The Flaming Sword of Justice, with Ben Wikler






May 2013
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Imagine paying $3000 to visit America through a cultural exchange/guest-worker program--and then being forced to live on a cot in a packed basement room, abused at work, and threatened with expulsion if you called out your boss... who owns both the McDonald's where you work and the basement where you live. He can get you kicked out of the country with a single phone call. Do you try to bear it? Or do you fight back? Today's guests took the latter option--with some help from labor organizing pioneer Jess Kutch and her new organization, Four guests, outrageous injustice, and a very satisfying ending... all on today's Flaming Sword of Justice.

Direct download: flamingsword-24-not-lovin-it_re-run.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:46pm EDT

When the AP announced this week that it would stop using the phrase "illegal immigrant," American media (and Americans in general) took notice. But in all the many, many news accounts of the AP's decision, few reporters acknowledged the highly coordinated, strategic, and empathic campaign that made it happen—a campaign that built on work by leaders and citizens in social movements dating back decades. Our guest, Monica Novoa, the coordinator (and sole full-time employee) of the "Drop the I Word" campaign, was at the heart of making it happen—and in this episode, she tells her story, and the story of this movement, like you've never heard it before. You'll laugh, sing, cry, and cheer. Tune in and spread the word!

Direct download: Sword_2013_04_04_re-run.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:18pm EDT

Gaby Pacheco arrived in the US at age 8, and thrived here. It wasn't until middle school, when her sisters were rejected from college because they lacked immigration papers, that she found out she wasn't a citizen. But in the years to come, instead of hiding the truth, she did something unusual: she decided to speak out.

Her activism earned her the ire of immigration authorities, who rounded up her family and demanded that she stay quiet if she wanted to prevent their deportation. But she fought back, waging a years-long battle for change. On January 1, 2010, she began a journey that would take her to the national stage: she and three friends began a 1500-mile journey, on foot, that soon made national headlines as the "Trail of Dreams." By the time they reached Washington, DC that May, they had faced down the Ku Klux Klan and built a 30,000-strong petition for reform. Months later, one of them met with Obama to discuss immigration reform--and, just last week, Gaby Pacheco was the one undocumented immigrant to testify for immigration reform at the United States Senate.

To hear Gaby tell her extraordinary story of courage, resilience, and hope is to realize that the xenophobes are outmatched, whether they're in Klan robes or pinstripes. Tune in!

Direct download: Sword_2013_04_29_re-run.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:59pm EDT

For years—for decades—the Boy Scouts didn't just discriminate. They insisted on discriminating. They forced local troops to throw out gay scouts. They won a Supreme Court case to defend their right to discriminate. They told the press, over and over, that nothing was going to change.

And then, suddenly, something changed. 

This is how that happened. 

This is the story of how an Ohio mom, a Iowa Eagle Scout, and a gay teenager in California sparked a nationwide movement that ended one of the most hotly-defended policies of discrimination in America. This is the story of how their voices inspired millions to join the cause—to sign petitions and make phone calls, to march and lobby and send in their merit badges in protest. How they fought, and fought, and refused to give up. 

In this episode of the Flaming Sword of Justice, we interview Mike Jones, the behind-the-scenes campaign director at who worked with the public heroes of this campaign to win a change that many had dismissed as an impossibility. And then we talk to Jennifer Tyrrell, the mom whose petition sparked the wildfire—reaching her by phone the day after the vote to allow gay scouts. (The fight now continues to end the ban on gay leaders.) This is the first time anywhere that you can hear the whole story, from the inside, of how it all unfolded. It's inspiring, and it's more than that: it's a case study of how to beat the odds, from the bottom up. 

Below: see photos of our guest, Mike Jones, and the heroes of the story; and a timeline of the scouts campaign.

Direct download: Sword_2013_05_28.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:47am EDT

On the wall of my high school theater classroom, at Madison West High, my wonderful teacher posted a bumper sticker bearing a famous and accurate quote: "Feminism is the radical idea that women are people." 
Today's immigrant rights movement is premised on a similar, and similarly radical, idea: the notion immigrants are people too. 
And on today's show, we'll explore an idea more radical still—an idea grounded in demographic fact: half the time, the people who are immigrants...  are also people who are women. So, immigration reform? It's a feminist issue. 

On today's show, we talk to the co-chairs of the We Belong Together campaign: two nationally acclaimed advocates—one best known for her work for immigrant rights, the other best known as a feminist activist. They've already won some crucial victories on amendments in the immigration reform bill, and they've got some amazing things in store.

