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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Photo Challenge: Future–of Democracy Depends on Citizen Participation

This quote serves as our inspiration for the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge:

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
 – Peter F. Drucker

Participation in civic life is paramount to support a healthy democracy. Whatever issue is important to you, it’s time to get involved to change the future. Elected officials must represent us rather than direct the policy decisions to citizens.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Future

Bernie Sanders for President: Rally in Philadelphia

I jumped back into politics placing a reservation to attend the Bernie Sanders Rally in Philadelphia on April 6. I’m very much a pragmatic thinker. As much as I would like to overhaul the American economic system, replacing corporations with worker-owned collectives, I can support a candidate who strongly endorses unions and a living wage.  Bernie’s positions on income inequality, living wage, medicare for all, tuition-free college are issues I strongly support. Bernie cannot, however, change the broken economic system alone.  It is up to the citizenry to create that sweeping change. We must be invested in our democracy by participating in ways that guarantee that every citizen has a voice.

The Rally

I returned to my graduate school Alma Mater, Temple University, for the rally. When I arrived at the Liacorous Center a little after 5, the line, ten deep, snaked along the sidewalk, weaving through the side streets for ten blocks. I thought I’d never get in, seeing that many people; and the doors had already been open so more folks were already inside. By 6 o’clock I entered through the security check, the Secret Service, inspecting coats and bags. My necklace alerted the wand, but the guard finally let me pass through. We waited until 8:30 for Bernie to speak because it took so long for people to get through security and get seated.  I didn’t think the arena would fill, but it did, all but some seats on the balcony. I estimated 5,000 but turns out more like 10,000 were present.

The crowd, mostly students and young people under 35, were friendly and well-mannered. No one was pushing or shoving in line, and most were engaged in happy conversation. Someone was carrying a sign, Free Hugs, and Philly Jesus showed up, giving his blessings. I sat down on an aisle seat for good visibility. The young man sitting next to me introduced himself, and we had a conversation about Pennsylvania politics. I met everyone around me, and turns out we were all alums of Shippensburg! I heard stories of underemployment and low wages, even for college graduates.

When Bernie walked to the podium deafening cheers erupted. As Bernie spoke the audience responded with enthusiastic cheers or boos, depending on the subject, i.e., living wage or mention of Trump.

Pennsylvania Primary, April 26

The Pennsylvania primary will take place on April 26. Political history in the United State will be made if we elect a progressive candidate for President such as Bernie Sanders.

 

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Gathering

Invasion of Starbucks by gathering of activists supporting workers by advocating wage increase to $15.

Starbucks demonstration.

Starbucks demonstration.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gathering

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/gathering/

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Happy Place, In Solidarity: Weekly Photo Challenge

Happiness is standing side by side in solidarity with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors, working toward a goal of social justice. I especially find this participation satisfying when advocating for justice and fairness in the workplace. By making connections with my fellow workers, we can come together to improve our mutual conditions, recognizing the bonds we share.

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Without worker solidarity, we find ourselves adrift and alone in the workplace where many employees have little voice or camaraderie. Corporations like to keep it that way, pitting employees against each other for raises, power and influence in the organization, the very opposite of encouraging teamwork, consensus and harmony. When we resist human labor as simply being a commodity, we have taken a virtuous path.

Solidarity is by nature inclusive. Regardless of background, solidarity brings everyone together. Differences fall away as the greater good of the group becomes paramount. We nurture our collective rights rather than than engage in competitive interactions. For those who experience the greatest degree of discrimination and marginalization, we can stand together so that they have the strength to participate and defend their freedom of association.

Solidarity is not a quiet place, but it is not a forced state of mind. It evolves naturally as our shared responsibility displaces uncertainty. The result is a joyful state of mind.

WordPress: Weekly Photo Challenge, My Happy Place

Teresa Forcades Speaks on Women’s Ordination

Women’s Ordination Conference
 A Voice for Women’s Equality in the Catholic Church

“We have a church that’s misogynist and it’s representing the Gospel. We need freedom, equality, and the people’s capacities to participate in the conversation. I look forward to having this discussion in Philadelphia.” –Teresa Forcades

Teresa Forcades WOW

Teresa Forcades: History

As a supporter of anarcho-syndicalist movements, which advocate for democracy for the working classes in politics as well as the workplace, I’ve followed the news about the strikes against the Spanish government’s spending cuts, which create severe consequences for workers and their families. Following these events, I read about one of their leaders, Sister Teresa Forcades.For folks who have their doubts about capitalism, Teresa has launched a political manifesto to counter austerity measures by the Spanish government. The document calls for an independent Catalonia to carry out a more democratic and progressive agenda, including nationalizing banks and energy corporations. I visited Spain in 2013, and on my first evening in Barcelona, I attended an event, Women, Spirituality and Social Change, a dialogue between Teresa and Lekshe Karma Tsomo, a California Tibetan nun, who share the same commitment: to promote social change based on inner transformation.

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A year ago I heard Teresa speak again, this time in my relative neighborhood, at Red Emma’s in Baltimore. Red Emma’s, a worker cooperative started in 2004, supports a bookstore, restaurant and community space and is “dedicated to putting principles of solidarity and sustainability into practice in a democratic workplace.” The namesake of the cooperative, Emma Goldman, a political activist known for her promotion of anarchism, is another woman I admire for her progressive views on women’s rights, prison reform, racial equality and right to organize our workplaces.

