Tuesday, January 18, 2011

And So It Begins

I lit a candle yesterday for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  And I really meant it this time.

It wasn't a candle of general hope for world peace or intellectual political despair or religious commitment to a Jew or a Muslim.  It was a desperate prayer for no conflict on the ground in the region - for at least six months.  

My niece flew to Tel Aviv yesterday.  She will be studying at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem until June.  I am now personally invested in the longing for peace in the Middle East.

Taylor is a brilliant and beautiful and industrious student of life.  This opportunity to live and learn in a culture so distant, yet so familiar via the context of the stories she's heard about Jesus, was just too good to miss.  I'm thrilled about her being there.  I know both Taylor and the world will be better for this adventure.  I believe she will come back to us a generous world citizen with new and compassionate views.  She will, likewise, leave her unique mark on everyone who crosses her world-explorer path.

I am also terrified. There is just no way to feel completely at ease with a loved one living in Jerusalem these days.  The sword rattling absolutely never ends over there.  The missile launchers and the bomb planters and the politicians all stay so completely on edge over who lives where and with what rights, you never really know when one poorly timed comment or bully faced military shift or diplomatic posturing will loose the hair that sits on the trigger of violent reaction. 

So I pray a desperate prayer for at least six months of peace. 

And while I do that, I feel certain Taylor will seize every moment of her Great Explore: 

Within old Jerusalem’s walled city is the site of Abraham’s would-be sacrifice of his son, Isaac or Ishmael (depending on the religion). The Islamic shrine known as the Dome of the Rock, built in 691, stands on the location today. In ancient times both the original and rebuilt Jewish Temples were situated there.  Jews still call it the Temple Mount.  Taylor will see these things and understand the conundrum of a divided Jerusalem like none of us who have never traveled there really can.
The Western Wall is what remains of the stone perimeter that once surrounded the grounds of the Jewish Temple. Taylor will likely touch that wall and feel the presence of all the saints - both Jew and Arab.

Jerusalem’s old walled city also holds what is thought to be the site of Christ’s Crucifixion, where today stands the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Taylor will, no doubt, pause and pray a Christian's prayer at that spot.

Meanwhile, the rippling effect of her adventure begins with this reality:  The educational journey of one young woman from a suburban setting in the red state of Texas leaves a family of 19 aunts and uncles and grandmother and cousins - typically at odds over religion and politics - united in one grand wish for peace. 

And so it begins with us. Peace. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


A couple of days ago, my husband hurt my feelings.  He didn't mean to, but he did.  I pouted.  He tried to defend himself.  I pouted some more. What I wanted was not to be told how I misinterpreted his actions.  What I wanted was to hear from him that he was sorry I was hurt.  Once I knew that, I could begin to hear his line of reasoning.

But not before the apology. 

And so it is with Sarah Palin.

Have you seen her video response to Saturday's melee in Tucson, posted this morning on her facebook page? Nothing reconciling, bridge building, or even almost resembling an "I'm sorry" approach to people in America who are in a fizz over her political rhetoric. 

It is, instead, 7-minutes and 43 seconds of, "don't blame me."

And I don't blame her.  Clearly the majority of people in this country do not believe targets on maps or "reload" references or the sic 'em attitude that Ms. Palin is so famous for actually mean the woman wants anyone to become a murderer.  Surely, surely, surely we would have called that out as utter insanity months ago if we'd really believed she meant for us to take a literal view of her metaphoric presentations. 

Even so, we are hurting.  We Americans don't want to believe things like what happened last weekend are really possible in our cities.  These are stories we expect out of Baghdad or Kabul, not Tucson, Arizona.

So I don't believe it would have been too much to ask Ms. Palin for something like: "I'm sorry for anything I have said or done that would lead people to believe I am a fan of violence." Followed perhaps by a clearly stated, "I am not."

It's what loving people do.  They feel sorry when there's a misunderstanding that has boiled over into blaming and outrage.  They long for a field of compromise that will allow for gentle words and new feelings.

It's not just what loving people do.  It's what smart people do.

And once again, Sarah Palin misses the boat.  Here's some of what she said:
Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions...When we "take up our arms," we're talking about our vote.
So, I believe I will continue to turn my back on her reasoning.

Apologize first. 


Monday, January 10, 2011

The Signs...Are They a' Changin'?

It sounds like the tragic Saturday killing spree involving Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords has put our national leadership on alert.


Incendiary rhetoric mixed with politics is being called out for what it is: insane, uncivilized, anti-democracy, and just plain dangerous.  May those who have ears hear. 
Democratic and Republican lawmakers had a rare bipartisan conference call Sunday to discuss Rep. Giffords' condition and security concerns for members of Congress.
Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pennsylvania, said he will introduce legislation making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a member of Congress or a federal official. (from today's Washington Post)
Language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence?  I wonder if any of these would qualify as criminal under such a law?

Criminal?  Or just terribly tasteless expressions of free speech?

How might a symbol like this fare under a law like Rep. Brady envisions?

What about this?  Criminal? 

This one?  Could this man be perceived as threatening or inciting violence?

A pity we need a law to tell us how to be civilized.  A bigger pity that we Americans have sopped up the snarly references to guns and violence and hit lists like they were sweet barbeque sauce instead of the vicious poison they are.

Do we need a need a law?  Could we decide to be the privileged and fed and educated people we are and begin to be the POSITIVE change we want to see in this world?  Remember what those signs looked like?


