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Archive for August, 2010

So I haven’t posted in a while, and part of that is because I haven’t really seen anything to motivate me to do so; but another was that I sort of just needed to unplug for a while, so I’m sorry about that (also, I haven’t run this by my friends who usually help me edit, so sorry for any mistakes in grammar, etc.).  Anyways, today I was reading my news (I imagine myself as an old man saying that, it is sort of like someone’s “soaps,” but way more nerdy).  But, I came across this article in The Washington Post (http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/undergod/2010/08/what_is_glenn_beck.html) which talked about how Beck’s “Christian credentials” may or may not line up with Christian theology itself.  I am just going to side-step that whole sticky issue and let y’all read the article; what I really wanted to talk about was the quotation they featured from Beck regarding how Obama’s faith doesn’t fit in with “true Christianity”:

“You see, it’s all about victims and victimhood; oppressors and the oppressed; reparations, not repentance; collectivism, not individual salvation.”

I probably won’t talk about religion a lot on this, I feel as if it is intensely personal, and I relate to those types of issues much better in personal correspondence; but this sentiment really irked me.  While I feel as if this statement greatly misrepresents Obama’s faith, I cannot say that for certain, but, again, I’ll just take it on face value for right now.

As an activist I have struggled to find a place where my own Christian beliefs fit with my activism (I’m Episcopalian, in case anyone was wondering); and I have particularly struggled with how Anti-Oppression and Collective Liberation work fits into my beliefs.  For a while I fell like I felt as if I had to justify my faith “I’m a Christian, but…”  I have come to believe, though, that Christ came to liberate thew oppressed, he came to deliver hope and salvation for the victims.  While Christianity does speak about individual salvation, I also feel that Christ preached about community; according to the Bible he had dinner with the victims, the outcasts, and the oppressed.  These statements are the kind of statements that made me ashamed to identify as a Christian, they made me doubt my own faith.  While the Church does have a lot of negative history, there have also been many Christian organizations which have taken on work for victims and the oppressed.

The organization I worked at this summer, Prison Fellowship International, is a prime example.  This organization, broadly, attempts to instill just practices in prison systems; and does so out of a deeply held belief that Christ came for prisoners as well as those of us who are free.  Many people in the organization had stories where other Christians had asked them something along the lines of “Why are you working to help prisoners, they deserve to be where they are.” Yet in my mind this is one of Christianity’s highest calling, to work to liberate society from oppression and from oppressive practices.  Despite what Beck, and others, may want us to believe, there has been a huge resurgence of this belief within the younger generation of Christians; and that fact gives me hope.

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So, as some of you may know, I have been selected to serve as a delegate with SustainUS to the next round of UN climate negotiations (number 16), technically the 16th Conference of Parties, or COP 16; which is being held in Cancun, Mexico in late November/early December.  I am so excited (and nervous) to be able to be a part of this process and to be present as a youth.  But I am not only a youth, I am also white, and male, and upper middle class.  My lived experience does not reflect the realities of climate change and environmental injustice.  During the school year defined summer I live somewhere where climate change affects me only for as long as I stay outside during “weird weather,” but it can disappear when I go back inside my air-conditioned house.  When school starts the “weird weather” starts affecting me more; but honestly climate change doesn’t have a very large impact on my day-to-day life.  But there are people who are affected by climate change every day, from people in Tuvalu to people in the corners of Virginia.  So, my question then becomes why I feel qualified to take part in this process.

I have found a lot of personal meaning  in Anti-Oppression practices; but I know I am not perfect.  I have internalized patriarchy, sexism, classism, ableism, heterosexism, whatever ism it is there is probably part of it in me–I am very much a product of my culture.  Most of the time, though, I have friends who will call me out if I am acting in an oppressive way; friends who will help me work through ways that I oppress and ways that I am oppressed.  But, when I am in Cancun I don’t know who will help me work out ways to use my privilege to draw attention to the oppression of others, to question if that is an appropriate use of privilege, and just to struggle through these issues in general.  I hope to continue conversations before COP 16 where I can discuss these issues; but right now, as I begin to stress out about the process, it is something that is very much in my mind.

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Until I became heavily involved in environmental activism I really had no respect for people who identified themselves as single-issue voters.  In my mind a vote couldn’t be placed for a candidate just because they believed in one of the things you held dear.  I would always counter with “Well, what if a candidate was for ______, but against ________.  How can you decide which is more important?”  I have come to realize that the scenarios I threw at people were not only unfair, but also unrealistic; and honestly at times an issue really is that important.  For me, that issue has become the issue of mountaintop removal mining.  The first thing I look at now when I see a candidate is a specific statement on MTR, if that’s not there I look at their environmental stance and try to make a decision based on what they broadly believe.  Sometimes I have to make a decision between two candidates because, usually, neither is very good; but in the upcoming Democratic primary for the West Virginia senate seat, the decision is, in my mind, a clear one.

Ken Hechler is currently running against current Governor Joe Manchin for the Democratic nomination and I, honestly, know nothing about either of their politics, except for this: Ken Hechler has stated he is running to give people a chance to publicly vote against MTR by voting for him; conversely, Joe Manchin is deeply committed to the presence of the coal industry, and MTR in particular, in West Virginia.  I cannot vote in West Virginia, and I don’t know if many people who will see this post will have the chance; but if you can vote in this race, or know someone who can, please put your voice in for Ken Hechler.

Governor Joe Manchin does not care about the destruction that MTR wreaks upon his state, or its people.  He has remained committed to furthering the hold which the coal industry has over the West Virginian economy, and refused to listen to citizens directly affected by MTR.  Last year 6 other young activists and myself were arrested because we refused to leave his waiting area until he took action to stop blasting on one mountaintop.  One single mountaintop which could have provided wind energy, clean alternatives, and more jobs; yet Mr. Manchin refused to act, saying, falsely, that he had no power to stop the permit.   The practice of MTR destroys communities, it destroys lives, and it devastates an invaluable environment.  Mr. Manchin runs as a Democrat, but defies the stereotype that the Democratic party is full of bleeding-hearts; it seems that he cares more about placating King Coal than caring for his people and he doesn’t deserve a position with more power to reward his heartlessness.

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