vendredi, septembre 23, 2011

Don't call me Al

How the heck does this make sense? How can the death penalty be pro-life? Talk about pretzel logic. Sadly, that is what we can expect from those who beat the "pro-life" drum, but have to find ways to justify their support for the death penalty.

Catholics (some) are consistently "pro-life" -- they don't draw a line in the sand when someone is born, or even does something hateful. One can debate a position that has some internal logic -- it's hard to argue with those who sport with reason.

And then there is Texas Governor Rick Perry, representing all those who applaud when they hear another person has been executed. We really want HIS hand on the trigger (hasn't he had enough of that)?

The only good thing is that he might not be smart enough to find the trigger....

Now this is good stuff...from a purely secular point of view. I think Dow might be right...we won't abandon capital punishment until Americans believe that the death penalty is an obscene waste, and that it's wrong for the state to kill.

This is a very disconnected post. It's how I feel, torn in a million directions, yet caught up in the world's affairs. Maybe it's o.k. to be here right now...would that I could figure out where "here" is.

May that day come fast.

If I could, I would

...take the frown off my son's face and heal the pain that he carries like an invisible crown of thorns -- without hurting anyone else. my daughter blossom into a young woman who owns her strengths.

...ease the depression of her friends, who cry out for the love of their parents, seduced by drugs, or a man's embrace, caught in mental illness, unable to be active in the lives of their children.

...take away the sting of self-hatred, insecurity, jealousy, and all the other things that keep us stuck.

...have the wisdom to know when to speak, and when to be quiet.

...make other Washington voices more potent than that of the National Rifle Association.

...make this rain go away, so that my neighbors wouldn't have to cope with more basement water and mold. more frivolous.

....understand the fundamentals of statistics, and not cry in class when I don't get it. the Boston Red Sox, one of the best teams in baseball, stop their collapse and turn the pennant race into a real battle.

I would. I really would.

But since apparently I can do very few of these things, maybe I better focus on what I can accomplish.

Write a check for a math tutor -- now that's an idea. I just need to find the checkbook.

jeudi, septembre 22, 2011

I am not Troy Davis

They hoped, hoped against hope, that a miracle would happen, and that the Supreme Court of the United States would stay the execution of Georgia's Troy Davis.

Some of them had worked on the Davis case for years -- they are a mix of human rights advocates, idealistic young women and men, people of faith who opposed the death penalty, and others who simply believe that it makes no sense to execute someone when there is, at the least, a ghost of a chance that he might not have been the killer.

Sitting, crying, praying, his supporters protested across a highway from the prison where Davis, 42, prepared himself for death -- or reprieve.

The miracle did not happen. At 11:08 last night, Troy Davis was killed -- twenty years after he was tried and convicted of killing police officer Mark MacPhail, who had intervened to help a homeless man in a parking lot when he was shot.

Some of those on vigil last night wore t-shirts that read "We are Troy Davis."

While I sympathize, deeply, I am aware that I am NOT Troy Davis.

And that's the point -- or part of it.

I'm not a young black man, caught up in a net of witnesses whose testimony was contradictory at best. I don't know what it felt like to grow in a country in which to be a man of color can easily put you at the front of the line-up.

That's not to say that Davis was innocent. And, God help me, it's not to say that I condone the murder of Mark MacPhail.

Someone killed him, and left a gaping hole in his family that will continue to leave a gap in the lives of generations before and after him.

There are all sorts of legitimate secular objections to the death penalty, based in a fundamental morality -- and in logic.

To this we add the logic of the "consistent life ethic."

Our family doesn't believe that taking one life redeems that one that was lost. We believe that life is sacred, from before birth to a person's last breath. Deciding when life begins, and when it should end, except in rare circumstances (which we will not get into here) is to play God.

Last night I took my son to Wegman's, where he gets together with his (much older) Amnesty International colleagues once a month. When I saw them after the meeting, they looked weary.

I grieved for them -- they had worked so hard. I sorrowed for my son-- his Facebook posts showed me that, up until the end, he had hoped Davis would receive clemency.

I never really did believe that would be the case. We are a country intoxicated with violence, and many, if not most of us still advocate more violence as the solution.

Last night we gathered around the television to watch the analysis as the Supreme Court refused to step in. I asked the children if they would like to pray.

Muting the sound, I asked that God be present with Troy Davis, the Davis family, and the MacPhails. Then, struggling to keep my voice under control, I prayed for our country, and for a system that cannot seem to abide complexity, or redemption, or forgiveness.

Exhausted, the children went to bed. I stayed up to know that he breathed no more.

Today, I wonder -- has anything changed? I still believe that change can, and perhaps will come -- there are (except in Texas) fewer executions and more debate about whether, on a purely secular level, the death penalty does anything to deter crime.

I am not Troy Davis.

But I am sister to those who are.

mercredi, septembre 21, 2011

Tears, Fall

Yesterday began auspiciously enough -- but it soon deteriorated.

A text from the DQ -- she'd forgotten her dance clothes, could I bring them to school?

