Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dismantling Racism Part 3: Pray Don't Prey



I'm pretty sure this was not meant to happen, because when I stopped to take the pictures, there was a place behind the skeleton of the barn where some new construction had begun. Later, I saw some men there, but I was in a hurry, so next time, I will ask them'

Either way, it fell.

I'd been standing inside it a week earlier taking pictures and wondering about what it meant to "dismantle" racism. 

You can see in the picture below the new lumber to the left..again, maybe that was part of the process of deconstruction, and perhaps they were harvesting all the wood they could harvest before pulling it down. It reminded me of stories I'd always heard growing up of "the old barn" that was on our property and which my dad, with some other men and a few tractors, pulled down so that we, his three kids, wouldn't be endangered playing in it.

He used the good barn wood to make a desk, tables, and some other beautiful things that remain in our family. They are treasures today.


So, dismantling racism. As we pass the 50th anniversary of MLK's death, I think it's fair to say that no one has the answer, or we would not be in the place we are in today. There are all kinds of people who think they have the answer(s) and who are very loud, boisterous, and insistent about them.

Last week, the denomination I've served for 23 years published a report written by a Commission appointed to look into what they call the "Hiring Practices Controversy". Feel free to read if you like dirty laundry, but long story short, our President resigned, our Moderator died, and two or three white male staff members also quit after accusations of unfairness and white supremacy in hiring of a regional staff member. 

Our denomination is in turmoil. People are talking past each other, accusations are flying, and, worst of all, there seems to be no safe space to discuss anything without being shamed or shouted down. There is, it seems, an "official" position which shall not be questioned. So why even have a commission? The Commission has been funded at almost $500,000.  More on all of that here.I hope for and expect some great results.

I struggle with this, not because I mistrust the sincerity and good will of the Commission members, but because I do not understand how to explain half a million dollars allocated to this study when I was turned away by every UUA official I requested help from in my work with a local rural African American woman whose husband has been incarcerated for almost a year waiting to be deported to Mexico. (Their story is in the fundraiser on this blog). I didn't ask for money; only for help sharing the plea. How do I face this family when my denomination claims to support undocumented immigrants and poor Black families and tell her they could do nothing? (By the way, the UUSC did provide resources and connections for us). This is exactly what conservatives talk about when they criticize liberal hypocrisy. This is why Black communities trust white liberals the least of all! 

I may be wrong, since I've been disconnected from denominational activities for the past year or so, but I know how we do things. If I weren't already a Unitarian Universalist, I would run, not walk, away from them as quickly as I could. They sound and look like a group of people trying to use will, intellect and ego to force results. Rather than going out into the world with prayerful reflection and open hearts, we've chosen to look inward and point fingers at one another with accusations of white supremacy.

This all brings to mind the Serenity Prayer, which might be a good start. (God) grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I guess what I'm suggesting is that it might be helpful for us to do more praying and less preying (on one another).

And, as Carl Jung brilliantly told the founder of AA, lasting sobriety would never be possible without a spiritual conversion. And I think this is the true problem that my denomination is not addressing. Racism is not just a structural problem, it is a soul sickness that requires a deep spiritual reckoning and repentance, something many liberal religionists have no language nor ritual for.


This week I heard some talk about how what's missing from the movement against racism is a "leader like MLK." I disagree with that. One has only to look at the success of the gay marriage lobby or what appears to be the burgeoning movement by young people for sensible gun legislation to see that movements today can be spontaneous, organic and can reach a point of saturation and success without charismatic leaders.

This is the science of Appreciative Inquiry.

I don't understand why we (UUs) aren't using AI (Appreciative Inquiry)in this process.It involves raising up what is best, innovation and creativity which evolve based upon the positive core value. It has its scientific basis in quantum theory. I know it is hard to sustain in organizations, because I have tried it with one church, that reverted back continually to Newtonian thinking*. But at another congregation, which grasped AI, change and innovation were welcomed.


When I think of places where oppression and discrimination have been effectively addressed, I can see that it happened because diligent, positive, dedicated and creative work came to a tipping point. It's how things like recycling, smoke-free buildings, breastfeeding, and so many more major developments and shifts in cultural awareness have come about.

Racism has a grip on our culture, and white privilege is real. It's endemic. We have to relearn everything we thought we knew. We can do it! We've done things as hard as this before. We have poets, teachers, brilliant writers, and so many good people who can unlearn white privilege. It may happen slowly at first, but just like we saw with the Stoneman Douglas rallies, there may come a sudden cataclysmic moment when the last vestiges of it crash to the ground. I believe this can happen. Not by shaming or blaming one another, but by loving and believing in the goodness of each other, the God-ness in one another.

And from the remnants, some thing beautiful and precious may be created.