While some may consider Teresa’s ideas radical, I think of them as being common sense, such as viewing capitalism as an unethical construct. Sometimes when I’m talking with people about the problems of capitalism, they agree but then say, “Well, that’s the way it is.” Teresa says it doesn’t have to be that way.

When I learned that Teresa was speaking at the WOW conference in Philadelphia, I immediately signed up to attend.

Women’s Ordination Conference, September 2015

WOW Protest

WOW Prayer Vigil at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

The WOW Conference represents forty years of advocacy for women to become full participants in the Church by allowing women’s ordination. I am a former Catholic and what drove me away from the Church was thinking about my daughter’s perceptions of how affirming Catholic practice contradicts a fundamental belief that women must be treated as equals. The Church’s embedded bigotry against women, which arises from historical chains of oppression, undermines women’s liberation.

Teresa flew into Philadelphia just before she spoke, as she had to stay in Spain for an important leadership event on Saturday. Teresa presented an inspiring talk, a few of the highlights in the video:

I met Teresa after her presentation, and we talked about the political situation in Catalonia and her candidacy. She asked about my son, John. Truly a remarkable experience to connect with a woman who is on the world stage advocating for her fellow citizens and for equality for women in the Church.

Links:

Teresa Forcades Facebook Page

The Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

Scale: The “Big Chair” and the Metaphor

What’s the big deal about a chair? Well, actually, because this chair is big, about four times as large as a normal chair, and a work of art that has taken on a life of its own. Jake Beckman, a student at Swarthmore College, conceived and built the original chair, which found a place among the other normal-sized Adirondack chairs that dot the stretch of lawn in front of the main hall on campus. The iconic chair even appeared on the Colbert Report.

Several years ago the original chair fell apart and was quietly removed from the lawn. However, the campus community, becoming attached to the Big Chair, clamored to bring the chair back. Jake agreed to return to rebuild the structure, and the chair resumed its place with the others.

I guess I wasn’t the only one beginning to think metaphorically about the Big Chair. Some unnamed inventives would come by during the night leaving the chairs in different arrangements, such as the Big Chair leading a line of the other chairs or the Big Chair in the middle of a circle. One morning the Big Chair stood upright while a semicircle of normal chairs tipped down in front of the Big Chair.

Now I was thinking hard. The chairs assumed the metaphor for power dynamics .  .  . and not just at Swarthmore! I thought about “Big Chair” people, folks that tell us what to do or think: politicians, pundits, advertisers, bosses, CEOs, presidents, board of directors .  .  .  and I’m sure you can think of many more. Do we perceive these folks as big in influence, power, authority, wealth and get drawn into a mindset that binds us to a deferential attitude? Many normal chairs sit on the lawn–there is strength in numbers when we act collectively. And normal-sized chairs serve a real function. We wouldn’t make 25 more Big Chairs.

On reflection, perhaps we do need the Big Chair–reminding us to keep the right perspective.

Bringing Voice to Community Needs: A Collection at Swarthmore College

Collection 5.2.14This Collection was unique: a grassroots initiative with staff, faculty and students working together to offer all community members an opportunity to speak on decision-making and governance at the College.

Organized by the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), the idea for the Collection grew from their advocacy for a child care benefit. In the previous week, SLAP and Human Resources released survey data from the dependent care survey of faculty and staff at the College. Of the 28% who responded that they used childcare, 41% of that number claimed that they were unhappy with their current child care arrangements. More than half of the respondents preferred an on-campus child care placement. In 1991 the Women’s Concerns Committee submitted a survey, and spent the next 14 years advocating for child care for faculty and staff. The question SLAP and the community had to consider: if the community supported a child care benefit, why hadn’t that benefit been implemented, especially since funding had been provided?

The Collection, facilitated Joyce Tompkins, Religious and Spiritual Life Advisor, brought together a panel to begin the discussion on decision-making processes and endowment spending at the College.

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Joyce Tompkins introducing Panelists

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Donna Jo Napoli, Linguistics Professor, advocate for child care

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Peter Collings, Physics Professor

Peter recently wrote a series of articles on the endowment in The Phoenix:
The inequity of Swarthmore’s endowment: An open letter to the Swarthmore College community
The inequity of Swarthmore’s endowment, revisited
Why endowment policy needs community input

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Gwen Synder, Class of 2008

Gwen Synder is Director at the Philadelphia branch of Jobs with Justice.

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Anna Gonzales, Editor in Chief, The Phoenix

Brett Day, Staff from Dining Services (unfortunately Brett could not make it because of difficulty arranging for child care).

It is the hope that this Collection will be a catalyst for the College community to work toward participation and transparency, as now neither faculty, staff or students have voice when it comes to financial decision-making. Truly enlightened institutions will foster coöperation that can only come by encouraging participation in decision-making as an inclusive practice that educates students in the process of genuine democracy and brings community members together to work in partnership with each other.

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More photographs at the Daily Gazette.

Proposal to Meet Staff and Faculty’s Child Care Needs at Swarthmore College sent to the College administration in May 2014.

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