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Showing posts from September, 2007

What's so great about blogging

In the last couple of days, I've had some fun with blogging. All the different voices out there that I'd never have the priviledge of hearing in real life are all right here on the screen for me if I take just a little bit of time to find them. I do find that I have to limit it to short trips or I get overwhelmed and don't have time to process. But here's an example of a couple of trips I've made lately.

As I said in the diary below, I did some thinking about the Jena 6 situation yesterday. All of this started with a diary posted by Nezua over at The Unapologetic Mexican. He has a great blogroll for issues like this, so I started out by going over to see what Blackamazon was saying about it. There I found a post where she bared her emotional soul about how exhausted she gets in trying to carry her message forward. And I also found a link to elle's post about the burden we place on African Americans in order to join in the causes that are important to them. And f…

We ALL Live in Jena

I have spent some time this afternoon trying to understand why I haven't engaged more with the Jena 6 issue. While I have been aware of the situation for several months now, I haven't really spent a lot of energy on it or gotten involved at all. Part of me thinks that's wrong and I'm sorry.

But I just saw something on Fox News (yeah, can you believe that one!!!) that helped me understand why. In a roundtable discussion about several issues related to race that have happened this week, one of the commentators talked about a case where a white boy had been beaten up by a group of black boys, but had gotten no media attention. This is the problem with advocacy by anectdote. If we are going to rely on one case to make our point - the other side is more than capable of coming up with a case in counterpoint. But we all know what a lie that turns out to be, don't we?

I really feel for these particular 6 young men who are being handed a complete dose of injustice based on ou…

One Good Word

Supersoling and I are having a bit of a conversation in a diary down below and I wanted to bring this portion of it up to the top. Here's a poem by David Whyte that captures some of what we've been talking about:

Loaves and Fishes

This is not
the age of information.

This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,
and the radio
and the blurred screen.

This is the time
of loaves
and fishes.

People are hungry,
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.

I love a poem like this because I think it speaks to something VERY BIG and then we can all project what our own limited vision finds in the words. What it speaks to for me is a feeling lately that I need to ramp down the amount of "data" that is going into my head right now about the state of our insanity in the world. I'm feeling overwhelmed and I think that pulls me down into the "muck."

I'm starving for "one good word." I don't mean the kind of superficial words that cover over the current state …

Coalitions

Crossposted at Docudharma

Some time ago I found a speech given by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon titled Coalitions Politics: Turning the Century at the West Coast Women's Music Festival in 1981. It is some of the most profound thinking I have ever read about our struggles to work together as progressives. I can't tell you how many times the content of this speech has crept into my thinking in all kinds of discussions. I'd love it if everyone would just go read the whole thing. But knowing that's not likely, I'll excerpt some quotes and try to summarize.

Reagon begins by talking about why it is so important to work at coalitions:
We've pretty much come to the end of a time when you can have a space that is"yours only"-just for the people you want to be there...To a large extent it's because we have just finished with that kind of isolating. There is no hiding place. There is nowhere you can go and only be with people who are like you. Its over. Give it u…

First the books, then the music

I thought I'd post the list of books my group selected to read in the upcoming year. I might be writing about some of them as we go through the list, so here it is:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai

We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness by Alice Walker

Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence by Matthew Sanford

Couldn't Keep it to Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters by Wally Lamb, Diane Bartholomew, Nancy Birkla, Robin Cullen, Brenda Medina

Reader's choice: a book of short stories by Alice Munro

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson

Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for Women Who Are Changing the World by Holly Morris

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp, Camille Kingsolver

One member of the group couldn't participate because of a family emergency so we saved a month for…

Say goodbye and move on

This sums up the crazy cycle our political system has become. I don't know about you, but I've become pretty disgusted with the whole thing. Over the last couple of days we've seen the Senate give Bushco the cover to start another war with Iran, the House take a stand AGAINST free speech, and the leading Democratic Presidential contenders refuse to promise to get our troops out of Iraq by 2013. And we're just talking about what the Democrats have done.