Newtonian World View
  • Universe as Great Machine
  • Focus on Parts
  • One Right Answer
  • Predictable
  • Linear
  • Duality (This or That)
  • Objective
  • Value Things
  • Competition
  • Doing Creates
  • Single Reality
  • Material Focus
  • Separation
  • Autonomy
  • Make It Happen
  • Resist Change
  • Matter is made up of “Things”
  • Scientific World View
  • Study of Physical Matter
  • Control
  • Particles of Atoms
  • Finite


Quantum World View
  • Universe as Great Thought
  • Focus on Whole
  • Many Paths
  • Random
  • Non-Linear
  • Wholism (This and That)
  • Subjective
  • Value Relationships
  • Cooperation
  • Consciousness Creates
  • Multiple Realities
  • Spiritual Focus
  • Interconnection
  • Synergy
  • Allow It to Happen
  • Embrace Change
  • Matter is “Bundles of Energy in Relationship”
  • Consciousness World View
  • Study of Consciousness
  • Participation
  • Fields of Energy
  • Infinite

SCROLL DOWN FOR PARTS ONE & TWO OF DISMANTLING RACISM & A LINK TO OUR BOOK IN PROGRESS

Monday, April 09, 2018

Sympathy for the Devil



Am I crazy? I can't believe I'm away from network and cable TV, and I'm going to watch a four-part series on Netflix called Trump: An American Dream. I'll just give it a try, I think, as I download the first part. But I end up watching all four, bizarrely intrigued. I'll be the first to admit that my husband and I are among those who start our day with Morning Joe and end it with Rachel Maddow or Chris Hayes, watching what Trump calls "fake news" and what we call a link to sanity.

But unlike lots of my liberal and progressive friends (and even my own husband), I have a hard time hating Donald Trump as a human being, or believing that if we just get rid of him, all will be well. I sometimes feel sorry for Trump, in a weird way. He seems so unbelievably angry and sad, for someone who has everything that anyone could possibly dream of.

The documentary helps explain this. Born into a wealthy family, with demanding parents and all sorts of childhood issues that would predispose anyone to neurosis, Trump also channels what became a fatal addiction issue with his brother into a lust for power, sex, and fame, since, although he doesn't drink and disparages drugs, he has to fill the deep inner emptiness with something.

One line in the documentary rings more true than any other: Donald Trump is deeply insecure. 

With that in mind, it's easy to see through his bluster, his destructive demands and decisions, his tiresome tirades, and the callous way he has dangled our democracy over the cliff for more than a year. He's not just a sociopath; he's actually an over-indulged, petulant, self-aggrandizing infantile being. He is who he is. It is we, the voters who did and didn't vote, the citizens who coasted along while our democracy languished, who allowed him to have control of western civilization.

We don't want to acknowledge this, our laziness, our indifference, how little we've done to maintain our freedom, our environment, how little we've done to reach out to conservatives and Republicans and people who are economically or educationally disparate from us, so we project all of it onto Donald Trump.




In the past few weeks, a story has come to prominence about a family who were killed when their van went off a cliff in Northern California. As the facts rolled out, (and much remains unknown), two things happened. It became clear that the parents, a white married female couple, had been investigated more than once for child abuse and neglect of the six children, all of whom were Black. It also appeared that the crash seems likely to have been deliberate, a murder/suicide, not an accident. An article published by the Washington Post pointed out numerous questions and complexities raised by this set of facts. Article:  Can't ignore race

Just as it is easy for Democrats and liberals to project all of our frustrations with the current situation on to one person, it might be easy for folks to look at this family and blame the mothers, since they were gay, or liberal, or adopted too many kids, or were white women adopting Black kids, or because they home schooled. That is projection, too.

Likewise, it's projection to make heroes out of people who adopt kids, who take on kids with special needs, who adopt cross-racially. Because this happens, people like these women, who clearly were not ready to parent at this level and intensity (if at all) may have masked their problems, taken on more kids, or adopted in the first place, or adopted because of their own needs for affirmation or love, the worst reason of all to adopt. I know something about this, since I took on a special needs child  nine years ago, and I still startle when I tell people and they express sympathy, or express how wonderful they think we are.

But, in this situation, there are some actual fingers to be pointed. Our Family and Child Services systems are broken. This horrendous story is one of probably tens if not hundreds of thousands of examples where the cries of kids and the reports of adults go unmet. I have experience with this too. My eldest stepbrother, who repeatedly raped two of my siblings, has custody of his two young sons, and despite everything I have done to alert and beg the State of NJ to intervene, they have done nothing after the one cursory visit.

As a minister, I look back, and wonder about some of the families I observed at my church. Do we always ask, listen, and pay attention to children? Besides teaching kids to tell someone about abuse, it might be good to teach all adults what to look for and what to do when they see and hear certain signals. They are common: kids who don't go out, too skinny, under-developed, don't do normal "kid" things, seem scared or anxious, act perfect or too good to be true.

