Hold It All

Category: Activists

A Gift from Rob in Minnesota

Today I received a book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, from Rob Trousdale, who’s a part of the Catholic Worker community in Minnesota. (Some of Rob’s poems grace this blog.) This generous act was prompted by Rob’s reading of Chip Gibbobn’s Intercept article on the FBI’s investigation of ISM activists like myself a long while back.


Putting Marginalia to Use

for Danielle Mackey

Eduardo Galeano, The Book of Embraces
31 Saturday October 2009

I reread this book for one reason:  To see if it could help me generate some ideas as to form and content for my third book, which still will deal with Palestine.

So, all I scribble below is from marginalia—ideas, chapter or unit titles, possibilities—I  have made as I read these short, lyrical, lightly dense meditations that still make me think: Ah, this is my form, too!

Today as I finished the book in Borders waiting for Sharifa and Dania, it occurred to me: 10 themes each with 10 chapters, fractured and sequenced, with the ten chapters on Hedy being the “spine” of the work: a link between Shoah and Nakba. This is reflected below in the end of these notes.

It really will be a meditation on history.

Lexicon entries
The Occupation
What Prison can do to a Man [Hitler story]

Ghadeer, 400 words [tell me your story]
Different fonts of Arabic words…. Calligraphy
Reading Chomsky/1/2

Take a quotation and revise it to tell my story
Transformations/1 [Halper]

People I Know: The Actor
People I Know: The Survivor
People I Know: The Professor Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Natalie Long… Agrarianism, the Divine, and the Presence of Absence: Reflections on a Trip to Poland

We are living in historic times. The pandemic afflicting the human species is not only a test of the resiliency of people around the world, but also an invitation to examine the insufficiency of existing systems, institutions, and norms that govern human behavior. As I wrestle with understanding the rapidly changing conditions that continue to evolve, I also find myself consumed with a search to understand how human societies must change – often paradigmatically – so as to create worlds that halt destructive behaviors and promote harmonious existence with life in all its forms.

In May 2019, I visited a dear friend who is a professor in Warsaw, Poland. My trip lasted just a bit over two weeks; but, in that short time span, I came away with a handful of rich experiences that continue to generate reflections about how a society chooses, and/or is forced, to organize itself. While reflecting on my trip, three overriding themes emerge that appear present in the Polish population: (i) an ethos of agrarianism; (ii) a pervasive spiritual practice; and (iii) the presence of absence and/or an intimate experience of catastrophe.

My modest goal for this Share the Wealth is to share a few stories from my time in Poland that highlight those themes, with the hope that we might generate a space to imagine briefly how we might change our world, before it is changed for us.
Read the rest of this entry »

After Sanders Makes His Endorsement, I Turn to Some Great Reminderers

Those who live by compassion are often canonized.  Those who live by justice are often crucified.  –John Dominic Crossan, Scripture Scholar, USA

Don’t mourn. Organize. –Mother Jones, labor activist, USA

The madness of violence must be recognized, its causes removed, and its implements destroyed. But how can it be done? It can be done by one means only: the manifestation of a better spirit. It is a change of character and conduct through a change of ideas, reason, and good will – these are the only agencies in a civilized age for effecting such changes. – Mohandas Gandhi, lawyer, India

The blood is so much, you know, it runs in rivers. It dries up too; it cakes all over me; sometimes I feel that there is not enough soap in the whole world to cleanse me from the things that I did do in your name. –Davison Budhoo, from his resignation letter to the International Monetary Fund

Responsibility for the poor, exterior to the system, exposes the just person to retaliation by the system, which feels under attack because of its dysfunctionality, openness, and exposure.  For this reason, with inexorable logic the totality persecutes those who in their responsibility for the oppressed testify to the necessity for a new order.  Responsibility is obsession for the other; it is linkage with the other’s exteriority; it entails exposing oneself to traumatization, prison, even death. –Enrique Dussel, philosopher, Argentina & Mexico Read the rest of this entry »

Conscience Thunders

for Matt Miller


Taylor Branch, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968
Simon and Schuster, 2006

The following are passages from this third volume of a gripping, recent history of the US.

America’s Founders centered political responsibility in the citizens themselves, but, nearly two centuries later, no one expected a largely invisible and dependent racial minority to ignite protests of steadfast courage—boycotts, sit-ins, Freedom Rides, jail marches—dramatized by stunning forbearance and equilibrium into the jaws of hatred. xi

Marchers stand here on the brink of violent suppression in their first attempt to cross Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, after which thousands of ordinary Americans will answer King’s overnight call for a nonviolent pilgrimage to Selma. Three of them will be murdered, but the quest to march beyond Pettus Bridge will release waves of political energy from the nucleus of human freedom. The movement will transform national politics to win the vote. Selma will engage the world’s conscience, strain the embattled civil rights coalition, and embroil King in negotiations with all three branches of the United States government. It will revive the visionary pragmatism of the American Revolution. xiii

