Stop me.

March 28, 2006

Really, I have to stop myself from posting many times a day. Give someone an audience (even if it is only my supervising minister and my mom to this point) and she goes wild. But, I just visited kblog and her description is below. I just thought it was such a nice descirption that I thought it would share it. I espeically liked the part about cats. Oh, you ask about why I like the part about cats? Give me time, and you will get to meet my four sweeties who teach me wonderful things each day, mostly, how important cuddling is. Along with taking naps. And the importance of just being. But I’ll stop on the cats for now. Here is the blog description I liked so well.

This is a blog about trying to live out the best of intentions and live up to the greatest of hopes even when intentions are not enough and hope is in too short supply. Aspirations, inspiration, politics, principles, philosophy, religion, sprituality, culture, kids and cats and anything else that is or may become important to me.

If You are New

March 28, 2006

Just a note that if you are just joining Elizabeth’s Little Blog you can scroll down to the first two posts for directions on posting comments and for the introduction.

Just saw this article in The New York Times “Bush Was Set on Path to War, British Memo Says.” I thought of several sarcastic comments that I could say to follow this ever-so-revelatory article, but I’ll simple leave the link for folks to visit if you are so inclined and you can draw your own conclusions.

Also found this blog today by a UU minister that explores sexuality and religion as the main topic of the blog. Reminds me that I hope to do more posting on indecent theology (the topic of a sermon which went over well at FUUSM a month or so ago).

In the meantime, enjoy the lovely almost-spring weather.


March 27, 2006

Today I gave a sermon on the state of democracy in the United States and pointed out my concerns with what appears to be systematic violations of the rights of detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo bay in breach of guarantees contained both in Iraqi legislation and in international law and standards. As I mentioned in my sermon, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, writes that mistreatment of detainees at the hands of the United States and allied forces cannot not be reduced to a failure of training, discipline or oversight, or reduced to a failure of training, discipline or oversight, or reduced to “a few bad apples,” but reflects a deliberate policy choice embraced by the top leadership. For more on this, I wanted to refer anyone who is interested to the work of Simon Hersh who has written a series articles for The New Yorker and published Chain of Command : The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. I, of course, encourage folks to read up on the issue of democracy in the United States and come to your own conclusions about where we are at and where we are going. Please feel free to post comments and further information in the comments section.

The Boston Globe article that I read from in my sermon is this one and details some of the allegations of torture and abuse from Iraq. It was actually written by a self-described “war hawk” who is calling on fellow war hawks and conservatives to speak out against the abuse.

For an excerpt of the article from Harpers that calls for the impeachment of President Bush you can go here. The full article isn’t available online but I encourage folks to get a copy and see if you came to the same conclusions that I did.

Now for what I consider to be the more exciting part of this blog entry — I thought I would refer folks to some resources on rebuilding a democracy that is receptive to the citizenry.

When I am not being a student or an student intern minister, I do research for a wonderful organization called The Kettering Foundation. It is a research organization that asks, “What does it take to make democracy work as it should?” While the website has greatly improved recently, it still doesn’t provide tons of information for those who are just browsing. But a lot of the work the Foundation does centers around the very sort of thing I suggested this morning — making space for a new sort of democracy that moves away from “politics as usual” toward a democracy that is built on relationships between citizens working together to solve the problems that we face as a society. If you are interested in reading more on what is going on in this country when it comes to this movement, you’ll find some books and articles abstracted below.

Boyte, Harry C. “The Stirrings of a New Politics,” in Everyday Politics: Reconnecting Citizens and Public Life,” Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

Harry Boyte is a professor at the University of Minnesota and does a lot of work with reviving and reclaiming citizenship. Sometimes I think he is a bit idealistic about “how things used to be” in the good old days of a better democracy, but nonetheless, I think he writes lots of exciting and helpful things about possibilities for a new kind of democracy. This chapter outlines some of the most daunting challenges to democracy in our time, and provides a vision, already in its nascent stages, for a different kind of politics that counters the challenges that U.S. American democracy currently faces. Boyte offers “everyday politics” as an alternative to the current politics as usual. Whereas politics as usual frames the citizen as a consumer of democracy, everyday politics makes a place for citizens as co-creators of democracy. Here, citizens are engaged at all levels of politics, working “in diverse environments learning the skills of political work with people unlike themselves on the public tasks of communities, the society and the world.” This approach puts citizens back at the center of politics, reinstilling a sense of efficacy and agency. Everyday politics rests on the idea that the work of governance can be reclaimed by citizens, and that in order for democracy to function as it should, it must be reclaimed by citizens. Key attributes of this involve a deprofesionalization of politics, and a move away from viewing democracy as primarily based in an electoral system. Rather, democracy must be practiced and understood as an ongoing part of life – an everyday part of life – for all citizens.

