13th — Why Words Matter

 

13th — Why Words Matter

13th is a powerful look at systemic racism and what is being called the criminalization of an entire sector of society.  Nominated in 2017 for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, 13th is the story of how our nation — unwittingly to many of us — has managed to systematically keep the black population enslaved despite the language of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.  The film, directed by Ava DuVernay, was released back in 2016, but has gained traction recently as the death of George Floyd instigates protests worldwide, like a tourniquet to keep pressure the wound so it doesn’t kill us.

The wording of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America reads as follows:

AMENDMENT XIII

SECTION 1

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

SECTION 2

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

DuVernay’s argument is simple.  The language except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted has, in effect, kept slavery alive even after the country fought a bloody civil war to abolish it.  

The war on drugs started with Nixon, a concept dreamed up by Nixon’s counsel, John Ehrlichman of Watergate fame,  and this “war” disproportionately affected black men in the way justice was dispensed.  Nixon called drug abuse “public enemy number one” and vowed to eradicate it, a battle cry that resonated especially loudly with Southern voters.  This sleight of hand worked and Nixon resoundingly won the electoral college vote although he only narrowly won the popular vote the first time around.

In 1970, one year into Nixon’s first term, there were approximately 338,000 people in incarcerated; today, that number is well over 2 million, and of that number, almost half a million are in jail without yet having been convicted of a crime because they can’t afford bail

We in the U.S. have 5% of the global population, but 25% of its prison population.   Today, one in 17 white men will be incarcerated versus one in three black men and one in six Latino men.  That should make anyone watching 13th do more than raise an eyebrow.

DuVernay argues that, like systemic poverty, you become acculturated to systemic racism and the very subtle ways in which the system has been skewed against the black community. 

If Nixon started the problem by campaigning on a law and order platform,  Ronald and Nancy Reagan kicked it up several notches with their own war on drugs, and it really shot through the roof — which was surprising to me to learn of someone who at one time had the moniker “the first Black President — with Bill Clinton’s “three strikes” rule which took discretionary sentencing away from judges and replaced it with mandatory sentencing.  That meant that if you were busted three different times, say, twice with a single joint, for example, and the third time for a violent crime, you would be serving life in prison even though the first two crimes were more likely misdemeanors.  President Clinton has since apologized for this law.  

All those who have died at the hands of the police — many of them just kids — have set the stage for the protest following the death of George Floyd, events that have been simmering for years but seemed to have coalesced overnight.

13th returns to lawyer and author, Brian Stevenson, civil rights activist, Angela Davis, former Obama-administration official Van Jones, and Harvard Professor, Henry Louis Gates, among others, again and again to chronicle the difficulties African Americans face in their daily lives and how society has been engineered to create barriers to their success.  The commentators provide commentary and background as each of these individuals has their own personal stories — vis-á-vis their lives and careers — of insidious societal behavior, yet each one has successfully navigated a larger life despite the handicaps they’ve experienced as a result of the color of their skin.

If you want to see why words matter, watch 13th.

Today is July 4th, the day our country celebrates freedom from tyranny and rule of the oppressor.  It’s time for us to take a long look inside to see how we are oppressing each other and what we can do to really make our nation The Land of the Free for all its inhabitants, not just select groups.

Watch 13th, currently streaming on Netflix.  Take a look at what’s happening on the other side of the fence.  Consider it your patriotic duty as an American.

Posted in movie review, movies, racism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

World Environment Day — When Will Dawn Arrive?

Banner on the U.N.’s website

“The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature.

Yet, these are exceptional times in which nature is sending us a message:
To care for ourselves we must care for nature. 

It’s time to wake up. To take notice. To raise our voices.
It’s time to build back better for People and Planet.

This World Environment Day, it’s Time for Nature.”

#WorldEnvironmentDay #ForNature

Today is World Environment Day.

It feels irreverent to speak about the environment when the world is on fire right now, spiritually, allegorically, and most definitely physically, fulminating against a backdrop of a coronavirus pandemic, rising unemployment, police brutality, and centuries of institutionalized racism.

People are on edge. Issues of race and inequality, always a backdrop for the lives of African Americans, have spilled over into the mainstream like a too-full pot of boiling water. Injustice can’t be contained forever so what better time for this conflagration than in the middle of a pandemic?

It’s not a coincidence that the worst of the worst is occurring all at once. For years, people of color have remained at the lower socioeconomic rung of society, shut out by systemic racism that leaves practices in place meant to keep people down along many spectrums — housing, education, health, and even plain old opportunity. The question isn’t why the anger is erupting now, but how it has been contained this long.

Dr. Jane Goodall’s learning schedule on rootsandshoots.org

I realize the environment is often a care associated with white privilege. I also realize why. When you have been harassed by the police as a way of life, when you are struggling to take care of your family, when you have been routinely told that your life doesn’t matter as much as your contemporaries with whiter skin than yours, you may not have much bandwidth left to think about the bugs and bunnies, clean air or clean water. And that’s okay, because in order to live an authentic life, we all need to follow what has heart and meaning, for us. But what if changing our relationship with the natural world, our relationship with all of its inhabitants could change humanity as well?

perfect balance

Enter Balance. You can’t walk without out it, can’t run without it, can’t ride a bike without it, can’t stand on your head without it, and can’t live your life without out. Actually, you can live your life, but the lack of balance will eventually catch up with you — through misfortune, death, disease, whatever — and the world as it is presents a perfect example of this.

“This pandemic was predicted and people have not heeded the lessons we should have because we have disrespected the natural world, disrespected the animals who live there, taken away so much habitat, crowded animals together, viruses spilling over from one animal species to another, some animals pushed into conflict with humans and human beings hunting them, eating them, trafficking them, sending them from one country to another along with their viruses and selling them on these wildlife markets as food or pets and because the animals are stressed, because there’s blood in everything and everywhere, it’s the perfect environment for a virus to spill over from an animal to a human, and people have been predicting this.”

DR. Jane Goodall appearing on Jimmy Fallon on Earth Day

We could easily substitute the word human for animal in Dr. Goodall’s words and the meaning would be the same. For hundreds of years, white civilization trafficked in black civilization, disrespecting them, crowding them together, treating them the way we treat animals today. Sadly, and while it’s not universal, it is prevalent, much of this spillover behavior toward Black America continues in the form of generationally engendered racism, and, in particular, police brutality.

No such terrible deeds are without repercussions which is how we have arrived where we are today, unwilling to deal with the sins of past, unable to cobble together a path forward. Certainly we can’t claim to have respect for the earth if we don’t even know how to have respect for each other.

