Conflicting decisions on pipelines frustrate industry, landowners

StateImpact

A reporting project of NPR Member Stations- Pennsylvania

Conflicting decisions on pipelines frustrate industry, landowners

By Marie Cusick       September 18, 2017

https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/files/2017/09/IMG_5501-620x465.jpgMarie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Hundreds of Cathy Holleran’s maple trees were cut down, through the use of eminent domain, for an interstate natural gas pipeline that’s now stalled.

In March 2016, workers for one of the nation’s largest natural gas pipeline companies cut down a large swath of maple trees in Susquehanna County–a rural patch of northeastern Pennsylvania. A video shot by an activist shows the trees crashing down as chainsaws buzz.

Cathy Holleran was powerless to stop it. At the time, she was tapping the trees for her family’s maple syrup business, but the pipeline company condemned her land using the power of eminent domain.

Armed U.S. Marshals

Driving around a year-and-a half later, she’s still in disbelief. A court order had prevented her from interfering, and law enforcement officers came to protect the pipeline workers.

“We had to stay completely away. They brought armed U.S. Marshals with assault rifles and Pennsylvania State Police, and had guys walking all over property in bullet proof vests,” Holleran recalls. “I mean, really! We’re making syrup. What are we going to do? Are we going to go attack these guys?”

Walking through her property on a recent soggy September afternoon, Holleran finds tree stumps hidden beneath shoulder-high weeds.

“This used to all be woods– as thick as that,” she says, gesturing to a cluster of remaining trees.

By her count, she lost more than 550 maples, “I went through with my camera and took pictures from every angle and counted them by hand to make sure I was accurate.”

She says her family’s maple syrup business has been cut in half. But the real shame of it all, Holleran adds, is this may all have been for nothing.

The Constitution Pipeline was supposed to emanate from northeastern Pennsylvania, and run 121 miles through New York State. Federal regulators gave their blessing to the project. So did Pennsylvania regulators. But New York State (whose border is about 20 miles from Holleran’s land) refused to grant a necessary water permit.

The pipeline company, Williams, sued, but a federal court recently sided with New York. Holleran says she’d warned the company of this possibility.

“All along we kept saying, ‘You might not get through New York. You might not get your permits. You’re gonna come through here and cut our land?’”

Williams spokesman, Chris Stockton, says at the time the company was working with New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and the permit was advancing.

“We were addressing their concerns as they came up,” he says. “We had no reason to think we would not receive that permit. We were playing by the rules and doing everything we needed to do.”

‘The rules of the game have changed’

“What happened with the Constitution was a surprise,” says Fred Lowther, a partner with the law firm Blank Rome, who’s represented major oil and gas pipeline companies.

It reminds him of another ruling, about a decade ago, when the industry ran into a similar problem: a state killed a federally-approved pipeline. The Islander East project was supposed to run from Connecticut, under Long Island Sound. But Connecticut wouldn’t give it a water quality certificate, claiming it would damage nearly 600 acres of clam beds. And when the pipeline companies sued, a federal court sided with the state.

“It caused quite a stir in the industry,” Lowther says of the ruling. “Because the intention was not to give states the veto power over a federally-approved project, but to give them a say in how the project was shaped.”

History appears to be repeating itself with the Constitution Pipeline. Lowther says pipeline companies will likely be more cautious.

“I think going forward, people will be very careful before they authorize either the taking of land or the clearing of right of way,” he says.

It has long been assumed by the pipeline industry that once their projects get approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the state permits fall into place.

“Historically, that has not been a problem,” says Mark Robinson, a gas industry consultant who used to work at FERC. ”We’re kinda in a new arena now. The rules of the game have changed a little bit.”

In a surprise move earlier this month, West Virginia environmental regulators rescinded a water certificate for another federally-authorized natural gas pipeline. Robinson warns states shouldn’t be able to unilaterally reject important, interstate projects.

“I imagine you’ll see significant pushback from the pipeline industry,” he says.

Last week FERC overruled New York environmental regulators in their denial of a water permit to another pipeline, saying the state had taken too long with its review and thus “waived” its authority.

Landowners often find themselves with few options. Angela McGowan is an attorney for the Harrisburg for the firm, Pillar Aught. She’s represented property owners dealing with other new pipelines in Pennsylvania, and says the industry generally has the upper hand—they just have to pay the people whose land their taking.

Eminent domain occurs in a sort of vacuum, she explains. The law doesn’t consider whether a pipeline company has all its permits in hand–  the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.

“The eminent domain code basically just says you’ve got to prove you have the power,” says McGowan. “Once you do that, it’s just about what the ‘just compensation’ is.”

But Cathy Holleran is waiting for answers. She and the company are still in court and haven’t agreed on how much she should be paid.

“I can’t even tell you the amount of stress, personally, this has put us through,” she says.

The conflicting decisions from the state of New York and the federal government have left her with heaps of rotting maple trees strewn across her property.

The census data has bad news for Black and Latinx Americans

ThinkProgress

The census data has bad news for Black and Latinx Americans

Across the country families are getting wealthier, but rosy coverage of new census figures is hiding an alarming fact.

E.A. Crunden        September 13, 2017

https://i0.wp.com/thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ap_110215017408.jpg?resize=1280%2C720px&ssl=1 AP Photo/David Goldman

New Census Bureau data shows an increasingly optimistic picture for white Americans — but far less so for Americans of color, many of whom still face stark income disparities.

Released Tuesday, the numbers appear to show good news across the board in several key areas. Median household income in the United States in 2016 was $59,039 — a more than three percent rise from 2015 and the highest ever recorded. Poverty also saw a dip, as did the number of people without health insurance. The Census Bureau said that data reflects both a return to pre-recession levels, with 2.5 million people no longer living in poverty, and a precarious drop in the number of uninsured Americans, now around 8.8 percent of the population.

But the figures also show a grim reality. While white families now earn an average income of around $65,041, that picture is far less rosy for other racial demographics. Hispanic families earn around $47,675 — considerably lower than the over-arching average, $59,039. Worse off are Black families, who earn a median of $39,490, more than $25,000 less than their white counterparts. (The top earners, bringing in around $81,431 per year, are families identified as Asian, a broad demographic including those with origins across much of the Asian continent but outside of the Middle East.) Those numbers are despite the fact that medians for both Black and Hispanic households grew at twice the rate of white households in 2016.

