Where am I Safe?

If I extrapolate the events of 6-Jan – the violent insurrection of the democratic institutions of the United States of America – I am left wondering where am I safe.

If I’m employed in a state Capitol where guillotines designed to execute elected officials are installed on grounds near the state house, am I safe? What about a hangman’s noose erected on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol if I’m a page or an intern?

If I support minorities  – as people I know myself to be – in peaceful protest, and armed militias with no legal authority patrol the streets, am I safe?

If I have a dissenting opinion with someone online who is entrenched in conspiracy theories, am I safe?

If I dare to defend a light rail passenger who is being threatened by a racist, am I safe?

If I am a black citizen walking to the corner grocery or fixing a flat tire, am I safe?

If I am Latinx and am grocery shopping or attending a food festival, am I safe?

If I am gay or trans-sexual and I am protecting the person I love or I am holding public office or I am serving in the military, am I safe?

If I and others – Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist – are gathered in a place of worship and we welcome a stranger, are we safe?

In all of these scenarios and countless others, I’m on my own – and so are you – and it’s a dangerous place to be in this moment. If, in a democratic republic there is no accountability for crimes against people, legislative institutions or the Constitution, we are nowhere and nothing – nothing more than people wishing for… or asleep to… protections that we have been unwilling to defend.

We have many of the wrong people in elected office. What they are engaged in is not service to this country or to us. Elected officials are permitted to represent us only because we choose them. Our choices then create our daily reality. Congressional members who poison our Constitutional values with hate should be expelled.

Until and unless we are willing to confront the cancerous truth about this country’s history of separation, dehumanization and hate, the escalating threat to each of us – the clear and present danger – will tear and finally destroy the fabric of that which we say we hold dear – our own freedom.

Freedom is not trapping myself in someone else’s lie by repeating it. It’s self-oppression. I oppress myself by feeding on others’ – and my own – hate. I degrade myself as I degrade others.

Voices of hate such as that of the current president have no place in a society, the tenets of which proclaim the value of all humanity. He must be removed and must be prohibited from holding any future public office.

The values canonized in the Constitution are not static. They require each of us to enliven them through tolerance and acceptance, actively recognizing ourselves in each other and defending the safety of others as vigorously as we hope others will defend us.

We are the ones who must purge hateful rhetoric from public conversation.

Our words matter. Our calls for accountability matter. It’s the only way we get to live as the people we say we are.

How will you use your voice?



Do you Hear Your Solstice Voice?

The winter solstice is a time to be fully present – in the stillness, in the deep and utter quiet, in the detail of the world around us, and even in expectation of the return of light.

My voice, arising out of winter solstice, is expressive of just such detail. I have the simple luxury of living in a beautiful, green, peaceful environment – one that easily promotes listening for the voice that comes through us – not to be confused with the frenetic voice of the mind.

In the quiet, I am reminded of all that is vibrant, alive, creative: a deer family whose restive comfort extended to our back yard; a young rabbit whose interest in equally-aged garden greens provided nourishment for us both; a tiny chipmunk storing walnuts for the winter in my flower pot, a secret which I keep. In season, it was quite a show.

My celebration of the incremental return to light is simple appreciation of that which I observed. My own reading of this piece can be found here.




Earth sustained.

Darkness, mournful

in meditating

incremental demise,

as sunlight, its own midwife,

arises – open secrecy

its intent. Winter solstice at its

back, thickened clouds descend, fog politely

suspended over the dance of droplets

reverberating on paved spaces

of other seasons. The taut, hard

day awakens in promise:

opening sleepy eyes,


of sunlight, a






upon its

purpose. As yet,

not a hummingbird

shoving among the web

of branches. No frenetic

chipmunk; not a bunny baby

lusting leafy lettuce, nor the deer

family taking sunny repose in

yard’s alcove. Their wisdom at rest, no

longer a need to tolerate my

inane greetings. I pledged to keep

fast the secret hiding place

of walnuts, of deer paths

trodden, of shared stares

of animal-

human eyes.




now an


point on a curve

of unwellness, of

sadness, of fear, of loss.

