Two Fields

On the corner of the block where my parents live, the retirement community has placed this sign (one of many around the campus). Love, Peace, Protection. May it be so.

It’s exhausting to be always repudiating.
And it’s distracting to need to.

Whenever the president comes out with another of his racist rants, like he did yesterday, derailing a conversation about police brutality against Black people by ranting that more white people are killed by police than Black people, and then repeating it over and over again, it feels like he’s pulling out the smoke and mirrors. There’s a fire somewhere, and he wants to focus your attention on this one instead, because he knows this will dog whistle his base, and he can gaslight the rest of us later. Now, you’ve got to get out the fact sheet, explain that yes, more white people are killed by police each year, but that per capita, the number of Black people is higher, and percentage-wise, a vastly greater number of those white people were armed, compared to the Black people killed by police. But he does not feel obligated to listen to the entirety of such a sentence. Perhaps he is unable to make sense of more than a simple clause at a time.

You can respond to him in several ways:
You can agree with him and defend his position, in which case you declare your own racism.
You can agree with him and remain silent and hope no one asks you for you opinion, so no one knows your racist tendencies.
You can disagree, and repudiate his racist speech, and offer the deeper explanation, and risk giving him the negative attention which to him is better than no attention, and probably distracts from something else he doesn’t want you to focus on.
You can disagree and keep quiet because you don’t want to offer him any kind of attention or risk drawing the focus away from other issues, but that risks leaving the racism hanging in the air, unchallenged.

I can’t let these things hang in the air. When people say in conversations, as they actually do, “He’s really not racist,” I want these things to be there in the conversation, too. The thing is, a lot of white people WANT to absolve the president of his white supremacy and racism because the things he says are not so different from what white people living in a white supremacist system have thought and said for centuries here. This president and his handlers (read: Stephen Miller) have been on a campaign (beneath his constant cult-of-personality campaign which lies beneath his never-ending presidential campaign) to normalize racist speech, this sort which makes you sort of double-take, makes you have to explain it. It’s not subtle enough to be under the radar, but it begs you to explain and educate about why it is racist. And by then they’re off on a new thing.

So perhaps it’s important that we don’t all pile on the social media outrage pile at every racist statement he makes, as long as we’re keeping our eyes open for the real issues his handlers are trying to distract us from, but the pieces do need to be stitched together. Sometimes we need to stand up in the crowd and shout that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes. This Emperor is so very, very naked. He thinks his lies and bluster will clothe him, or at least convince enough people in the crowd to get him crowned.

I know that some of the people in the crowd will not see, no matter how you shout or startle them, but there are others, here and there in the milling crowd, who are beginning to question, to wonder, to ask themselves if what he’s telling him to see is really there.

Keep standing up, Friends, in whatever way you are called to stand up.
Speak out. You’ll know your moment.
Look at the institutions and groups and clubs to which you belong. How are they using their funds and their power and their social capital in ways which either include or exclude others?
Tear down the broken structures.
Build new and just systems.
Keep your eyes and ears open and aware of the whole field, not just the outrage of the moment. Focus on the thing that is yours to do, and use your outrage, but don’t let outrage distract you from the whole picture.
Remember that overlaying this field of wrongness and brokenness on which the president and his minions play, there is also a field of goodness, and bravery. It’s a field of rightness, of possibility and justice and hopeful living. Play on both fields–Stand up to the evil on the one field wherever you have it in your power to do so, and walk in the sunshine with your beloveds on the other. Talk with others about what you want the world to be. Envision. Create. Give yourself to Goodness.


Grateful:
For time with beloveds (with safety precautions), to laugh and look into each other’s eyes, to hear the weaving of beloved voices, to feel the threads of connected hearts.
For those who step up and call out the truth on the field of lies.
For the sweet playfulness of kittens that melts my heart.
For the lulling rhythms of insect-song and frog-song, and bird-song.
For shade and breezes.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“The measure of your greatness is the measure of your magnanimity, your willingness to carry people in your heart. If we are encapsulated in our self-image, we are puny. A great being has stature, something cosmic comes through. Think of people who have really dedicated themselves to service. If we’re great enough, then we have room in our heart even for a person who has hurt us. So we can counter resentment, which can degenerate into hate, then to cruelty and even to war. As a dervish would say: “Shake yourself awake! You have been invited to the divine banquet! Don’t you realize that the divine being is present in you?” In fact, the whole of creation is an act of magnanimity. Rumi certainly put it right when he said, “Would the gardener have planted the seed if it were not for the love of the flower?” —Vilayat Inayat Khan


“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
—Mary Oliver


“Arm yourself with love and knowledge, and let’s work together for justice.” —Regina Shands Stoltzfus


“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes


“Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest, and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the holy. For when we betake ourselves to the extreme opposite of the ego, we can behold a situation from the aspect of God.” —Abraham Joshua Heschel


“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” ―James Baldwin


“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible—and achieve it, generation after generation.” —Pearl S Buck

Good Work

White Friends, this is difficult and constant work that we’re doing, that we must do, and continue to do. How can we really know how deeply we’ve been indoctrinated into this culture of white supremacy until we know it? And then know it more deeply? And then again. It’s not like a Bandaid that you rip off, and deal with the sting, and then everything’s fine. It’s layer after layer after layer.

