Earth, so far away—she looks like a tiny, blue-green marble surrounded by endless stars, planets and galaxies. Send a beam of Light of Kindness to her, zapping her with your light, seeing waves of kindness swirling like a healing wind around her.

There is a Hopi Native American prophecy that says that if we don’t mend the ways we treat Mother Earth, she will “shake us off like fleas from a dog.” Our abuse of the earth for power and exploitation has brought us to face our own self-destruction as she shakes us off with hurricanes, tornadoes, uncontrollable wildfires, drought, floods and 65 million refugees fleeing the results of global abuse. There is a pile of refuse the size of Rhode Island floating in our oceans. With planetary consumption of bottled water we shudder at the thought of what happens to all those empty plastic bottles. Americans consumed over 30 billion liters of bottled water. What about the bazillions of disposable diapers joining that pile of refuse?

             We have indeed raped our Mother Earth!

The Hopis proved right again with Mt. Everest. Hundreds have tried to trek to her summit over the last century. They left behind them tons of discarded equipment, a few frozen bodies and tons of frozen feces, practically immortalizing it on those icy slopes.

Finally, Mt. Everest had had enough and she belched a huge landslide that covered the enormous pile of excrement, not exactly recycling it but at least hiding it out of sight, to be defrosted and exposed once again when global warming melts the cover-up. Do we have to make explorers carry little bags with them, capture what would be left behind, let it freeze and take it back down the mountain in their specially designed backpacks? American dog lovers can be seen in any urban or suburban neighborhood picking up their companion dogs’ poop and gingerly taking it away for disposal (more plastic bags).

Imagine the earth is a large ball filled with many layers from rock to liquid to gas, all perfectly balanced beneath her skin. Over time, mines are dug, mountaintops are blasted off, and for decades we’ve been slurping her oil, which kept it all in balance, causing her to sink into herself where depleted, causing tectonic shifts, a shift on the earth’s axis. So earthquakes are born, several a week now in highly-fracked Oklahoma. Global Warming is no joke. The toxicity in our air, water and food has weakened our immune systems along with what I call ‘Technostress’ from the information overload combined with the chronic problems with our dependence on technology, which is at times, unreliable.

We waste too many hours a week trying to correct technology. Could it be that were we to test all the drinking water in the US we would maybe discover the root of what author Philip Roth describes as “The Indigent American Beserk” caused by lead poisoning and the multitude of toxins in our environment resulting in brain damage? That can be the only explanation about the global psychosis growing stronger every minute, Mean Minds in charge, bent on destruction.

The Irish side of my family settled in Burnsville, PA, a small village “down the mountain from Centralia” where my maternal grandfather, Thomas Mohan, ran a store while my grandmother, Anne, taught school. A center for coal mining, an underground seam of coal caught fire below Centralia almost a century ago and has been burning ever since. I remember as a child when we’d go “upstate” to visit relatives, that beside the clotheslines set up in the back yard of Nana’s house was an opening in the back yard with smoke coming out of it. We kids were warned to stay away from it or we’d be sucked down into the fire, surely a bit of Hell down there. The town was evacuated, refugees fleeing to more stable places, its last resident leaving for heaven years ago. On the drive up and back we’d see what were mountains of slag, what was left from coal mining, rocky hills and peaks where nothing ever grew for many years. A few years ago, while driving past the region for the first time in decades, I was amazed to see the former slag heaps covered with trees and abundant bushes, grasses and wild animals, a testament to Mother Earth’s ability to camouflage our destruction of her riches, her wounds, just as she did with the avalanche she created on Mt. Everest.

Can we slow global warning enough before there’s no more viable life on the planet? Could KAN have an impact, washing the earth every day with our aligned Kind Minds, maybe even being a tool against mental pollution and toxic politics? Isn’t it worth a try?

Even the wealthy have to breathe and we all live downwind!

An aspect of Climate Change that seems to never be mentioned is overpopulation. There are just too many people on earth and the numbers grow daily, especially in poorer countries. Yet in many countries, including the US, there are often deadly attacks on women’s reproductive rights. Though now banned, many countries still practice Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on young girls—UNICEF reports at least 200 million girls in 30 countries—ever denying them sexual pleasure and causing infections and permanent damage, including psychological devastation as found with those who’ve been forced into sex trafficking. Current statistics indicate one in five college women are raped. It has been shown that when women control what happens to their bodies, when they decide when/if to become parents, their family’s economic situations flourish.

