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28 June 2009

The Bridge Poem


[This poem is a psalm for my soul.
I need to read/breathe/speak it in regular doses.]

by Donna Kate Rushin

I've had enough
I'm sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody
Nobody
Can talk to anybody
Without me
Right?

I explain my mother to my father
my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother
my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks
the Black church folks to the ex-hippies
the ex-hippies to the Black separatists
the Black separatists to the artists
the artists to my friends' parents

Then
I've got to explain myself
To everybody

I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.

Forget it
I'm sick of it.

I'm sick of filling in your gaps

Sick of being your insurance against
the isolation of your self-imposed limitations

Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners

Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches

Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people

Find another connection to the rest of the world
Find something else to make you legitimate
Find some other way to be political and hip

I will not be the bridge to your womanhood
Your manhood
Your humanness

I'm sick of reminding you not to
Close off too tight for too long

I'm sick of mediating with your worst self
On behalf of your better selves

I am sick
Of having to remind you
To breathe
Before you suffocate
Your own fool self

Forget it
Stretch or drown
Evolve or die

The bridge I must be
Is the bridge to my own power
I must translate
My own fears
Mediate
My own weaknesses

I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
And then
I will be useful

24 June 2009

The Whole World Is Watching




Iran.
Neda.
The whole world is watching.

And I don't know what to think. I feel. I feel many things: sorrow, horror, doubt and hope.

None of us can know how this will end. Or when.
Sometimes I think that nothing much will change.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has sanctioned and apparently conducted a recount and has acknowledged "voting irregularities."
In fifty cities, more votes were cast than there are inhabitants. This is insufficient to invalidate the election. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the lawfully elected President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And the Supreme Leader should know. It is within his power to declare the winner of the election and to depose the lawfully elected President if he sees fit.
Then there are the Mullahs of the Guardian Council, ironically also known as the "Council of Sages." Its members are appointed by the Supreme Leader.

This evokes both hope for and doubt about any real change in Iran's government. For some of the senior clerics publicly back Musavi. Former President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and his family - his daughter was arrested and released - are Mousavi supporters.
Yet, I am also aware that the impetus for the protesters was not to change the system of government, depose the Supreme Leader or abolish the Council. And I wonder, if Mir Mousavi had been eleted and ratified what if anything would have changed in Iran and in the world?

Now, in spite and because of the atrocities perpetrated by the Basij militia, I believe that it is possible that fabric of Iranian society and government is being rewoven. As in the case in most societies, the weavers are primarily women. The theological sacred canopy that has covered the decisions of the Supreme Leader, President and Guardian Coucil of Iran has been shifted from its base and may come tumbling down.

At my most optimistic, I believe that anything is possible. I remember the end of Apartheid in South Africa. That felt like a miracle.

And I remember all of the troubled places yet on the face of the earth: Palestine, North Korea, Darfur, Congo, and many, many more.

I hope and I pray for the people of Iran. Sometimes for I know not what. But I know that God knows, hears and answers prayers. Even those that we are unable to articulate. And I know that the Holy Spirit interprets and intercedes for us.

Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin in Iran. Inshallah. Amen.

20 June 2009

Life or Choice?

As with all binaries, this presents a false choice. Even if one believes that conception produces life immediately, that life is not the only life involved, or even at stake. Women’s lives matter. And the quality of our lives matter.

Many have argued convincingly of the so-called “Pro-Life” movement’s disregard for human life: anyone designated an enemy in war or other armed conflict – with no consideration for the possibility of false or even fraudulent identification in the case of enemy combatants, those condemned to die by our justice system – in spite, or perhaps because of the race and class based inequities in the system and, those who perform legal medical procedures that the movement wishes were illegal – along with anyone standing too close to those medical personnel.

I have been thinking about women’s lives and bodies in a particular way in this dispute. I am struck that women do not hold political office in proportion to our numbers in our communities anywhere on the globe.

Male-dominated religious and legal enclaves have decided that immediate post-conception life is more significant than any other life, particularly women's lives and, women must sacrifice their bodies and lives to accommodate it.

What almost no one seems to comment on is the role that men regularly play in forcefully impregnating women.

Rape is woefully under-reported, in part because it is under-prosecuted; those rapes that are prosecuted have a low conviction rate and even lower rates of incarceration. And there is stigma. All of these circumstances operate in male-dominated spaces in spite of the advances women have made in most areas of our common, public and political spheres.

This irony becomes harshly apparent when male-stream politicians make allowances for rape and incest exceptions to their theology, ideology and legislation for forced gestation – although there are many who believe that women must carry to term all pregnancies, even if they are raped into them as they were in Bosnia and are in Congo and Darfur and, on too many marriage beds in the US and around the world.

It is a disgusting irony that many women are sentenced to longer terms – nine months – than are the men who rape them. And what of the children? I certainly don’t want the Pro-Life people adopting children, not that they are anyway. Some are too busy thawing our and growing cells that in their current condition do not require food, housing or shelter.