The Census Bureau told ThinkProgress that no reason could be given for the gaps, and commentary could only be offered on the figures and trends. But experts and economists highlighted the data on social media, pointing to the numbers as a disconcerting sign that the figures reinforce income inequality in a damning way, one that also cuts along gendered lines. Janelle Jones, an economic analyst with the Economic Policy Institute, noted on Twitter that “earnings actually DECREASED for black women and Latinas” while they rose for white women (women of all races are still out-earned significantly by their male counterparts):

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While the figures alone are striking, they aren’t the only indicator that the United States has a severe economic inequality issue. According to a new study by Prosperity Now and the Institute for Policy Studies, wealth trends for Black and Latinx families are dwindling, even as the United States becomes increasingly less white demographically. If the study is correct, the median wealth for Black families will be $0 by 2053; two decades later, Latinx families are expected to reach the same number.

“While households of color are projected to reach majority status by 2043, if the racial wealth divide is left unaddressed, median Black household wealth is on a path to hit zero by 2053 and median Latino household wealth is projected to hit zero twenty years later,” the report’s key findings note. “In sharp contrast, median White household wealth would climb to $137,000 by 2053.”

Related: Census data confirms connection between Obamacare and record-low uninsured rate. But states that did not embrace ACA provisions continue to see higher uninsured rates.

Wealth is about more than income — assets and ownership are an important component of how wealth is determined. But the study still points at an increasingly pressing issue. Projections indicate the United States will be majority non-white by 2044; if trends continue as they are now, that could mean serious repercussions for the U.S. economy, which will suffer along with many communities of color.

This is all part of an enduring legacy, Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, a senior fellow at Prosperity Now, told The Guardian.

“The middle class didn’t just happen by market forces, and the whiteness of the middle class didn’t just happen by market forces,” he said. “Both were intentional.”

Interpretations of Tuesday’s census figures have in many ways overlooked this reality. With much of U.S. focus directed on the country’s middle class, any growth within that group is seen as positive. But for Black and Latinx people, the story becomes more complicated, both because they are paid less than white counterparts, and because white families are more likely to have access to pre-existing wealth and assets.

“You find first-generation, even second-generation African-American and Latino households that have professional jobs and are making ‘middle-income money’ – but they have the wealth of a white high-school dropout,” said Asante-Muhammad. “They’re not truly part of a middle class – which would mean financial stability, money to weather challenging economic situations, or money to invest in the economic opportunities of their children.”

That reality is one that might not be addressed any time soon. In addition to reinforcing pre-existing racial income inequality, census figures also point at another jarring trend — the rich are getting richer more generally, while the poorest households have an even smaller income than before. That’s not a good sign for Americans of color already at a disadvantage, or a positive sign that dramatic shifts could be coming.

Even those welcoming the census data were quick to note that the figures reflect a reality prior to the election of President Donald Trump. The president’s policy proposals, which aim to roll back things like food stamp funding, and wide-scale legislative efforts, like unraveling the Affordable Care Act, could have a dramatic impact on the growth measured in 2016.

That’s something Americans should watch out for, Peter Atwater, president of Financial Insyghts, told the Washington Post.

“There’s a danger that this is as good as it gets,” he said.

An Undocumented Journey Through Harvey

Esquire

An Undocumented Journey Through Harvey

When her trailer flooded, Maria and her children escaped on a makeshift raft. But with the risk of deportation, she didn’t know where to turn. 

By Lorena O’Neil     August 31, 2017

The water seeped in under the door of Maria’s mobile home in Houston Sunday night as she tapped out the numbers 9-1-1. No answer. “Just take the children and leave me,” her friend José urged in Spanish. Jose is paralyzed from the waist-down. Maria and her late husband took him in to live with them and their five children following his car accident six years ago. The water kept coming into the trailer. Now it crept towards Jose’s electric wheelchair.

“No—if we leave, we all leave together,” Maria told Jose. She was scared. She had called 911 three hours earlier and had been instructed to calm down and wait. So Maria waited, and waited, and now the water was coming in faster, and now there was more of it. Her children were crying.

As Maria began to panic, her friend’s husband, whom she had called earlier, showed up at her front door with his son and his two teenage friends. He pointed to the inflatable kiddie pool her family used during the hot Houston summer, and suggested they use it as a raft to push José through the floodwater. With José, her 9-year-old twin boys, and her 10-year-old daughter situated in the green and blue floating pool, the 5-foot-tall Maria pushed her family through frigid water that reached her chest. Maria’s other two daughters, just 11- and 12-years-old, walked alongside their mother in the dark. She wondered what would happen next. Both Maria and Jose are undocumented immigrants, and she feared being asked for papers once they reached a shelter.

Maria’s concern about potentially being detained by “la migra”—immigration officials—was one shared by many undocumented immigrants as Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston and other parts of southern Texas. Pew estimates that the Houston metropolitan area is home to roughly 575,000 undocumented immigrants, the third largest population in the United States behind Los Angeles and New York. Even before the storm, the undocumented community was on high alert, due to Senate Bill 4, an anti-immigrant measure that allows local police officers to ask about a person’s citizenship status and had been scheduled to go into effect Friday. (It has since been temporarily halted.)

http://esq.h-cdn.co/assets/17/35/1024x683/gallery-1504126919-hurricane-harvey.jpgHouston is home to about 575,000 undocumented immigrants, the third largest population in the United States. Getty

The ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection put out a joint statement over the weekend in light of the storm saying they wouldn’t target undocumented immigrants at evacuation sites, shelters, or food banks. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner went as far as saying he would personally defend any undocumented immigrants who faced deportation as a result of seeking help in the storm. These reassurances never reached Maria, and she almost didn’t go to a shelter due to her fear. (Esquire is withholding the last names of undocumented immigrants profiled in this article.)

Maria had walked for 75 minutes through the water towards an elementary school on higher ground. She brought a change of clothes and blankets with her from home that were now soaked. The kiddie pool was becoming so deflated it was tough to push. As her legs began to fatigue from wading through the water, a black truck splashed by and three men jumped out to assist Maria, Jose, and the rest of the group. The Good Samaritans drove the family to a nearby school and Maria contemplated where to go next. She tried to call acquaintances, but claims it was tough to find someone who would agree to house them once she mentioned José was paraplegic. The men who had been in the black truck offered to take them to Gallery Furniture, a Houston furniture store that had opened its doors as a shelter for hurricane evacuees.

“I was so scared,” she says in Spanish, the language in which our interview was conducted. “I was scared I would go there and they would ask me for my papers.”

