What I Meant to Say

Wendy Babiak's Visions and Revisions


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More Thoughts on Standing Rock: The Battle Belongs to the Lord

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So I’m in an ecstasy of prayer, and I’m meditating on the Nativity, and I think of how God willed to be born in a simple shepherd’s cave, and to have His birth first announced to shepherds, as an embrace of poverty, and how much the gospel urges us to care for the poor, and God is Friend of the Poor, and woe to those rich men who don’t take care of the poor. Etc. Just a drop of water from Lazarus’s finger, for I am tormented in this flame.

All that. And I think of the folks at Standing Rock, who’ve had everything but this bit of land taken from them, and now the Corporatocracy’s trying to screw them out of that, too. With violence. On the taxpayers dime.

And I think how prayerful these people are (I’m praying for y’all, hard!). I was just telling my priest the other day, how some may not know Christ as God’s Son, but do they know God as Creator. And they’re asking for prayers. He was passing this on to Bishop Matano, so it’s my hope that something will be included soon in the prayers of the people. Meaning that the whole Diocese of Rochester might be praying for these people who are clearly the David to the Goliath. (Hey, remember, Dakota Access: Goliath loses, because God is on David’s side.) Not only has our Holy Father made it clear that it is our duty to care for the environment in his encyclical Laudato Si, but he’s also made clear that the indigenous are some of those people “on the margins” he exhorts us to care for. And Praying for the Living (and the Dead) is a Work of Mercy. So.

May the Father of Us All hear all our prayers, and protect the protectors, bring peace and humanity back to the hearts of the mercenaries, and safeguard the water for the sake of all life. For His Glory and the salvation of souls! Amen. So I hope, so may it be.

 

 

 

 


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The Sanctity of Water

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During my foray through Orthodox Christianity, before reconciling with the Catholic Church, one of my favorite discoveries was the blessing of the waters celebrated in January, on the day of epiphany. The coolest aspect was this: because Christ was already perfect, sinless, as God-made-man, when he submitted to baptism the grace that would have flowed into his soul in the sacrament, washing away sin, instead flowed out from his divinity into the water, into all water. Now, having witnessed many Catholic baptisms, I realize that this doctrine is also held true in the Catholic faith: because of this outflowing of grace at Christ’s baptism, all water is sacred. This is a tenet of the Church which corresponds beautifully to what is held true by most indigenous peoples, including the two nations from which I descend and to which I retain a certain loyalty.

That loyalty, to my indigenous heritage and to the land held sacred by my native ancestors, impels me to side with the water protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota, opposing the desecration of their sacred burial grounds and the callous risk-taking with their water supply (and the supply of millions of Americans, native and settler, that live downstream!) that Dakota Access (and all the companies banking on their success) wants to commit for profit (don’t let them tell you it’s for energy independence…because much of that oil will be sold to other countries…true energy independence is found in renewables like solar, wind, and geothermal). Here’s a link to info regarding the legal status of the case. The company does not actually quite have legal permission yet to do what they want, but they’re trying to go ahead with laying the pipeline anyway, and even bulldozed through sacred burial grounds on the day a request for an injunction was filed because of those burial grounds, on the holiday weekend, in hopes that if they simply did it before they were told not to, there’d be nothing to stop them. And used a private security firm with attack dogs against non-violent families (including a sweet little two-year-old girl whose face was mauled–for shame!) when confronted. This is the sort of cultural genocide that has no place in 2016. (It was shameful in past centuries, but at this point it’s simply unconscionable and anyone who supports it ought to have their humanity membership card revoked.) The UN has recognized that human rights abuses are taking place at Standing Rock. And now the Governor of North Dakota, who stands himself to profit from this pipeline, is calling in the National Guard against these peaceful people. And yet the Obama administration is silent. Which makes them complicit. You can try, as I did, to call the White House at the number below, but you may find the line closed, as I did. Frustrating, to say the least.

So what can a Catholic of goodwill, who recognizes all of God’s children and His Creation as worthy of protection, do? Well, we can call our local representatives and ask them to speak for us, we can donate to any number of funds.