And yes, it’s exhausting. And yes, it’s painful. But we have to do this work. Now. And always. It’s exhausting and painful for BIPOC folks to have to deal with microaggressions and explicit racism and systemic racism and inadvertent racism every day. We have to do this work. And keep doing it.

There is so much to learn on the way: new ways to articulate powerful ideas, new ways of exploring our own difficult feelings, new ways to see people and the world, new ways to experience the history of all of us, new ways to become more fully human.

I don’t quote many Bible verses here, but there’s one that fits pretty perfectly in this rhetorical moment. It’s in Romans 12: “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world. Instead, be transformed by the continual renewing of your mind, that you may discern the will of the Holy One: what is the good and acceptable and perfect.” The patterns of white supremacy in this (US) part of the world are institutionalized and powerful. It’s going to take some intentional and constant work to break and transform those patterns.

If you hear a new thing that challenges and unsettles you–about white supremacy, or privilege or fragility, or about taking a new look at US history and ideals–I urge and challenge you (me, us) to not begin in defensiveness and argument, but to simply sit quietly a moment, and ask yourself (myself, ourselves) how it applies, how the integrating of this idea might be transformational and renewing. And then begin to rip off that bandaid.

There are doorways all around us, leading us to places where we can be more fully human and humane, and right now there are constant opportunities to see them, to walk through them, to learn and to grow. Let’s join the Good Work, beginning with ourselves.


Gratitude List:
1. So many good and challenging things to learn.
2. Watching a thunderstorm from the shelter of the pavilion by the River.
3. Good exercise. Moving my body. Healthy, limber, and strong: That’s my mantra for the summer. (It includes a lot of aches and pains on the way, but they’re the good ones.)
4. Toads. They’re such wise and ancient folk.
5. Finishing projects

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“You are a pure Soul in darkened soil.” —Rumi


“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” ―Helen Keller


“What we need is here.” —Wendell Berry


“Million-to-one chances…crop up nine times out of ten.” ―Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites


“Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation.” —André Gide


“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” —Ms. Frizzle


“We stand guard over works of art, but species representing the work of aeons are stolen from under our noses.” —Aldo Leopold


“It is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you’re attempting can’t be done. A person ignorant of the possibility of failure can be a half-brick in the path of the bicycle of history.” ―Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites


“Hilta laughed like someone who had thought hard about Life and had seen the joke.” ―Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites

On Monuments and History

(Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

When you see the flags come down and watch the monuments getting removed, and you say things like, “But we can’t just erase our history,” please listen to how incredibly racist that is.

These are monuments to honor people who fought to keep people enslaved, placed there decades after the Civil War in order to try to control the narrative about who won and who lost, about who emerged dominant. These are monuments to racism.

They say history is written by the victors, and that is so often true, but the proponents of the confederacy could not allow a story that saw the people they had formerly enslaved taking an equal place at the American table. So they took hold of the story, placed statues of their slave-owning heroes in the public square, and swayed the narrative to place themselves again at the center.

Please don’t worry that we’re erasing history. We’ll keep teaching Civil War history, but we’ll also teach about the massacres and the lynching and the systematized racism that was put into place in order to terrorize and intimidate and demoralize Black people in its aftermath, to try to keep them unfree. We will teach the full history, of all of us. We’ll keep finding primary sources and researched, academic analysis of the post-Civil War era. And certainly, we’ll teach about those statues, which were raised by people who refused to lose a war, in order to offer a visual symbol of white supremacy. We’re not erasing history, and we’re not changing history. We’re completing the narrative.

As my friend Chantelle says, “Some of white history NEEDS to take a backseat.” It’s time, and past time, to tell the entire narrative.

And–Happy Juneteenth!
I know white people have a tendency to take over everything, and I don’t want to do that here. This is an important day in United States history, and I celebrate this day with all whose ancestors were enslaved in this country, when the word finally came two years later to Texas that “All Slaves Are Free.”

None of us are truly free until all of us are free. If ever we can celebrate true freedom and the hope of freedom in America, it is today. I pledge to continue that work of freedom in any way I can.