I note some things that have become evident in the U.S. over these last few years:

  • reasonable public debate is a tired old shoe that no one wants to wear;
  • people pretend they are listening to each other, but really they are just waiting for their turn to talk;
  • people cling to the trappings of the 3rd dimension like a drowning man clings to flotsam even while many Americans declare themselves to be religious or spiritual and not bound by such trappings;
  • despite all evidence to the contrary, there are some people who will never change their opinion on an issue either because of pride, fear, or a stubborn belief in their own superiority.

I think it’s this last one that does us in more than the others. If we are unwilling to change our minds, how will we ever evolve as a species? Without compassion, without empathy, and without true listening skills, nothing will ever change and we will be destined to revolve through these cycles of ill will, discontent and inequality, year after year, for generations to come.

Sadly, the only way to get through to most inhabitants of a 3-D world is through revolution which means more horror, more bloodshed, more tears, and more death. I think we can do better in welcoming a new dawn to this battered world.

Balance for the planet and all its inhabitants, starts with good environmental stewardship. If you love the mother, you wouldn’t disrespect one of her creations, right?

Everyday is a new beginning, a chance to start again. Isn’t it time to heal the sins of the past? Isn’t it time we give all people, regardless of race or religion, their due?

Revolution is passé. Evolution is where it’s at. Let’s start now.

I’ll leave you with this:

dark and light exist side by side into eternity

A Small Needful Fact

by Ross Gay

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

pam lazos 6.5.20

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

#WATWB — Needleworkers Unite!

It’s the last Friday of the month which means it’s time to share the good news on — #WATWB — a monthly good news blogging trip around the world. May we all be energized and rejuvenated by the good news. 

We’re all getting a bit tired of quarantining, but if you’re a needleworker, you had the opportunity to make history, or at least the Guinness Book of World Records.

Needleworkers in the U.K. have created a 9-mile long flag — 79,001 knitted flags in all spaced no more than two inches apart. Quite the sewing circle! Admittedly, the knitters had more time on their hands than usual as a result of the Covid-19 shutdown, but hey, what a way to make good use of your time.

If you’re interested in joining our Blog Hop, the guidelines are as follows:

1. Keep your post to below 500 words;

2. Link to a human news story on the last Friday of each month that demonstrates love, kindness, humanity, support, open-mindedness, etc., but no proselytizing, preaching or inconsiderateness toward others;

3. Post on the last Friday of the month in sharing the good news.  No story is too big or small;

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar and help spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome;

5. Read and comment on others’ posts, play nice, and make friends;

6. To sign up, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.  Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list.

This month’s cohosts are: Susan ScottLizbeth HartzShilpa GargMary Giese and Damyanti Biswas.

Happy Friday y’all. Spread some love this weekend.

pam lazos 5.29.20

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 24 Comments

Jack Hughes & Thomas the Rhymer

 

One of my favorite things about being a blogger is the community of like-minded individuals, befriended over the years, who support one another in both writing and life.  The camaraderie we share when one of us reaches a milestone, writing or otherwise, is lovely to behold.  It’s like having your own virtual cheering section.

To that end, I’d like to share the work of fellow writer, Paul Andruss, who I met through my dear friend, author, and publisher Shehanne Moore, or Lady Shey as we lovingly refer to her, as she is the creator of Shehanne Moore’s Smexy Historical Romance blog as well as the engine driving Black Wolf Books publishing.

So rather than waste your time listening to me drone on about it, I’m turning the mic over to Paul who can give you the skinny on what’s happening in his world these days.

Take it away, Paul.

Paul here.  I want to share some wonderful news. At least I think it’s wonderful. You may not.

My first novel is published.

Don’t worry I won’t be making the newbie author gaff of launching straight into promoting Jack Hughes & Thomas the Rhymer, published by the exciting new and independent Black Wolf Books and available right now on Amazon.

No Siree, I’m certainly not dumb enough to go banging on about Jack Hughes & Thomas the Rhymer; the first novel in a young adult magical realism trilogy that will, hopefully, appeal to all readers and not just the younger end of the market.

What’s it about, do I hear you say?

Oh, you didn’t say that, did you? You didn’t say anything at all.

Never mind, I’ll tell you anyway. 

It’s about fairies.

Fairies? Fairies!

Yep. Fairies.

When 12-year-old Jack Hughes sees a sinister fairy queen kidnap his bother Dan, he knows his parents will never believe him. Nor will the police. Not when he says Dan vanished into thin air. If Jack wants to see Dan again, he has to save him. And not just him.  If he ever wants to find Dan, first he must save Thomas the Rhymer from a wicked enemy.

Bravely embarking on a rollercoaster adventure into the dark fairy realm, Jack and friends face monstrous griffins and brooding tapestries with a life of their own, learn to use magic mirrors and travel on ley lines that whip them off faster than sound.

Jack knows even if he returns Thomas the Rhymer to his selfish fairy queen, she might make Jack her prisoner. With the odds stacked against him, can Jack succeed in finding and freeing Dan? Or will he lose his brother forever?

Prefer a different summary?

How about a poem written by Jack?

 

Jack’s friend Catherine did the calligraphy and illustrations and sent it to the school magazine. It wasn’t published.

Did I say Jack Hughes & Thomas the Rhymer is the first book of The Jack Hughes Trilogy?  Sorry if I’m repeating myself; I’m just super excited about this fast-paced, feel-good adventure that introduces the reader to a fairy realm rooted in Celtic myth. Fairies are not sprites or elementals, but real men and women with psychic abilities, struggling as they are overwhelmed by the modern age.

The fairy world is crumbling, destroyed by railways and roads, pylons and power cables. We have light and heat at the flick of a switch; radio, television, telephones, satellites and computers. They think we have all the magic.

With the race dying, fairies steal children, or at least those children who share their genetic heritage …

Amazonian Indians, also on the brink of extinction, steal children from Brazilian towns for much the same reason. Have you ever thought the Elfin may deserve your compassion every bit as much as those poor Amazon tribes?

The fairy world is different to ours. They live a waking dream spun by the Fairy Queen ruling the nest. In his dreams, Jack experiences what his kidnapped brother sees.

How about a little excerpt from Chapter 4 Dream a Little Dream of Me

Lying on a bed covered with a thin blanket, he stared through the high windows at the full moon, watching tiny fairies play in the moonbeams. Hearing the key catch as the door unlocked, he saw his mother enter. At least he hoped it was Mum but was scared it was a trick; like everything was a trick.

Closing his eyes, he listened to her footsteps on the bare cold floor. Gently, he started snoring, hoping she would think him asleep and leave him alone. The thin mattress sagged when she sat next to him. He smelled his mother’s perfume, the one she wore for best.

