Saturday, April 27, 2013

Activism and Efficacy: Part One

By Angela Smith

This will be a two or more parter.  But, part two may not be ready for a bit and may be forgotten about depending on current and future priorities.  I've been interviewing activists with whom I currently work, have worked with in the past, and with whom I would love to work or work with again.  The interview questions are about activism and efficacy.

Being that I really got my feet wet as an activist working with animal rights and animal welfare organizations, I decided to begin with my activist roots and interviewed Stephanie Bell (Humane Society of US and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).  Stephanie is one of the most compassionate and dedicated activists I've ever known and I am forever grateful to know her and for her participation in this article.

The following portion of this blog is in question and answer format:

Question: How did you become an activist?

Answer (Bell):  I had "loved" animals my entire childhood, but was raised eating them and didn't question this dichotomy until I began volunteering for a local wildlife rehab center in my early 20's. It began to dawn on me during my rigorous and often stressful volunteer shifts that it made no ethical sense to spend hours trying to help baby birds and squirrels survive only to go home and eat the "other" birds and mammals our culture has deemed "food." I quickly went veg, vegan soon after, and began to educate myself about the horrors inflicted upon animals in our world in myriad ways I'd never thought of (wool, leather, meat, dairy, vivisection, etc.) and dedicated myself to right these wrongs. I left a for-profit writing job to become a full-time activist and have been "working for animals" professionally and in my spare time ever since.

Question: How long have you been an activist?

Answer (Bell): Approximately 20 years.

Question: What is the most successful campaign you have helped organize and how many people were involved in the day-to-day maintenance and organization of the campaign?

Answer (Bell): This is an impossible question to answer, as there have been so many that have touched my heart. So I'll share some highlights: Certainly, the anti-trapping ballot initiative (which YOU worked on!) that passed in Washington State in 2000 was a highlight of my career. As you know, it involved hundreds of activists across the state who worked around the clock to ensure that animals in Washington would be spared the risks/suffering posed by body gripping traps. And we prevailed! But the small victories matter just as much to me. After being alerted to the plight of songbirds ensnared and dying badly in glue traps at a local grocery store chain, I took action with the help of PETA and a fellow activist not only got criminal charges filed against the pest control operator involved but we also got the chain to ban the use of glue traps nationwide. When I initially confronted the store manager about the inherent cruelty of glue traps, he told the pest control operator (this is a direct quote!), "Don't listen to her, she's a nobody." He had sure changed his tune by the end of the day, thanks to the heat the case got with the help of the local media. ;-) Nobody's a nobody if they're using their voice for good. We can't underestimate our own power to effect change!



Question: Have you had success in achieving any of your goals with fewer than four committed, dedicated, round-the-clock activist supporters?

Answer (Bell): Absolutely, yes. Activism can benefit from team work, but ONE person, ONE voice, can make a difference. Stopping to help an injured animal on the side of the road is activism at its finest. Being a force of aid wherever we are needed is what activism is all about!


Question: Is there anything you would like to add?

Answer (Bell): I think community is vital to successful activism, but I also think people can do a lot of good just by speaking out, taking action, committing themselves to being the change they want to see in the world wherever change is needed. Just by going vegan, animals can be saved. So I'd recommend reminding people how much power they wield as a single individual, for ill or good. I'm not religious, but Mother Teresa is always a role model to me. Her church community gave structure and funding to her vision of hope and healing for the hurting people in the gutters of India, but it was her personal dedication and willingness to stand in the gutters to help the suffering, day after day, that ultimately changed lives.


Thank you, Stephanie!    And, there will definitely be more parts to this article, don't worry.  I've interviewed two other activists and will follow up with a few more to bring you some interesting insights and hopefully inspiration for your own efforts in advocacy and activism.  Stay tuned...

Friday, February 8, 2013

What's Missing? Common Sense...

by Angela Smith, HEAL HQ

If a friend or family member approached you looking for a babysitter or childcare service and you provided information showing multiple allegations of abuse, sexual abuse, deprivation, and other serious violations of public trust in the form of public records including police reports and lawsuits, you would likely expect your friend or family member to choose a different service provider. 

But, what do you do when your friend or family member makes excuses for the history of allegations and abuse?  Excuses may include supporting the claims of individuals who engage in deceptive marketing practices and have a history of fraud and dishonesty.  For example, they may claim that the abuses are a thing of the past and that they believe the provider when the provider claims to have made changes without requiring any evidence of said changes.

Additional excuses rest more on the desire of the friend or family member to abandon their adult/parental responsibilities and leave the job to strangers who promise that no contact will be made between parent and child until the parent and child are both ready.  And, readiness is determined by submission to a gulag environment.

Thousands of families in the United States choose abusive and fraudulent service providers for their children every year.  Many of them know of the questionable history of these facilities and due to their own delusions and desires choose to ignore serious warning signs for the sake of their own convenience.

It is difficult to imagine a parent subjecting their child to a service provider with a serious history of negligence, fraud, and/or abuse.  But, it happens all too often because people believe the hype on daytime talk shows that receive benefits from these frauds to promote their fraudulent and abusive facilities.  Parents find pop culture recommendations more influential than the truth because it supports their desire for convenience.

Children with behavioral issues are typically the result of poor parenting.  Parents can choose to accept their own responsibility and work with their children and their community to achieve a satisfying home environment.  But, that often sounds like too much work and it is much easier to scapegoat a child (or multiple children in some cases) then to face reality and take responsibility for the situation at hand.

If a friend or family member approaches you with the stupid idea of sending their child away to such a program, what do you do? 