Finally, I've seen lots of online conversation about the Hart family, because one of my Facebook contacts knew them, and wrote about her shock, but mentioned her empathy for the mothers. She was skewered. From every possible direction, (white) women let her know in no uncertain terms how full of white supremacy her remarks were, since she was mentioning the women (white, murderers) and hadn't named the children (Black, victims). Their comments to her were vicious. Whenever I see anyone react with such vitriol (including myself), I think "projection". White supremacy and white privilege are deeply embedded in the psyches of white people. We hate them and want to push them away. Hence,  many (usually young) progressives, seeing these anywhere, become valiantly self-righteous in what they see as defense of  all People of Color.

Sometimes, it is good to turn the projector off, to look within, and see what is there that we might improve. I know that is certainly true for me.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

When are we all Stormy Daniels???

our daffodils!

Of course we'd never be a porn star or have sex with Donald Trump. PTL!

Nor am I planning to share any further photos here, at least none of Stormy with or without Donald. Maybe some kittens or puppies or flowers.

But one can not escape her unless you avoid all TV and radio and print news. What is it really all about? Some, maybe most are intrigued by the cheating, the salacious details, the weird little comments such as, "you remind me of my daughter," when she was around the same age (!) but there has to be more. 

The commentators (and her lawyer) insist that the real significance is the evidence this whole thing affords that Trump lies (we knew that), cheats (knew that decades ago), bullies (REALLY?!), and most important, has committed criminal acts of campaign finance fraud. Fine.

coming soon!

It's the age-old tale of a dozen people looking at an elephant, each seeing a very different thing. Here's mine. In the interview (Yes, I watched it!) I saw a woman who was moderately attractive, who looked very tired, stressed, and careworn for someone who is only thirty-eight. I saw someone who, legal or no, made a decision along the way to use her body as a tool to get the things she wants and needs. Talk about her being "intelligent and well spoken" aside, I saw a woman. By the way, who's to say that lots of porn stars and strippers aren't intelligent or well-spoken? Not me!

The extent to which we, as women, have traded our dignity, our bodies, our looks, and our lives, the only lives we have, to get security, money, adulation, or what we mistook for "love" is only a matter of degree but not of kind. The day we give our power and our integrity away, we begin to be a victim. And this culture mediates against women and leads them down this path in a multitude of ways. It's aided and abetted by women, who will take their sisters down, and mothers who raise daughters to play this role and  raise sons who perpetuate this whole scenario.

So, there's that.




But, maybe even more pointed: I also saw in this woman's face and posture and demeanor, and heard in her voice, someone who has been disbelieved, threatened, controlled, bamboozled, attacked, and gas-lighted, now and perhaps every time she has stood up for herself. Is she strong and tough? no doubt. Is she scrappy and maybe even mendacious? Possibly. Is she scheming and possibly dissembling? Could very well be! And.. all of these things are defense mechanisms employed by women who are discounted and disbelieved.

Here's what I want to say: I have been disbelieved and discounted. I have a chronic illness. I have migraine headaches about 25 days per month I can tell  people think I am exaggerating or making them up! I have had people in my own family, denominational "officials," and people in close relationships look at me and take a few steps back as if they think I am "crazy" or maybe too loud or too angry, because they don't want to hear the truth, and never apologize when the truth comes out weeks, month, or years, later. That's gas-lighting. Pure and simple. It happens to women. All the time. It happens because we know things. We're intuitive. Like witches.

It happens to victims of sexual assault. It happens to people of color, and marginalized people everywhere. It happens to children. 

That's what I'd imagine is happening to Stormy aka Stephanie right now. That's what I felt as I watched her in that interview. The one image that I can't un-see is the photo of her slumped in the chair, strapped up to the lie detector, her ample breasts still the most notable feature. I feel like women, and disenfranchised people of all stripes, and men too, often, go around like this, strapped up to a lie detector, always feeling like we have to haul a briefcase of proof around or produce witnesses to validate what we say or that what we assert is true.

But some of us (of all genders as well) but I can only speak for myself, keep coming back with the truth. We are like the daffodils in Kentucky. Damn things won't die! They've popped back up after three (or four?) big snowstorms, many overnight freezes, and wind and heavy rain. Resilient and determined, our mantra is "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger."

That's why we are all (maybe not all, but most, at some time) Stormy Daniels. Some of us aren't. If you keep your mouth shut, let "them" have their way, go by the script, you'll get by. But the truth will still be true.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Dismantling Racism. Part 2





After writing about Dismantling Racism  and continuing to think about the topic, all the while driving by this barn, which has been slowly deteriorating over the ten years I've owned my farm, but which took a sudden lean after some tornadoes came through, I realized I had more to say.

