Pat’s Chat

The Free Press WV

The Children’s Ministry Department of the Adventist Church on Brushy Fork Road will be having a Bake Sale on Monday, January 21st, to raise funds to send our children to the Noah’s Ark and Creation Theme Park in Kentucky next summer. I am told there will be Pepperoni Rolls (turkey), Cakes, Pies, Cookies, and other goodies. They will be at the church about 12 Noon until 5:00 p.m. I hope you’ll stop by.

One of my lovely nieces posted the following on Facebook and it touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I hope you will enjoy reading it and that your heart will also be touched. If you do not know the Person this story is reminding us of – our Savior – then borrow your mom’s or your grandma’s Bible and read 1 John, all four chapters. That and many other books in the Bible will help you get to know Him. Here is what my niece posted:

“I was walking in the supermarket and suddenly I heard a noise of things breaking. I turned down an aisle and saw a group of people staring at an older lady who had hit a shelf containing plates and glasses with her cart. Many had fallen to the ground and broken.

“Kneeling on the floor embarrassed, the lady was frantically picking up the shattered pieces, while her husband peeled off each bar code saying: ‘We have to pay for all this.‘

‘What a sad scene. Someone has a mishap, and all eyes were on her. When I knelt beside her to help, a man also knelt beside us and said, ‘Leave it, we will pick this up. Let’s get your information, so you can go to the hospital and have that wound in your hand looked at.‘

“The lady looked at him and said, ‘But I have to pay for this.‘

“The man said, ‘No ma’am, I’m the Manager & we have insurance for this. You don’t have to pay anything. Let’s get you taken care of.‘

“For you who have read this far, I’d like you to close your eyes and imagine God doing the same for you. Collecting the pieces of your broken heart from all the missteps and blows that life has thrown at you. God’s love and Holy Spirit will heal your wounds, and your sins and mistakes will be forgiven.

This is the warranty called grace. When you accept God’s gift as your only real Salvation, the manager of the existence of the universe (GOD) AKA Lord and King of the universe… our Yashua (Hebrew for God’s Salvation) will tell you: ‘Everything is already paid for ... go on and sin no more.‘”


Preventing Brazilian Indigenous Genocide and Protecting the Amazon

The Free Press WV

It is official. On the first of the year, Jair Bolsonaro, was inaugurated as the 38th President of Brazil. One of his first official acts as a newly inaugurated president was doing away with demarcation of indigenous territories in Brazil. All of us living on this planet should be fearful of this act.

Bolsonaro transferred the responsibility of demarcation of indigenous lands to the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture and placed the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI, Fundação Nacional do Índio) under its jurisdiction. It is FUNAI’s responsibility to protect the nation’s Indians and yet the Ministry of Agriculture is traditionally known to protect the interests of big business, especially soy farmers and cattle ranchers. Both are powerful lobbying groups in Brazil and likewise partly responsible for destroying the Amazon and its people. In effect, FUNAI is no more under the Bolsonaro administration.

We should also realize this is not only a fulfilled campaign promise of Bolsonaro but a realized fear for the legitimation of genocide against Brazilian indigenous peoples and also the imminent destruction of the Brazilian Amazon. It is also important to note that 60 percent of the Amazon is under Brazilian jurisdiction.

At the end of November, a United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity was held in Egypt. It was there many of the world’s Amazonian indigenous leaders proposed a 200-million-hectare corridor stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Andes mountains along the great meandering Amazon River and its tributaries in order to protect the world’s largest rainforest and its incredibly varied fauna and flora. Such an ecological plan would not only protect the forest and its wildlife but its many indigenous peoples and their lands. What is more, such a scheme may have the long-term benefit of preventing climate change and global warming from becoming inevitable realities.

To understand the immensity of such a proposed biodiversity corridor, think of an area the size of Mexico and 500 different Amazonian indigenous nations with their wide array of cultures living within it. Ponder for a moment that 10 million species of animals, insects, and plants exist within the Amazon rainforest. Almost 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity is to be found on indigenous lands and Native territories are some of the most biodiverse on earth.

Now more than ever we should be taking such environmental propositions very seriously for the fate of humankind.

The proposal to protect the Amazon with a “sacred corridor of life and culture” was presented by COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin, Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica) at the UN conference.