What the hell is happening here?!! I just might be able to stomach all this if there was some progressive agenda that was even being talked about. But this pretty much sums up the total of what our so-called representatives have been up to. Why, with only 25-30% of the public supporting the insane policies of this administration and the neo-cons, do the Democrats seem to still be so completely afraid of speaking any truth or providing any vision of how to make things better?

The answer to these questions for me right now …

A few words on entitlement and fear

I just finished reading The Love of Impermanent Things: A Threshold Ecology by Mary Rose O'Reilley. Its one of those books that you appreciate more after you've finished reading it and can contemplate the whole. It reads as a kind of "stream of consciousness" with moments where you can get lost and moments of profound wisdom. Here is one of my favorite passages:

This country has puzzled me since 1960, when I belatedly began to think. Where did we get the idea that we are entitled to be pain free and worry free, that accidents must always be someone's fault, that all cancers should be gotten in time, that babies should be born flawless, and that death could be relegated to the back burner? What is the implicit idea about being human here?...Under the rock of every fear is the refusal to accept the contractual conditions of being human. I don't know why I came into the world or where I will go when I boil over on the back burner, but I know that I was born into …

Good Friends Share Poetry

Yesterday I got a letter (remember those?) from a good friend that I haven't heard from in years. Included was a copy of one of his favorite poems. What a wonderful gift!!

ITHAKA
by Constantine P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - don't be afraid of them:
you'll never find things like that one on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon - you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbours you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfumes of every kind -
as many sensual perfumes…

Music Mood

I invite you to take a look at the video to the right of here and just under my intro. Its by Anthony Hamilton and the pictures are from the HBO series "The Wire." Anyone who knows me is aware that I am addicted to that show.

When folks complain about the lack of meaningful music in our world today, I think they are not listening to the likes of Anthony Hamilton. I'd say he's our Marvin Gaye for today. Great soulful voice and speaking to our times.

In the same vein, I also love this one by Black Eyed Peas:

Books

This weekend my monthly book group goes away for our annual retreat up north in the woods. Its something I look forward to every year. If its anything like previous years, we'll laugh and cry and learn from each other. Its the essence of what I think life is really all about.

But while we're up there, we have a task to do. At some point over the weekend we'll go through our complicated ritual of picking the 12 books we'll read in the coming year. Its an important time because I don't ususally read more than one book a month and so this list will make up most of the reading I'll do over the coming year.

As I mentioned, we have a rather elaborate process for picking our books. I won't go into all the details, but it involves all of us recommending from one to ??? who knows how many and selecting from there. Last year I recommended 6 and got a little grief for bringing so many. But in the end, they chose 3 of them. So I'm trying to pare down my recommendati…

Written in the Stone

I found that love provides the key
Unlocks the heart and souls of you and me
Love will learn to sing your song
Love is written in the stone

Every man I meet is walking time
Free to wander past his conscious mind
Love will come and take you home
Love is written in the stone
Do you believe my friend in what you claim
People of the world all doubt the same
Bringing questions of their own
Truth is written in the stone

In the stone you'll find the meaning
You're not standing tall
In the stone the light is shining
Forever touching all

Life experience a passing day
Time will witness what the ole folks say
Getting stronger every day
Strenghth is written in the stone
Deep inside your heart for you to keep
Lies a spark of light that never sleeps
The greatest love you've ever known
Yea is written in the stone

In the stone you'll find the meaning
You're not standing tall
In the stone the light is shining
Forever touching all
Never, never my darling
Never you'll be alone
Ever, forever my darling
True lov…

Can we fix it? Part II

Last night I wrote about a nagging thought that hangs out in the back of my head these days. Today, I think I'll bring another one out from the dank recesses and let it see the light of day. I was actually spurred to do so by this bit from a diary at Who Is IOZ:

In any event, the notion that Bush isn't a moron is a form of national self-flattery. At its root is the belief that he can't be a moron because if he were, that would mean that the American people, our government and institutions, allowed ourselves to be conquered by a moron. It would mean that the whole edifice of Western Democracy, centuries in the making, is cheaper than a backlot set. It would mean that the fruits of the political Enlightenment were finally plucked and chucked onto the compost heap with no more effort than it takes to nickname some reporters, shamble around, talk with an aw-shucks accent, and produce some decent war pornography. It would mean that the founders were right to fear democracy and t…

Can we fix it?

