I spent most of my 20s exploring spirituality and part of that time wondering how by using certain spiritual principles I could make the world a better place. But it always seemed to be just about the "woo woo" and not enough about concrete action.
I spent most of my 30s exploring activism (both active and the armchair sort, such as this blog), but most of what I got involved in seemed to really miss some type of spiritual intention (at least on my part). Somehow I knew that at some point I'd be looking at a way to combine these two phases of my life.
Maybe this growth (dare I say evolution?) will be something I explore here. I think it will mean that I'll be spending less time focusing on the negative and more time focusing on a new consciousness. Or at least trying to find a balance between not ignoring the important issues, but looking for a way to concentrate energy on positive change. It will be a challenge.
. . . which means the gloves I've had on for nearly a year regarding Barack Obama have got to come off. Obama is not a progressive, he's not a leftist, especially not a socialist. At best he is a centrist. At worst, he seems to be willing to sell out progressives that voted for him on almost every single issue.
Every critical thing I posted about Obama's appointments before he took office got me unhappy comments. My friend Rex said, "Right now Obama's just gathering the ingredients, we don't know what he's going to cook yet." (I still reserved the right to be worried that some of the ingredients included lard, high fructose corn syrup, and propylene glycol). Others thought I should at least give him a chance. Fair enough, I gave him a chance.
Obama had a tough road ahead when he took office -- Bush left him a horrible mess. But because Bush screwed up SO BADLY, he had an opportunity to take the country in the opposite direction to undo some of the damage. He missed the opportunity, worried too much about being "bi-partisan" and getting along with the extreme right, and they still loathe him. He should have taken the country in the right direction (by which I mean turning it to the left) -- because even his attempts to appease the right still have them convinced that he's an ultra-leftist socialist (we can only wish that were true!).
The other day I heard a speech where Obama confronted his critics --told them that he and Pelosi were busy making things better and that his detractors would be better off if we picked up brooms and got to work. Unfortunately, not having much power, I can't get us out of Iraq or Afghanistan, can't get us to repeal the bad Bush laws, etc. and he can. The best thing that progressives can do is to be critical and pressure Obama in anyway possible to get him to turn around. You can bet those on the right didn't let up and "give him a chance" - they got to work pressuring him right away and it's been working marvelously well for them.
So, if you value peace, a country that doesn't detain people illegally, doesn't spy on it's own citizens, doesn't sell out to the highest corporate bidder -- put the pressure on Obama now. I will.
The Common Ground Initiatives were designed to match statements that the LDS Church had made considering the rights of LGBTQ people. It was a way to forge some common ground after the hurtful support by many LDS members of the Proposition 8 campaign in California. It could have been an opportunity for some healing between the LGBTQ community and the church.
Apparently, that healing doesn't matter to the Eagle Forum or the Sutherland Institute. They're now launching their "Sacred Ground" initiative which is meant to protect only a very narrow definition of family. Although I'm not sure how that would actually work - I happen to belong to that narrow definition of family, and I seriously doubt that if any of the common ground initiatives pass, that my family will somehow be destroyed.
Most of the Common Ground initiatives are common sense. One of the initiatives is to protect gays from being fired from a job simply because they are gay (it's legal in Utah currently) or thrown out of their apartments for being gay (can you believe this is still legal here?). I'm waiting to see the convoluted justifications for opposition to this particular inititiative as "sacred".
The latest poll shows that the people of Utah are way ahead of these archaic think-tank organizations and legislators. Most Utahn's support basic rights for the LGBTQ community. Wouldn't it be great if all who polled in favor of these rights contact their representative or senator to tell them they support these rights?
Needless to say if the "Sacred" Ground initiative is successful (they've already defeated one of the initiatives), this isn't going to help boycott issues - something we should be concerned about in this economy. I suggest that a gay-friendly travel guide is needed quickly, so that LGBTQ people and equality-minded straights visiting in Utah can be sure they aren't financially supporting their Gay suppression by coming here. In fact, as a equally-minded straight living here, I wouldn't mind having such a guide as well.
I've been getting pretty active on the blog that Deanna Taylor and I started to address issues that come up at the Utah Legislature from a progressive frame. We've invited several local political bloggers to participate as well.
I feel pretty fortunate to be able to easily attend the Sundance Film Festival. Nearly every film is shown in Salt Lake City once during the 10 days, and it's much easier to wait list a film here than in Park City. Not being especially wealthy does limit how many films I see (tickets are $15 this year - contrast that with the first year that I went to the festival in Park City in 1992 when tickets were $6 each), so I try to make the films I see really count.
This afternoon I saw the premier of "No Impact Man" - the film that chronicles a year long experiment of one New York City family in reducing. and ultimately having zero, impact. Colin Beavan is a writer, one who would much rather have what he writes about impact the world in a positive way. He has his "No Imact Man" blog set up to keep the world up to date on the family's progress as they give up buying anything new, eating out at restaurants, and eventually shutting off electricity to their apartment.
I've probably seen 30-40 screenings at the 16 Sundance Festivals that I've attended - I've seen powerful and important films, entertaining films, and a couple of stinkers over that time. This film is probably the most enjoyable of the lot. It has that rare combination of being able to make you laugh and yet inspire you to take action.
