Twitter: Who’s checking you out?

So I came across this fun site Twitter Mosaic which creates a beautiful picture of all your twitter followers. Check out these cool people occasionally reading or actively ignoring what it is I have to say on twitter.

You can follow me on twitter too!

Get your twitter mosaic here.

Pro-Choice and Pro-Faith

Following the murder of Dr. George Tiller, who was shot and killed in his church on a Sunday morning just weeks ago, it is time more than ever for progressives to speak out on the morality of the Pro-Choice position.

I was fortunate to speak on the phone with one of the country’s leading Pro-Choice theologians, Rev. Madison Shockley, who will be speaking at Christ Community Church in Spring Lake this Sunday, June 28, at 10:00 a.m. and leading a workshop at 11:15 a.m.

Rev. Shockley spoke to me about how the pro-choice movement has been speaking out on abortion rights as a legal issue, and has not appropriately defended the moral and theological pro-choice positions. By giving up the moral and theological issues we are not only giving the religious right the upper hand in the debate, we are also doing a major disservice to the women everywhere facing these difficult decisions.

It will be such a treat to have Rev. Madison Shockley here in West Michigan to speak on the importance of the moral, theological and legal positions of the pro-choice movement.

I believe there is such a need for more progressive faith communities in our culture.  People often find themselves needing a place to go to be supported as they work through difficult and profound life questions. Those places should be available to people who are not looking for certainty and canned answers, but are seeking respect and someone willing to listen.

I wrote the following words, which I will read in our service on Sunday.  As a progressive woman, I am so excited to be participating in a religious service focused on honoring women and the difficult choices with which we all face.

Imagine a world where all women feel valued and respected; 

A world overcome with love.

Imagine a religion that seeks the leadership of women;
A religion of connection, inclusion, and compassion.

Imagine a government that values women so highly that crimes against women are not tolerated, that the health care of women is a top priority, and where women are not the majority living in poverty; 

A nation of equal opportunity.

Imagine a nation that sees the tremendous value of women in the workplace, offering all women the opportunity, the respect, and the support needed for success; 

A nation of greater success and achievement for all.

Imagine a culture where the value of a woman is not reduced to her physical body and reproductive capabilities;
A culture honoring the whole person – body, mind, and spirit.

Imagine a man who takes the responsibility of a pregnancy as seriously as a woman does;
A man who is transforming male responsibility.

Imagine a woman… a woman in this reality and the choices she could make.   

Women and men, we come together, co-creating this new reality.

TED Blog: Q&A with Clay Shirky on Twitter and Iran


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TED Blog: Q&A with Clay Shirky on Twitter and Iran

NYU professor Clay Shirky gave a fantastic talk on new media  during our TED@State event earlier this month. He revealed how cellphones, the web, Facebook and Twitter had changed the rules of the game, allowing ordinary citizens extraordinary new powers to impact real-world events. As protests in Iran exploded over the weekend, we decided to rush out his talk, because it could hardly be more relevant. I caught up with Clay this afternoon to get his take on the significance of what is happening. His excitement was palpable.

What do you make of what’s going on in Iran right now.
I’m always a little reticent to draw lessons from things still unfolding, but it seems pretty clear that … this is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Chicago demonstrations of 1968 where they chanted “the whole world is watching.” Really, that wasn’t true then. But this time it’s true … and people throughout the world are not only listening but responding. They’re engaging with individual participants, they’re passing on their messages to their friends, and they’re even providing detailed instructions to enable web proxies allowing Internet access that the authorities can’t immediately censor… 

TED Blog: Q&A with Clay Shirky on Twitter and Iran

#IranElection: A New Generation of Activists is Born

Photo from Iran by twitter user Mousavi1388

Photo from Iran by twitter user Mousavi1388

Will we remember this day?

Every activist remembers the day their care and compassion became so strong that they were compelled to action.  Their first protest, first letter to a Senator, first sit-in, first march on Washington, first obsessive following of a twitter #hashtag? For most of us that was just the beginning.

Ok, baby boomer activists, hang with me here… I can feel your judgment creeping in.

Over the weekend the results of Iran’s “election” were announced and Iran erupted. Information has been very restricted coming out of Iran as people took to the streets in protest this fraudulent election. One way young Iranians have been able to communicate with the world is through Twitter. Both those in Iran, and other around the world began updating on twitter using the hashtag #IranElection making their updates easily search-able to others looking to speak, learn, or report on the Iranian election.