Fiorina, Morris with Samuel Abrams, and Jeremy Pope. Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, Longman, second edition, 2005.

I referred to this book in my sermon. It is one of the two that I will list here (the other is One Nation After All) that paints a picture of a less polarized United States. Fiorina analyzes long-term public opinion data to contest the argument that we are deeply divided as a nation. He argues that, despite the media attention to and political rhetoric about “culture wars” and the polarization of the U.S. citizenry, in reality the vast majority of Americans are tolerant and moderate in their political views. He notes that the book’s conclusions support those of Alan Wolfe in One Nation, After All, “but report similar findings based on an examination of the views of tens of thousands of Americans questioned in national services” rather than Wolfe’s intensive interviewing of 200 middle-class American families. Fiorina attributes that perception of a divided nation to special interests groups, political parties, politicians and the media that capitalize on, and often promote, perceived cultural divides to advance their own interests, living little room for the nuance, understanding of complexity, and moderation that characterizes the views of most Americans.

Wolfe, Alan. Chapter VII: Morality Writ Small, in One Nation, After All : What Americans Really Think About God, Country, Family, Racism, Welfare, Immigration, Homosexuality, Work, The Right, The Left and Each Other, Penguin Books, 1999.

The other book I referred to. Wolfe’s book is based on two-hundred interviews with middle-class people in the United States. In the final chapter of his book, Alan Wolfe concludes that the so-called “culture war” is being fought, not by average Americans, but primarily by intellectuals. He points out that the polling which appears to show a divided populace, asks questions in such a way that leaves no room for the expression of a middle-ground. It is on this middle ground, a place of firm but empathetic morality, where Wolfe argues that the vast majority of Americans stand. With the exception of homosexuality, there is wide agreement on immigration, poverty, religion, family and morality. Wolfe notes, “The two sides presumed to be fighting the culture war do not so much represent a divide between one group of Americans and another as a divide between sets of values important to everyone.” That is, middle-class Americans, on the whole, struggle with the same sets of issues and, while often having personal preference for their own lives, are highly tolerant, empathetic and surprisingly undivided as to how other can morally live their lives in the American context. I sure hope that he is correct.

Brooks, David. “Age of Political Segregation,” Editorial Desk, The New York Times, June 29, 2004.

Although I am not a huge Brooks fan (okay, I really don’t like him) I did find this relevant to thinking about how we can better “do” democracy, particularly as Unitarian Universalists which tend to have a higher than average education level. Brooks notes that, according to several studies, the higher level of education that an American attains, correlates with the likelihood of being more polarized. He believes that this is because as Americans become more educated, they have more access to information which can reinforce the position that they already hold. Further, the higher the educational attainment, the easier it is to surround ourselves with people just like us, thus reinforcing our political beliefs. As a antidote to this political segregation, Brooks suggests that a national service program where youth are required to serve, with others not just like themselves, in a part of the country unlike what they are used to, might help to expose people to other viewpoints, challenging the ones that they already hold and preventing the stabilization and reinforcement of their current political inclinations. He further suggests that we might consider adjusting the primary system so that it doesn’t reinforce polarization, as it seems to in its current form. I think the article is just a good reminder that we need to engage with folks that are different than us.

Oh! I could go on, but perhaps that is enough for now. Coming soon: Links to organizations working to transform our democracy into something we can be proud of and thinking about democracy and Unitarian Universalism.

Much peace, Elizabeth

Our Environmental Footprint

March 25, 2006

Greetings! If this is your first time visiting this blog, feel free to scroll down to read the introduction and the directions for posting a comment (if you don’t already know how to post comments).

This will be a short post, but I just wanted to share with my readers where you can go to calculate an estimate of your environmental footprint — that is, the impact that you have on the environment. As our church goes through the Green Sanctuary program, we are encouraging folks to try this out in order to get a sense of those things that contribute to using the world’s resources and to see where you are at on that.

