Archive for category current events

Dear Senator Portman

picture of graffiti that says "love all"Dear Senator Portman,

Can you tap into that part of your soul that unlocks and opens up with compassion for your neighbor? You did once.

Part of me, that hopeful, naïve girl raised in a suburb that was “nice” and had “good schools” believes you can. That’s the sliver of me that tenaciously refuses to let go of the notion that at heart, a man like you with every advantage, a man like you with faith, a man like you with power — will try to be compassionate. That surely, surely, you would not be complicit in ending the fragile protections afforded the Dreamers among us.

And yet: you turn your back. You coat yourself in political Teflon and try to slide under the radar. You want it both ways. You want to be obedient to your party and your president — and also be seen as a fine Christian conservative. I wonder how you manage this juggling act. Are you hoping redemption will save you, in the end? Are you hoping that denial can allow you to be complicit in great injustice, and still, you can claim, somehow, to love your neighbor as yourself?

I invite you to try a thought experiment. Remember when your son told you and your wife that he was gay? You had an epiphany then, a spiritual awakening: suddenly you could see that gay people are simply people with different sexual orientations, and that they should be able to marry if they choose to. Suddenly, through the eyes of your son, you saw that the policy you firmly supported denied him something you valued very much.

Back then, you said it like this: “Jane and I were proud of him for his honesty and courage. We were surprised to learn he is gay but knew he was still the same person he’d always been. The only difference was that now we had a more complete picture of the son we love.”

Okay, here’s the experiment. Imagine back to when you and Jane were new parents with small children. Perhaps when your son, Will, was 11 months old. Close your eyes. Really, really think. Remember how oftentimes Will was only comforted in the arms of his mother? Remember how he’d stop sobbing and burrow his head into the crook of her arm, how his whole body would relax into a deep sigh, feeling safe and held? Remember how you’d well up, feeling the palpable love, seeing that bond, being part of that circle of love. Did your chest expand as it filled with fatherly pride? Would you have done anything for that son, for that wife?

Breathe into that. Feel it in your body.

Now imagine the next moment there is a knocking at the door. ICE agents are there to examine Jane’s papers. Only now Jane, in this thought experiment, was brought to this country by her uncle when she was nine. She’s as “American” as you are, but not to the ICE agents. You are not a Senator in this experiment. You are just a working man, a brown one at that. But inside you are you and Jane is Jane and they are taking her away and Will is screaming for his mama and you cannot afford a lawyer and it wouldn’t do you any good even if you could and now they are deporting her — sending her to a country where she knows no one. Leaving you with your heartbroken son. Perhaps Jane was still nursing your son when they ripped her away — she didn’t get to pack a bag, or kiss you or the children goodbye. Stone-faced, they took her away. Locked in a windowless cell, her breasts fill with milk; they swell and ache and grieve along with her heart. You imagine her there, alone, and feel angry, powerless. You pray to God for help.

You write to your senator, pleading.

A miracle! Your senator answers: “the overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible, and certainly the Golden Rule, and the fact that I believe we are all created by our maker, that has all influenced me in terms of my change on this issue.” (1)

And the senator who previously towed the party line — why, God must have spoken to him, for now, he speaks up for you, a helpless father, because he cannot bear the idea that a person brought to this country as a child would be expelled, for no good reason. That a mother would be ripped from her child. For an accident of birth.

The senator who previously stayed silent or tried to atone by speaking up for sex trafficking victims sees that you, the bereft father with the crying children, living on the edge of extreme poverty — and sees that you are his neighbor too. Your senator sees that he can, and must, speak truth to power.

Or else lose his own soul, supporting policies designed to terrorize those not born the right color or orientation. Supporting a president who would pardon a man known for his cruelty and abuse. Suddenly, in an amazing moment of grace, the senator rises up and does what is right.

Oh, it’d be a miracle if you read this. I know that. A miracle if you’d put yourself in a Dreamer’s worn shoes.

But there’s a sliver of me, foolish and hopeful as Anne Frank once was, who believes in miracles, like Anne did, before the political powers of the day refused to speak and act for her: “I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

And so: are you? Good at heart?