You can follow those using #IranElection on twitter here.

As American twitter users heard first hand accounts of the situation in Iran, they began demanding American news agencies report on this story. They began adding other #hastags to their updates so that their voice would be united with others, such as #CNNfail. This quickly resulted in a change to CNN’s coverage of this breaking story.

I believe this one event is a peek into the future of activism. With the growth of web 2.0 tools we are all finding our voice. While first-hand accounts of protests and police brutality were publicly shared via twitter, Iranians were empowered and connected to each other, while bringing their concerns before the world to hear. An incredible example of Web 2.0 at it’s best as people are connecting and truly building relationships with others around the globe. The concerns of those far away are quickly become concerns close to our own hearts. As our care and compassion grows, our action quickly follows. 

With the use of simple tools like twitter and facebook, people around the world are acquiring the tools needed or organize. People in Burma, Morocco, Egypt, and now Iran have organized using these tools.

Want more on Web 2.0 activism?

RESOURCE:  A DigiActive Introduction to Facebook Activism (pdf)

I believe as the world’s stories become our stories, we will not be able to look away, to sit back and be silent. I believe we are on the verge of a new generation of activists, and am excited to be a part of it.

View more of Twitter user Mousavi1388’s photos on Flickr

Turn Back Prejudice & Discrimination Everywhere it Exists

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.”

President Obama has declared June 2009 LGBT Pride Month (read the whole proclamation here).  He calls upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.

Can I get an AMEN!?

This is an important gesture.  

This is an important statement.

This is an important moment for all who fight for equality and justice in America!

Let me be the first to say, Congratulation Mr. President.  You have succeeded in energizing the progressive idealist in me. But now, Mr. President I must ask, “Why have you not changed don’t ask don’t tell?”  “Why are there men and women being discharged from our military because of their sexual orientation?” Prejudice and discrimination exist right now, in our government run, government funded, armed forces.

Your pragmatism, Mr. President, seems to be in conflict with my idealism.  I dare suppose that your pragmatism is indeed in conflict with your own idealism.  So what do we do?

What do you really want the people of the United States to do in order to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists? That is a powerful charge, and one I would like to follow.

I would love to see Organizing for America be freed up for individuals to organize around their individual ideals. This authenticity is needed for a movement to take place. I believe this will offer the public support you need to bring your idealism and your pragmatism together.

I think I am speaking for many when I say we want you to be successful and we know idealism cannot be the only driving force, but please Mr. President don’t give me this hope, without empowering me to bring the change we both agree we need.

High Price of Economic Ignorance

What would you pay to clearly understand the current US financial crisis?  Turns out the small fee to attend the Michigan Policy Summit may have been a great start. If you were not there with us in Detroit, visiting the blog Beat The Press, is a wonderful alternative.

Unfortunately, I fear our country will be paying a high price for a vary long time, for lacking the basic understanding of how this crisis came to be.  

I love that classic quote, “Those who forget their history are bound to repeat it.”  It terrifies me to think we have no hope of remembering our mistakes if we don’t make an effort at trying to recognize them now.

Sitting in Cobo Hall in the heart of Detroit, the reality of this crisis could not be any closer. Thankfully in walks Dean Baker to the rescue. Dean is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC and was the Keynote Speaker at the 2009 Michigan Policy Summit.

Dean offered clear, concise answers to why we find ourselves in this mess, and as he said, why it shouldn’t have taken a super sleuth to see this coming. The truth is many people did see it coming, they simply were not heard, or were not motivated to do anything about it.
The housing bubble is one of two primary conditions to blame for economic crisis. So how did we get here and why did it happen?
The housing boom spurred economic growth through such means as the tremendous increase in housing construction, as well as the wealth people obtained by borrowing against their overvalued homes.
As housing values continued to climb (tripling in some areas such as DC) understandably people began putting less into their 401(k)s as their retirement seemed assured in the value of their home.
The problem was this wealth was not real, economists knew these inflated values were not sustainable, and yet the public was not properly educated.
While this was happening the US had another critical flaw. We were not exporting enough American goods.  A contributing factor to this situation was the overvalued US dollar. The effect of an inflated US dollar, is the same as if we had tariff on all of our exports. Our products were too expensive to the rest of the world, and their products were a bargain for us, and Americans do love a deal!
To make matters worse, the housing bubble was able to continue for so long because of creative financing on behalf of the banks. This short cited policy virtually guaranteed a collapse of our financial system and now begs the question as to whether this behavior was in fact criminal. 
Dean offered some wonderful solutions, and opportunities that this crisis presents for us, but I don’t want to go there yet.  For now I want to focus on understanding how we got here so that I can know our history, before I even think about forgetting it…

Meat-free Mondays Maybe?