Maria left Mexico when she was 20-years-old and has been living in Texas for the past 17 years. Her husband passed away from a stroke a year ago, and now she is terrified of being deported and leaving her five American-born children without parents. But the men in the truck reassured Maria and José nobody would ask for their documentation at Gallery Furniture. Desperate for food, water, and a place to sleep, Maria went to the furniture store, where the family was greeted with hot dogs, coffee, and a temporary wheelchair for José. Still, she was anxious.

http://esq.h-cdn.co/assets/17/35/1024x481/gallery-1504126623-hurricane-harvey-texas-flooding-3.jpgThere have been dozens of Hurricane Harvey-related deaths since it made landfall in Texas over the weekend. Getty

“I didn’t want to stay there,” she says. At 4 a.m., two police officers walked in, and her anxiety grew. The pair spoke with some of the volunteers at the shelter and walked into the kitchen. Nobody asked for papers.

Maria, Jose, and the children slept at the furniture store for one night before moving to a family member’s house, where they are currently living. Maria has since returned to her mobile home to assess the situation. The water has damaged two of her four bedrooms, plus a bathroom. Her two trucks are flooded, as well, one of which she uses to pull the taco food cart that she depends on for her livelihood. Maria, like approximately 80 percent of Harvey’s worst flood victims, does not have flood insurance.

“I know [undocumented] people have been afraid before the hurricane, of just dropping their kids at school or going to work,” says Pancho Arguelles, executive director at Living Hope Wheelchair Association, a non-profit organization that assists people like José with spinal cord injuries who don’t have access to healthcare.

http://esq.h-cdn.co/assets/17/35/1024x685/gallery-1504126484-hurricane-harvey-gallery-furniture.jpgHouston’s Gallery Furniture store took in families like Maria’s Sunday night. Getty

He worries about the new anti-immigrant bill, and says he thinks undocumented people will mistakenly think it means every police officer is essentially becoming an immigration officer. The deterioration of trust between police officers and the community they serve is of serious concern to police chiefs in Texas, many of whom have spoken out against Senate Bill 4 both before and after it was signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The legislation—nicknamed the “anti-sanctuary cities” law—would ban police chiefs, sheriffs, and other law-enforcement officials from preventing an officer from questioning a person about his or her immigration status. Jail officials would also be forced to honor all ICE requests to hold inmates for possible deportation. On Wednesday, a federal district judge temporarily blocked the bill from taking effect while a lawsuit against it continues. Houston is one of the cities involved in the lawsuit looking to strike down the law.

“I know [undocumented] people have been afraid before the hurricane, of just dropping their kids at school or going to work.”

Still, Maria feels uncertain about her future in the U.S. “I’m worried,” she says. Speaking on behalf of the undocumented community in Houston she says, “We have a lot of needs right now.” Maria hopes to move back into her damaged home and get her business back up and running as soon as she can.

“I will work hard and fight like always for my children,” she says. “I’m their only support.”

I Have No More Patience for Trump Supporters

Esquire

I Have No More Patience for Trump Supporters

Last night in Arizona, Trump came right up to the edge of inciting you to riot and you rode along with him.

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By Charles P. Pierce         August 23, 2017

At least, old Ted Agnew had the late William Safire writing his stuff for him. “Nattering nabobs of negativism.” “Pusillanimous pussyfooters.” I mean, that’s the top-shelf brand right there. It’s an honor to have such invective thrown in your direction. Ol’ Ted broke new ground in only two areas—taking cheap-ass bribes in the office of the vice president and attacking the media.

Instead, 45 years later, we get this mendacious litany of sixth-grade sneering:

So the — and I mean truly dishonest people in the media and the fake media, they make up stories. They have no sources in many cases. They say “a source says” — there is no such thing. But they don’t report the facts. Just like they don’t want to report that I spoke out forcefully against hatred, bigotry and violence and strongly condemned the neo-Nazis, the White Supremacists, and the KKK.

(APPLAUSE)

I openly called for unity, healing and love, and they know it because they were all there. So what I did —

(APPLAUSE)

So what I did is I thought, I’d take just a second, and I’m really doing this more than anything else, because you know where my heart is, OK?

(APPLAUSE)

I’m really doing this to show you how damned dishonest these people are.

And then:

You know why? Because they are very dishonest people. So I said, racism is evil. Now they only choose, you know, like a half a sentence here or there and then they just go on this long rampage, or they put on these real lightweights all around a table that nobody ever heard of, and they all say what a bad guy I am. But, I mean do you ever see anything — and then you wonder why CNN is doing relatively poorly in the ratings. Because they’re putting like seven people all negative on Trump. And they fired Jeffrey Lord, poor Jeffrey. Jeffrey Lord. I guess he was getting a little fed up, and he was probably fighting back a little bit too hard. They said, we’ve better get out of here; we can’t have that.And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold true as Americans. Now let me ask you, can it be any better than that, in all fairness? And you know I mention that, but to the best of my knowledge when there was a big problem, Barack Obama never said it took place because of radical Islamic terrorists, he never said that, right.

And, finally, the full Schickelgruber:

And — and I say it, and you know, we’re all pros. We’re all, like, we have a certain sense. We’re smart people. These are truly dishonest people. And not all of them. Not all of them. You have some very good reporters. You have some very fair journalists. But for the most part, honestly, these are really, really dishonest people, and they’re bad people. And I really think they don’t like our country. I really believe that. And I don’t believe they’re going to change, and that’s why I do this. If they would change, I would never say it. The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself, and the fake news…These are sick people. You know the thing I don’t understand? You would think — you would think they’d want to make our country great again, and I honestly believe they don’t. I honestly believe it. If you want to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further than the fake news and the crooked media…

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Before we get to the other stuff, and there was lots of other stuff, I’d like to address myself to those people represented by the parenthetical notation (Applause) in the above transcript, those people who waited for hours in 105-degree heat so that they could have the G-spot of their irrationality properly stroked for them. You’re all suckers. You’re dim and you’re ignorant and you can’t even feel yourself sliding toward something that will surprise even you with its fundamental ugliness, something that everybody who can see past the veil of their emotions can see as plain as a church by daylight, to borrow a phrase from that Willie Shakespeare fella. The problem, of course, is that you, in your pathetic desire to be loved by a guy who wouldn’t have 15 seconds for you on the street, are dragging the rest of us toward that end, too.