Before you answer, think of Riccy Enriquez Perdomo and her 11-month-old baby and the ICE agents that tore her away, and will tear her away again, if you and others like you remain silent. Imagine the anguish of her husband. Think of them and multiply by 700,000 or so of your neighbors. Make the calculation; square it with compassion. (2, 3)

Look into your loving heart and ask yourself if you can really turn away this time. (4)

Sincerely, Elaine

1: quote by Senator Rob Portman, on his change of stance on gay marriage. http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/rob-portman-gay-marriage-stance-088903

2: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/08/24/advocate-ice-says-release-kentucky-mom-who-has-legal-status/599185001/

3: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-daca-deportations-20170419-story.html

4. silence on DACA http://americasvoice.org/press_releases/sen-portman-not-on-letter-for-daca/

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some random notes on fear

Fear-based attachments are physically addictive,
states the psychiatrist in the book I’m reading.

(Is that why this nightmare isn’t over yet?)

Explains things:
why ugly hazing rituals cement bonds
why that friend of a friend won’t leave her abuser
(Oh, and she may also know he’ll kill her, if she tries,
but people will still blame her, won’t they?
)

And do you remember?
“love trumps fear,” said those hopeful campaign signs

I am relieved to find
I am not afraid of Donald Trump
after blustering “many sides” and “very good people”
After David Duke thanked him for his support
I would spit right in his face — I would
(though I am sometimes, often, afraid
I am not attached yet, it
seems)

I would spit on Rush and Sean and Kellyanne, too,
though I don’t hate these people,
they are very dangerous
telling us to fear each other, fear our neighbors
passing out fear like shots at a frat party

— calling things by all the wrong names
sowing more fear —

“The greater your influence,” the evangelical preacher James MacDonald said,
“the greater your complicity, if you don’t call the Charlottesville attack what it really was: a heinous act of domestic terrorism entirely rooted in racial hatred.”

There’s an old story about the Buddha.
His enemies frighten an elephant, hoping it will kill the Buddha.
The elephant charges in panic and the
Buddha holds his right hand up:
Stop, his hand tells the elephant.
Then the Buddha sees the fear in the elephant’s eyes
sees that the elephant is driven by fear
and he opens with compassion.
He cups his left hand,
making a space for love,
and the elephant stops, and bows down to him.

So I think it goes:
open with compassion
love with all you’ve got
call things by their right names (don’t lie)
and say no when others try to crush you with fear.

I’m just trying to sort it out.
Figure out how on earth to respond.
Spitting won’t help.
Seeing might. Opening might. Standing up might.

(Remember, be brave. Don’t attach, don’t attach. It whispers your darkest names…but please, please, don’t fall in love with fear.)

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somehow, we have to be the light.

photo of trees, sunset, and a streetlamp

I took my car to the dealership this afternoon. I brought my work along, dreading having to tune out the flash and blare of the ginormous big-screen TV in the “customer lounge.”

Ironically, the last time I was at the dealer, trying to ignore the television, it was Inauguration day. Me, a woman who hasn’t lived in a house with a TV for years now, who would have sooner walked barefoot across a bed of broken glass than watch a man she had zero respect or faith in rise to power — yes, I accidentally ended up seeing the live streaming coverage of Trump being sworn in. It was inescapable in the “lounge.” I gave up trying to work, because they had it cranked up. The office staff was watching, a few mechanics wandered in and out, catching a peek.

I listened to the others, the customers and car salesmen, many of whom probably voted for Trump, making comments about how pretty Melania looked in that ice-blue, how nice it would be to have her in the White House (seriously, someone said that, that she would look so pretty at those state dinners). Oh, how handsome and cute fidgety young Barron was. Switch to a close up of Trump, hand on Bible.

“Look how serious he looks,” marveled a white lady about my age. She sounded relieved, and mildly surprised. Her tone said what I think everyone there hoped: that the campaign was over, and now he would behave like an adult. The pussy-grabbing tapes could safely be shoved into the crypt of collective memory, along with all the things he’d said on the campaign trail. Calling Mexicans “rapists,” hollering for the crowd to “knock the crap out of them! I’ll pay the legal bills!” — well, all politicians say crazy things in the heat of a battle. Don’t they? It’s like a man killing his wife in a fit of jealousy. Sort of, well, excusable, right? I mean, don’t we excuse that? It’s all just locker room talk, to be tuned out, glossed over.