“I know you’re not asleep, love.”

Cautiously, he opened his eyes. “Mum?”

“I’m here.”

“Are you better?”

“Yes.”

She stroked his forehead.

He sat up, throwing himself into her arms, “How did you find me?”

Even as he spoke, he knew this was not his mother. She would never find him here.

“My lovely, Dan.”

Jack was shocked hearing her call him Dan. This was no dream. He saw what Dan saw, locked in his prison hundreds of miles away.

Whoever was pretending to be his mother sensed his doubt. Her voice slipped to no more than a pale imitation. “I am what you remember. If you see me, hear me, feel my touch. What is the difference?”

“It is different. Just is, that’s all.” Jack heard Dan shout.

“I can give her back. She will never change; never grow old or ill, never busy. Everything the same. Always.”

“Liar. It’s not the same.”

You tell her, Dan, thought Jack.

“It is if you want.”

Sadness weighed down her voice. Hugging him fiercely, she stroked his hair. There was a terrible heat burning in her. She kissed him on the mouth, hot dry lips tasting of chocolate. Disgusted, he pulled away.

“You’re not my mum.”

She was gone. Only her silver voice remained, hung with echoes of mournful bells, as she complained, “I only want to love and be loved in return.”

-END-

If you liked that, you can discover more of the fairy world in the 2nd book of the series, Jack Hughes and the Daughters of Albion.

When the most powerful Fairy Queen in Britain dies, the spectral Daughters of Albion appear at her carnival funeral. The fairies fear their appearance is the death knell of their world. Jack and his friends set out to save the fairy world. They do not get far before disaster strikes.

Before the book reaches its explosive climax at Stonehenge, you will witness the summoning of archangels, learn the ancient shamanic secret of mind transference, and even meet a werewolf!

In Jack Hughes and the Thirteenth Treasure, the final book of the series, Jack and friends search for the legendary Thirteenth Treasure.

But how can anyone find the Thirteenth Treasure when nobody knows where it, what it is, or if it even exists? If all they have are fragments of legend, how will they know the Thirteenth Treasure even if they find it?

***

So that’s it really.  One book down, two to write.  No biggee.

All that remains is to ask who is Paul Andruss?

No really. Who is Paul Andruss?

Oh, It’s me. I remember. Dear God, it’s terrifying when that happens.

I was born and raised in Liverpool, where the city’s legendary Scouse wit and dogged stoicism left a mark, or some might say, scars.

I dropped out of college at 17, keen to get out into the world. A year later I was taking exams at Night School, while working in the local Tax Office. On the grounds that anything was better than work, I applied to study Psychology at Liverpool University. Considering my grades (just plumb lazy) no one was more surprised than me when they accepted my application.

After graduation, I worked near the romantic Lake District, so beloved of William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. No, not Harry’s mum. Peter Rabbit’s. Then in Manchester and London before moving to Bodrum in Turkey.

To finance a passion for exploring the heartland of the Ancient Greek Empire, I wrote short travel articles for local tourists, focusing on the history and myths of the ruined cities and temples. I began illustrating the pieces, using Photoshop because it let me remove power lines and the odd Esso sign from photographs of ancient sites.

After returning to the U.K. I started focusing on writing and illustration. Last year I was lucky enough to get signed by an exciting new, independent Scottish publisher called Black Wolf Books. In the next two years Black Wolf will release the Jack Hughes Trilogy, Finn MacCool, a book of short stories and a couple of novellas.

If you enjoyed learning about Jack Hughes and Thomas the Rhymer, or even if you didn’t, don’t forget to visit http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/

Explore the story of Thomas the Rhymer. http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/story-of-the-book.php

Download posters http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/art-gallery.php

Read pre-release reviews http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/thomas-the-rhymer.php

And listen to music written for the book by classical composer Patrick Hartnett http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/music.php

Yes, he loved the book that much.

And who knows …

So might you.

***

So that’s all from Paul today, but check back later for a bit of the odds and sods from the mind of Paul Andruss.  In the interim, if you’re state-side, have a safe and acceptably socially distanced Memorial Day weekend.

pam lazos 5.23.20

Posted in book excerpt, book promotion, book release, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Happy Mother’s Day

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

There was a time shortly after my mother died a little over four years ago that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to enjoy Mother’s Day again, missing her as I was and knowing that she would never again be there for her sage advice and steady presence that calmed my worst fears even in the darkest times.  She was an unbelievable rock, all 105 lbs. of her, the foundation of everything I’ve ever accomplished in life, and her faith in me was unshakeable, far surpassing any faith I might ever have cultivated without her, in myself.

 

Now that I have kids of my own, I realize that’s the crux of motherhood — an unshakeable faith in your children that gives them the strength and the will and the courage to absolutely and without a doubt become the person they came to this earth to be.  I pray that I can give my children that same ineffable gift because God knows the most important things in life are not things, and at our core, our only real task in life is to work our way toward wholeness.

Here’s what else I know.  I’ve always gravitated toward women who have had more experience than me — often a generation or two ahead — women who could play the role of mentor in whatever endeavor I had undertaken.  Maybe it’s because my grandmothers died before I was old enough to enjoy their company, not just as grandmothers, but as women.  I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about my own mother’s life, not just as my mother, but as a woman on her own journey, shining her own light, and it has given me great insight into my own inner-workings.

Today’s society focuses so much on youth, but that is a pitfall-laden path.  The youth must make their own mistakes, yes, but doing so blindly leads to unnecessary hardship.  Having a mentor who is even a dozen steps ahead helps you navigate life’s craggy paths with much more certainty.  There’s a reason history repeats itself.  People forget to go back and read the notes to review what came before, yet if we just asked a few questions of the right individuals, maybe we wouldn’t have to repeat all the drama in quite the same punishing fashion.

So this Mother’s Day, I’d like to extend my gratitude to all my surrogate mothers and mentors who have lent their ear and their wisdom, their guidance and creativity, their patience and expertise to the winding road that has been my own journey, to my friends and contemporaries, the women walking this path with me because where would we be without each other, right girls?!, and, of course, to my own mother whose spirit lives on in all kinds of surprising ways.

So ladies — whether you have kids, or dogs, or cats, or even a bearded dragon, I wish a most joyous Mother’s Day to you all.