A guy basically went mad, right there on the stage in front of you, and you cheered and booed right on cue because you’re sheep and because he directed his insanity at all the scapegoats that your favorite radio and TV personalities have been creating for you over the past three decades. Especially, I guess, people like me who practice the craft of journalism in a country that honors that craft in its most essential founding documents. The President of the United States came right up to the edge of inciting you to riot and you rode along with him. You’re on his team, by god.

Are you good people? I keep hearing that you are, but let’s go back to Tuesday night’s transcripts and see what we find:

One vote away. One vote away. We were one vote away. Think of it, seven years the Republicans — and again, you have some great senators, but we were one vote away from repealing it.

(CROWD CHANTING)

But, you know, they all said, Mr. President, your speech was so good last night, please, please, Mr. President don’t mention any names. So I won’t. I won’t. No I won’t vote — one vote away, I will not mention any names. Very presidential, isn’t’ it? Very presidential. And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who’s weak on borders, weak on crime, so I won’t talk about him.

Right there, in the passive-aggressive fashion of the true moral coward, he made a bobo out of a former POW who currently is undergoing treatment for what is likely a terminal brain cancer. And you chanted and cheered. Do good people chant and cheer a rhetorical assault on a dying man of respect and honor?

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I have no more patience, and I had very little to start with. I don’t care why you’re anxious. I don’t care for anybody’s interpretation of why you voted for this abomination of a politician, and why you cheer him now, because any explanation not rooted in the nastier bits of basic human spleen is worthless. I don’t want any politicians who seek to appeal to the more benign manifestations of your condition because there’s no way to separate those from all the rest of the hate and fear and stupidity. (And, for my colleagues in the Vance-Arnade-Zito school of Trump Whispering, here’s a hint: They hate you, too.) I don’t care why you sat out in a roasting pan since 5 a.m. Tuesday morning to whistle and cheer and stomp your feet for a scared, dangerous little man who tells you that your every bloody fantasy about your enemies is the height of patriotism. You are now the declared adversaries of what I do for a living, and your idol is a danger to the country and so are you. Own it. Deal with it. And, for the love of god, and for the sake of the rest of us who live in this country, do better at being citizens.

As to the rest, I might have been a little groggy, but I thought I heard him say he was going to shut down the government unless Congress gives him money for his stupid wall that Mexico was supposed to finance. I thought I heard him tell that evil racist gossoon, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, to count on a pardon down the line somewhere. And, I swear to god, I thought I heard him call the Democrats in the Congress communists.

Wait. What?

It’s all they’re good at. It’s all they’re good at. That’s all they do. On healthcare, they have 48 Democrats. We got no votes. We got no votes. And it would have been great healthcare. And by the way, would have been great healthcare for Arizona. Would have been great. So the Democrats have no ideas, no policy, no vision for the country other than total socialism and maybe, frankly, a step beyond socialism from what I’m seeing.

(BOOING)

Thought so.

(Also, note to all the Purity Police who think people like Joy Reid are “red-baiting” when they mention that Russian ratfcking helped decide the last presidential election. That bit right at the end there? That’s actual red-baiting. Please take notes. I don’t want to have to go over this again.)

It was a deadening, numbing 77 minutes. (If there’s one modern orator he most resembles, it’s Fidel Castro.) The abiding feelings that I took away from this carnival of the Id were twofold: first, that this jefe manqué is on the verge of sending people infinitely better than he is to die in a war he doesn’t understand, and second, and probably most important, this is a president* who is scared to death. He’s frightened of the responsibilities of his office, of the mounting unpopularity of both himself and his policies, and of the hounds baying at the frontiers of his shady past and shadier present. He’s terrified, and he should be. He’s desperately shoring up the bubble that his ovine followers helped him build to insulate him from the truth and from empirical reality.

Come to this house.

Be one of us.

I’m Proud of My Husband for Knelling During the Anthem, but Don’t Make Him a White Savior

The Root

I’m Proud of My Husband for Knelling During the Anthem, but Don’t Make Him a White Savior

https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--GZYM1L2p--/c_fill,fl_progressive,g_center,h_80,q_80,w_80/kwnbevunwdwtruqyjgly.jpg  Erica Harris DeValve     August 23, 2017

https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--auzkPeM6--/c_scale,fl_progressive,q_80,w_800/aurf1sojpzm9aiulnpn6.jpgA group of Cleveland Browns players kneel in a circle in protest during the national anthem prior to a preseason game against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on Aug. 21, 2017. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

On Monday night, I walked into FirstEnergy Stadium having absolutely no clue what was going to happen during the national anthem. When it began, I saw a group of Browns players kneeling and was proud. A few moments later, I noticed that No. 87—my husband, Seth—was among them, and I was even prouder.

That moment reconfirmed a few things that I knew: that the many in-depth conversations about race that Seth and I had—that every interracial couple must have had—resonated and took root with him; that he knew this was bigger than just one-on-one chatting with me over dinner or coffee; and that he gets it, beyond a simple desire to be protective of me as his wife.

While I understand (and am deeply proud) that Seth is the first white NFL player to kneel during a demonstration like this (on Sept. 4, 2016, Megan Rapinoe, a U.S. women’s soccer player, was the first white professional athlete to do so), I would like to push back against some of the attention he’s been getting that portrays him as some sort of white savior to a movement that was started and has been carried on by black football players for about a year now.

I am grateful for the widespread support and praise that Seth is getting for his actions, but I would like to offer a humble reminder that a man—a black man—literally lost his job for taking a knee, week after week, on his own. Colin Kaepernick bravely took a step and began a movement throughout the NFL, and he suffered a ridiculous amount of hate and threats and ultimately lost his life’s work in the sport he loves.

We should not see Seth’s participation as legitimizing this movement. Rather, he chose to be an ally of his black teammates. To center the focus of Monday’s demonstration solely on Seth is to distract from what our real focus should be: listening to the experiences and the voices of the black people who are using their platforms to continue to bring the issue of racism in the U.S. to the forefront. Seth, as a white individual, never has and never will truly have to feel the weight and burden of racial discrimination and racial oppression. No white person does or will. But all white people should care and take a stand against its prevalence in this country.

What I hope to see from this is a shift in the conversation to Seth’s black teammates, who realistically have to carry that burden all the time. I am discouraged by this idea that acknowledging and fighting against racism is a distraction that must be stored away in order to be a good football player. I wholeheartedly reject that narrative.

