samedi, avril 05, 2008

The bittersweets of memory

Dad's memorial service was lovely-or so I was told. As the emcee, I was more worried about the professors, and whether they were going to speak too long for the friends, relatives and ex-colleagues who came to the Brooklyn Ethical Culture Society to remember Dad.

Those who came up to the podium, included five former friends of Dads from the college. Most of them talked about his wit, his incredible mind, his charm and his devotion to his family.

His companions, the women who got him up from the bed, made his lunches and dinners, bathed him and bantered with him also spoke in their lyrical accents, with warmth and devotion and love-we are family now, one of them said to me. I believe they are.

Those who talked were all wonderful, in their way.

A couple of the speakers also alluded to the shadowed side of Dad's nature-the neurosis, the sadness, the grief over a lost son and wife.

Then we went out to lunch, most of us-again, a time full of intense conversation and affectionate reunions with relatives I rarely am privileged to spend time with, thanks to the accidents of geography and time.

I don't think it's quite sunk in that we had assembled, and accomplished, the official memorial. That's a blessing, and a sadness. The journey towards healing has begun, but it doesn't end on earth.

mercredi, avril 02, 2008

No offense, Alabama

Mea culpa. I've been known to make that Alabama comment meself.

Although maybe it's James Carville, with his "gift" for the quick quip, who should be apologizing to us, the ticked off citizens of Pennsylvania (see link above).

It's pretty refreshing to have someone who actually says what he thinks, though-although I'm not sure thinking had much to do with his original comment.

It's interesting that he mentioned Paoli-which is smack dab in area that was a haven for traditional Republicans and independents- and has seen an upswing in people voting for Democrats in recent contests.

I, on the other hand, live in "Alabama." I never thought I'd be comfortable in the deep South. But I find that I actually like it.

Seriously, though, here in Pennsylvania, the natives refuse to be pegged. Even around here on the exurban frontier, west of the Brandywine Creek, we've been known to root for the Steelers-after the Eagles were eliminated.

mardi, avril 01, 2008

Remember the Ladies

Race and gender-how long can we keep this election 2008 pot boiling?

Accusing Obama surrogates of trying to shove Hillary Clinton out of the race, Ms. Cocco (see link) certainly makes a strong argument for gender bias. I particularly like her point about how much Hillary has done for the Democratic Party-I mean, really.

The problem is that it's really a chicken and egg issue-are the boys trying to get rid of Hillary because they don't want a female shimmying up that greasy pole, or because they are pledged to stand by their man? The fact is that there are simply many more men in politics, anyway-it's one of the few places where you can exercise real power, anymore.

This election has aroused so much passion in so many quarters that even the pundits are getting roiled-very exciting, and, in my opinion, a good thing for the rest of us. Let's put the advocacy back in journalism.

dimanche, mars 30, 2008

In memory of Dith Pran, Cambodian American hero

He is now part of our collective memory. Shame for our role in Cambodia. Outrage that we haven't been able to put a halt to genoicide in Darfur and let it go on for so long in Bosnia. Admiration for his courage and dedication. His life was all about testifying and honoring the memory of the Cambodian dead. We honor Mr. Dith the most when we work against genocide in all forms.

My commentary from the Sunday WaPo

Maternal Instincts, Paternal Church

Women clergy were supposed to rewrite the old, patriarchal rules. Instead, many ordained women have bought into the old conventions -and added a few of our own.
Thirty years ago ordained women were a relatively rare phenomenon. Now they are almost a cultural commonplace, constituting 30 percent and more of the population of aspiring ministers in some mainline Protest seminaries.
Why, then, haven’t female clergy felt freer to challenge some of the shibboleths that historically have plagued their male colleagues: lack of privacy, inflated congregational expectations, lack of self-care?
It may be in part because we haven’t been reflective about the time needed to make this cultural transition in leadership.
Without substantive reflection and support, we place women in positions that ask them to model nurturing and non-hierarchical leadership while exercising authority boldly and confidently.As part of a projected anthology on ordained mothers, I have recruited women to write about their own experiences in congregations.
In their essays they share both the costs and blessings of bushwhacking in this still relatively new territory. They describe confronting the expectations of colleagues who want them to be shooting ecclesiastical stars, expecting a third child while working full-time in a congregation, making sure they present a harmonious family life while out in public.
Clergywomen still grapple with the notion that they must be consummate parents to their own children, if they have them, and to their parish family.
And they aren’t wrong to think, in a terrain where most of the regulations aren’t written down, that they may be judged more harshly than their male peers.
Married or not, this ambivalence about what it means to be a female leader, and desire to be all things to everyone, is more than internal. It is reflected in the public image clergywomen project.
Too often, at least on the East Coast, ordained women dress in a manner appropriate to a hippie love fest or a Goth birthday party -- peasant skirts or a funereal calf-length black suit, with hair and shoes to match.
Convinced that this decades-long reluctance to move out of the sartorial safety zone reflects something more than a desire to make a fashion statement, I queried the Rev. Victoria Weinstein.
Under the pseudonym PeaceBang, Weinstein writes, a popular ‘blog for clergy interested in moving beyond chunky shoes and badly fitting slacks.
“I don’t know that women tend to see themselves as leaders. We haven’t been socialized to think that way,” said the Massachusetts Unitarian pastor, who terms her goal the “de-frumpification” of the American clergy (male and female).
Wearing clothes that fit well, and are appropriately feminine makes a statement, she says. “I am an individual, I am confident and I understand how clothes work.”
If many of us aren’t quite ready to claim our gifts as female clergy leaders, it may be because we don’t have the freedom, internal or external, to admit that we have limits and need help.
As a parish associate, I preached many well-crafted, dramatic, allusive sermons. But the one that people remember is where I describe hurling a plate of baby food across a breakfast nook after one of my kids had dumped it on the floor for the umpteenth time.
Anxiety, exhaustion and perfectionism aren’t solely the province of female clergy. If we felt free to voice these feelings more openly, to share them with our congregational families, perhaps male clergy could feel freer to admit that they suffer from some of the same stresses.
Think of how liberating that might be for parents torn between their jobs, caring for elderly parents and young children, or their kid’s sports schedules. Allowing themselves to be honest about the cost of leadership might be one of the biggest gifts women bring to the table -- or the altar.
Ironically, this candor could also liberate them to be the audacious and confident servant leaders contemporary American congregations need and deserve.