Don’t be discouraged if you get a really high score. Just think of it as a way to see those areas where you can improve and remember that no matter where you are at, there are lots of folks who score much higher. We do what we can, stretching ourselves, but also remembering that we can’t do it all.

I hope to eventually compile a list of websites and books that people can look to should they be interested looking at sustainability issues and simplicity issues …How can we live more simple, more full lives with less “stuff.” More to come on that soon.

That’s all for today. Much peace. Elizabeth

How to Post Comments for Newcomers to Blogs

March 20, 2006

(Scroll down to see the introductory post.)

While I am sure many of my readers are computer whizzes, I am assuming a minimal level of computer literacy for those that might just be venturing into cyberland or who need a little extra guidance.

There is a way to post comments to my entries. Then other people (if they like) can post comments to your comments and online discussions can take place.

At the bottom of each entry there is a little place that says “comments”.

If you click on that, a new screen will appear and in the upper right hand corner there will be a box where you can write your comments.

You don’t have to log in to post comments. You can post anonymously which I sort of discourage or if you don’t have a user account, you can post by clicking “other” and then just writing your name in the space that says “name”.

If you have questions, you may email me at elizabeth199 – @ – (you will need to copy and paste the email into your email program and remove the spaces and dashes from the address. I have not written it out completely because there are programs that can search the internet for whole email addresses and then send out spam (junk email) to those addresses.)

Introduction — The First Post

March 20, 2006

Greetings! I have thought a lot about having a blog but hesitated because I wondered what I would say? Who would read it (besides my parents)? Then, this morning as I was preparing to write my student minister intern column for the newsletter I thought “I know who might read it!” My wonderful congregation in Middleboro! Also, I thought that this might be a great place to easily post sermons and to discuss ideas about sermons or other things going on in the life of our community.

While I hope this is a place to share thoughts, events, etc. this is not an official First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro blog and the things I post here represent me — Elizabeth — not the congregation where I am an student intern minister and not Unitarian Universalism as a whole. I reserve the right to remove comments that are disrespectful or that just don’t fit or are inappropriate, although I can’t imagine that being a danger. Okay, well that’s the introduction. I will try to post interesting things here that are of interest to FUUSM, but also relevant to Unitarian Universalism, liberal religion, social justice… and maybe some things relevant to crafty things I like to do, cats (of which I have four), international relations issues, theology, and other interests of mine that I find *might* be interesting to others. Above all, I know my mom and dad and Wolfgang (my partner) will read this so at least there will be a crowd of four of us. I welcome all others who might be interested as well! Many smiles, Elizabeth

Two Sister Kittens Still Up for Adoption

March 8, 2006

Our foster kittens George and Blake, have found a nice loving home in South Boston. They have two sisters who, up until three days ago, we were listing as shy. However, the girlies have has a breakthrough and morphed into cuddle bunny purr-monsters (as we like to call them). I guess they decided that humans are okay to trust and they are making up for lost time in terms of cuddling. All four kittens were found under rt. 93 at a construction site, all dirty, hungry, cold and wet. They were rescued via Second Chance Shelter in Jamaica Plain and we foster the little ones via that organization. Olivia (to the left) purrs so loud she sounds like a little motor. :) They cuddle with us, although are still scared of visitors. However, they will warm up in a few days once they are settled and comfortable in their new home. If you would like to adopt the girls TOGETHER for their entire lives (they can live up to 20 years!) and feel as though you would offer them a loving and safe home, please be in touch. They are only being adopted as a pair because they love each other so much! Savannah says that she and her sister Olivia will be getting email accounts soon, too, but they are still learning to type. In the meantime, you can be in touch with me (their foster mom) at The adoption fee is $100 each, $200 total, which is about 1/3 what it would cost to have them spayed, tested for FIV/Feline Leuk., and get shots and dewormed, which is ALL already taken care of. Please share a little about yourself when you email. We can set up a time for you to visit the girls, you can fill out an application, we’ll check references (required by Second Chance Shelter) and assuming all goes as planned, we can usually have the whole process done in about five-seven days. Looking forward to hearing from anyone wanting to grow (or start) a cat family :)

The Girls Taking Naps Together (Favorite Activity)

And cuddling with foster-brother Gustav

(Savannah is with white stripe down nose, Olivia has a black stripe on nose)