May I celebrate the Light

by distilling loneliness to

friendship, by converting poverty

to plenty, by enjoining attitude

with beautiful spaces, by finding wealth

in relationship, by dreaming

others’ dreams as my own, that

donning my clothing may

clothe others; that as

we rise in Light

we know



How do you voice that which feeds you?

“Her Mother Whose Sweatshop Wages…” It’s Our Turn

A voice that definitively announces its intent without speaking; a voice of lasting action that speaks covertly:

“Her mother, whose sweatshop wages had gone to her brother’s education, left behind secret college savings for her daughter and a will to accomplish what Celia had been denied”, as quoted in a broad Intelligencer remembrance by Irin Carmon.

Celia Bader died the day before her daughter, Ruth, graduated from high school knowing that she had put in place the mechanism to launch her daughter’s brilliance. Celia’s voice, as surely as any and every voice lives in others, spoke lovingly, forcefully through the ages.

For those of us who felt the blood drain out of our hearts last Fri, there simultaneously arose sweeping, almost overwhelming gratitude and reverence for the strength, brilliance and humor of the woman whose life we were gifted.

Ruth’s brilliance and evolved awareness of inequality were inversely proportional to the lack of precedent of such cases when she began bringing them on behalf of clients of the ACLU.

Carmon: “In the 2013 voting-rights dissent that earned her the Notorious RBG nickname, Ginsburg offered an addendum to Martin Luther King Jr.’s suggestion that the arc of history eventually bent toward justice: “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.”

The “steadfast commitment” Ginsburg added to King’s statement is becoming increasingly hard to discover in the minds and hearts of the American electorate.

A strong voice in dissent is as powerful as any from a bully pulpit or Chair. Ginsburg’s voice led us to recognize, and elevate, her as a thought and action leader we accepted and, ultimately, honored. We slowly began to recognize the stark inequality she challenged.

Inequality in and of itself, as sinister as it is, is only the precursor to a permanent downward spiral into authoritarianism. Today, there is a real risk of the McCarthyism of the 1950s – careers, families, livelihoods destroyed – spreading like a cancer at the ignorant, malevolent, pernicious behest of the current president and his enablers. Those cancerous tentacles are now undermining the integrity of most American institutions – including governmental agencies designed specifically to enhance and protect our lives.

Our voices in dissent need to arise in bellowing defense of our sacred Constitution and way of life. Americans are not immune to the wretched, unprincipled damage we see occurring in Washington every day. We are living it – and we are the only ones who can stop it.

Lincoln Project podcast guests Alex Givney and Camille Francois alert us to the execution of raw power for its own sake as “soft authoritarianism, on the way to tyranny.” Their documentary, Agents of Chaos, details exactly how we, as citizens have been the successful targets of chaotic interruption of our civil society.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy is secure. The legacy of our country as a true democratic republic is reliant exclusively on our acting upon her addendum of “a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.”

She recognized unfair practices as unfair to everyone. Regardless of our personal political preferences, we acknowledge that universal unfairness, as well. We must now recognize and act upon the challenge of our collective lifetime – that we are, indeed, what we’ve been waiting for, that it’s our voices alone that will protect us.

Whose voice is living through you? What sacrifices did your family make that you have lived to benefit from? Whose life will you benefit? 

Whose life will I benefit?

Use your voice. Bellow. Now.




When You See Something, Say Something

“Let us not forget that we are involved in a serious social revolution.” Words as relevant, as impactful, as critically important in today’s civil vortex as they were when John Lewis spoke them during the Civil Rights Movement.

Mr. Lewis’ life was dedicated to holding this nation up to its ideals of equality and justice for every person. Through his loving presence, a presence of forgiveness of those who beat and repressed him, a presence of insistence and strength, he posited the rights spelled out in the Constitution as the foundation for civil action.

The First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

On 6-Dec-2019 the U. S. House passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act restoring protections of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.  The Supreme Court had previously struck down federal oversight of elections in states with a history of discriminating against minority communities in the Shelby v. Holder 2013 decision. The House intended to restore that oversight. The House bill sits, stalled, on the Senate Majority Leader’s desk.

The right to vote is sacred, a fundamental piece of a free society. John Lewis: “We must go out and vote like we’ve never voted before.” In addition to vigorously supporting the right of every person to vote, John Lewis’ voice – now, my voice – demanded continuing and unyielding action to fulfill the promise of the Constitution.

