Still here

September 7, 2010

Even though my blogging has slowed from a trickle to little, rare droplets, I still write posts in my head and long to reenter blogging both to have a place to work out my own thoughts and to rejoin the rich conversations of the Unitarian Universalist blogosphere. I am at South Station preparing to take the commuter train home after my first full day of teaching where I rambled rambled rambled. I so much prefer working all of my thoughts out in written form, reorganizing, editing, and proof reading again, sending out in a careful and safe email where at least my attempts at humor fall flat later, where I do not have to see the lack of laughter.

I am several months into being the president of our congregation, a role that I treasure and, at the same time, wonder what exactly I was thinking in terms of time management. Such is life though, ehh? We follow our callings and our passions and try to fit as much into  life as we can. I am lucky in that our congregation is gracious and supportive, and amazing in that there is minimal bickering, so I am learning a lot, and loving church life even if it was not the wisest choice in terms of being careful not to over-commit.

And, painfully, my general exams for my doctorate are coming up in October. It is my hope, at this point, that I am prepared enough not to fail or at least almost prepared enough not to fail. But I wish I felt solid about them rather than sickly and worried.

And our boy. He is a little person now, not a bundle of baby. He has is own baby doll which we have creatively named Baby. He loves his frog boots and insists on listening to Fat Boy Slim all. the. time. Which was cute, but now I am tired of Rockafeller Skank and Not From Brighton. When I try to put on Natalie Merchant he says no no no nonononono. It is such a joy, though, that he can say what he wants. Cracker. Baby. Mama. Dada and so on. He is at a daycare with goats and chickens, several bunnies, cats and a dog, and he loves loves loves the animals. And there are five other children that love him and rub his head and say Eli Eli Eli Eli. Which still scares him, but it is sweet none-the-less.

My parents, who are now, primarily, The Grand Parents, visited and doted on our boy and cuddled him and read him endless books and put the rocks in the bowl and out of the bowl and in the bowl with him 201,883 times. He ran to the guest room this morning and said, “Where go?” So we miss them.

I have more thoughts. I think about vegetarianism and animals and our recently rescued cat that I don’t really want, and how to handle/think about our fish tank at church and our mouse problem at church, and then more generally, about the 1001 moth larvae I recently killed in my pantry and the ants I kill that crawl around our living room and the spiders that live in our house that I want to move out but I feel really bad smooshing yet I do not have the time to lovingly transport each one of them outside. How to love the earth’s creatures, even little tiny ones that seem gross to me, and still have a house and church that does not crawl with such creatures. How to balance the beautiful look of a fish tank and swimming little magic animals, with the fact that I think they really don’t like it in there and would be happier in the ocean or a lake. I think about the exceptions I make when I eat eggs and the little chickens that suffer quite the life of misery for my breakfast sandwich. I want to do less harm in the world. But it is hard.

I think about how sad I am about all the fear and unkindness and hurt and harm and injustice expressed around the Muslim Community Center near the site of 9/11… How naive I was about the public’s understanding of Islam. And how easy it is to express outrage at such things from my comfortable little life – how little it costs to feel bad about such things and how I somehow probably think that Feeling Bad and Knowing Better somehow at least a little bit absolves me from my complicity with the injustice in our world. It is so easy to write blog posts of lament, preach to the choir, sign petitions and repost things to facebook…. Yet, my middle class, pretty-easy-relative-to-most-lives is contingent on cheap oil, using too much of my share of the world’s resources, and accessing my white, class, pass-as-heterosexual, have-a-Christian-heritage privilege which is all wrapped up in the U.S.’s history and present that produces/reinforces the sort of hysteria we see around Islam, immigration, and race politics around the presidency. I don’t write this to be all dramatic – oh what shall we ever do – but simply to put it out there. I struggle with it. It seems to easy to let me off by just saying we can’t solve everything and do everything, even though I know we can’t, I guess I still feel called to be with the impossibility of living a life of comfort that I want while it does violence, albeit pretty indirectly. My partner and I talk about this all the time – if you are somehow more removed from the harm you cause, are you better than those closer? Or just more easily able to distance yourself from seeing and doing with your own hands the harm that is done for you, from a distance, for a price. I’m not sure there is a terribly good answer. I was touched by someone in one of my classes who is writing a paper and he wrote that he would like to explore thinking about humanity “in ways the depend less on ‘agency,’ ‘autonomy,’…and more on malleability and incomprehensibility – a wounded soul that is also the site where God works.” Maybe I just want to make sense of my profound sense of woundedness and all the woundedness I see, but somehow it feels like a relief to me to give in to the incomprehensibility of it all and hope that God can work there.

This is not meant to be a “downer” post. My life is so wonderful and so rich in so many ways. But I sit with these questions a lot. Especially as I lead in my congregation and in teaching and in raising our little cuddle bug, I am even more aware that my responses to these struggles aren’t just for me, but that they will influence others. I want my life to match my desires for love and justice. It is so much harder than it seems.


What are we to do?

May 7, 2009

My partner is German, and he and his generation dealt with the question of what to say to their parents and grandparents who knew what was happening during the war, but didn’t do anything. How to understand that? What to do with that?

