March Post: Still more post-march thoughts (intersectionality & moral matters)

It’s 2 months to the day since the Women’s March on Washington, and last night I had (another) political stress dream – in this one I was trying to persuade folks back home to perceive the importance of the March, and especially to convince them of the validity of Christians participating in it. Home in this context being a beautiful, rural county that I’d characterize as mostly white and majority-conservative, with community members both atheist and religious (mostly Catholic, Mennonite, or Evangelical Protestant).

I’m guessing this dream (not the first of its kind for me) was prompted in part this time by reading the following from the Letters & Comments section of the March 13th issue of the Mennonite World Review:

MWR indeed presents a wide variety of opinion, but we will not renew our subscription. We are choosing not to waste time reading so many radical views. To have the name ‘Mennonite’ given such prominence in the women’s march in Washington (Jan. 30) is a disgrace to the God who ordained marriage and life…”

Etc.

{Short version of my response to the above: This assumes there is only ONE way of thinking “Christianly,” or even from within a Menno framework, about those worn-out, hot-button, go-to issues (i.e., abortion & gay marriage) of the so-called culture wars that, frankly, I believe have done way more harm than they’ve ever accomplished anything good. It also assumes that those were the ONLY issues of concern for marchers.

Most flippant, shortest version of my response: Fine. You’re entitled to your opinion, whatever. The work for social transformation & pursuing justice is going to continue with or without you, so I’ll just be getting on with my own work now…

Longer version-wise: I presume I already attempted explaining that in my dream; it was stressful & didn’t go over well, so I don’t think I’ll repeat the experiment here just now.}

Anyhoo, back to the WMW itself and a related thought – the one I actually started this post with the intention of giving prominence to: intersectionality. It’s another one of those buzz words, getting a good deal of attention these days (especially in progressive circles), but/and I think an important one. Certainly names a hugely important concept (and “when there’s no name for a problem, you can’t see a problem, and when you can’t see a problem, you pretty much can’t solve it” – Crenshaw in the TED below). I first consciously noticed this word on signs at the WMW, so it seems to me appropriate to share here this phenomenal TED talk by the woman who coined the term “intersectionality,” Kimberlé Crenshaw:

I just watched it this evening – it’s really good. Please watch, or consider watching. (Under 20 mins! You very well may consume more than 20 mins. worth of commercials each evening.) Well worth watching for everyone, and perhaps especially if you (like me, until only very recently) have/had never noticed before that word, intersectionality. …And perhaps especially especially if you’re a little “meh” (or even downright morally skeptical, coming from a certain kind of religious background) regarding the Women’s March & all that (that is, if most of my original readers haven’t been scared off by “so many radical views,” like the – I’m sure well-intentioned – recently unsubscribed former readers of the MWR quoted above. For the record, the only kind of radical I aim to be is a radical for love. And I’m not even close to being there yet).

The Women’s March was/still is about women’s rights, first and foremost, especially highlighting the causes of protection & promotion of the rights & well-being of Women of Color (WoC). Addressing police violence against WoC (a major focus of the above TED) was/is a huge part of the WMW platform. If that’s not a morally-important issue deserving of our attention and movement towards action, then I don’t know what is.

Someone (well-educated and warm-hearted) recently asked me, didn’t I think that the mass media exaggerates police violence against Black people?

To me, the opposite is heart-breakingly true. (As Crenshaw’s TED & the list below help demonstrate.)

Such violence is, in fact, significantly under-reported by media outlets (consumed by teachers & educators, PoC, white people, Christians, practitioners of other faiths, intelligent and faithfully diligent news-watchers, etc.) in part b/c the language w/ which to frame such discussions (i.e., intersectionality) is still nascent in its circulation & use. Crenshaw hits the nail on the head: language matters, and we need better frameworks to shape our discussions about issues that hit WoC and others w/ double, triple, or more-whammies of injustices in our country today.