Think you can support justice for immigrants without being a feminist? Think you can be a feminist without supporting immigration reform? Listen to this podcast.
Direct download: Sword_2013_05_24.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:42pm EDT

At some point, you go from taking care of your kids and grandkids... to needing someone to take care of you. 
That's hard. And it can be hard on the grown-up kids who are trying to juggle their parents the the children of their own. It's one of the hardest personal issues that families face. 
But think about it for a second: if every family has to deal with it, why is this just a personal issue? 
On today's show, we talk to Ai-Jen Poo, co-founder of the Caring Across Generations campaign, who realized that this is one of the fundamental questions facing the country as a whole—especially now, when another American turns 65 every 8 seconds. 
You'd think that an aging population is a problem to be solved. But in this interview, Ai-Jen lays out a breathtaking vision for how the so-called "silver tsunami" is actually an opportunity: how tackling it can bring together solutions not only for the aging of the baby boom generation, but also for immigration, the economy, women's rights, worker's rights, and even climate change. And it's bigger than even that: this is a moment that calls on us to remake our institutions, and our own actions and beliefs, in accord with our most fundamental value: love. 
Direct download: Sword_2013_05_23.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:17pm EDT

It's a doctor's worst nightmare. You arrive at the hospital--and the hospital has collapsed. In the rubble, a thousand people are near death. You have no medicine. You have no equipment. You've never been in a situation like this before. And yet: you have to act. 
Three years ago, that's what Dr. David Walton found when he arrived at what had once been the biggest hospital in Haiti, 48 hours after the earthquake. 
From the US, it's easy to forget that the deadliest disaster of the 21st century occurred just a two-hour flight away from the United States. And it's easier still to think that so many people died because of a "natural disaster." But as Dr. Walton makes clear in this unforgettable, searing, and ultimately hopeful interview, the deadliness of disasters is something that we, as human beings, can do something about. 

And here's some evidence for his case: In the next few weeks, the inpatient clinic will open at a state-of-the art teaching hospital: a hospital powered entirely by solar energy, with its own eco-friendly water treatment system and a groundbreaking new system to support decentralized medical care. In the middle of rural Haiti.
The story of Mirebalais Hospital is a story of hope rising out of tragedy. Dr. Walton over oversaw the hospital's construction. And when you hear his story, you'll never think about poverty, health, Haiti, medicine in the same way. 
Direct download: Sword_2013_05_22.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:52pm EDT

If troops from another country invaded American military bases and sexually assaulted tens of thousands of american service men and women, our response would be instant, all-out war. 
But when sexual predators and abuswrs within America's own military done exactly the same thing, the response - for years - has been to pretend that nothing was happening. 
But now—thankfully—finally - that's starting to change. 
Our guest today survived sexual trauma as a young sailor in the US Navy. And by telling her story, and joining with others to do so, she has awakened the conscience and outrage of a nation.  Now, she's taking her case to Congress--and America's elected leaders are rushing to respond. 
Today's show is intense. But stay with us and you'll hear a story of hope.
Direct download: Sword_05_17_2013.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:44pm EDT

You want a job in America so you can support your family. They say that, for a fee, they can help you do everything by the books--you'll get a good wage, overtime, and a green card. You only make $10 a day, but somehow, borrowing from friends and family, you scrape together $4000.
And then you enter a nightmare.
On today's show, we talk to Annabelle Sibayan--a survivor of labor trafficking who tells her story, a story that shouldn't happen to anyone. And we talk Candice Sering of FiRE (Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment), an artist working with Annabelle and other survivors to craft a powerful play, opening this weekend in New York, that tells four women's stories of struggle and resilience in the face of this modern-day American bondage. Plus: the very first Magic MoveOn Moment of Movement Momentousness.
Direct download: Sword_2013_05_15.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:13pm EDT

The Boy Scouts didn't just discriminate against gay scouts and leaders. They insisted on discriminating. They required local troops to discriminate. They fought a legal battle, all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, to defend their policy of discrimination. Nothing, it seemed, could move them. 

And yet, somehow: next week, something will happen that the scouts' national leadership long insisted would never occur... the Boy Scouts of America will hold a national vote on whether to welcome gay members.

How did that happen? The answer, as it so often is, is that the change took a fight. And on this episode, for the first time anywhere, you can hear how it all went down: from the tiny petition launched by Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted as head of her son's tiger scout den because of her sexual orientation, to the rise of Scouts for Equality, led by straight scout--and son of two lesbian moms--Zach Wahls; from the CEOs of some of America's most powerful corporations realizing that their brands were at risk if they didn't take a stand, to hundreds of Eagle Scouts sending in their most cherished badges in protest of a policy that betrayed Scouting's core principles. 

As you hear what this policy did to scouts and their families, you'll get angry. When you hear how people across the country rose up to fight back, you'll be inspired. 

Direct download: Sword_2013_05_13.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:03pm EDT