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Thought for the Day: Democracy

“The truth is that the fate of America hangs in the balance in every presidential election.  That is the genius of the Constitution.  In creating a nation that transfers power every four years, the Framers charged its citizens with the duty of continually redeeming the gift of democracy or risk losing it.  Democracy is not for the faint-hearted. . .

Let’s prove that our generation is worthy of the gift of democracy” (in a email from R.H.)

Happy July 4th, U.S. Independence Day.

Get informed, verify your sources, support excellent candidates, & Vote.

Banner photo by Roven Images on Unsplash – photo from another year.

Fireworks are illegal here on Maui this year – to discourage crowds.  Instead, we are staying home.  Barry is making chili; I’m making potato salad; we have a big watermelon in the fridge getting cold; John is likely to come to dinner.  And Mary, our wonderful neighbor, has invited a few of us this evening to watch Hamilton; we will be safely distant from each other. Barry and I get to Zoom new Servas friends this afternoon.  We are healthy and safe — but we know many are suffering now.  Who we support in November, both locally and nationally, can make a big difference in how we as a country move forward (or not).

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I love this image of how our entrenched systems could be.

May you be grateful wherever you are – and may we each work for positive changes. Stay healthy; stay home.

Aloha, Renée

What White People Can Do For Racial Justice

These are well-researched, practical, up-dated ideas of actions we can take.  Choose something.  Work on something.  You are needed.  We need change and solutions.

https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234

Aloha, Renée

Thought for the Day: Listen & See

In a editorial to the Los Angeles Times, basketball Hall of Fame great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played from 1969-1989 for the NBA, wrote,

“Yes, protests often are used as an excuse for some to take advantage, just as when fans celebrating a home-town sports team championship burn cars and destroy storefronts.  I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn.  But African-Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer.  Racism in America is like dust in the air.  It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in.  Then you see it’s everywhere.  As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands.  But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.”

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

From CNN quoting more from Abdul-Jabbar’s editorial:

“The black community is used to the institutional racism inherent in education, the justice system and jobs. And even though we do all the conventional things to raise public and political awareness — write articulate and insightful pieces in the Atlantic, explain the continued devastation on CNN, support candidates who promise change — the needle hardly budges …
“So, maybe the black community’s main concern right now isn’t whether protesters are standing three or six feet apart or whether a few desperate souls steal some T-shirts or even set a police station on fire, but whether their sons, husbands, brothers and fathers will be murdered by cops or wannabe cops just for going on a walk, a jog, a drive. Or whether being black means sheltering at home for the rest of their lives because the racism virus infecting the country is more deadly than COVID-19,” he wrote.
Pointing to the disproportionate rate at which African Americans are dying from Covid-19compared to whites and President Trump’s recent tweet saying, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Abdul-Jabbar said that black protesters represent a community “pushed to the edge, not because they want bars and nail salons open, but because they want to live. To breathe.”
Abdul-Jabbar, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2016, closed his op-ed by saying:
So what you see when you see black protesters depends on whether you’re living in that burning building or watching it on TV with a bowl of corn chips in your lap waiting for ‘NCIS’ to start.
“What I want to see is not a rush to judgment, but a rush to justice.”
And another knowledgable voice –

Unknown-3

Simone Manuel

American Olympic gold medal swimmer Simone Manuel says, “It’s not just about death.  It’s about killing our spirits.  It’s about killing your dreams.  It’s about making us feel less than.  It’s about dismissing and ignoring our pain.  It’s about silencing our voice.  It’s about punishing us when we use our voice and labeling us as ‘angry’ or a ‘threat’ rather than acknowledging we’re exercising our ‘freedom of speech.’ It’s about calling the police and using my skin color against me.  It’s about clinching your purse.  It’s about believing we don’t belong.  It’s about failing to acknowledge and understand my very existence, my pain.  It’s about repeating the sins of the past.  It’s about thinking that ones color affords one’s privileges or denies basic human dignity!  It’s about speaking against instead of with our fight for justice.  It’s about remaining silent.  This needs to be everybody’s fight!”

Did you listen?

From: “Column: Shut up and dribble? No Way.  It’s time to listen.” by Paul Newberry.  The Maui News, June 6-7, 2020 p. B3.

and from: https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/31/us/kareem-abdul-jabbar-la-times-op-ed-trnd/index.html

Do you see?

The least we can do is support good candidates and VOTE.

What more are you (or will you be) doing to make sure we live in better ways for every one?

Aloha, Renée

Banner photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

Gloria & Hillary & Voting & more

Voting isn’t the most we can do, but it is the least. To have a democracy, you have to want one,” says Gloria Steinem.

One of the advantages of self-isolation is that I’m not dashing around as usual and so am getting to enjoy some cooking, reading, and reflecting. Recently, I read Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road, a book that has been on a shelf for a few years. I loved much about the book – and of course, the woman, who has learned much from being open and observant as she has moved about the world.

One section in particular was really interesting to me; Steinem writes about Hillary Clinton:

“As long as I’ve been campaigning, I’ve heard two Questions: ‘When will we have a woman president?’ and ‘When will we have a black president?’

Ironically, the 2008 primary campaign between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, which gave us the chance for both, was the best contest in terms of candidates and the worst in terms of conflict.