Lately I've been having a nagging awareness hanging in the back of my head as I try to absorb so much of what's going wrong in our world today. The title of this post is a short summary of that, but the longer version is the awareness that our actions and inactions have long term consequences that we just might not be able to fix. The poet David Whyte talks often of the "fiercness" of life. I think this is part of what he means by that.

I guess that for most of my life I've been priviledged with the white upper middle class kind of thinking that says all problems have a solution. And in these days of instant everything - that solution better be quick in materializing.

But as I look at the incredibly complex mess we've made of things in Iraq and the Middle East in general, and as I contemplate the insideous effects of racism and poverty, and as I see the impending doom that is global warming, I realize that even if we had all the answers right now, solutions mig…

Bearing Witness

At times, I feel like the only thing left to do is bear witness to the suffering and claim my own outrage. From The Independent:

An al-Jazeera journalist captured in Afghanistan six years ago and sent to Guantanamo Bay is close to becoming the fifth detainee at the US naval base to take his own life, according to a medical report written by a team of British and American psychiatrists

Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese national, is 250 days into a hunger strike which he began in protest over his detention without charge or trial in January 2002. But British and American doctors, who have been given exclusive access to his interview notes, say there is very strong evidence that he has given up his fight for life, experiencing what doctors recognise as "passive suicide", a condition suffered by female victims of Darfur.

Dr Dan Creson, a US psychiatrist who has worked with the United Nations in Darfur, said Mr Haj was suffering from severe depression and may be deteriorating to the point of …

My personal journey to understand systemic racism

One of the things I'd like to write about here is to chronicle my personal journey to undertand systemic racism. Its clearly a process, so this might end up being a series as I have the opportunity to document new awarenesses.

But I'd like to start with an example from over 20 years ago. I was in graduate school in Pasadena and had never thought much about racial profiling. Like many white people, since it hadn't happened to me, I might have even gone so far as to be dismissive of its reality.

One of my good friends at the time was a Hawaiian student who physically looked Hispanic. He told a story one night at a gathering of friends at his house about walking across the courtyard of his apartment complex on his way home and being stopped by security. They questioned why he was there and escorted him home. As he told this story he made us laugh. He was like that - a great sense of humor. While we were laughing his wife remained serious. Then she said, "It was funny the f…

My American Dream Started to Die with Howard Dean

Back in the summer of 2002 I was paying attention to the candidates for US President. I was interested in Howard Dean because he was the ONLY one speaking out against the impending war in Iraq. I didn't much like what I heard about his other positions, but a friend and I decided to go to a "meet-up" for Dean and check things out. Over the course of the next few months I converted into becoming a tried and true "Deaniac."

In the end, it wasn't just his stance on the war - or really any other issues that converted me. I got involved in running a meet-up, watched his blog and followed the whole campaign closely. There was something totally different about how he was running for office. Something I'd never seen before in politics, not even when I worked on the Wellstone campaigns. When Dean said "You have the power!" - he meant it. As an example, in facilitating a meet-up, I got materials monthly from the campaign. But they always made sure we knew…

Short and Sweet

Here's another one I posted a while ago at Everybody Comes From Somewhere. But it still represents my thinking on the issue.