Yet globally politicians seem unified in denying women the right to control what happens to their bodies. Their only interest seems to be controlling a woman’s uterus. Once the child is born, without a safety net, good health care, education, un-poisoned-by-lead-painted housing and a true child-oriented government, the babies too-often join the ranks of the impoverished and fill our prisons, the biggest in the world.

Does the epidemic of global wars stem from distorted religious ideology and who’s going to control women’s bodies? As patriarchal systems are declining, pushback to preserve political power often becomes violent as we read daily of offenses in our Global Rape Culture where rape is used as a tool of war. There’s no place on Mother Earth that a woman can walk safely, without the fear of rape.

Political battles seem illogical, especially when supported by “low-information voters” who support political candidates calling for imprisonment of any woman who’s had an abortion. But not the man who got her pregnant. All children everywhere should be wanted, welcomed and cared for, and given every opportunity to grow into their fullest potential. Depending on where they’re born, their lives and futures are limited by what Warren Buffet calls “The Uterine Lottery,” their geography, where they’ve been born, into which culture.

Doesn’t it seem odd that though women generally produce just one egg a month, while men have 500,000 sperm per ejaculation we focus only on the egg? Aren’t we focusing on the wrong gender? What to do about all that sperm?

What do we need, Sperm Police?

Here are a couple of possible futuristic, science fiction proposals to ponder: Let’s imagine that scientists have discovered the cure for cancer is sperm, which cannot be manufactured by Big Pharma and needs to be collected fresh to work. That little egg doesn’t stand a chance against such odds unless contraception is used, something still banned by some governments who also deny women choice over what happens to their bodies.

Recent studies have shown that so many young men get their sexual experiences from online porno that they are unable to function normally, without a blue pill, with real-live women. So what happens to all that sperm? The government could make available, for free, sterile collection cups, so there would be plenty of the life-saving substance. Every “donation” would be logged onto computers and overseen by trained staff, alerted to telltale signs of clandestine ejaculation or illegal pregnancy. Isn’t this a far better use of all that sperm?     

The New American Refugees

Due to the abuse of Mother Earth by the greedy, the corrupt and the ignorant, her air, water and soil have been poisoned, so most of us are living in a toxic soup, leaving us vulnerable to diseases and chronic suppression of our immune systems. Right now the world is bracing against the spread of the Zika virus, causing birth defects and microcephaly in newborns. Just like my Irish ancestors in Centralia, PA, thousands of residents of Porter Ranch, CA, had to flee their homes when a gas explosion filled the air they breathe with deadly methane. The leak was not stopped for months. Flint, Michigan showed us how crooked politicians care nothing for the lives of poor people as they deliberately poisoned a city’s water supply to save a buck. If the water everywhere was tested for lead levels, the results would bring us to a halt. The Flint crisis reminded me of a poem I wrote after the leak at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in 1979 in Pennsylvania, titled “Three Mile Island Woman.”

Building a Relationship with Mother Earth

People often ask me why I studied for fourteen years as an apprentice to the late Sun Bear and other indigenous teachers. Besides finding reward in their profound wisdom to enhance my own spiritual growth and worldview, their deep connection with nature was one of the main attractions I had to taking on an apprenticeship. Observing their awareness and appreciation of the mechanics of our natural world was truly inspiring. I came away with an enriched relationship with and respect for Mother Earth through the ceremonial activities I took part in. I was left with a lingering joy and activated awareness of all that nature provides us. We can take lessons from Native American ceremonies that honor Mother Earth. I’ve created a visualization exercise that will help you activate a deeper appreciation for the planet.

       

 

 

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GKR PRESENTS: KINDNESS AT NOON FOR IMMIGRANTS/REFUGEES

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT!! Launching this spring: Kindness at Noon for Immigrants + Refugees. In light of the ongoing controversy over rights of the global citizen who find themselves migrating to another country; the enacted “Muslim Ban” in the US; Brexit in the UK; and the perilous dimensions of what it means to be a refugee in the 21st century, Kindness at Noon aims to raise awareness of this humanitarian crisis all of us are impacted by in one form or another.

