Monday, January 20, 2014

Do Justice for MLK!

This is the day we've chosen to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., humanitarian, American civil rights activist, Nobel Peace Prize laureate. I feel honored to be a citizen of the same country that produced Dr. King. I am embarrassed to be a citizen of a country that needed, and still needs, leaders like him to help us meet our social, economic and environmental justice obligations. The book club I'm in, the St. Croix River Valley book club for artists and art lovers, is currently reading Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, about the lives of three sharecropper families in the southern US during the mid to late 1930's. As I look at our faltering recovery from the recent "Great Recession," I get the clear sense that too many of us still lead lives as deprived as those led by the tenant farmers decades ago.

While Iron Rangers clamor for more jobs amidst an already growing local economy, many mothers and children in our cities and on our reservations are homeless or poorly housed. Too many of our waters don't meet standards needed to support human and aquatic health so we can "enjoy" cheap energy and cheap food. Thanks to climate change, our Northern Coniferous Forest is headed to Canada. The White Earth Land Recovery Project is trying to "facilitate the recovery of the original land base of the White Earth Indian Reservation..." while we are busy mining our groundwaters and plowing what's left of our prairies until both our waters and our lands dry up and are, like Dr. King, honored in their absence. Meanwhile, too many of us go to bed hungry each night. Have we made any real progress since the assassination of Dr. King, or have we settled for superficial and very, very, unequal progress? Have we learned to care for our natural and human resources while we can still enjoy them? An important lesson we can learn from leaders like Dr. King is that we are indeed all in this together and we all benefit by respecting each other and the planet we live on. Thank you Dr. King, for all you've done for all of us. With more leaders like you, and Abraham, and John, and Bobby, we may have a future you could be proud of. Thankfully, others are also calling for justice.

Justice, Come Down

By Minnie Bruce Pratt 
A huge sound waits, bound in the ice,
in the icicle roots, in the buds of snow
on fir branches, in the falling silence
of snow, glittering in the sun, brilliant
as a swarm of gnats, nothing but hovering
wings at midday. With the sun comes noise.
Tongues of ice break free, fall, shatter,
splinter, speak. If I could write the words.
Simple, like turning a page, to say Write
what happened, but this means a return
to the cold place where I am being punished.
Alone to the stony circle where I am frozen,
the empty space, children, mother, father gone,
lover gone away. There grief still sits
and waits, grim, numb, keeping company with
anger. I can smell my anger like sulfur-
struck matches. I wanted what had happened
to be a wall to burn, a window to smash.
At my fist the pieces would sparkle and fall.
All would be changed. I would not be alone.

Instead I have told my story over and over
at parties, on the edge of meetings, my life
clenched in my fist, my eyes brittle as glass.

Ashamed, people turned their faces away
from the woman ranting, asking: Justice,
stretch out your hand. Come down, glittering,
from where you have hidden yourself away. 

Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Be kind to each other while you can.