Black players in the NFL cannot just turn their concern on and off in order to be able to focus more on football. White players shouldn’t, either. Racism is a day-to-day reality, and I hope that, instead of holding Seth up on a pedestal, the response will be to do what he did: listen to the voices of the black people in your life, and choose to support them as they seek to make their voices heard.

To the people who are looking at pictures of us and saying, “Oh, well, that makes sense,” I offer a dramatic eye roll. People on Twitter have insinuated that it’s simply my appearance that inspired Seth to kneel with his teammates, or that I must’ve threatened Seth with leaving him or refusing to have sex with him if he didn’t join the demonstration. To even joke in this way is gross. Seth didn’t do what he did simply to obtain a gold star from his wife. His actions on Monday night were not the equivalent of him bringing home a bouquet of flowers after I’ve had a rough day.

In his interview after Monday night’s game, Seth said, “I myself will be raising children that don’t look like me, and I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have right now.” I don’t think either of us foresaw that this choice to share about his personal life would become the go-to narrative to explain Seth’s actions in their entirety.

Seth understands how racism systematically oppresses people across this entire nation. He understands that to be complacent about it is not just unacceptable as a “black wife’s” husband; Seth supported his teammates because it was the right thing to do, it was the godly thing to do and it was the responsible thing to do. If I were white, he should have done the same, and I am confident that he would have.

In the last few days, we have seen a lot of the same comments that have been expressed since Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem: people imploring players to stand up because it is disrespectful to the flag, to the country, and to active military and veterans. But what Kaepernick did (and what various NFL players are continuing this season) is something we should see as real patriotism. They are engaging critically with the national anthem and this country’s articulated ideals; they are consciously observing the reality of our country’s current state; and they are using their platforms to publicly hold the country in which they live accountable to the ideals it is supposed to be upholding.

To be complacent that the U.S. strives to be “the land of the free” while so many of its citizens of color are being oppressed for their race is unpatriotic and irresponsible. I applaud those who realize that and do something about it rather than ignore it.

Erica Harris DeValve recently graduated from Princeton University and will begin pursuing her master’s in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary this fall with a focus on the intersection of race and Christianity in the U.S.

‘Open carry’ and open debate don’t mix

Chicago Sun-Times

EDITORIAL: ‘Open carry’ and open debate don’t mix

Sun-Times Editorial Board     August 18, 2017 

https://suntimesmedia.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/charlottesville_weapons1.jpg?w=637&zoom=2White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the “alt-right” with body armor and combat weapons evacuate comrades who were pepper-sprayed after the “Unite the Right” rally was declared an unlawful gathering by Virginia State Police August 12, in Charlottesville, Virginia. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Look at the photo accompanying this editorial. Is that a group of people with whom you would want to get into a heated argument?

We’re guessing no. There is something about a semiautomatic rifle that makes for a one-sided debate. Say goodbye to your cherished right to speak your mind.

Is this really what lawmakers and the federal courts had in mind in recent years as they have supported ever more lax “open-carry” and “concealed carry” gun laws?

What we see here is not Americans protecting themselves, as lawmakers likely envisioned, but Americans scaring the bejeebers out of other Americans. We see two constitutional protections — free speech and the right to bear arms — in fundamental conflict, and guns are winning.

The sight of heavily armed white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, this month was the predictable outcome of the expansive view of gun ownership that the courts and many state legislatures have taken in recent years. Open-carry laws have made it legal for people to carry powerful weapons even at the most contentious public gatherings. Illinois is one of just five states that prohibits people from openly carrying handguns, and it is one of just six states and the District of Columbia to prohibit the open carry of long guns, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Even as authorities grow more lax about firearms of all kinds, gun carriers are growing more assertive, showing up at rallies in military-style clothing and body armor and toting big guns. Charlottesville wasn’t the first time people came to a rally armed to the teeth. In June, hundreds of people, many carrying rifles and wearing body armor, showed up at a park in Houston that includes the city zoo, alarming crowds of families with young children.

On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it no longer would represent white supremacist groups that want to bring loaded guns to their demonstrations. The ACLU believes fervently in free speech, but not in speech dictated only at the barrel of a gun.

When the Founding Fathers drafted the First Amendment, guaranteeing our right to assemble, there was a reason they included the word “peaceably.”

When a photo at the top of the news screams with meaning

Chicago Sun-Times

EDITORIAL: When a photo at the top of the news screams with meaning

Sun-Times Editorial Board      August 22, 2017

https://suntimesmedia.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/23.jpg?w=637&zoom=2Hammond Police say these two suspects committed three armed robberies Friday morning, and may have pulled a fourth a short time later in East Chicago. | Hammond Police

What do you see?

All day on Tuesday, a report about two young men suspected of committing three armed robberies in Hammond in less than an hour drew more online readers than any other Sun-Times news story.

You can bet it wasn’t the words that pulled readers in. The news was breaking and details were sketchy.

It was the photo that mattered. It screamed with meaning.

In that photograph, taken by a surveillance camera, here’s what we see:

We see two young men, probably only teenagers, who should be getting ready for school in the fall or working jobs. They are running down a sidewalk in broad daylight with guns, and we wonder where they got the guns. We know it’s easy enough.

We wonder who the young men are pointing their guns at, and we admit we’re grateful it is not us. We wonder if they are running through a neighborhood where people are afraid to step outdoors because of people like them.

We see how one young man grips his gun with two hands, like he’s done this before. Or did he learn it from watching TV? Guns are everywhere on TV. Was he younger when he first held a gun? Did it feel heavier then?

We notice how the other young man keeps his right hand in his pocket. Even as he aims his gun, he projects an unsettling casualness. We wonder how somebody so young can be so apparently disengaged.

We see the hoodies and the clean white gym shoes and the neat haircuts. Take away the guns, and the two young men look like every good kid we have ever known. We can’t pretend they are made of entirely different clay. Too easy.

We see they are African-Americans, and this matters greatly. It is a heavy burden, now as always, to grow up a black man in America. If the gangs and drugs don’t get you, the racist stereotyping might. How can anybody claim otherwise less than two weeks after hundreds of white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia? And after the president of the United States failed to condemn the racists properly?

At what age does a young black child look in the mirror and begin to believe the lies might be true?

We study this photograph and we want to say this:

Young men with guns are the problem, not young black men with guns. Young people of any color who grow up in poor and dangerous neighborhoods, who are left by adults to run the streets, who go to bad schools, who can’t find work, who begin to wonder if they stand a chance, who come to believe they have no future — that’s the problem.