The word dismantle  implies linguistically that there was a mantle in the first place. A mantle is a cloak, a covering, a veil or shawl, but it can also be protective covering. We all recall learning about the earth's mantle. And it can be a symbol of responsibility and power.

When I saw that almost all the siding had been stripped away from the skeleton of the barn, I began to wonder whether it was going to be rebuilt. I stopped on a morning when I thought I might catch the sunlight, to take some pictures and snoop around. I was intrigued by the seeming fragility of the structure's frame. It wasn't even made with lumber, just trees.


Some of the vertical beams had rotted, I assume, and been sawed off and propped up with other very precariously propped logs. You can see some of this detail in the large picture below. I almost felt as if it might fall on me if I touched anything. 
Racism is like this,  because it's built on such an intricately interwoven and yet fallible set of assumptions, myths and stereotypes. Its mantle, its power and its veneer are what keep (most white) people feeling safe and invulnerable. It hides their flimsy and worthless skeleton. I think our job, as anti-racists, is to strip away that veneer.

When I do the work of anti-racism I can do it with love and genuine empathy if I see how it is a protection and a vestige of power or worth for some white people.

I saw a Facebook post lately that stated that Unitarian Universalists who are dismantling racism must "sit back, be quiet, and take direction from people of color, listen to their stories, and follow their lead." I disagree. I don't think there is any one way to dismantle racism. There are people of color who would agree with that and also POC who would say, "I need your help. I need your voice. I welcome your leadership." I think white people must have a spiritual practice and be spiritually mature enough to trust themselves to discern when it is time to speak and when it is time to be quiet.



I had an idea. But then, I'm always having ideas, and some of them do not turn out as planned! I went home from looking at the barn, and I was still puzzling about how I will ever get started building our home out on our farm so we can move from the small double wide we live in. (It's fine, but we want to have a passive solar home and I do think the chemicals in this place contribute to my migraines.) We just can't afford it as long as we own the B&B in town. It hit me that we could dismantle our almost -finished (by the former owner) log cabin and reconstruct it out on the ridge where we want to live! My husband hated the idea, probably because the cabin is filled with his troves of hoarded stuff, but I've not given up!

That may be TMI for you, but this is why I tell it. There are so many thorny and seemingly insoluble problems in our world. Each of us has one we are called to (well, some people just want to get manicures and watch Zombies and eat fast food, but they probably aren't reading this!) ...it may be environment, or women's rights, or addiction, or cancer, or, like me, racism. And there are probably more ways into and around that issue than we may even have dreamed. Just sitting back and being quiet is not  an option for me. I am listening, learning, praying, waiting, and studying the people and the history of one small community, and as long as they welcome me, I will use the skills I have, writing, speaking, and motivating, to dismantle racism, even a little. 

Silence is not an option.




Silent Spring 2018 snow on the lettuce ...... 


Silence Innisfree first day of Spring

SCROLL DOWN FOR PARTS ONE OF DISMANTLING RACISM & A LINK TO OUR BOOK IN PROGRESS

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

My Own Private Oregon



Crazy Guru or gifted Saint?

I just finished watching Wild Wild West on Netflix. It's probably not what you'd think. It's a documentary about the Rajneesh Bhagwan aka OSHO who had a commune or community in Oregon for four years, and all of the mayhem, legal and interpersonal, that went along with it. This all happened on a tract of land that was adjacent to a small town in Oregon called Antelope. How these people coped with the influx of thousands of international migrants, formerly homeless individuals (whom the Rajneeshis dumped out when they no longer needed them) and the outside invasions I wonder... but it absolutely fits the definition of a cult. And, it still exists (back in India)and still has adherents almost thirty years after the Bhagwan died. I've been fascinated with cults for as long as I can recall. Just lately, I watched the entire Patty Hearst saga. I've preached and read about them throughout my ministry. I think the fact that humans can be so willingly misled and so easily convinced to follow an evil leader is theologically very significant. Short version here

Surely, we see this now in our own national political mess.

Map shows town of Antelope & John Day Fossil Beds

But I also thought: Darn, I didn't know about this when I went through Oregon. I could have checked it out.

But, it's too late now. The former Rajneeshpuram has been made in a Christian Camp for Young Life, a campus evangelical organization with a world-wide following who, as a townsperson says (Really, I've never seen anyone as mellow as these townspeople!) "...is a kind of sect, too, but at least they're not running around naked and poisoning people and carrying AK-47s"

some of the ten restaurants where over 750 people were poisoned in an attempt to suppress to vote and sway the county election by the Rajneeshis

I have a fuzzy memory of my original yoga teacher in NJ talking about this guru with all these fancy cars (Bhagwan had ninety Rolls Royces) but I don't think he was someone she had admired or followed. From 1980-84 I had three pregnancies and two children, so I have almost no recollection of these events.