And we can pray. We can pray to the Holy Mother, who so loved God’s creation for His sake that before her death she willed her body to become part of the earth as a blessing for it, though He had other plans (for more on this, read The Mystical City of God). And who loves every one of the people, made in His image. We can pray to St. Kateri, Lily of the Mohawks and patroness of ecology. We can pray to the newly canonized St. Teresa of Calcutta, who ministered to the poor and downtrodden (our indigenous citizens on reservations are the poorest of the poor and the most downtrodden in this country, much to our shame). And we can pray to St. John the Baptist, who baptized Christ with that sacred water and who knows a thing or two about speaking truth to power (though it cost him his head).

What we can not do is pretend that this isn’t happening, that how we treat the earth and all its citizens doesn’t matter. Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, calls us to treat Creation with the care it merits as the handiwork of God, and as a work of mercy, since a polluted earth impacts most profoundly the poor, who are our sacred responsibility. Please join me in all of the above.


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The Problem With Single-Motive Thinking And The Zero-Sum Game

So unless you live under a complete media-free rock (in which case I don’t think you’ll be reading this), you’ve heard about the killings in Isla Vista last weekend, and probably also about the media shit-storm(s) that followed. Because that’s what media does…it feeds the violence-for-display beast, and then gasps loud and long about what might have caused each instance of violence-for-display, pitting single-motive thinkers against each other in click-producing battles that fill the media moguls’ coffers but do little to bring the general public to a greater understanding of the cultural forces that are making life in America (and around the world) feel more and more like the world intimated by one of my favorite bumper stickers: “Where are we going, and what are we doing in this hand-basket?”

So you’ve got gun-rights activists fearing that this is some kind of false flag to justify someone coming for their guns, mental-health-care advocates imagining that this is simply a case of failed psychiatry, gun-rights opponents imagining that if they just got rid of the guns everything would be okay, and feminists pointing out the deep misogyny displayed in the killer’s manifesto and YouTube videos, some insisting that to talk about mental health is a mistake. While the truth is, as always, complex and involuted and known probably only by God and the young man who killed himself after taking out the innocent victims of his twisted thinking. (And there’s an aspect that too few are discussing, which is the overculture’s obsession with sex, as if it’s some magic key to happiness. I’m quite sex positive, but y’all, it’s not all that. When you’re done basking in the afterglow, the laundry still needs doing.)

For the past few days I’ve spent a fair bit of time (which sometimes felt like an important investment, and sometimes like a waste I had to ask forgiveness for during my evening prayers) on Twitter, reading and participating in the #YesAllWomen and #YesALLWhiteWomen hashtags. And several things are pretty clear to me. There are a fair number of men who get their panties in a bunch at any implication that women have it pretty hard at the hands of men, who seem unable to grok that when we try to bring attention to rape culture (which, yes, is a thing that affects all women, whether they’ve actually been raped or not, because violence exists on a spectrum and being subject to it triggers fear, and the possibility of the extreme end of it exists even at the lesser end) we are not trying to say that all men are rapists, but that a minority of repeat offenders make it miserable for all women to one degree or another. And guess what? Rape culture makes things miserable for many men and boys, too. If you need to hear such a thing from a man to believe it, watch this excellent TED Talk about how violence IS a men’s issue. This guy’s really smart, and gets intersectionality, something I’ll talk about later.

 

Also, that some women are just as unable as too many men to grasp the point of the hashtag, and feel the need to pipe up with “this is sexist, I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men” (ladies, your misogynistic conditioning is showing). And at least as frustrating as the women who won’t consider themselves feminists because they’ve bought into the backlash idea that feminism=man-hating (guess what? I’m a feminist and I love my husband, and more than that, my husband is a feminist, too, and only a fool would accuse him of having a vag…he’s got a power rack in the basement that he uses on a regular basis), are the white women who refuse to examine and check their own privilege and insist that women of color bringing up the fact that, for example, Native American women are three times as likely as white women to be raped, are trying to derail rather than deepen the conversation. Thus was born the #YesALLWhiteWomen hashtag, and if you’re a white feminist, you really ought to be quiet and scroll through it, practice some empathy (just like we’re asking of men at the other) and try to understand someone else’s experience and how things you do or say may be contributing to someone else’s suffering. To admit that there’s a Venn Diagram of oppression and that some people exist in the intersections doesn’t diminish the fact of your own suffering, and when we can do this and do our best not to be oppressors, it gets better for everyone.