We like the hopeful message.  We proved that over two years ago.  What in the name of everything decent has happened since then?


Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Mother's Broken Heart

I have looked at this photo all day long. 

It's Christina Taylor Green...  The 9-year old who died in a crazy man's shooting spree yesterday in Arizona. 

Her mother talked to someone at ABC news this morning and called her daughter, "a beautiful girl, inside and out."  I started to cry. I have ached for Christina's parents all day long.  I had 9-year olds once.  I never imagined they would not be safe at a public event with an adult friend along. 

I have also looked at this photo quite a bit today.

It's Gabriel Zimmerman...  The 30-year old legislative aide to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He also died yesterday at the event in Tucson that he reportedly had planned.  I have a 26-year old in my life who is like a son to me.  He is the chief of staff for a Texas legislator and likely will be attending many events like this with his boss in the upcoming days of the Texas legislative session.  I cannot let myself believe that a young man interested in making the world a better place, one piece of legislation at a time, could die doing this job.

I have also studied this face today.

It's Jared Lee Loughner...  The 22-year old suspected shooter in the terrifying incident that left six dead yesterday morning at a US Congressional representative's meeting with constituents on that street corner in Tucson, Arizona. 

My sons are in their 20s.  A determined search of the web could probably turn up photos of them making goofy faces into a camera.  Some of their friends wear hats like this, and glasses like this, and attend community college, and wander around a bit trying to find their way(s) in this world.  And while I am not even hinting at linking any sane young person I know with the psychoses that now frame the person who is reported to be Jared Lee Loughner - I am saying the man...who is really still just a boy...has a mother.  I hope she loves him. Can you imagine what her day has been like today?

I will let others ponder the dysfunctional landscape of fear and trembling that political pundits and crazy preachers and poorly informed rally goers have created in this country.  There will be many over the next few weeks who lament the implications of lax gun laws and crosshairs on maps and the social psychology behind group support of statements like "if ballots don't work, bullets will." 

I am going to cry for mothers. 

Peace.  Please.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Top Speed 40 MPH?

That's the fastest you can drive on the 88-square mile island of Martha's Vineyard.  I'm not kidding.

There are also no traffic lights.  And nothing but smooth and curvy two-lane roads.

For a girl from a bustling city in a state where wide roads and big cars rule - it was a bit of an adjustment.  But after a few days in my rented econo-box, I felt my pulse slow and my peripheral vision expand.  I was breathing, not fuming.  I was meandering not maniacally swerving.  I was catching a glimpse of the world outside my personal high-speed space.

And here's what I saw...

Behind a tall wire fence, in the bright light of noon, was a square-mile of this.  It was breathtaking.

The next day I decided I needed one or two more shots of Creation's Crayola box, this time taken in the longer shadows of an afternoon.  I drove the same road - even slower than 40 mph.  I drove it four times.

The flowers were not there.

The next morning, I took the same route.  I went 20 mph this time.  My field of Springtime in September had vanished.   I thought I'd lost my mind.

By the following day I realized the flowers had been harvested.  Every single stem had been cut to the ground.  I had seen those blooms just hours before they went from planted-in-the-earth to arranged-in-a-vase.

And I could not help wondering...what if I'd been going 60?

I ran across the photo, taken almost four months ago, this week as I rushed through the pile that was 2010 on my desk .  If digital images have a voice, this one was shouting:  Slow down!  I swear I actually heard it.

Meander a bit on the journey, it said.
Watch for beauty along the way.
Stop and take a picture or write a poem or whistle.

Or plan to miss a lot of what is good about this world.


Thursday, January 6, 2011


A friend emailed Tuesday:
Happy New Year!  Time is arbitrary, and still, this marker seems to have some potency - might as well tap into it!
I appreciated his honesty.  Time is arbitrary.  

The fact is, January 1 is just another day on the calendar.  As we toasted it in with friends at midnight last Friday, I have to admit I did not feel the potency.  Is this day a finer gift than yesterday was?  That's what I was thinking.  Why the clinking and kissing and horn blowing and firecrackers?  If we do it for this day, why not the next?  

And so I began the year...wondering why I don't celebrate every day like a fresh, new beginning.

In this first week of 2011, I have picked through the works of some of my favorite inspired writers and poets, I have reviewed old calendars, I have lit candles, I have made lists.  And still, I feel nothing but longing for a kind of hopeful spirit that greets every single day with a raised glass and a joyful heart and a determined resolve to make things new. 

Every single day.  

I have landed on this question:  Why the struggle to find celebration within me?

Me - the woman who has no unmet personal need and rarely an unanswered whim.
Me - the person who grew in the safety of a loving home in the middle of a land full of freedom and choice.
Me - the human whose only physical complaints are tied directly to personal decisions. 
Me - the being who knows real suffering mostly through the observed experiences of others.


If I can't celebrate every single day of life and breath and being on this planet, then who?

If I cannot joyfully wave big, flashy banners of hope and kindness and peace and love, I am not sure why I have been given so much to celebrate.

And so I am leaving the champagne flute on the window sill in 2011.  There will be clean water in it every morning as I greet the day.  If there seems to be nothing more fitting to celebrate on any given day, I will celebrate the clean water and remember that one in eight people in this world do not have it.

Time is arbitrary.
Our decision to fill it with hope and joy is not.
Happy New Year.