May your day, and all the life in it, be lit from within.

pamlazos 5.10.20

Posted in gratitude, mother's day, mothers, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 46 Comments

Love in the Time of Corona — Fitness First

[Happy baby, Apollo-style]

Love in the Time of Corona — Fitness First

Everyone knows that the most successful fitness regimes aren’t relegated to the body alone, but to mind and spirit as well.  That’s why during these Days of Isolation in addition to working out every day, I’ve been aspiring to eat right, cutting down on my go-to fix which is sugar; get enough sleep — easy enough since I’ve shaved four hours off my daily commuting by quarantine-working from home; and feeding my soul a little every day with a good book, lovely music, and of course, the daily walk with the Apollo to beat the blues.

 

Speaking of, I think our pets are the big winners in the quarantine game since, between my husband and I, Apollo gets somewhere between four to six miles of walking in a day.

It helps that spring is here and we can partake of color therapy just by walking outside.  Even the rainy day walks have a dashing brilliance about them.

Food prep has risen to another level spurred on by the family-food-sharing chat group where we connect with our extended family members in a way that we never did before corona, texting a little info daily, exchanging tidbits on health and wellness, grousing about the current situation, global, political, and otherwise, but mostly just staying connected to assure that no one gets lost.

[Tikka Masala, Dahl and green beans by yours truly]

My husband’s been researching mushrooms, mostly because of this guy:

If you haven’t seen the movie Fantastic Fungi yet, I urge you to check it out.  Mushrooms could actually be the new wave in personal health for the 21st century.  Need something to support your immune system during Covid-19.  How about some turkey tail mushrooms?  Need some memory and nerve function support?  Try lion’s mane.  (My husband is growing some in our kitchen.)  There’s even a mushroom that eats plastic — pestalotiopsis microspora — and you can bet I’ll be looking into that a little more closely in the months to come.

So that leaves spirit.  There’s a lot to ponder in corona-villa and given our isolation status, more time to ponder over it.  Not so much for first-line workers, teachers who are trying to manage online classes, and parents with young kids who have found themselves playing both parent and teacher these frenetic days, but quite the opposite — but take heart.  The world will remember your contributions while your children will remember these days for decades to come.

For me, this time has shined a spotlight on the importance of family.  I never took my family for granted, but watching the impermanence of life play out daily across the globe makes me realize that it’s true — we only have the present — and despite every day looking a lot like the one that came before it, every day is still special.

You may find it hard to believe that, especially when all of our personal freedoms have shrunk to the size of walnuts, but if you, like me, believe that we have too many choices in our day-to-day lives, especially here in the U.S., then you may also believe that having so many choices can actually impede the quality of your day-to-day experience because you spend so much of it trying to decide:  between product a and b; between activity a and b; between entertainment a and b; and more.

[Raul and Bella and the constant choice of in or out?]

The choosing can be exhausting.  There’s a reason why a store like Trader Joe’s is thriving.  Their outlets are small compared to regular grocery stores because they’ve limited the consumer’s choices and rather than shy away, the consumer rewards them by voting with their dollars, running to TJ’s in droves, grateful not to have to think so much because the work has been done for them, the quality products are on the shelves, and isn’t that such a relief?  In fact, our bottomless pit of choices is one of the reasons many scientists think our planet now teeters on the brink of a sixth mass extinction although there are some who say that when that time comes it would be too late for intervention so go buy yourself a case of scotch instead.

Whether we’re going extinct or just really screwing things up for our descendants won’t be known until this time has passed, but we don’t need to all keep marching in lock-step on the road to extinction and then jump off the cliff en masse.  We can change the course.  Just look at the statistics.  In two short months, air quality has improved; traffic has lessened; and wildlife is returning; all great arguments for living more sustainably, revitalizing local economies, and making the world more resilient to future pandemics.

Before McDonald’s and Starbucks and Yankee Candle, to name a few, once upon a time, every community had a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker, small-town makers of goods and services that everyone needed.  Then NAFTA came along and free trade agreements ruled, and chains sprung up around the world, and America sent its production lines overseas to the cheapest bidder.  The upside is you can get your coffee or burger anywhere in the world; the downside is that you’ve just missed out on the local cuisine.

Think globally, act locally is a concept that has been around since the early 1900s.  The bigger upside to this approach is enormous, especially during times of crisis.  When the one maker across the globe of the tiny widget needed to complete the assembly on, say, an Apple iPhone goes offline, Apple doesn’t need to stop production because there will be more than one maker of that particular widget.  At least, that’s how it used to be before globalization went in search of a bottom line instead of a better life for everyone which, if you recall, is how the concept of globalization was sold to us.

I’m not saying we should ditch on globalization, just that we need to consider instead the triple bottom line (TBL) made up of the three P’s:  profit, people and planet.  Yeah, it’s cheaper to do business with a factory in China to assemble the new fall clothing line, but for years, China has had next to no environmental laws and if you asked the people who live along the Yangtze River who have contracted cancer from all the industrial dumping, I bet they’d prefer a regulation or two and maybe a water purification system.  If we want to trade globally, then our global trading partners should adhere to the same standards we do, be it for environmental, human, or civil rights.  Otherwise, vote with your feet and trade somewhere else.  Isn’t that a better way to live, giving everyone has access to a healthier, more affluent life, not just the developed countries with money?

Maybe, when this is all over, the coronavirus will be remembered as our watershed moment, the time we realized that we didn’t need all the choices and all the stuff that goes with those choices, rather, we just needed each other.

If you want an ah-ha moment, watch this beautiful little video.

And if you want to believe, watch this one by my friend, Jeff’s daughters — guaranteed to add light your day.

Stay well and healthy, friends.  Think good thoughts.  Send love to the planet and your neighbor.  “The universe has us surrounded,” says Swami Beyondananda, “so we might as well surrender.”  Why not work together to assure a collectively bright future?

Namasté y’all.  Stay safe.

pam lazos 5.2.20

Posted in coronavirus, Covid-19, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 56 Comments

Love in the time of Corona – #WATWB

Love in the Time of Corona — #WATWB

I catch my erstwhile Irish now American friend, Barbara often uttering the Irish colloquialism ah, so.  It’s very catchy, practically contagious, and I find myself saying it from time-to-time, definitely more often after I’ve spent some time with Barbara.  Ah so is like, So that happened; or Well, here we are; or Let’s go; or I get it.  It’s one of those words that means different things to different people and can always be relied upon in a a pinch.

