2.12.2018

BOY IN CHAIR.

Cross-legged blond
lounged in coffee chair comfort
scribbling with a finger on tablet.
sunlight drafting through windows

a February afternoon
three groups of solitaries.
Blond boy, leg-crossed artist;
a blonde woman on business;

an Irish Viking, long descendant
of Porthos; iced coffee and
punk stickers on laptop,
buried in something digital.

a cross-legged boy blond,
drawing oblivious,
a one-two punch of soul and Lilith
Fair soundtracking.

a fair-headed boy squirming
an athletic ballet of gestural
art-making and focused
purpose.

"I made a mistake!"
     he says, tears welling.
"I used purple instead of blue!"

It's digital,
I say.
Press Undo.



2.08.2018

HOMO SUM, HUMANI NIHIL A ME ALIENUM PUTO.

Mudbound. It has been a long while since I have experienced a film of this power. Still trembling with rage at the vileness humanity is capable of. And at the supportive and enabling role the country I love has played in some of the most inexcusable and bleakest vileness.

Racism. Class. PTSD. Loveless marriage. A quadrilogy of undercurrents sliding Mudbound’s narratives along, with one standing above the others.

I think of the hypocrisies we have committed so many times in sending those of a class, those of a race off to war, to make us proud and lift the shining light of freedom up high…and upon return...yank a shroud, a social Faraday cage, a muzzle over them. Disposable heroes. The convenience of benefiting from heroism minus the inconvenience of having to acknowledge it.

Mudbound covers much ground in multiple voices as it slogs us through the farm of a post-WWII Mississippi farmstead and the two families who may live on the same land, but who live vastly different lives. Tragedy all around, with little moments of connection and tiny flickers of hope.
This is what I do not understand: I am a thinking person. And I am a feeling person. Maybe more so than some and less so than others. But a combination of those two things is what makes most of us human.

To see this film and the roots of human vileness and to realize A) this is fictional, but it is - and I concede no ground on this point - the attitudes and the actions taken are true to what have been documented as horrific reality. Reality. Again and again and again.

And the racism shown in this is brutal, bleak, and out in the open. But when I look at the roots of what drives that hatred, that ability to look at another person based on their skin color and see them not as a child of God - and therefore a brother or sister to yourself - then I have to think this. And then say it aloud:

Could this happen again?
Is this happening again?
What are the thoughts that lead to the attitudes that lead to the words that lead to the actions that lead us down this road the wrong way?

Again?

I want to be kind. And loving. And accepting.

I want to dialogue. I hold my right and privilege to converse with anyone, without agenda, as sacred.

When I look at the roads that lead us to some of those darkest places in our past, then I have to look at the mirror, gather those I care about close and am privileged to help raise and learn from,
and say to those in power, or those seeking power:

I will fight to keep those who wax nostalgic for those ‘simpler times,’
those who use euphemisms to minimize and shrug off the hard parts of the past,
those who who do not condemn others who are blatant and unapologetic in their racism,
those who gleefully, wink-wink and backslap their way around the language and nuances of the behaviors that LED to the roots of lynchings, Jim Crow, and a fascist and false Christianity…
to those fitting the above who are IN POWER OR SEEKING POWER, I oppose you. I have a tiny voice, but it can be shrill and occasionally harmonize with a choir. A choir without white robes or bedsheets on heads.

And if it’s within my power, I will do whatever small part I can to get you OUT of power, or prevent you from GAINING power.

I am speaking to those seeking power and control. I also believe in the capacity to change. I believe in redemption and trying to show a better way. And that is done, most frequently and most successfully, through relationships and dialogue, not guilt-mongering, public shaming, and feel-good callout memes. For ordinary people with no thirst for power or control, that is what I can give. Conversation, an ear, a good discussion and ideally open hearts.