I kew Hillary Clinton mostly in the way we all do, as a public figure in good times and bad, one who became part of our lives and even our dreams. I once introduced her to a thousand women in a hotel ballroom at a breakfast in New York City. Standing behind her as she spoke, I could see the Whiite House binder on the lectern with her speech carefully laid out–and also that she wasn’t reading from it. Instead, she was responding to people who had spoken before her, addressing activists and leaders she saw in the audience, and putting their work in a national and global context–all in such clarity and graceful sentences that no one would have guessed she hadn’t written them in advance. It was an on-the-spot tour de force perhaps the best I’ve ever heard.

But what clinched it for me was listening to her speak after a performance of Eve Ensler’s play Necessary Targets, based on interviews with women in one of the camps set up to treat women who had endured unspeakable suffering, humiliation, and torture in the ethnic wars within the former Yugoslavia. To speak to an audience that had just heard these heartbreaking horrors seemed impossible for anyone, and Hillary had the added burden of representing the Clinton administration, which had been criticized for slowness in stopping this genocide.

Nonetheless, she rose in the silence, with no possibility of preparing, and began to speak quietly–about suffering, about the importance of serving as witnesses to suffering. Most crucial of all, she admitted this country’s slowness in intervening. By the time she sat down, she had brought the audience together and given us all a shared meeting place: the simple truth.

So when she left the White House and decided to run for the U.S. Senate from her new home in New York State–something no First Lady, not even Eleanor Roosevelt, had dared to do–I was blindsided by the hostility toward her from some women. They called her cold, calculating, ambitious, and even ‘unfemiinist’ for using political experience gained as a wife. These were not the right-wing extremists who had accused the Clintons of everything from perpetrating real estate scams in Arkansas to musrdering a White House aide with whom Hillary supposedly had an affair. On the contrary, they mostly agreed with her on the issues, yet they were so opposed to her that they came to be called Hillary Haters. It took me weeks of listening on the road to begin to understand why.

In the living rooms from Dallas to Chicago, I noticed that the Hillary Haters often turned out to be the women most like her: white, well-educated, and married to or linked with powerful men. They were by no means all such women, but their numbers were still surprising. Also they hadn’t objected to sons, brothers, and sons-in-law using family connections and political names to further careers–say, the Bushes or the Rockefellers or the Kennedys–yet they objected to Hillary doing the same. The more they talked, the more it was clear that their own husbands hadn’t shared power with them. If Hillary had a husband who regarded her as an equal–who had always said this country got ‘two president for the price of one’–it only dramatized their own lack of power and respect. After one long night and a lot of wine, one woman told me that Hillary’s marriage made her aware of just how unequal hers was.

In San Francisco and Seattle, I listened to self-identified Hillary Haters condemn her for staying with her husband, despite his well-publicized affairs. It turned out that many of them had suffered a faithless husband too, but lacked the ability or the will to leave. They wanted Hillary to punish a powerful man in public on their behalf. I reminded them that presidents from Roosevelt to Kennedy had affairs, but the haters identified with those First Ladies and assumed they couldn’t leave. It was Hillary’s very strength and independence that made them blame her. When I tried describing the public condemnation Hillary would have suffered had she abandoned her duties in the White House for such a personal reason, this changed the minds of some–but not many.

Finally, I resorted to explaining my own reasons for thinking the Clintons just might be, in Shakespeare’s phrase, ‘the marriage of true minds.’ I had seen them together for a long afternoon during a White House ceremony for recipients of the Medal of Freedom. One medalist was my friend Wilma Mankiller, chief of the Cherokee Nation. She and I were both struck by the obvious connection between the Clintons as they walked from one group of awardees and their families to the next, talking to guests and each other. In a roomful of interesting people, they seemed just as interested in listening and talking to each other. What they were sharing, I don’t know, but what was clear was their intimacy and pleasure in each other’s company. Of how many long-married couples could that be said?

Yet when I brought this up, some Hillary Haters became even angrier. Many were longtime wives and others were new wives replacing older ones, but the fact that Bill valued Hillary as an equal partner–and vice versa–seemed to make them more aware that their own marriages were different. It dawned on me that if a sexual connection is the only bond between a husband and wife, an affair can make her feel replaceable–perhaps cause her to be replaced. This was not only emotionally painful but devastating when it also meant losing social identity and economic security as well. I began to understand that Hillary represented the very public, in-your-face opposite of the precarious and unequal lives that some women were living. In a classic sense, they were trying to kill the messenger. . . .

As my own part of her Senate campaign, I began to invite Hillary Haters to the living room events were Hillary herself was fundraising. To my surprise, all but a few turned around once they had spent time in her presence. This woman they had imagined as smart, cold, and calculating turned out to be smart, warm, and responsive. Instead of someone who excused a husband’s behavior, she was potentially, as one said, ‘a great girlfriend’ who had their backs.

They also saw her expertise. For instance, George Soros, the Hungarian -born financier and philanthropist, introduced her in his Manhattan living room by saying, ‘Hillary knows more about Eastern Europe than any other American.’

After she was elected to the U.S. Senate on her own merits, she worked constructively even with old enemies there, and was solidly reelected to a second term. I began to hear the first serious talk of Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate. By the time the election of 2008 was in the wind, she had a higher popularity rating than any other potential candidate, Republican or Democrat. . . .

It wasn’t campaign season yet, but wherever I went, from campuses to living rooms, questions about the possibility of a new kind of president were being raised.

Though Obama was younger, with less national, international, and Senate experience than Hillary, I still thought it was too soon for the country to accept a woman commander in chief. Moreover, Obama’s Kenneyesque appeal created a rare and precious chance to break the racial barrier. But to me, their shared content was way more important than different forms. She was a civil rights advocate. He was a feminist. They were a modern-day echo for the abolitionist and suffragist era, when black men, black women, and white women–the groups white male supremacists had worked so hard and cruelly to keep apart–turned this country on its head by working together for universal adult suffrage.

