Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reflections on a Worker Action at Ralphs Headquarters, Compton, CA

For the third time in one day, several hundred grocery workers and clergy from CLUE presented a large-format letter to management, in this case, Ralphs. Other actions in the day, Albertsons and Vons.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
10:00AM: Vons Headquarters, 618 Michillinda Ave., Arcadia, CA

12:00PM: Albertsons Headquarters, 1421 S. Manhattan Ave., Fullerton, CA 92831

: Ralphs Headquarters, 1100 W Artesia Blvd. Compton, CA 90220

I was at the third encounter.

We gathered in a Coco's parking lot, and with signs and water bottles, we walked several blocks beside the steel fences that walled in an entire section of Compton, the stronghold of Ralph's. At one of the gates, we were met by some officials, who guardedly "welcomed" us, but we could not enter the property beyond the gate. Plenty of guards were in appearance, although they waved at me when I waved at them (I think they understand that the fight for fare wages and decent benefits is their fight, too).

As I walked along the fence line, I thought: Corporate life is walled off from the world, like Fort Knox. When the VP of Marketing met us, a lady in her early 40s, I'd say, beautifully and expensively dressed, I asked if she had a religious tradition and she said, "Yes." I asked, "Which one?" and she said Baptist.

I looked at her expensive apparel and then I looked at the workers behind me - the women and men who cut and package our meat, who stock the shelves, who clean the floors, who check us out and bag our groceries - the gulf between the two worlds is huge, and I couldn't help but feel sorrow for the VP of Marketing - it's her job to sell groceries and make a profit. It's her job to "welcome" us and assure us that Ralph's is working hard to resolve this (hardly the case at all). It's her job, and I'm sure she's well-educated and grateful to be working. But did she see the workers standing at the gate, like Lazarus at the gate of the rich man? Does she ever feel the tension of the struggle between corporate profits and workers' right? Does she ever lose sleep over the ethical dilemmas of her work? She's in a position of power, but I wondered, "Who's her boss?" who gives the marching orders to her.

Ralph's is prepared to draw upon hundreds of millions of dollars, as needed, to stall the workers, and if Ralph's can't bust the union, at least try to cripple it. The company can afford to wait. The workers can't.

I was glad to be there. The People. That's what it's all about. And their right to work well, to earn a living wage, to have decent benefits. They're not asking for wealth, but health-care. They're not looking to live in a 6000 square-foot home, but they only want a roof over their heads, and maybe some assurance that there'll be enough income to provide for their children's future.

In America, the pie is big enough, if those in power are willing to settle for a smaller piece so that those on the lower tiers can have a piece slightly larger.

Is this too much to ask?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reflections on 9/11, Osama and World Economy

From my dear friend and colleague, an all-around good guy with a heart for Jesus and a better world, The Rev. Robert Dahl, of Holland, Michigan.


On Sept. 11, 2001 3,000 people died in the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon. It was a tragedy. 

In the ten years hence, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of lives of American soldiers have been lost and tens of thousands of American soldiers have been severely wounded (saved from death by modern medical technology and costing the US countless dollars for longterm care) and a trillion plus dollars have been spent with more lives and more money to come. 

All this and the US just killed the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.  

Proportionately, was any of this response appropriate?  

Jesus said that we have heard that the law is an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" but then Jesus tells us not to resist an evildoer.   Elsewhere (Matthew 18:21-22), Jesus, in response to St. Peter, admonishes him to forgive seventy times seven times not just the generosity of seven times  which was a vast improvement on the vengeance that preceded that law of the Hebrews originally taken from the Mesopotamians.  

How many times does our nation forgive?  What if we had just forgiven Osama bin Ladin while pragmatically beefing up protection against terrorist attacks?  We held 95% world support in the days following 9/11.  What if we had stood tall and simply had forgiven the evildoer?  Wouldn't we have retained 95% support instead of squandering all that in the years to come?  We have squandered lives and dollars out of fear and false machismo. 

This nation isn't even acting by ancient, humanitarian law.  This nation, by historical standards, is acting barbarically. This nation is light years away from living out the command of Jesus.  And yet, politicians are scrambling to outdo each other on who is the more conservative, bible believing Christian.  