So let’s start off this month’s We Are the World Blogfest with a hearty ah so, as in … Ah, so, it’s the last Friday of the month which means it’s time to share the good news on — #WATWB — a monthly good news blogging trip around the world — may we all be energized and rejuvenated by the good news.  We could certainly use something a bit uplifting in these isolated, ornery, petulant, pandemic-y corona-times.  If you’re interested in joining our Blog Hop, the guidelines are as follows:

1. Keep your post to below 500 words;

2. Link to a human news story on the last Friday of each month that demonstrates love, kindness, humanity, support, open-mindedness, etc., but no proselytizing, preaching or inconsiderateness toward others;

3. Post on the last Friday of the month in sharing the good news.  No story is too big or small;

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar and help spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome;

5. Read and comment on others’ posts, play nice, and make friends;

6. To sign up, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.  Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list.

This month’s cohosts are: Eric Lahti, Susan Scott, Dan Antion, Damyanti Biswas, Inderpreet Kaur Uppal  so stop by and say hey.

 

TODAY’S GOOD NEWS is the Delaware River being named 2020 River of the Year by the advocacy group, American Rivers who called it a “national success story” for its rebound capacity.

The Delaware borders four states:  New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, serving a variety of functions including industry, drinking water, recreation, and tourism.  In terms of water use and versatility, the Delaware River is the gold standard.  At one time, just a few decades ago, this was the predominant boots on the ground look along the banks of the Delaware in the Philadelphia area:

After almost collapsing from industrial pollution, the river has seen a resurgence thanks the federal, state and local regulations on water quality standards, use and permitting.

The river’s improvement is credited to a number of initiatives, including the federal Clean Water Act, the policies of four states (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware), regulation by the Delaware River Basin Commission, and, more recently, the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, a coordinated effort of dozens of environmental groups and research organizations. The Delaware has the most extensive National Wild and Scenic River protection of any watershed in the country.

Philadelphia Inquirer, April 15, 2020.  To be clear, industry is still here, but they’re doing a much better job of keeping the majority of their contaminants to themselves thanks to federal, state and local permitting and planning.

Three cheers for the Delaware River’s resurgence which now even has a healthy night life along its banks, one that we hope will resume after the coronavirus clears off.

Thanks American Rivers, for giving the Delaware it’s due — to the benefit of us all.

Want a little more information on the Delaware.  Here’s an excerpt from my book, Oil and Water:

 

The Delaware River, the longest undammed and only remaining major free-flowing river east of the Mississippi, also lays claim to the largest freshwater port in the world. The river flows three hundred and thirty miles from Hancock, New York, and makes a pit stop in the Delaware Bay before spilling into the Atlantic Ocean. It serves as the dividing line between Pennsylvania and New Jersey and services twenty million residents of the New York, New Jersey and the Philadelphia area with drinking water. Washington’s famous Christmas Eve ping-ponging across the river began and ended on the banks of the Delaware at Trenton, New Jersey. But the river’s abundance isn’t limited to battles, boundary lines and the provision of potable water. It’s a dichotomy in uses: heavy industry draws on her for its needs as do bald eagles and world-class trout fisheries. As evidence of the latter, about one hundred and fifty miles of this magnificent river has been included in the U.S. National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

In the late 1800s, approximately one million Philadelphians lived within the boundaries of America’s third largest city, which boasted the second largest port in the country located in the Delaware Bay. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the entity charged with assuring the river’s safety, dipped its long, federally-funded fingers into a bevy of construction, flood control, and navigational projects designed to improve, among other things, the river’s navigability. In 1878, before Philadelphia had electricity or the telephone, sixteen hundred foreign trade vessels arrived each year, and six thousand coastal trade vessels docked in the river’s port. Trade vessels have given way to supertankers: seventy million tons of cargo arrive in the river’s waters each year. From sails, to steam, to the supertankers, the Delaware River and its Bay have lent their banks and waters to the growth of the interstate and international commerce of not only Philadelphia, but also the nation.

At its deepest point, the Delaware is only forty feet, which means the river can’t abide a thousand foot supertanker between her banks. Roughly the size of three and a half football fields and bearing three million gallons of oil or other cargo, a ship that size has forty-foot drafts, and sits forty feet below the water line, as deep as the river’s most navigable channel. Low tide causes the water levels in the tidally influenced channel from the Delaware Bay to Philadelphia to drop as much as eight feet which would leave a thousand foot ship incapacitated, floundering like a beached whale.

When the Corps of Engineers began its first deepening project in 1855, the depth of the Delaware stood at eighteen feet. The Corps dredged down to the current depth of forty feet during World War II and maintained this depth by periodic dredging and removal of silt buildup in the channel to the tune of about 3.4 million cubic yards a year. Since 1983, the Corps has studied the feasibility of dredging the Delaware’s main shipping channel down to forty-five feet to better accommodate the world commodities market by making the hundred-and-two mile shipping route from the Delaware Bay to Camden, New Jersey more accessible.

To do so, the Corps would need to remove about twenty-six million cubic yards of silt and sediment from the river bottom and continue removing another 862,000 cubic yards every year thereafter at a cost of approximately $311 million dollars. Cost notwithstanding, the Corps would need a place to put all that sand, clay, silt and bedrock. While federally owned sites have been identified, environmentalists contend that the detrimental effects to drinking water, aquatic and bird life, and the potential contamination from the disposal of dredged material outweigh the benefits. That story — small town need vs. corporate greed; environmental stewardship vs. environmental recklessness; the rights of the few vs. the rights of society — has existed since the dawn of creation, and, because of constraints of space and time, is a story best saved for another day.

 

Oh, and here’s another reason why we need clean rivers:

Thanks for reading.  Together let’s create a healthier world.

pam lazos 4.24.20

Posted in Delaware River, Uncategorized, water quality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Earth Day 2020

EARTH DAY 2020 and the Rule of Six P’s

When I woke up this morning it was 33 degrees out, interesting because the average winter temperatures here in sleepy Central Pennsylvania were higher in January (37 degrees) and February (40.7 degrees)

When the kids were young and wouldn’t do their homework, my husband would recite the rule of six Ps:  Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-poor Performance.  By the time they were out of high school they were pretty sick of hearing about the six P’s, but that didn’t stop him from repeating it.  Today, we’re living in the Upside Down where winter looks like spring and spring looks like winter, and since we haven’t given a thought to the Six P’s for decades we’ve created a whole new normal.

Actually, we haven’t been ignoring things.  At the first Earth Day on April 22,1970, about 10% of the country showed up on behalf of the planet.  Under the leadership of Senator Gaylord Nelson, environmentalist, conservationist, consumer advocate, small business proponent and peace lover, along with about 20 million of his best friends, Earth Day raised the nation’s awareness of the critical environmental issues of the day. 