Black women killed by police within last seven years – not an exhaustive list of WoC victims of state-sanctioned violence:

  • Aiyanna Stanley Jones (7 years old)
  • Alberta Spruill
  • Alesia Thomas
  • Alexia Christian
  • Aura Rosser
  • Danette Daniels
  • Duanna Johnson
  • Eleanor Bumpurs
  • Frankie Ann Perkins
  • Gabriella Nevarez
  • Gynna McMillen
  • India Beaty (killed at same age I am now)
  • India Kager
  • Janisha Fonville
  • Jessica Williams
  • Joyce Curnell
  • Kathryn Johnston
  • Kayla Moore
  • Kendra James
  • Kisha Michael
  • Kyam Livington
  • LaTanya Haggerty
  • Malissa Williams
  • Margaret LaVerne Mitchell
  • Margaret Mitchell
  • Meagan Hockaday
  • Michelle Cusseaux
  • Miriam Carey
  • Mya Hall
  • Natasha McKenna
  • Nizah Morris
  • Pearlie Golden
  • Ralkina Jones
  • Rekia Boyd
  • Redel Jones
  • Shantel Davis
  • Sharmel Edwards
  • Shelly Frey
  • Sheneque Proctor
  • Shereese Francis
  • Sonji Taylor
  • Symone Marshall
  • Tanisha Anderson
  • Tarika Wilson
  • Tyisha Miller
  • Yvette Smith

Source: TED Talk, “The Urgency of Intersectionality” by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Oct. 2016. #SayHerName

on living in love with life

Words for Liberal Arts devotees & adventurers (and others) to live by:

The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day. Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length. It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.

-Diane Ackerman, as quoted by Parker Palmer in The Courage to Teach

And for activists (and also others) passionate about human potential and life’s intrinsic worth:

You cannot understand how hard it is for one to be practical who hopes for tenderness behind every face. … Others can be impersonal, but not one who believes that [she] is on an eminently personal adventure. … Others can be sensible, but not one who knows in [her] heart how few things really matter. Others can be sober and restrained, but not one who is mad with the loveliness of live, and almost blind with its beauty.

-from Dorothy Kazel’s prayer book, as quoted by Ana Carrigan in Salvador Witness

(…madness: “much madness is divinest sense to a discerning eye” – E.D.)

Unedited stream-of-consciousness grumbling paragraph on being stuck inside in the office on a beautiful spring-like day

Only humans are stupid enough to stay inside a “box” (building) that they’ve built themselves, working themselves into a mind-numbing, soul-killing stupor or boredom and silent fury, just for the sake of not breaking w/ “convention” and continuing to type away at a thing w/ little plastic buttons b/c that somehow “earns their keep” on this world by magically generating some sort of profit to the plastic-hitters by an abstract accumulation of paper to their name that we have arbitrarily assigned value via “buying power.”

It’s gorgeous outside, and outside I’d much rather be.

But, job (not work – don’t want to malign the inherent dignity of work by misusing the word for it here).

I am so quitting my job ASAP (June) and ditching the American career circuit to travel the world. (Though already recognizing it as a sign of my American/white/middle-class/able-bodied, etc. privilege to be able to even consider that as an option.) Or do something else much more life-giving besides this.

puppy post: b/c he’s just so stinkin’ cute…

Today’s adventures in the life of Finley included a trek to Bash Bish Falls, a state park shared by two states – NY & Mass. – and part of the larger Mt. Washington State Park in MA, and napping in various poses.

As you can see…

My favorite of the above is the one of him blinking 🙂

And all tired out…

(Yes, he is actually sleeping with his head hanging off the couch – he does that sometimes.)

And finally, all curled up and tail tucked in, cozy on a cold winter’s night:

img_20170211_192829

We had a good day.

poetry post: Frederick Douglass

Borrowing from/re-blogging The Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day for today – “Frederick Douglass” by Robert Hayden (1966):

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro [sic]
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world   
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien, 
this man, superb in love and logic, this man   
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.
Emphasis in bold mine.

more post-WMW thoughts

Thought 1 – We’re all in this together.

Another thing I just remembered from the Women’s March is this phrase that the crowd around me chanted at one point while we were walking:

We’re all in the boat. Keep the boat afloat.

Kinda cheesy with the rhyming there, but it makes a good point. It in turn reminded me of the following poem by Mary Oliver:

Every day I’m still looking for God
and I’m still finding him everywhere,
in the dust, in the flowerbeds.
Certainly in the oceans,
In the islands that lay in the distance
Continents of ice, countries of sand
Each with its own set of creatures
And God, by whatever name.
How perfect to be aboard a ship with
Maybe a hundred years still in my pocket.
But it’s late, for all of us,
And in truth the only ship there is
Is the ship we are all on
Burning the world as we go.

(It also made me think of an essay by Annie Dillard titled “An Expedition to the Pole” from her collection, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters. I’ll have to re-read that essay soon.)

Poetry, too, can be subversive. And prayer. Speaking of which…

Thought 2 – This quote from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (who marched for civil rights w/ Dr. King and many others at Selma):

We do not know what to pray for. Should we not pray for the ability to be shocked at atrocities committed by man, for the capacity to be dismayed? Prayer should be an act of catharsis or purgation of emotions, as well as a process of self-clarification, of examining priorities, of elucidating responsibility….Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, and falsehood. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision.