I admit that I'm a sucker for the type of experiment that Beavan and his family undertake. I did a two year tv-less experiment in the 1990s (and our family has done a tv-less lent for the past 3 years). I gave up driving the car to work in September 2007 (except for 1 day every two weeks when I have to get a 400 piece mailing to a business post-office several miles away.) I gave up meat 14 years ago, and soda 21 days ago. Far from feeling deprived, I generally find such shifts to be liberating and enlightening. It seems that these types of experiements are becoming more frequently the subjects of books. It's kind of like the reality-show of book world, but with the goal of producing positive change.
While the idea of "No Impact Man" is the brainchild of Colin Beavan, his wife Michelle steals the show. She is an everywoman who loves coffee and shopping, and seems to be reluctant to participate and do without. It's her milestones and her transformations that feel the most profound in the story. She's also the one (along with their adorable toddler daughter) who makes you laugh as she reveals the ways in which she occasionally "cheats" on the project. The film also explores the negative feelings and comments that Colin and Michelle inspire in many people with their experiment.
Colin and Michelle were present at the screening as well as one of the filmmakers, Justin Schein. Schein told the audience at the Rose Wagner Theatre during the Q & A that Colin and Michelle had asked them as filmmakers to use sustainable methods in the making of the film. No lights were used, for example, and rechargeable 9-volt batteries were used for the wireless mikes. I cornered Michelle after the film and asked her what they really DID use instead of toilet paper (a much referenced point in the film).
Ultimately, the film is inspiring. Some radical changes are going to have to happen if we want the human race to survive. Seeing "No Impact Man" has invigorated my resolve to live as lightly on the earth as possible, and given me a few good ideas in the process. And some of it, like more quality time with friends, family, and New York, looks downright fun.
For Sundance's summary of No Impact Man, please go here. My posts and reviews of past Sundance Film Festivals can be found here.
This Weekend - FREE SLC Electronic Waste ("E-Waste") Collection Program
GRX will be holding a FREE collection for electronic waste (from old electric can-openers and toaster ovens to TVs, printers, computers, keyboards, etc.) for residents of Salt Lake City this Saturday, January 10 - from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The location is the parking lot behind Horizonte School (1300 South and West Temple. You must be a resident of Salt Lake City to participate (and they will be checking), as GRX normally charges 25 cents/lb. for electronic waste.
GRX also takes old cables, power cords, cell phones, CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, cassette tapes, you name it. And the "guarantee" in their name; none of the materials will leave the United States (won't be landfilled in Asia or delivered to 12 year olds in China to disassemble under hazardous conditions).
Pass this on to anyone you know in Salt Lake City who might enjoy taking advantage of this opportunity.
Many families like to stress the idea of charity during the holidays, but this year being what it is they may feel the need to pull back from charitible giving this year.
There's one event coming up that won't cost your family a dime -- the 3rd Annual Coat Exchange scheduled for Black Friday (known as "Buy Nothing Day" in activist circles) November 28, 2008 will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Library Square downtown. Bring your outgrown or no longer needed coats. You can exchange them for another coat, or just leave your coats for someone who may need them. You can also pick up a coat without bringing one to exchange if you want. Coats left at the end of the day will be donated to Crossroads Urban Center.
This is a great re-enforcement activity for my youngest. We've been reading the American Girl book series, and we started with Kit who lived during the time of the Great Depression. Kit and her friends toward the end of the series gather coats and shoes to donate to a soup kitchen where many homeless families seek food and warmth during the winter. I love the idea of being able to do something physically that mirrors the idea that we've read about.
Deanna Taylor of Dee's 'Dotes founded the event here in Utah. From the press release:
The 3rd Annual Community Coat Exchange promotes principles of community and reusing the day after Thanksgiving.
Every year people all over the United States spend the day after Thanksgiving getting ready for the holiday season by patronizing retail businesses for gift buying. “We perceived a need for a project for the same day that would be useful and meaningful, as well as educational,” states Deanna Taylor, founder of the Utah event. “The event focuses on concerns about the ecological and psychological consequences of our consumer culture and the impact of our consumerism on society.”
To that end, a new community-oriented project was born: The Community Coat Exchange. Patterned after a similar event in Rhode Island, the Coat Exchange is a collection and distribution of winter coats and other winter clothing items. The event is held every year the day after Thanksgiving from 10am to 3pm at the Downtown Salt Lake City Library Plaza.
Taylor reflects about last year's event: “What made it all worthwhile was being able to give coats away to folks from all socioeconomic levels. Well off folks took coats, driving home the concept of reusing; Families with children that had been referred to us by a local social agency came and took coats. Men, young and old, dressed in very thin, practically sleeveless, clothes came looking for warm clothing. Folks couldn’t believe that the coats were free. The looks on their faces were priceless. When we explained the coat exchange to people, they went home and brought back more.”
People have been bringing donations to City Academy, a Utah Public Charter School and Community Coat Exchange Partner/drop off center. Coats can be dropped off there any weekday before Thanksgiving (555 East 200 South). People can also bring their coats to the event itself.
At the event, no questions are asked: If you need a coat, come get one. If you want to exchange a coat, bring the coat you want to donate and take one in exchange. If you have a donation of coats, we know people who can use them.
Left over coats are donated to the Crossroads Urban Center Thrift Store, a project of the Crossroads Urban Center which advocates for low income and homeless people. The Crossroads Urban Center Thrift Store gives clothes away to poor people and also sells clothes and other goods in its retail shop to the general public to help fund the Crossroads Urban Center programs.