Gratitude List:
1. I saw a hairy woodpecker! I often wonder if some of what I am calling downies might actually be hairies, but those weren’t. When you know a downy, then when you see a hairy, you know it’s a hairy. I love how perception works like that.
2. Learning ALL the history, terrible as much of it is. Half a narrative is a false narrative.
3. Seeing my parents! We were allowed to visit at a distance with my parents last evening, and it was incredibly pleasant to sit and chat and see their eyes again.
4. I am almost finished with the prayer shawl. It will be complete in just a couple hours. I am grateful with the anticipation of passing it on to the young man it is meant to bless.
5. Indigo bunting–one drop of holy shining blue in all that writhing mass of green.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” —Maya Angelou


“I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” ―Anne Lamott


“[E]ducation is not just about utilizing a particular curriculum, or ensuring that critical reflection in a community follows a particular formula. It is full of intangible and random events. It is not just taught in the classroom, but lived in the midst of the community in ways that are not even fully quantifiable.” ―M.S. Bickford on the educational theories of John Westerhoff


“The trouble with trouble is, it starts out as fun.” ―Anonymous


“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. . .give it, give it all, give it now.”
—Annie Dillard


“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.”
—Leymah Gbowee


“There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments.” —Wangari Maathai


“Throughout my life, I have never stopped to strategize about my next steps. I often just keep walking along, through whichever door opens. I have been on a journey and this journey has never stopped. When the journey is acknowledged and sustained by those I work with, they are a source of inspiration, energy and encouragement. They are the reasons I kept walking, and will keep walking, as long as my knees hold out.” —Wangari Maathai


“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” —Joseph Campbell


“I’m a Zen Buddhist if I would describe myself. I don’t think about what I do. I do it. That’s Buddhism. I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.”
—Ray Bradbury

Dystopia

What a dystopian movie I watched last night. I didn’t catch the name–it was something like Evening News. It was a powerful commentary on what happens when empire uses religion to prop itself up. The opening image in the movie is a birds-eye view of a park in a marbled city. There are clouds of tear gas wafting above the park, and crowds of peaceful protesters running to safety. There is the sound of concussion grenades exploding. Cut to a close-up of a man gasping for breath, holding his stomach, where he’s been hit by a rubber bullet. Through the veils of tear gas, you can see a phalanx of black-suited riot police with their shields up, moving in on the panicked crowd.

The nation in the film is experiencing an uprising of thousands and thousands of people taking to the streets to demand justice for ALL the people instead of just for the ones who had historically claimed power. There is looting and burning and violence, and there are thousands upon thousands of peaceful protesters.

There is a shift to a scene of the nation’s autocratic ruler ranting about using any force necessary to quell the violence and looting. “We cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob,” he rants, and you realize that the violent gassing and dispersal of the crowd in the opening credits was of those very “righteous and peaceful protesters.”

Cut to the dictator (it’s not clear in the movie what to call him, but he seems kind of like a dictator) walking with his minions and ministers (they all seemed to be men in the world of this movie) past barricades and marble buildings to a house of worship on the edge of the park. He stalks up to the front of the church, lifts a Bible in his hand, smirks for the camera, and stalks off again.

I actually haven’t seen the end of the movie. It’s still going on. But it was a brilliant piece of cinematography. The soulless look in the eyes of the leader. The blatant use of religious symbols and spaces to attempt to give validity to the violent quelling of protest. The lies about protecting the very people they were at that moment violently removing from the park so the dictator could use the religious building like a movie set.

I’m not sure how it’s going to play out. The religious people have to see it now, don’t they? The soullessness, the way their beautiful Teacher is being used as an agent of the violence of empire.

Usually in these stories, the people, after their hundreds of years of oppressive rule, throw off the mighty arm of the empire and create a new and better reality in its place. Sometimes everything is destroyed and the new and beautiful thing is built from the ashes of the violent past. I’m going to keep tuning in.


Gratitude List:
1. The marchers in Lancaster yesterday, and Michelle Johnson who filmed it all for five hours, live. There were some powerful moments when the police chief was speaking, and people began to yell their pain and rage, and he just handed the bullhorn over and listened. He said he had to go to a meeting, and somebody yelled out that they were there to march because they couldn’t escape this reality, and he nodded his head, skipped his meeting, and joined the marchers.
2. I got two emails from students yesterday about the current national emergency. I am so grateful that they’re reaching out, that they’re thinking and processing and deciding what their role in this world should be. I’m so proud of them.
3. Snugglecats. Really, every household needs at least one cat. One of mine is snoring.
4. Hummingbird dipping into the petunia basket, a strand of cobweb held in her claws.
5. People are finding their voices in the midst of this. Keep articulating. Keep talking it through. Keep speaking up.

May we walk in Beauty!