WMW field notes: some thoughts from a marcher

I had the privilege of participating in the Women’s March on Washington this past Saturday. It was great.

Friday night I kept myself awake watching episodes of Friends until 1:00 a.m. Then I finished getting ready to leave my apt, put on my coat and my walking shoes, grabbed my bag, and headed out to my friend’s place (aptly named Peace Cottage) to catch a ride with her to Kingston, where our bus departed from at 3:00 a.m. Destination: our nation’s capitol.

We arrived at the outskirts of D.C. around 9:00 a.m. to the New Carrolltown Metro Station. It was packed. On the metro on the way into the city, we met two women from Tampa, FL who had flown in the night before to march. Metro riders (mostly women) were really conscious of making sure a mother on board with a stroller had enough space. We passed the station where all the buses were parked – the lots were full to the gills, and the crowd on the metro cheered.

 

I’m not going to give a scene-by-scene description of my whole experience at the March. Just a few snippets and thoughts from the day that I wanted to put here:

  • Overall, there was a very good atmosphere. There were a TON of people. It was very peaceful, even cheerful, with great vibes of strength and resiliency and a determination to resist. There was a lot of creative energy in that crowd. So many women. So many pink hats. At some points, it was so packed that we (myself and my two marching buddies) had to hold hands and weave our way through a standing crowd to get to where we could march forward again.
  • On one hand, the march and its widespread support and participation was really encouraging; on the other, it felt pretty futile – and even more so in the few days following it so far. B/c the same new administration was still in power the day after the march as it was the day of the march. Etc.
  • Lots of great signs – wish the camera app on my phone was quicker! I wasn’t able to get a picture of all of them that I would’ve liked to, but I did get a few. A lot of different causes were represented – it wasn’t just about one particular issue.
  • I wasn’t able to get pictures of the best ones I saw. The basic gist of some other signs I saw that stuck with me:
    • Liberty is a Lady
    • Women build bridges, not walls
    • A woman’s place is in the Resistance
    • A woman’s place is in the [White] House and the Senate.
    • The words”We are sisters” repeated in different lines with different fading, so that the word “Resist” in the middle of that phrase was emphasized in some lines.
    • White women, please march for murdered black children, too
    • The Emperor Has No Clothes
    • This is Not Okay
    • Silence is Violence
    • Ignorance is the worst form of violence
    • Be subversive through knowledge
    • Librarians against Trump
    • The Ministry Has Fallen. The Death Eaters Have Taken Over. Wands Up! (H.P. ref.)
    • If I make my uterus a corporation, will you stop regulating it?
    • The Future is Female
    • A picture of an Native man with the message: “Resistance: We’ve been here before.”
    • Respeto mi existencia o esperar mi resistencia (please excuse any grammatical errors w/ my Spanish)
    • …And lots more.
  • That sobering moment of marching past the Holocaust museum with the words “Never again” displayed on its banners out front. B/c surely ensuring the keeping of such a promise as “Never again” includes never again letting hateful rhetoric get out of hand to the point of even threatening the well-being of any group – which it already has, and has done more than threatened. So now is NOT the time for silence, and we must not stop challenging hateful and unjust language and policies. (Relevant to the Holocaust reference, read this short essay, “A Date That Will Live in Infamy,” by  retired professor Charles Bayer on why participating in events like marches are essential to democracy.)
  • Along those same lines…Truth to Power. Backside message of a simple poster that read “Quakers for Justice” on the front. YES. Purpose of the March in a nutshell. Purpose of prophetic voices, always: Challenging systemic injustices by speaking out about them and speaking truth to those in power, who are either abusing their power or need to be prompted to help do something about rectifying those injustices. Or both. Also, to wake people up.

 

Near the end of the day, our trio wound up at the Washington Monument, where we hung out for a bit before making our way to the Metro. Several people were laying on their backs near it and propping their feet up on its side, so we joined in. Felt surprisingly good for our tired feet.

There was the Capitol building over to our right, and the Lincoln Memorial off in the distance to our left. I tried taking a picture for my sister Emma (she was really into Lincoln a few years ago), but it didn’t come out so hot. There were fellow marchers all over, everywhere I looked. It made me feel proud and optimistic and hopeful, at least in that moment. Then we caught the metro and our bus, and found ourselves back in upstate NY around midnight.