Whenever I was on the road before the primaries, I saw a revival of this unconscious coalition in audiences that were interested in politics as never before. There was an enthusiasm for these two new faces that stood for a shared worldview. In audiences from very blue states to very red ones, support was more like a Rorschach test than a division by race and sex. For instance, 94 percent of black Democrats had a favorable view of Hillary Clinton, compared to an 88 percent favorable view of Obama. After all, he was new on the national stage and the Clintons had earned a reputation for racial inclusiveness that caused African American novelist Toni Morrison to famously call Bill Clinton ‘the first black president.’ Both white and black women were more likely than their male counterparts to support Hillary Clinton–and in my observation, also more likely to believe that she couldn’t win. Male and female black voters were more likely than white voters to support Obama and also to believe he couldn’t win. Each group was made pessimistic by the depth of the bias they had experienced.

Some mostly white audiences seemed to hope this country could expiate past sins by electing Obama. As one white music teacher rose in an audience to say, ‘Racism puts me in prison, too–a prison of guilt.’ Many parents of little girls, black and white, were taking them to Clinton rallies so they would know that they, too, could be president. Older women especially saw Hillary Clinton as their last and best chance to see a woman in the White House. And not just any woman: as one said, ‘This isn’t just about biology. We don’t want a Margaret Thatcher, who cut off milk for schoolchildren.’ They wanted Hillary Clinton because she supported the majority interests of women. On the other hand, many young black single mothers said they supported Obama because their sons needed a positive black male role model. A divorce white father told me that Obama’s life story had inspired him to drive hundreds of miles to see his son every week. ‘I don’t want to be the father Obama almost never saw,’ he explained. ‘I want to be the father he wished he had.’ In Austin, Texas, an eighty-year-old black woman said she was supporting Hillary because ‘I’ve seen too many women who earned it, and too many young men who came along and took it.’

But the press, instead of reporting on these shared and often boundary-crossing views as an asset for the Democratic Party–after all, Democratic voters would have to unify around one of these candidates eventually–responded with disappointment and even condescension. They seemed to want newsworthy division. [my emphasis – Doesn’t this seem too familiar? Running up to the Democratic Primary these last few months, we have had a wonderful crowd of smart, passionate, experienced, heart-centered Democratic candidates]. Soon frustrated reporters were creating conflict by turning any millimeter of difference between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama into a mile. Since there was almost none in content, they emphasized ones of form. Clinton was entirely summed up by sex, and Obama was entirely summed up by race. Journalists sounded like sports fans who arrived for a football game and were outraged to find all the players on the same team.

It dawned on me that in the abolitionist and suffragist past, a universal suffragist movement of black men and white and black women also had been consciously divided by giving the vote to black men only–and then limiting even that with violence, impossible literacy tests, and poll taxes. Now, this echo of divide-and-conquer in the past was polarizing the constituencies of two barrier-breaking ‘firsts,’ never mind that the candidates were almost identical in content. As in history, a potentially powerful majority was being divided by an entrenched powerful few” [my emphasis] . . .

In making my list about the pluses and minuses of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, I discovered I was angry. I was angry because it was okay for two generations of Bush sons to inherit power from a political patriarchy even if they spent no time in the White House, but not okay for one Clinton wife to claim experience and inherit power from a husband whose full political partner she had been for twenty years. I was angry because young men in politics were treated like rising stars, but young women were treated like — well, young women. I was angry about all the women candidates who put their political skills on hold to raise children–and all the male candidates who didn’t;t. I was angry about the human talent that was lost just because it was born into a female body, and the mediocrity that was rewarded because it was born into a male one. And I was angry because the media took racism seriously–or pretended to–but with sexism, they rarely bothered even to pretend. Resentment of women still seemed safe, whether it took the form of demonizing black single mothers or making routine jokes about powerful women being ball-busters.”. . .

As my last campaign effort, I made hundreds of buttons that said:

HILLARY SUPPORTS OBAMA

SO DO I

. . . All my years of campaigning have given me one clear message: Voting isn’t the most we can do, but it is the least. To have a democracy, you have to want one” [[my emphasis] (157-171).

Gloria Steinem stories from the road and her insights are very relevant now. While you are staying home to stay healthy, read about Gloria’s surprising encounters and insights in My Life on the Road. And get involved in the coming elections. Democracy needs your actions, your voice, and your vote.

And what more can you be doing to help make this a sustainable, more just, even more awesome world?

Aloha, Renée

Book cover from: <https://www.amazon.com/My-Life-on-the-Road&gt;

Barry's Gleanings: "A Country That Welcomes Migration"

Yes!
We love this magazine. In the midst of easy to find bad news, Yes! shares good news.

The World We Want Special Issue: In Depth

Karen Rodríguez crosses the border into Colombia for a medical checkup for her baby after spending holidays with family in Venezuela. Rodríguez’s baby was born in September 2019 at a hospital in Cúcuta, Colombia, where births to Venezuelan mothers outnumber those to Colombian mothers 3 to 1.PHOTOS BY MARLON ANDRÉS MOYANO CASTELLANOS

A Country That Welcomes Migration

The way Colombia has responded to the flood of Venezuelans crossing the border makes it a global standout at a time when other countries are closing their doors.
The World We Want

BY GUSTAVO ANDRÉS CASTILLO ARENAS &
PATRICK AMMERMAN 8 MIN READ FEB 19, 2020


In 2016, as the Venezuelan economy spiraled further into turmoil, Imalay González made a tough decision. Electricity in Valles del Tuy, the region where she lived with her mother and two children, 3 and 6, was sporadic. Water was scarce, and most days they had barely enough to eat. With medical care in the South American country deteriorating, she worried what would happen if she or her children got sick.