Bill & Louise Shellabarger


I heard about Oregon from the time I was young. Oregon was the place one of my aunts, my mother's sister Louise, the "baby" in the family of seven children, had gone off to after she'd married a soldier. They met either during or after WWII (Aunt Louise was in the WACS, an acronym no one bothered to explain to me, and which, like so many things, I didn't feel emboldened to ask about).When she was spoken of, quite often, it was with a sense of awe and reverence, as one might speak of the departed.

This because in those days, few people could afford to fly across country, and the one or two road trips people made in their life times became legendary. In fact, my own parents had made such a trip with my mother's parents (and Louise's) and there were photos to prove it, my granny and Pop-Pop standing side by side in front of an old roadster, arms at their sides, my grandfather in a suit and felt hat, Granny in her go-to flowered shirtwaist and clunky oxford shoes. It may have been my parents' honeymoon, in-laws included.
Louise, front right. Back row: Marjorie (my mother), Mary Ruth (Aunt Ruthie), Mora (died young), Aunt Adele (wife of Uncle Wade who died of alcoholism), Front: Joyce, (died of alcoholism).


I'm told the Shellabargers came east and saw us as infants, but after that, the only visits were made by my Aunt Ruthie, who survived all her brothers and sisters, and lived to be 86. Louise died suddenly of a heart attack (as did my mother, my uncle J.D., and those others who did not die of alcoholism or die tragically young.)

Shortly after my divorce, I did what almost everyone thought was a foolhardy thing, and took my two young and very active sons on a road trip. We traveled in a great arc around the country, hitting 21 states and a multitude of National Parks. After that trip, I entered seminary, to pursue my (also deemed foolhardy)  notion of becoming a Unitarian Universalist minister, and turmoil ensued: a custody battle, which most of all damaged my sons, years of upheaval, and later, challenges they would both take years to resolve. I am so glad we had that summer, that trip, that foolhardy journey.

Casey, me, Colin, Buckaroo

Naturally, Oregon was a goal. (I also recall that we all said AH-regahn, just like we said FLAH-rida, and AH-range. A NJ thing.) Sometimes, you hear certain family myths all your life, and you start to think they aren't true... they're just stories, completely false or partly made up. I recall that Aunt Ruthie did fly out to see Louise several times during my childhood, and it wasn't Ruthie but maybe my dad or uncle who I can remember saying about Bill and Louise that they let the cat walk around on the table and eat the butter. Clearly they were appalled by this. And they, in turn, must have left an inverse impression on them (which got passed along) because when I finally met my cousin Nelson, she said she always imagined us living in a city where there was no grass, only concrete (we lived in South Jersey on 4 acres, very rural) and that we drank our coffee with our pinkies in the air.

But I am getting ahead of myself! What intrigued me the most about stopping in Oregon to meet these people (it was 1991 and Louise had died by then some years earlier) were their names. I'd always been fascinated with the name "Nelson" for a girl, but Aunt Ruthie had been telling me that Nelson now had a son named Buckaroo. How could that be? And this of course intrigued my sons, ages 6 and 9, as well. Who would saddle (pun intended) their kid with a name like Buckaroo?

John Day Fossil Beds NM

The first stop we made in Oregon was at John Day Fossil Beds. What a cool place! First, let me say this trip was pretty much un-planned. We stuck a big map on the wall of our living room for several months before we went and charted out a route based upon things people suggested or things we really wanted to see. But about three days in, near Johnstown, PA, we (or really I) made a decision that we would 1) stick to National Parks and monuments because I suddenly realized they were virtually free, tons better than anything you could pay for, and unique hidden treasures. (Back then, there were fully-funded Ranger Talks and programs.) Now, over 35 years later, I have my Senior Pass.... and 2) take as many random suggestions and invitations as we realistically could along the way. Yes, I now realize this sound extremely dangerous. I still think I'd do it again. But, I digress. I've written an entire book about that trip. 

For what ever reason (I know mine, just not his) Colin and I agreed we would come back to live in the Ranch House at John Day when he grew up. Like, somehow, just he and I were going to get the house from the National Parks and live in it with nobody else. That never happened.


Ranch House, John Day, Oregon

 But guess what did happen? Colin lived in Oregon this winter, near the coast, where he worked on a crabbing boat. Nelson and her family aren't in Oregon anymore. Or he'd have visited them. He gets his wanderlust and spontaneity from me, I'd say.

Colin (left) with crab haul

We then went to see Crater Lake, also a National Park, but a much more well-known one, because so many people had recommended it. I was pretty determined to get to the places I wanted to get to throughout the trip, so I just forged ahead, but I recall seeing more and more and more snow as we ascended, and the road was pretty treacherous. We set up our tent after dark, in the snow, but ended up sleeping in the car. It was pretty, but we headed back to the Visitor Center by noon.