“The women said feel how we are not open
fields waiting for their strike. They cannot not bury us
deep, call us things of war and be surprised
when we land mine.” —Kelly Grace Thomas


“The necessary thing is to be solitary, the way one was solitary as a child.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke


“Words are things, I’m convinced. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, in your clothes, and finally, into you. We must be careful about the words we use.” ―Maya Angelou


“I’d rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.” ―Gerry Spence


“Life is a lot more interesting if you are interested in the people and the places around you. So, illuminate your little patch of ground, the people that you know, the things that you want to commemorate. Light them up with your art, with your music, with your writing, with whatever it is that you do. Do that, and little by little, it might gradually get to be, if not a better world, then a better understood world.” ―Alan Moore

The Virus

White Supremacy is an ancient and virulent virus that has infected this country since its founding. It began with a “Manifest Destiny” that wiped out any humans that stood in the way of the European conquest of the New World and continued with an “all men [sic] are created equal” that didn’t recognize all the humans as human, ignoring the inhumanity of brutally enslaving thousands of African people.

White people, we are all infected to some degree. We have absorbed it in the images we have seen, the media we have consumed, the education we have received, and even the sermons we have heard in our churches. It’s everywhere. It’s no longer slavery or wholesale slaughter of the First Nations. It’s no longer explicitly codified in apartheid-style laws. It’s subtler, more insidious.

Oh, it’s also obvious. The woman on the video spewing the n-word and saying she’d say it again. The white people calling the police on black and brown people for simply existing in public spaces. The police officers who shoot first, shoot pre-emptively, and walk free of the murders they commit. And the epidemic (yes) of white men slaughtering people with their weapons of mass destruction–we have reached the point when it’s no surprise to discover that the madman with the AK-47 is a self-avowed White Supremacist.

And while we have been searching for ways to combat the virus within ourselves and our communities, the president and his cronies in the halls of power in this country are feeding the virus, adding to its virulence and strength. From his tweets to their shrugs and tepid explanations, the virus is being fortified and given room to bloom. When frat boys pose in celebration in front of a memorial to a black boy killed for the color of his skin, when people sworn to defend and protect all people are serving up vileness and hatred on the internet, when our nation is caging brown children and people of faith say they deserved it, when a raging and disaffected youth posts a manifesto about race and then picks up a gun to kill as many people as he can before he goes down in a blaze of non-glory, it’s not only the virus itself that is to blame. It is those who spread and nourish it.

I call out the president of the United States for spreading the virus of white supremacy, for normalizing it, for egging on his weak-minded followers to vile and horrendous acts. He and his enablers must be held accountable for their words and actions.

I’m not letting myself off the hook. I’m not letting you off the hook. All of us whose skin gives us privilege have a responsibility to deal with the virus within ourselves, within our communities, within this nation.

If you are white, I urge you to join me in several actions. First, let’s look inside and keep opening doors of awareness. It’s never enough to simply call out the racists out there. We need to look at the racists inside ourselves. When we feel defensive or self-righteous, those are clues that we are holding on to our own privilege in unhealthy ways. Examine. Repent. Let go. Grow. Move on. Repeat.

And then, let’s find one thing, or two, or twenty, that we can use to identify white supremacy in clear and articulate ways. Let’s call it out. Post it on our social media. Speak out. Open conversations. Teach our children. Spread the word. We need to kill this virus.

What Shall Our Resistance Be?

“You can build walls all the way to the sky and I will find a way to fly above them. You can try to pin me down with a hundred thousand arms, but I will find a way to resist. And there are many of us out there, more than you think. People who refuse to stop believing. People who refuse to come to earth. People who love in a world without walls, people who love into hate, into refusal, against hope, and without fear.

I love you. Remember. They cannot take it.” 
― Lauren Oliver, Delirium

Emergency! We’re in a state of Emergency! Apparently we are still in a state of emergency over the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Still in a state of emergency over 9/11. According to yesterday’s NPR’s The Indicator on the Planet Money show, we’re currently in 32 national States of Emergency that just keep getting renewed year after year after year. They’ve become routine. It seems to be about how a president gets the money to go where she (yeah, yeah–or he, in this case and every previous case) wants it to go. So what to do about this Border Wall Emergency?

I don’t know what to think. It seems that perhaps the comparisons to Hitler’s declaration of a State of Emergency in Germany after the burning of the Reichstag in 1933 are pretty alarmist, but that comparing it to President Obama’s declaration of a State of Emergency regarding entry of citizens from Venezuela in 2015 is a little too mild. It seems to foretell, as the man said in his speech yesterday, a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of wrangling in Congress and the courts. Who knows where it will end?

It’s another step. Another petulant grab for attention and air time by a narcissist reality television president who creates drama in order to up his ratings. Another manipulation to get his way for a petulant leader whose unfounded scare tactics have failed to secure him his xenophobic legacy wall.