Yet, Brazilian President Bolsonaro and newly elected Colombian President, Iván Duque Márquez, along with other powerful business leaders, most likely will not consider such a plan because of economic interests for developing the Amazon for energy (e.g. hydro-electric dam projects and oil prospecting), mining (e.g. excavating gold), resource exploitation (e.g. timber extraction) and agri-businesses (e.g. cattle ranching and soy farming). The UN biodiversity agreement is scheduled to be signed in Beijing, China in 2020.

President Bolsonaro has infamously likened indigenous peoples residing on protected territories in Brazil to “animals in zoos” (como animais em zoo). When humans dehumanize other humans, and equate them with non-human animals, we know psychologically such rhetoric allows for genocide. This was evident from the Rwanda genocide when Hutu heard racist radio messages about Tutsi equating them to cockroaches, among other things. Such directed racism allowed for the near Tutsi extermination, ranging between 500,000 to 1,000,000 killings in 1994. Similarly, Hitler’s propagandists relentlessly compared Jews to rats. We know those results.

In a recent 2018 report commissioned by the ‘Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLU), Impacts on Extractive Industry and Infrastructure on Forests: Amazonia, it stated the following: “…large-scale infrastructure development, in particular road building and hydropower, have induced human settlement, forest clearance and an aggressive expansion of the agricultural frontier across substantial parts of Amazonia. The synergies between agriculture and infrastructure are important, particularly in the Legal Amazon. The scale of future changes in forest cover will depend on where and how infrastructure investments move forward.”

There are presently about 850,000 Natives in Brazil. Bolsonaro believes they should be forcibly assimilated and integrated into Brazilian society along with Afro-slave descendants or Quilombolas living in the hinterland.

Three prominent Brazilian indigenous leaders, Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, Sônia Bone Guajajara, and Raoni Metuktire, have written a letter to the world to express their alarm.

Their peoples live in different areas of the Brazilian Amazon. The Yanomami people have been mostly isolated, living in Brazil and Venezuela, numbering some 35,000 people.
Since the 1980s, Yanomami have been subject to massacres from Brazilian gold miners (garimpeiros) who have also brought disease and mass death.

The Guajajara people live in the state of Maranhão and number some 19,000 people. During the 1960s through 1980s, there have been concerted efforts to develop and illegally settle on their lands.
The Kayapó live in the states of Mato Grosso and Pará and number some 9,000 people. Since the late 1980s, they have been fighting hydroelectric dam projects on their lands. The ongoing Belo Monte Dam will flood vast areas of Kayapó territories and have a very lasting negative impact upon the survival of these people by limiting fishing and massively destroying both fauna and flora.

Davi Kopenawa, Sônia Guajajara, and Raoni Metuktire stated in their letter:

“A genocide is unfolding in our country, Brazil. Our government is destroying us, indigenous peoples, our country’s first people. In the name of profit and power, our land is being stolen, our forests burned, our rivers polluted and our communities devastated. Our uncontacted relatives, who live deep in the forest, are being attacked and killed…This is the most aggressive attack we have experienced in our lifetimes. But we won’t be silenced. We do not want the riches of our land to be stolen and sold. For as long as we can remember, we have looked after our lands. We protect our forest as it gives us life…Please tell our government that our land is not for stealing.”

We should heed their warning and not allow the Brazilian government to sanction such a genocide against Brazilian Indians and simply remain silent. It is time to speak up.

Not only are nearly one million Brazilian indigenous lives at stake, but the Amazon rainforest as a world natural resource, is in certain jeopardy without protective measures. The “sacred corridor” plan proposed by COICA at the 2018 UN Biodiversity Conference is a good beginning to ensure two million square kilometers of rainforest land along the Amazon River and its vast tributaries be preserved and safeguarded for future generations.

Let’s begin the New Year by helping and protecting these people and the Amazon before it is too late.

How you can help:
One organization which has ongoing campaigns to protect Brazilian Amerindians is Survival International:

You may wish to donate them or get involved in their ongoing campaigns to protect Brazilian Indians: Or consider writing your US Senator or US Congressman or even your local Brazilian Consulate or Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C.:
Or sign a petition at Amazon Watch and pledge your support to protect the Amazonian Indians:

J. P. Linstroth has a PhD from the University of Oxford in Social and Cultural Anthropology and is a former Fulbright Scholar to Brazil. He is author of Marching Against Gender Practice: Political Imaginings in the Basqueland (2015).