First, try to make them see reason by educating them on the facts.  This may include sharing with them the 2007 and 2008 Congressional Hearings (see www.beyondbusiness.net/congress.htm or www.heal-online.org/childtortureusa.htm (includes snippets from the hearings as embedded youtube videos)), news articles, lawsuits, police reports, and/or websites run by victims of these programs. 

If that doesn't work, offer to take the child in temporarily and see if you can help resolve the family issues.  If you are unable to do this, find a friend or family member who is willing and ask the parents involved if they would consider such an option.  It is far less damaging to the child and to the family to keep them in their communities with people who know and care about them.

If they won't consider this as an option and the subject youth is qualified by age or situation for emancipation, discuss this as an option.  If the difficulty is that a young adult is trying to grow up to fast at 16 or 17, maybe let them.  Be a support, but, if they really believe they are ready for adulthood, give it to them.  This doesn't mean to abandon them.  It means to give them the trust they seek by allowing them the responsibilities and rights of an emancipated minor.  If the youth is not ready for this when this option becomes available, then present him/her with the family's expectations/rules and let them know the options are to respect and adhere to the rules/expectations or face emancipation or institutionalization.  Let them know that the choices are their own and that it is up to the young adult what happens next. 

Sending a child out of State to what may or may not be a cult compound masquerading as a treatment center is not an acceptable solution to any family's problem.  And, it all too often has tragic results.

Please feel free to contact HEAL at info@heal-online.org if you need any assistance.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Sermon

By Angela Smith, HEAL Coordinator

I have studied the Christian faith for decades. I have read the King James Version, Revised Standard Version, New International Version, and Catholic Catechism texts from cover to cover and on more than one occasion. I have also read the Torah. My goal in these studies is to understand God and the history of the faith of members of my family.


As a result of these years of devoted study and desire to understand the Christian faith, I have reached the following understanding regarding Good (i.e. God) and Evil (i.e. el Diablo).

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John: 14:6, KJV)

My understanding of the above passage is that Jesus represents the way, the truth, and the example (life) human beings are to live by if to live in God’s grace.

“But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:21, KJV)

In Jesus’ and John’s reference to truth, I believe they are using the following definition of truth: “Truth: the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality.” (Source: Merriam-webster.com) That is my understanding of absolute Truth and what I believe must be Truth as represented in scripture.

“While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.” (John 12:36, KJV)

It is my understanding that Jesus embodied the light and while on earth provided an example by which all could come to the Good (i.e. God) and reject evil (i.e. el Diablo).

“These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:” (Zechariah 8:16, KJV)

It is my understanding that Jesus’ example was to speak the truth and to be truthful in all acts and endeavors.

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12, KJV)

It is my understanding that when Jesus said to follow him, that he was using the following definition of follow: “Follow: to engage in as a calling or way of life.” (Source: Merriam-webster.com) So, it is my understanding that living as closely to the way Jesus lived is what Jesus intended for humanity.

“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19, KJV)

It is my understanding that the light is the light of Truth and that those who conceal wrongdoing and deceive their fellows are definitively evil or committing evil. It is my understanding that failing to come to the light and expose the Truth is by Christian standards, evil.

And, based on the above understanding, I am confused by those who claim to be Christian while living in darkness and using deception to cover up evil deeds. In fact, it seems many claiming to be Christian use fear to silence the Truth and confusion to avoid accountability and justice.

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33, KJV)

“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” (James 3:!6, KJV)

Those who deceive and seek to confuse appear to be representatives of evil. And, that is my understanding.

“No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

And, while it is clear that those Christians serving God live in Truth and follow Jesus’ example, it is also apparent that those serving Lies and causing fear and confusion falsely claim to represent Christianity.

“I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” (1 John 2:21, KJV)

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1, KJV)

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15, KJV)

“Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.” (Jeremiah 14:14, KJV)

It is clear to me that the founders of Christianity were aware of the exponential proliferation of deceivers who would claim to represent, but, in no way represent Good (i.e. God, Christ, etc.).

There are many such deceivers in the United States today. And, I find it very disheartening that so many who truly desire to do Good (i.e. God’s will) are being misled by false prophets who are leading them away from “the truth, the way, and the life.”

There are so many examples. Just recently, Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, IN plead guilty to having sex with a minor. (Source: http://www.christianpost.com/news/jack-schaap-pleads-guilty-in-teen-sex-case-denies-knowing-act-was-crime-82304/) Schapp claimed he didn’t know it was illegal. Whether he knew it was illegal or not, he certainly knew it was immoral. And, he did not immediately repent his actions. He hid it until someone else exposed his secret. And, he repeatedly engaged in this immoral and illegal act.

It is apparent by Schaap’s actions that he has never been a follower of Christ. And, if others allow those usurping God’s authority to exploit good-hearted people and cover up evil, I think they are living in opposition to Good (i.e. God’s will).

For those who proclaim forgiveness is key, I ask you to live in the Truth and hold others to the same standard. Try this mental exercise. It may help. When you are deciding on what action, if any, to take, sit with the idea that it is Judgment Day and that God has called you as a witness to testify before God and act as a juror. Remember that God, in this case is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. And, that God knows if you are lying or speaking the Truth. If you allow the sin of Pride to corrupt you, as you want to hide the Truth and hope that God will forgive you because you were obeying a false prophet at the time, how do you think Judgment Day will go for you?

I recommend you treat every moment like Judgment Day and act as if you believe God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Otherwise, continue to be of the class of people Jesus despised, namely hypocrites and false prophets.

“But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?” (Matthew 22:18, KJV)

“For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.” (Job 15:34)

“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”

Lies, greed, and hypocrisy are not Christian values. And, it is my prayer that those Christians yet to remove the beam from their own eyes (Luke 6:42, KJV) will do so for the Good of the world and reveal the Truth whenever it is found to be hidden.

“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” (-Edmund Burke)