I’m incredibly grateful it worked out for me personally to be able to go and be a part of this important moment in American history. I felt that just showing up and being there and participating on the ground in D.C. was really important. Some key transportation details were up in the air for me up until just a few days prior to Saturday; so again – very thankful everything worked out, and also that I was able to march w/ some friends, and not just solo.

It was also really neat to see some news reports about the March in the couple of days after it, especially about Sister Marches from all around the world. Some even out in the snow, epic women of Utah! There were even some participants in Antartica – Penguins for Peace! Too great.

 

On the day after the WMW, I went to church. I was pretty tired (even though I got back to my place around 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning, I didn’t end up getting to sleep til about 5:00 in the morning, I was so wound up!), but I really wanted to go.

I’m so glad I did. Betsy preached an amazing and courageous sermon, which spoke “truth to power” in its own right, and also drew from one of the texts for the day: 1 Corin. 1:10-18, which calls for no division among believers – Betsy made a good point that connected back to our nation’s current political situation; for Christians in America today, it shouldn’t be about who we voted for, or didn’t vote for, so much as who we follow – which is supposed to be Christ, whose name we bear. Christ. Who taught a radical message of creative, courageous love, preached that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor and the forgotten, and still calls his followers today to walk in that same path of pursuing justice and peace, and looking out for the needs of the vulnerable.

Before I left my apt. Friday night on my way to the WMW, I read these words in Ephesians; I thought they were fitting to carry with me as I set out to march: And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Here’s another verse with a walking reference that I’ve had in mind lately, in relation to all this (and the coming days): For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

And though not from the Christian Scriptures, I also really like this: 

When sleeping women wake, mountains move. – Chinese Proverb

Here’s hoping enough of us are sufficiently awake, and are joined by even more wakers soon – and that we stay awake and alert. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long four years. Not to be a pessimist here, but it hasn’t even been a week and it already feels nightmarish.

Don’t want to end with that. Just this last thought for now: it’s high time for more Americans to become more actively involved in our system of democracy (however imperfect) somehow. I wrote to my Congressman last night. You can contact your representatives, too! You can find our who your members of Congress are here, and also how to contact them – you can also write to them about the issues that matter most to you and your take on things.

Your voice matters. So please use it. And keep walking.

Be Still: lessons from a farm in South Korea

Just rediscovered this old guest post of mine on Beaver Camp’s blog from waaay back in October 2014, and wanted to put on here.

THE BLOG for Beaver Camp

BEKAH-Moontain “Over and over, Scripture invites us to abide in God. To rest in God. To dwell in God…Activism that matters to the kingdom is always rooted in prayer. If we want to join God in changing the world, the place to begin is on our knees before the cross.” – Common Prayer Pocket Edition: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove)

“Ooh, where did this come from?” I ask aloud to no one in particular. I get no answer, but I’m not bothered, as it was more of a rhetorical question anyway. I flop down on a stack of bags full of grain–which happen to make remarkably comfortable perches–and start nonchalantly flipping my way through the September issue of The Economist.

It’s in English. Score! Despite living in rural South Korea this year, I have regular access to fairly reliable wifi (in fact, it’s probably more…

View original post 1,436 more words

Owen Meany

I just finished what is by far THE best book I’ve read in a really, really long time. Possibly since graduating from college. Maybe I’m just novel-starved. Or maybe it just happens to be an especially apt read for me personally at this time. Whatever it is, I have a feeling A Prayer for Owen Meany will be staying with me for a long time. Definitely a new favorite.

From the review I posted on Goodreads:

All those paperback cliches, “Hilarious and Heartbreaking,” “Moved me to both laughter and tears,” and so forth are totally applicable here. It WAS extremely funny, and cathartic. I cried really hard. …I had almost forgotten a book could make me feel the way this one did! Surprisingly, even the political commentary in “Owen Meany” (about Reagan-era American/Soviet nuclear aggression, and Vietnam War decade of 60’s turmoil) feels especially timely and still highly relevant for our contemporary political scene in the US.

The 617 pages go quickly, and are totally worth it. And if you’re anything like me as a reader of novels/fiction stories (a serial skimmer ahead-er), try to especially resist the temptation to glance ahead with this one!! Even in you do a little bit, it’s still excellent. Extremely well-crafted story.

Highly, highly recommend this phenomenal book.

I really do.

For the Lit nerds, by the way, SO much fodder for some intriguing literary analysis in this novel, too – but for another time, perhaps. By someone else. Think I’ll just hold this story in my heart, and let others analyze away.

Now excuse me while I go recover emotionally. 🙂

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