 

Just as the Marxist who comes in and bashes an indigenous woman for being a capitalist overlord because she likes vintage Chanel ads because it’s all about CLASS and not gender or race, white women who can’t share the spotlight with women of color suffer from simplistic, zero-sum thinking. There is enough attention to have all the conversations that need to happen, and when we go ahead and let them happen, without defensiveness, without fear that in the attention economy we’re going to get the short end of the stick, we might actually end up discovering that, <gasp> we are all human beings, that we all suffer in one way or another, and that when we humble ourselves enough to admit that we sometimes contribute to the suffering of others, we can start to change our ways and do what Christ calls us to do. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, y’all. We just need to participate in it, by loving each other. The zero-sum game is a construct, not reality. There’s enough food, enough attention, enough love to go around, especially since all three are things that we can cultivate. One key value that indigenous cultures on this continent share and the settler culture suffers from the lack of is the value of cooperation. When we cooperate instead of compete, we can actually increase the available resources. Empathy can also be cultivated (reading other people’s stories helps), and if we had more of that, events like the recent killings would become a thing of the past. We might find ourselves living in a world that seems more like Heaven than the Hell we’re speeding toward in this whacked basket. Let’s make it so.


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Open Letter to President Obama

Mr President:

I write not because I think you will listen, but because I can’t live with myself if I don’t give voice to my objection to your position on using force in Syria. I am sickened that we find ourselves, as Americans, in this position again, watching our government try to make a case for military action in a country that is not threatening us.

I’m not going to detail here how our foreign policy for decades has benefited an economic elite and caused the very unrest our military actions are allegedly intended to quell. Such knowledge is out there for anyone to discover, who cares to look.

I am going to appeal to your humanity, because, despite your actions that illustrate the contrary, I feel you must still have some, somewhere. You seem to love your wife and daughters, at least. So remember, when you order another batch of bombs or drone strikes, that many of the men you’re striking at have wives and children, too. Like the children you killed at that birthday party in Pakistan.

I have sometimes wondered if you’re not a hostage in that big house, unable to do anything but the bidding of the warlords who run this country, the industry heads who profit from our endless wars, the munitions manufacturers and dealers and Big Oil representatives. That if you don’t do what you’re told, you’ll end up like Kennedy. It must suck not to be a free man, whatever the perks.

But then I think that maybe you do have a choice, but have simply been blinded by the glitter of Washington, by having your ego stroked, by having so much smoke blown up your rear end. The leader of the free world, and all that. Pffft.

Let me tell you, Barack Hussein: your soul is in peril. Wake up. No one knows when we go to meet our maker. I suggest you put your own house in order. Do not keep murdering innocent people. There is nothing you can say from that Oval Office that will convince me that what the people of Syria need is more violence.

I’ll pray for you at the table tonight, that you see the light. That you might strive to deserve the prize the Nobel committee awarded you.

very best wishes for a more peaceful tomorrow,

Wendy Babiak


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The Heresy of Homophobia: Checkmate, Hatefreaks

All right, hatefreaks. You know who you are. Or maybe you don’t, but you’re the ones who voted for Prop 8 in California, and you’re the ones who just passed Amendment One in North Carolina. You’re the ones who don’t believe homosexuals are full human beings with full human rights. You think they’re an abomination. They give you the creeps.

You say it’s a violation of your religious freedom to protect kids from bullying if they’re perceived as gay or transgender. Because the Bible says you should feel that way, and you’ve got to share your religion, right? After all, there’s that bit in Leviticus, and all that stuff Paul said. But here’s the thing: those verses don’t actually say what you want them to say, or what you’ve been convinced they say by some homophobic preacher. Read this excellent exegesis (you do know what exegesis means, right? I mean, you study the Bible, right?) and you’ll discover that you (or your preachers) have been doing it wrong. And what’s more, by reading the Bible through your lens of fear and hate, you’re in fact committing a heresy, by saying that God does not love us all equally and want us to love each other. Worse, some of you actually project your hate on to God (I’m looking at you, Westboro Baptists) and say that God hates homosexuals. That’s blasphemy.