“Wow. It’s gotta be a hard day for them,” said a round-faced woman, as the camera panned to a close up of the Obamas. She sounded like she was commenting on a reality show where a couple’s just been voted off the island. She sounded both sad and gleeful at once. Like, I mean, this is exciting! We wanted change! And look — the camera pans back to Melania’s sculpted cheekbones. “You know she was a model, right? She still looks so amazing. How old is she?”

An older black couple stood up right then, and moved as far away as they could get from the “U” of couches set up in front of the giant screen. The overall vibe in the lounge that day felt more tense than celebratory, even though, as I said, I’m willing to bet many of those present had voted for him, and most of them made comments along the lines of, “I bet he’ll get really smart people in to run things. You know, he’s an excellent business man.”

It was a surreal experience.

I do think most people, liberals like me included, hoped he’d delegate responsibly and treat the job seriously. That he’d want to do right, in the end. End his association with openly racist “platform of the alt-right Breitbart” Steve Bannon. Stop the twitter rants. I mean, he’d be President! He’d have to be a responsible, sober adult. But that was 207 days ago.

Today at the dealership, the big screen was dark and silent, and I really didn’t think about why until I came home and watched a recording of Trump’s press conference online.

That’s why it was off! No one wanted to see that. No one wanted to hear that. No one can sit through that and make polite conversation about his tie.

But we have to watch him, don’t we? We have to listen. We have to speak.

Because he’s not sober — he’s dangerous to our society. Dangerous to people I love, and people you love, too. Dangerous to civility and liberty.

I wonder what the history books will say someday? I wonder who will write them? I wish I could write more coherently about what is happening right now, in real-time, but it all feels too much.

So instead, I took a walk. I took this picture. A bright sunset fading into darkness. A lone streetlamp shining. We have to watch, but not fade into darkness.

All of us who care about our country and everyone in it, we have to watch, and not fade.

Somehow, we have to be the light.

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casting stones

church window with stained glass

casting stones

For Maribel Trujillo-Diaz, deported last week to Mexico

In the dark before dawn the birds sang as
Maribel was snatched off the streets by ICE agents—
her four American-born children,
ages 3, 10, 12, and 14,
never got to say goodbye to their mother

In Fairfield she worked processing chicken parts
primary breadwinner
grueling work—uncomplaining,
she paid taxes, went to church,
made a family, made a simple life…

now her deportation is
breaking news,
breaking my heart

newsfeed comments roll past
smelling as I imagine chicken innards on a
conveyor belt might smell,
gagging—

“Go home to YOUR county and think about
what you are going to do with the rest of your life,”

says the red-headed woman whose profile picture is a
parti-colored “Kindness Matters” meme

“She caused the breakup of her family when she
decided to live her criminal lifestyle,”
says another woman grinning in full Irish regalia,
forgetting about her own ancestors who fled from famine,
many of them illegally

“The blame is solely on her,”
says the beefy red-faced man
whose facebook page overflows with
snaps of him and his wife and three kids
at an Easter-egg hunt after church

“If she was in fear she should have
gotten help long before now,”
chides the woman whose profile picture
says “Happy Easter!” superimposed over
a closeup of her kissing her blonde toddler

“Why does this get so much attention?
Is she the only mother that has
Ever been sent back???” asks the woman
who’s also proudly posted she’s
FINALLY past level 65 on Candy Crush

“The law outweighs compassion,”
says Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
says the second commandment

In Fairfield tonight, four children cry for their mother,
faraway now
who did not get to tell them goodbye

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,”
says the second commandment, again, falling on deaf ears

ears closed hearts closed
as tight as their bibles

closed to Maribel,
closed to Maribel’s children,
closed to mercy
closed to compassion
closed to loving their neighbors

and the closed ones
harden, harden, harden
as they
scroll Facebook,
troll newsfeeds
play games—
casting stones
pass the hours

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when it snows in my heart

Marchsky

The sky today is milk-colored, snow is flurrying down and the naked trees shiver in the wind.
It′s a day when anything might happen, in a world where everything is shifting under my feet.
Things I thought solid suddenly slippery as black ice—

It′s a day to breathe in the chill air and watch your exhale make a tiny cloud. A day to remember what a mystery that was when you were a little girl bundled in your red parka, itchy wool mittens attached by clips.

