Not in Our Name

After reading the witness story of a father losing his son today – I froze in my chair, hands in front of my mouth in prayer, tears running down my cheeks, feeling immobile. I know I can’t end this man’s pain and the many others that are mourning entire families due to the siege in Gaza. All I could do was pray that peace would be realized, lotus blossoms would reign down from the sky, the borders no longer blocked but filled with neighbors welcoming those they have feared their entire lives. Yes, a utopian dream but I can’t live in the cynical state that I find myself after reading any and every news article, looking at pictures of death and destruction that leads to hate coming out of my mouth towards the oppressor that serves no one and no cause.

Currently there are 40 wars raging around our globe; children fleeing wars that my nation assisted in and many losing their lives because of the illogical support of human cruelty based on the wobbly foundation of defending one’s own country. What is perplexing is many of those doing the destruction do not look into the eye of their victims, they merely push a button to hit their “target” not acknowledging the human life that ended. The dehumanization is astonishing and I find myself in a dilemma of seeking peace and not demonizing the oppressor. Because the cycle of those that are oppressed —- becoming the oppressor is what we see today. Fear grasping our necks and our wallets. Land infiltrated by overconsumption and destructive attempts to funnel money out of it to fuel our cars (I am guilty) and to let the rich stay on top and those on the bottom to remain.

I’m fearful that this will not end until all of Gaza is destroyed. I have fallen into despair, hopelessness, regret, guilt, cynicism, and complacency.  Yet, I somehow find this tiny strand of a rope that leads me back to the light of optimism, that humans are good, that the world remains a beautiful, enchanted place.  Some days, I let go and fall back into despair but before I’m completely consumed, I reach up and that strand is always there, always present even in the darkest of times.

The massacre occurring in Gaza is piercing my side but from a safe distance – one where my awareness can be turned off by a click of the mouse allowing me to live my life in ignorance. But once you know, don’t you have the obligation to speak up, advocate, do whatever possible to end the violence? There is no unknowing. The violence seeks you at every newsstand – but the tricky thing is that this news can be filtered to continue the propaganda that one life is more precious than the other. This has never and will never be true and I find it disheartening that those of major religions with tenets to love your enemies, give the cloak off your back, do no harm to any being are the loudest voices on the screen calling for the genocide of men, women and children. How can this be and how can we rise out of this dark hole of fear?

I call to my ancestors that screamed from the desks; penning truths, being witnesses, seeking change, and being present in the world. I call to anyone who sees the light in every being, to honor that light through their voices, their choices in spending and how they live their lives. Can we all say, not in our name will violence be allowed and accepted as the appropriate response. Can we all take this pledge: Saul Williams’, Not in Our Name :

Also, please take the time to read this poem by Maya Angelo:

A Brave and Startling Truth
By Maya Angelo

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn and scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it

We must confess that we are the possible

We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world

That is when, and only when

We come to it.

 

Rumblings – Let Us Pay Attention

 The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

– Rumi

For those who pray, send good vibes, fast, meditate, anyone of a faith or mere faith in humanity – Please pay attention to the upcoming visit of Obama to Israel/Palestine. There seems to be rumblings on both sides.

Can we unite together for peace?

Can we fast together for the violence and the occupation to end?

For the freedom of the Palestinians to become a reality?

For us to recognize the light in one another and bow down to each other out of loving kindness?

There are beautiful nonviolent movements that have continued to carry on on despite the firing of tear gas, bullets, and the beatings from IDF forces and settlers – these are comprised not just of Palestinians, but of Israelis, Americans, Europeans, and so on. These movements are filled with men, women, and children seeking peace, freedom and a recognition and end of the horrible atrocities that have continued since 1948.

I know this opinion, especially in the South, is not highly looked upon (quite the understatement). I’ve been labeled – anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-American and ignorant.

But I have faith in peace, I have the understanding and belief that we are all interdependent of one another – that when one weeps and mourns, we weep and mourn with them.

I refuse to remain quiet or believe that I can do nothing.

My faith calls me to love both sides of any conflict. (Oh this is hard…)

My faith drives me to seek equality for all humanity – and creation.

