June 26, 2009

Common Ground on Abortion

If you were to drive across I-90 in SD and observe the billboards, you'd think the most popular place in the state was Wall Drug, a little tourist shop with free ice water and $.05 coffee. However if you were to criss cross through the state and observe the billboards, you'd think the most important issue in SD was abortion. After two statewide votes to ban most abortions in SD, the issue continues to be a source of division between people.

All across America battles have been waged and millions of dollars have been spent by the pro-choice and pro-life movements. In the struggle for dictating the laws of the land, it seems as though little has changed except the deterioration of dialogue and relationships. Often those on the far left and the far right can be heard demonizing their opponents by labeling the other as baby killers or women haters. Meanwhile abortions continue, children born into poverty continues, and unintended pregnancies continue.

So when Obama began talking about finding common ground in the area of abortion, I was deeply pleased. His desire to bring folks together to find places of agreement filled me with hope and resonated with ideas that I had already been thinking about.

That work is continuing and many courageous people are stepping forward (often at the cost of being attacked by their friends) and extending their hand to their opponent. They are joining together with the people like me in the middle who see this issue as a complicated one, but who agree that we should find ways to reduce abortions. I personally identify myself as pro-life, however I'm not so sure that we should criminalize abortion.

Just in the last two weeks there have been some exciting developments and conversations taking place about common ground on abortion. I encourage you to check out the new blog: www.rhrealitycheck.org/commonground as well as watch this civil and sincere dialogue of Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee discussing abortion.

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This isn't so much an update as a really great article that I forgot to reference. It's about a similar effort occuring in Canada.

"If we made abortion illegal tomorrow it's not going to change anything. I am not concerned with the law," said Yvonne Douma, the executive-director of the British Columbia-based organization.

Her group's goal is to "create a Canada where demand for abortions dwindles and decreases until there's none left -- not because it was forced upon anyone, but because that is what women choose."

June 25, 2009

Help Save Troy Davis

Many of you are familiar with the death penalty case concerning Troy Davis, and thanks to a Newsweek article, people all across America are learning about Troy Davis. Because I've moved to DC, I haven't been able to participate in the many recent events happening all over Georgia to halt Troy's execution. Thankfully many leaders and supporters from faith communities, organizations, and politicians have been stepping and vamping up their support for Troy.

As the Supreme Court considers what to do with Troy's case over the next few days, please continue to spread the word about Georgia's unwillingness to consider Troy's innocence and their obsession with execution. Pray that the evils of injustice still ever present in the South would be overcome.

You can also help Troy by calling Georgia's Chatham County District Attorney, Larry Chicolm. Tell him to reopen Troy's case: 912-652-7308. You can also email him through Amnesty.

June 23, 2009

Connected to the People of Iran

This past week has been absolutely crazy with everything happening in Iran. I don't know how much election aftermath you have followed, but I have found myself increasing drawn into the unfolding drama.

Early on I began following Nico Pitney's updates on Huffington Post. From there I discovered the role that Twitter was playing in people being able to get updates and news out of Iran. Soon after I logged into my Twitter account (which I had barely used) and was bombarded with hundreds of comments (Tweets) coming in every few seconds. What I once believed to be a silly and narcissistic micro blog, had all of a sudden become a tool for people to organize protests, say last words, spread news, and respond to the chaos from afar.

Then came the blog post from a woman in Iran,

"I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I'm listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It's worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I'm two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow's children..."
What amazing courage, inspirational words, and eerie normalcy. As I read her words I found myself increasingly caught up in the Iranian people's struggle for democracy, justice, and life. Then the unthinkable happened--this woman's sister, Neda was killed. After being shot in the chest, her final moments were caught on film. As she dies, blood begins coming out of her nose and mouth, and the people around her scream and shout in lament.

Later over the weekend, Andrew Sullivan wrote a wonderful piece about the role of Twitter in Iran. In his article, Twitter Ripped the Veil Off "the Other" - and We Saw Ourselves, he writes,

The misspelling, the range of punctuation, the immediacy: it was like overhearing snatches of discourse from police radio. Or it was like reading a million little telegram messages being beamed out like an SOS to the world. Within seconds I could transcribe and broadcast them to hundreds of thousands more.
As I did so, it was impossible not to feel connected to the people on the streets, especially the younger generation, with their blogs and tweets and Facebook messages - all instantly familiar to westerners in a way that would have been unthinkable a decade or so ago. This new medium ripped the veil off "the other" and we began to see them as ourselves.
Because information was able to come to us with a human face, this country called Iran shifted from a place many Americans preferred to see bombed, to a country filled with ordinary people risking their lives to make sure their ballots were counted. What an amazing transformation of perspective. I think Sullivan is right, "we began to see them as ourselves." If such a glimpse of our common humanity can be realized between Americans and Iranians, surely it is possible for us to diminish the ways we demonize and dehumanize our enemies.

I pray that as the demonstrations continue and officials debate what to do, that justice will prevail. I also pray that the protesters will do their best to choose non-violence tactics. Thank you Obama for reminding us of Dr. King's words and for weighing in on what is happening.
"Martin Luther King once said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,'" Mr. Obama said in a statement released after security forces in the Iranian capital clashed repeatedly with protesters. "I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian people's belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness."

Back to Blogging

After a very long and unintentional break, I have finally resumed blogging. Life got a bit more hectic last year, perhaps a result of it being my 3rd year seminary, fighting for Troy Davis, and leading the Social Concerns Network (even my nightly ritual of watching The Daily Show diminished).

Anyway, I hope to get back in the rhythm of blogging this summer. It should be a bit easier with no school, normal working hours, and being on my own. I going to stop sending the monthly updates, but I hope you'll consider signing up to still receive updates via Email, Google Follow, or the RSS Feed. I've just put a bunch of blogs into Google Reader that I hope to keep up with. I'm going to try to post 2-4 times a week, but we'll see how that goes. This fall I'll be in N. Ireland and in June I'll probably be in a parish, so there may be some additional evolutions to this blog.

I've updated some of the links on the side, so please check out some of the blogs of my friends and other folks I folllow. As the description says, I hope this will continue to be a place for education, advocacy, conversation, resourcing, and expression. I invite you to be apart of all that.