The result?  Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency on December 2, 1970.  Earth Day also led to the expansion of some of our most important national legislation like the Clean Air Act — originally passed in 1963 and amended in 1970 — and the Clean Water Act — originally enacted in 1948 as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, and reorganized and expanded in 1972 to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters

Changing public opinion is difficult.  Sometimes it takes generations of slow movement in a singular direction to experience even minor change.  Just look at the civil rights movement, or the women’s movement.  Yet for the last 50 years we have presided over one of the greatest social movements in history, the environmental movement, and we’ve made great strides in the process.

So how are we really doing?  Rivers aren’t catching on fire (bonus!);  the use of green infrastructure is on the rise, resulting in reduced stormwater runoff (we’ll take it),  our air quality has improved significantly over the last several decades (asthma is still on the rise so we have work to do here, people), and perhaps we are starting to understand the economic benefits of open space (lots of work to do in land use planning), 

The contiguous U.S. has warmed 2.4 degrees since the first Earth Day.   As of the last month, we have even seen a sharp reduction in carbon emissions — unfortunately, Covid related since no one is driving anywhere, factories aren’t pumping out waste, and most people are hunkering down at home — but at the least it’s a demonstration of what can be done with a concerted effort.  So while I’m delighted we made it this far, with a few noteworthy improvements, our success could be exponential. 

Take renewables.  There’s nothing that powers our planet like the sun and the good news is we don’t have to dig, drill, or destroy anything to get access to that kind of fire power. 

What about hydroelectric?  Is there a more stunning example of harnessing the power of water to create electricity AND taking home the crown in the natural beauty competition than Niagra Falls? 

How about wind?  Yesterday we had 40 mph winds here and 60 mph the week before.  A small turbine in our backyard could have turned that wind into power.  We actually had a turbine for awhile.  My husband built it from scratch, but the paddles were made of wood and after rebuilding and replacing them a couple times, he finally gave up.  Today we could get panels made out of fiber glass or carbon fiber which would have resulted in a workable, long-lasting piece of equipment.

Geothermal is another good one, tapping the thermal heat far below your house’s foundation to give you heat.  There are others and probably some which have not been developed yet. 

It’s time for society to focus on the six P’s, not just my husband’s, but two more sets of three.  First, public private partnerships where a government entity collaborates with a private party or company to create some kind of public works project.  Through public/private partnerships, projects that may not have come to fruition because of time, lack of manpower, or cost, are getting a leg up. 

Then there’s the triple bottom line:  profit, people and planet.  These three P’s focus on financial, social and environmental performance because good environmental policy = good economic policy.  To have a safe and prosperous future for ourselves and our children, we need to focus on each leg of this triangle.  So vote with your feet and pick the guy or gal that’s gonna keep the three P’s in mind.

Maybe you were planning to take part on an Earth Day celebration but were shut down by this dang pandemic.  Not sure how to contribute?  Just take a look around.  Anything you can do to improve your little part of the world will help. Want to plant a rain garden in your backyard?  Rain gardens look cool, they help water hang around for a while so it can seep slowly back to groundwater rather than rush off down the storm drain, they filter out toxins and pollutants from entering the streams and rivers so they improve water quality, and it’s another connection to mother earth.  If that’s too much, how about putting a rain barrel under your downspout.  You can use the water for your garden all summer long.   

Is it windy where you live?  Why not take a crack at building a wind turbine in your backyard.  Too much work?  Then how about a compost bin?  Want to help pollinators and assure a continuing food supply?  Why not plant a pollinator garden, and if you’re really adventurous, you could become a beekeeper. 

Want to stay healthy, safe and virus free?  Protect nature.  Keep a respectful distance, allow open space to stay open, give the critters the freedom to roam just like you want to roam, and create a building practice that doesn’t lead to deforestation and doesn’t impinge on critical habitats because it’s not just the spotted owl, but the whole dang ecosystem that’s crashing and us along with it if we don’t take some action now.  Need more convincing?  About 25% of our medicine comes from rainforest plants yet less than 5% of rainforest plants have actually been studied.  What if the cure for cancer was somewhere in that part of the rainforest that just got bulldozed for raising cattle?

Earth Day is not just about bugs and bunnies, but people, too.  We’re part of the earth, just like the soil, the sand, and the air we breathe, and we need to replenish ourselves the same way.  So before you dismiss Earth Day as just some environmentalist fluff, remember, we’re all stuck here together on this tiny little globe so if Mom says go take out the trash, or clean up your room, or don’t throw your smelly fast-food wrappers or plastic bottles on the street for someone else to pick up, maybe it’s time to listen to her.

Happy Earth Day.   Stay safe and healthy.  We’re all in this together.

pam lazos 4.22.20

Posted in Earth Day, ecosystems, rain gardens, rainforests, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Amazonication – One Store to Rule Them All

Amazonication — One Store to Rule Them All

Yeah, it’s Saturday!  The weekend’s finally arrived!  At least that’s what the pre-corona me used to say.  Now the weekend is just like the week except for the work part.  There is no dinner with friends, no movie at the local cinema, no walking along a beautiful wooded trail — well, that’s because it’s always raining, as if we moved to Seattle or something — no shopping to speak of unless it’s for essentials and frankly, I’m a little nervous that all this staying at home to flatten the curve is also flattening my creativity with my writing at an abysmal all-time low.

There is one thing I have become extremely good:  shopping on Amazon.

Be honest.  How many Amazon deliveries have you gotten since the beginning of the Covid-19 quarantine?  Two dozen? Three dozen?  Several million?

Look, I’m not proud of it.  It’s been hard for us and there’s a lot going on, trying to fill in the gaps with things the grocery store doesn’t have or items that we can’t run around looking for because we are sheltering-in-place, and face it, we’re exhausted even though we aren’t going anywhere or more likely because of it.

It looks like there’s a year’s worth of packaging in my garage right now, but really it’s only about two weeks worth.  My son is doing an internship with Americorps in Idaho at the end of the semester so we’ve been ordering things like a new sleeping bag and tent, boots and all-weather gear, but even without those contributions, there’s a lot of packaging on the garage floor.  The one bright spot is that of the four things Lancaster still recycles — glass, aluminum, plastic bottles (with necks only) and cardboard — at least these boxes make the cut.  If you’re wondering why they are strewn all about, well, that’s because we’ve been too lackadaisical to break down the boxes and put them into the recycling bin, another side effect of quarantining — downright laziness.

But other than a messy garage, why is shopping with Amazon such a bad thing?  Well, for starters, Jeff Bezos is richest man in the world, not a bad thing, yeah for him, he achieved his childhood dream, or something like that, and I applaud his ingenuity and drive.  Somebody’s got to hold that moniker, right?  Yet, what did the richest guy in the world say when asked about sick leave for Amazon drivers who contracted Covid-19 during a global pandemic where his company stands to rake in more money than ever before — drivers who are out risking their health, BTDubs, to bring us our packages?  He wanted people to donate sick leave to support them; he didn’t want to reach in his own pocket.