We know nothing specific about the two young men in the photo, not even their names. But whatever their full stories might be — whatever bad breaks they may have caught — they must be taken off the street. People who rob other people at gunpoint can’t walk free.

But we look at this photograph, and we wonder how it ever got to this. Why do we bicker over essential school funding? Why does our nation spend so much on the military and so little on jobs programs? Why do so many politicians favor a tax cut for the rich but oppose a living wage for working people?

The photograph is a Rorschach test. What do you see?

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

Escaping one of the nation’s worst environmental disaster zones

Washington Post-Health & Science

Escaping one of the nation’s worst environmental disaster zones

By Katie Mattler         August 20, 2017

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://img.washingtonpost.com/rw/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/08/03/Production/Daily/Local/Images/JL_521.jpg?uuid=FbXd5nbeEeeerNVr1VaNuA&w=600In May, Demetra Turner holds a letter telling her to vacate her home in the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Ind. With her is her son, Jeremiah Kinley.(Joshua Lott/for The Washington Post)

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. — The smell of burning bacon stirred Demetra Turner from her makeshift bed on the floor, a stack of quilts the only padding between her body and the ground.

Long gone was her mattress, tossed into a dumpster with her couch, her recliner, her favorite theater chairs, her kids’ beds. She had thrown them out on instructions from health officials, who said that everything in the West Calumet Housing Complex was poisoned with arsenic and lead.

Everyone must move, Mayor Anthony Copeland said last August, because the land was too dangerous to live on. But now it was May, and Turner and her children were still trying to escape.

She shuffled past barren walls, packed boxes and cases of bottled water. “Who cooked that bacon?” Turner, 44, asked her 18-year-old son, Jeremiah. He sheepishly replied, “I did.”

She smiled and shook her head. He was just trying to help, she knew. Her overnight job at a gas station left her exhausted, and everyone in the family was desperate to find a new place to live.

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://img.washingtonpost.com/rw/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/08/21/Health-Environment-Science/Graphics/2300-SUPERFUNDeChicagoV2.jpg?uuid=Q23FuIYWEeeWp9F4zzUk6w&w=600

In May 2016, Turner unknowingly moved her family into one of the nation’s worst environmental disaster zones. Last summer, shocked residents in the public housing complex called West Calumet were told that the soil in their yards had been contaminated for decades. In some places, the lead in the dirt measured 228 times the maximum level considered safe.

Subsequent blood tests found that 18 out of 94 children younger than 6, the age group most at risk, had elevated lead levels. Then officials tested the water and discovered that it, too, contained lead, raising concerns that East Chicago was becoming the next Flint, but worse.

Vice President Pence was governor of Indiana at the time of the announcement a year ago that the neighborhood was uninhabitable. He refused to grant East Chicago emergency status and did not visit, and his legal counsel wrote that Indiana had already provided adequate aid to East Chicago. (Pence’s office declined to comment for this article.)

Soon Turner was searching for a new place to call home in a region suddenly bombarded with far more demand for real estate than supply. An environmental crisis morphed into a housing crisis, and West Calumet became a national flash point, a cautionary tale about the Environmental Protection Agency’s underfunded cleanup program.

West Calumet and two nearby neighborhoods were declared a Superfund site in 2009, but it took five years to secure the first round of cleanup funding — $26 million — and another round of money was collected just this March.

In April, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declared during a visit to East Chicago that places such as West Calumet would be his top priority. During a 90-second statement at a news conference, he said he had come to “restore confidence” that the EPA was “going to get it right.”

Officials should “assess and make decisions and put the community first,” he said, adding that he was “taken” by his conversation with a few residents during the spring visit.

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://img.washingtonpost.com/rw/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/08/20/Health-Environment-Science/Images/JL_528.jpg?uuid=AAJDfHbeEeeerNVr1VaNuA&w=600An empty road runs through the nearly West Calumet complex. (Joshua Lott/for The Washington Post)

“The emotion, the passion was just telling,” Pruitt said.

Later, in an interview with The Washington Post, Pruitt criticized previous administrations for moving slowly and distributing fact sheets and warning signs. “How about cleaning it up? Pruitt said. “How about cleaning it up?”

At the end of July, Pruitt’s Superfund Task Force recommended creating a “top 10 list” of sites to prioritize. The administrator did not specify which sites but mentioned East Chicago to reporters at EPA headquarters and called residents’ despair “heartbreaking.”

Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the local housing authority, paid a visit this month. He acknowledged that West Calumet residents had been “inconvenienced” but said their relocations were “done in a good way.”

Of the hundreds of families who were ordered out of West Calumet last summer, Turner’s was one of the last to leave, dodging letters from housing officials threatening to ship her across state lines to Chicago. That was the city she fled a decade ago, where moms fear not dirt but bullets. She wanted to whisk her kids to safer ground but just couldn’t find any.

For decades, lawmakers and officials have been aware of the dangerous dirt beneath West Calumet.

The housing complex was built in the 1970s in the footprint of a demolished lead factory, beside an operating lead smelter cited for pollution, and parallel to a canal that feeds a waterway eventually named the most toxic in the United States. West Calumet children have been exposed to lead in the soil, water and air capable of damaging the developing brain.

At least four times over the past three decades, local leaders have asked the federal government to clean up the area. In 2009, the EPA added West Calumet and two nearby neighborhoods to the National Priorites List list through the agency’s Superfund program.

The EPA initially sampled some yards and removed “hot spots” — sections of dirt with the highest lead levels — while they formulated a more comprehensive plan. But extensive testing from 2014 to 2016 showed that the contamination was far worse than initially realized. That data reached Copeland, the East Chicago mayor, in the spring of 2016. He criticized the EPA for operating at a glacial pace and, a few months later, ordered the complex to be demolished.

All the while, federal, state and local officials did little to protect residents such as Turner, who knew nothing of West Calumet’s history when she moved in last year. She said there was no lead disclaimer in her lease or warning signs posted on the property, an egregious result of poor communication between the EPA, HUD and the East Chicago Housing Authority, according to housing and environmental advocates.

“It merely reflects the glaring lack of oversight and enforcement of existing housing and environmental laws,” said Debbie Chizewer, a Chicago-based attorney at Northwestern University’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic. “ECHA, the City of East Chicago and EPA all knew [about the lead] and did not act here to address this grave danger to this low-income community of color.”

Turner’s old neighborhood, at the harbor near Lake Michigan, was plagued by gang activity and more expensive than West Calumet.

