POEM: Patriot

My name is patriot
I am a force to be reckoned with
That few dare oppose
Just tell me what country I live in
And I’ll know exactly how to behave

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” – Samuel Johnson

Patriotism typically runs into contradictions when patriots from different countries honestly compare notes. Inasmuch as patriotism is rooted in national interest to the exclusion of other nations’ national interests, conflict, violence and wars are inevitable.  This form of patriotism is simply nationalism.  I do believe in patriotism if it simply represents an appreciation and celebration of one’s particular place in life — such as geographic beauty, the particular people you know in face-to-face community in a particular place.  This Pablo Casals quote captures it well:

“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?”

 

BP Tar Sands Refinery Expansion – PEOPLE’S HEARING Testimony

Below is my testimony at the PEOPLE’S HEARING to respond to the Ohio EPA’s sham public hearing on BP-Husky’ Draft Air Pollution Permit as part of their Oregon Ohio refinery re-tooling to process oil tar sands, the dirtiest oil on the planet.  This People’s Hearing was sponsored by the Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy.  I was speaking on behalf of Occupy Toledo and planetary citizens everywhere:

Welcome to Oregon, Ohio — now with 50% less stench!

My name is Dan Rutt.  I am a long-time resident of Toledo, a citizen of Ohio and these United States of America.  However, I have an over-arching allegiance; that allegiance is to our planet, which sustains our life and the life of all living beings from all nations and ecosystems.  I am a planetary citizen.  I am calling on all planetary citizens to rise above lesser allegiances and protect our planet from British Petroleum and other transnational corporations who stand against the interests of humanity and life on our planet.

I am standing outside the formal EPA hearing, so we the people can have our own hearing, a people’s hearing, that is not limited to narrow, technical matters, while BP and others are literally mining our planet in order to burn it.  BP wants to re-tool their refining to process tar sands, the dirtiest oil on the planet, the bottom of the barrel.  This is exactly the wrong direction we should be headed.  Spending billions on an infrastructure to process the most polluting, least economically viable and least sustainable fossil fuel will only lock us onto the wrong path for years — years that we and our planet cannot afford.  We need to switch to safe and renewable energy NOW — not next year, not next decade, not next generation, but TODAY, June 5th, 2013!

How about investing billions of dollars to switch to clean, safe, renewable, and sustainable energy?  Where is your plan for that BP?

Unfortunately, the Ohio EPA is powerless to stop BP from destroying Mother Earth.  The EPA may be able to regulate the lethal injection of Mother Earth while BP euthanizes her.  But I am here to say, that that is not good enough!  Merely deciding how we are going to destroy the planet is insanity of the highest order.  We need to end our addiction to fossil fuels or we will become fossils ourselves.  BP is a pusher, profiting from this deadly addiction, and should be treated as such. 

Real people suffer environmental destruction while corporate persons like BP are insulated from their crimes.   Three years ago, BP caused the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.  This was not an “accident.”  It was a criminal act.  Now, they want us to entrust Mother Earth to them, again.  As the U.S. Department of Justice put it, “The explosion of the rig was a disaster that resulted from BP’s culture of privileging profit over prudence.”  BP has pled guilty of felony manslaughter, environmental crimes, and obstruction of Congress.  While no BP executives have gone to jail, planetary citizens resist their criminal behavior and fuelish business practices and these planetary citizens go to jail.

Inside, there will be a parade of people on the payroll of British Petroleum, some literally on the payroll, some just hoping to get some of the economic scraps from refining our planet into money.  This is on the heels of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, which in 2010 cited Oregon’s BP-Husky refinery for 62 safety violations and fined the company nearly $3 million for “exposing workers to a variety of hazards.”  Then, this year, on March 10th, the BP-Husky refinery malfunctioned and released extremely dangerous hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide pollution into the air.

Should we trust BP?  Is BP a good corporate citizen?  In the years leading up to the BP gulf oil spill, on about an annual basis, BP pled guilty to criminal acts, each time saying that they were going to change their ways.  Mother Earth is a battered women, BP is a batterer, and it’s time to end the cycle of criminal abuse.  Buying her flowers and offering her gushing words have not stopped BP’s gushing oil in the past.  We don’t want your sweet talk.  We want you to stop raping the earth!

