Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Setting Sun

To the woman who inspires poetry: Happy 99th Birthday Grandma!!

               Setting Sun


Over that thin, mysterious line,
     so far off and yet alarmingly near
Out of that murky and muting indigo womb,
     but still mantled in its maroon, aliment smear

Pressing and pricking at yonder rim
     in irreverent indifference to her threshold breach
She lunged for her first gulp of breath
     and grasped the world with a seagull’s screech


Good fortune, juvenile gambol and inquisitive abandon
     are woven to a pulley’s chord   
That hoists with ease the blushing star
     from wait and worry still unmoored

All along the steep incline and her timid march 
     toward finial height
She dreamed of tender love and ample life 
     and kissed the earth with her gentle, virgin light 


Anchored severely to the middle of the sky
     early dew long run off by torrid drought
Harsh winds that wither dreams, temper desire, 
     scorch ambition, sow but little doubt 

Her course set, charges multiplied, cares increased,   
     and scarcity mounting to a swelter
She labored without ceasing to move that dial 
     and give her wards some shade or shelter


Emancipated from that confining, grinding crest
     and freed to travel further round the globe
Slicing long and spear-like through the landscape
     in a curious javelin probe

Undaunted resourcefulness transforming streams to
     liquid gold and glades to emerald stone
She planted her luminous assets with universal scope 
     and reaped what her frugal hands had sown 


Graceful and composed in a slender, ebony silhouette,  
     ruby-tipped fingers, and a silver crescent crown
The same soft brush now indulging edgy techniques
     and an unfamiliar palette to paint the town

Offering a last exhibition of her authentic voice
     before reclining in her widow’s bed
She ventured out on a final solo endeavor
     and splurged on a bolder shade of red

. . . And soon, our setting sun 

              will be but another’s rising one.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

All On A Very Hot Day

This past Friday I was not my most gracious self. 
I became “one of those people.” 
One of those obnoxious people who interject unhelpful comments into a facebook thread, the kind of comment that either begins or only furthers a downward spiral into mud slinging.

In my defense, it was an extremely hot day, and I had to drive my kids around in a dark blue Galaxy with a broken AC. So I am sure that any feeling person will immediately understand the extenuating circumstances and will forgive my momentary lapse of facebook etiquette.

As if being cooked in my four-door-oven-on-wheels wasn’t bad enough on its own, there is, in fact, a whole list of things that have been irritating me lately. 
Truth be told, I am quite dissatisfied with the overall state of the world and want my money back.
To begin with, there is the “tragedy” in Charleston. And, I say, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. This guy has to go and shoot nine black people, because they are black, in S.C., which flies a confederate flag on the capital grounds, right while I am reading The Divide, a book about the two completely different justice systems operating in my country that divide, who would have guessed, along class and racial lines and which chronicles a new form of exploitation that enslaves far more black people than our antebellum slavery ever did.  

So, that was unnerving.

Then I read the article, where the journalist Mini Chakarova describes the world she encounters as she goes undercover to follow the sex trade in several countries and makes a film called The Price of Sex. She describes women being treated worse than animals, corruption in the law enforcement, and cultures and mentalities that still shame and exclude women victims of sexual violence.

That totally bummed me out.

And how do I get the images out of my mind of the terror ISIS is perpetrating in Syria and Iraq, the beheadings, the crucifixions, the kidnapping and sex-enslavement of women and girls? How can I banish the pictures of the masses fleeing their homes from violence in so many countries and suffering extreme living conditions and harrowing journeys? Or suppress the ongoing drama of 273 school girls who have been held and traumatized for 448 days now by Boko Haram? 

Major drag.

Oh, and the Washington Post reminded me that the climate is also still a thing, and that we are all on the brink of the 6th mass extinction, so

I’m pretty bitter about that.

And to top it all off, too many of my neighbors are painting their houses in my absolute least favorite colors! 

It is all just too much for me to take! 

I am entirely sick of everyone in the world doing things without asking my permission first!

While in this mood, another post and conversation shows up on my feed not about any of these things, but yet again about whether same-sex marriage is natural, biblical, right. And I completely lost my self control and went all facebook kamikaze on this unsuspecting, progressive pastor/online theologian.

So in my comment, I might have forgotten my manners and written something along the lines of 

Hey, if Christian guys talked half as much about women's rights as they do about gay marriage, then we might actually be able to solve some of the worst problems in the world, affecting the largest percentage of people, at some point. Instead you are leaving the number one humanitarian issue of our century to these guys: http://www.buzzfeed.com/.../times-celebrity-men-shut-down... (#24 I find especially fitting) Can we move on already?
And when he tried to relativize my comment by suggesting (and I summarize) that we each have our pet issues which are important to us, but no one issue is more important than another, I actually wanted to toilet paper his house, but instead sunk to my lowest facebook self and wrote,  
Well, then by god, talk about those issues! The ones that will actually mean we will have to change something about our lives than just our political and theological posturing! And here is a thought, maybe women's rights isn't simply important to ME, but is correlated to refugees and all those other things you might be thinking about. I'm sorry for the snark, but it is incredibly frustrating to see so much macho theology spent on what I truly believe to be the wrong end of the horse. You are getting the bullet that has been loaded for sometime, but jeepers, what's a girl gotta do?
Yes, I know, it’s bad! What makes it even worse is that I wrote it on someone’s fb page who has, in all of our interactions, never really given me the time of day. I’m pretty sure this guy, this German progressive Pastor, doesn’t give a kernel what I think about anything, let alone what I think of him or his blog, so it was an insanely stupid thing to do all in all.