From there I called my cousin. I didn't bring a phone number with me. I called information. The only reason I was able to find her is that Shellabarger is an uncommon name. If I'm not mistaken, I reached my cousin Bill, her brother, and he gave me her number. She was delighted to hear from us, and told us where to meet her, at a bar up the road from the ranch they live and worked on, so that was that. We had a great visit. The kids went fishing, and Buckaroo was everything his name could have made you dream of. He swaggered out in boots and a big ten gallon hat, and they ended up trading the hat and boots to the kids for tapes and Patagonia shorts.She had a box of old pictures in her mobile home, and we poured over them. What family does. At a certain point she looked down and said, look. We have the same hands. I wish I'd taken a picture.

What amazes me most about that trip through Oregon, finding my cousin, and having my kids meet their cousins Buckaroo and John how easy it all seemed, with no GPS, just maps, no cell phones, just phone booths, and no way to even know if where we were going or staying along the way was safe. I was truly indomitable at that point on my life. I was 36.



I returned to Oregon  (Portland) a few years ago, as a minister, when our denomination held its annual assembly there. My full-time professional ministry was winding down, and I was half way through a two-year interim ministry in NJ. It was a joy to attend the sessions and the workshops this time. I could treasure the things I knew I'd not see but perhaps a time or two again. I stayed at an Airbnb some distance from the convention center, and took a bus to the gatherings. It was in a funky, eclectic neighborhood, and I enjoyed checking out the cafes and bistros and one day, accepted the gift of a bicycle tour from my airbnb host (who was also a tour guide). It's a hilly city, but I was riding a brand-new electric bike, and we were offered legal marijuana at stops along the way. I didn't partake, since I didn't own the bike.. but the views and company were fabulous, even un-enhanced.


That was an entirely different Oregon. So was the Japanese garden and tea house I found nestled right in the middle of a busy city block, walled off, peaceful, elegant, utterly restful and serene. At that particular General Assembly, we'd just heard about the Charleston shootings, and I recall sitting with a dear colleague, watching as President Obama broke in to "Amazing Grace" at the Reverend's funeral. I needed space and time to process this, and so much more. It seemed fitting that the ministry I was about to launch on my first visit was ending there in Oregon. So much heartbreak. loss, and disappointment had come between those two visits and yet there I was. I had enormous gratitude for what remained.



As I became more engaged in anti-racism writing and reading, it came across my radar that Oregon had been intended as an all-white state. So, this same place, of majestic and serene beauty, of kooks and ranchers and hippies, tree-huggers and foresters and tea houses and crabbing boats, is all one place. It's the same place where the Bundy brothers took over the bird sanctuary. It's the place where my daughter's best friend from Smith College comes from, even though I imagined she'd have have some upper crust friends from the Cape, you know, it was Prina, whose parents had emigrated from India, and owned a hotel/motel in the small community of Redmond, with whom she bonded. Oregon!

In that same way, each of us is at once one and yet many different persons.Whitman: I am large. I contain multitudes. It's so hard for me to remember this when I look at others... so hard! But it's also hard to remember about myself. I'm not the person everyone wants me to be or expects me to be or that even I expect myself to be. I have hidden tea houses in me and I also have crimes against humanity. Don't you? Sometimes, I can see Mt. Olympia and sometimes I am trying to call someone, and I am calling, but they aren't there, and no one is there, and who I need to call is gone forever. The best lesson for me is that if I had never traveled with my sons, or taken the chance to meet my cousin, or find that tea house, if Colin hadn't jumped onto that crab boat, we wouldn't know a thing. That's what Oregon's taught me. So far.



Saturday, March 10, 2018

THOUGHTS ON "DISMANTLING RACISM" in 2018


A colleague, whom I consider a front-line soldier in the fight for racial justice, asked a question on Facebook and tagged me. I needed a minute to contemplate her important question. Here it is:

"Looking for helpful, compelling descriptions of what it means to "do the work" of dismantling racism. Who's got one?"

Dear Barbara,

This may be neither helpful nor compelling! 







  I live in a very rural, agrarian, poor county in Kentucky. The county seat, however, is almost one-quarter people of color (primarily Black, descendants of the original slaves). What makes this place unusual is that, because of its isolation, virtually every Black family could trace its ancestry (if there were resources to do so) back to slaves owned by almost every White family.

