Monday, August 7, 2017

Sense and Nonsense

A worker in a refugee camp in Syria writes: “When we got back to our base camp a couple of hours ago this little fellow, A---, was waiting for us. He said he needed to talk to us.
“Turns out that A--- was worried about his friends in another camp. He said they didn't have any food to eat tonight and that wasn't fair because he has food for tonight. He was worried about them and said he *has* to help them. He was wondering if we could take his friends some bread, cheese, and juice that he had saved for them from his own lunch today. We just happened to have a few things we could add to what he'd already saved so the three of us proceeded to bag up the food individually. He worked really hard on this meal for his friends. He made sure everything in every bag was kid approved.
“For this child to keep such a warm and caring heart amid the cold world he sees all round him is the real victory. I want to be just like A--- when I grow up.
“Be back later. We've got a few dinners to deliver.”
What gets to me about this story is that it makes sense. The little boy’s desire to feed his friends makes sense. The response of the people who work with the refugees, to feed his friends, makes sense.
People are hungry: feed them.
People need safe, clean water: build systems to supply them with safe, clean water.
People need to be evacuated from cities that are being relentlessly shelled by forces of various countries. Go get as many of those people as you can and bring them to refuge, dodging the shells as you go.
Life in a war zone is clearly a high adrenaline situation, but amid the insanity of war, your life makes sense. You see what needs to be done, and you do it.
Meanwhile, back here in Amurrica, it is hard to make sense of things.
I read an article about children who grow up in abusive families which said that children in such families try to make sense of their situation.
Sometimes I feel we are living in a big abusive family here, and I cannot make sense of it. The President and the Congress and their corporate masters keep doing things t
hat threaten our health and our well-being, saying things that are completely at odds with what they do, like talking about supporting the troops while cutting funding to the VA, for example. We are at the mercy of creepy shortsighted billionaires and gangsters who seem to be motivated by a lust for all of the money and all of the power.
Rather than feed the hungry, they cut the SNAP benefits. Clean water? I give you Flint, Michigan. Healthcare? Let’s cut Medicaid and Medicare and eradicate the beginning of universal healthcare in our country. Poverty? Gut Social Security. Homelessness? Get those horrible people out of my sight. Welcome and safety for the refugee or immigrant? Hah.
My dear friend and inspiration Kara Chipoletti Jones wrote the other night, “Universal healthcare. Universal housing. Universal income. Universal access to clean water. If we all actually were as good as we think we are, this would be the LEAST we'd want for every other living being.”
I agree with her. As another friend said to me the other day, it isn’t that we don’t have the means to do these things; we don’t have the will.
We do, however, have the will to buy 2,663 F-35 Lockheed Martin Lightning II fighter jets between now and 2070, at an estimated cost of $1.5 trillion, give or take a few billion.
So. I get up every morning and wonder what fresh madness has been perpetrated on a weary world by the delusional creatures who seem to be running things. My expectation of madness and creepiness is seldom disappointed. I sit here with my mouth hanging open and my brow furrowed, hearing the monkey chatter of clean people in nice clothes, as they say things like, “We must save people from the horrors of Obamacare!” when what we need to do is save people from the horrors of private health insurance.
I want it all. What Kara said: universal health care, and housing, and income, and access to safe water, for everyone, and I will pray for those things, and sing for them, and write for them. I would like this country and this world to start making sense, and I intend to make many sensible, unreasonable demands.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Haircut, with a Side of Sexuality

Went and got a haircut last week.
Oh, you kid
When I went in I figured, who knows when I’ll be able to afford a haircut again? And, it’s summer. And, I’m tired of messing with my long bushy hair.
“Cut it short,” I said to Jan. “Cut it all off.”
And she did. Gave me a splendid, short haircut. I like it. It is as low maintenance as a haircut gets.
Most people liked it after the initial shock, and said it was cute. One friend did not like it. “It’s butch!” she said, meaning, too butch, but she’s getting used to it. One gay friend said, “It’s butch!” and meant it as a compliment. He thought I looked great. He suggested I might meet somebody. You never know.
While I’m flattered that someone would think I am still relationship fodder, and I won’t rule it out because as he said, you never know, I’m not really in the market. I mean, twenty-three skidoo, oh you kid and all, thanks, but I’m tired. I don’t think I’ve felt a spark since the Clinton administration. That’s when Rick got cancer the first time, and after that life became arduous, and not very sexy. If I’m in the market for anything it’s companionship and friends.
Meanwhile I’m pondering the thoughts that have been raised by reactions to my haircut. They have been interesting.
Can you tell a person’s sexual identity by looking at them? You can try, but you might get burned. The way people think of themselves and the way you think of them might not have anything in common.
I have heard that sexuality is a spectrum and most of us are somewhere on that spectrum between heterosexual and homosexual, leaning one way or the other, with some brave souls admitting they can be either/or.
Confronting the truth of your own sexuality is not required of people in our culture who identify as heterosexual. You’re expected to be heterosexual in these here parts. You get an imaginary stamp on your imaginary sex passport and go galumphing into the catastrophe of your unaware adulthood. Wahoo.
When I was in college I once saw a person on campus whom I found extremely attractive, and all my hormones went into high gear. When I realized she was a she and not a he, I was mortified, embarrassed, and ashamed – splutter splut splut.
Sometime later I saw her again, and the same sequence of feelings happened all over again. I guess she was my type.
When those feelings happened with guys, I didn’t feel embarrassed.
As an adult, in midlife, I did what I had never done as an adolescent: I considered my sexual identity. I realized that except for that woman in college, it had always been men for me. That was my track record, leaning toward the hetero side of the spectrum. So what did that make me? Boring. Just my opinion.
Considering that as we grow up in American society we are inculcated with a sick model of sexuality (I refer you to rock and roll and almost all country music lyrics, for starters), and considering that many of us are sexually abused and broken when we are young, people must have courage to take an honest look at their own sexuality. It’s a scary thing to do.
It is so scary that some people project their fears about themselves onto other people, and become homophobic. Then we have tragedies.
That’s a gross simplification, as is this whole essay, but there’s some truth in there.
I wish we could all be folded into Jesus’ loving arms, and be fixed, and healed, and whole, and unafraid.
Unfortunately, that is not how Jesus works. We are the loving arms. We must hold one another, and love each other into healing and wholeness, and live with our damn fears together because life is terrifying sometimes.
Can I get an amen?
Regarding my haircut, well, it will grow out and I’ll be back to my “explosion in a Brillo factory” look, as my father-in-law called it. For now, it is summer cool and easy.
As for me meeting someone - Rick has been gone now for three and a half years. It would be just my luck for love to rear its ugly head, but for the moment, after decades of taking care of many other people, I’m concentrating on meeting myself. And, of course, paying the property taxes.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Saints Peter and Paul

