Shattered Notions

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One of the things I liked best about sermon preparation was the opportunity to reflect upon the emerging issues of the day and attempt, as best I could, to evoke thoughtful and reasonable responses. I, along with so many others, watched the insurrection unfolding on Capitol Hill yesterday in horror but also with a deep sense of sadness that this was the predictable and unavoidable result of a narcissistic president and an enabling political party who have spent the last five years spreading lies, unrest and white supremacy notions. Words matter and their words nearly brought down a democracy for which many lives, both in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, were lost. Democracy is fragile and constant vigilance is necessary to safeguard it.

I won’t make this into a long sermon but I do want to share a few reflections about these events and how we might be a part of the healing process. Nothing will undo or erase the atrocities we witnessed; we can, however, strengthen our resolve to be a part of a better future.

I’ll start with the actions of the domestic terrorists (for that is what they are); I’ve heard some folks say they don’t blame them because they were hoodwinked by a president and a political party that only care about themselves. I don’t accept that notion; they have chosen to believe the lies and they have chosen to use violence and insurrection as their modus operandi. Yesterday, they were not patriots angry at what they perceive to be a stolen election; they were angry, treasonous, confederate flag carriers who were determined to destroy democracy and enthrone the wannabe dictator they have chosen to worship and follow. They need to be held accountable for their actions as should the police officers who stood by and in some cases, aided and abetted, their actions.

The Senators and Representatives who thought challenging the electoral results because of polls and unfounded lies about voter fraud and voting irregularities are also culpable for the violence that erupted yesterday. There has been absolutely no evidence of fraud or irregularities; court after court has made that determination. Their actions were not about preserving democracy or the integrity of the vote; it was all about their own political ambitions and using a time-honored tradition to audition to the current president’s base as his successor. As for the current president, in the wise words of Auntie Em, “Almira Gulch, just because you own half the county doesn’t mean … what I thought of you, and now… well, being a Christian woman, I can’t say it!” I do believe accountability, for him, his family and his personal lawyer, must include being arrested and tried for treason and inciting rioting.

Given all this, how do we become part of a better future. Stay engaged. Demand accountability for those who break the law. Challenge the lies and the conspiracy theories, whenever, and from whomever, you hear them. Research and verify the information you share; it’s really easy to just repost or resend but that does not make lies true or fiction into fact especially when we long for them to be so. Have integrity. Be kind to all and know that kindness does not include giving permission to others to do harm. Shatter the notions of white supremacy and bigotry in all the ways those ugly notions surface. We can be better.

On the call to kindness

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It’s been quite the roller coaster since last week’s general election in the United States. I, for one, am quite estatic that Joe Biden & Kamala Harris have duly and fairly won their places as President and Vice-President. Despite the futile and unfounded claims by members of the current administration, January 20 will bring back for me, and many others, the hope that decency and truth will once again be the norm.

Amid all the congratulatory messages, there has been a call to kindness coupled with a call for understanding of those who are unhappy with the election results and to reach out and begin mending the rifts. On the surface, that seems like a reasonable notion. After all, it is the adults in the room who have to model appropriate behavior. It is the compassionate ones who have the capacity to seek the higher ground and to offer the olive branch of peace.

But…deep down in my gut, I am truly unsettled by these calls. As a survivor of domestic violence, I clearly remember the admonitions by clergy and police, to “be a better wife” and “try to understand why he behaves the way he does…help him become a better person.” Still now, as it was back then, I hear this as a call for the victim to protect the abuser. That is simply wrong. I have long ago forgiven my abuser and rejected the notion that any of that abuse was my fault. Both the forgiveness and the rejection of blame came with it the firm conviction that this person could no longer be a part of my life.

I also hear this call to reach out and mend fences coming, not from the ones who did the breaking, but from decent, compassionate people who truly desire peace and reconciliation. I’m so glad they are in a place where they are able to think in this way. But…for those of us who are having our hard-fought rights for control of our bodies being threatened by a president and a political party that think they know better than we do, for those persons living with disabilities who had to watch one of their own mocked and ridiculed, for those parents who fear each time their child leaves the house that they may be murdered simply because of the color of their skin and for those whose love is pure and deep fear that the commitments they made to one another will be torn asunder, then this call to kindness and understanding can be as painful as the words and actions of hate that have been lobbed against us. Patience is a tool not easily accessible to victims.

Each person has the right to choose the timing and the method of their own healing. I will, because I can and I choose to do so, continue to engage with those whose opinions are not like mine; that helps me not only grow but also deepen my own convictions. I will not, because I can and I choose to do so, welcome back into my life those persons whose hate-filled ways and beliefs were given license by a president and a party more interested in power than in the good of the community. I will not, because I can and I choose to do so, pretend that those beliefs and actions did little harm and were but a small part of their moral make-up. I do not wish these people harm but I will fight with every last of bit of my breath the tools and manifestations of hate.

We can and will “build back better” and each of us will do that in our way and time. I will walk with you on your journey if that is something you desire and invite those who wish to walk with me on mine.

Blessed be,

For such a time as this

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Like many, I am saddened to hear the news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. She was a model of perseverance in the face of seemingly unsurmountable odds. She never gave up even when people ignored her or underestimated her ability and her determination.

It was her determination to dismantle any and all laws based on gender inequality that paved the way for me, and many others, to fulfill our dreams and to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. This was no small feat as she chipped away at those laws one by one; she always had her eye on the larger picture.

It is the larger picture that I have been thinking about today as I contemplate the impact of her death on the upcoming election and, of course, the naming of the next Supreme Court Justice. So much fear was generated by the thought of her dying as if she, and she alone, would save the nation from yet another Trump appointee. She was mighty to be sure, but it never was solely her responsibility. That belongs to the people, and most specifically to the Senators who were elected to represent us. It is now up to them to do the right thing and up to us to see that their actions merit the appropriate consequences.

When I bought my home here in Italy three years ago, there was a huge bamboo stand that had overrun the rose bushes and other plants. Every year, I have cut it back and dug up the root system as I was able. It’s been a slow and back-breaking project; today I spent four hours on this project and was able to uproot a significant portion of the sprawling connected root system. Perhaps in the next few years, I will have gotten it all out though I suspect I will need to be vigilant for signs of its return.

As I chopped away at the bamboo stalks and dug up the roots, I thought how this pervasive bamboo stand is like the current situation in the US, the UK and other parts of the world. Systemic racism and growing nationalistic trends have spread their roots inside systems of democracy and equality threatening to overtake the beauty of diversity and the presence of tolerance and equality. For those of us who, like RBG, believe in justice for all we need to keep hacking away at the shoots of intolerance and hate and continue to dig out the systems that support its growth. We can do this just as long as we refuse to remain silent in their presence and remain vigilant for signs of re-emergence.

So this day, I celebrate the life and legacy of a formidable woman and vow to keep fighting the good fight. I invite you to join me

One more week

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Good news! Prime Minister Conte announced yesterday that restrictions will be eased beginning on May 4. We will now be allowed to travel around our region though not between regions. Face masks will still be required but their price has been fixed at .50 centimisi and will not be taxable. Schools will remain closed until September 1. We can now get out for exercise more than 200 meters from home.

The lock-down has been a challenge but I am grateful and impressed by how well the government and its citizens here have responded. There have been no hoarding and no demonstrations. People here saw what needed to be done and they did it. Another example of how wisely I have chosen my country of residence.

I’ll be headed to the large garden center in Motta next Monday and playing in the dirt. Pictures will be posted.

Andra’ Tutto Bene

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I’ve been a bit remiss in keeping up my blog and a letter from a friend in the States asking how I was doing prompted me to both write this post but also to be more diligent in my posting.

Even though we are still under the “stay at home” orders and most shops are closed at least until May 3, I’m doing well. Finding flour and yeast is becoming a bit of a challenge but our little grocery in Priocca continues to have both. Since we’re not allowed to leave our comune (we can still go to San Damiano to the supermarket), I’ve discovered that the garden center in San Damiano is well-stocked. I planted the first half of my vegetable garden; the Italian word is “orto.” I’ve been keeping busy with gardening, pruning, planting some berry bushes and wildflowers that I harvested along the road during my morning walk. The weather here has been lovely though a good soaking rain would be most appreciated.

The farmers here are busy at work tending the grapevines and planting. I love to listen to the sound of the tractors and other farm equipment. One of our neighbors has a herd of donkeys and their braying in the morning is a happy sound. I was always grateful to have grown up on a farm and am quite happy to be living in the country once again.

Be well and stay safe!

Going zero waste

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I know this might sound like bragging…and I don’t mean it to be…but I recycle, compost and reuse as much as I possibly can. This past year, I was able to produce only two small bags of trash each month. I know I can do better and that’s my goal for 2020.  Here are some of the ways I plan to accomplish this goal (some of them I already do):

  • Eliminate all disposable paper products
    • This includes toilet paper…I have a bidet spray so that makes it easier. Reusable family wipes made out of flannel are oh so comfy on the tush. I know it might sound gross but it’s really not
    • I’m making reusable non-paper towels
  • Take public transportation whenever possible
  • Eliminate the use of single use plastic bottles
  • Keep a no-styrofoam household
    • This can be a challenge when markets use styrofoam to package meats. I buy from the meat counter as much as possible
      • Ask the butcher to wrap in paper not plastic

Some other eco-friendly ideas

  • When traveling…take the train rather than flying whenever I can
  • Use wind and solar to dry clothes
  • Buy local and fresh produce….avoid processed foods
  • Cook from scratch

I invite you to join me in caring for our planet by living simply. Feel free to share other ideas.

Happy Hogmanay & Have a great New Year

Reflections

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I’m two months into my departure from Facebook and I’ve learned at least two things….1) I made the right choice and 2) it does make it a little harder to keep in touch!

As this year comes to a close, I wish all of you a very blessed Holiday Season. May this next year bring you contentment.

Illusions of Goodness

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A good friend recently asked me to offer up some stewardship message advice; for church-minded folks this is the time of year when pledges are sought and budgets are created. He had been asked to give such a message at his local church.

In the course of my ministry, I have given such messages and they have always been the same. Give to those organizations that you trust are making a positive difference in the world. Those gifts go beyond financial gifts but also the gift of your presence, your talents and your willingness to share why this organization is worthy of your support. His response surprised me a bit when he said he was going the route of honor….of sharing how “we are better than that.” I wasn’t sure what he meant by “better than that” and when asked he said, “better than putting children in cages, etc.” That got me thinking.

Are we really “better than that” because history gives us many examples, both historical and recent, that we may not be as good as we imagine. We offer what we believe to be justified moral outrage at the behavior and beliefs of others and yet we find it hard (maybe even unnecessary) to be honest about our own thoughts and actions. To be sure, there are some things, like putting children in cages) that deserve our outrage; they also deserve our actions. At the end of the day, it is what we do that matters.

I believe that the first step to change of any kind is to be honest and true about who we currently are. We may be comforted by illusion that we are one of the good ones but we are also kept captive by it. It is far better to take an honest assessment of ourselves and make the changes we need to make rather than spend our time criticizing and condemning the actions of others. This is not to say we shouldn’t hold people to account, especially when those people are making decisions in our name like our elected officials, but hold accountable their actions and not their humanity. The world will be a better place and real change will be possible.

Finding Community in the Age of Me First

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At the risk of channeling Aunty Acid, I do not understand the fascination with taking selfies. Is it self-absorption or a desire to connect; I hope it’s the latter.

I’ve become a bit of a news junkie in retirement; my favorite channel now is EuroNews. It’s a bit horrifying, and saddening, to watch the rise of nationalism manifesting in places like the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, the European Union as well as other parts of the world. It’s particularly hard for me to watch the current occupants of the White House and Downing Street flaunt the laws of their respective countries in their bids for power and personal gain. And yet, I still believe that we can build communities that promote the common good over the narcissism of “me first” movements.

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, I wonder if taking a break from “social media” and actively engaging in real people to people encounters might not be a good step toward building that community. Get your news from reliable sources. Travel outside your own community and your country if you can. Talk with people who hold opinions other than your own. Expand your tribe. Stay open-minded.

I’d be interested in hearing how you engage the world…but please…no selfies!

Finding some zen

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Like many people, I found myself spending hours on FB trying to sort through the annoying ads for things FB thought I might buy (and never would), reposted memes (some helpful, most not), story upon story from a particular political bent (rarely substantiated), just to find some postings from friends that actually interested me. I’m done. I’m going to miss the connection…the family research site, the site set up for family reunion news and info, the ability to reach out easily to friends…but the platform itself has become more hindrance than help.

I’m grateful to the many friends who sent requests for my contact information so we can keep in touch and I can keep posting pictures from my retirement here in Italy. I mentioned that I might start a blog so here I go. I’m not sure if this will be the site where that will happen but I’m going to give it a try. I’ll be exploring other platforms as well. Until then, be well and stay in touch.