I've written, with the community, a book/project about this, and invite you to read the original draft. It will change considerably over the coming years, as we add more photos, and incorporate more interviews, including audio from those folks we've talked with. www.thespringfieldproject.blogspot.com

(I don't have a space for comments on the blog. If you read the book, you may contact me at cyncain@gmail.com)

The phrase "work" troubles me a bit. I've asked myself why. I know we talk about doing "dreamwork" or "spiritual work" or "working on ourselves." For me, this process of confronting and addressing, of acknowledging racism within ourselves as well as within nearly every system and organization in this society is demanding, yes; it is painful, yes; it can be overwhelming. But is more than work. Calling it "doing the Work" somehow implies that we know the steps, how to do them, what comes, next, what succeeds. I submit that Anti-racism is a life-long calling for which some are summoned, and we may never know why. It is a passion, a heartbreak, an art, and a joy. This has never been more clear to me than when, after being employed to do social justice, including anti-racism, as well as pastoral ministry, I continued to do everything I had before, write, read, pray, listen, speak,  dream, contemplate, and much more with no salary at all after I left the church. 

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journeyWendell Berry, Kentucky Farmer



The word dismantling has some important connotations, and I can see why it has been widely employed by white folks who endeavor to systematically end racism. It implies that something will be taken apart step-by-step, with a methodical coolness. Certainly racism is structural, so there is something to be said for an analysis that acknowledges looking at the deep underlying pillars and beams that uphold it. A thorough understanding of the history of racism, the ways it has been woven into the cultural and institutional as well as the psychological fabric of our society, is crucial. 

But racism, as pernicious and pervasive as it has proven to be, will not last forever. As much as (some) millennial and Gen X folk would like to kick us Boomers to the side (I've experienced this!) and get on with their own wisdom, we may know a thing or two. It was, after all, we who birthed and raised them to be as accepting, open-minded, and in many cases, anti-racist as they are. No, we didn't fix racism (or much of anything else). But we have some good ideas, and some of us have money, connections, and other assets and talents that we could share if you'd welcome us to the work/joy.

I disagree with the gentleman who said you can't do this alone. This spiritual battle for the souls of the world is being fought in many places: the arts, small, isolated communities where a group of liberal white people would be shunned and get nowhere, one-on-one in Bible studies, coffee houses, construction sites, the streets of Baltimore, in Congress, and even in classrooms. It's not likely to be systematic. It can best be understood by reading about chaos theory and also Joanna Macy's Coming Back to Life:   read her rendering of the shambhala warrior prophecy


I also recommend the work (there's that word!) of Michael Eric Dyson, especially Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, who writes about "individual reparations." This has been a powerful incentive for me of recent years. Dyson on individual reparations

More important, to me, than whether one acts alone or with a group is whether one has a spiritual practice. As in Buddhism it is expected that the adherent have a sangha and a teacher, and in recovery a sponsor, one ought in anti-racist activities, have a church, spiritual director, and/devotional practice.  Especially for white people, to whom I am speaking here, always de-centering one self and one's ego and motivations are extremely important.

What I see most challenging today, Barbara, is that good people are afraid. I learned a long time ago that everything we do comes either from fear or from love.  Once you get straight on that, and you come to know people of color well, and love them, not just the idea of them, you will act from love, and it will require enormous courage. You will make enemies. You will have to do and say things that will shock and offend all sorts of people. You will speak truth to power. 

Some of us will, as Cornell West predicted in that great Ware Lecture, "go down swinging like Muhammad Ali." I count you and me in that bunch.


I think the barn I've been using as an illustration works well. It was once a tobacco barn; we don't need those barns, and we don't need tobacco. Much of the wood, however, is salvageable, and they've withstood the strongest tornadoes. Still, not all are dismantled. Some are brought down by acts of God: wind and weather; some burn; some are demolished. Some rot away slowly, dissolving into earth from which they came. 

Frederick Douglass:

Let me give you a word on the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all absorbing, and for the time being putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. 

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
Frederick Douglass
​in a letter to an abolitionist associate, 1948


Saturday, March 03, 2018

WHAT WE MEAN WHEN WE SAY "LOVE"

Sign at the Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Kentucky



My first reaction when I saw the sign at the Motherhouse, a sign that has stood for years, well before the current crisis for immigrants and DACA recipients, was to marvel at how it resembled the Black Lives Matter sign my congregation in New Jersey had posted, repaired, and reposted, numerous times, after it was defiled, run over, painted over, and destroyed. Each time, we chose to leave it up for a good while as an uncomfortable witness: this is how far people will go with hate.

In this deeply Catholic community, even the words of Christ can't be protected from vandals when it comes to hate.







Earlier this week, the Sisters of Loretto and the Dominican sisters of St. Catharine held a vigil in solidarity with DACA recipients and other victims of the mass deportations. Pansy and Pupcake and  I were encouraged to come. Then on Saturday night, they organized a dinner, at which the Lantinx community and allies were invited, and spread amongst the tables, where we were able to tell our stories while we were deeply listened to. Above is Sister Elaine des Rosiers, a special friend of mine, whom I met about five years ago at a Buddhist group I attend, chatting with Pupcake.




