Wednesday, December 14, 2016

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

Dear hearts and gentle people, it is coming on Christmas (if you are like me, you will now have a Joni Mitchell song running through your head), and I have been clobbered by a virus. I’m spending lots of time asleep, which seems to be the best thing.
So I was trying to think of what to write this week, and realized that writing is not easy when you’re not awake most of the time and feeling lousy when you are awake.
I was thinking it would be nice to publish one of my husband Rick’s cartoons, so I include here a Christmas cartoon he did in 1978 as an ad for Al & Tony’s Pizza. Merry Pizza to you.
Then this evening I remembered a Christmas greeting I received many years ago. It was a post card that was sent from Jack Hamilton’s wife. Jack Hamilton was my high school English teacher, and a family friend despite his liberal politics, which my parents abhorred.
Jack had died just before Christmas that year, and the postcard had been meant to be his Christmas card to his friends and family. His wife decided to send it to everyone who sent her a sympathy card. It had Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30 printed on one side.
I confess that the first time I read it I was flummoxed. The English of Shakespeare’s time was not transparent to me. I had to read the sonnet over and over, and as I did the profound meaning and love and human vulnerability in it came clear and sharp to me. The sonnet, and all it touched within me, has stayed with me all these years. As I grow older, its meaning deepens.
So before I head back to bed, I send you greetings, and wish for you the peace of love described in the last two lines of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.

Joyful Resistance

This morning the cat gingerly, tenderly, on little cat feet, balanced on top of my radio and inserted his head into the dog biscuit bag, and came out with a dog biscuit in his mouth. He carefully backed off the radio and over to the hutch where I feed him, broke the biscuit up with his teeth, and ate it.
The dog watched this action intently. You could almost hear her say, “Noooooooo!” when the cat’s head came out of the bag and there was a biscuit in his mouth. I had given the dog three of those little biscuits moments before in our morning ritual: “Sit.” (biscuit) “Spin around.” (biscuit) “Lie down.” (biscuit). Dogs are not capable of saying, “I just had three biscuits. It’s okay if the cat has one.”
Dogs do not think like that.
Nor do dogs and cats worry about who won the election. I envy them.
Our president-elect is appointing people in his administration who will work together to make the rich richer, and the rest of us poorer. This crew will also attempt to step on the necks of the poor, women, the LGBTQ population, immigrants, people of any skin color other than white, and people of faith who are other than the right kind of Christian. I apologize if I missed your group.
This oppression has gone on for years. Now there will be no stopping it. The bullies have the power.
I am sad that the idea of public service has been so far forgotten that our government has public bullies instead of public servants. Being a public servant seems like such a quaint, antiquated notion now, straight out of that 1939 Jimmy Stewart movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” which, by the way, protested against political corruption and cronyism in its day. I am trying to decide if it is any consolation that corruption and cronyism were part of the US government eighty years ago. Whether it is consoling or not, it tells me that each new generation must be vigilant and fight for freedom.
The initial stun of the election’s outcome is wearing off. I have stopped flinching every time I hear the term “president-elect.”
I heard today that the Army Corps of Engineers is backing off from at least a piece of their pipeline through sacred land in North Dakota, perhaps in response to the veterans who have shown up to stand with the First Nations people in the freezing cold.
I shall wait to see what happens at Standing Rock, and on other native lands. Pardon my cynicism. The behavior of the Army Corps of Engineers, etc., up until today, not to mention the various levels of government all the way to the top, has looked like Indian Wars, circa 1875, to me. The behavior of this country’s rulers toward indigenous peoples has been consistent for centuries. Forgive me if I have a hard time thinking that everything changed this afternoon.
Not taking much for granted these days. I am watching, and waiting.
Meanwhile, the sun continues to come up, the world is still beautiful, our loved ones still bring us joy and pain, the cat still steals dog biscuits. Life goes on, and we find beauty and joy and humor in it, and each other.
Therefore, cynical as I am feeling right now, I exhort you to love your life and your people and your animals and your plants and your world. To be deeply joyful in your good work every day, and to resist the encroachments of the evil and stupidity which are running amok in the land. Recognize one another as the embodiment of a human spirit that does not give up, and does not accept less than the human dignity that exists within each of us.
Oh, yeah: and don’t forget to breathe.
In my faith, I am taught that my goal is not to succeed, but to be faithful. I’m an old human. I’m a mess. My knees hurt and I get tired fast. Within the confines of my limitations I am called to be faithful. I am called to do what I can. These days I feel called to a joyful resistance, because what’s a life for, anyway?
If our government does not serve us, we must serve each other. We must start where we are. I don’t know if signing petitions, making phone calls, sending emails to politicians, singing songs, writing essays, and protesting will make a difference.
I will do those things anyway, because a rock could not stay silent now, and neither can I.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Those Who Do Not Learn from History

