Tuesday, June 30, 2015

water, water... but only if you can afford it

No doubt, you're aware that much of the southwest is in a severe drought situation.  More than once I've had friends from other parts of the US remark that they wish they could send some of their excess rain here.  Well, we'd like that too.  The primary water source for much of the area where I live is a man made lake - Lake Cachuma.  The last official number I heard was the end of March and it was down to 27% of capacity.  I'm sure it is lower now and we likely won't see any significant rainfall until October.
Lake Cachuma - everything in the foreground is supposed to be underwater

As you can imagine, the government is encouraging folk to save water.  Lawns are dead.  Water thirsty plantings are either pulled out or dead.  Many folk have buckets in their showers to catch water which is then used to water flowers or flush toilets.  Folk who can have stopped their daily showers.  The old adage, "If its yellow, let it mellow, if its brown flush it down," has been taken to new extremes.  Many households have cut back water use significantly.

You may have heard about Nestle continuing to pump water from California aquifers and sell it around the country while those who live on top of those very aquifers struggle to have enough water for daily needs.  Then there are the oil and gas companies who inject huge amounts of water in injections wells or in fracking, both using large amounts of water, and possibly/likely contaminating the aquifers upon which people depend and upon which much of California agriculture depends.  We even see stories out here of farmers using the contaminated water from oil fields to water the vegetables that many of us eat.

Well there is a third group of folk that really make my blood boil.  In the grand scheme of things they don't use as much water as either Nestle or the oil companies, but the symbolism really is infuriating.  They are the folk pointed out in this article in the Washington Post - rich folk who think that because they can afford it, they should get all of the water they want and use it in any way they please, screw the poor folk who can't flush their toilets, I deserve my lush green lawn.  In April after a state order to cut water usage by 25%, the folk in wealthy Rancho Santa Fe actually increased their usage by 9%.  According to the NY Times, daily per capita water use in Santa Fe is 427 gallons.  In July, they used 644 gallons per person per day.  Compare that to San Francisco, one of the most water effiecient areas of the state, where the daily per capita use is 44 gallons.  You read that right, 9.7 times as much water per person in Santa Fe vs. San Fran.

Here is a telling quote from the Washington Post article
People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” Yuhas fumed recently on social media. “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”
We're rich so we shouldn't have to play by the same rules...

Fines don't work because the folk are rich.  Social conscience doesn't work for at least some of them... I'd like to see a limit on water use... give them a number of gallons per person per household  - make it a generous allotment, say 50% more than the state average - and when it goes above that, shut off the water.  And the tanker trucks that then drive in carrying water for those who can afford to buy from them... well, make those sales illegal until the drought is over.

This is one more example where the necessities of life are being sold to the highest bidder and for those who cannot afford to compete... too bad.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Murders and Mental Illness

I've been listening with sadness to much of the discussion surrounding Dylann Roof and the murders at Emmanuel AME church.  More than once I have heard people refer to him as insane, comment about how "sick" his actions were, or describe his actions as those of a crazy person.

I want to say this as clearly as I can.  Dylann Roof's actions were not due to mental illness.  He is not crazy.  He is not sick.  He is evil and his actions were evil.  To identify him with those who are mentally ill does great disservice to those who truly are mentally ill and places them under suspicion that they do not deserve.  If murdering 9 people equals mental illness then what does mental illness equal?   If we can label this person as "sick" and then lock him away and forget him, what do we do with the truly sick people in our communities and even in our own families?

Please, please, please, do not call this evil young man crazy or sick or mentally ill... he is not.  And those who are mentally struggle enough with their illness that they do not need to be branded with suspicion of being murders.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Go Frank

Let me begin by saying that I have no problem with people of faith bringing their faith into their politics.  That is a very different thing than imposing one's faith on someone else but if one's faith does not impact the way he or she lives in this world, the way they vote, and the values they hold, then it is not worth having.  A particular faith commitment is never adequate for forming public policy but to expect an individual of faith to remove his or her faith from their deliberation on any issue of importance is untenable.

I've chuckled more than once at the way the religious right, non-Catholic and Catholic alike, has reacted to Pope Francis.  The lack of integrity is almost comical.  The same folk who cheered when the Roman Catholic hierarchy condemned gay marriage or the right to choose are apoplectic that the pope would call for world-wide economic reform or care of the earth.  They could not say any more clearly that they are fine with bringing one's religious values to political discourse only as long as it is supportive of their agenda.  So, when the pope speaks out on economic or ecological issues they accuse him of moving beyond his "religious" role and speaking to issues about which he is ignorant.  I'm especially interested in the way some Roman Catholic Republicans have so easily dismissed his teaching as being irrelevant. 