I’ll be the first to admit that it ramped up my anxiety to a higher level of shrill, that I jumped on the train to Anxietyville without looking at the other possible destinations. I posted a White Rose as my Facebook profile picture, a signal to myself to stay awake and ready to resist.

Still, I think it is perhaps wise to take this moment to consider our resistance, to consider what preparations we need to make and continue to make in order to create and maintain just systems and structures.

1. Clearly, this is part of the ongoing demonization of Mexican and Central American asylum seekers. When the anti-immigrant groups speak in strident tones about our problem with illegal immigration, it would behoove us to keep in mind that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has been steadily declining since 2007, not rising catastrophically as the president and his associates would have us believe. See this Pew Research poll for more information. Resistance Point One: Keep the facts in mind.

2. This current leader announced his candidacy for president by characterizing Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, and his calls for a wall have consistently characterized the people who are coming to our borders seeking asylum as drug traffickers and gang members. While some people do no doubt cross our borders for nefarious purposes, the president has used this stereotype to call upon racial anxieties. Resistance Point Two: Call out racism whenever and wherever you see it. It is not enough to be disgusted by someone’s racist public speech. If we do not speak out against it, we are complicit.

3. In response to this administration’s border obsessions, ICE appears to be overstepping its boundaries. Resistance Point Three: Be prepared to protect and harbor people targeted by ICE. Speak up for due process. Stand in the gap. Offer sanctuary.

4. Resistance Point Four: Use language which breaks barriers and tears down walls. Collaborative conversation opens people’s minds much more readily than shaming does. (Still, don’t be afraid to call out malice–see point 2.)

5. Resistance is also about building the just structures and systems that we want to see. We don’t have to wait until this fiasco of an administration is out of power. Resistance Point Five: Work for justice and equality in everything you do.

What are your ideas for Persistent Resistance?

Always More to Learn

Some of the things I have learned, or internalized more deeply, this week, in the wake of the clashing of worlds at the Lincoln Memorial last week:

* I am quick to jump into the dogpile, to join the mob. We think of mobs as being misguided bigots destroying the objects of their hatred, but there are also vigilante mobs that take justice into their own hands, destroying those who are rightly deserving of justice before reasoning justice itself can take place. And this makes the original crime scene so very messy. I think the internet this week has been a little like a vigilante mob, tearing into those boys before reasoning justice had a chance to take place. I might never be the one in the mob who yells death threats or speaks of punching and hitting rude children, but my own energy was certainly part of that mob, and I feel a little sullied by my egging on of the ones at the center.

* I am not ashamed of my rage at the obvious racism, only at my part in the dogpile.

* I think one of the reasons vigilante mobs form IRL and in the virtual world is because we don’t trust reasoning justice to intervene. In the current political climate, with our awareness of the terrible injustices committed by our government toward families trying to enter our country, with our own knowledge of the moral rot at the center of our administration, it is only natural that the mob feel like we are the only justice available when boys seem to be taking cues from our bigoted president to disrespect an elder with a drum.

* I think perceptions are at the center of this story. Those who watched the first video and saw (like myself) aggressive, chanting, jeering boys were not wrong, exactly, but we were not privy to the whole story. Those who watched the longer video and saw a slight difference in how the scene played out were not wrong, exactly, but we were not privy to the whole story. And mostly, I think it’s really important to look at Mr. Phillips’ perceptions. Viewing the second video caused people to question his veracity, but if you were to come upon a large group of mostly white boys wearing MAGA gear chanting and dancing to their sports chants in the direction of a small group of black men, what assumptions would you make? Who would you see as the aggressor?

* The Red Hat and Hatred: We’re that divided. If you support this president, please understand that it’s no longer as simple as us having a disagreement about how this country should be run. We who question his competency as president don’t just think he makes bad policy. We see a dangerous bigot who is not only racist and misogynist himself, but who brings out those things in his supporters. To us, MAGA hats are declarations of one’s own racism and misogyny. Red hat has come to signify hatred. Yes, we’re triggered, but we have reasons to be, and we need you to try to understand why, or we begin to question your intentions as well.

* Sports chants. I am not a sports fan, so perhaps I am not the person to discuss this. Or maybe that makes me the perfect outsider to explain what I see. Sports chanting is aggressive. Sports are rivalries and competitions, and while good sporting behavior is often taught and learned in the context of sporting competitions, the chanting and dancing often moves past simple support for one’s team into primal aggression. Whatever adult said yes to those boys responding to taunting by doing their sports chants was irresponsible and thoughtless. And watching the videos of past sports events at Covington Catholic, it becomes pretty clear that these boys took their chants to a fever pitch of aggression, and aggression which included clear racist markers. I struggle to believe their claims of innocence of the knowledge of the implications of wearing blackface.