June 29th was the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul in the western Christian church calendar. Some of you are slapping your foreheads and saying, “Oh no, I forgot.” If you are part of the Eastern Orthodox Church, in which case you are on the Julian calendar, you will observe this feast day next week, so you’re good.
Peter was the second of Jesus’ original twelve apostles, his brother Andrew being the first. Originally his name was Simon, but Jesus called him Peter, which meant rock, because Jesus said Peter was the rock upon which the church would be built. Peter was the one who denied that he knew Jesus when Jesus was on trial for his life. Jesus left his legacy in the hands of the guy who denied knowing him when it was dangerous to know him.
Just in case you wonder if you’re “good enough” to do something. Pull up your socks. You are good enough.
Now Saul (Paul) was a good Pharisee and opposed this sect following Jesus, seeing Jesus as another false messiah. Saul was on his way to Damascus intending to arrest believers, and you know what happened, don’t you?
Okay, he was blinded by a bright light and fell down in the road, and God asked him, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul, blind and on his posterior in the dust, did not have an answer to this question. God told him to get up and keep going to Damascus, where he would receive further instructions. Once in Damascus Saul sat for three days, blind and bewildered, waiting for God’s next message. Meanwhile, the Lord spoke to a man named Ananias, a leader of believers in Damascus, and told him to go see Saul. Ananias replied, “Lord, I’ve heard of this Saul. He is bad news for us!” The Lord said, “… he is an instrument I have chosen to bring my name before the Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel …” *
So, Ananias said, “Right, Lord, you’re the Lord.”
Long story short, Ananias laid hands on Saul, the scales fell from Saul’s eyes, he was baptized, renamed Paul, and began preaching the gospel. He traveled over much of the Roman Empire, preaching the gospel for the rest of his life, and making tents, which was his profession. He did not want to be a financial burden on anyone. He was the only apostle who seemed to advise, “Don’t quit your day job.”
Peter and Paul disagreed on who could become a follower of Jesus. Peter believed that only people who were Jewish could be initiated into the teachings of Jesus, and if someone who was a Gentile wanted to follow Jesus, they had to convert to Judaism, which was not easy. There were requirements regarding the laws of Moses, but one requirement was that men be circumcised, which was a sign of the Hebrews’ covenant with God. Paul, on the other hand, believed he had been called to preach to the Gentiles, and that Gentiles should be welcomed as believers in Jesus without being circumcised. There was a lot of heated discussion over circumcision.
You women reading this are rolling your eyes, and saying, “Men! Honestly!” Yeah. Things like this send women right out of the church, not to mention the various atrocities committed over the centuries and the various atrocities being committed right now in the name of Jesus, backed up by Bible verses pulled out of context to prove male arguments for controlling women and other human beings. Well, sisters, we “have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep.” Bookmark that. Back to the patristic narrative.
Peter loosened up a little over time and did allow Gentiles to be baptized, intact. I don’t know about you, but to me it is impressive that a founder of the Christian church would change one of his core tenets in the direction of acceptance and that two leaders with divergent opinions were able to disagree with one another and still communicate.
Peter and Paul founded the church in Rome, and they both lived and taught there. Peter is called the first Bishop of Rome. Christianity was illegal at that time, and they were both executed in Rome, around 66 A.D., during the reign of Nero.
Three centuries later the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, so Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Everyone was marched down to the river and baptized.
A rare moment of unity in the Christian church. I jest. I’ll bet there was plenty of arguing going on. It has never stopped.
*Acts 9:15, New Oxford Annotated Bible