González knew of other Venezuelans who had traveled to neighboring Colombia and found work as street vendors or in restaurants or supermarkets. So she packed some belongings, hugged her babies, and boarded a bus for the 865-mile journey to the Colombian capital of Bogotá.

For two years, she searched unsuccessfully for work, eventually returning to Venezuela because, she says, “I did not want to end up sleeping in the streets and starving to death, as with some of my countrymen.” 

But after becoming pregnant, she decided that for the future of her family and unborn child, she needed to leave Venezuela again and return to Colombia.

In May 2019, her son, Teylor Jose Carmona, was among the first children born to Venezuelan mothers to be granted Colombian citizenship under a new policy known as Primero la Niñezor Children First. It is one of the many humanitariangestures Colombia has extended to Venezuelan migrants like González and her family—making the nation a global standout at a time when many other countries are closing their doors to refugees. 

“This has been a blessing from God,” González says. “My children are my life, for them I am here, far from my parents and my roots. Today, I have the oldest child in school and little by little I try to rebuild my life.”

Since 2015, more than 4.7 million Venezuelans have fled the social, economic, and political turmoil as well as violence in their home country. Neighboring Colombia, which began its post-colonial history as a single nation with Venezuela, has openly welcomed more refugees than any other country, about 1.6 million people.

They have been accompanied by nearly 300,000 returning Colombian citizenswho, in recent decades, had emigrated to Venezuela, fleeing the effects of Colombia’s half-century of armed conflict and seeking economic opportunity in Venezuela’s once-thriving economy. 

This flood of people crossing the border in search of food, shelter, work, and medical care, and fleeing persecution and violence, has overwhelmed the country of 50 million, straining Colombian social services. It brought particular pressure to border regions like Norte de Santander, a department (similar to a U.S. state) on the Colombia/Venezuela border.

Colombia’s generous and welcoming policies have come as many countries in the region, as well as wealthier Western nations—from the United States to Greece—have enacted tough new policies restricting migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. And the country has become an advocate on the international stage to draw global attention to the crisis next door.

“At a time when a lot of countries are closing their doors and either quite literally trying to build walls, or just introducing policies that are very restrictive or impractical to Venezuelans in particular, Colombia has been very generous,” says Daphne Panayotatos, an advocate and program officer with Refugees International who wrote a report calling on the world to bolster Colombia’s response. 

“Many Colombians see this as returning the favor,” Panayotatos says. “In fact, many of the people crossing the border to Colombia from Venezuela are themselves returning Colombians, either first generation—who were displaced and are now returning—or second generation—whose parents were Colombian but who were born in Venezuela and are coming back.”

In announcing the new citizenship program for the children of Venezuelan mothers, Colombia’s President Iván Duque had a message for the world, saying, “… to those who want to use xenophobia for political goals: We take the path of fraternity.” 

Overnight, children who had been born stateless were eligible to receive all the benefits of Colombian citizenship, making it easier for them to access education and health care.  

He and other Colombian leaders are hopeful their country will benefit economically from the influx of professionals, including doctors, engineers, and entrepreneurs among the refugees.

“We are working very hard just to help these people to get a formal job or to be entrepreneurs,” says Felipe Muñoz, Duque’s advisor on the Colombian-Venezuelan border. “But this is not easy; there are lots of bottlenecks in our legal system that we need to break just to get them a legal route to more easily get a formal job.”

The generosity of Duque’s right-wing government toward Venezuelans stands in stark contrast to the response by other conservative leaders around the world. And it contradicts Colombians’ views of Duque on other social issues. 

In November, for example, thousands of Colombian workers, students, and human rights activists staged one of the largest anti-government demonstrations the country has seen in decades. The protests targeted Duque’s government and the president’s failure to implement the 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as well as economic and corruption reforms.

Help came early

The root of Venezuela’s problems can be traced to more than a decade of mismanagement of the country’s economy—especially its all-important oil industry. Venezuela’s rich oil reserves once made the country the richest in South America, attracting immigrants from neighboring Colombia and elsewhere in the region seeking economic opportunities. But production of oil began to slow in the mid-2000s, and a drop in global oil prices in 2014 hit the country particularly hard. 

The recession led to hyperinflation of the Venezuelan Bolívar, which has made the currency nearly worthless today. The economic disaster led to shortages of food and medicine, turning an economic crisis into a humanitarian one. Meanwhile, corruption among the country’s political and military leadership has led the country’s leaders to largely deny the existence of a crisis.  

As conditions worsened, relations between Venezuela and Colombia deteriorated. In 2015, Colombia’s then-President Juan Manuel Santos responded to Venezuela’s expulsion of thousands of Colombians by constructing tents and living quartersfor those returning home.

Colombia also grants citizenship to returnees’ Venezuelan family members. “We want families to live together, not to break them apart,” Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín said at the time

Across the country, dozens of institutions, international organizations, government agencies, and volunteers have formed a network to help integrate migrants into Colombian life, providing orientation to incoming refugees as soon as they step onto Colombian soil and guaranteeing food, lodging, and transportation to get people to and from work. 