But for those in power - and look. Look! There’s no need to name names to identify who they are. Look at their words and actions. Look at those who separate everything into completely binary worlds: Us versus Them. Evil versus Good. The idea that if you speak out against your leaders, you’re speaking out against your country, your armed forces, your allegiance as a citizen.

False. As a joyful citizen of this wonderful country in so many ways, I want it to be a world that is joyful for all. That is respectful to and for all. A world that is not slowly slipping down a muddy path where men with stained white sheets on their ridiculous fucking heads yank a black man out of bed in the dark of night and torture him brutally for looking at a white woman wrong.

Those ACTS don’t happen overnight. The roots to those acts are born in the hearts and minds of every person. And we either move forward and away from that. Or we go back. There is no standing still.

It’s a cliche, but let’s just ask this anyway. Not rhetorically. WWJD? What WOULD Jesus do?

Talk tax cuts and upping military spending with men in suits?
Or walk across a muddy field to share a meal with a farm family?

I don’t know. I can’t speak for him. Just like nobody else can. But what is consistent with what we know about him? How does the picture we are painted of Jesus match up with many of those in power?

Watch Mudbound. Netflix streaming. Maybe not with your young children yet. Not yet. Or do. The violent and false words of those in power are more disturbing to me for our children to hear than the the violent and true records of atrocities that have actually been committed. And are in danger of being committed with ever increasing frequency.

And remember. There is a time to be kind. And there is a time to stand up and fight. They are both powerful tools - not weapons, tools - to use. So good luck on using them. See y’all around.

1.25.2018

JON SNOW WISDOM.

It’s not my place to forgive you for all of it.

But for what I can…I do.


-Jon Snow to Theon Greyjoy
S7E10

1.24.2018

OVERHEARD. toilets and chores.

Sissy!
the voice shrieked cheerfully from the bathroom.
I'm on the toilet, so would you mind making my bed for me? I can't do my chores right now.

___

It is my understanding that this request was not responded to favorably.

1.23.2018

MY MOM, A DAY, A DISHWASHER.

Today is my mom's birthday. She is 65. I have never known her to lie about her age or pretend to be anything other than the age she is, and that is inspiring.

I did not see her today. I saw her yesterday. And here is why.

Yesterday was Monday. The day before that was Sunday. Previous to Sunday, it was Saturday, or as we call it, Shabbat.

But it begins back in September of 2017, which is when the remainder of the year was full of promise. Children returned to formal education, the hope of autumn's death was sunny and crisp, and I had mapped out a handful of house projects to finish before winter came.

I was hopeful. Pragmatic and hopeful. A tenuous balance, but a doable one.

Then the floods came. Literally. Due to a sequence (or series) of sad (or unfortunate) happenstances (or events), a flood had literally come. Slowly. Slowly from a leaking aquarium tank. Slowly enough that it should have been caught, and for that, I take full responsibility in pointing the finger at my wife  for not picking up on it. Anyway, this slow flood took out two floors in two rooms - a bathroom and a bedroom. So plans and priorities started changing.

And then it felt like floods of the more metaphoric variety came, slowly and surely, and began erasing the hope that had been there. A slow descent into many things going...differently.

In this case, differently is a word I am using as an example of a euphemism.

Nobody died, we kept our health and friends and each other and made many fine memories and moments, but the hope of improving, one step at a time, parts of our lives that had seemed doable a short time before seemed to be disappearing into the mud.

And then more water after Christmas. A leaking dishwasher refusing to drain. To YouTube I went for tutorials and help from strangers. And from my father-in-law, who loaned me a couple T25 bits and a few hours of a Saturday night for some moral support and company as I laboriously walked through potential problems, removing one piece at a time, cleaning filters, hoses, and lines. Finally got it back together. Felt good. Ran a load. Looking good. Then headed down to work. Non-house work; work I actually get paid for and need to do. To bed at 7.30am. A new day dawns.

And a flooded dishwasher awaits. A flood that has wiped out a portion of the kitchen floor. Soaked, sopping, drenched. Yank the whole appliance out.