Pansy tells her story to the Sisters

It was one of the most lovely evenings I've had in quite some time. Have you ever been deeply listened to? If so, you know what it means. The gift of love, acceptance, community, prayers, camaraderie, hope and shared empathy has boosted Pansy's spirits immeasurably. Working together with the Dreamers has helped her feel less isolated.

I think she'd feel more encouraged by 500 gifts of $1 than by one gift of $500. She's well aware that people "love" the Dreamers, but for some reason don't "love" her or Big Daddy (Benjamin.) Why?


Members of the Democratic Women's Club at the Vigil



One of the Dreamers from our community speaks to the Press.



Pansy and Keeland (Pupcake) at the Vigil


Vigil at the St. Catharine Motherhouse.

One of the things we've talked about a great deal is how much the current situation is like the Holocaust, the Internment of the Japanese, or the Trail of Tears and forced imprisonment of Native Americans on reservations. If you think, "No, it's not as bad" ... please examine your thoughts. Just like in slavery, families will be torn apart. Just like in the Holocaust, people will be killed. No, not as dramatically, but in many ways, slowly and sporadically, as they are targeted by the cartels who prey on those who have been in the US for long periods. 

Our country has lured immigrants from Central America (and elsewhere) here with low-paying jobs, and have taken advantage of their work ethic, their desperation to feed their families back home, and their terror of returning to places that are overrun with deadly gangs and cartels. And yet, we turn our backs on them when our government decides to treat them worse than animals. Benjamin has been IN PRISON for seven months, although he has no criminal record. 

So, you are not in favor of this? You love all people the same? Even Black and Brown people?

Nine people have contributed to help Pansy's family in this crisis. It may not be as harsh as the hole in the sign, but it speaks volumes. What do we mean when we say, "love"?

Another way to help is to donate to Dollars for the Dream via United We Dream on Facebook. It will be so deeply appreciated. Even if you can't or won't, pause and think with gratitude on the freedoms you have every day.

Words
by John Keene

When you said people did you mean punish?
         When you said friend did you mean fraud?
When you said thought did you mean terror?
         When you said connection did you mean con?
When you said God did you mean greed?
         When you said faith did you mean fanatic?
When you said hope did you mean hype?
         When you said unity did you mean enmity?
When you said freedom did you mean forfeit?
         When you said law did you mean lie?
When you said truth did you mean treason?
         When you said feeling did you mean fool?
When you said together did you mean token?
         When you said desire did you mean desert?
When you said sex did you mean savagery?
         When you said need did you mean nought?
When you said blood did you mean bought?
         When you said heart did you you hard?
When you said head did you mean hide?
         When you said health did you mean hurt?
When you said love did you mean loss?
         When you said fate did you mean fight?
When you said destiny did you mean decimate?
         When you said honor did you mean hunger?
When you said bread did you mean broke?
         When you said feast did you mean fast?
When you said first did you mean forgotten?
         When you said last did you mean least?
When you said woman did you mean wither?
         When you said man did you mean master?
When you said mother did you mean smother?
         When you said father did you mean fatal?
When you said sister did you mean surrender?
         When you said brother did you mean brutal?
When you said fellow did you mean follow?
         When you said couple did you mean capital?
When you said family did you mean failure?
         When you said mankind did you mean market?
When you said society did you mean sickness?
         When you said democracy did you mean indignity?
When you said equality did you mean empty?
         When you said politics did you mean power?
When you said left did you mean lost?
         When you said right did you mean might?
When you said republic did you mean rich?
         When you said wealthy did you mean wall?
When you said poor did you mean prison?
         When you said justice did you mean just us?
When you said immigrant did you mean enemy?
         When you said refugee did you mean refusal?
When you said earth did you mean ownership?
         When you said soil did you mean oil?
When you said community did you mean conflict?
         When you said safety did you mean suspicion?
When you said security did you mean sabotage?
         When you said army did you mean Armageddon?
When you said white did you mean welcome?
         When you said black did you mean back?
When you said yellow did you mean yield?
         When you said brown did you mean down?
When you said we did you mean war?
         When you said you did you mean useless?
When you said she did you mean suffer?
         When you said he did you mean horror?
When you said they did you mean threat?
         When you said I did you mean island?
When you said tribe did you mean trouble?
         When you said name did you mean nobody?
When you said news did you mean nonsense?
         When you said media did you mean miasma?
When you said success did you mean sucker?
         When you said fame did you mean game?
When you said ideal did you mean idol?
         When you said yesterday did you mean travesty?
When you said today did you mean doomsday?
         When you said tomorrow did you mean never?
When you said hear did you mean hush?
         When you said listen did you mean limit?
When you said write did you mean wound?
         When you said read did you mean retreat?
When you said literacy did you mean apathy?
         When you said fiction did you mean forget?
When you said poetry did you mean passivity?
            When you say art do you mean act?