MLK: “Well, I’m gonna put out a call for help.” 57

MLK: “I say to you this afternoon that I would rather die on the highways of Alabama than make a butchery of my conscience…. If you can’t accept blows without retaliating, don’t get in the line.” 74-75

Mother Pollard: “My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.” 107
Read the rest of this entry »

The Urgent Necessities When You’re Stuck in One Place

I understand that I can have visitors twice a month—the second and fourth Sunday. However, I understand that everybody—white and colored—can have visitors this coming Sunday. I hope you can find some way to come down. I know it will be a terrible inconvenience in your condition, but I want to see you and the children very badly. Also ask Wyatt to come. There are some very urgent things that I will need to talk with him about. Pleas[e] bring the following books to me: Stride Toward Freedom, Paul Tillich’s Systematic Theology Vol 1 & 2, George Buttrick The Parables of Jesus, E. S. Jones Mahatma Gandhi, Horns and Halo, a Bible, a Dictionary and my reference dictionary called Increasing your Word Power. This book is an old book in a red cover and it may be in the den or upstairs in one of my bags. Also bring the following sermons from my file: “What is Man” “The Three Dimensions” “The Death of Evil” … [He listed fifteen more sermons.] Also bring a radio.

–from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Coretta King, 1960

Cited in Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America during the Kng Years, 1954-63


The Imperative To Remember


Anyone who does not actively, constantly engage in remembering and in making others remember is an accomplice of the enemy. Conversely, whoever opposes the enemy must take the side of his victims and communicate their tales, tales of solitude and despair, tales of silence and defiance.
–Elie Wiesel, Against Silence, v.2 [1977]


… it is still possible by patient reconstruction of the factual record to know the truth about what happened in Gaza. Out of respect for the memory of those who perished during Operation Cast Lead, this truth must be preserved and protected from its assassins.
–Norman Finkelstein, Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom [2018] Read the rest of this entry »

Hope’s Beautiful Daughters: A Spring & Summer Class


Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage: anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.
— Saint Augustine

Why repeat the facts—they cover up our feelings. The development of these feelings, the spilling of these feelings past the  facts, is what fascinates me. I try to find them, collect them, protect them.
—Svetlana Alexievich

The truth is that I simply did not understand why anyone would want to violate the rights of others or to ruin the environment. Why would someone destroy the only forest left in the city and give it to friends and political supporters to build expensive houses and golf courses?
—Wangari Maathai

Our strategy should be not only to confront Empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer recklessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.
—Arundhati Roy

Writing is essential to my life, like breathing. I can live without a husband but I cannot live without writing. By writing I become one with the world and with myself.
—Nawal El Saadawi

In this class we will get (re)acquainted with some of the world’s great writers, activists, dissidents, Nobel Laureates, investigators, critics, chroniclers, and healers of our time. We will meet twice a month on Wednesdays via Zoom over six months, reading and reflecting on one book each month. Among the themes we will explore are reverence for life, compassion/accompaniment, questioning authority, dangerous memory, structural violence, and deep listening.

Read the rest of this entry »

Beautiful Anarchists

Howard Zinn, Emma: A Play in Two Acts About Emma Goldman, American Anarchist

Those photos of Dorothy Day—
Like the one you saw in the office at the Catholic Woker
Where you were first scouted as a model
By Antoinette six years ago now—
Dotties’s scowling, old, weathered, as if she’s saying,
“Don’t have too much fun
Don’t you know people are being crucified even now
“By this filthy rotten system
While you are playing hackey sack?” Read the rest of this entry »

Making the Best of Tough Situations

Three summers ago, some friends came to our Chouteau home for two months of Wednesday evenings to reflect on Thich Nhat Hanh’s autobiography, At Home in the World. Just today a chapter from that book came back to me, and I am happy to share it here.

I know a Buddhist nun who had graduated from Indiana University in the US and who was practicing in Vietnam. She was arrested by the police and put into prison because of her actions for peace and reconciliation. She tried her best to practice in her prison cell. It was difficult, because during the daytime if they saw her practice sitting meditation in her cell, they considered it an act of provocation and defiance to be sitting like that, experiencing peace. So they forbade her from sitting in meditation. She would have to wait until they turned off the light in order to sit up and practice. They tried to steal from her even the opportunity to practice. Yet she was able to continue. She did walking meditation, although the space she had was very small. She was also able to talk with kindness and gentleness to the people who were locked in the same cell. Thanks to her practice, she was able to hep them suffer less.

I have another Vietnamese friend who was put into a “re-education” camp in North Vietnam, in a remote jungle area. During his four years there, he practiced meditation and was able to live in peace. By the time he was released, his mind was as sharp as a sword. He knew that he had not lost anything during those four years. On the contrary, he knew he had “re-educated himself in meditation.”

Many things can be taken from us, but no one can ever steal our determination or our freedom. No one can ever steal our practice. Even in extreme cases, it is possible to maintain our happiness, our peace, and our inner freedom. As long as we are able to breathe and walk and smile, we can be at peace, and we can be happy.

–from the chapter, “Prisoner of Conscience,” page 74.


Ayesha and Ashaki enjoying the present moment, summer 2017.