Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tell Me What Matters

Black Lives Matter. Do they? Please, BLM, tell me what matters. If a black man named Markeith D. Loyd spends four years in prison for battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence and then posts on Facebook that his goal is to be on the Most Wanted list, does that matter?
If that man goes to the home of his ex-girlfriend and, when she opens the door, he shoots her dead, does that matter? How about if she is pregnant, and the baby dies too? And how about if her brother tries to help her, and Loyd shoots him. Does that matter? And if the girlfriend a month earlier was with Loyd during a traffic stop and told him as the police officer approached, “Go ahead and kill him, babe, so we can get home faster,” does that matter?
What if a black girl grows up poor in Orlando but graduates from high school and college and earns a master’s degree? And what if that girl becomes an Orlando police officer, Master Sgt. Debra Clayton, and has an outstanding 17-year career, working to improve relations between black people and the police? What if she works closely with a city commissioner who is also black and female to decrease violence between black people in the city? What if she mentors kids and helps them get through school? And what if she is on duty outside a Walmart in Orlando, spots Loyd, knowing he is wanted for murder, and tells him to stop? And what if he shoots her dead and runs? Does that matter? How about her husband and son and father and brother, whose lives are ripped apart. Do they matter?
How about the neighborhood that is shut down for hours, and the school kids on 18 campuses who are locked in because of the danger? And what if the manhunt includes a sheriff’s deputy on a motorcycle who is hit by a van and killed? He’s black too. Does that matter?

Which lives do you like as role models, BLM? Which ones would you rather have next door? Whose life makes the city a better place? Whose life spreads degradation and terror and death? Who brings victory, encouragement, love? People around here have contributed to a reward of $100,000 to catch the killer. Would you? You tell me, BLM. Does it matter? Does any of it matter?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Just the Facts, Bitte

 A woman reported that she took her kids to a park in Brooklyn and found swastikas and "Go Trump" spray-painted on a "jungle gym." I couldn't figure out how anything intelligible could be spray-painted on a framework of bars, so I looked it up and found this. Aha. It's on the side of a play locomotive. 
Anyway, a lot of people, including politicians, Ben Stiller and a member of the Beastie Boys (The park is named for a member of the band who died of cancer.) had a big rally to say they won't stand for hate crimes. I'm with 'em there. Only, having been trained by the last of the crusty old journalists to set aside my own biases and look carefully at what really happened, I had to slow down and take a look at the evidence. That thing on the left looks like a big P with part of a 5 superimposed. If it stood alone, would you think it was a swastika? I don't think I would. The one on the right is a little closer. It sort of has the "broken cross" arms, but it's backwards from the Nazi symbol. Voila. -->
As I wrote to a NY state senator who commented on the "hate crime," it looks like your local Nazis don't know their own symbol very well. Maybe we should assemble a little more information before we freak out altogether. Given the numbers of faked hate messages out there, could this not be, you know, a faked hate message? Furthermore, its incoherence makes me think of a little kid who has just discovered a dirty word that can send the adults into a tizzy. He has no idea what it means, but is it ever fun to hear them gasp. Might the miscreant be a dopey teenager who scarcely knows what he is spray-painting, but likes the idea of causing a kerfuffle? It reminds me too of losers who start forest fires just so they can observe the excitement. They don't hate trees or Bambi; they simply lack any sense of accomplishment, and if destroying things and scaring people is the only thing they can think of to make their mark, that's what they do. 
I don't know for sure what the ignorant artiste's motivation was, and neither does anyone else. May we please find out for sure before we get our Lederhosen in a twist that we can't undo?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Meme Meme Meme Meme

     Memes. Clever little rascals, at least sometimes. And some of them seem to get thousands of likes and shares even when they are irrational, misspelled or just plain dumb. I suppose I am too serious about the whole thing, but I do envy the "going viral" bit. I decided to make a meme. I thought it out carefully. I was pretty sure it could change the whole "whose life matters" conflict in America. Elevate the discourse. Calm the overwrought. Open avenues of communication. Trigger a regular spiritual revival on this continent. I posted it on Facebook. It got seven, no, wait, ten likes. Oh, and one cryptic comment: "That's very aristocratic." I'm still scratching my head over that one. But here's what I did. 
You see, I wanted something like the Black Lives Matter fist. I found a Rubens  painting of the crucifixion of Christ and picked out the hand. That's how Jesus showed His power, see? By sacrificing Himself for us. And He did it to take the punishment we deserved for our sins. Your life matters to Him. Very much. That's the ultimate important truth. And wouldn't it be a good thing if thousands of people were out there in tee shirts with this image on them? Every one of them ready to pass along the good news? Grumpy Cat thinks so. And so does that Japanese dog with the funny grin. And Jesus will know whether you share or have no                                                                                 heart. Can I get an amen?

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Bad with the Good Friday

     Maybe it's a good thing to have a bad experience on your last day in a place you love, so leaving is easier. Though, as "bad" goes...
     I calculated the bus schedule carefully to make it to the Good Friday service at Christ Church PCA, Santa Fe. The bus placed me there half an hour early, so I sat in the sanctuary and listened to the "chorale" practice. A couple of people said good morning to me, but I thought a stranger at Pine Ridge probably would have been engaged in conversation. Maybe it's different at regular services. The pastor came over and addressed me by a name I didn't know. I told him I'd never been there before. I learned later that I resembled an artist who sometimes came to services with a hat over her long hair. I rather liked that. 
     The service was about as different as it could have been from PRPCA, thoroughly liturgical, some of the scripture readings done in a singsong, like I've only heard in Episcopal services before. The pastor broke a large wafer as he introduced Eucharist. (We pass a tray of torn pita bread for the Lord's Supper.) People went forward to take a piece of wafer and dip it in a chalice. 
     I told the pastor afterward how different it was, though the same Spirit, and that Pastor Bill would have choked up at the same points that he did. (He knew Pastor Bill's name from General Assembly.) I also told him I'd learned something. He'd said in the service that Barabbas was probably not a popular figure with the Jews--- more of a Timothy McVeigh than an Ethan Allen. To me, that made it all the more significant that the people chose him over Jesus. Total innocence versus destructive violence? Give us original sin. 
     So far, so good. I walked around the corner to catch the bus back to town, found the bus stop sign readily, and settled in to wait the twenty or so minutes. It turned cloudy and breezy, and it was pretty cold. Finally saw the bus coming, pulled out my day pass... and watched the bus drive by. It was the right route number at the right time, but it did not stop. I raised my hands in disbelief. There wouldn't be another bus for an hour, so rather than wait, I started walking. A good mile. On rough dirt, gravel and uneven sidewalks. In boots. They're good boots, but still. I wore a hole in my silk sock liner. (Thin socks worn under the wool hiking socks to avoid blisters, marketed to serious hikers and campers. And old ladies with difficult feet.) 

     The funny thing is, I couldn't work up a good "mad" over being jilted by Santa Fe Trails. I'd just listened to a service based on the stations of the cross. This was hardly a Via Dolorosa. Just a Via Inconvenienta. A certain Spirit was helping me keep perspective. I did take another nifty door photo. And the socks were old ones anyway.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Lexi and the One Drop Rule

     The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is featuring Lloyd Kiva New, son of a Cherokee mother and Scots-Irish father, who led the way for young Indian artists to build on their ancestral culture, but not to be bound by it. New designed leather handbags with metalwork bearing traditional images that became all the rage in the fashion world-at-large in the 1950s. His screen-printed fabric designs reflected the Southwest, and he made sought-after dresses, shirts, even tuxedos from them. Some artists, buyers and curators at the time wanted Indian artists to stick with tradition and produce only what they deemed "Indian" art. New and his friends saw that as an offense against the spirit of the artist. 
     I suppose the Indian Child Welfare Act of the 1970s was a reaction against too-casual removal of Indian children to Anglo homes, but today it violates the human spirit, especially the spirit of a little girl who has been taken from her Anglo foster family after four years of belonging as daughter, sister, niece and grandchild because she is "1.5% Choctaw," and to some, "tribal identity" comes first even though her drug-addicted criminal parents relinquished custody. (Why did they not entrust her to the relatives in Utah who now claim her?) 
     What on earth does "1.5% Choctaw" mean anyway? Of her 100 immediate ancestors, was one full Choctaw and another one half? Or maybe three out of the 100 are half Choctaw? I'm old enough and Southern enough to remember the "one drop rule." That meant, if you had "one drop" of black (they used to say Negro) blood you were considered black. Segregated schools and back of the bus for you. And certainly no marriage to a "white" person. Related: Melanin Mysteries 
And for Lexi, whose last name ought to be Page, it means no more of the people who cared for you, taught you, gave you a community and loved you. Those are the necessities of the human spirit. She had them. Cram her back into an ethnic category, and you offend that spirit. And, come to think of it, the Great Spirit Who created her as a human being. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Christmas in Santa Fe

     All the cognoscenti have breakfast at Tia Sophia's in Santa Fe. It's where the movers and shakers and locals eat. This morning, I had the requisite breakfast burrito, filled with scrambled egg, bacon and potatoes, smothered with melted cheddar and both red and green chiles ("Christmas" to those who know.) Actually, it wasn't as hot (temperature-wise) as it should have been, but the chiles made my nose run, so that's all right. 
     I also read both the Santa Fe and Albuquerque newspapers they had in the wooden rack up front. Local papers seem to me a symbol of American freedom and uniqueness. As they used to tell us in journalism school, anybody with a million dollars to lose can start a newspaper. An added fillip out here is that in the 1800s, people brought printing presses in by mule and set up shop in whichever little town struck their fancy and started a local paper, usually including humorous commentary and fanciful art. When they got bored with each other, the publisher would pack up and move to another town. 
     Anyway, my waitress was kind and tolerant when I couldn't understand her accent. She spoke slowly and laughed. At another table, an apparently local mother, grown daughter and grandchild sat. The daughter knocked over a large glass of orange juice. The mother leapt to her feet and began to berate one of the staff for failing to move quickly enough to get a towel. Several people were mopping the mess and bringing a new glass while she continued her rant. "She's an employee. She didn't even move. She should have brought a towel right away." Good grief. A minute later, the woman was speaking to everyone in the sweetest of tones, to make up, I suppose. Too late, though, lady. No one in Tia Sophia's will ever be glad to see you come in. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Crow’s Song

     Nobody liked the crow.
     “You have no beautiful colors,” said the toucan.
     “People set nectar in their gardens, just so I will visit,” said the hummingbird.
     “I glide on the wind, not like your foolish flapping,” said the hawk.
     “You can’t even sing,” sniffed the lark.
     “Caw,” said the crow.
     But humans were the worst, he thought. Fly overhead, and they say, “Bad luck!” Die by the road, and they say, “That’s good!” Land on a house, and they say, “Death is coming!” To someone they hate, they say, “Go to the crows.”
     One day, when he was tired of eating worms, the crow tried to snatch some corn from a field, but the farmer shouted and threw a rock at him.
     The crow flew until his wings were tired and took refuge in a tree next to a very tall gray wall. As he glared at a dim window in the wall, a light suddenly shone from behind it. Blue, red, green and gold glowed in the glass, and the crow made out a figure in it. A man in a white robe. He was holding a lamb.
     Then voices flowed out too, human voices, not angry like the farmer, but full of happiness and love. The crow had never heard such a thing before, and his thick beak dropped open. From his throat came another sound he had never heard before, a racketing, clacketing, chirruping mix of clicks and clacks and rumbles.
     He didn’t even know how long it went on before he heard a chuckling from below. He jumped a little when he saw a man standing under the tree. “You sing like me,” said the man. He was dressed all in black, but had a white band around his neck. Like a thrush, thought the crow. Or a kingfisher.
     “Here, share something else with me,” said the man. He held up his hand and reached as high as he could toward the crow. The hand didn’t hold the rock that the crow expected. It held a piece of bread.
     The crow hopped to a lower branch and cautiously stretched his neck toward the bread. As he plucked it from the man’s hand, the man cried, “Oh! Look at your new colors.”
     The crow wobbled on the thin branch as he swallowed the bread and turned his head from side to side, trying to see what the man meant. Finally, he spread his wings and saw. Every glowing color from the window had spread across his wings, blue, red, green and gold.

     The man began to sing, very badly for a human. And the crow began to sing, very well for a crow.