In May of last year, she moved into a two-story, three-bedroom duplex within sight of the neighborhood’s baseball field, basketball court, playground and pool, all perks for Jeremiah and his 11-year-old sister, Makasha. The streets at West Calumet teemed with children, and neighbors hosted backyard barbecues and tended flower gardens. On the Fourth of July, every­one gathered to watch fireworks.

“It was life,” Turner said.

But in late July 2016, just as her family had unpacked and settled, EPA officials began planting alarming signs in the yards: “DO NOT PLAY IN THE DIRT OR THE MULCH,” they said in bold blue letters.

Because West Calumet had been their home only for a short time, the risk to Turner’s kids wasn’t as high as for children born there. Jeremiah’s blood tested below the CDC’s actionable threshold of 5 micrograms per deciliter, and Makasha was never tested.

Even so, Turner felt a bubbling resentment when she looked at the water tower outside her window, painted with words that seemed to mock them all. “EAST CHICAGO,” it reads. “FOR OUR CHILDREN.”

In no time, personal injury attorneys appeared, offering limousine rides and steak dinners to potential clients. Turner brushed them off, wary of what she considered predatory tactics.

In August 2016, the EPA began deep-cleaning the walls and floors and vacuuming the furniture at homes across the complex. But the agency also encouraged residents to buy new furnishings after they moved, Turner said. She thought she would be out within weeks, so she started purging her things, dropping them into large blue dumpsters officials had placed outside.

Family photos went back into boxes. She instituted a new rule: Shoes come off at the door. And she placed an order online for a few dozen quilts that would become their sleeping “pallets.”

That August and September, HUD gave Turner and her neighbors Section 8 housing vouchers that low-income families can use to find homes in the private market. Copeland said the city provided on-site relocation assistance, contacted neighboring housing authorities and “did everything it could to assist those displaced by this unfortunate situation.”

But residents, many of whom regard the city’s housing authority and mayor with animosity, tell a different story. They say the housing authority distributed an outdated list of properties with landlords who refused to accept their vouchers, heightening their anxiety as the city pressured them to leave.

A housing discrimination complaint filed by Chicago lawyers on their behalf bought residents more time. HUD eventually settled and agreed, among other things, to extend their move-out deadline to at least April.

So Turner created profiles on ­every real estate website she could find — Zillow, HotPads, Trulio, Rent.com, Apartments.com, Section 8, Craigslist.

She struck out in East Chicago and transferred her housing voucher to the neighboring town of Whiting, and then Hammond, and then back to East Chicago, a laborious process that requires meetings and paperwork with each new housing authority.

Other neighbors moved to Chicago, but Turner had grown up and raised her children there — Jeremiah, Makasha and their four older brothers — and considered it too dangerous. “I moved out of Chicago to save them,” she said.

By May, Turner’s duplex was the only place on her street still showing signs of life — the only door with a welcome sign, only driveway with a car, only full trash cans at the curb. This exposed her family to yet another danger: burglars.

So Jeremiah, who spends most nights home alone with Makasha, started a new routine.

The teen would jam a chair under each door knob and stack others in front of the picture window. If someone tried to get inside overnight, Jeremiah reasoned, the toppling furniture would wake him so he could call police. It made him feel safer, he said.

Then the city cut power to the streetlights.

Twice, knocks on the door came late at night. Once, while Jeremiah was taking the garbage cans to the curb before bed, people in a car driving by shot at him with a BB gun. Soon after, Turner came home from work to a heart-wrenching sight: Pillows and blankets were on the floor under the kitchen table, just feet from the front door, and Jeremiah was on guard but asleep.

It was a morning in mid-May when Turner came home and found the eviction notice.

She and her kids had less than a week to find a new place to live with her Section 8 voucher or relocate to city-provided temporary housing across town. If they refused, the letter said, they would be evicted and risk losing their voucher.

So in June, Turner finally drove her family away from the dangers of West Calumet forever, past her neighbors’ abandoned homes and the mocking water tower, toward a bug-infested unit that made her cry.

With a furniture stipend, she bought a new living room set and three beds, the family’s first real mattresses in a year. Then Turner plotted their final escape from East Chicago.

At the end of July, a week before her voucher was set to expire, she and the kids loaded up the moving truck again. They said goodbye to the only school Makasha had ever known and left behind Demetra’s broken down minivan, which she could no longer afford to fix.

An hour away in Joliet, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, they had found a house with safe water and clean dirt. But Demetra couldn’t help but fret over all that she had lost: a steady job, trusted doctors, her West Calumet support system. “I’m like a fish out of water,” Turner said.

She planned to tell Carson about her family’s ordeal when he visited East Chicago this month. Community leaders asked HUD to let her into the listening session. Carson, they thought, needed to hear her story.

It wasn’t until the morning of the visit, when Turner was already halfway to West Calumet, that she learned HUD’s response: No.

Brady Dennis contributed to this report.

Katie Mettler is a reporter for The Washington Post’s Morning Mix team. She previously worked for the Tampa Bay Times.

How the Republican party quietly does the bidding of white supremacists

The Guardian-Politics

How the Republican party quietly does the bidding of white supremacists | Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold, The Guardian      August 19, 2017

Let us finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda. It isn’t.

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‘If Republican lawmakers want to distinguish themselves from Trump’s comments, they need to do more than type out 144 characters on their phone.’ Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

It takes approximately 30 seconds to send a tweet. A half hour to draft and release a statement. And the shelf life of both is only marginally longer. We should not commend Republican party elected officials who claim outrage on social media at Trump’s remarks, often without daring to mention his name. The phony claimed outrage becomes dangerous if it convinces anyone that there is a distinction between Trump’s abhorrent comments and the Republican Party agenda.

The lesson from Charlottesville is not how dangerous the neo-Nazis are. It is the unmasking of the Republican party leadership. In the wake of last weekend’s horror and tragedy, let us finally, finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda of voter suppression, renewed mass incarceration and the expulsion of immigrants.

There is a direct link between Trump’s comments this week and those policies, so where is the outrage about the latter? Where are the Republican leaders denouncing voter suppression as racist, un-American and dangerous? Where are the Republican leaders who are willing to call out the wink (and the direct endorsement) from President Trump to the white supremacists and acknowledge their own party’s record and stance on issues important to people of color as the real problem for our country?