* More on perceptions: Did the boys perceive themselves to be acting out of racism there by the Lincoln Memorial? I’m not sure we can say. But I do think, either way, that we can say it was a racist incident. Yes, they were provoked. Yes, they were unprepared. Yes, they were woefully and unconscionably un-chaperoned. But they were acting with all the signs and markers of completely unquestioned white privilege. I might be working to eradicate the racist biases in my own soul, but when I act unconsciously out of my racial biases, then I am being racist.

* Even when (especially when) stories are more complex than they appear on the surface, there are no two sides to racism, no two sides to disrespect for elders.

* Where were the chaperones? I think if we bring a reasoning sense of justice to this situation, the boys certainly need to be held accountable for their actions, but if they’re the only ones who receive opprobrium in this situation, then injustice has been done to them as well, and the real culprits are left to continue ignoring their culpability: the teachers and parents, the school administration, and the chaperones on this adventure. These children have not been taught to question their privilege. They’ve been taught to lean into it, to revel in it, even. They’ve been encouraged to take on the mantle of wealthy white patriarchy. They’re being groomed to carry on the traditions of powerful white men controlling the religious and financial and political institutions of the world. The real culprits, in my opinion, are the ones who are grooming them. Real justice will only be done when the invisible adults are held accountable.

* And the moment I point my finger at those people, I feel a ripple of a shock wave in my own direction. While my own teaching and parenting are geared, to the best of my ability, at tearing down those structures, at getting the young people of my life to examine their privileges and their biases, I know that I, too, work out of my own biases and my own privilege. We who parent and teach and mold the next generation have a great weight of responsibility. And the boys of Covington Catholic, and especially their invisible chaperones, draw that into high relief.

* Addendum: I am so tired of that picture. I feel so manipulated. I feel confused. I feel sullied. I feel the continuing outrage that flows from me, through those boys, to the president. I am so tired of that picture. But: It is a mirror. No matter who put it up, no matter their intentions, no matter the unclarity of the boy’s own intentions and perceptions, it is a mirror. It is a mirror. Can I dare to keep looking into it?


Gratitude List:
1. Mirrors. The mirror of Nathan Phillips and his drum. The mirror, ugly as it is, of the Covington Catholic boys–I will never learn to question my own privilege if I don’t have to confront it in the ugly mirror of my own assumptions.
2. The holy blue of winter
3. Being able to lay down the weight of first semester and focus on the work of second semester
4. How the cats come up and gently greet me throughout the day when I am at home.
5. Silence and solitude.

May we walk in Awareness.


“Like water, be gentle and strong. Be gentle enough to follow the natural paths of the earth and strong enough to rise up and reshape the world.” ―Brenda Peterson


“Tyrants fear the poet.” —Amanda Gorman, U.S. Youth Poet Laureate


In the very end, civilizations perish because they listen to their politicians and not to their poets.” —Jonas Mekas


“Are you enhancing your power to discern the difference between rash risks motivated by fear and smart gambles driven by authentic intuition?” —Rob Brezsny


“I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. . . . Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. . . . The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.” ―Ursula Le Guin


“I wonder how the world would be different if we grew down?” —Someone in my House, a few years ago

Ranting

I have been ranting for the last couple of days. Here’s the gist:
Quote by Nancy Shulman:
“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.”
***
Dallas Megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress said: “Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him, President Trump is right on target in his sentiment.”

To the contrary: The word “shithole” is nothing compared to the vulgarity of the sentiment he expressed.

I have been quietly not openly calling myself a Christian for years now, because I do not like the look of Christianity in this country. I now openly walk away from the name. I continue to be a Follower of Jesus, in an Anabaptist and Universalist sort of way, with an emphasis on the feminine nature of the Great Mystery, and a belief that the Great Mystery is within everything and everyone. But I can no longer categorize myself as a Christian. I do not belong in any way, shape, or form to the same group as this man. No, we clearly are not following the same Jesus. Yes, this is judgemental. Yes, it is not being accepting of differences. There are differences I will not accept. Racism and xenophobia have absolutely no role in the realm of Jesus. If that is Christian, I am not that. I will have no part of that. Rather than trying to claim the term as something that embraces me as well, I walk away from it.

I will not check myself in as a Christian on polls and forms. If you ask my religion, I will no longer tell you that I am “a Christian, just not one of those.” Public Christianity in the United States is nothing I recognize as having anything to do with Jesus.