1. We have to stop the occupation of Iraq.
2. If US troops leave Iraq, there is likely to be an increase in sectarian violence. We need to not only get out - we need to do it in the best manner possible and start the process of repairing the damage we have done.
3. The only possibility of saving lives from that sectarian violence and beginning to repair the damage is through diplomacy - involving Syria and Iran.
4. Bush and Cheney are not capable of diplomacy.
5. Therefore, the only way to put a reasonable end to the occupation of Iraq is to impeach Bush and Cheney and replace them with people who are capable of diplomacy.(as an aside, please notice that NONE of the Democrats agruing against impeachment are doing so based on a lack of evidence. Their reluctance is all based on whether it is expedient or not - shows how far we've lowered the bar)
6. Endless bat…

Just in case...

this whole democracy/freedom thing doesn't work out.



Chalmers Johnson explains what it means for the US to have at least 737 military bases in other countries.

h/t to Adrienne Carey Hurley.

A Broken Heart

As we hear all the surreal talk coming out of DC about Iraq these last two days, I've been thinking about the millions of refugees that "withdrew" a long time ago. This is one of them. Her name is Ahlam al Goubori, a 42-year-old mother of three.

At one point, she believed the US was really trying to help her country and went to work helping settle claims for Iraqis injured or killed by the US military, served on her city council and arranged medical care for the poor. But she was seen as a traitor by sectarian groups in her country.

In 2005 she was kidnapped, held for 8 days, tortured and questioned. Her brothers paid a ransom for her release, but had to promise that she would leave Iraq. With commendations and letters of support from members of the Iraq occupation, her application for resettlement in the US is on hold.

Now in Damascus, she has opened her small apartment as a school for children four times a week. She doens't plan to go back, even if the fighting stops.

My Mission

I've never been a fan of summing up one's life in a few words. But a guy by the name of Brian Andreas, who has a business called Storypeople, made a good run at it for me.



Since its probably too small to read, here's what it says:

I hope it will be said we taught them to stand tall & proud, even in the face of history & the future was made whole for us all, one child at a time.

Anyone who takes on this kind of work in life must first be honest with oneself about why it has become such a passion. For many of us its because we want to give children what we have learned (often the hard way) is essential in life. One of my lessons has been that when there is no one there to take care of you - you have to do it yourself.

What Now?

From Who Is IOZ?

To the extent that we continue to bear political responsibility, I'll argue that it has mostly to do with calling things by their true names and seeing them truly. That is what I try to do, but not for the sake of posterity (I hardly expect, in a few hundred years, to be IOZ, the great dissident writer of the early American empire), nor do I make the effort out of anything resembling revolutionary sentiment. People speak of today's concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, but what's far more significant, though not unrelated, is the concentration of force. I have no desire to get myself killed, or to get anyone else killed, or to get anyone I know spirited off to a secret prison, simply to spite the drab, vicious autocracy that I despise. If there is a reason to keep talking about these things, it is to remain sane, and if we keep talking to each other, it's to maintain what modest bonds of friendship, community, and gallows humor remain to us. So…

Discovery

From a conversation I had this week with a co-worker:

Our work to develop an identity for ourselves is not so much a matter of construction as it is one of discovery.

Tragically Hip on Ice

I've always loved figure-skating. I think its the combination of athleticism, dance and then, of course, there's the music. And my favorite figure-skater of all time is Kurt Browning.

Here's Kurt skating to music created for him by his friends, The Tragically Hip.



Pretty cool, huh?

But I think my favorite routine Kurt ever performed was actually a bit more lighthearted.



I remember watching Kurt perform this one time and afterwards the commentator said, "Some skaters put on a costume and skate to clown music. Kurt became the clown."

Trees

Fifteen years ago I bought my first house, a little one in the middle of a great old neighborhood. There was only one thing that stood out about it...the 100 year old tree in the tiny back yard. I never took a picture of it in full greenery - but here's what the old girl looked like in the fall:


Since my house is a bit over 60 years old, this tree had been providing shade to the cows on the farms around here for 40 years before the neighborhood was even developed. Her branches provided shade on the north side of my house and both my neighbors on either side. I can't tell you how many times I stood under her and just looked up at her vastness, feeling the awe of my small place in the scheme of life.

