December 2007

Welcoming in 2008 from the Four Corners

By Art Goodtimes

END OF THE YEAR … As we move into winter for another year of war, it’s hard not to reflect on some of the things that have happened, both good and bad, in the past few months. Let us hope that our nation’s leaders bring our sons and daughters home from foreign shores this coming year ... Blessings to you all.

MUSLIM CALL FOR PEACE … In case you missed it, there were 138 signatories to a new peace letter two months ago, drafted by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan. This plea to Christians included Muslim leaders, politicians and academics representing every sect of Islam, such as the Grand Muftis of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, Croatia and Kosovo, the Secretary- General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the founder of the Ulema Organization in Iraq … Addressed as an open letter to Western church leaders, the letter stated, "If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world, with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world's inhabitants" … Using quotations from the Bible and the Koran to bolster their message, the Muslim scholars warned that "our very eternal souls are ... at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony" …The letter, which some hailed as a hugely significant initiative at a time of growing tensions, urged religious leaders to acknowledge the essential similarities between their faiths.

U.N. DECLARATION … I got to visit the National Museum of the American Indian when I was in DC this fall. And I was delighted I did. The displays had been curated from the viewpoint of indigenous peoples — showing Native Americans as people today, as well as victims of a much different version of the American history than we were taught in public or private schools (the sad story of indigenous genocide, mostly by epidemic) … And while the museum might qualify as some kind of atonement, this administration’s vote in the recent United Nations deliberation on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a shocker -- one of four no’s in a sea of yeses … Not altogether unexpected though. Last year Amnesty International had urged the world body to adopt the declaration as “long overdue.” U.N. treaty bodies had repeatedly affirmed state obligations to protect indigenous peoples, but the grave human-rights violations they have experienced continued unabated in every region of the world. And Amnesty specifically called on the U.S., the Russian Federation, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand not to oppose the declaration. Only Russia paid any attention. The U.S., Australia, Canada and New Zealand were the only nations in the world to vote against the declaration – 144 nations voting yes and 11 abstaining (Russia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Samoa and Ukraine) … Although entirely advisory, the declaration addresses indigenous peoples' protection against discrimination and genocide. It recognizes their right of self-determination, including secure access to lands and resources essential for their survival and welfare … Some 370 million people worldwide are identified as “indigenous.” … I’ve drafted a county resolution to try and get the U.S. to reverse its decision. It’s way past time we as a nation recognize our shameful history and stand up for the human rights of all peoples … Of course, as long as Bush maintains our torture cells in Guantanamo and Dems like Dianne Feinstein vote to confirm Michael “Waterboard” Mukasy, whatever claims our nation can make regarding human rights are as severely tainted today as they have been in the past.


These awkward efforts to be alive,
To wade, through our own debris,
Toward shore, toward other people,
We take too seriously.

Our ships wreck, and we survive;
Our hearts, stolen by pirates,
Are not ransomed; but we
Cannot weep forever for these lost things.

The sea, not the ship, is our mother.
The waves are never clumsy.
They know when to break,
To give up, to go back.

—Jim Tipton

CORBIN HARNEY … It is with great sadness that I learned that this brave Shoshone leader passed this summer, not long after he was featured at Mountainfilm in Telluride as part of the George and Beth Gage film about the Dann sisters, “Our Land, Our Life” … I had the good fortune to participate in a pipe circle with Harney before a demonstration at the Nevada Test Site, where I’d taken my oldest daughter to witness what it meant to commit civil disobedience for an important cause. He was an inspiring leader, a humble but tireless defender of his people’s treaty rights, and one of the unsung heroes of this land.

FOIE GRAS … Literally it means "fatty liver" in French. To produce it, young ducks or geese have over four pounds of corn mush forced down their throats through a long metal pipe each day for two to three weeks until they can barely move and are on the verge of organ rupture and death. For a 150-pound human, this would be equivalent to 60 pounds of food per day … The f o r c e - f e e d i n g process causes the ducks' livers to swell up to 10 times their normal size, inducing a disease that veterinarians call "hepatic lipidosis." These fattened, diseased livers are sold as "foie gras” … What kind of delicacy is that?

I AM A COMMUNIST Rush Limbaugh would have loved Dr. Devon Peña’s presentation on Resilient Communities at the most recent Headwaters Conference in Gunnison two weeks ago. Number 18. The first one since Mountain Gazette regular George Sibley retired from Western State and passed his enigmatic humanities get-together off to Phil Crossley. And, I’m proud to say, my 18th in a row … “I am a Communist,” averred Peña, to a surprised if receptive crowd of liberals, radicals, students and little old ladies. But not the kind you are thinking, he qualified. Not Russia’s bureaucratic state capitalist model, Lenin having ordered the abolishment of the soviets (worker councils) and Stalin having executed anyone trying to re-establish them … No, Peña’s Marxist gospel was closer to a cross between St. Francis of Assisi and the resilient crypto-Sephardic/ Arabic roots of his subversive kin in the San Luis Valley, where he’s founded the Acequia Institute … His people survive without economic growth or lots of money by being rich in relationships. They measure wealth in length of residency, the diversity of languages and species, the gifts given and received … “What is capitalism?” he also asked, answering himself, “It’s the turning of human bodies into a price.” From independent farmer/ ranchers to corporate center-pivot circle jerks … He talked about the inspiration of the Zapatistas, seeking legitimacy from civil society (espacio civil), not their state’s corporate leadership. He suggested that sustainability was really just a cover for economic entrenchment, and that what communities needed to do was pursue resilience, diversify, learn to withstand shocks, build institutions, and weave a web of relationships on all levels of society — and with the natural world as well. That was the kind of Community-ism that Peña was talking about … But no, I’m way off-base. Rush would never have enjoyed Peña’s challenges to the status quo. It’s capital not community that matters most in Limbaughland.

WEEKLY QUOTA … “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” —Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop of Recife, Brazil

LOCAVORES … Community Support Agriculture is a nationwide movement, best illustrated by the movie “The Real Dirt on Farmer John.” The Indian Ridge Farm and Bakery in Norwood is a CSA farm – growing food for its couple dozen off-farm member/subscribers … Now California CSA member Sage Van Wing has created a website challenging others to eat food grown within 100 miles of their home for a month. In the first month, 800 people signed onto the challenge.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.