But the thing that had brought me to the edge, from where I made my comment suicide, was when Justice Kennedy managed to swing away from religious freedom and beat his chest to protect gay’s “autonomy of self that includes freedom...of certain intimate conduct,” though this Tarzan couldn’t find a vine long enough to protect a woman’s right to be protected while exercising that kind of autonomy (see Hobby Lobby). And I simply can’t shake the question, “why are gays winning,” and winning at an unheard of speed, while women are continually loosing, and not just in matters of sex, but across the board?

So that has been eating at me while everyone’s profile pictures turn rainbow, rubbing salt in the wound.

And I wonder, why in the world didn’t we think to get a pretty flag!

But boy, you should have heard the schizophrenic self-talk going on inside my head after I posted the comments… some kinda crazy for sure!
“Maybe a bit bossy there, telling other people what they can and can’t write on their own blog? Get a grip on yourself! Anyway, you’re one to talk, Lee! Haven’t seen you wear your superwoman cape for a long while…what are you doing to save the world, eh? And man, what a way to throw Gay people under the buss? What did they ever do to you? You can’t just go and pit one identity group against another one like that!...Can you? Think of all the gay people you know and love! Don’t they deserve the right to get married just as much as women around the world deserve the right
  • to not be treated like an inanimate object that is raped countless times a day? 
  • or to not have their genitals mutilated, 
  • or to not be married to older men when they are 10, 
  • or to not be beaten by their husbands, 
  • to not have to cover their bodies from head to toe? 
  • to not be punished as an adulteress for being raped
  • to not experience sexual harassment 
  • to not have acid thrown in their face
  • to drive a car, 
  • to earn equal pay for equal work, 
  • to equal representation, 
  • to education
  • to equal opportunity to advance in their careers?
But Lee, you know it isn’t really about marriage, per se, but about combating the excluding stigma that homosexuals have faced and moving toward an inclusive society, where the human dignity of homosexuals is recognized, and they can enjoy all the same rights and privileges of heterosexual men and women.”

So I am embarrassed that I let my irritation over the enormous, humungous, amount of attention this specific minority group has gotten over the last ten years get the better of me, and I apologize for taking all of my frustration out on one particular blogger. I am also feeling some amount of shame over begrudging the gay community their victory so much, but I haven’t quite been able to shake that yet. 

For me the question still remains, why does this particular “human rights” issue garner so much attention? 

  • Why is insuring that gays have no legal status of utmost concern, instigate militant opposition from, and continues to be a top priority for conservative theologians, bloggers and pastors, rather than riding, like the knights they believe themselves to be, to the aid of women who are suffering unimaginable hell on earth? 
  • Why have progressive theologians, bloggers and pastors, all, or mostly all, who identify as feminists, spent most of their ink justifying this minority, rather than putting any noticeable muscle behind raising the visibility of women, their issues, and their successes, in their own progressive circles, in the church as a whole, and in the larger, global, community?

I am so thankful for men like Nicholas Kristof and Jimmy Carter, who not only recognize that women’s equality is the number one human rights issue of our century, but who also spend a majority of their digital space and their leg time spotlighting the less than glamorous issues affecting women, giving recognition for their efforts, and empowering women the world over. But it only makes me more suspicious: why have so many Christian men abandoned this field? It may be obvious why women’s equality is important to me; it is not so obvious why it isn’t important to them.

But I have learned my lesson and will follow the good advice another commenter gave me: rather than tell other people what they should or shouldn’t write about on their blog, to write my own blog instead. I guess if I want a different flag flying, I should follow Brittany Newsome’s brilliant example and climb the pole myself.

Now excuse me, while I go find my cape.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Iron Courage Cowboy

There is a cowboy standing proud, almost a man
     with cold, iron courage in his hand
He’s on the river bank across from me
     6,000 bodies between us in this morbid, crimson sea
Twice as many injured and bleeding still
     that wounding bullets didn’t get to kill
The tide of blood is rising, rising day for day
     nine more bodies shot dead, shot dead today

I call over to the cowboy and ask him to join my side
     to put away that gun and stem the carmine tide
But he cannot hear me, and I don’t understand
     he’s gripping iron courage in his hand
So I gather facts like cotton, and weave a solid strand
     and try my best to lasso that gun out of his hand
But he cannot hear me, and I don’t understand
     he’s gripping iron courage in his hand
Could I build a bridge by stacking stories one upon another?
     how boys are shooting children and one guy shot his brothers 
     how husbands shoot their wives, and this kid shot his mother?
But the cowboy cannot hear me, and I don’t understand
     he’s gripping iron courage in his hand

There is nothing left for me to do 
     than wade into the river
so I take off my belt, my coat, my shoes
          and wade into the river
     and all the rest I must remove
          to wade into the river
Through all the bodies, all the blood, all the tears
     Through all the pain, all the hate, all the fears
All the screams, all the grief, and the terrors of the night
     I wade through the river till the cowboy comes in sight
I have no plan, no scheme, no dagger up my leg
     I have no other recourse than simply to beg
I finally reach his shore somehow, 
     But I did very nearly drown
And tired and weak and naked now, 
     I throw my body down, 
     I throw my body down
Stripped and bare and at his mercy now
     I throw my body down,
     I throw my body down

“Please, please put away your gun, cowboy
     and instead become a man
Trade in your cold iron courage
     for these wounds in both my hands
These outstretched palms cheated death, held contempt at bay,
     and overcame the cold iron courage of their day”