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18 posts from July 2016

The Reverend William J. Barber II brought the crowd to its feet with his rousing speech last night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. His impassioned call for a moral awakening to combat divide-and-conquer politics with justice illustrates the foundation of Moral Mondays, the fusion movement he helped start to bridge America’s racial and economic divide. He writes movingly about how he laid the groundwork for this diverse movement in his book The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement. This appearance is part of Rev. Barber’s fifteen-state Revival Tour, launched in April to imbue love, mercy, and morality into politics. Here are some of last night’s highlights. Read more →


By S. Craig Watkins

Over the last few days, several people have asked me about the Pokémon Go phenomenon, especially friends who are not likely to play the game but are curious about why so many others have joined the crowd. In my own research, I’m constantly exploring how our engagement with digital media transforms our world. It is important to realize that technology, by itself, is not that significant. It is only when humans, for example, began to adopt and use technology that the social implications and consequences truly take shape. This is equally true with Pokémon Go. As the game has become a cultural sensation, a number of issues have emerged. Read more →


By Mary Frances Berry and Josh Gottheimer

It’s fair to say that no one could have expected what resulted from Barack Obama’s prime-time speech at the July 2004 Democratic National Convention. Not the Senate candidate himself nor his two key aides and traveling companions, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, nor Mary Beth Cahill, the campaign manager for John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president. No one could have imagined how that seventeen-minute speech would catapult Obama into stardom and onto the national political stage and eventually into the White House itself. After all, no one had even heard of Barack Obama before he took the podium. On the morning of the speech, the Philadelphia Inquirer headlined, “Who the Heck Is This Guy?” Read more →


A Q&A with Dennis A. Henigan

Certainly the horror of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which twenty first graders and six adults were struck down, has been a key turning point in the national gun debate. The loss of those innocent young children shocked the conscience of the nation. Prior to Sandy Hook, the conventional wisdom in the Democratic Party was that advocacy of gun control was simply not worth the political risk, although this thinking was based on an exaggeration of the NRA’s actual influence over election results. Read more →


A Q&A with Atef Abu Saif

I have to say that I did not write a diary to publish. I had a habit of writing sort of personal narratives now and then, to use in writing my fiction and to keep for future memoirs. I was shocked with the dialogue that took place between me and my friends (day one) at the time that the strikes started. What shocked me is our search for a meaning of what happens. All our life is a search for meaning. This search is much harder in a very uncertain context like the one in Gaza. I wrote down this dialogue while the sounds of explosions and attacks negated my wish that this was just another escalation. Read more →


By Martin Moran

Tommy and I were on the outskirts of Johannesburg, zooming past vacant lots and former gold mines on our way to a large cheetah preserve. It was our third day together and I was especially excited. This being Africa, I had to squeeze in a safari! I’d found out about a large animal preserve not far from the city that offered excursions promising large cats and wild dogs, zebras and ostriches and all manner of wildlife. Since I’d made my reservation for the tour, a vision kept washing over me—a perfect moment tripping upon primordial Africa, a glimpse of a nature-filled Eden. Read more →


By Melinda Chateauvert

Three decades before “Nothing about us, without us” became the axiom for policymaking by the sex workers’ rights movement, the national prostitutes’ rights organization COYOTE conducted a “Prostitute Study” which demonstrated that community-based participatory research had the power to revolutionize scientific paradigms. At the start of the AIDS epidemic, almost no one used community-based research to study critical health issues. But San Francisco sex workers, working as peer researchers interviewing and testing marginalized women like themselves, mapped the epidemiology of HIV in 1985. This forgotten study by sex workers on HIV/AIDS was an essential element of their political activism, using evidence-based research for making public policy, designing future medical research and changing public attitudes about the sex industry. Read more →


By Michael Bronski

The HIV/AIDS epidemic and the success of the battle for marriage equality have been, over the past thirty-five years, the two events that have most affected LGBT lives. These two phenomena—first the spread of a deadly virus that has killed thirty-four million people worldwide and close to 660,000 in the United States, and second a prolonged, well-funded, culturally bitter fight to grant a basic right of legal contact to same-sex couples—are rarely linked in the political or public imagination. Yet, numerous cultural and social interconnections, resonances, and ramifications link these events. Read more →


By Frederick S. Lane

Having spent a fair amount of time reading the writings of America's founding statesmen, I feel qualified to ask the following question: Is there anything that Franklin, Madison, Jefferson, or Washington would have found more ludicrous than the sight of thousands of Americans wandering around colonial Philadelphia trying to capture imaginary Japanese monsters known as Pokémon? Read more →