Colombia created a series of work permits known as Permiso Especial de Permanencia, or PEP, to provide legal status to Venezuelans who entered the country without a visa. For those who qualify and are able to obtain the benefit, PEP not only provides permission to work but also access to the public hospital system, and it allows children to attend public schools. As of October, 2019, nearly 600,000 Venezuelans had been granted PEP.

In August, the government created a path to citizenship for more than 24,000 children born in Colombia since August 2015 to Venezuelan mothers, changing the country’s long-standing policy that required at least one parent to be a legal Colombian resident. 

Overnight, children who had been born stateless were eligible to receive all the benefits of Colombian citizenship, making it easier for them to access education and health care.

“The Government of Colombia will contribute to prevent this vulnerable population from becoming stateless, representing a very important step to guarantee its integral protection,” said the government in a statement. 

A new life for refugees

At Divine Providence House, a soup kitchen operated by the Catholic Diocese of Cúcuta, Colombian and other volunteers have been preparing packed lunches daily for thousands of refugees. 

Cúcuta is the capital of Norte de Santander and is about six miles from the Simón Bolívar International Bridge, which connects the two countries across the Táchira River. 

It’s an area where many Venezuelans have settled and Providence House’s director, Father David Cañas, says the facility has been serving about 4,500 pounds of food a day. Since it opened in 2017, about 3.3 million have been fed, something Cañas calls “a miracle of love.” 

“We have had to persevere in the face of the great migration,” Cañas says. “Our volunteers get tired … because the work never ends, and we receive very little support.”

This kind of generosity helps Venezuelans like González, the mother of three who twice fled Venezuela for Colombia. She qualified for PEP and is now a legal Colombian resident. 

Karen Rodríguez, who arrived in Colombia in August with her 3-year-old son, also qualified for PEP. Her husband left ahead of the family and rented a room inside a house in Cúcuta, where he worked as part of a crew that earns Colombian pesos carrying the luggage of people crossing daily between the countries.

Rodríguez, 20, was seven months pregnant when she and their son traveled more than 300 miles from their home in Valencia to join her husband. She wanted to cross the border as soon as possible, because she knew substandard medical conditions in Venezuela put her and her baby’s lives in danger if she gave birth there.

“I saw children dying in hospitals because of medical malpractice. My fear was this would happen to me. I decided to pack my bags and gave birth to my son in Colombia,” Rodríguez says.

Her son, Isaías Pineda, was born in September at a hospital in Cúcuta, where births to Venezuelan mothers outnumber those to Colombian mothers 3 to 1. He received medical attention, which she doesn’t believe he would have in Venezuela. A few days before returning home, Isaías obtained his birth certificate, a document that entitles him to Colombian nationality. 

Venezuelans living in Colombia are also working to help one another. One such initiative is Caminantes Tricolor, a foundation whose founder, Alans Ernesto Peralta, is a Venezuelan lawyer who fled to Colombia. 

His foundation started out helping Venezuelans traveling by foot across the continent—to Peru, Ecuador and Chile—in search of new opportunities. “But I noticed that this was not easy, and the volunteers got tired,” Peralta says. 

Now, at Casa Morada, Caminantes Tricolor’s operation center in Cúcuta, Venezuelans are given orientation and support with immigration paperwork and finding work in industry, farming, and elsewhere. In 2018, the organization says it helped 1,800 people receive assistance with things like food, lodging, and clothes.

Recently, the organization formed an association that employs 40 people on a farm to plant sugar cane, a typical crop of the southern part of the country. “This generates [unity] and sends this message: Venezuelans who are here, we want to work, we want to contribute to this development, because it is our own development,” Peralta says. 

 “We know that our impacts are small, like a drop in this great ocean of problems,” he says. “But we promote projects that can be replicated in other departments of Colombia. We want to plant an economic model, where Colombians and Venezuelans come together to share knowledge, culture and … progress.” 


GUSTAVO ANDRÉS CASTILLO ARENAS is a journalist living in Cúcuta, Colombia. 
PATRICK AMMERMAN is a Philadelphia-based journalist and a 2019 Pulitzer Center student fellow.

Let’s all help one another – wherever we are. Aloha, Renée

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Book: “F**k Plastic”

This small book, F**K Plastic: 101 ways to free yourself from plastic and save the world by Rodale Sustainability offers excellent tips to make us more conscious of what we are doing — and want we can do.

Recently, I bought new clothes pins to hang up laundry that wouldn’t be going into the dryer. Good, you might think. But I looked at the prices and bought the cheaper plastic ones. Many have already broken. If I’d read this book sooner, those plastic clothes pins would not have been my choice.

Some of the tips in this book aren’t a surprise: Tip #17, for instance, is “Pick loose fruit and veggies” – “Don’t bother with the avocados that come two in a pack, or the bell peppers the come in threes, or the shrink-wrapped broccoli. Especially don’t bother with the half portions of cucumber you now find in supermarkets which come shrink-wrapped and then packaged in another layer of plastic. Opt instead for the veggies that are loose in trays, and–if you can-also buy from places that shun sticky labels” (24).

I’m a cucumber – get me out of here! from F**k Plastic

Some of the tips are surprises: #26 Say Goodbye to Gum.

“Have a guess how many pieces of gum are made in the world each year.

If you happened to say 1.74 trillion, [www.chewinggumfacts.com – accessed on 05/23/2018] give yourself a pat on the back. Now have a guess what most chewing gum is primarily made from. That’s right: a type of plastic. Pass the mints” (p. 33).