Then last year, whole branches of leaves started going brown in the middle of the summer. By the time I figured out she had dutch elm disease, she was gone. I took a whole bunch of photos of her at that point, trying to capture her beauty - even in death.





Then I made arrangements to ha…

Some things elections can't change

I originally started blogging due to my interests in politics. That will definitely be a theme here. So, before I start writing new stuff on that topic, I thought I'd re-post this diary I wrote a few months ago at Everybody Comes From Somewhere. Its probably the best summary of my feelings these days on the topic.

I know that many progressives have come to the conclusion that electing Democrats won't solve many of the problems we face in this country. And I agree. Although, I do think a case for incrementalism can be made...less people will die due to lack of health care, response to national disasters, etc, with a new Democratic administration. This is not something I am willing to dismiss easily. But I don't see a Democratic administration being able to make the changes necessary to stop the continuing disaster of our foreign policy and how we treat the most vulnerable among us.

There are a lot of things that need to change in order for me to have much hope in this country…

A Couple of Great Books for the Little Ones

As you can see in the "about me" section, the inspiration for the name of this blog came from my mother. But frankly, I had forgotten about her use of that term of endearment(?) until years ago when I saw the book Princess Smartypants. Its a wonderful book for the little ones with a different kind of "happily ever after" than is usually fed to them from a very small age. I highly recommend it.

Another book that I just love for the little ones is The Paperbag Princess. This one does a bit of role reversal in who saves whom from the dragon.

And here's a little music to go with that reading:

Semistarvation Neurosis

Starved people cannot be taught democracy. To talk about the will of the people when you aren't feeding them is perfect hogwash. Ancel Benjamin Keys, PhD.

Yesterday I had my world rocked quite a bit when I heard about the above Dr. Keys' research in the 1940's right here in my own backyard at the University of Minnesota. The research has been called The Minneosta Starvation Project and seems to be pretty widely known in most scientific circles. But what Dr. Keys learned is definitely NOT something that the public at large has been exposed to.

Dr. Keys is probably more well known as the creator of K-rations. But in the 194o's, as war was raging in Europe, he set out to study starvation, knowing that this was going to be a major issue in the world.

To set the stage, he recruited about 40 young men who were conscientious objectors to take part in the reasearch. Here's how Sandy Szwarc, food editor, writer and RN, describes it:


Young male volunteers, all carefully selected…

Unlearning to not speak

by Marge Piercy

Blizzards of paper
in slow motion
sift through her.
In nightmares she suddenly recalls
a class she signed up for
but forgot to attend.
Now its too late.
Now it is time for finals:
losers will be shot.
Phrases of men who lectured her
drift and rustle in piles:
Why don't you speak up?
Why are you shouting?
You have the wrong answer,
wrong line, wrong face.
They tell her she is womb-man
babymachine, mirror image, toy,
earth mother and penis-poor,
a dish of synthetic strawberry icecream
rapidly melting.
She grunts to a halt.
She must learn again to speak
starting with I
starting with We
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
and pleasure
and rage.


On Learning to Fly

Here's an interesting take on the history of black/white relations in the US from Ampersand at Alas! A Blog.



I think this cartoon makes a powerful statement about how the game is played these days. But its all about climbing over each other to get to some destination where the table has already been set by the guys in charge. I was reminded of all this by a comment keres made in a diary at Booman Tribune.Here's what she said:

And I would argue that to dismantle partriarchy you would need to dismantle society in it's totality, and start over. It's no good just letting women in as "pseudo men" to societal structures so long formed by and to men's wants and desires.

Our societies are not "OK", except for the sexism, racism, heterosexism, ablism, etc. Our societies are intrinsically those things - they cannot be removed without a complete revisioning of the social compact. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, in an apartriachal society would look, sound, or…