It′s a day to remember America was not great back when you were a white child in the white suburbs outside Toledo, in a brand-new tract home in a place called Sylvania. No. It wasn′t great. “Great” was merely the undercurrent of every advertising slogan, “Great” was a story spun by ad men and sales men and con men. (They are still selling you fear and telling you it is happiness).

Men who sold your mother on the notion that the ache in her heart  could be eased by a Midol or a Virginia Slim′s cigarette or a new Chevrolet or an A-Line dress. Men who told her that her uneasiness was her own fault, and that comfort would keep her safe. Men who peddled fear and separation and complacency. The TV glowed and mama stopped looking at the trees.

(Her eyes were sad but the jingles told her she was happy.)
You were a little girl, and you felt that ache. Feel it still, when big flat televisions trumpet
news news news.

And so you′ve learned to look outside.

It′s a day to look at the milky sky and the black arms of the trees shivering and remember the world is not black and white, not wrong and right. A day to remember that anyone who tells you the ache in your heart is nothing is a liar, or someone who wants to steal your life from you. Anyone who tells you to stop feeling what you are feeling may as well tell the trees to stop trembling in the March wind. Might as well tell these tardy snowflakes to stop falling.

The ache is there to help you. Listen to it.

Denial of what is will pull you under, into despair.
Acceptance may break your heart, but a broken heart is an open one.

Let the snow fall into your heart.
Feel what you feel. Cold, alive.
After all, anything might happen, if your heart and eyes are open.

 

 

 

 

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A letter to my chiropractor

photo of sculpture of spine comprised of people on each other's backs, covering the eyes of the person below.

“Karma” by Korean artist Do Ho Suh | New Orleans Museum of Art

A letter to my chiropractor:

When I saw you last December,
your warm fingers on my neck felt reassuring —
it’s pure trust, letting someone adjust your spine.

“Relax,” you commanded, for I was tense.
The muscles surrounding my precious cervical vertebrae
relaxed into your palms.

I told you I was tense because I was worried,
really worried about the Trump administration…

Your healing hands moved to my shoulder, the tricky one.
You felt, you pulled, you pushed,

you said, with a chuckle: “Oh, come on, now.
You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

I said I worried about my friends and loved ones,
the non-Christian, the non-white, the LGBTQ, and immigrants, too.

And, that I was also very worried that my ACA insurance
would be taken away, that I’d not have any insurance
because hey I’m old enough now to have a track record
and anyone with a track record
involving two near-death medical experiences
looks like a big old pre-existing exclusion

Your right hand was on my thigh, left hand cradling my shoulder
You pulled me back against your body, almost lover-like,
to twist my spine

(real healing requires trust)

You laughed.

You said, “Oh nothing will change!
Relax! No one’s gonna take your insurance away.”

You were not the first white professional man
to hush me, tell me everything would be fine.

(I’m just sorry that you were wrong.)

Business may become very lean, doctor.
It seems strong spines have gone
out of fashion in many circles.

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2017, a mini-novel

(I’m writing a mini-novel with flash-length chapters over on Medium.com. Following is the first chapter of my tale of a dystopian future. Check out the rest if you like—it’s a work-in-progress, which I’m hoping to finish before year end. It is a work of fiction. I hope. Access the chapters by clicking here.)

View story at Medium.com

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-2-41-09-pm

2017: Chapter One

The sirens blared. The President’s voice boomed, an audio clip in an endless loop. “…then I grab em by the pussy,” he crowed, again and again and again, the way he did every morning at wake-up. “She’s a pig, I mean, look at her! Miss Piggy. Call her Miss Housekeeping, why don’t you?” A laugh track — or possibly a recording of hyenas howling, it was hard to tell — ran between bursts of his “boy talk.”

She’d heard it so many times now. It was designed to make her go numb.
She let the guards believe it was working.

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