Say goodby to gum. Illustration from “F**k Plastic”

Some of the tips are ways of looking in new ways: Tip #15 Swap potato chips for doughnuts

“Yes, we’re serious! Sure we all know avoiding both the doughnut and the chips would be better for our health (pft), but if you’re going to reach for a treat anyway, make it a loose baked product like a doughnut or cookie over a bag of chips or cookies. Many of the latter are packaged using layered plastic material, which theoretically could be recycled but a lot of the time isn’t due to the cost. Loose baked products on the other hand are totally fair game” (p. 22).

Enjoy! Photo by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash

The book is filled with useful hints. The introduction asks: “Plastic, what’s the big deal?”

“Plastic still remains a pretty great invention–syringes, hip replacements, protective helmets, your laptop, my phone, that car. Let’s be honest–plastic ain’t going nowhere. But that’s the problem in a nutshell–all the single-use plastics we buy each day without realizing ain’t going nowhere either. A plastic carrier bag is used on average for 12 minutes [www.biologicaldiversity.org accessed on 05/23/2018] — but it’ll still be here in 100 to 300 years. The water bottle you picked up at lunch could still be here in 450” (p. 1).

Tip #89 Be mindful

“Look after your things! It’s as simple as that. Look after your phone; look after your headphones; look after your hair ties; look after your stationery; look after every item you own that contains plastic. The better care you give it, the less you will need to replace it and the less plastic that ultimately ends up bin a landfill or the sea” (103).

Read this book: There is lots to be done. We can each be part of the solution.

Aloha, Renée

P.S. Thanks for lending me this book, Joy. N.

From: <https://blueocean.net/powerful-images-of-plastic-pollution-go-viral/&gt;

The 2020 Woman’s March, Maui

Again, we marched. Again, it was with a feeling of hope and joy. Again, I saw friends old and new. Again, the informational booths offered a variety of resources for Deaf Children, LGBTQ, Planned Parenthood, Citizens Climate Lobby . . . Again, we had an organized march, inspiring speeches, special guests, music, pule, dancing. The camaraderie, the energy of people – men, women, children, young and old, under a partly sunny Maui sky – all made for an excellent morning.

This, the fourth Women’s March, had keynote speaker Teresa Shook, retired attorney and resident of Hana, an isolated town on the East end of Maui. Her idea that we should march went viral after the 2016 presidential election and resulted in these Women’s Marches all across the country.

Teresa Shook, at Maui College, keynote speaker for the Maui 2020 Women’s March
Photo: mauibnews.com

For the march this year, The Maui News estimated 1,000 participants, a smaller number than other years. Missing too for the first time was the man with the bullhorn who screamed that all of us in the march hated men. With him had been a young girl, wearing a bonnet and long dress, and another man. Have they learned that, of course, we don’t hate men? (Well, we do know that some individual men have a lot to learn about respecting others). Has the girl refused to come along? We want Equal Rights, Civil Rights, Equal Opportunities, Gender Equality, Choice, Equal Pay, No War, help for immigrants escaping political and/or economic oppression, respect for all people, Truth and Reconciliation; excellent public schools for all children, clean water, protected public lands, actions to mitigate the real damage humans are making everywhere, supports for the most vulnerable among us, leaders with integrity and compassion for those struggling the most . . .

Many did come: men, women, children – many holding signs and representing a variety of interests and concerns. Photo by RR.
“Denial is not a policy” Photo by RR.
Speaking up for the Earth. Photo by RR.

Great T-shirt message: “Woman’s Rights are Human Rights, Black Lives Matter, We are All Immigrants, Climate Change is Not a Hoax, Water is Life, Science is Real” – friend & paddling sister – Joy. Photo by RR.
Maui friend & paddling sister, Gail and 93-year-old Mom at their fourth Maui Women’s March. Gail’s sisters Wendy and April come each year too. 🙂 Photo by RR.
Mele – with Maui Peace Action: NO WAR WITH IRAN. “53 cents of every US Tax dollar goes to the Military! STOP Illegal Wars”. Photo by RR.
Humorous and serious signs: “We used to burn books. I hope we can burn these signs in November.” Photo by RR.

Thanks to The Women’s March Maui Coalition, including its board members – Marnie Masuda-Cleveland, Kelli Blair Swan, Sherry Alu Campagna and founding board member Shook, the speakers, the musicians, informational booth attendants, food trucks, the marchers. Lei’ohu Ryder for the opening ceremony; Awesomystics, Skylar Masuda, Struck by Seda, Ono Maui Shakespeare, Deborah Vial Band, “Amazon,” Eliza and Shea Derrick’s Band, for the entertainment.

Great signs: “I Am A Strong Man Because of a Stronger Woman” and “I am the Resistance” at Maui College, Jan. 2020. Photo by RR.
Maui Now photo – from an earlier Maui March
Maui Time photo at Maui College

And what were friend Susan and I doing? We missed most of the speakers, the music, the dancing. We were happily sharing voting information and registering people to vote. For the first time starting with our primary election in August 2020, Hawaii residents will vote by mail. If you are a Hawaii resident, go to On-Line Voter Registration to register and/or check to see if all your information is up-to-date” <olvr.hawaii.gov>.

At the entrance to Maui College – that’s me. This was the borrowed sign I used at the 2019 Women’s March, again this year, and at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. march. Although the sign is a bit worn, the message is still excellent. Photo by Joy N.

And what was I doing two days later on January 20, 2020? I went to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March in Wailuku: good speakers, good music, good people.