Our words really do live in others. If I can see or feel myself in other human beings and acknowledge that my words matter, would I not hope, and even expect, of myself a voice that speaks fairly and fully for everyone.

We all are beneficiaries of Mr. Lewis’ courage, voice and soul force.

We live in each other. Whose voice do you want to represent?


Never Keep Your Ambition to do Great Things in Check

Whatever your aspiration, be ambitious every day – for yourself, for your family, for the entire human community.

How am I able to live what I aspire for myself in ways that benefit others’ equality, fairness, autonomy and justice? How am I able to use my privilege?




gasping for

air, bobbing in

the sea of racist

hate, shallow, tense egos

with guns no lifeline.

No forgiveness; unrelenting

sadness of white privilege an anchor

to the soul’s cry for wholeness. When does the

shame of racist murder outweigh the curse

of perpetual allowing? True

humanity, colorless, sees

itself in its reflection,

awaiting, with only

love, resolution.

Deeply tired.

Tear-filled voice.



This is the Time to be Everything We Are

Often women have expectations for their professional and personal lives set for them in childhood. Some of those expectations are inferred within the family; others, more insidious, are set by test and IQ scores well before high school. In fact, student placement in unchallenging, sedentary educational settings erases the possibility of teaching toward a girl’s individual strengths.

Career guidance often follows such testing, frequently limiting young women’s paths into engineering, medicine, law and the creative arts. A far worse consequence is setting girls’ ambitions for their own achievement.

Yet, not all achievement by women remains set by early limitation or lack of support.

Millions of women stand with this country’s black community in demanding justice for black citizens – our citizens – who are murdered by law enforcement. We write, we march, we literally stand with others whom we care about as we do our family members. A powerful image of this courageous support occurred in the Louisville Courier-Journal when a line of white women, arm in arm, stood between black protesters and Louisville Metro Police on Thu evening.

Credit: Tim Druck

So, the drive that surfaces in women who excel and live outside false expectations need not only be limited to academics. Courage lives in us all, and women in every leadership role – including women who place their lives in danger to support and protect others – are living their best lives and inspire us.

Voice need not be verbal. Our physical presence, our privilege as citizens who have the invisible luxury of not feeling discrimination in every moment of their lives, is a profound example of our collective voice. “This is love. This is what you do with your privilege.” [emphasis mine]

Examine any leveling of expectations that were preset in your life. Simply acknowledging them as ill-formed judgment causes them to dissolve.

This is the time to be everything we are. Standing with all races – our human community – to demand fairness, equality, autonomy and justice is living our highest lives.

Use your voice. Stand with those you love.



Whose Words Live in You?

A dream come true.

Non-fiction – that’s how I define my reading interest. Current evidence: I relish the privilege and pleasure of imagining myself in Winston Churchill’s lifetime via 1,053 pages of The Last Lion. I pledge to you that we owe the very freedoms we enjoy today to Churchill’s indomitable and unyielding courage. He expressed his unwavering determination to save Great Britain in brilliant prose. Churchill’s words lived actively in every Briton. Dedicating bits of my daily reading time to understanding the how the contribution a single person makes to the culture, the survival, the success of an entire people is a privilege.

My own writing style, though, leans heavily to creative non-fiction and not into the formidable task of meticulously documenting lives in historical accuracy. I like weaving stories around significant pieces of others’ lives to distinguish their contributions to their family, their friends, their world.

The dream. Colum McCann is my favorite author. I literally swoon through his paragraphs of metaphor so fluid, so poignant, that they deconstruct and transport my own sense of what’s possible as a writer. So a dream, indeed, came true when Colum spoke about his new book, Apeirogon, at Powell’s Books on Fri night.

McCann shouldered the extraordinary challenge of telling the stories of Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian, and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli, whose daughters were both killed – by rubber bullet, by suicide bomber – as ten- and fourteen-year-olds. Colum spent nearly five years getting to know the fathers, who are friends, then weaving a vast story “crossing centuries and continents, stitching together time, art, history, nature and politics.”