What are we to do with this?

In all, 98 detainees have died while in U.S. hands, with 34 identified as homicides, at least eight of which were tortured to death….

I fear that these numbers are too low, but even if they are exaggerated, one death by torture is too much. How will I respond to my little one, who sleeps on my chest as I write this, when he grows up and asks if I knew of the torture my country was committing? When he asks me what I did? Blogging and sermon-giving and voting and going to a protest and praying all feel woefully inadequate, yet it is about all I can think of. I am so disappointed with my country of citizenship and residence. I have never identified strongly with my country, yet I don’t think that somehow relieves me of guilt by association when terrible things are done by the U.S. government.

I knew of so many bad things in our past… yet somehow for me, systematic torture during my lifetime seems so clear… so obvious… so much like something that I feel we should be able to stop. If this is okay, what is not okay? If this doesn’t provoke outrage… and legal action agianst those responsible, what possibly could?

I find myself increasingly questioning what a democracy is. At what point is a country no longer a democracy? How many human rights and international laws must be violated before a country gives up the right to claim noble values and good intentions and such things as rule of law? I know this is not a well-thought out or well-articulated post. Mostly I just feel despair and sickness and a deep sadness about this. I wanted this nation to do better. To live up to its best self instead of confirming the worst.


Ratzinger

May 14, 2007

Despite the fact that Joseph Ratzinger is now referred to as Pope Benedict XVI, around our house my German partner and I still call him Ratzinger. This is mostly because this is what we called him before he was the pope when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. An important point, I think, is that before it was called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith it was called Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition. Inquisition. Remember that? Or rather those? Inquisitions. There was a string of them – Roman, Spanish and so on – where heretics were put to death and where people were forcibly converted to Catholicism. Luckily, the Catholic Church doesn’t burn people at the stake anymore, but Ratzinger’s former leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I think, speaks to the sort of guy he is. He is about the purity of the faith. From his perspective. He’s hardcore about keeping things they way they are – no gays, no women, no birth control, abortion and none of that wishy-washing acceptance stuff.

And, I know this is not nice to say about someone, but gosh every time I look at him I imagine that to be what the devil were to look like. If such a person existed, which I don’t actually believe in. I stress, I am not suggesting that he is the devil, but just that he looks like what I would imagine such a nasty slimy character to look like. Maybe such feelings are encouraged by statements such as the one I am pointing out below – which just confirms what a huge disappointment and upsetting person I find him to be.

He apparently said in his final speech while visiting Brazil (and several places have reported this so it must be true…it is just hard for me to believe someone who is apparently smart and well-read could say something like this) that the indigenous people living in what is now South America were “silently longing” for Christianity and had welcomed the arrival of European priests who “purified” them.

Not to be dramatic about this, but I just want to make this clear. The pope of the Catholic Church said that the people who lived in South America before the Europeans arrived were “silently longing” for Christianity, welcomed the Europeans, and were “purified” by the priests who arrived. (If anyone can find the full text of the speech, I would appreciate it. I spent 10 minutes googling it with no luck.)

As with many things JR says, I am never sure to what extent he just says things and to what extent he really believes them. Not that it matters that much, but he is supposed to be a smart, well-read guy. I guess smart people can have terrible beliefs, but if you are well-read how can you say something like that?

As Debitage points out, the next line in many of the news reports on this is just about as absurd and dreadful: “Many indigenous rights groups see the conquest as ushering in a period of disease, mass murder, enslavement and the shattering of their cultures. ” (This particular version from Tracy Wilkinson of the LA Times.) The indigenous rights groups think this? Excuse me? Don’t you mean historians? Don’t you mean “Anyone, including historians, who has looked at the evidence realizes that contrary to the Pope’s characterization, the arrival of the Europeans and their priests resulted in rape, mass murder, pillage, and enslavement. This neither purified nor fulfilled a silent longing.”

Anyway. This the post is the start of what I hope to be at least three weekly posts. I have considered that it isn’t nice to be so critical of a person many people (my grandmother, in particular, may her soul rest in peace) really like and think you shouldn’t say anything bad about. Yet, I think when popes say things like this, any respect they should get by virtue of their title or role goes out the window. I hope that Ratzinger stops being the pope very soon and someone else is elected who is less racist, imperialist, and pompous, among other things.

pope-2.jpg


Senior Iraqi Official Says, "the break up of the country is inevitable."

July 25, 2006

I read in The Independent yesterday a story not so much covered by mainstream U.S. Media.

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, meets Tony Blair in London today as violence in Iraq reaches a new crescendo and senior Iraqi officials say the break up of the country is inevitable….. “Iraq as a political project is finished,” a senior government official was quoted as saying, adding: “The parties have moved to plan B.” He said that the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties were now looking at ways to divide Iraq between them and to decide the future of Baghdad, where there is a mixed population. “There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into [Shia] east and [Sunni] west,” he said.

I suppose we can hope that this will make things better for the country that the United States so mercifully “liberated.” Of course, the problem remains that a big oil field is in the north under Kurdish control, and one in the south under Shia control, leaving the Sunnis with no oil field. That will not likely go so smoothly.

You can read the article here http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article1193108.ece