There are many people I know who continue to claim and reclaim the word, and I do not judge them. I, however, feel that at this point in time, I need to make a clear distinction between what I believe and what seems to be the path of U.S. Christianity.
***
This is no shock. We knew he was racist. Still, putting it into the public discourse so baldly demands that public figures, especially ones who follow Jesus, repudiate the language. One can say that this is not surprising, that he’s been doing this all along. That is true. But this is a level of unstatesmanlike public discourse that needs to be addressed right now. Robert Jeffries certainly did. His counterparts need to speak up. Now.
***
I believe in the path of Love, but this is one of the biggest challenges to that, even more than Dick Cheney. It was easier when it was abstract, but having an actual person to work it out with is really hard. I should probably take a FB break and read more Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron and Richard Rohr. Still, I feel a need to be part of the conversation. Somehow, I think these things need to happen in tandem: the inner work and the outer work.

Let’s keep talking about how to manage this. If not to Love, if not even to stop hating, at least to manage it all, to not be drowned, ourselves, in the hatred.

This I can say: I love You. I love my family, my students, my colleagues, my Beloved Friends, the sun and the earth and the animals. The moon. Those who are downtrodden and beaten and excluded. And because of that Love, I must fight the Wrong that these men are unleashing.

I have a sense that my hatred will not be an effective tool in that, though I have not managed to quell it. My anger can go either way, to push me to toward effective Work, or to enmire me in the bogs.

I cast a line from me to you, a line of Love for all that we love in common.
***
“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.” –Elie Wiesel
***
I have been neglecting the grounding work of my gratitude lists during a couple of days when I desperately needed the grounding.


Gratitude List:
1. The fine musicians and singers at my school. They are really given the opportunity to learn and to shine.
2. A long weekend
3. Bright souls, all around
4. A warm hat and slippers
5. Being surrounded by stories

May we walk in Beauty!

No Two Sides to Racism

Here are some things I have been writing, to try to pull out some threads of sense from the past day and from the sheer willful ignorance of the president of the United States in a time of crisis:

When I think of what happened in Charlottesville over the weekend, I keep getting images of the old photos I have studied of the morning after Kristallnacht. I remember some of my first impressions after reading that bit of history, of the sense of violation, of a government goading the worst of its citizenry to acts of violence which cowed and frightened the rest. I remember walking through modern-day Landau with an elder friend who remembered the broken windows first-hand.

Am I being too alarmist and shrill to say that I think Charlottesville was our Kristallnacht? The step over the line that should wake us up and spur us into action lest we allow fear to numb us and paralyze us into letting the evil wash over our consciousness and put us to sleep.

Stay woke. Stay unsettled and angry, if it helps to keep the energy going. Stay aware of every little thing. Speak truth. Don’t allow yourself to be silenced by the fear and confusion and misguided rage of others.

Here’s the web. I cast my line to you, and you, and you. I feel your presence. I sense your intention and your determination. I will help to hold the lines with you. We have our work to do.

Thanks for listening.
―Beth Weaver-Kreider
***

Let’s get this straight. Let’s make it clear:
There are no two sides to racism.
There are no two sides to racism.
There are no two sides to racism.

Repeat after me, Mr. President:
There are no two sides to racism.

Condemn all the violence, if you must,
but those who fight Nazis
are not the same as Nazis,
no matter what your Stephens say.

There are angry protesters,
and then there are terrorists
who bring their twisted ideology
to the streets, and if you must insist
that they are just the same,
then I say your bigotry is showing.

There are no two sides to racism.
―Beth Weaver-Kreider


“Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.”
―Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
*
We must always take sides.
—Elie Wiesel
*
“Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind–even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.”
―Maggie Kuhn
*
First they came for Transpeople and I spoke up–
Because God does NOT make mistakes!
They came for the African Americans and I spoke up—
Because I am my sisters’ and my brothers’ keeper.
And then they came for the women and I spoke up—
Because women hold up half the sky.
And then they came for the immigrants and I spoke up—
Because I remember the ideals of our democracy.
And then they came for the Muslims and I spoke up—
Because they are my cousins and we are one human family.
And then they came for the Native Americans and Mother Earth and I spoke up—
Because the blood-soaked land cries and the mountains weep.
They keep coming.
We keep rising up.
Because we Jews know the cost of silence.
We remember where we come from.
And we will link arms, because when you come for our neighbors, you come for us—
and THAT just won’t stand.
―Rabbi Michael Latz, MN 8.13.2017
*
Toko-pa Turner:
“What is wild in us are the ways in which we meet something freshly and not by rote. Wild is to be full-body alive in response to the conversation life is having with us; the caress of the wind which cools your skin after the sun has penetrated it with warmth. The shadow cast by a soaring bird above. The unmediated glance, surprised by beauty.