So, while my intent in posting was [is] to share the renewed inspiration of how another powerful writer lives in me, I now recognize an unexpected moment of beauty and synergy. For nearly a year I’ve been stymied about what perspective to use to write a dear friend’s story for her family.  In typing the words “weaving stories around significant pieces of others’ lives “, and in alert hesitation, the answer came through me.

We really do live in and through one another. McCann’s voice becomes my voice; his voice is the voice of Bassam and Rami. We speak for each other. Words matter. Stories create shared awareness of our commonality; stories matter.

Whose voice takes its shape and carries its meaning in you? What are you called to say, to write, that seeds who you are in others?

Use your voice.

Do I Have the Courage to Demand the Return of Formative Institutions?

  The word “formative” has swirled in my consciousness recently, having first been introduced by Yuval Levin, the author of the new book, “A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream.

Many of us feel a lack of grounding in the turbulence of our society, largely, it’s fair to say, due to the unrelenting assault of the politisphere. Our disquiet and, as importantly, our overall lack of trust of others and of our institutions has another root, as Levin points out.

He posits that, “We trust an institution when we think that it forms the people within it to be trustworthy – so that not only does it perform an important social function, educating children or making laws or any of the many, many goods and services that institutions provide for us, but also at the same time provides an ethic that shapes the people within it to perform that service in a reliable, responsible way.”

The United States military remains a trusted institution. Clearly formative, the institution transforms members into self-starting individuals who value its structure, its ethics, and are trained to live by its principles. Members frequently bring those lived principles with them, after service, as assets to their future lives and future organizations.

Though we could evaluate any institution – governmental, private or public businesses, non-profits, even local volunteer orgs – what settles most importantly with me is the question of who among the field of presidential candidates will actively, publicly voice the need for legislative and executive branch institutional restoration.

The author observes that, “We now think of institutions less as formative and more as performative, less as molds of our character and behavior, and more as platforms for us to stand on and be seen.

“… we see people using institutions as stages, as a way to raise their profile or build their brand. And those kinds of institutions become much harder to trust.”

As citizens, we need to insist that any Democratic presidential nominee dedicates herself or himself to restoring the institutions that our democratic republic is

grounded in… to restore them as formative institutions. A commitment to restoring the ethic.

We can, we must, return to respecting our institutions, ourselves, and others.

Each of us has the ability to be vocal. Simply listen for the voice of ethic, of honor, of shared responsibility deep within, then speak.

Use your voice.

Without Metaphor: Ever Wondered What a Slippery Slope Is? You’re Living It

Here’s what to do about global warming.

First, cease paying attention to that noisy voice that says: “I’m overwhelmed. I can’t process any more tragedy. I’m powerless. What I could do wouldn’t matter.” That chatter is nothing but empty conditioning. It’s not you, it’s not real, and what it has to say is not true.

Second, stop suppressing that calm, patient, loving voice that shows itself when you’re relaxed and present. You know it… the voice that speaks through you, not to you. That voice is guidance. It’s empowerment. It emanates from the deepest part of who we are as beings, and it’s equally present in us all.

All it takes is a bit of courage. The more courageous you are, the more recognizable the voice is, and the easier it is to trust what it says. When it comes through me, I recognize it immediately and act upon it.

Next steps.  In a recent TED talk, Luisa Neubauer, a 23-year old climate protection activist, offered four very specific steps that everyone… everyone… can take to defend and protect the environment.

Luisa Neubauer: “This is not a job for a single generation. This is a job for humanity. All eyes are on you. … We are all political beings, and we can all be part of this answer. We can all be something that many people call climate activists.

“Four first steps that are essential:

  1. We need to drastically re-frame our understanding of a climate activist. A climate activist… is everyone who wants to join a movement of those who intend to grow old on a planet that prioritizes protection of natural environments and happiness and health for the many over the destruction of the climate and the wrecking of the planet for the profits of the few.
  2. I need you to get out of that zone of convenience. Does the company that employs you or that sponsors you.. does your local parliamentarian… your best friend… know about this? Tell your bank you’re going to leave if they keep investing in fossil fuels.
  3. Leaving the zone of convenience works best when you join forces. The more you are [in number], the harder it is for people to justify a system that has no future. Power is not something that you either have or don’t have. Power is something you either take or leave to others, and it grows once you share it.
  4. I need you to start taking yourselves more seriously. The most powerful institutions of this world have no intention of changing the game they’re profiting from most. So, there is no point on further relying on them.”