So how would a rape or incest exemption really work? Would the woman or girl-child have to prove that she was raped? Would a conviction be required? Would the rape exam be legally required and binding? Would a woman have to report a rape no matter how that would affect her life just to get health care?

Abortion is a difficult topic. It is hard for me. I do not believe that any legislation can address all of the situations in which women find themselves – and are forced by men. At best I think of abortion as a necessary evil.

At this moment, I think that abortion should be rare, safe and legal.

And, I think that rapists should be executed.

19 June 2009

Rumi-nations


Love is from the infinite, and will remain until eternity.
The seeker of love escapes the chains of birth and death.
Tomorrow, when resurrection comes,
The heart that is not in love will fail the test.


In the past week I have had two conversations about Rumi.
One person grew up with his book in her home and was familiar with him, but not his context. (She thought he was a Rabbi!)
Another woman uses his poetry regularly in her worship services. She makes it a point to remind her congregation that Rumi was Muslim.

I am blasphemy and religion, pure and impure;
Old, young, and a small child.
If I die, don't say that he died.
Say he was dead, became alive, and was taken by the Beloved.

Mavlevi Jalal al-Din Rumi was a Sufi Muslim. And his poetic passion for God and God's creation flowed from his practice of Islam, and was not in spite of it.

With the Beloved's water of life, no illness remains
In the Beloved's rose garden of union, no thorn remains.
They say there is a window from one heart to another
How can there be a window where no wall remains?

I reflected on this rumination after watching news coverage of the pro-life activist who murdered and martyred a physician for providing legal medical services to women. I am always struck that these persons are never called Christian terrorists even when they like the Oklahoma City bombers and white supremacist who murdered a guard at the Holocause museum draw their ideology and actions from their Christian faith.

It seems that in our news cycles, only Muslims who bastardize their faith are religious terrorists. And Muslims like Rumi, who love God and the world with all that they have and more, are all-too-often lifted from their Islamic context so that a singular presentation of Islam pervades our media.

This is true Islam:
Our death is our wedding with eternity.
What is the secret? "God is One."
The sunlight splits when entering the windows of the house.
This multiplicity exists in the cluster of grapes;
It is not in the juice made from the grapes.
For the one who is living in the Light of God,
The death of the carnal soul is a blessing.
Regarding the dead, say neither bad nor good,
For that one is gone beyond the good and the bad.
Fix your eyes on God and do not talk about what is invisible,
So that God may place another look in your eyes.
It is in the vision of the physical eyes
That no invisible or secret thing exists.
But when the eye is turned toward the Light of God
What thing could remain hidden under such a Light?
Although all lights emanate from the Divine Light
Don't call all these lights "the Light of God";
It is the eternal light which is the Light of God,
The ephemeral light is an attribute of the body and the flesh.
...Oh God who gives the grace of vision!
The bird of vision is flying towards You with the wings of desire.

16 June 2009

Chrysler Doesn't Get It


Chrysler is ready to venture off life-support and open a plant, a single plant.
In this economy, Chrysler has decided to return to operations with a plant that produces on a $90,000 car that gets 12 miles per gallon, if that. (It is well-known that official MPG figures can be overestimated by up to thirty percent.)
Don't get me wrong, the Viper is a beautiful car. But cash-strapped Americans are not going to spend our hard earned money on a car that is worth more than the plunging values of our depressed homes - for the first 24 hours before it too loses value exponentially. And certainly not when gas is again $3.00 a gallon in California and those prices are headed east. (The price of gasoline has risen every day for the past 48 days in opposition to the price of oil.)
WTF!?!

14 June 2009

Of Love and Lovers


I love love.
I love the sights of love.
I love the smells and taste(s) of love.
I love the caress of love.
I love being in the presence of lovers.
Love feeds my soul and sustains the world.
The lack of love is poverty and hunger.

10 June 2009

Incarnation


At the heart of Incarnation theology is the notion that the human body is neither accidental nor unworthy of the habitation of God. The scandal of the Incarnation is the scandal of the human body. To paraphrase Brother (Cornell) West: Jesus was born too close to urine, excrement and sex for the comfort of some theologians.

The Church, philosophers and mere mortals have waxed eloquent and ad nauseum about the possible endurance of the human body after death in the after-life, in one form or a another. I don't claim any new revelation or more clarity on the old ones.

I do wonder if the body endures and all of our senses are heightened, what that means about our sensuality and sexuality. I know that Jesus said that we would be "like angels who neither marry nor are given in marriage." As unlikely as it may be, I wonder if he simply meant the abolition of marriage, possibly even childbirth, but not sexual expression.

Or, if our human flesh truly dies with this life, what does that suggest about how fully we ought to live this life?

05 June 2009

Peace Be Upon Us


The Holy Qur'an, like all scripture, contains life-giving and death-dealing words. Christians, even when quoting memorized scripture, sometimes know little about their own sacred texts and even less about those of others.
As President Obama invites the Muslim and Western worlds (as though they were separate and distinct) into renewed conversation and mutual understanding, I offer a few verses from the Qur'an for contemplation.