Republicans on the voter suppression commission are enabling Trump’s agenda and that of the white Nazi militia

Words mean nothing if the Republican agenda doesn’t change. Governors and state legislatures were so quick to embrace people of color in order to avoid the impression, they too share Trump’s supreme affinity for the white race. But if they don’t stand up for them they are not indirectly, but directly enabling the agenda of those same racists that Republican members were so quick to condemn via Twitter.

Gerrymandering, strict voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement are all aimed at one outcome: a voting class that is predominantly white, and in turn majority Republican.

The white supremacist chant of, “you will not replace us,” could easily and accurately be the slogan for these Republican politicians. Their policies will achieve the same racial outcome as Jim Crow – the disenfranchisement and marginalization of people of color.

It is a sad day when more CEOs take action by leaving and shutting down Trump’s Strategy and Policy Forum, and Manufacturing Council, than elected officials take action leaving Trump’s “election integrity” commission.

Businessman are acting more responsive to their customers than politicians are to their voters. At the end of the day, which presidential council is more dangerous? Which most embodies the exact ideology that Trump spewed on Monday? A group of businessmen coming together to talk jobs or a group of elected officials coming together to disenfranchise voters of color?

Anyone still sitting on the voter suppression commission is enabling Trump’s agenda and that of the white Nazi militia that stormed Charlottesville to celebrate a time when the law enforced white supremacy.

If Republican lawmakers want to distinguish themselves from Trump’s comments, they need to do more than type out 144 characters on their phone. They need to take a hard look at their party’s agenda.

A good start would be with voting rights. Let’s see lawmakers like John Kasich in Ohio immediately stop the state’s intended purging of voting records. Let’s see Wisconsin lawmakers throw out their gerrymandered district map and form a non-partisan redistricting commission.

Let’s see strict voter ID laws criticized with the same vitriol that Republicans used in responding to the events in Charlottesville. Let’s see Republicans call out their own agenda, and openly recognize the connection between the agenda of the racist alt-right and that of the Republican party.

Anything short of radical change to the Republican party’s war on voters of color is merely feigned outrage. Even if the white supremacists are condemned, even if the entire Republican party rises up in self-professed outrage at white supremacists, if voter suppression and other such racist policies survive, the white supremacists are winning. And America is losing.

Russ Feingold is a former Senator for Wisconsin

Mr. Trump Wants to Keep Our “Beautiful Confederate Statues and Monuments” ‘We Must Tear Them Down’

John Hanno, tarbabys.com   August 17, 2017

Mr. Trump Wants to Keep Our “Beautiful Confederate Statues and Monuments”

    ‘We Must Tear Them Down’

All across America, cities and towns, big and small, are debating whether the toxic reminders of our Civil War and a fatally divided country should  finally be torn down. 

I think a better idea, in this age of worsening climate change, would be to melt down and recycle these toxic metal sculptures and then turn them into a grand Washington monument, to those who fought and died to heal the country during reconstruction, to those who’ve spent their lives bringing America’s races together instead of dividing us and to our black brothers and sisters who paid some of the highest costs for that war and its ongoing consequences.

Its a sad thing indeed, as we’ve witnessed since our incursion into Iraq, when radical Islamic terrorists tear down or destroy the centuries old artifacts or monuments to any semblance of a religion or culture that doesn’t conform to their narrow extreme ideology.

This is not the same. Most of these Civil War monuments were constructed many decades after the civil war ended, most during the height of Jim Crow. In many cases, they were used to glorify and rewrite the most painful and divisive episodes in our history.

My idea, not new of course, would be to turn our “Swords into Plowshares.” Something resourceful folks have been doing for centuries.

We could model it after the “Swords to Plowshares Memorial Bell Tower” project; only on a much grander scale.

“The Swords to Plowshares Memorial Bell Tower, initiated by the Eisenhower Chapter of Veterans For Peace, is a traveling monument dedicated to stopping the cycle of war and violence, healing the wounds of war that is caused on both sides of conflict, and providing a forum for all victims to start the healing process caused by wars.

Wherever the tower appears, veterans and victims of war of different national origins will ring the bell and share stories of how their families have been effected by war. It is hoped that an honest dialogue about the costs of war may help victims heal and veterans recover from the “moral injury” that has been linked to an epidemic of veteran suicides.

Roger Ehrlich and Joe McTaggert built the bell tower from reclaimed steel, aluminum cans and a bell donated from the Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill who unburied it during renovations. The tower is made of 4 stackable pieces, each 6 feet high, so when assembled the tower stands 24 feet high. The aluminum bricks are each attached independently to allow movement from the wind, and reflect the sun and lights from the surface. The bell is suspended within the tower and can be rung by pulling on an attached rope.”

The plaque on the tower reads:

https://sites.google.com/site/stpbelltower/_/rsrc/1405809341940/home/10403977_10202520701247062_3230966444822165065_o.jpg?height=320&width=240

I think we should have a contest to create a plaque for a new Washington monument, dedicated to those who work tirelessly to bring all races and religions together.

My own version would be:

     ‘Turn Relics of a Sad War Into a Symbol of Hope and Change’

To Mark the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation;

Rational Folks of All Races and Religions Dedicate this Monument;

Made from Remnants Donated from Repentant Confederate States;

To Victims, Soldiers and Families who Suffered this Unresolved Conflict;

Without Regard to Race, Religion, Family History or Political Persuasion;

To Those Who Find no Comfort in Perpetrating Our National Disgrace;

To Those Who Struggle to Heal or Bridge Our Racial or Political Divides;

We Erect a Monument to America’s Ability to Forgive and Forget;

To Call For an End to All Racial Animosity and Persecution;

In Order to Spare All Future Generations the Same Fate!

 

Donald Trump said: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,”

But if he’s so concerned about our historical legacy fading away, then for every civil war relic, who folks like Mr. Trump insist on preserving, there should be a companion monument displaying the other side of the issue of slavery. Maybe a statue next to Robert E. Lee, (who did more than almost anyone to preserve slavery, even after the war) depicting one of our black brothers hanging from a tree limb at the end of a rope. And along side other Confederate monuments, maybe a group of peaceful protesters being attacked by police armed with clubs, attack dogs and fire hoses. Or maybe a depiction of Emmett Till lying in his coffin with thousands of mourners filing by his mutilated body.

Of course we probably wouldn’t do that. There’s no glory in such a display. No regal soldier dressed in his uniform and perched on a beautiful horse. Just pain and suffering.

Maybe if we tear down all these painful reminders, we can finally turn the corner on the tenuous race relations that keep bubbling up to the surface.  John Hanno www.tarbabys.com