For a company that made over $11 billion in profits last year and did $280 billion worth of business, I’d say that’s a little bit love-of-moneyish, wouldn’t you agree, or to put it in blunter terms, downright greedy?

It is the love of money, not money itself that is the root of all evil.  Money is simply a means of exchange.  So when did it get so gosh darn blown out of proportion?  If I had the answer to that, maybe we could fix a few things around here like health care and boosting people out of poverty, but the truth is, I have no idea why although I think it has something to do with feeling unsafe in the world.  Let’s face it.  Fear is a powerful motivator and things are moving at a fast clip.  Money insulates you from a lot of life’s vicissitudes.  Not everything, mind you, but many things, and if you’ve got it, you don’t have to worry about feeding your family or keeping a roof over your head, or having access to clean, safe water, luxuries that many of us in the developed world take for granted.

[The Greek meander key representative of our meandering through life.]

To be fair, Bezos did say he’d give two weeks of sick leave to any Amazon employee who contracted Covid-19, but the Amazon drivers, those men and women coming into contact with the public — or at least the public’s front porches — all day long, sometimes up to 12 and 14 hours a day, are not considered Amazon employees, but contractors and, therefore, not eligible for employee benefits.  It’s not unusual.  I work for the feds, and it’s the same deal there — contractors don’t get the benefits that employees do, but we don’t make a profit, our budgets are allocated by Congress, and we operate on an entirely different level than a Fortune 500 company that recently cracked into the top five highest grossing companies in the world.  Usually contractors benefits are covered by their employer, yet Amazon contractors seem to be a scattershot of companies with very little oversight which looks to me to be very much by design.

Similarly, when Bernie Sanders pressured Amazon to raise the minimum wage for its workers to $15, Bezos bent, but did so disingenuously, passing the costs along to employees by eliminating their bonuses as well as Amazon’s stock unit program which paid some portion of employees salaries in stock.

The question is, why?  Is Bezos a modern day Scrooge?  He didn’t even pay taxes in 2018, why does he need all this money, or more to the point, why can’t he pay people what they are worth?  The drivers delivering his packages are making him tons of moola.  Can he give a little back so their health and well-being are safe-guarded?  Is he hoarding?  Saving for a rainy day?  Isn’t that the kind of thinking that got us all into this mess in the first place with our planet cratering under the pressure of take, take, take, me, me, me, while we slash and burn, destroying natural resources so we can make cheap plastic crap, and there most certainly is not enough to go around so I better take what I can get now?

Then there’s Amazon’s carbon footprint — 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2018.  Not the worst out there, but certainly not the best, especially when the retail giant is expected to come out of the pandemic stronger than ever.  To their credit, Amazon is shooting to be carbon neutral by 2024.  Now if they can just get that salary and health benefits thing worked out.

Look, I love Amazon and as you can see, I buy a lot from them, but couldn’t they be, IDK, a little nicer?  Costco, one of my favorite retailers, pays its people well; Costco shares and shares, and the company is thriving.  Is it really that important to be the richest guy in the world if no one likes you?

You can do better, Amazon.  So can we all.

pam lazos 4.18.20

 

 

Posted in living wage, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

One Dissenting Voice – Prayer and Pandemic

[Rev. James DeWolf Perry, Jr. (1838-1927), was the “one dissenting voice” at an October 1918 meeting of Philadelphia Episcopal clergy during a deadly influenza outbreak. He refused to join their protest of the City’s ban on church services, an emergency measure to curb the spread of the deadly virus.]

Bio: William Carl Smith is a lawyer and writer in Narberth, PA.  Church is something of a family business for Bill, who is a deacon at Philadelphia’s Arch Street Presbyterian Church, and a co-leader of ASPC’s monthly pub-based Church in the Alehouse and a co-moderator of the weekly lunch-based “Good Book Club” Bible Study.  Bill is also the husband of Rev. Judith M. Brackett, Director of Family Ministries at Ardmore Presbyterian Church; the brother-in-law of Pastor Jim Dougans of the First Presbyterian Church of Maysville, KY;  the stepbrother of Rev. Ruth Beresford of Christ Church Christiana Hundred in Wilmington, DE; and the son of the late Rev. Carl R. Smith, Jr., who was Donald Trump’s pastor in the 1960s, when the future president’s family  belonged to the First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica, Queens, NY.

My friend and work colleague, Bill Smith is also a great writer with his finger on the pulse of people, politics, and that which moves us.  I thought this article a very fitting post for today since it’s Easter Sunday and we are banned from gathering, but it applies not just to Christians, but to all people of faiths who had to give up worshipping with their loved ones during this season of renewal because of the coronavirus.  Our faith teaches us that we are all one in spirit and with that understanding, maybe the pain of separation on these, our holiest days, becomes a little less knowing that our love and affection for one another transmute the 3-D world.  Take heart.  As with all, this too shall pass.  What life looks like on the other side is an unknown, but I encourage you to envision the kind of world that would make your children proud to be a part of and then call it into being.  You got this.  You know you do.

And without further ado, here’s Bill:

 

“There Was But One Dissenting Voice”:

Prayer and Pandemics in 1918 and 2020

by William Carl Smith

A pandemic ravages the world, infecting and killing thousands.  U.S. cases increase exponentially, as asymptomatic Americans infect loved ones at home, neighbors on the street, colleagues at work, and worshippers in the pews.

Thousands of Americans get sick.  Many die.  The federal government dithers as the body count mounts, forcing desperate state and local authorities to close schools and non-essential businesses, and prohibit public gatherings . . . including church services.

For some pastors, this last measure simply goes too far.  Their faith compels them to pray and repent together during this perilous pestilence, they argue; the government has no business telling Christians where and how to worship.

If this reads like a story “ripped from the headlines,” it is.  Struggling to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus infections and deaths, state and local officials nationwide have banned public gatherings, including religious services.  By and large, churches have willingly complied.  Even in states like Pennsylvania with religious exceptions in shutdown orders, most churches have “gone virtual” — substituting streaming for gathered worship.

[Like many houses of worship nationwide, Philadelphia’s Arch Street Presbyterian Church is closed and empty during coronavirus crisis (top). Instead of gathering in the pews, the congregation logs into online worship, Bible study, and other meetings.]

 

[Rev. Carla Jones Brown, Arch Street’s head of staff, led Palm Sunday service on April 5 (top) as the congregation participated via the “Zoom” videoconference app (bottom).]