Gwen’s International students experiencing a U.S. march: Switzerland, Canada, Brazil, Ukraine, Japan, South Korea, . . . Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have liked it too. And again, I got to give out voter information. Photo by RR.

My voter registration T-shirt, compliments of Southern Poverty Law Center. We are in this together. Photo by RR.

Am I worried that the numbers to the marches are down. Should you be worried? Nope. We are busy people. We know that we must vote – and take action to change what we can.

Photo from facebook.com

Thank you to everyone involved in these marches – and in all the positive actions in our communities.

Vote wherever you live. Make you voice heard — and do more. You are needed.

Aloha, Renée

Truth & Reconciliation in Hawaii

From: <https://www.civilbeat.org/2015/01/cloud-over-hawaii-the-need-for-truth-and-reconciliation/&gt;

Cloud Over Hawaii: The Need for Truth and Reconciliation

Living under a cloud of resentment can never be good for us. In the end, resentment is self-destructive.By Paul Arinaga   / January 27, 2015 

There’s a cloud hanging over Hawaii – the weight of history. Over 100 years ago, the Hawaiian nation was subverted and destroyed. Hawaiian culture (not to mention Hawaiians themselves) was nearly wiped out and probably would have withered away had it not been for the Hawaiian renaissance of the late 20th century.

Native Hawaiians have not been the only ones to suffer in Hawaii, however. Asian immigrants later experienced their share of racism and social exclusion. Most of Hawaii’s Asian immigrants and their descendants were only able to improve their circumstances over the course of half a century.

Banner photo: Concerns are raised at Interior Department hearings on whether the U.S. should establish a government-to-government relationship with Hawaii’s indigenous community, June 2014.PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Why is this past suffering relevant? It is relevant because in many cases its effects are still with us today; they linger in the form of the relatively low socio-economic status of many Native Hawaiians, for example.

Past injustices are not only relevant for their direct economic, social and political effects, however. They are also relevant, in my view, because their effects linger in the form of resentment. Even some of the offspring of the purported perpetrators of past injustices seem to feel resentment; whether justified or not, they may feel unfairly accused.

Resentment feeds resentment. Yet we need to face the future squarely by dealing with the past, no matter how painful it may be. As Peter Apo says in a recent column in Civil Beat: “Until there is closure to the Hawaiian question, Hawaii can never be whole.”

The purpose of this article is not to find fault with any particular group or individual. Much of that ground has already been covered, even if redress has been incomplete, insufficient or non-existent, in many cases. The purpose of this article is instead to point out that living under a cloud of resentment can never be good for us. In the end, resentment is self-destructive.

That’s why I would like to propose that Hawaii establish a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” led by unifying figures and representative of all the people of Hawaii. Much as was done in South Africa and is being done in Canada, the purpose of this commission would be to unearth the truth, but to do so in such a way that there can be space for reconciliation, and perhaps even forgiveness.

This is not a New Age pipe dream. Reconciliation could have many tangible – and perhaps even immediate – benefits. It might lead to greater cohesion in our community, which in turn could enable us to solve practical problems such as the lack of affordable housing, limited economic opportunities and transportation gridlock.

On an individual level, reconciliation could release the huge amount of negative energy that I feel is currently locked away within many people, and within Hawaii as a whole. Harboring feelings of anger or resentment consumes enormous amounts of energy – energy that could be better spent in moving us all forward.

In proposing that people let go of resentment, I do not mean to dismiss the pain and suffering of any individual or group. Nor am I proposing that they give up their fight for justice, far from it.

I do believe, however, that we need to “clear the air” and try to work together rather than continually fighting each other. Truth and reconciliation could afford people a degree of closure and healing, and in the process release a wellspring of positive and creative energy. Given all the challenges we face, isn’t this exactly what we need right now?

About the Author

  • Paul Arinaga Paul Arinaga is a writer, fundraiser, marketer and communication consultant in Honolulu. He is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys mountaineering, rock climbing, trekking, and hiking.

Why don’t we have Truth and Reconciliation Committees in Hawaii? Ask at your church. Ask your elected officials. Ask those running for office. Surely we can at least do that.

Aloha, Renée

P.S. Update – 2/7/20

Please take an opportunity to be a positive voice. Help shed light on the issue of Truth & Reconciliation for Hawaiians (& non-Hawaiians). Support HCR37.

From Representative Tina Wildberger’s office: “HCR37- to convene a reconciliation commission – has been scheduled for a hearing on Monday 02/10 @ 9:00am. You can submit testimony online by following these steps: https://lrb.hawaii.gov/…/2019/12/How-to-submit-testimony.pdf

They will accept testimony until an hour before the hearing, but the earlier the better to give the representatives more time to read it. Even just clicking “support” without writing comments helps. You are welcome to share this information with your friends and family who might also want to testify.

In solidarity,
Natalia Hussey-Burdick
Office Manager
Office of Representative Tina Wildberger, 11th District
Hawaii State Capitol”

Please add your voice. Aloha, Renée (from Kihei – on Hawaiian land).

Thought for the Day: Number One?

“[The U.S. is] number one in military.

We’re number one in money.

Photo by Mathieu Turle@nbmat on <unsplash.com>

We’re number one in fat toddlers, meth labs, and people we send to prison.

We’re not number one in literacy [or] money spent on education.

We’re not even number one in social mobility. Social mobility means basically the American Dream, the ability of one generation to do better than the [previous one].

We’re tenth.”

– Bill Maher in “Sunbeams,” The Sun. April 2019, p. 48.

Obviously, we have much to improve. Aloha, Renée

Number One in junk food?