Keep checking this blog for upcoming developments as we partner with local organizations on Resolutions in Support of Kindness at Noon, Every Day, Everywhere for Immigrants and Refugees.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, The Global Kindness Revolution: how together we can heal violence, racism, and meanness:

 

Chapter Three: Kindness to Immigrants & Refugees

Unless you’re Native American, most of us claiming this land, this America, as “ours,” are descendants of immigrants. My grandparents came here from Ireland, Italy, Austria and Russia and were not welcomed. Signs everywhere read “No Irish Need Apply” or “No Italians Need Apply.” Jews were treated even worse. My grandmother, Frances Bondy, came here from Odessa with her mother who reportedly spoke only Yiddish and was a hunchback. Family lore says that they lived in Florida where anti-Semitism flourished and that the KKK burned a cross on their lawn. They moved north to Bayonne, NJ, where they changed their name and the Jewish part of our history was erased, coming to light only after her death.

Black people were/are still living in the shadow of slavery, though lynching no longer occurs. The systemic discrimination that persists today is evident in areas such as housing and employment opportunities.

While anti-Semitism still exists, especially with members of the extreme right, today it’s the “other,” the people with darker skin, fleeing violence and possible death back home. We deem them “aliens” and in the process dehumanize them, even as sixty of them died in a van that was welded shut. By the time they were discovered by the side of a highway, they had decomposed into a gelatinous mess, causing us to lose our humanity.

The worst chapter in America’s relationship with immigrants is the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, our most egregious example of immigrant hatred born of fear and ignorance, spawning the anti-immigrant “Know Nothing Party” in the mid-1800s. Just like today’s white supremacists who continue to wave the banner of hate. Now we’re building new prisons—a corrupt for-profit agenda—to house “aliens” and their children.

Our collective Mean Minds seem to be controlling so much of our national politics and policies. We consent to the utter demonizing of immigrants and refugees by Americans and their elected officials, who barrage our minds with the fear of the “other,” like we did back in those shameful times, rather than the compassion upon which this country was founded. We no longer welcome the “huddled masses yearning to breath free” to our shores. Our beloved Statue of Liberty has become a symbol of our hypocrisy. Other countries in the west have all demonstrated anti-immigrant sentiments.

Concurrent with the writing of this book was the massive controversy of “Brexit,” the UK’s vote to exit the European Union, largely based on fears of immigrants taking over the country due to the influx of newcomers over the past decade. Days after the vote a rash of xenophobic incidents were reported. Those from Muslim and Eastern European communities described being under attack as people were running up to them, screaming in their faces, “go home.” Racist graffiti began turning up in their neighborhoods. As the UK grappled with the ramifications of the controversial vote, hate of the “other” continued to spread.

In 2015, the Syrian refugee crisis was at its peak as millions fled to European shores, seeking asylum. As the crisis unfolded, several governments of the EU responded by enhancing border control, deportations, and actively discouraged refugees from making the journey. Human Rights groups voiced the urgency to fix the EU’s broken asylum system and emphasized the magnitude of the humanitarian need. An untold number of children lost their lives from both the Syrian civil war and resulting treacherous migrations to other countries. Stories of tragedy kept multiplying as countries such as Greece and Italy were tasked with rescue missions in the Mediterranean where thousands of migrants had drowned.

In 2014, tens of thousands of children traveling alone, seeking freedom from violence, sexual slavery, rape and death in their home countries were treated like animals. I’ll never be able to wipe from my memory the Arizona residents, thinking a busload of children going to a YMCA camp was part of the influx of child refugees streaming over our border with Mexico. The angry people screamed and cursed at the children, shouting violent threats, stopping just short of damaging the bus. I was ashamed of and afraid of my fellow Americans.

Imagine the trauma to those children, to say nothing of the certain PTSD in refugee children; imagine their bafflement at the adults acting violent and psychotic. As a result of pressure from the US to stop the children, Mexico is now acting with a severity never seen before. All children caught crossing their border are immediately turned back, without any evaluation of their asylum status or whether they would qualify for temporary residence. Desperate children are being denied safety and dignity, many returning to certain death or sexual slavery. This heartless treatment violates both Mexican asylum laws and now migrants must use drug cartels to reach the US, adding to the cartel’s enormous profits.

UNICEF reports nearly 28 million children globally are displaced by conflict. The United Nations has had to cut back on food and supplies for refugees from war torn Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, among others, due to “inadequate funding.” In this country, efforts by the State Department to increase the number of accepted refugees have been resisted by people like Republican representative from Texas, Michael McCaul, who heads the House Homeland Security Committee. He claims allowing more refugees to come here would create a “federally funded jihadi pipeline” for Islamist militants. In his ignorance and xenophobia, he doesn’t realize that the refugee camps are the true breeding grounds for violence against America.