“I dream of this world where geography classes teach about the climate crisis as this one greatest challenge that was won by people like you and me who had started acting in time. This is more than an invitation. Spread the word.”

All power resides in people, not in institutions. Institutions must respond to our will. It can be no other way. There is no stopping a critical mass of us who are activist in our own ways. Every action counts.

I’m willing to show up at an Oregon senator’s town hall meeting to ask when and how NASA scientists can be directed to engage immediately with residents in our cities to evaluate local effects of the climate crisis, and educate people on how to defend their communities.

What are you willing to do?

Use your voice.

Environmental Grief: Not Only Can I Help You Define It, I Have an Even Bigger Term

The Earth’s patience with our continual abuse is coming to an end, and many of us are feeling the consequential loss of something very, very dear. It has a name: environmental (or ecological) grief.

Defined by Washington State thanatologist Kriss Kevorkian as “the grief reaction stemming from the environmental loss of ecosystems from natural and man-made events”, it often goes unacknowledged or misidentified. Reported as far back as Jul-2016 by Jordan Rosenfeld for Scientific American, Kevorkian recognized the profound sense of loss she felt in her study of the death of whales. She likened the intensity of the grief to that which she would feel upon the death of a family member.

I feel that grief.

Family holding Earth in hands. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

In his article, Rosenfeld reported that in a National Wildlife Federation report, “John McIlwain, director of the Garrison Institute’s Climate, Mind and Behavior Program, described the effects on natural scientists of ecological loss as “secondary trauma,” saying, “It takes a rare and brave human being to continue to do what needs to be done in the face of hopelessness.”

The 2012 report states “that 200 million Americans will be exposed to serious psychological distress from climate-related events and incidents.”

Do you recognize this grief?

Do you feel it when you see a bewildered polar bear adrift on a piece of ice? When you read about the sale of shark fins, or are confronted with the imagine of a dead elephant, killed for nothing more than his tusks? When whole geographic coastal regions are being forced to migrate inland?

How are we not responsible for this?

For increasing numbers of us, living with this grief is both a feature of every day life and completely unacceptable.

I’ll go farther. There is what I term an “environmental conscience“, meaning the living conscience of the whole – all systems – which we are only a small part of, that constantly informs us of the damage we do and the destruction we wreak as surely as our own individual conscience does.

Just sit in the silence of nature and listen for it.

Galvanizing our collective grief and coalescing around – and in fact demanding – solutions is action whose time has come.

One more important idea.

Lori Garver is the chief executive at Earthrise Alliance, and was deputy NASA administrator from 2009 to 2013. She wrote a couple of days ago in the Washington Post that, “NASA was not created to do something again” [meaning to go to the moon or Mars.] The agency was “created to push the limits of human understanding, to help the nation solve big, impossible problems that require advances in science and technology.”

“The impossible problem today is not the moon. And it’s not Mars. It’s our home planet. NASA remains one the most revered and valuable brands in the world, and the agency is at its best when given a purpose. In a July Pew Research Center study, 63 percent of respondents said monitoring key parts of Earth’s climate system should be the highest priority for the United States’ space agency. NASA could create a Climate Corps — modeled after the Peace Corps — in which scientists and engineers spend two years in local communities understanding the unique challenges they face, training local populations and connecting them with the data and science needed to support smart, local decision-making.”

Reading the article may change your entire perspective on a collective solution to restoring the earth to wholeness.

In referencing the smallness of our anthropomorphic vision of God or Nature or Source or the Universe, the glorious author, Brian Doyle, wrote, “how incredibly foolish to [even] assign human gender to something we all admit is so unimaginably epic.” I say this because it’s time to ignore the small voices.

It’s time to ignore the small anti-environment voices, the corporations who would pillage, the single-minded developers, those who suppress their own bit of environmental conscience in favor of some anthropomorphic ideology. We no longer have the luxury of time to debate smallness.

It’s time to stand up: in personal conversations, in town hall meetings with political candidates and online where your voice for restorative wholeness can be magnified.

We need big conversation and big solutions.

Use your voice.