Quranic reflections on peace:
Do not make Allah, by your oaths, a hindrance to your being righteous and observing your duty to God, including making peace among humankind. (2.224)

You believers! When you go out (to fight) in the way of Allah, be careful to discern, and do not say to anyone who offers you peace: "You are not a believer." (4.94, in part)

Go to Pharaoh and say: Look! We are two messengers of your Lord. So let the children of Israel go with us, and do not torment them. We bring you a token from your Lord. And peace will be for the one who follows right guidance. (20.47)

Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive! Such was Jesus, son of Mary: a statement of the truth concerning which some doubt. (19.33-34)

If two parties of believers fall to fighting, then make peace between them. And if one party of them does wrong to the other, fight that one which does wrong till it returns to the ordinance of Allah; then, if it returns, make a just peace between them, and act equitably. Look! Allah loves the equitable. (49.9)

A mention of the mercy of your Lord to God's servant Zachariah.

When Zachariah cried to his Lord a cry in secret,
Saying: My Lord! Look! My bones grow feeble and my head is shining with grey hair, and I have never lacked blessing in prayer to You, my Lord. Look! I fear my kinsfolk after me, since my wife is barren. Oh, give me from Your presence a successor who shall inherit from me and inherit (also) the house of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, acceptable (to You).
(It was said to him): Zachariah! Look! We bring you tidings of a son whose name is John; we have given the same name to none before. He said: My Lord! How can I have a son when my wife is barren and I have reached infirm old age? One said: So (it will be). Your Lord says: It is easy for Me, even as I created you before, when you were nothing.
Zachariah said: My Lord! Show me some sign. He said: Your token is that you, with no physical infirmity, shall not speak to humankind for three nights. Then Zachariah came out to his people from the sanctuary, and signified to them: Glorify your Lord at break of day and fall of night.
John! Hold fast the Scripture. And we gave him wisdom when a child, and compassion from Our presence, and purity; and he was devout, and dutiful toward his parents. And he was not arrogant, rebellious.
Peace on him the day he was born, and the day he dies and the day he shall be raised alive!
And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, and had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our Spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect human. (19.3-17)

Food for thought.

02 June 2009

Buying American


Is it that simple? We've - through our tax dollars - bought (stakes in one case and majority in the other) American car companies as a collective. Should we now buy American cars as individuals to get our tax dollars back (yeah right!) or at least divest our government of its automotive holdings? (Our national banking holdings are a separate matter.)

What if we don't like American cars? What if we don't want American cars? Should we hold our noses and take our medicine with a spoonful of sugar. Is it our patriotic duty, like buying War Bonds during WWII?

I know I'm biased. I like Toyotas and I love my Prius. I've had two other Toyotas, a used Mercedes and a used Chevy. Neither the Chevy Volt nor the Ford Fusion move me. But the new Prius moves me to covetousness.

Sometimes I don't see much more than Cadillacs and Corvettes surviving as the future of GM or Chrysler. I have a bit more hope for Ford, and a whole lot more respect for their leadership before the economic collapse, particularly their decision to borrow money as an independent company and redesign their product line before the metaphorical feces hit the fanbelt.

I feel some moral obligation to at least look at Fords before I buy my next car. But I think it ought not be obligatory. If the American car industry is to survive it must produce cars that people want. And many of us want small, safe, energy efficient, reliable, good looking, exciting reasonably priced cars. Some of us will even pay a bit more than we would pay for a Japanese econo-box, if we like and trust the car. I don't imagine we'll ever pay as much for small fuel efficient cars as some folk pay for SUVs and their ilk.

Te tell the truth, I'm going to hold on to my Prius, after all, it's paid-in-full.

01 June 2009

Forked Tongues Don't Always Lie

Fire is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Pentecost. In part because fire is an enduring symbol of God's presence with God's people - the bush that burned and was not destroyed and the pillar of fire guiding the Exodus way in the night. Evoking fire, the color red is also emblematic of Pentecost.

I'd like to suggest another symbol. The forked tongue. This may be a hard sell for those who are superstitious about snakes, and (or as a result of) the Genesis story in chapter 3, or stereo-typical portrayals of Native persons in Hollywierd's Western genre.

But it is the forked tongue which appears miraculously in Acts chapter 2. The tongues, organs of speech (human? angelic? other?) are divided or forked in the same way as are flames of fire.
What then does the multiplicity or dual nature of the tongues suggest?

Perhaps the multiplicity and diversity of the church, our ways of worship, liturgies, songs, prayers and styles of preaching.
If the forked tongues of Pentecost are to represent duality, then perhaps, they represent the two languages of earth and heaven. For when we have done our best, preached our best, prayed our best, sung our best, we have failed to reproduce one syllable or a single note from the realm of heaven.

Back to the fire. I like to imagine that those forked tongues are indeed animated by Holy Ghost fire. And fire burns in red, orange, yellow, white and even blue hues.

So let the colors of Pentecost be many as are the languages, peoples, cultures and worship styles of God's people.

And let the forked tongue be a symbol of language that transcends human understanding, and our attempts to replicate and pronounce it.