Dump the Doctrine of Discovery/ Declare the Doctrine of Hospitality.


During fourteen months of touring on a bicycle, I observed the way people were tied to place. The love of a hill, ravine, lake, field,  city neighborhood, prairie, mountain or forest, seemed bone-level. People showed us this love by showing off  their places, wanting us to see their communities through their eyes.

This love of place does not require armies or borders.

Homeland that needs security is manufactured, needing recruiters, slogans, flags and songs to make it real, convincing us we need ICBMs or drones.  A river needs no flag. Nor does the culture that develops on its shores.  It just needs people to love it and share how it is like no other. It is in this hospitality that we begin to tear down borders of all kinds, the barbed wire between the United States and Mexico, the wood and stone barriers of gated communities, the economic, racial, ideological, urban and rural divisions so prevalent in this country.

Breaking down these walls won’t happen without a profound economic about-face. In that regard we are moving in the wrong direction. Recently the United States, hoarder of global resources, re-reached  its pre Great Depression 1928 record of internal wealth inequality.

Poverty in America has no reason other than to make a hedgerow wider and a yacht longer.

In 1493, Pope Alexander the 6th declared any land “where there were no Christians” belonged to the Christian conqueror, justifying conquest of the Americas.

In 1823 the United States Supreme Court adopted the Doctrine of Discovery to justify the new republic’s  conquest of indigenous America. After Native land was parceled out to homesteaders and given to railroad companies the No Trespassing signs went up and homeland security was born.

As we call for the Doctrine of Discovery to be rescinded by Pope Francis, while we implement reparations for 5 centuries of damage, lets declare a  Doctrine of Hospitality, to invite others to see what we love about a place; to share its resources.

Its no more audacious than a mariner declaring he discovered the Americas or a Pope declaring that “discovery” a deed of ownership.

Photo: Columbus statue in Wilmington, Delaware

Day of Atonement

Eid  Adha,  Yom Kippur, and the Pope’s visit to the United States all happening at the same time.  The Pope has reminded us we have a much work to do to bring about a world where we treat our neighbor as we would be treated ourselves. He also talked about atoning for past sins, against Native Americans, against immigrants, against mother earth. (His canonization of Junipero Serra  puzzles me as it is so incongruous with everything else he is saying. The only good he is doing with this decision is  thrusting the limelight on those Native Americans who oppose his decision.

I spent the day of atonement – Yom Kippur – not fasting but – due to a dizzy spell — contemplating, thinking about accepting and changing. Angela Davis said she wants to change what she can not accept. I agree. But first I have to accept myself where I am, my students where they are, the world the way if is before I can change anything.

Maybe  accept is the wrong word. I have to be willing to start the process of change from where I am and where we are and not from where I wish we were.

I’m not for atoning, but I am for repairing. Personal wounds and those facing a nation and a world.  Reparations — for slavery for example — don’t require personal responsibility for the sin, just a realization somethings been torn and needs repair. that makes sense to me.

Without repair  we face reckoning, no matter what god we do or don’t pray to.

Pope Francis referred with reverence to Dorothy Day, who – Code Pink tells us once said:

“Our problems stem from our acceptance of this dirty rotten system. “

Junipero Serra

My thoughts on the sainthood of Junipero Serra and veneration of Spanish missions in California. (excerpt from my forthcoming book, Turtle Road)

“The modern analogies we use to understand the missions impact their legacy. Were they technical colleges and Christian retreats, or concentration camps and plantations, stealing the labor of indigenous nations to build an overseas empire?

California’s tribes have not been the only ones suffering from centuries of whitewashing the purpose and practice of these missions. WWII Japanese Internment camps, California military bases situated on former mission land and the state’s ubiquitous migrant-exploitative factory farms, all have systemic roots in these missions.”

Pope Francis has asked for forgiveness for the Church’s sins.  Sanctifying Junipero Serra is a move in the opposite direction.