“We are family”: Rivals join in mourning Kobe Bryant

Those of us who love basketball were shocked on Sunday to hear of the death of NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi (Gianna), and seven other souls in a helicopter crash. But out of this sad event came a joining that really touched me, and I’d like to share that with you here.

A little background: I grew up in Corvallis, Oregon, home of the Oregon State Beavers. I’ve been a fan of the Beavs all my life. On Sunday, the Beaver women’s basketball team was slated to play the arch-rival Oregon Ducks in a battle that is called the “Civil War.” Both teams are top-10 teams, the arena was sold out, and it was nationally televised. Everyone was expecting the usual barn burner that happens every time these two juggernauts meet. I was looking forward to seeing the game.

Gigi (Gianna) and Kobe Bryant
Oregon State and Oregon women’s basketball players in a prayer circle for the Bryants and those impacted by their death.

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British rule is a curse, my dear friend: Gandhi’s gentle firmness

I’ve been immersed in Gandhi lately, both his own writings and a massive two-volume biography (Gandhi Before India and Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World: 1914-1948, by Ramachandra Guha). I’ve loved Gandhi all my life, but my current reading has given me a new appreciation for the blessings he brought to the world.

One thing that has really jumped out at me this time is his rare combination of 1) firm, determined conviction and commitment to action when it came to issues, vision, and principles, and 2) gentle, gracious love when it came to the human beings he interacted with, even his “enemies.” In today’s climate, when a protest is called “peaceful” and “nonviolent” as long as no one physically strikes anyone—even if the protest includes angry chants of “F*** you!” directed toward opponents—Gandhi’s spirit is a breath of fresh air.

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Welcome to 2020!

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season! Patricia and I spent the holidays in Guadalajara with her family. Two bits of news to report. The first is very good news: After close to two years, the Border Patrol has finally acknowledged that it has my computer! I’ll be talking with them shortly about getting it back.

The second bit is on the lighter side, but hey, not everything needs to be about serious issues. 🙂 Patricia’s sister Coco (with whom her daughter, Marina, is living) got a new addition to the family: a sweet and crazy kitten named Janis (after Janis Joplin). Isn’t she a cutie? In this surely very eventful year to come, I trust that she’ll remind us to set our troubles aside and have a little fun now and then! 😺

 

Update on Alexa (Maria)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about a woman going under the pseudonym “Alexa” (who has since given permission to use her real name, Maria). I now have a brief update on her situation.

To recap: Maria is a Guatemalan asylum seeker who has been separated from her six-year-old niece—now referred to by the pseudonym “Flor”—whom she has been raising as a de facto daughter ever since the murder of the girl’s mother (which happened when Flor was an infant). Maria is currently in immigrant detention in Arizona, while Flor is in a foster shelter in New York. A coalition of over two hundred US faith leaders signed a letter petitioning for Maria’s release so that she and Flor can be reunited. As I mentioned in my previous post, I had the honor of translating their messages of love and hope into Spanish so Maria could read them.

Arizona Rep. Kelli Butler speaking at a press conference for Maria and Flor

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“Providing humanitarian aid is a sacred act”: In appreciation of Scott Warren

Since Scott Warren’s acquittal on November 20, I’ve been reflecting on the case a lot, especially since I was personally involved in the events at the heart of it. And what I keep coming back to is a very simple thought: The government went after the wrong guy. They thought they were going to nail this sneaky smuggler of “bad hombres.” What they encountered instead was an uncommonly kind man simply devoted to being truly helpful to his brothers and sisters in need. In the end, there was no case they could make against that.

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“You are not alone”: Messages of love for Alexa

Among my many projects, I’ve been doing volunteer Spanish translation for No More Deaths. Much of the time, it’s just administrative notices and event announcements—all necessary and worthwhile, but pretty much boilerplate stuff. Every once in a while, though, I get an assignment that really touches the heart. I just completed one of those this week, centered around a woman named Alexa.

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Scott Warren acquitted!

Good news, everyone! Earlier today, my friend Scott Warren was acquitted of both felony harboring charges for helping two young migrants in need. As Warren said to a crowd of happy supporters outside the courthouse after the verdict was rendered, “The government failed in its attempt to criminalize basic human kindness.” Hallelujah!

For more, check out this article and this news video.

Scott Warren retrial begins today, November 12

The retrial of No More Deaths humanitarian aid worker Scott Warren begins today. As most of you know, I worked with Scott in January 2018 and was part of the events that led to his arrest. Indeed, the Border Patrol still has my laptop computer and other personal items confiscated as “evidence,” though they have yet to even acknowledge this.

Warren faces up to ten years in prison for providing humanitarian aid to two migrants, even though such aid is perfectly legal under US and international law. (The specific charge is “harboring,” which is not what humanitarian aid workers do.)

For more on the case and the larger issues involved, below are two articles of interest (the first shared with me by my friend Sue Costello). The third item below  is a notice from No More Deaths providing instructions for those who want to support Scott in the courtroom in Tucson:

1) They Tried to Save the Lives of Immigrants Fleeing Danger. Now They’re Facing Prosecution

2) Government Doesn’t Want Trump or His Immigration Policies Mentioned in Retrial of Border Aid Worker Scott Warren

3) RE-Trial Court Support

Scott Warren is photographed in the desert on the outskirts of Ajo, AZ on Sept 17, 2019.

 

Derek Black and Matthew Stevenson: The power of deliberative friendship

My good friend Sue Costello recently shared with me the inspiring story of Derek Black and Matthew Stevenson. The short version: Black was a young white nationalist leader going to a progressive college incognito, and Stevenson was (and is) an Orthodox Jew who invited Black to weekly Shabbat dinners with friends after his white nationalist ties were publicly revealed. This invitation set into motion a two-year process of deep conversation and deepening friendship that ultimately led Black to publicly renounce his white nationalist views. The two of them are models of what one of their interviewers, echoing Hannah Arendt, calls “deliberative friendship”—something I think we need to cultivate now more than ever.

Derek Black (left) and Matthew Stevenson

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