Photo by Christopher Williams <www.deiscribe.com> on <unsplash.com>.

Banner Photo by Aaron Burden <aaronburden@unsplash.com>.

The Golden Rule – Sails Again!

Sunday, I got to paddle canoes with others to escort the Golden Rule, a sailing ship with a long history, on its continuing journey of peace. Moored for the last two weeks in slip #20 at Ma’alaea Harbor, the Golden Rule came to Maui from the Big Island and before that, California. This little sailing ship, a national project of Veterans for Peace, continues its mission to create a nuclear-free world and a peaceful, sustainable future for all beings.

The Golden Rule was first used in the quest for peace in 1958 when four Quaker peace activists sailed it toward the Marshall Islands in an attempt to halt atmospheric nuclear weapons testing there.

The Golden Rule in 1958. Image from <https://www.vfpgoldenruleproject.org/history/?fbclid=IwAR08g7RrPHEqUcdfNsZ_jYkqJx7zubUJufL1GelgvJicnpLUHutDmjoxRMM&gt;.

The U.S. Coast Guard stopped the ship and arrested its crew, raising a public outcry. The Phoenix of Hiroshima, another sail boat, completed the journey and entered the atomic bomb test zone. The increasing public awareness of radiation dangers led President Kennedy, the U.S.S.R. and the U.K. to sign the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. The Golden Rule’s goal seemed accomplished.

However, after the Golden Rule sank in a gale in Humboldt Bay in Northern California in 2010, some saw the need for its continued mission.

For the next five years, U.S. Veterans for Peace, Quakers, and other volunteers restored her.

The Golden Rule now sails again for a nuclear-free world and a peaceful, sustainable future. And right now, she is here in Hawaii. Part of her mission is to educate. Did you know, for instance, that there are about 140 US military facilities and depleted uranium contamination sites in the Hawaiian Islands?

Did you know that the US Navy is expanding its military training here in Maui County: ship-to-ship, ship-to-shore, above the ocean, and below the ocean surface? In our Kahului Public Library, you can see the four large manuals of Navy military plans for Maui County and beyond. Please see my earlier post: https://reneeriley.wordpress.com/2019/01/08/u-s-navy-plans-for-special-operations-training-in-maui-county-and-beyond/. If you are on Maui, go see the many military plans noted in the U.S. Navy manuals at the library reference desk.

As for the Golden Rule in her mission of peace – after her stops in Lanai and other Hawaiian Islands, she will head to the Marshall Islands, which continues to feel the effects of the 67 US nuclear bombs tested there. The Golden Rule plans to help the Marshallese commemorate “Bravo Day” – 65+ years after the disastrous Castle Bravo nuclear bomb test that was far larger than expected — resulting in widespread radioactive contamination.

Castle Bravo nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands - image from "The Deadly Miscalculation at Castle Bravo"
Nuclear test on the Marshall Islands

Go to YouTube: “The Deadly Miscalculation at Castle Bravo” to see film of the deadly bombing that has resulted in many cancers and other health issues for the Marshallese people even today.

After stops in Guam, Okinawa and possibly South Korea, the Golden Rule will sail to Japan in August 2020 for the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Education and action are needed now more than ever!

Here on Maui, we got to meet Helen Jaccard, Golden Rule Project Manager, who during several talks on our island, showed the film Making Waves: Rebirth of the Golden Rule and led discussions: What we can do to reduce the possibility of nuclear war?”

I handed out a few flyers to advertise the events. At one stop, I gave the flyer to the really helpful Ace Hardware man who always greets me, “What can I do for you, Miss?” and “Boss Lady, what do you need?” He always makes me laugh – and almost always finds what I need. When he saw the flyer, he put his head on the counter and groaned. He said, “It has to start within our hearts.”

He does have a point. In our news, our politics, even in our canoes sometimes there is grumbling. If we aren’t at peace within ourselves, within our families, and among our neighbors and fellow paddlers, how is there hope for peace in the world?

With the threat of nuclear disaster, total annihilation as a possibility, we must work on all fronts to create a peaceful, sustainable future for all beings: peace within and peace without.

The night before the Ma’alaea departure, some of the crew and friends met at Kamaole Beach Park III in Kihei for a potluck celebration.


Joseph, Susan, Judy, Mele, Chuck, Bob K., Bob D., Linda, Veteran for Peace John, and others gathered for a potluck celebration with The Golden Rule crew and friends.

The cornerstone of Veterans For Peace’s mission is to “End the arms race and reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons.”

Thank you Veterans for Peace and for all those who have worked on and for the Golden Rule Sailing Ship.

From our Kihei Canoe Club canoe at the entrance to Ma’alaea Harbor – The Golden Rule raises her sail on her continuing journey.
From left: Irene, Shel, Sookie, Paulette. Eddie, Kristine, Adele
Photo by Katy Smith

To donate, for more information, and to track the progress of the Golden Rule Sailing Ship, go to:

Facebook: Golden Rule Peace Boat

Or contact: VFP Golden Rule Project/P.O. Box 87/ Samoa. CA 95564

http://www.VFPGoldenRule.org & wfpgoldenruleproject@gmail.com; Helen Jaccard Project Manager (206)992-6364

You can also find a cool video from our Sunday paddle escorting the Golden Rule Sailing ship on its way out of Ma’alaea Harbor: Go to FaceBook – Eddie Fischer. Thanks, Eddie

Let’s work for peace within our hearts, within our families, among our neighbors – near and far – and among nations.

Aloha, Renée

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