Pouring the cereal for my son is a morning ritual on the days that he has to get on the 7:09 a.m. bus. When he gets into the kitchen, he baptizes it with milk. Yesterday, the ritual went wrong, and my normally mild-mannered son went crazy.

Cereal flew all over the counter and the tiles. Yelling, Mr. C stalked out of the room.

A few minutes later, the same scenario...

And then he went out on the breezeway, sat on a chair, and wept.

Then I finally heard what had happened. The day before, a few of his lunchroom pals had taken his food out of his lunchbox, and begun throwing it at him. It got so tough that eventually, he left the table, and found another place to eat lunch (what hadn't already landed on the table or floor).

And, of course, he's worried sick about his father. As are the rest of us. He apologized to me for the mess. Somehow we pulled ourselves together, and drove to the middle school.

I didn't yell -- the situation seemed too dire for that, and besides, I'm not a yeller. I confess that I did consider consequences -- but after I heard why he had the meltdown, I decided not to be punitive.

I did feel crushed, though. Bowed down by his pain, and by not knowing how to make it better. Overwhelmed by the weight of what I'm carrying right now. Aside from a quick word with the guidance counselor, letting her know that my son would be in touch, there wasn't a thing I could do.

While he doesn't always have good judgment (he's only fourteen), my child moves differently through the world than many of his middle school friends. For one thing, he has a steely sense of integrity, a lively moral compass, and the ability to reason through complexities that might defeat some adults.

And he can't believe that others mean him harm, or find him expedient -- a pawn in their own game.

The blood of my reforming, principled, hopeful grandmother flows through his veins -- but it's too early to know if he'll have her charm.

He'll suffer for his independence, predicted his dad. I fear that he is right.

Rightly, or wrongly, I see a lot of myself in the boy (in my daughter, it's there too, but harder to recognize). I have many character defects -- but they don't include being mean. Like him, I will go overboard to take the feelings of others into account. I'm shocked by unkindness.

You'd think I'd be better equipped, have a harder shell by now.

Their dad went to the hospital today - too early for me to drive him. He should have had a family member with him. There are so many times when he will feel alone, or sick, and no one will be there.

I am so inadequate to all the needs around me.

Nothing left to say right now, but the tears, flowing down my face, as I watch the leaves on the trees outside fall gently, inexorably, to the ground.

dimanche, septembre 18, 2011


I'm a bit of a mindfulness snob.

There's a lot of pap out there about mindfulness -- mindfulness in sound bites. I wonder why it's become such a popular idea -- maybe because most of us know that we spend a lot of time crazy busy and feeling guilty about it.

Let me do the trendy thing for a moment, because its convenient. Mindfulness in a sound bite -- it's being present in the moment, where you are. Accepting the bad, the ugly and the good -- the truth for now, knowing that it could, and probably will change.

But not predicting, or expecting the change -- not trying to control it.
I love the idea...I'm not always very good at it.

Yesterday, for example, I found myself behind a very erratic driver. She or he would slow down, then speed up, forcing me to do the same. This would not have mattered much to me, except that my gas gauge (I had left my pocketbook at home the day before, so was sans credit card) was below the red line. I was running on empty.
Gripping the steering wheel, I groaned. I spoke sternly to myself. I envisioned myself already at the gas station (kinda a mindfulness no-no).

I got to the gas station --- the anti-poster girl for mindfulness practice.

Today I woke up -- and although I had an ornery cold (y'all try living in a house without heat), I had a sense of freedom, of possibility, of hope.

Part of this comes from acceptance of what is, in fact, the case. The goods, the bads, the uglies. But it's not like I can take credit for my sense of peace -- it feels like it's something that is happening both in and to me.

Whatever - I'm grateful. What a gift, after a few months of transition and turmoil. And a sense of relief so deep that I really can't analyze it yet.

Part of it, I have to admit, comes from having encountered, in the past few days, via conversation and emails, some genuinely nice guys. Guys who seem to be responding to the person I am.

I have railed (just a few days ago) about the badly-behaved men who approach me online -- it's as though the universe wants to remind me not to give up hope.

Last night I traded stories of left-wing family connections with someone on the phone, doing a playful game of "can you top that"?

Today I heard from a man saying that he was compelled to write by the "depth" he saw in my eyes.

He has no idea how much that means to me. The combination of a hot guy who appreciates depth could turn out to be irresistible...we'll see. I'd love to find a guy who could share intimacy, independence, gnarliness and forgiveness with me (see below for a reprise of one of my faves).

And that's not even the half of what's been going on. All of it good. It feels wonderful to be seen..and appreciated.

I don't know if there is some kind of synchronicity between acceptance and opportunity -- I'd like to believe that, but I remain agnostic in face of the opacity of the universe.

I have no idea what's happening, or why it's happening, but so many chains feel a lot looser now.

I can't guarantee that this mood will last -- but I'm going to enjoy it as long as it does. And I hope that whatever joy you find on this lovely fall day is a gift of freedom, of optimism, of hope. Fleeting? Perhaps. But no less precious for that.