My faith leads me to the belief that another world is possible – that upside-down kingdom where we all will join hands and rejoice in peaceful unity regardless of our difference.

Let us pay attention to this visit, to the continued struggle to Free Palestine and let us acknowledge there is something each of us can do.

P_A_L_E_S_T_I_N_E_by_Free_Palestine

A good op-ed article in NY Times : Peaceful Protest Can Free Palestine

Racism: Still Standing Strong But Not Unmoveable

The media on both sides of the war of words during this election are relying very heavily on fear. Fear of the other person, the other side, the known, the unknown, the lies, the truths, anything and everything to bring about a state of panic.

I’ve attempted to avoid most media coverage because I knew very early on where my vote would placed. Also, I admittedly place very little responsibility in the president or the government on determining the future of the country I currently reside. Change is brought about by people’s movements and revolution that occur within ourselves, person to person, in our communities and then can grow organically to effect the nation and worldwide.

This isn’t to say that I have avoided the place of fear. I found myself deep in it yesterday after a friend relayed a work encounter that brought my very fear to the forefront of my mind.

The situation occurred when my friend was unwillingly placed in a conversation about the upcoming election. She is not very political but is a voter. She was kindly going to walk away but this individual decided to go into a full on attack of our current president using racist terms and falsehood that only illuminated the hatred and fear filled state of mind this person was coming from. My friend became visibly upset, shaken and had to remove herself from the situation. Where in turn she called and explained to me what just had occurred.

What shocked me was my initial thought, “I’m not surprised someone in the south would have that viewpoint…or that they would think it is ok to openly share this racist views.” That saddens me and shows my own present bias of my home culture that I almost expect many individuals to have fear of someone that is not of their same race. Ok, I’m scurrying around the  issue. I’m sad that I’m not surprised that in Little Rock, Arkansas many white individuals are afraid of African American and Latino individuals (I’m not even going to mention the other cultures present in this community). It is the glaring truth and it is the combined reasons of why I did not want to return to this culture and why I know that this is exactly where I need to be.  Though, I also need to prevent myself from dehumanizing the ones with the racist views because that in turn makes me a participant in oppressive beliefs that lead to further discord rather than peace. As well as, not assuming or being so very cut and dry with my southern culture, straying away from the assumption that racist beliefs are the expected norm rather than only a part of the culture that is changeable. Head spinning in circles, yet?

If I’m honest, I’m not sure how I would have responded in the moment. I would hope I wouldn’t respond with hateful words in return, but I truly don’t know. This small conversation easily put me in fear. My mind started circling with questions.  How many people think this way and truly deep down believe it? What will they do if their candidate does not win? How many act on this belief and bring about harm on someone else daily?  How many claim to love God but then go out and openly mock their fellow neighbor that is different from them in some way? How many people see this and then when I proclaim that I am a Christian put me in this same box? How do I show love to this person but also stand firm in my belief of equality? How are we still here in this place of chosen segregation? I can keep going, but I think you get the point.

My only answer: Live my life loving every being I meet unconditionally (this does NOT mean agreeing or choosing non-action) including the one with the like-minded views and the one with racist views. Speak up for others out of love not vengeance. Try hard to not dehumanize someone when they show the darkest elements of humanity. I’m not saying that I will succeed but this is my intention.

I do feel sorry for the person (and unfortunately probably many people) that believe that one human is better than another. I feel this existence is only filled with constant comparisons, fear, hatred, bitterness, discontent, internalized self-hate and complete sadness.

I hope that going into this election that regardless of who wins that “we” will respond not out of fear or hatred. That we will find motivation to work in our own communities and face uncomfortable situations that will allow us to grow exactly where we are planted.  I fully believe that Little Rock can become a welcoming place for all regardless of race, gender, religion, economic status and so forth. But it won’t just happen because we cast a vote and then say our duty is over. It is a lifestyle that I believe is fully worth clothing your entire life with: a lifestyle of compassionate actions with your neighbors.

“Compassion grows with the inner recognition that your neighbor shares your humanity with you. This partnership cuts through all walls which might have kept you separate. Across all barriers of land and language, wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, we are one, created from the same dust, subject to the same laws, and destined for the same end. With this compassion you can say, “In the face of the oppressed I recognize my own face and in the hands of the oppressor I recognize my own hand. Their flesh is my flesh, their blood is my blood, their pain is my pain, their smile is my smile…” John M. Perkins

Jumbled thoughts on simplicity and a new computer…oh and Lupe Fiasco

Since Thursday, I have sat down behind my laptop a few times with the urge to write, unsure where to begin. My laptop choose for me,  it began to randomly shut down whenever it dang well pleased. So…I have a new friend coming to me via a FedEx truck.

As many of my close friends know, it pains me to buy new things. It can physically make me sick to my belly. I think I went to the checkout 30 times before I could actually push the button to purchase a new computer.

Here in lies my dilemma. I can’t unknow what I know. Profound, right?! 

First: It is a fact that technology builds barriers between actual community.  Though it can provide immediate and sustained contact to friends in a various places of the globe. And could even help the formation of new friends. Definite pros and cons.

Second: Most, if not all, computers contain a mineral that has been one of the causes to upheaval and violence in the DRC. Unfortunately, I can’t find a “but” for this sentence. Rather I could use the computer to spread the message that this needs to end…does that even remotely touch the injustice? Or is that just a cop-out?

Third: It was a heck of a lot of money. It was by far more than what many individuals around the globe make in a year, two years, five years, etc. I go back to good ole’ Dorothy Day who was quoted as saying, “If you have two coats, one belongs to the poor.” So I’m sitting here looking around my apartment thinking of how I can simplify, simplify, simplify. What can I do to equalize the inequality in wealth?

Maybe you will chalk my feelings up to buyer’s remorse. I’m not sure how to rectify these issues except use this bit of technology to continue the conversation of where and how our devices are made, what impact this has on the global world, our own community and our lives.

On another front, this week was full of firsts!

I had my first Arabic class and begin to see the difference between Egyptian Colloquial Arabic and ummm… Arabic. Nothing like somewhat starting from scratch, right? It also stirred up the urge to want to go, go, go. I had to return to the mantra, “I came home for a reason, I came home for a reason, what was the…, I mean, I came home for a reason.”

I went to my first  observance of International Peace Day and meet some lovely individuals. This included a inspirational woman who was turned towards peace after her son was killed in the Lockerbie bombing. Incredible stories of hope despite loss. It was quite breathtaking to find many  followers and leaders of major religions in one room with one purpose: peace. Another world is truly possible!

The last is a covert first: The discovery of someone knowing my name.

Finally, here is a cheap endorsement but go out and buy Lupe Fiasco’s (yeah, yeah it’s going against my simplicity..) new album. He is a voice in the wilderness!

I know this hasn’t been a terribly coherent post, but that is pretty much my current state of my mind. Jumbled and trying to find focus so I can  merely enjoy the moment.

“Live simply so others may simply live.”

Mother Teresa and Gandhi

Breaking the norms..as always.
Barnes and Noble 1997

Open Windows

Dylan enjoying the morning breeze.

After returning from my dear friend Amanda’s home, I walked into my apt and felt entirely suffocated. Stuffy, stuffy smells of recently cooked meals and being an owner of a beautiful and moody, feline friend. I immediately went to the windows and pulled them loose from summer’s tightly shut grip and felt the rushing in of fresh “almost fall” night air. This season, I love.

Arkansas’ trees will soon become the warmest colors and the mountains will begin beckoning you to come sleep (especially since the snakes and bears and well other animals I’m deathly afraid of encountering in the wild will  begin their sleep rituals). This is one of the times I truly cherish living in the southern climate. It is the reprieve from an insanely and murderous summer heat and humidity. Everyone appears more at peace, with tempers less likely to flair and hospitality flowing through the downtown streets.

This week is full of “fall” activities with the return to my Arabic Studies after an over 2 year break, a Sculpture and Fall Festival at the Bernice Garden, and the observance of International Peace Day at the Presbyterian Church on the corner of my street. These activities feel as though they are an opening of myself towards a more willingness to engage in community I am familiar with and with one I have deep respect.

The seasons they are a changin’!

It find it only fitting to include a wonderful poem by Wendell Berry:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.