By Karl Giberson

The flamboyant creationist and enthusiastic biblical literalist Ken Ham has just opened his controversial and long-awaited “Ark Encounter” theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky. At a cost of almost 100 million dollars, the park promises visitors—who pay $60 for admission—an encounter with “one of the greatest reminders we have of salvation.” In Ham’s view, Christians must accept all the stories in the Bible, no matter how fanciful, as literal history. Compromising on one Bible story compromises everything else. Read more →


By Mark Trecka

When Postcommodity documents the installation, the materials list will read: the Earth, cinderblock, parachute cord, PVC spheres, helium. But that list will be incomplete. The Mexican Consulate was a material. The local cafe owners in Douglas who spearheaded a corresponding art walk, the teenagers of Agua Prieta who danced in celebration of the launch, they were materials. Read more →


By Bill McKibben

Thoreau posed the two practical questions that must come dominate this age if we’re to make those changes: How much is enough? and How do I know what I want? For him, I repeat, those were not environmental questions; they were not even practical questions, exactly. If you could answer them you might improve your own life, but that was the extent of his concern. He could not guess about the greenhouse gas effect. Instead, he was the American avatar in a long line that stretches back at least to Buddha, the line that runs straight through Jesus and St. Francis and a hundred other cranks and gurus. Read more →


By Steven Lipkin, MD, PhD with Jon L. Luoma

In the next decade, we are likely to see a new generation of pre­implantation genetic diagnosis, which could lead to the possibility of actually repairing genes in ART [advanced reproductive technologies] embryos affected by genetic disor­ders. Recent powerful basic science advances using a technique called CRISPR (pronounced “crisper,” and the acronym for the tongue twister “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”) have of­fered robust evidence that it’s possible to repair gene defects in embryos of several mammalian model organisms, including nonhuman primates. This is an inexpensive, remarkably effective gene-editing technique easy enough to be performed in literally thousands of laboratories around the world. Read more →


A Conversation with Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman and Deborah Jian Lee

Rev. Elizabeth Edman: Queer people model a kind of courage that is very similar to what Christians are supposed to model. Christians could learn a lot about who we Christians are supposed to be simply by paying attention to queer lives and queer experience, and this is a prime moment for Christians to listen hard to what LGBTQ people are made of. Read more →


By Dina Gilio-Whitaker

When a thirteen-year-old member of the Mississippi Choctaw Band of Indians entered into a job-training program with Dollar General, no one could have foreseen how it would turn out. Referred to as John Doe to protect his identity, the boy alleged that he’d been sexually molested and harassed by Dollar General manager Dale Townsend. Ordinarily, a case like this involving a crime on an Indian reservation would fall under federal jurisdiction, but the US Attorney’s office in Jackson failed to file a lawsuit, and the boy’s parents sued Townsend and Dollar General for damages in tribal court. Read more →


By Mark Trecka

Saturday has been a long day of logistical maneuvering. Even the seemingly simple task of keeping count of the balloons, on such a scale, can prove to be complicated. And in order to see to it that all twenty-six balloons fly at an even height, anchored at intervals across very uneven terrain, each length of cord has been measured and cut precisely and specifically for each site. With twenty-five balloons aligned in the air, turning slowly, and the twenty-sixth securely anchored, those on the ground see an opportunity to slow down and seize a moment. The wind has cooperated. It breathes calmly. Read more →


By Atef Abu Saif

Today is Eid. After a month of fasting, Eid is like a long sigh of relief. The kids get up early, woken by the hymns and chanting from the minarets of all the surrounding mosques, whilst the sun is still struggling to get out of bed in the east. Normally at Eid, the kids play in the streets, excited by the pocket money they’ve just received from their parents. This is always the single largest amount of money they’ll receive all year. They rush out and buy toys, go to the fairground, fly between the heaven and earth. Eid is what every child waits for all the year. It was always a favorite moment for me when I was growing up. It’s exactly the same for my kids. Read more →


By Ashlyn Edwards

As a publicity intern with Beacon Press this summer, the first new book I was given the opportunity to read was Entwined: Sisters and Secrets in the Silent World of Judith Scott, in which author Joyce Scott tells the story of her fraternal twin sister, Judith, an acclaimed fiber artist who was deaf and born with Down syndrome. I was repeatedly struck by how Joyce beautifully captured resonant images from her life and her bond with her sister, despite the many hardships they faced. Joyce recounts their separation at age seven when Judy was institutionalized, their reunion thirty-five years later, and afterwards, Judy’s success as an internationally-known artist. Read more →