Listen, Jesus says clearly in the Gospels, when confronted by the pharisees, that the greatest commandments are these: To love God with everything we have, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We honor God by letting God’s love flow through us to everyone we meet. Is making laws that discriminate against our neighbors a loving act? Most definitely not, and doing so in the name of our faith, in the name of our God, is most certainly using God’s name in vain, a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments handed down by Moses (in addition to being a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution). And doing so causes very real harm. Here’s a heartbreaking video that will give you some idea of the results of this kind of discrimination. I dare you to watch it:

If your heart isn’t already shrunken to the size of a pea and as hard as a pebble from being steeped in hate, that should’ve made you cry. Or at least made you rethink your stance against marriage equality. See, LGBT folk are human beings, with emotions like anyone else’s, with the same need to love and be loved, the same need to plan for the future, the same desire to commit to a loving relationship. The same need to protect and provide for their families. And every right to do so.

Now maybe calling you a name like hatefreaks isn’t the best way to have a dialogue. But here’s the thing. I’m not going to call you Christians. Because what you’re doing isn’t Christian, and since I recently came back to my own Christian heritage, with a full-on conversion experience that I cannot deny, I’m not going to let you claim that title anymore, not when you’re not being a fountain for Christ’s love, not when you’re driving people away from Christianity with your hate, not when you’re bearing this bitter fruit. And hatefreak is an accurate appellation, because guess what? Hate for you has become a drug. I dare you to try living without it. Like any addict, you’re going to find it hard. But here’s another thing: Christ can help you with that. Get on your knees and pray.  Ask for forgiveness for your heresy of hate. Look into your own sins, get that beam out of your own eye, and quit casting stones at your brothers and sisters. Go forth and hate no more.


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Get It Done! (Another Climate Failure in Durban)

 

Despite this rousing speech by youth delegate Anjali Appadurai, the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, have once again ended without any agreement to lower carbon emissions, essentially damning the world to catastrophe.

 

Are you okay with this?

 

 

I’m not. The time for action is now. Well, really, the time for action was decades ago, but scientists say we now have a five-year window, AT MOST, in which to turn this doomsday machine around, after which climate change will be irreversible and the planet will become unrecognizable and unlivable. The primary obstacle to action is the inertia caused by the confusion, thanks to denialist propaganda funded by the fossil-fuel industry and promulgated by their corporate media outlets, regarding the reality of climate change. This has created the lack of political will we see evidenced every time the UN meets to confront carbon emissions. We need to get it done. This is not a political issue; this is an issue of survival. Conservative or liberal will mean nothing when the water rises at the coast and refuses to fall from the sky on former breadbaskets. Those who oppose action on carbon emissions stand on the wrong side of history. In the end I suppose that won’t matter. No one will be around to write it.


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Comment to the NY DEC Draft SGEIS on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program (September 2009)

I’m writing as a concerned citizen of Tompkins County. Whether or not my voice carries any weight compared to the corporate profits of the “persons” who have pushed to be allowed to carry on this dangerous process (hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus Shale) is doubtful, which is a shame and a commentary on the level of corruption evident in the approval process thus far.

This extractive process, using dangerous chemicals and water that would be better used for drinking and agriculture, puts at risk the health of everyone here by contaminating our drinking water with chemicals known to cause nerve damage and cancer. Even if none of the wells experienced a leak (hardly likely), the fluid would so tax our water treatment plants that contamination would be unavoidable. It also threatens to disrupt the relatively healthy existing local economy, which is based on organic dairy farms, vineyards, and the many small farms that feed us, as well as the tourism attracted to the bucolic surroundings and good, healthful cuisine in our many locavore restaurants. Our roads will also be over taxed by heavy trucks hauling hazardous chemicals. It is all around a very bad idea that will benefit only the few who will profit. Everyone else will suffer. It is a glaring example of the corruption of our society by corporations that put their profits above the welfare of human beings. New York State is collaborating with these corporations instead of protecting its human citizens. If our government refuses to protect its citizens, it should not be surprised if some of them use a diversity of tactics to frustrate the fossil-fuel industry’s ability to operate here. I would hate to see anyone harmed by such tactics, but I would also hate to see children suffer cancer because our government failed to protect them from gas drilling and its affects on human health.

We moved to New York from Shreveport, Louisiana, where we witnessed a disturbingly high cancer rate, with victims among our friends. We discovered afterward that the area we left had been contaminated by this same process decades before. We chose this area because we wanted our children to be able to grow their bodies in a relatively healthful environment. I implore the Department of Environmental Conservation to rethink its collaboration with the fossil fuel industry and stand instead with the citizens of Tompkins County.