Some pastors and churches, though, are defiant.  “The virus, we believe, is politically motivated,” said Rev. Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, La., claiming that he sent 27 buses to gather over 1,000 worshippers in violation of the state’s stay-at-home order. “We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says,” said Spell.

Solid Rock Church near Cincinnati posted on Facebook that its doors would remain open as long as the First Amendment was unchanged. “If there ever was a time in the history of our world when we all need God’s help, it is now,” the evangelical church said.

Rodney Howard-Browne of The River at Tampa Bay Church boasted that his church would close only “when the Rapture is taking place,” he said.  On March 30, Tampa police arrested Howard-Browne for flouting Florida’s public gathering ban.

President Trump believes that Americans should go back to church, and work, as soon as possible.  On March 24, Trump mused that the holiest day on the Christian calendar would be a “beautiful time” to end America’s COVID-19 shutdown.   

Our erstwhile Presbyterian president envisioned “packed churches all over our country” on Easter Sunday, April 12, although he has since backed down from this data-free deadline as an “aspiration.”   Most churches remained closed for Holy Week, but some pastors are still packing the pews during the pandemic, supported by conservative politicians.   Republican Kansas legislators rescinded an emergency order by Democratic governor Laura Kelly limiting church services to ten worshippers, after an outbreak traced to a church conference caused at least 15 COVID cases, including one fatality.   

Yes, you can read all about preachers and pandemics in today’s newspapers…and also in the century-old archives of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In 1918, the inaccurately named “Spanish Flu” killed an estimated 45,000 American soldiers in the final months of World War I – nearly equaling the total WWI U.S. combat deaths.  President Woodrow Wilson was also stricken, but did little and said nothing publicly about the global pandemic.

[On September 18, 1918, days after the influenza outbreak in Philadelphia, the City threw itself a huge outdoor party.  An estimated 200,000 spectators — an unknown number carrying the flu virus — packed and hacked along the Broad Street route of the World War I “Liberty Bond” parade.]

The virus slipped unnoticed into the city on September 7, 1918, when a merchant ship from influenza-ravaged Boston docked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.  Within 10 days, over 600 servicemen and local civilians were hospitalized.  Downplaying the threat, the city’s Board of Health did not impose a quarantine, or any other restrictions to minimize the infection rate.  Instead, Philadelphia went ahead with a massive war bond parade on September 18, 1918.  An estimated 200,000 Philadelphians packed the parade route, including an unknown number of infected spectators.

The city’s bungling initial response turned a bad — but potentially manageable — public health crisis into a deadly catastrophe.  In late September, after the flu claimed over a thousand lives in the Philadelphia area, the Board of Health finally stepped up, closing schools and public gathering places such as theaters, bars, and churches.

The leadership of the City’s most prestigious and powerful Protestant denomination also stepped in – not to protect parishioners from pathogens, but to whine about the shuttering of their sanctuaries. 

[Philadelphia Inquirer, October 18, 1918]

“Pastors Protest Church Closing,” blared the Inquirer’s October 18, 1918 headline about a resolution from 23 Episcopal priests opposing the church closure.  While public worship was banned, the clergymen complained, city residents could still “crowd in cars and stores on the plea that ‘business must go on.’”

“It is more important to pray to God than to carry on business,” read the near-unanimous resolution, “it is the opinion of the Protestants that God will care for His people when they meet to plead with Him.”

However, this was not the opinion of all Protestants in the room, the Inquirer observed:

There was but one dissenting voice in the conference, that of Rev. Joseph De Wolf Perry, pastor emeritus of Calvary Church, Germantown. After declaring that he believed the action of the health authorities should be sustained, he left the meeting.

Journalism is the first draft of history, the saying goes, so the unnamed reporter may be forgiven for misstating the Christian name of the 80-year-old Rev. James DeWolf Perry, Jr. The reporter also did not specify Rev. Perry’s reasons for siding with the Board of Health over his white-collared colleagues.

However, genealogy provides a clue. The pastor’s son, the uncreatively named James DeWolf Perry III, had followed his father into the ministry, becoming the Bishop of Rhode Island in 1911.   In WWI, he served as head of the American Red Cross chaplains in Europe, nicknamed the “Bishop in Boots.” The elder Rev. Perry likely learned from his namesake about the hellacious influenza outbreak killing thousands of doughboys in the crowded trenches of France.  If so, Rev. Perry must have considered his fellow clergy in Philadelphia to be murderously ignorant in demanding to pack the pews as the epidemic raged.

[Public historian James DeWolf Perry is the great-great grandson of the Episcopal priest who defied his fellow Philadelphia clergy by supporting the City’s ban on church services during the 1918 influenza pandemic.]

Whatever compelled Rev. Perry to spurn his clerical peers in 1918, though, his great-great grandson (also named James DeWolf Perry, of course) is gratified that his ancestor took this stand.

Perry, a public historian, author, and co-founder of the Tracing Center, a racial justice nonprofit in Massachusetts, is pleased that his kin “saw the wisdom in suspending public worship during a deadly epidemic. I doubt very much that, as the resolution suggested, the Lord intends for Christians to gather as usual and rely upon divine protection from disease.”

As a devoted Episcopalian himself, Perry and his wife have been working throughout the COVID-19 crisis with New England parishes and dioceses “to suspend public worship, and craft appropriate substitutes and other precautionary measures.”

In 1918, Philadelphia’s haphazard response to the influenza outbreak– exacerbated by self-serving, short-sighted religious leaders — was tragically typical of many cities.  This attitude contributed to the pandemic’s ghastly toll of 50 million deaths globally, including over 17,000 Philadelphians. 

Perry prays that religious leaders are part of the solution, rather than a problem, in addressing the current pandemic.

“I’m a strong believer that our faith doesn’t require us to put our own health, or the health of others, in jeopardy, but calls us to do the exact opposite,” he says. “If it is hard for us as Christians, especially during such a trying time, to refrain from gathering in person for worship and fellowship, then I see it as a test of faith and a measure of our love and devotion for our fellow human beings.”

***

 

Thank you, Bill, for your insight.

And to everyone reading, if you are the one dissenting voice in your tribe, stay strong and continue being the voice of reason.  As Abraham likes to say:


And because it’s a holy day, let me leave you with this beautiful rendition of one of my mother’s favorite songs.  She loved the Andrea Bocelli/Celine Dion version, but this one by Mat and Savanna Shaw is equally stunning:

 

Be safe.  Be well.  xo

pam lazos 4.12.20

Posted in pandemic, religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments