Abuse, Children, Country, Me Too, Politics, Women

Empathy

EMPATHY

Imagine standing by a cherished child,

a child threatened by strong winds and unsure footing

while standing toes on the edge of a rocky cliff.

Her pain your anguish.  Her fear your terror.

Empathy.

Imagine hearing your child speak of abuse,

a bully on the street or degradation in the workplace.

His defense would be your priority.

His pain your anguish.  His fear your terror.

Empathy.

Women found the courage to confront Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh,

Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and more.  The sexually traumatized,

belittled and ridiculed by Congress, suffered in the public square.

Women’s pain and fear not felt.

People of color have taught their children how to conform,

be subservient to the power of law enforcement

because their lives depend on compromised, personal worth.

Black lives not heard and pain not felt.

Muslims, Jews and refugees victimized by hate crimes seek peace.

Children snatched from parents’ arms are thrown into cages.

Too many Congressmen walked in lockstep with a want-a-be dictator.

The cries not heard and the pain not felt.

January 6, 2021 a mob of traitors infiltrated

the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol.

Outraged, Congress demanded justice.

Congress knew fear and pain.

Now we see the priorities – the safety of Congressional bodies.

Where was empathy for the women?  Who in Congress cried for the children?

Who in Congress believes that Black Lives matter?  Who sees the plight of the poor?

The breach of the Capitol, democratic values, happened long before January 6, 2021.

Empathy.  

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Art, growth, Peace, Personal Growth, Personhood, Poetry

LINES

2020 was a strange year, twelve months of lines drawn

to shut friends out, to invite new friends in or to isolate inside a cubicle.

We have been exhausted by a pandemic and politics.

In the now, we seek a greater meaning as we view the abstract

created to limit our movement, a rethinking of our place in the larger picture.

Give each person a T-square (reason) and color (attitude).

Some rage at the T-square, throw it through glass, shatter the possibilities;

others will put the T-square in a dark closet so the tool is not a reminder;

the wise study the T-square and draw hope, virtue and the future.

Just a T-square.  Just reason.  What is just in this season?

Some pick up their pallet of colors and choose to paint the room black,

throw black against the canvases other carry, destroying the beauty;

others lock doors and minds, paint beautiful pictures while Rome burns;

the wise examine the landscape, find perspective, balance light and dark.

Just color.  Just attitude.  What is just in this season?

Strange Christmas poem – T-squares and color –

if our T-squares become swords, people die;

if our T-squares build bridges, we live; and

if we open our hearts to our own brightly colored gifts

and to the gifts of others, we not only live, we thrive!

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Art, Dogs

Honey

Honey, here.  I am a nine-year-old Rat Terrier mix. 

I found myself in a precarious situation and was rescued.  My foster mom, Terri, spoiled me.  She thought I was special just because I was me.  She seemed to know I just wanted to feel safe and spoiled a little.  She saw my loving heart.  I planned to stay with her always, but her job was to find me a new, forever home. 

Along came Ken and Ann, my adoptive parents.  We had an introductory meeting which went well.  The next day, after a microchip implant, I was put in their backseat. 

I learned a lot about them on the way home, my new dad tells mom how to drive.  I knew then that she needed me to give her moral support.  They talked to me all the way home.  Home.  That strange place with new smells, rooms, food bowls and my new peeps.

My foster mom told my mom to give me some chicken fingers each meal with my dry food.  I barked at her when I saw her getting the chicken bag out of the freezer.  She thought I was a little bossy, but I was just being grateful as I rushed her along.

I try to bark for a treat each time I come in from outside.  That does not work.  Can’t blame a girl from trying!

My first morning, dad forgot to take off the alarm and it was loud.  Guess he is not used to a trip out before coffee.

Training my new peeps is a big job.  They are probably worth it because they loved me from the start.  I see a new routine of Wheel of Fortune, walks to the mailbox and visits to the park. 

That is all I have for now.  I will update you again when I teach them not to expect me to chase a ball.  If they throw it, they can go fetch it.  People!!!

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Art, Country, Personhood, Politics

Words Matter

For a time I was the coordinator of the Kansas Authors Club Writers in the Schools program, a State Board of Education pilot project.

One of my presentations to students was on the power of words.  I told them words were magic because I had the power to put pictures in their heads.  If I said “cardinal,” a red bird popped into their heads.  If I said “rattlesnake,” not only did I put a picture in their head but also some fear or anxiety.

I have thought about the power of words a great deal over the past five years.  Words are being used to manipulate people in unhealthy ways. 

To create an us-vs-them world, we call protesters “a mob” to reframe an event.  With one word we both defame people with a constitutional right to protest and deter people away from the injustice under protest.

Ethnocentrism (inherent superiority) is alive and well as code words are used to separate people in this nation.  For instance, “the suburbs” is code for white.  “Invasion” is used to refer to immigrants or people of color moving into the United States or into “the suburbs.”

I have grave concerns about who we are as discerning individuals.  Why choose to believe a lie rather than the truth?  I suppose winning could be more important than truth to many.  For those of faith, I find it interesting that “the truth and the way” is negated to allow prejudicial behaviors and language.

Why do we perpetuate untruth with our posts?  Personally, I think some have come to believe that we live in a reality TV world, that winning is everything and truth is inconvenient.

We all have opinions about everything from constitutional government to abortion rights to civil rights, but opinions are questions of our world view and less about absolutes.  Opinions come from faith, cultural preferences and as a reaction to fear. 

Truth is many things – science, factual evidence, what I see and hear myself.  Do we try to reinvent truth to justify our fears?  Fear of change?  Fear of other?  Fear of lost control?  Fear of shared power?

We are back to choice.  I choose to speak truth.  I do not try to manipulate and I will not be manipulated.

How I value others in my life depends largely on their value of truth.  The truth is we are all Americans.  The opinions of Democrats or Republicans is of less value than the overwhelming truth that we are all members of families, this country and of the world community.  The truth is that some people try to divide us along party lines, racial lines and religious lines. 

Words matter.  Truth matters.  Choose wisely!

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Uncategorized

WE ARE CALLED TO SPEAK

            Even old, white women like me are called to speak about injustice.  Silence is giving permission to seventeen-year-olds with guns to kill, rogue policemen to shoot first, Christians to hate rather than love, and the weak to follow rather than find their inner conscience.

            Two unconnected stories have come to mind during the past couple days.  The first is about nine-year-old granddaughter, Tiffany, and the second is about my father.

STORY ONE

            Tiffany and her brother were visiting us for a couple weeks.  Tiffany was happily twirling in my dining room.  Then it happened, an antique goblet fell to the floor and shattered.  Tiffany looked at me with fear and sadness in her eyes rather than with that magical sparkle of joy from a few moments earlier.

            I told Tiffany that people were more important than things.  A hug and a little cleanup erased the pain of the moment. 

            Although this part of the story as little to do with my point of my story, I have to share.  A couple hours later we were sitting at the dining table and Tiffany kept rocking her chair up on two legs and bouncing it against the china cabinet.  When I told her to stop because she might break something, she said, “Grandma, you said people are more important than things!”  A wholly different conversation followed.  Even today, she has strong opinions, a hearty spirit and much love to give.  Great adult and parent.

STORY TWO

            A former minister’s daughter was raped and murdered after going to a bar with friends.  So brutal.

            While visiting my parents later in the week, my pious, judgmental father said, “Well, it wouldn’t have happened if SHE had not been where SHE was not supposed to be.”

            If you know me, you can imagine where our conversation went as I expounded on victim blaming.

CONNECTING THE DOTS

            I have listened to speakers say (paraphrasing), “If they wouldn’t have been out after curfew, it wouldn’t have happened.”  “If they wouldn’t protest, the looters wouldn’t steal and start fires.”  Then there is Trump who says Biden will bring death and destruction, as if 180,000 unnecessary deaths and the greater racial strife he has incited is not enough hell on earth for one man to create as President.

            Protesters are not looters.  Stop confusing two separate groups of people.  Free speech is an American right.  Arrest the looters and leave protesters alone.  As far as I am concerned, people who refuse to separate the two groups are doing so deliberately because they believe things (buildings) are more important than people, specifically black people.

            Anyone who believes that a wall is more valuable than the lives of children locked in cages at our border has zero respect from me.  Such cruelty!

            Victim blaming is demoralizing our country.  A person is not guilty of a crime because they are black rather than white – not on the streets, not in their opinions, not in any just society.  Victim blaming because someone was in a conversation with the police or on the streets protesting is not acceptable.  Know the circumstances.  Certainly, whether before or after curfew, a seventeen-year-old hater does not have the right to kill other citizens.

            I know this will not convince one hater to love or one Christian to speak the language of brotherhood.  I simply had to say these truths because sharing creates positive bonds of strength in the thinking, loving community.

            I am going to continue to love and to speak, because our silence gives the Trumpers their greatest victory. 

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Abuse, Politics

Who Says Those Things

I grew up in a very conservative home.  My father served up linear, single-minded thinking in an inside-out world.  Hate was called love, suffering was called deserved punishment, and everyone not in the family was “other.”  Judgment was the language.  So, I recognize the psychology of control, fear and abuse.  What a painful place to live.

When I see FaceBook posts in support of hate, I cringe.  I want to believe my friends grew more kind and thoughtful over the years.  I want to believe they are not second or third generation abusers, actively trying to control the convictions, voting rights, and freedoms of other Americans based on religion or race.

I do not weaponized my religious beliefs to judge others.  I celebrate all good people.  Some are Christian, others Muslim or Jewish, and, yes, some are atheist.  My God (kindness) works for good through the eyes of people of all faiths, colors and creeds.  In unity, the empowerment of good flourishes.  In division, we all suffer.

I do not limit truth-telling.  Reinventing a version of the truth is not truth, but rather a lie.  I believe when we support people who are not honest, we have an obligation to look at our own motives.  What do we have to gain from a manipulator’s agenda?  From my perspective, screaming an opinion is how an abuser communicates, not the way a loving, logical and healthy person shares an idea.

I do not choose fear.  I love change because we cannot grow without movement away from what is comfortable.  If segregation is comfortable, then get to know someone new and challenge your own growth.  If your healthcare comforts you and your neighbor’s lack of coverage does not bother you, ask yourself why you are fearful to see others have the security you enjoy.  If walls make you feel safer, ask yourself if children caged away from their parents behind walls are a real threat to you.  Fear is a choice.  Fear is judgment.  Fear is not democratic.

At the end of the day, I see as abusers those claiming to save our democracy from science, people of color, a misguided view of the godless and Democrats.  In my country we celebrate differences.  In my country we embrace our neighbors.  In my country we love rather than hate.  In my country we are always moving toward a more perfect union, not living in the past.  

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Peace, Poetry

Peace is…

Patrick Williams’ jazz draws me into a hypnotic spell.

I melt into my chair and hear my mother from beyond, “Don’t slouch!”

The saxophone massages tensions from my neck, my head buoyant.

Syncopation strokes the shoulders.  Melodies dangle me like a puppet.

A brown bird sits on my windowsill for the longest time.

She seems to know I need a friend.  I am still so she will not leave.

Brown bird preening her feathery cloak occasionally looks at me.

How amazing to have the choice of staying or flight.

Prolific crepe myrtles boast bold colors to proclaim landscape dominance.

Each bloom winks at passersby, not a shy nod to a neighbor’s presence.

Crepe myrtle enters like a woman with flaming, red lipstick

and a dress that dares you to look twice.  Crepe myrtle holds court.

Each night Ken says, “Dear wife, it is time for bed.”  I smile at “dear wife.”

Ken is like music playing familiar notes, the pattern ever-changing.

He is the brown bird that will never leave a garden of crepe myrtle.

Peace is being surrounded by the things I love.

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Aging

Life in Isolation

Isolation is a challenge for seniors.  My personal experiences include:

  • I bought eight swim dress cover-ups as my uniform.  They feel like nighties, but I can go outside to pick up packages left at my door without revealing too much skin.
  • Ken and I stood in the kitchen Wednesday trying to figure out what day it was.  We missed Tuesday and I am not sure what happened between Monday (trash day) and Wednesday.  More of the same ol’, same ol’ happening.  The upside is that winter will go much faster if all our weeks are only six days.  Let us do away with all Tuesdays!
  • I never wanted to ZOOM, but now it is a must.  I had a tech in to put ZOOM on my phone, computer and laptop.  I was unsuccessful at setting up a meeting with Sarah this morning, but she managed to invite me into her home.  I am a work in progress.
  • I have learned to cut Ken’s hair GI style. 
  • Shipt delivers our groceries.  I struggle with product sizes.  Either we seem to have enough spaghetti sauce for 100 or only enough juice for one serving.  I am literate.  Within the next year, I will master ordering.
  • I am playing Words With Friends on three different sites.  Sometimes I am holding my phone and looking at my computer as I play several games at once.
  • Perhaps my best lessons in this “hell” is that 1) I can live with myself; 2) I can live with Ken; 3) I can let go of the rage and move toward more productive thought patterns; 4) I am certain my convictions regarding justice, hope and change are well-founded; 5) I am grateful for my sense of humor, friends and family; 6) I can do this another year.
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Peace, Personal Growth, Personhood, Politics

POLITICS 2020

I have given a great deal of thought to linear thinking lately.  Vile posts and conversations have invaded my space.  I listened to the rant of an unfeeling Sons of the Confederacy member who believes the virus is a hoax.  I have seen posts by well-educated people who are unwilling to recognize history as a fluid experience with learning opportunities rather than as a place we inhabit mentally in perpetuity.

Both parties have people who, although not at the fringes, are incapable of expanding their world view.  Single-mindedness or linear thinking is another way of renaming lack of empathy and bigotry.  I do not believe many of these people behaving in bigoted ways are aware of their harm to others.  I also believe most would claim to be without prejudice.  Linear thinking is not given to self-examination, but is generous with the judgment of others.

I believe there is room for compromise for the sake of peace and, most importantly, for the sake of justice. 

Compromise 1:  Wear masks.  The people who want to open everything up get their way.  Those of us who want to be protected from the virus get our way.  Win.  Win. 

Compromise 2:  Relocate the monuments.  Living in Texas magnifies all symbols of personal independence.  The questions are: When the symbols of independence and freedom were erected, were they meant to only allow freedom to whites?  Were they meant to intimidate people of color?  Are these symbols of oppression more important than the living people whose souls shrink in their shadows?  Are the monuments representative of who we are today?  Do the monuments keep us stuck in the painful past?  My compromise:  Put the monuments in Confederate cemeteries or in museums.  Raise a statue of a man reading to his child in front of the local library.  Put a quote in front of the courthouse, “Justice cannot be for one side alone, but for both.  Eleanor Roosevelt.”  In front of the schools erect monuments that inspire achievement – scientists, artists, John McCain (one of my more recent political heroes).  

If we do not learn to compromise, we will lose our country.  The question for us all is whether being right is worth sacrificing our democracy.  Let’s get real and do the hard work of learning to get along.  Regardless how we may want to win all the marbles, our children may lose everything if we plant our feet in the past and refuse to move forward.

Stating the obvious: the past is behind us and the future is our gift to the next generation.  What are we creating in the now?

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Humor, Politics

The Accident

My late husband and I built a house in the N. Georgia Mountains.  We would soon learn red-neck law.  Rumors were that the sheriff was paid off by the drug dealers who dropped canisters of drugs from planes in fields, and if a canister broke open and a few cows died…..oh, well…..  The local restaurant menu offered local statistics including the fact that there were no blacks in the county.

            Another sub-group the red-necks discriminated against were the Atlanta folk migrating to the county for fresh air, the scenery and less crowding.  Just as some Texans hate the blasted thinking, weird Austin-ites, people in this Georgia county hated everything about people from Atlanta.  Local thieves broke into Atlanta migrant homes on a regular basis.  Although law enforcement knew who the thieves were, they chose to ignore the thefts.  Atlanta folk were fair game.  The thieves eventually made the mistake of breaking into the home of local, retired teachers and were arrested immediately.

            I decided to stay alone in the mountain home during the week with my German shepherd and rifle to save our home from damage or theft.   We continued to work on the finishing details of our home on weekends.

            With a shopping list for lumber, nails and other building items, one Monday morning I left home in my pick-up truck, the dog riding shotgun beside me.  We had worked hard all weekend and I was exhausted.  Apparently, I fell asleep.  All of a sudden I felt a steep decline into a deep ditch on the left side of the road.  Weeds whizzed by my window.

            Brakes applied.  A sudden stop.  The dog who had been thrown against the dash was peeved.  I tried my door and it opened enough that I could squeeze through.  The dog refused to exit with the woman who was responsible for his discomfort.  I feared copperheads and had not worn boots.  I climbed the steep embankment and would realize later that my concern should have been for all the chigger bites.

            While building our home we had used some day labor from the minimum security prison.  In the approaching truck on the lonely country road were one of the prisoners we had hired, a second prisoner and a pig in the truck bed that was going to the processing plant run by a local Baptist minister.  I climbed into that truck with two prisoners and a pig. 

            The self-proclaimed Baptist minister, as found in little Baptist Churches on every corner in Georgia, was kind.  I called my husband and a tow truck to pull me out of the ditch.

            The tow truck broke two chains trying to pull my truck out of the ditch.  The top of the truck was even with the road surface and wedged into the red clay.  At last the truck was free, but a tire was flat.

            Then a Barney Fife character arrived.  He flashed the lights on his patrol car and strutted towards me, an Atlanta woman despised by all good red-necks.  The prisoners and Baptist minister left me alone with the deputy.  After getting my ID and my story of the accident, he told me I had broken the law by moving the vehicle.  I could be put in jail and furthermore would not be able to collect insurance on the accident.  He spent a great deal of time berating me for my failures. 

            After he left, I sat on my tailgate and had a good cry.  I had escaped death in the accident, ridden with prisoners and a pig and was going to jail.  The total lack of empathy for me, my health and my helplessness in that moment was lost on the deputy who had all the power.

            I did not go to jail.  I did collect my insurance for the accident. 

            I have thought about my helplessness after my accident as I witnessed abuse by the police against our black citizens, a 75-year old man pushed to the ground and left bleeding, and media deliberately pelted by rubber bullets and tear gassed. 

My story does not compare to that of systemic racism and death by bad policemen.  At the same time, I have seen firsthand what is happening in our court systems today and the arrogance of policing. 

I hope we will not do away with good public servants who police our streets, but will reduce their numbers in favor of more community advocates working with people in trouble.  Laws probably need updating.  More importantly hearts and heads need changing.

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