The only real question here today is whether or not we can avoid the Native American prophecy that “When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”

BP will you fundamentally change your fossilized business practices and switch to clean, safe, renewable, and sustainable energy? 

I have in my hands 38 pages of documents from Ohio EPA regarding the draft Air Pollution Permit-to-Install for BP-Husky Refining, Limited Liability Corporation, with an accent on the “Limited Liability”!  I have a Bachelor’s Degree in biology, a Master’s Degree in Public Health; I’ve even had a graduate level course in environmental genetic toxicology.  I’ve spent years working in and with government bureaucracies.  How can one adequately address the issues raised in a few minutes?  What I conclude from this draft permit and tonight’s so-called public hearing is that they are a smokescreen.  Buried in this smokescreen of technocratic minutiae is our planet being buried; or perhaps more accurately: unburied and burned — literally, the cremation of our planet.  This Ohio EPA sham hearing today is lethal to democracy, thwarting the larger will of the people, as it stands by, impotent to protect our environment, the very environment it is sworn to protect.  Meanwhile, BP and others are destroying our planet.

Anybody who lives or passes through Oregon, Ohio, knows that BP doesn’t pass the stink test.  You don’t need a doctoral degree to know that our fossil fuels addiction threatens our planet and the life it sustains.  We can’t depend on British Petroleum or other fossilized corporations to protect our planet.  We can’t depend on politicians or bureaucrats to protect our planet.  If the planet is to be saved, then it depends on you and me, we the people.  Thank you for coming out to this people’s hearing.  Thank you for listening.

I will now conclude by reading a poem, entitled, O Children of Mother Earth, Arise!

Listen, O children of Mother Earth!
Hear, those who have ears
Hear the streams of clean water, our tributaries of life
Hear the streams of cars and trucks dirtying the air we breathe
See, O children of Mother Earth!
See, those who have eyes
See the beauty of fields and forests, mountains and meadows
See the scars of strip mines and cesspools of toxins
Smell, O children of Mother Earth!
Smell, those who have noses
Smell the fragrance of wildflowers and gardens
Smell the stench of oil and coal combustion, and chemical cocktails concocted
Reach out and touch, O children of Mother Earth!
Reach out and touch, those who have hands
Reach out and touch the soil and sun which fuels nature’s bounty
Reach out and touch the concrete and landfills, the Alpha and Omega of so-called “progress”
Taste, O children of Mother Earth!
Taste, those who have mouths
Taste the fruits of her plenty, enough for all
Taste the bitterness of her children’s petty scarcity, robbing brother and sister
Feel, O children of Mother Earth!
Feel, those who have hearts
Feel the call of nature
Feel the greed of those who would of nature relieve themselves
Speak, O children of Mother Earth!
Speak, those who have tongues
Speak of the splendor of a Mother’s care
Speak of the horror of an orphaned race
Arise, every living creature, O children of Mother Earth!
Return to her lap, and breast, and arms
Turn away from her desecration
Take your rightful place, to neither rule from above nor rule from below
Work side by side
Play together
Live neighborly
For we share the same fate
Whether we share or not
O children of Mother Earth

NOTE: There were an estimate 18 to 18,000 people at the People’s Hearing.  THANKS to all who showed up!

Here is the testimony of Kristina Moazed, Chair, Western Lake Erie Sierra Club:

The proposal that BP has revealed to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and to us, the public, has been improperly piecemealed and made to appear as if it will be just fine for this refinery to accept tar sands.
We must begin at the very source of these oil bearing sands. Canada’s government, and the province of Alberta are massively destroying Alberta’s pristine, northern ancient forests, poisoning the water sources of their native wildlife, and natives and other Albertans for one generation’s profit and greed. The desecration of this form of extraction is seriously forever.

   >  This permitting decision is being made in ignorance of recognized scientific principles that do predict increasingly worse consequences of global warming.

   >  The decision to go forward with tar sands as a source of petroleum rejects the scientifically-grounded conclusion that to even begin to slow down the global warming and that our over-use of fossil fuels has put into motion, we must keep as much of the remaining carbon fuels as possible in the ground: they must never be extracted and burned!

   >  There is no consideration in this decision process of public health effects on human populations in our Toledo-Oregon-Lake Erie shore region as a consequence of the higher volumes of known carcinogenic and other pollutants which will be emitted!