Here's the issue... Pope Francis and everything he has said and done falls so squarely in that blend of the Jesuit and Franciscan traditions that he represents as to be completely and absolutely expected.  That he chose the name, Francis, should have been a hint of what to expect.  That he is a Jesuit should have warned everyone that he would be a thoughtful activist, engaging the world.

It is no surprise to anyone who has read anything I've written that I am a fan.  Certainly, I do not agree with all of his stances - and as a Baptist, I have no obligation to - but I deeply appreciate his thoughtfulness, his courage, and the way he is pushing all people of faith forward.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015


This week Franklin Graham has called for Christians to boycott businesses that are (along with the media and gay and lesbian organizations) cramming a tide of moral decay down our throats.  Evidently this commercial from Wells Fargo Bank was the straw that broke the camel's back for him.

I have no problem with anyone deciding not to do business anywhere for any reason they choose, including some perception that a particular business is supporting "moral decay."  I do have problems when someone identifies a specific moral understanding as "Christian," implying that anyone who does not agree is simply not "Christian."

Now it is true that I am not the same stripe of Christian as Franklin Graham and indeed, I would have some difficulty using that descriptor of him - probably as much as he would have using it of me - for a whole bunch of reasons.  I am not quite ready to write off everyone who owns that name just because I disagree with them over sometimes very important issues.   There needs to be room for disagreement and the possibility of rubbing shoulders with different opinions in order for growth to take place.  It was interesting that around the same time Graham was calling for a boycott of businesses that are supportive of LGBTQ people, prominent evangelical leader, Tony Campolo, came out as fully supportive of inclusion of LGBTQ folk in the church

Back to the commercial... For a number of years our family did foster care.  We saw the horrendous situations of many children.  Some were eventually freed for adoption.  Sometimes their foster families adopted them but sometimes they did not for any number of reasons.  The older children had a much more difficult time getting "forever families" as did children with any issues ranging from emotional problems to physical disabilities.  It would not be easy to find a home for child like the one in the commercial - an elementary school aged girl who was also deaf.  The implication from Graham that somehow the little girl in the commercial would be better off languishing in foster care or an institution vs. adoption by a loving lesbian couple is just ugly.

I hope Graham follows up in two ways - first that he calls for each of his constituent families to adopt a special needs child and second, that he be consistent and refuse to do business with all LGBTQ friendly businesses.  Of course, the second step might be difficult to live out.  Eliel Cruz has included a list of 30 other major companies that, like Wells Fargo, received a 100 score from the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index .  Their list of 366 companies scoring 100 happens to include 14 of the top 20, 150 total of the companies on the Fortune 500 list.  Cruz goes on to observe that finding a national company with a zero score is virtually impossible.

His list includes: Target, Starbucks, Levi’s, Microsoft, Amazon, Ford, Home Depot, Expedia, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Gap, Oreo, Macy’s, Old Navy, Banana Republic, General Mills, J.C. Penney, Walgreens, Nike, Ben and Jerry’s, Google, Ebay, Orbitz, Jet Blue, Mastercard, Johnson & Johnson, Goldman Sachs, Cisco, Marriott, and UBS.  Likewise, Facebook, where Graham posted his call, scored 100.  Graham could be consistent with his stated goals and boycott all of those companies on the complete list... or he could argue that he is singling out Wells Fargo because they chose to advertise their position and so were actively cramming this moral decay down our throats.

I choose to live in a world more like the one portrayed in Wells Fargo's ad than the one for which Franklin Graham yearns.  If that equates with moral decay... bring it on.   Similar accusations were thrown at the earliest followers of Jesus.

Target Starbucks Levi’s Microsoft Amazon Ford Home Depot Expedia Pepsi Procter & Gamble Gap Oreo Macy’s Old Navy Banana Republic General Mills J.C. Penney Walgreens Nike Ben and Jerry’s Google Ebay Orbitz Jet Blue Mastercard Johnson & Johnson Goldman Sachs Cisco Marriott UBS - See more at: http://elielcruz.religionnews.com/2015/06/07/franklin-graham-calls-on-christians-to-blacklist-lgbt-friendly-companies/?email=robin%40awab.org#sthash.ru2MEuwy.dpuf

Target Starbucks Levi’s Microsoft Amazon Ford Home Depot Expedia Pepsi Procter & Gamble Gap Oreo Macy’s Old Navy Banana Republic General Mills J.C. Penney Walgreens Nike Ben and Jerry’s Google Ebay Orbitz Jet Blue Mastercard Johnson & Johnson Goldman Sachs Cisco Marriott UBS - See more at: http://elielcruz.religionnews.com/2015/06/07/franklin-graham-calls-on-christians-to-blacklist-lgbt-friendly-companies/?email=robin%40awab.org#sthash.ru2MEuwy.dpuf