Someone reported that a Native American chief had tongue in cheek proposed that every non-Native now residing in the US pay a fine, as immigrants and descendants of immigrants, of $500 each to Native Americans for allowing us to remain in their country! An interesting idea…

 

Inky the Intuitive Bunny

When I was ten years old, after acknowledging my mother’s “Be home in time for dinner!” I set off with a PBJ sandwich in my pocket and maybe an apple. Sometimes I’d saddle up a neighbor’s horse and take off for hours, racing down the Pennsylvania turnpike bareback before it opened.

There was no bottled water in those days, and there wasn’t yet such a thing as helicopter parents. My playground was the farmers fields that surrounded our house; my parents had no fear of my playing “range free child” as author Lenore Skenazy describes in her book of the same name. Amber law? Never heard of it. Children, like today, despite the warnings of “stranger danger,” were most often molested at home by a relative.

There were favorite spots in the woods. One place that captivated me was an old abandoned well. I’d climb down to the bottom, which was scary and covered with dried leaves and twigs and some pretty creepy looking insects. I dared myself to climb down, challenging my fear, and was always glad to climb out, proving to myself I was fearless.

One day, climbing out of that well, as I lifted myself onto the ground, there was a baby bunny looking at me with a twitchy nose. All black, he stared at me as if to say “Where have you been?” He wasn’t afraid of me, coming toward me, curious.

Where was his mamma and siblings? How did he get here all by himself? Had a hawk gotten his family? Or had some kid had to drop him off in the woods because his mom wouldn’t let them keep him?

Offering a nibble of my sandwich, he didn’t protest as I picked him up. I immediately fell in love with him with the passion of a ten-year-old animal lover.

“Look what I found, Mom, he was all alone in the woods. Can I keep him? Please? Please? His name is Inky.”

She looked at me, looked at Inky, and said, “OK.” But you’ll have to build him a hutch and keep him outside.” I knew she was a softy.

Inky made himself at home, his nose in a constant twitch as he observed life around us. He got on well with our collie, Cleo. I got him a harness and walked the neighborhood, introducing him to the various neighbors and their dogs. Sometimes when he got quite large, I’d let him run loose, though always keeping my eye on him. He was cool—he’d let the dogs sniff his butt patiently. As he spent more and more time in my house, sometimes sneaking into my bed, he became housebroken and scratched to go out (and back in). Sometimes I’d just open the door and watch him hop away. If I didn’t see him when it was time for him to come in, I’d call and he’d come hopping.

One day a distant cousin brought her fiancee’ to meet the family. When he heard of Inky, who by now was a legend, he wanted to meet him.

I went to the door and called Inky and up he came a’ hoppin’. I picked him up and holding him by his bottom feet and his chest, went around the circle, introducing him to each person in turn. He twitched what looked like a smile at them.

When he came to the fiancee’ he peed on him!

Horrified, I ran out the door with him dribbling away.

They went ahead with the marriage anyway, but it didn’t work out.

Inky knew…

 

For more on care and kindness for our animals (and fellow human beings) pick up my new book, The Global Kindness Revolution: How together we can heal violence, racism and meanness!

 

Rage on a Sunny Day at the End of Winter

It was one of those joyous, sunny days at the end of winter where we had our car windows rolled down, music blaring, winter-pale faces turned toward the sun as we drove, happy to be out from the cold, rainy week just passed.

It was good to be alive and free.

As usual, traffic narrowed to one lane then ground to a halt for the inevitable road construction near the seminary at City Line and Lancaster Ave. I was going north, passing one of Route 1’s worst intersections. Traffic going south was stopped too. (I’ll rue the day when politicians finally get it together to fix our broken infrastructures as it will become impossible to drive anywhere.)

Heavy metal music blaring from a red pickup truck in the far southern lane was the soundtrack background for a white man in a red cap screaming with rage at a lovely middle-aged black woman wearing a picture hat whose driver’s door was close to mine. “You f***ing monkey!” he shouted; I was frightened by his curses and threats. Did he have a gun? What had the woman done to provoke such a violent, threatening outburst? I could feel his murderous intent spitting hatred across two car lanes, sending the vibration of rage to all in the vicinity. This was a man out of control. Dangerous.

The frightened woman turned toward me, her eyes filled with bafflement and fear as his hateful curses rained down on her. I felt extreme shame for the troubled man and deep sorrow for her. I raised my hands in an open gesture and said, “I’m so sorry, so so sorry!”

