Dear fellow-seekers of justice, peace, and healing for the earth,
I've received from many of you strong support and excitement about my exchange of letters with Howard Zinn on what turned out to be the last day before he died,**[see P.S.] in which I suggested and he strongly encouraged a campaign for "the independence of the American people from corporate control," cresting in nationwide multilocal demonstrations/ vigils/ "walks" on July 4, Independence Day.
(The red-white-and blue is deliberate. We the People own the Flag -- especially the 13-starred flag of the Revolutionary War -- not the right-wing make-believe "populist" tea-partiers sponsored by the very elites they pretend to denounce.)
I'm now talking with several leaders of national progressive organizations about going forward on this effort.
Some of you-all have suggested broadening the July 4 focus in two directions: Passover/ Palm Sunday/Holy Week season, which this year is unusually synchronous, and Labor Day. All these festivals, religious and "secular," address questions of justice, freedom, power, transformation, and healing. All would be authentic frameworks for protesting and resisting the take-over of American politics and society by huge corporations.
(In 2010, the first night of Passover is Monday night, March 29; Palm Sunday falls for all Christians [Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant] on March 28, with Easter one week later. Labor Day is September 6. Although there is no major Muslim holy day at the same time, Islam treats both Moses and Jesus as prophets, and Muslims took a vigorous part in the Interfaith Freedom Seder for the Earth that The Shalom Center initiated last year.
Since Passover and the Holy Week that it birthed come before the others, let me address it first:
The Exodus story describes the "plagues" of undrinkable waters, hordes of frogs and locusts, unprecedented hailstorms, an uncontrollable Red Sea, etc., that Pharaoh's arrogance and stubborn hardheartedness imposed upon his own society. According to the story, ultimately these plagues he brought upon the earth destroyed Pharaoh himself, ending his tyrannical oppression of the human community. For a contemporary version of the archetypal tale, see the film Avatar.
On Thursday evening, February 18, 2010, and again on Thursday evening, March 11, from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Eastern time, I will lead a telephone seminar on how to create an observance of Passover that addresses the eco-disastrous "plagues" of today, the global scorching, unprecedented droughts, ocean floods, and melted glaciers; that names the corporate" pharaohs" like Big Coal and Big Oil that are imposing these plagues upon us; and that celebrates the great alternative -- the loving embrace between humans and the earth so deliciously put forward in the Song of Songs, which is traditionally read during Passover.
To prepare for observing Passover in this way, please also see the Interfaith Seder for the Earth that The Shalom Center created last year and organized for hundreds of participants in Washington DC and Philadelphia. For the written text, click here.
For an extraordinary DVD of the Washington Interfaith Freedom Seder filmed as it was held, with songs, talks by rabbis, ministers, and imams, and new texts, click here.
There are several ways this Seder for the Earth could be used:
• In special communal Seders cosponsored by synagogues, mosques, churches, temples, and "secular" environmental groups - perhaps on Sunday evening March 21 as an inspiration and teaching; perhaps on Earth Day, April 22.
In Christian celebrations of Palm Sunday, passages from the Earth Seder could be used with this understanding: That the original Palm Sunday was a demonstration against the tyranny of the Roman Empire, carried out as a protest by part of the Jewish community in the ancient Land of Israel, led by a radical rabbi from the Galilee -- Jesus. Such a demonstration would, of course, have been planned for the season of Passover, which commemorated the self-destruction of a still more ancient tyrant: Pharaoh.
• In Seders of family and friends as an educational and motivational celebration, perhaps the second night of Passover.
• In abbreviated form focused on songs, the plagues, and the pharaohs, as an action-for-change held in a public place --- a city hall, an Exxon office or oil refinery, a coal power plant.
2. The Fourth of July: Imagine using the Declaration of Independence as a template for a new
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
FROM DOMINATION BY THE POWER OF LARGE CORPORATIONS.
We will soon share with you a draft of that Declaration.
Imagine that it names the Big Banks, Big Pharma and Big Insurance, Big Oil and Big Coal, that have stymied and halted health-care for all, climate-healing laws, protection for home-owners and job-holders.
Imagine that thousands of people gather at every State Capitol in the Union, plus major cities like Chicago and - of course - Philadelphia, where the original Declaration was born -- there to proclaim the new Declaration and demand strong action to uphold it.
Imagine these committed crowds made up of religious congregants, labor unionists, women's and gay-rights groups, unemplot]yed workers, home-owners in foreclosure, small-businessfolk facing bankruptcy, environmentalists, educators, social workers, African-American and Hispanic organizations, anti-war people, civil liberties adherents, immigration-rights folk.
3. On Labor Day, just two months before the Congressional election, imagine these same groups all joining with the labor movement to call for restrictions on the power of large corporations.
What needs to happen to make these imaginings real?
Action --- by us. By you.
I invite and urge you to begin now to gather the leaders in your own community of the various groups that would have to work together to make these events into reality. Share this message with your friends and co-workers.
With blessings of freedom, justice, peace, and healing of our country and our planet --
Arthur (Rabbi Arthur Waskow)
** P. S. -- If you'd like to read a full report of my exchange of ideas with Howard Zinn on the day before he died, about a grand coalition of Americans seeking independence from corporate domination, please click here.