    >  There is no consideration given to otheralternate mitigation activities, such as the building and promotion of mass transit, which would consume less petroleum, create far more permanent jobs, and cause much less pollution than perpetuating North America’s one-car, one-driver folly.

    >  There is no certainty that high volumes of petroleum coke will actually be generated by the proposed altered refinement process.   And if it is, that coke will not be sheltered from the elements and will accumulate less than a mile from Lake Erie and one of its estuaries.
Have any emergency plans been put in place in case of explosion or fire while processing these dirty bitumen fuels so close to our source of drinking water?
Have possible impacts to tourism and the maritime and fishing industries been considered?
I’m sure if we contact the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, the birding crowd will have plenty of objections to the increased pollution in and desecration of the surrounding habitat!

Just one example of tar sands refining immediately to our north, in Detroit will give us an example of what happens. Emissions of sulfur dioxide did decrease, but emissions of hydrogen sulfide increased as they do everywhere bitumen is refined. Hydrogen sulfide is known for its rotten egg odor and is potentially fatal in sufficient concentrations. Residents near this Marathon Refinery in Detroit participated in Air Sampling which was overseen by Global Community Monitor, an environmental group based in California. In 2010 they found high levels of benzene, a carcinogen, and hydrogen sulfide near the refinery. IN one case, more than 20 chemicals, including benzene were detected in a resident’s basement. An EPA investigation traced the contamination to Marathon’s dumping of wastewater into the city sewer system! “We were shocked to learn they did not have their own discharge pipe into a body of water like, I believe, every other refinery in the United States ,” said Denny Larson, Global Community Monitor’s executive director. How convenient that the BP Refinery is right on the shore of Lake Erie! I think we will need to watch their discharges very carefully!

   >  These production changes are being undertaken by a global corporation which has seriously poisoned the Gulf of Mexico through crass, careless and dangerous negligence and deliberately ignoring safety regulations causing the oil spill in 2010, and its still incomplete remediation.
Now that we know BP has gamed the regulators and the public into bring tar sands cracking here to Oregon, Ohio, exactly what basis is there for any trust that consideration of public health and avoidance of environmental destruction hold any priority for BP?

We must promote green, renewable and sustainable energy! We must conserve and become more efficient our usage!

THANKS Kristina!

POEM: She Came

She came down the street
With such a scowl
Such a deep…
Well…
One-couldn’t-imagine demeanor
Her whole body
Like a wrecking ball
Laying waste
To awe before her
Everyone’s back to this wall
Only hoping
To escape
The coming wrath
A tsunami
Only as dry as ice
Wear winter takes all
And there I found myself
As I had taken that place before her
Like a frozen desert
Hopeless in every bearing
Destined that the last shall be thirst
And all else is a mirage
Drawing lines in the sand
Wading patiently
In a sea of tacts
As some badass mama deity
Protecting cubs who weren’t
To be
Over run
Only too cross
A beach no less
As we meet
Whirls, a part
For what
Could she give
Me
A tidal wave
Bending this read
She screams out, “God!!…Man!!”
As she passes
Gone as soon as she came
Onlookers mumbling
Dude, what were you thinkin’?
I don’t know
I wasn’t paying attention to the outside
I thought I caught a glimpse of her inner beauty
As down the street she came
And I said to myself
Wouldn’t it be nice
If she were to scream out my name

POEM: Unfed Just Desserts

Poets are born, die, crushed by writer’s block or a cruel world, and are reborn again and again.  The world can be a desert at times, sometimes worse.  Yet, as a child, an infant in the arms of a mysterious universe that somehow cares for us, we are fed.  We launch ships and create beauty that remains largely unseen.  But, like the macaroni art that only a mother could love, we return to our source, a home, even if a home to no other; and we take a place of honor, as a sentinel on a doorway to that place where Mom’s food is stored.

Unfed Just Desserts

When I find myself
Unfed
I play
The child
Imaginary
Tea
Set
Against
Me
Still
Un-made
Fore
Solid food
Not with standing
In a world of
Make believe
Partial to
Anew born
Who finds their nourishment
Spewed about
Much to the dismay
Of those with
More mature tongues
And ingenious mines
No amount of trains or planes
Could carry the sustenance
I re-choir
Though utterly captivated
My self
I let out a powerful wail
Enough blubber
To endow
A thousand poor SOBs
Any mother knows what I’m talking about!
And I am herd
As I
Go on
Strike
An umbilical chord
Sending me to my womb
Wear a dinner awaits
Unserved in any dining room
Just desserts

POEM: O Children of Mother Earth, Arise!