When I was young, I used to wonder why the people of Germany didn’t up and leave during the 1930s, when they saw how things were going in their country. Many of them did leave, but I understand now why many stayed. It was their home. They and their families had lived there for generations. They could not imagine how bad it would get. They assumed that somehow the country would right itself.
There were some who lacked the resources to leave.
There were those who stayed because they were all for the Nazi policies. Hey, let’s get rid of the Jews, the homosexuals, the crippled, the mentally deficient, everyone who is not part of the Aryan master race, and everyone who does not agree with us. Does any of that sound familiar?
My late husband, Rick, was an Army brat, and lived in Japan, Austria, and Germany as well as the United States when he was growing up. He and his family lived in Germany for two years, 1960-62, before they returned to the States and his father retired from the military.
I once asked him what the Germans had to say about World War II. He said they did not talk about it. He got the impression that children born after the war were not told what their country had been, and had done.
Last night I read this remark by Andrew Hummel-Schluger online, and asked if I could quote him, and he said yes, so here it is:
“In 1964, at the age of eight, I moved to Marburg, Germany. I lived there for most of a year. At eight, I didn't understand why, but I could feel an overwhelming sadness in the German people.
“It took a number of years before I realized that it was out of bewilderment and guilt. How could a country that they loved so much ... a country of such strong, positive people ... how could it have done such horrid things? How could it have turned away from every standard of decency in the world? How could the people of Germany allow that to happen?
“The United States is facing the same challenge. How can we, the people, allow our country to turn away from every standard of decency in the world? Will we, like the Germans of 20 years after WWII, wonder how we could allow our country to become a symbol of Evil across the world?”
Thanks, Andrew.
Last week high school, middle school, and college students all around Seattle walked out and demonstrated their rejection of Trump's election. It happened on Vashon, too. About 50 or 60 students went downtown and commandeered the four corners at the main intersection and held up their signs and chanted for over an hour.
Most of the people who drove by tooted their horns in support, did fist pumps, or thumbs up, or simply smiled and waved. A couple of adults who came to stand and watch had tears in their eyes and spoke of how seeing the kids gave them hope for the future.
Of course, a few people drove or walked by with their faces set and grim.
To the woman who was screaming at the kids, and others who flung insults and rude gestures at them: Your actions were a lesson to the kids on what happens when you stand up and speak your mind. I am grateful that the violence was only verbal. To the man in the camo jacket who tried to calm the screaming woman: thank you.
Fortunately, the first amendment is still in effect and the kids had a right to peaceably assemble. They gave some people a case of the gripes. One Washington state senator is going to attempt to make some protests a felony. Talk about sore winners.
A friend of mine told me recently that she knows some quite elderly Germans who did, in fact, get out of Germany in the 1930s, and thereby survived. They have told her that they recognized that the time to get out of this country was during the last Bush administration, but they were too old to go anywhere and start over again.
I am too old to go somewhere and start over. And where would I go? The tide of fascism is rising, here and in Europe. When Hitler and his cronies set up the Third Reich and his armies marched over Europe, millions perished, but the Allies opposed and defeated the Reich.
I can’t help but wonder who will oppose fascism this time.
I think it’s down to us.