Sunday, January 15, 2017

Troll Bait Hashtag #HereToStay Builds Solidarity On Twitter

I'm a sporadic twitter user mostly because lack of time doing my day job, plus not being glued to my phone which barely works at home in the woods. But I love twitter and it's my best news feed for sure; I joined it after experiencing the floodgates of facebook friending. 

Why did people who hated what I stood for in high school suddenly want to see my facebook posts? We're old enough now that apoplexy increases the risk of stroke, doesn't it?

So with more careful following I built a more international and, yes, intellectual list of twitter users who bring me news I would never get from corporate sources (which I mostly ignore anyway).

But if I'm at a live event that seems to have broad significance, and I wasn't an organizer of the event so I can mingle and flirt with babies and take things in, I often tweet about it. Yesterday's attendance in Lewiston, Maine at one of the many January 14 immigration support rallies was such an opportunity for me.

The event poster and a twitter user I sat next to advised me that #heretostay was the hashtag du jour. Boy, did that turn out to be troll bait!

Many fine young poets from Maine's extensive Somali immigrant population took to the stage and I tweeted a few clips from their heartfelt words about growing up black and Muslim and, in the case of the women, covered in the whitest state in the U.S. 
One of many fine banners on display in Lewiston courtesy of ARRT!

Rakiya Mohamed, a student at nearby Bates College, read a message from her 21 year old self to her "fresh off the boat" childhood self. She also gave an interview to a WCSH reporter on the scene where she described a 10 year old girl being harassed and spit on at a 4th of July fireworks display.

It was often tough to catch the speakers' names or spell them correctly as there was no printed program. This poem entitled "Lazy Boy" spoke poignantly about the struggle to be a high school student and eldest brother of a family of first generation immigrants.
One poet I could identify correctly was Tufts student Muna Mohamed whom I remembered from her days at Lewiston High School. She made the news there as part of a group that put up a Black Lives Matter educational poster only to have the principal take it down. And then, bowing to public pressure, put it back up again. Her poem about being mis-identified by others was one of the best.

Portland's first African-born Muslim city councilor, the recently elected Pious Ali, who hails originally from Ghana, spoke well. He asked for a show of hands about who among us were immigrants, the children of immigrants, or the grand and great grandchildren of immigrants. And who had a neighbor or friend or co-worker from a family of immigrants. Everybody, right?

About 500 people were in attendance at the (mercifully) indoor venue. We finished off by singing Neil Young's updated version of the classic Woodie Guthrie tune "This Land Is Your Land" together which was a beautiful experience.

This is the tweet that most seemed to anger those who dwell under the social media bridge. An avalanche of nasty replies -- the likes of which my twitter feed seldom sees -- awaited me this morning. I guess I struck a nerve, or maybe it's just that someone paid folks to troll for the #heretostay hashtag and churn out some vitriol in response.

Are they angry because their beautiful daughters can't afford to go to Tufts? Or because they imagine that refugees who work in nursing homes in Maine are taking jobs away from white people -- who don't want to work in nursing homes?

Not sure, but I do appreciate the traffic on my twitter feed.

I got many new followers, retweets and likes from being a citizen journalist at yesterday's rally. πŸ‘πŸ» πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’ž

I'll end with my sign of the times, the one I carry in my vehicle and use to show that, as an ACLU lawyer observed, "Before the government can come after any individual in this room they'll have to come through all of us." Amen to that, sister.

Friday, January 13, 2017

I found it impossible to remain silent as another weapon of mass destruction was blessed. #Zumwalt12

The Zumwalt 12 in action at Bath Iron Works on June 18, 2016 -- Connie Jenkins is seated, wearing a red shirt and floppy hat.
Connie Jenkins is a peace walker and former public health nurse from Orono, Maine. Here is the wisdom she will offer at the trial of the Zumwalt 12 on February 1 for obstructing a public way:

Statement for Zumwalt trial

Good morning, 

Let me say first that I’m grateful for the chance to briefly explain to you why I decided to risk arrest on June 18th of last year. 

On the face of it, the case against me is very simple.  As the officer testified, I stood and then sat down in the street until I was arrested, I would imagine a time of about 10 minutes.  I did what I’m charged with.   

At the same time, I believe the charge against me is irrelevant because I acted for the greater good according to moral necessity, according to my conscience.  I understand that moral necessity may not be a legal defense.  However, I have sworn to tell “nothing but the truth”; and in truth it is moral necessity that has brought me here. 

I am a Christian peacemaker, a parishioner at St. Paul the Apostle parish in Bangor, and a member of Pax Christi Maine, a Catholic peace and social justice movement guided by the spirituality of nonviolence.  As such, I am called to live my life according to the precepts given by Jesus in the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.   

I have taken a solemn vow of nonviolence through Pace e Bene, an international peace organization, and as part of that vow, I am committed to helping the struggle to abolish War. 

Jesus declared, Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.   And what that means to me is that if I consider myself to be a Christian, I have to do my part to make a more peaceful world.  I must speak out against War, and take public action for peace.  As a follower of the nonviolent Jesus, I found it impossible to remain silent as another weapon of mass destruction was blessed and prepared for delivery to the Navy.  
And so, I joined eleven other men and women who also chose to risk arrest for the cause of Peace.  Through the simple act of sitting down and refusing to move, we embodied a resounding “No” to the immeasurable suffering caused by national policies that have made weapons of mass destruction and unrestrained, endless war our country’s major exports. 

On January 1st, Pope Francis celebrated the 50th World Day of Peace.  In his address, titled “Nonviolence:  A Style of Politics for Peace”, he urged all of us to “make active nonviolence our way of life” and to reject what he calls the “horrifying world war fought piecemeal” in which we find ourselves engaged.   

I’d like to share with you the following remarks from his statement: 

“Violence is not the cure for our broken world.  Countering violence with violence leads at best to . . . enormous suffering because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world.  At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.”

I think about the young men and women in their crisp white uniforms who walked past us that June day on their way to boarding the Destroyer.   And I hope that in seeing us sitting on the ground, waiting to be arrested, a seed was planted which may cause them to deeply reflect on what they have been trained to do and to turn away from the deception and evil and horror of War. 

Thank you.

"The Zumwalt destroyer crew members had to pass by our protest.  We are trying to prepare them for what they will see when they port in Korea, Guam, Philippines, Okinawa, Australia, Japan, Ukraine......the world is fed up with U.S. militarism and 'exceptionalism'." From the blog of Zumwalt 12 member Bruce Gagnon.