I thought of my friend of over thirty years, Yvonne, and how she once commented, after an unpleasant racially-charged interchange with a store clerk,   “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be white just for one day, to be able to go through a day without having to put up with this racist s**t!”

I wonder…what would it be like to be black or brown just for a day and have to put up with this s**t!

Quote of the Day: Jack Kerouac

Timeless Quote from the great Jack Kerouac:

“Practice Kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.”

 

Read more on Kerouac HERE

The Color of Resistance

Who would have thought that the color that wraps baby girls at birth, pink, activating their gender programming, would become the color of revolution. Not the pale pink called blush favored by contemporary brides, or the generic pink favored by girls. None of those. This hot pink shouts I am woman, vibrant, powerful, three million marching globally against misogyny and imposed limitations. Embracing our “femininity” we roar, “No More!”

A sea of hot, hot pink.

A sea of peaceful protests, pink-hatted women leading the way of non-violent protests.

I imagine what seems impossible, in these violent yet hopeful days, a sea of three million men proudly sporting “pussy hats” in solidarity, committed to exposing “toxic masculinity” and finding a way to contain it before the planet dies taking all of us, even the climate change deniers, along with it.

I want one of those hats!

 

pinkh

 

Is this a business waiting to be born? Many knitters cranked them out by the thousands. Made in America.

At a recent art gallery opening, I spoke to a woman executive living in DC who knits for fun. She’d made dozens and gave them all away to marchers.

But she had to stop.

The stores in DC were all out of hot pink yarn!

Rethinking Chickens

An on-air comment by Micah Brzezinski, co-host of Morning Joe, about how much she loved her three chickens, one ironically called “Nugget,”made me ponder our relationship with the poultry that’s beating out beef in popularity with Americans.

Years ago I saw a PBS special about a man who loved chickens who had a large, luxurious “coop” and an assortment of truly beautiful bantams. He told stories of traits shown by the chickens indicated a higher level of intelligence that surprised me. I was so touched that it gives me pause each time I look at a crispy thigh or watch hungry kids scarfing down nuggets of sometimes questionable contents. Images of the life of chickens in factory farms fill my mind.

While living on sabbatical on a Greek island in the seventies, I developed a bad attitude about chickens, particularly roosters. Mykonos was on a different schedule than America’s. Businesses shut down in the middle of the hot days for siesta. (Imagine if Americans shut down for a nap after lunch!) Slowly re-opening in late afternoon, mostly for the tourists clogging the narrow streets, dinner wasn’t served until around 11:00 pm followed by dancing ‘till dawn in the tavernas. Dancers took to the streets under the midnight blue sky with hundreds of shooting stars twinkling across the universe. Walking home via the donkey trail, ready to sleep, the sky glowing a soft pink, one by one, roosters across the valley began a cacophony of ear shattering cock-a-doddle-do-s which didn’t help falling asleep and made me cranky.

As a child, I’d accompany my mother to a local farm where she’d select a chicken, we’d watch as the farmer chopped off its head leaving a headless body to run around the barnyard spurting blood, no doubt the source of my adult avoidance of horror movies. I once raised an Easter chick that ended up on the dinner table; I had to leave the room.

Recently I met a woman with a remarkable chicken story. It used to be that when grandmothers met they’d share pictures of their always adorable grandbabies. Nowadays with the seduction of smart phones, some grandmothers now include endless photographs of their companion animals, often in costume. She had photos and videos of her rescue cat and dog. And a chicken the dog had gifted her with, dangling squeaking and protesting from his softened mouth. The chicken took over the fenced city backyard and spent her days playing with the cat and dog. They all got dressed up for holidays though the chicken was usually not cooperative. Twice a day, they all came in to eat and cuddle. The chicken slept outside in the beribboned coop the woman had built for her.

One morning, the woman decided to sleep in. Not long after the silenced alarm would have gone off, she was awakened from a delicious slumber by a tapping sound. Raising the blinds, she looked out onto the back yard. There was a storage shed beneath the window. She stared at the face of a disgruntled chicken who’d somehow gotten up on the shed scolding the woman for neglect. No one knows how she got up there though maybe she’d taken secret flying lessons.

Maybe the roosters are trying to tell us something. Maybe sharing their hens’ eggs is ok but a short life of never moving or seeing the sky before being slaughtered for nuggets cannot be ok. Maybe we need to listen to them.

If you find yourself enticed by Tyson and McDonalds, pause, take a deep breath and think of that plucky, un-plucked chicken who has so much to teach us. Show gratitude for their giving us their eggs.