Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

A Week of Good News
distributed 1/27/17 - ©2017

This week's issue of Eco-Justice Notes is underwritten by Becky Beilschmidt of Fulton, Missouri in celebration of the 50th birthday of her friend, Paul Mast Hewitt. Her generous support helps make this publication possible.

It has been one week since the inauguration of the new US President, and what a week it has been.

I write this morning with a decision to make about which facts to highlight, and I choose to focus on the remarkable expressions of resistance and commitment that have been seen across the country and around the world.

There is much to lament in the first week of this administration, and much to fear in what seems to be coming. (As I have often stressed in these Notes, the policies coming from Mr. Trump and many of the Republicans in Congress -- and lots of Democrats, too -- stand in stark contrast to the eco-justice principles that have been expressed by our agency for 17 years.)

Fear and lament, though, are not energizing. As we settle in for a long stretch of political and social witness, I invite you to look at good news this week, and remember the evidence of a strong and committed movement in favor of civil rights and environmental care.

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We begin, of course, with last weekend's Womens' March in Washington and other cities. Hundreds of thousands of women, men and children took to the streets, turning out in numbers that far exceeded the organizer's expectations and hopes.

As one commentator quipped, "Trump promised to make America great again, and he's already done it on his first day in office!"

The marches were centered on women's issues -- and countless pink knitted "pussyhats" decried Trump's boasts about groping women. The multitudes also carried signs on many other issues, including climate change.

The march organizers claim that "over 5 Million of us worldwide and over 1 Million in Washington, D.C., came to march, speak and make our voices heard." Other sources don't go that high ("only" half a million in DC). A comprehensive tabulation of the numbers estimated between 3.6 and 4.6 million marched in over 900 events worldwide, with 670 events in the US. Even at the low end, this makes the march the largest protest in US history.

Far from being a one-day event, the movement is calling on participants to engage in 10 actions within the first 100 days of this administration. The first is a postcard (with a distinctive design) that is to be personalized and mailed to your Senators. (A suggestion -- mail delivery to DC offices is slow. Consider mailing to a local office.)

The spirit and energy of the march continued beyond the weekend. A colleague shared with me news of thousands of people gathering in the Utah Capitol on Monday to protest on the first day of the legislative session. They joined in singing a powerful new song, "I'm Gonna Walk It With You" that will be a good one for us all to learn and sing. (See a video of the signing.)

Also over the weekend, organized primarily by faith groups, there were 152 vigils for climate justice. A follow-up call with the national organizers described events in 40 states and Washington, DC. (Eco-Justice Ministries co-sponsored the one in Denver.)

As new executive orders are issued by the President, many other protest events are being held. For example, yesterday in Denver over 100 people turned out on short notice to stand for immigration rights.

The activism is not only taking place on the streets. Unprecedented numbers are making phone calls to their elected representatives. The Denver Post reported on Wednesday, "Colorado's congressional delegates on both sides of the aisle have been deluged with calls and messages since Donald Trump's election -- at times triple the normal rate -- from constituents worried about everything from health care to cabinet nominees and Russian hacking."

One week into the Trump administration, it is clear that there is a strong and well-organized opposition that will not sit quietly. The scale and the energy of these protests goes far beyond what I imagined a week ago.

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I am also encouraged that the press is being assertive. Triggered in large part by the childish bickering about crowd sizes for the inauguration, and the subsequent official affirmation of public officials making statements based on "alternative facts", reporters are speaking boldly, and being persistent in questioning information.

The New York Times had a front page headline, "Meeting With Top Lawmakers, Trump Repeats an Election Lie". As reporters have dug into claims about voter fraud, they have found at least five people close to the Trump team who are registered to vote in two states, highlighting the difference between out of date voter rolls and fraud. The Denver Post pushed even farther with an editorial publishedyesterday, "Lying Trump can't be trusted."

As a piece today from The New Yorker points out, the lies are an intentional part of Trump's strategy to assert power and define the issues. They work, even when they are known to be lies. But still, the push-back against such distortions is also effective and important.

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I am also encouraged to see push-back, resistance and responsiveness within the government.

Because of a strong public outcry, the confirmation on quite a few of Trump's cabinet nominees has been delayed. The initial rush to move those through the Senate has been slowed down while ethics reports are filed and examined, and while candidates are subjected to more extensive questioning.

The EPA had been ordered to remove all climate change information from their website. A backlash within the agency was so strong that the administration backed down. A similar reversal happed at the Department of Agriculture.

Starting with postings from Badlands National Park, government employees have been tweeting information about climate change that contradicts Trump's positions. As official government twitter feeds have been blocked, employees -- on their personal time, of course! -- have created alternate park service feeds and continued posting. On the same day as an executive order dealing with refugees, the Department of Defense's Twitter account expressed support for a Marine who came to the U.S. as a refugee.

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We are one week into the presidency of Donald Trump. We are also a week into the powerful emergence of political opposition, an assertive media, and principled acts of resistance within the government.

Those of us who oppose this administration's policies have hard work ahead of us. But that work is made easier and more enticing when we know that we are not alone. Millions of people in the US and globally are joining in this cause.

Shalom!

Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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