PC Culture’s Class Blindspot

The Free Press WV

In a lecture at the Heartland Festival last year, the Slovenian social philosopher Slavoj Zizek pointed out that proponents of political correctness (PC) often do not bring poor and working-class white people under their mantle of protection. While many decry PC for going too far in the context of gender, race, sexuality, etc., in the context of social class, it does not go far enough.

A lack of class consciousness was a major feature of American culture from the beginning. French historian Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in the 19th century, famously noted the prominence of the American value of equality while identifying historical explanations for this, such as the lack of an American royal family or peasantry.

Then there is the far more recent observation, attributed to Ronald Wright that “… the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” In other words, the underclass does not identify as such in the United States; therefore, there is (perceived) equality between rich and poor. The Horatio Alger myth is near-gospel, but upward class mobility is a canard that is useful to those who benefit from working class illusion that they are likely to be well off some day. Developing class consciousness is threatening to billionaires and is thus discouraged. This is one reason socialism has long been considered a dirty word despite the popularity of socialist policies, such as Social Security and Medicare–or the public roads, bridges, and highways.

It is an indication of the cultural power of perceived equality that even the American left does not draw a line between rich whites and poor whites the way it does between whites and people of color, men and women, heteronormative and queer folks, and so on. Speaking for myself, I have never been labeled — at least not in any discernable way — as lower-middle class (which I am at best) or economically insecure (which I have been at times), even though there has often been a noticeable gap between my family’s financial and education attainment and that of the people I choose to associate with in the personal, professional, and political (organizing) realm.

It is partly due to this background that I am a critic of PC because, although I agree with most of the goals of so-called ‘social justice warriors’ (SJWs), their tactics simply do not appeal to the under-educated and under-employed (or the over-employed-but-under-paid) masses.

I started discussing this problem more than 10 years ago with my peers, who at the time were radical college students (SJW-types) like me. We asked ourselves: how do we appeal to those who may share our goals but not our language? Is it fair, for example, to label a working-class white man a racist for using the phrase “colored people” out of ignorance rather than malice? Also, how do we educate him without coming off as condescending and thus alienating him further?

Unlike many of my peers, I did not regard these questions as academic; I wanted to know how to appeal to my family members, many of whom still do not use or recognize the terms “people of color,” “LGBTQ+,” “intersectionality,” and so on. My father once (erroneously in my opinion) referred to Malcolm X as “racist” (against whites) because he had not learned enough about anti-black oppression to understand that Malcolm’s rhetoric was designed to incite emancipatory consciousness and not racial hatred for its own sake. It took only a few minutes of constructive, respectful dialogue to convince my father to rethink his position whereas a knee-jerk reaction with the intent of upholding politically correct modes of discourse would have been counterproductive and distancing. I favor “calling in,” not so much “calling out.”

The same approach could be taken to someone making a racist or a sexist joke as opposed to shaming the person for it. One could ask questions with the intention of identifying the attitudes lurking behind the attempt at humor. Jokes, after all, do not always represent where an individual stands on a complex issue and can easily be misinterpreted.

To be clear, I am not arguing that civility is only important for those who are educated. This would be classist and condescending, but it is equally classist and condescending for educated people to expect less-educated people to adopt their way of speaking, which implies adopting their way of thinking as well. This is not a progressive approach to social change.

It is time to integrate the labels progressive and conservative–both should favor human and civil rights, economic justice, a clean environment, and a robust democracy. This approach to social change is one that meets people where they are and not where they are expected to be. This was my thinking around calling for Democrats and their supporters to appeal to white men as an identity group if they hope to ensure sweeping electoral victories in 2020.

A complementary approach should be taken with poor and working-class people — for the benefit of all.

Matt Johnson, is co-author of Trumpism.

A loose cannon for peace?

The Free Press WV

Circle the wagons!
Apparently what’s under assault is war itself, or so the Establishment believes, in the wake of the shocking announcement by the president that he plans to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops now deployed in Syria and 7,000, or half, the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

No, can’t do that! Can’t do that! This screws everything up. “. . . we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours,” writes Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis in his resignation letter to Donald Trump over the issue.

