Here is a prayer:
Creator, grant us the strength of purpose to make this shit end. Show us how to make the politicos and officials give a damn. Teach them how to curb their rapacious greed and avarice. Amen
Matthew Stevens wrote that prayer and he wrote this, “If we had just thought to bring in a celebrity, and somehow arrange for them to break a fingernail during their visit, we’d probably gotten coverage from all around the globe …”
He was writing about the Toxic Tour, 2015, that occurred at the Aamjiwnaang First Nation near Sarnia, Ontario, also called Chemical Valley, where petro-chemical companies poison the animals, the water, the people. On Sept. 4 and Sept. 5, busloads of people from London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal met Aamjiwnaang youth to tour the valley of cloud-spewing chemical factories near Lake Huron. There is no hunting. There is no fishing. When the siren blows, there is indoor recess. When the sky turns green, there are school yards full of children with asthma puffers. There is cancer in every family. Not many families. Every family.
Five hundred Indigenous youth came and they marched and they learned and there were drummers and they held hands – a thousand hands strong – to name the companies driving the climate crisis, to challenge environmental racism, and to build solidarity.
But it was not newsworthy. Matthew Stevens continued, “As a matter of fact the local newspaper barely bothered to mention it, and one of the radio stations announced the whole event like it was a weekend fun-family activity to enjoy. It often seems as though the media can’t get beyond the “pow-wow” image of Aboriginally sponsored events.”
I asked him for a prayer for this blog.
“I appreciate your suggestion regarding a prayer, but to be perfectly honest I guess I’ve just facilitated too many funerals for folks dying from pollution related conditions; and witnessed too many chemical industry “fat-cats”; and counseled too many Aboriginal youth caught in the vicious cycle of despair in the local jail, to be able to wax liturgical on this particular topic. I’d likely say something like … “Creator … this shit. Show us … give a damn. Teach us … greed and avarice.” I suspect he thought I would not print it.
But it sounded to me like something Ezekiel once said,
Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them … Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet? (Ezekiel 34)
And so my prayer for those of us who live far from the blue waters of Lake Huron:
Creator, grant that we learn
about muddied waters
wherever they may be,
name environmental racism
and our part in it,
confess our dependence
on products splashed
by the tear-ducts of cancer.
Help us smell the shit
on our own hands.
Teach us to call to account
those in power,
support the advocacy of youth,
learn the ways of media,
gather a thousand hands to hold
over and over again.
We must give a damn first
before anyone else will.
Help us expose avarice
and prophesy to greed …
especially our own. Amen