This poem has emanated from my musings about the oil tar sands in Canada.  The extraction of these oil tar sands, in some of the most pristine parts of North America, is the largest single scarring of Mother Earth ever undertaken by human-unkind.  It seems that our oil addiction has us scraping the last drops of oil from the planet, squandering nature’s wealth — our children’s children’s inheritance — and polluting Mother Earth which sustains our very life.  Greed is the most dangerous enemy of sharing a planet together.  I hope that people from locales all over the earth rise up and protect Mother Earth from the many assaults on her.  As for my Toledo friends, you can check out and join Occupy Toledo’s resistance to oil tar sands being processed here at the BP refinery.  Think globally, act locally — that’s local, not loco!

O Children of Mother Earth, Arise!

Listen, O children of Mother Earth!
Hear, those who have ears
Hear the streams of clean water, our tributaries of life
Hear the streams of cars and trucks dirtying the air we breathe
See, O children of Mother Earth!
See, those who have eyes
See the beauty of fields and forests, mountains and meadows
See the scars of strip mines and cesspools of toxins
Smell, O children of Mother Earth!
Smell, those who have noses
Smell the fragrance of wildflowers and gardens
Smell the stench of oil and coal combustion, and chemical cocktails concocted
Reach out and touch, O children of Mother Earth!
Reach out and touch, those who have hands
Reach out and touch the soil and sun which fuels nature’s bounty
Reach out and touch the concrete and landfills, the Alpha and Omega of so-called “progress”
Taste, O children of Mother Earth!
Taste, those who have mouths
Taste the fruits of her plenty, enough for all
Taste the bitterness of her children’s petty scarcity, robbing brother and sister
Feel, O children of Mother Earth!
Feel, those who have hearts
Feel the call of nature
Feel the greed of those who would of nature relieve themselves
Speak, O children of Mother Earth!
Speak, those who have tongues
Speak of the splendor of a Mother’s care
Speak of the horror of an orphaned race
Arise, every living creature, O children of Mother Earth!
Return to her lap, and breast, and arms
Turn away from her desecration
Take your rightful place, to neither rule from above nor rule from below
Work side by side
Play together
Live neighborly
For we share the same fate
Whether we share or not
O children of Mother Earth

POEM: Shooting Star

You are a shooting star
Enjoy it while you can
And may others look up
And see your light

The short poem focuses on the theme that life is short, yet it can be glorious.  The first order of business is to enjoy life while you can.  Following this, others may be blessed to look up and see the light of your life.  I like the imagery of a night sky.  The night sky is largely dark but becomes glorious with the many tiny sparkling lights strewn across the night sky.   Of course, there is a strange partnership in that the great darkness makes the tiny lights shine all the more.  However, even though the night sky may occupy much of our potential field of vision, it is often overlooked.  In some way, this makes the beauty that is present all the more beautiful, considering the blessed few who are able to take advantage of such beauty.  Perhaps ironically, these tiny distant lights in the night sky are actually huge stars, massive nuclear furnaces burning for billions of years.  You’d think that might get our attention!  Nonetheless, we seem to acclimate to such enduring glories.  The irony is that tiny, short-lived lights in a motion, that is, shooting stars, are much more likely to grab our attention.  So may your  life be poetry in motion, capturing the attention of those who can appreciate it.  And if not, may you at least be able to enjoy the burn!

Kent State Massacre POEM

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the Kent State Massacre, where four students were killed and nine students were injured when National Guard troops opened fire on anti-war demonstrators.  Below is a picture of Arlington Midwest at Kent State, May 4, 2006.  Arlington Midwest is a display of the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition which organizes traveling displays of tombstones representing the human cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The display includes a simulated tombstone with name, rank, age and state of origin for each fallen U.S. soldier.