And the New York Times noted that Trump’s decision “risks leaving United States’ allies in the long-running war weakened while strengthening rivals backed by Iran and Russia.

“American troops entered Syria in 2015 as part of a coalition fighting the Islamic State, which had seized large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. In the three years since, the extremist group’s self-declared caliphate has crumbled. But the continuing lack of stability in both Syria and Iraq could provide fertile ground for the jihadists to retrench.”

Sounds sensible enough until you factor in the fact that the pursuit of short-term national interests and, indeed, war itself — particularly the wars fomented by, underwritten and armed by the United States over the last two decades — are the primary cause of global instability and the upsurge of terrorism. There’s never an acknowledgment, by the war establishment, of the consequences of militarism, just an abstract discussion of strategy and “interests.”

Since Mad Dog is the face of reasonable opposition to these U.S. troop withdrawals, let me pause for a moment simply to note that, as commanding officer of the two U.S. invasions of Fallujah in the early stages of the Iraq war, in April and November 2004, he’s a full-on war criminal.

Dahr Jamail, writing at Truthout, tells us: “While reporting from inside Fallujah during (the April) siege, I personally witnessed women, children, elderly people and ambulances being targeted by U.S. snipers under Mattis’ command. Needless to say, all of these are war crimes.
“During the November siege of Fallujah later that same year, which I also covered first-hand, more than 5,000 Iraqi civilians were killed. Most were buried in mass graves in the aftermath of the siege.

“Mosques were deliberately targeted by the U.S. military, hospitals bombed, medical workers detained, ambulances shot at, cease-fires violated, media repressed, and the use of depleted uranium was widespread. All of these are, again, war crimes.”

The horror inflicted on Fallujah is, of course, merely the tippy-tip of the military iceberg, but my God, I must ask the New York Times and all the rest of the media that fell in line behind GWB and supported the horrific and pointless invasion of Iraq: Why are the consequences — and failures — of our past wars never part of the present discussion? Why is a larger vision, a peace vision, never given serious consideration when it comes to U.S. foreign policy?

“It is common,” Richard Falk pointed out in an interview with Daniel Falcone, “for media pundits to question policy choices so long as they do not touch the fundamental guidelines of structure and geopolitical priorities that have shaped the American global role ever since 1945. These fundamentals include . . . the globe-girdling military presence as typified by more than 800 overseas military bases, a sizable naval operation patrolling in every ocean, and a capability to wage hyper war from any point in space.”

Beyond the establishment’s offense taken, the question remains: What is the value of Trump’s decision to start shrinking U.S. involvement in several war-ravaged sectors of the Middle East?
Understandably, peace activists remain wary. He’s an America Firster who wants to wall off “USA! USA!” from the global rabble at our southern border. He’s a racist and NRA shill who feeds refugee children to his base. He’s a corrupt narcissist with fascist inclinations and an ego the size of Mussolini. He’s a loose cannon. Has he suddenly become a loose cannon for peace?
Well, maybe.

A statement released by the organization World Beyond War, which has been calling for the U.S. withdrawal from Syria since 2015, acknowledges that Trump’s plan is a beginning, but only that. In a statement released shortly after Trump’s announcement, it notes:

“Removing troops from the ground — all of them, not just some — and ceasing base construction, if it happens, will be a start.
“Even more important is ceasing to bomb from above.

“In addition, alternative approaches need to be launched, including unarmed peaceworkers, a weapons ban for the region, a disarmament program, major actual humanitarian aid (and an end to sanctions that harm ordinary people), and diplomacy.”

The statement acknowledges that leaving a war is enormously complex and things can get worse before they get better, especially without intelligent preparation and a willingness to invest in social healing. However: “Things have been getting worse for years all over Syria, without that ever being understood as a reason to halt the militarism.”

What has to happen next is that building peace becomes the norm. As Falk pointed out in his interview: “Humanity remains trapped in a cage sometimes called ‘the war system,’ which has the semblance of a permanent lockup.”
Without intending to, Trump may have opened the cage door. Now the hard part must begin.

Robert Koehler, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

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