This happy vegetarian rejoiced while reading the following article, “Where’s the Beef? Ghent Goes Vegetarian” on today. What if you could do your part to stop climate-change by giving up your car, or giving up meat for one day? What would you choose?

“Last year, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggested that the most useful step ordinary citizens could take to help combat climate change would be to stop eating meat. In Belgium, an entire town is taking his advice to heart. The Flemish city of Ghent has designated every Thursday as “Veggiedag” — Veggie Day — calling for meat-free meals to be served in schools and public buildings, and encouraging vegetarianism among citizens by promoting vegetarian eateries and offering advice on how to follow a herbivorous diet.

“Veggie Day is not compulsory, says the city’s vice-mayor, Tom Balthazar, because such a draconian measure would be impossible to enforce, even in environmentally friendly Ghent, a picturesque town of 230,000 where bicycles lay scattered against spired churches in the largest car-free city center in Belgium. “We wanted our goal to be easily achievable — it’s not hard to skip meat one day a week,” he says. “And we wanted it to be something the population could rally behind. If you give people the correct information about meat, it becomes an easy ethical decision.” 

“According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, meat production accounts for 18% of annual greenhouse-gas emissions — more than transportation, which accounts for roughly 14%. Each year, millions of acres of rain forest are cleared for cattle ranchers and suppliers of animal feed, further accelerating climate change. Then there are the urgent human-health issues: the world feeds much of its grain to cattle and other animals even as millions of people starve. Those wealthy enough to consume fatty animal products are themselves at higher risk of certain health problems, including heart disease and some cancers.”

Read the whole article “Where’s the Beef? Ghent Goes Vegetarian – TIME” here.

Can you imagine if the millennial generation, those eco-loving hipsters, decided to run with this? I can imagine facebook groups, twitter #hashtags talking about each meal like it was a profound experience.  And for once maybe what your having for lunch would seem a bit more profound. Having an impact on climate-change, just by joining with your friends to eat a little differently one day a week.   

Such simple ways we can make an impact as individuals and create lasting change as a society.

Which day every week will you go meat-free?

Brand New or Broken: A Call to Mindfulness

I have the great privilege of living across the street from a locally-owned bike shop.  It is called Rock ‘n Road. Now most people wouldn’t think this would really be the selling point of a great apartment, but it remains truly one of my favorite features.

When was the last time you rode a new bike, or took a new bike for a test ride?  I think I could spend close to eternity watching people test ride bikes.  There is this fabulous child-like quality about the experience.  Almost as if they are on a bike for the first time, and it is all so new and special for them.  And they are riding with such attention to detail, such focus and mindfulness. Little do they know that they will rarely ride the bike that way again, except for maybe if they think something is wrong with the bike.

Why do we do that?  Be it our bicycles, ourselves, our relationships, we often only give such undivided, mindful attention to something when it is brand new or broken. The experience of awe and wonder though is always available to us.

I am reminded of that wonder each time I see one of these cyclists, test out a new bike.  Don’t get me wrong, they are often wearing a sorta ridiculous helmet and many times dressed still in work clothes and don’t seem appropriately attired for their, I can only assume to be spontaneous, bike outing.  Even as I chuckle to myself at their awkwardness, I feel myself soften towards my own ill-preparedness for life. We aren’t always perfectly equipped or prepared for our situations, but when handled with attention, mindfulness, and a little curiosity, life comes alive.

Go test drive a bike today, or at least wonder past a bike shop and observe others, you’ll be glad you did!