Kent State 1

Below is a  poem reflecting on the Kent State Massacre, by Terry Lodge, a member of the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, activist lawyer, Toledo’s People’s Attorney, and usual suspect:

Looking down from the black marble memorial
Grave reminder
Of a dark chapter
A nonfiction nightmare
Played out in an Ohio theater of war
I’m halfway between Blanket Hill and the valley of death of May 4, 1970
An observation post above a field of green
Today dressed up as thousands of war crimes.

It is May
And the semi-shade of the black oak branches
And their celadon new leaves
Wreath the distant, orderly rows
Of white spring petals
Fallen from the Tree of Life.

Tears water this chiaroscuro of whitewash, nestled
In the shadows where crimes against humanity are plotted.
From a distance, it’s a palette worthy of Manet,
Choreographed by Rumsfeld.

These petals will produce no fruit
Nor beauty or poetry
Their leaves are pages of the guest registers
Of three thousand funeral homes.

Silently we listen
For some hopeful spring noise
That their blood might have nurtured,
Answered by silence.

POEM: Flowers Cut

I set before you these flowers
For your reflection and edification
These flowers were cut from my yard
A yard not unlike the two yards that will cover us all some day
Some may say that cutting short the lives of these flowers is wrong
But what do I say to this?
That the greater danger is cutting our own lives short
For it is much easier to harm ourselves than to harm another
Unlike most flowers and most of nature
This flower lives in the city
Most flowers and most of nature
Are as beautiful as they are unseen by human eyes
But these flowers, these city flowers
Go largely unseen, even as so largely present
People pass by, out of their minds
Racing to that whose beauty cannot compare
Neither flowers nor nature require our attention
But, ahhhh, the beauty is all sufficient
So, if I have cut short the life of these city flowers
By some few days such is life
Pardon my offense
And help me repay such expense
With such beauty they briefly impart
Not unlike this poem
Which from the mind will soon depart
Let such beauty replenish the beauty of your heart
And prepare you for every worthy start

The beginnings of this poem struck while I was taking a walk late yesterday afternoon.  I was to go to an Occupy Toledo General Assembly meeting early that evening, and I decided to take some cut flowers from my yard.  I love it when the muse strikes!  It is a glorious curse of the poet to pay homage to the moment when inspiration strikes.  Having a life where I’m able to do this brings me incalculable joy.  Some may say that I have too much time on my hands, but I certainly don’t have a watch on my wrist, or a cell phone in my pocket.  Anyway, to the calculating chronologist, we all have the same 24 hours each day.  Poets know better, I say in all humility, or rather awe.  While many of us live a similar amount of time, in terms of times our heart is beating and there are waves in our brain, there are simple and great differences in how well we live that time.  I am partial to the blessing given by the late Will Rogers in saying, “May you live all the days of your life.”

POEM: Actual Pie vs. Pi

Actual pie is way more than 3.14159 times better than mathematical pi.

This simple one line poem makes fun of Western civilization’s fixation on the quantitative versus qualitative.  It is big business to reduce everything to a number, preferably dollars if you can!  Of course, actual pie is quite enjoyable, whether it is apple pie, cherry pie, blueberry pie, raspberry pie, rhubarb pie, coconut cream pie, pumpkin pie, banana cream pie, key lime pie, blackberry pie, elderberry pie, cranberry pie, chocolate cream pie, peach pie, gooseberry pie, huckleberry pie, or lemon meringue pie; you take your pick!.  While there is definitely a quantitative nature to this long list of great pies, mathematical pi cannot compare.  Using the term way more is a device that can connote both a qualitative and quantitative sense to it.  In contrast to the 3.14159 of mathematical pi, the precision of mathematical pi seems quite ridiculous.  Some may argue that the unique nature of mathematical pi has a certain beauty to it.  I wouldn’t disagree.  Nonetheless, it’s their incomparability that I am comparing.  One of the interesting things about mathematical pi is that it never ends, its digits past the decimal place continue forever and ever.  Still, this holds nothing on actual pie which comes to an eventual end, probably gracefully, hopefully gracefully!  But alas, if you really must have it all, and you are quite the daredevil, you may have actual pie while simultaneously meditating upon mathematical pi.  Unfortunately, this falls into yet another trap of Western civilization: the illusion of multitasking.  We can really only focus on one thing at a time.  To alternate our focus back and forth between one thing and another can certainly be done but it almost as certainly alternately robs the experience of each thing focused upon.  An exception to this might be pie a la mode.