I think that ignoring and violating the laws of God do have consequences. God's law of love, compassion, justice and peace revealed to us in Jesus will not be mocked. This is sort of reverse retaliation.  God's justice will be accomplished which I think means that "love wins."  If that means that we lose, so be it.  

Osama bin Ladin is dead (We all die.); but Osama bin Ladin won partially and almost won totally.  What do I mean?  Osama bin Ladin, for all his boredom and self-imposed house arrest and cache of porno, won.  He got the US to do what he knew would hurt us much more than that initial attack.  He was counting on our all out of proportion reaction to bring our economy to its knees.  The disastrous policy of the last US administration in reaction to 9/11 along with totally misguided tax cuts  and deregulation of the financial market almost took the world economy into chaos; that's the world economy.  That's the world economy.  

The United States, in part, because of the motivation of vengeance coupled with a misguided attempt to confiscate the oil reserves of Iraq for US energy needs, along with totally misguided economic theory of how to stimulate the economy, was on the brink of economic disaster and may yet suffer grievously because of an enormous budget deficit and gargantuan national debt.  

The ultra-wealthy have been enormously greedy, the politicians have been enormously selfish to think primarily of re-election and have pandered to the lobbyists hired by the ultra-wealthy, the elected officials are slaking their thirst for blood and oil in the Middle East and all of them have ignored the impending environmental disaster.

And God is not mocked.  And it isn't nice to try to fool Mother Nature.  

God and Mother Nature will prevail and we will reap what we sow.  

That's not a vengeful God and a reactionary Mother Nature.  That's just the way it is.  

Bob Dahl 


P.S. Be sure to check out Cost of War.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Scary Eyes

Nothing unnerves me more thoroughly than to be with a group of evangelical Christians for whom there are no questions, and every answer is pat. Not to mention that "other folks" like Muslims and Buddhists and Jews aren't even on the radar screen of faith, other than as "hostiles" needing to be converted.

The world "outside the walls," is a realm of darkness and wickedness, and within the walls, all is light and sweetness, because "we know Jesus."

I'm intrigued by their eyes. Not that everyone has the wild-eyed look of a hungry predator, but many of them do, or at least the pastors do. If eyes say anything, their eyes shoot out the message, "beware!"

I don't think they're a happy lot. Because it's hard to keep on pretending, and tough to keep up the requisite "gospel passio," because passion is no substitute for knowledge, and without knowledge, there can never be wisdom, but only slogans and bumper-stickers.

Yeah, I know - maybe I'm nuts, but that's how I "see" it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Republicans promote Costa Mesa as a pension-slashing leader

Republicans promote Costa Mesa as a pension-slashing leader

In this morning's LA Times, a fine, though disturbing, article revealing the heart and soul of the GOP - or shall I say, "heartless and soulless" - as they continue their Grant-like "march to the sea," burning their way through our Middle Class. Be sure to check out the accompanying picture - "bowing for prayer."

Costa Mesa City Council
Pious Frauds at Work
I added my comment to the Times' thread, and here's what I wrote:

Nothing new in the latest GOP outbreak in Costa Mesa, but what stirred me deeply and made me sick was the accompanying picture - these pious yahoos, "bowing for prayers," beneath the hollowest motto ever coined, "In God We Trust." Baloney! These simple four words have been used, and mostly abused, to justify "high crimes and misdemeanors" of every sort.
The word "god" has no inherent meaning. For folks like these, it's the GOP god, a ruthless god without mercy, a god of wealth and power. Under the banner of such a god, the GOP god has overseen the largest transfer of wealth known to history - from the pockets of the many to the bank accounts of the few.
"Bowing for prayer" in this picture is beyond ludicrous; it's nothing less than illusion masking cruelty. I suspect most of these insipid politicos would call themselves "christian," likely "evangelical christians." Well, I'm a Christian, too, and a pastor for 44 years, and what these pretenders support is just plain wrong, deeply contrary to God's will expressed in both Testaments, contrary to Roman Catholic social teaching, and a contradiction of core Pauline economic theology - 2 Corinthians 8.15.
The GOP is bound (enslaved to its own ideology) and determined to undermine the foundations of Democracy and destroy the Middle Class. They are terrorists of the worst kind - RAVENOUS wolves in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7.15).