“When this conversation goes quiet from inattention, as it does for us all, know that it takes little to encourage it again. It is simply to remember that life isn’t only happening to us, but we are happening to life!”
*
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” ―Fred Rogers
*
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” ―Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum
*
Parker Palmer said this:
“Since suffering as well as joy comes with being human, I urge you to remember this: Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering.”
*
“Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.” ―Mother Teresa


Gratitude List:
1. Bree Newsome. My heart has turned to her so often in the past days. Her act of loving defiance―climbing a flag pole to remove the Confederate flag from the SC statehouse remains an inspiration for me. She was joyful, determined, prayerful. She woke up the nation, I think. Suddenly people were shaking off their sleep, blinking their eyes, and noticing how emblems of slavery in our public tax-funded spaces might be a bad idea.
2. Mitch Landrieu. If you haven’t yet, give yourself the gift of listening to his powerful speech about why New Orleans is removing its Confederate statues. He is articulate, wise, compassionate. Brilliant speechmaking.
3. All of us, together. We will stand against the powers of hatred.
4. Anchors. When I am getting myself into high dudgeon, I sometimes stop and breathe and think about the wise and calm and loving people I know, and I cast my webs their way, and hold onto their anchors so I don’t float away on my tides of emotion or burn myself up in my rages. I am blessed in family and friends who help me not to lose sight of the Center. You are probably one of these people.
5. Cats. Yes, another of my obsessions lately, but it’s just such a delight to have furry people in the house. I can forgive the nightly 2 AM Thunder Rumpus through the house because they bring us so much joy.

May we walk in Beauty!

Silence, My Soul

“If we are to teach peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children; and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have to struggle; we won’t have to pass fruitless ideal resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering.”
―Gandhi
*
“We must call evil by its name–call white supremacy a sin from the pulpit, and call white America to repentance.” ―Jim Wallis
*
“I think ultimately people become extremists not necessarily because of the ideology. I think that the ideology is simply a vehicle to be violent. I believe that people become radicalized, or extremist, because they’re searching for three very fundamental human needs: identity, community and a sense of purpose.

“If, underneath that fundamental search is something that’s broken — I call them potholes — is there abuse or trauma or mental illness or addiction? … [T]here are so many marginalized young people, so many disenfranchised young people today with not a lot to believe in, with not a lot of hope, they tend to search for very simple black and white answers.” ―Christian Picciolini, former skinhead
*
“Nazis are a lot like cats: If they like you, it’s probably because you’re feeding them.” ―John Oliver
*
“Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons…
We who believe in freedom cannot rest,
we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”
―Sweet Honey in the Rock
*
In Starhawk’s novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, Maya tells her beloved community to approach the invading soldiers with these words: “There’s a place set for you at our table, if you will choose to join us.”
*
“The future, good or ill, was not forgotten,
but ceased to have any power over the present.
Health and hope grew strong in them,
and they were content with each good day as it came,
taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.”
—J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)
*
“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.”
― Linda Hogan
*
“Silence my soul, these trees are prayers.” ―Rabindranath Tagore
*
“Whoever you are,
now I place my hand upon you,
that you be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear.
I have loved many women and men,
but I love none better than you.”
—Walt Whitman, “To You”
*
Let it flow.
Let what may come, come.
Let what must go, go.
But we,
we will put our feet
in the icy waters of now
and know
how all will pass
around us–
through us,
between us–
how everything changes
and everything stays the same. —Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
―Eleanor Roosevelt
*
“Shaped language is strangely immortal, living in a meadowy freshness outside of time.

But it also lives in the moment, in us. Emotion, intellect, and physiology are inseparably connected in the links of a poem’s sound. It is difficult to feel intimacy while shouting, to rage in a low whisper, to skip and weep at the same time.” ―Jane Hirshfield


Gratitude List:
1. The way this boy turns everything into a song. When I told them I didn’t know if the party was going to include swimming, he started singing from the back seat, in a lovely melody, “Call and check. Call and check. Call and check.” When he found a Lego he’d been searching for: “Here it is. Here it is, Here it is!” Often, throughout the day, I’ll hear him singing to himself in the other room. He takes after his dad.
2. One of my deeply compassionate colleagues, in the wake of the weekend’s violence, offered this solution: To love all our students more–to show it more. All of them. That’s our work. That’s the work of healing. That’s a solution I can implement.
3. Instars. I love that word. Instars are the developmental metamorphic stages of insects in which they shed a skin and a new body emerges with new powers and abilities. That’s a bit of a whimsical way to say it, perhaps, but I think my children are both approaching new instar phases of their development.
4. Voices calling for change. Coming out of this weekend’s terrorist attack, I see people looking inward, trying to understand at deeper levels what white privilege means, what it means to live in a white supremacist society. Perhaps good will rise out of evil.
5. Bruschetta and toast.

May we walk in Beauty!