Discouragement. Total discouragement. Do I deserve to feel this? No. So many people who live in far worse circumstances and deal with far greater challenges and difficulties.

But this is also our reality; the reality of anyone and everyone who is trying to survive and care for their loved ones. The reality that there are those who have it better, and those who have it worse, and you can recognize and acknowledge and still be discouraged.

I was discouraged. Overwhelmed. One step forward, five steps back. Tired, physically and emotionally. Too discouraged to even complain or talk about it.

My parents came up Saturday night to hang out and watch Schitt's Creek with us. We didn't actually plan that, but it worked out that way, and was fun.

My parents pulled me aside, which I guess they can do occasionally, as they are still my parents, and informed me that:

A) we are getting you a dishwasher
and
B) we are sticking around to help you put it in.

I argued. Not fake argue, as in no, no, let me get my wallet out... but real argue. We'll be fine. I'll get the dishwasher going, it's not the top priority right now, etc.

They listened with bemused expressions and said:

We are getting you a dishwasher. 

I don't know what all they've done for other people. I don't know what all they've done for my siblings. I don't know all they've done for many others. I just know what they've done for me, and it's a lot.

It's one reason why I can never vote for, support, or respect the current President. I understand what it means to be gifted something. To be given something I don't deserve and didn't work for.

I understand what it means to benefit from being lucky. From being given something; something that many people don't have the expectation of receiving. A lot of preachers like to talk about the whole God and grace example, and that's great. That's the big example.

But this is my personal example. I have benefitted my whole life from things I don't deserve. I have tried to live with integrity and kindness, as many people do, but I have not done anything extraordinary to deserve special treatment or to be the recipient of the type of generosity I have experienced over the course of my life.

And here I was again, on the receiving end.

I said yes, and they won.

They headed out to pick one up - our children in tow - and returned hours later. My mom's birthday is today, so they had taken a couple days off work to enjoy...

...to enjoy a relaxing Monday helping install a dishwasher. My dad brought his magical bottomless toolbar of tools that fix anything, and what he didn't have he was able to dig up in our magical bottomless garage of stuff, and together he and I got it in.

As I lay with head cranked under the kitchen sink, catching a glimpse of the rest of our home from this painful vantage point, I thought back ten years to all the times my dad, or my mom, or often both, have helped us.

I thought of the mini-birthday holiday my mom sacrificed the lion's share of in order to help her son get a dishwasher in. I thought of the dollars they sunk into a dishwasher for us. Her birthday week.

Her insistence that this is how she wanted to spend her time.

My to-do list is still long. But sometimes, sometimes...getting that one thing that seems to be a catalyst for discouragement off that list is just what's needed for that little shot of inspiration/adrenaline/hope. Whatever it might be called. It made facing those other items a little more doable.

And what did I do to deserve it?

I am a child. A child of them.

I'll go straight on the nose for a rare minute: I can't help making the bigger parallel, as many of those pastor-people do, to the whole undeserving nature of grace and how it relates to God. How little we deserve, yet how much we can be given.

I'll also go straight political for a sec: when I look at my life and the onslaught of grace, of kindness, of generosity that I have been given, time and time again for no reason other than being born into and being surrounded by people who have exhibited those traits to me, then I think:

I will support leaders and politicians who aren't afraid to recognize and acknowledge those two ideas: grace and luck. The mandate to help each other out and not pretend like we've done so much on our own. What a slap in the face it would be for me to pretend like the successes I've had have come solely - or even primarily - because of my own work ethic and choices.

The great leaders and mentors recognize that we are here to help, to serve, and graciously, gracefully, build hope and build others up.

My parents have exhibited that so many times, and we have a working dishwasher again.

Birthdays. Thank you, mom, for the birthday present. Happy 65. The gifts you have given the world make it a better place every day.

And with our new dishwasher, a cleaner place too.