Feb 082012

A Colombia-Kentucky conversation

By Betsy Taylor

The global economy is devastating small-scale farming. Can small farmers create global solidarity to fight for a more level playing field?  Last October, a leader of Colombian small farmers visited Lexington—catalyzing fascinating discussions that showed both the promise and the limits of such global solidarity-building.

John Henry Gonzalez Duque, from Colombia and co-founder of the Small Scale Farmers Movement of Cajibio. Photo courtesy of Witness for Peace.

For three weeks in October, John Henry Gonzalez Duque toured the southeastern U.S. to communicate a grassroots, South American perspective. Gonzalez Duque is a small farmer from the southwest part of Colombia and co-founder of the Small Scale Farmers Movement of Cajibio. Gonzalez Duque’s tour of the U.S. was sponsored by Witness for Peace, a grassroots group which began in the 1980s struggle against U.S. involvement in Central American wars and now works for “peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas by changing U.S. policies and corporate practices which contribute to poverty and oppression in Latin America and the Caribbean.”  Carlos Cruz (who works in Colombia on Witness for Peace’s international team) traveled with Gonzalez Duque and provided excellent translation. Continue reading »

Dec 082010

By Beth Connors-Manke

NoC Features Editor

In our last issue, Betsy Taylor wrote a poignant and critical article entitled “Islam, Violence and Mourning in America.” In that article, she wrote about the murder of her friend Dan Terry in Afghanistan; after 30 years of work in community development abroad, Terry was gunned down in August. Terry represented a “dynamic sense of human solidarity, open and creative” – he was an exemplar of civic action, civic being.

Taylor’s article was about the loss of a friend, but it was also more broadly about how American culture has come to work, politically and otherwise. Advocating for an American civic sphere in which citizens come together in order to act together, to create a reality together, Taylor drew on the work of political philosopher Hannah Arendt who describes a citizenry “who pledge to act together for the common good. Continue reading »

Nov 242010

By Betsy Taylor

America’s founding documents speak in the first person plural with such power—“We the People…We hold these truths…We have warned them…We have reminded them…We have conjured them…We, therefore…solemnly publish and declare.” Why has it now become so hard to say “We” as Americans together?

This question has hounded me recently. On August 5, Dan Terry, a dear childhood friend was gunned down in the beautiful mountains of Afghanistan, along with nine others, on a Christian medical mission. Meanwhile, a month later the ninth anniversary of 9/11 brought our festering incapacities into the open, as national opposition to an Islamic Community Center in Manhattan has been justified primarily through a kind of ventriloquy that claims to speak for families who lost loved ones on 9/11. Continue reading »

Oct 132010

On getting arrested at Appalachia Rising

By Betsy Taylor

My arrest in front of the White House on September 27, during “Appalachia Rising,” was an odd mix of fear, discomfort and joy. Of course, It is the joy that is important to remember and cultivate – the great and simple happiness found in non-violent witness for clean water, good jobs, vibrant communities, beautiful mountains and ancient biodiversity in Appalachia.

But it was the physical fear that surprised me – the searing as plastic handcuffs dug into my skin, the panic with my arms pinioned painfully behind me, the unexpected claustrophobia as they strapped us into the paddy wagon with walls and air frighteningly close. Continue reading »