Valuing Women First, Reducing Abortion Second

Watching all the coverage of the anti-abortion protesters gathering at Notre Dame before the President’s commencement address I can feel the anger in me rising.
It is not that I am pro-abortion, or disagree with the freedom of speech and the right to protest, and yet I can feel myself getting a little crazy!
Abortion is undoubtedly a very emotional issue, and I suspect this is because we wrap a number of other issues and deep seeded feelings up in this debate.  Investigating my opinions on abortion reveals less interest in the medical procedure of abortion, and more interest in the issues it symbolizes. It seems much hurt and devaluing of women has come from both my religion and my country.
Men beware, it might just be easier to agree to give women a choice, rather than open the space for this much larger debate…
Has Christianity Left Women Behind?
Watching the protesters at Notre Dame placing the signs on their graduation cap of a cross with two baby feet on either side, enraged me.  This symbol reminded me of the way I have felt disenfranchised from traditional Christianity. 
Apparently God is male, first fail for women.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… I count three whole parts there, couldn’t we have gotten even 33% representation in the trinity? It sure makes it harder to be God-like when you are born the wrong gender to begin with. The one main female role model in the church is both a virgin and a mother (a very hard standard for most modern women to live up to). And let us not forget in Catholicism as well as some conservative protestant traditions women just aren’t equipped (read smart enough) to teach men.
And it is not only what we aren’t.  It is the incredibly small box of expectation of what we are. In many traditional Christian settings women are seen to be primarily baby factories. Somehow the issue of abortion seems to imply that the Church doesn’t trust women’s ability to choose whether they want to fulfill that role, as if that decision was pre-determined for us when our eggs were formed.
A Country Where All Men are Created Equal
I appreciate that abortion is legal in this country, but the way this debate is often framed rips away at the equality women feel.
Women are so often portrayed as the monsters in the abortion debate when so many factors lead to the situation of an unwanted pregnancy with at least one factor that is always present, a man!
Another factor rarely discussed is the lack of health insurance for women. Did you know that less than half of American women can get health insurance through work?  Keeping that in mind did you know that a 22 year old woman can be charged 1 1/2 times the premium of a 22 year old man in the individual insurance market. Yes, that is because it is expensive for the insurance company if that woman gets pregnant.
So until America decides to value the health of a woman and offer fair and equal health care for all women, I have very little patience for your debate as to whether women should have a choice to have an abortion or not. Without first the basic respect for a woman’s health, this issue can quickly make women feel like property rather than people.
Working for Solutions
Let me be clear, I am not saying that pro-lifers hold these views that I have articulated anger me so. I am trying to convey why this issue is such a hot button issue for me.  I believe there is much that needs to be done to bring feminism to Christianity and equality to America.  I would love to spend more energy on these issues, less on fighting about the fetus, and together from a place of high value and regard for women I believe we could work very effectively to decrease unwanted pregnancies.   

MI Policy Summit: Seeing Opportunity in Crisis

Blogging for you from the Michigan Policy Summit and having a wonderful time. My inner wonk is rejoicing and loving the progressive policies and concepts being discussed, many more blogs to come!
After a very thoughtful, intellectual, and clearly articulated Keynote Address by Dean Baker on Economic Policy, I thought it couldn’t get any better. He spoke to us about the problems we face and the challenges to come, but also the great possibilities that present themselves in this time of economic crisis. The symbolism of listening to these ideas in the city of Detroit, of all places, is outstanding.
And then for a brief few moments I was taken out of my head, and felt my heart open so wide, as Grace Lee Boggs was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  
The very woman who on Bill Moyers Journal spoke these words, 

“The struggle we’re dealing with these days, which, I think, is part of what the 60s represented, is how do we define our humanity?” 

At 91, Grace Lee Boggs has been a part of almost every major movement in the United States in the last 75 years, including: Labor, Civil Rights, Black Power, Women’s Rights and Environmental Justice.  (Bill Moyers Journal)
Grace’s eloquent words also spoke to the opportunities we have, not just as a country but the opportunity for humanity to transform and to create a new meaning for what is means to be human. Grace hopes that we don’t just work for a higher standard of living, but for a higher quality of life for all people, greater connections and embrace of humanity.
Grace spoke of the opportunity to grow our souls.  She spoke of soul as a verb, a way of acting in the world, not a substance within oneself.
How is the economic downturn and the crises you are facing helping to grow your soul?
Grace wrote in her recent article for the Michigan Citizen, 

“Healing our society will require the patient work not primarily of judges but of artists, ministers, gardeners, workers, families, women, communities. It will require the creation of new forms of Governance, Work and Education that are much more participatory and democratic than those collapsing all around us. It will require enlarging our vision, decolonizing our imaginations.” 

Grace is calling on all of us to act, not just for sake of Detroit, or Michigan, or America, but for sake of humanity.  I get the impression no one says “no” to Grace.