As we’ve been marking the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DODT) and the White House calling the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, the “It Gets Better” campaign rings very true. At the same time, though, a Connecticut high school recently threw out a student for being gay and an Oklahoma legislator called homosexuality “a greater threat to America than terrorists.” So there’s lots of work to do.
Late last week we received a newsletter from Camp Ten Trees, an incredible place which I’ll let the letter below from camper Alex Sennello describe. Reach And Teach has proudly supported the camp since we were introduced to it by Jacinta Bunnell (Girls Are Not Chicksand Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon). With places like Camp Ten Trees, and people like Alex, we can celebrate the work that’s been done to make things better for GLBTQ people and those who love them. And, by supporting programs like Camp Ten Trees, we can keep making it better and better. We’re grateful that Alex granted us permission to repost her letter and post some of her photos from Camp Ten Trees.
Kristina Olsen at the Interfaith Worship Service We Held in Kabul
I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to create and air over a dozen 2-minute “perspectives” on our local public radio station, KQED. The editor there asked those of us who have been on the program over the years to write a special perspective about how we experienced September 11th and the impact of those tragic events. Though mine didn’t make the cut for airing during a special half-hour program this weekend, I thought I would share it with my Tikkun Daily friends. What does the song I’ve Got You Babe have to do with September 11th? Read on.
Rarely does more than a week or so go by before something arrives in my inbox from Len and Libby Traubman, a couple that has helped lead a Palestinian/Jewish living room dialogue for two decades. And, opening that message always gives me a boost of hope for the world, even in the midst of bad news. Today was no different. They shared links to videos from an organization called Peace it Together. Check out this video and then, read more to learn about what happens when a Palestinian, an Israeli, and a Canadian spend part of their Summer vacation together, peace-building through film-making.
My cousin Marcia wrote to me the other day. I’ve been one of her anchors of hope amidst a lot of despair about the world situation. When she wrote this time though, I too was cranky. “Change we can believe in my tush!” Then, a few hours later, our shop was filled with Think Peace Workshop kids and their parents making scarves for children in Africa. The energy was simply amazing. And then this morning I was writing checks to some of the organizations we support and ran across this video from the Mosaic Project. Now, I don’t feel so cranky. Maybe this will lift your spirits too. There are amazing people and organizations working with children to make their world and ours a much better place. Read more if you’d like to know more about The Mosaic Project and Think Peace Workshop. And, if this kind of post makes you happy, let me know and I’ll tell you about other people and organizations doing wonderful things. If you’d rather just be cranky….. I’ll understand!
We got great feedback from Annie’s last post, so… here’s another post from Annie Marino who spent two years in Lebanon teaching.
It did not take long for me to find that in Lebanon the perception of Jews, Israelis, and Israel is generally misinformed at best and virulent at worst. Over time, it appeared that the root of this misperception is a sobering combination of ignorance, and even more viscerally, fear.
Stories of ignorance related to Jews and Israel were so common they almost became mundane. Many of my students, thinking that Israel controlled Starbucks, were shocked to discover there was not a single Starbucks in Israel. My Arabic teacher inquired as to whether one of the stars on the American flag really stood for Israel, a fact she had learned at school. Within my first month teaching, the Lebanese government hastily required all schools that were using a particular American-printed history textbook (which we were) to insert censoring tape over certain sections that implied that Hezbollah was a terrorist organization. While not overly consequential in itself, the act of overt censorship startled me as a First Amendment-imbibed American, but it was also an indication that at times people may intentionally avoid knowledge or at least different perspectives.
When I posted a while back about Ray McGovern and the Gaza Flotilla, one commenter engaged me in a fairly long and robust conversation (a polite phrase for a heated email dialogue). Among the many points tossed at me was one question that I was truly at a loss to answer. Why wasn’t there much commentary about what was happening in Syria? Why weren’t my lefty friends and I doing something about the mayhem there? For me, the answer was simple. I knew very little about Syria. None of the usual organizations and media outlets I count on had much information, let alone calls to action. Until now…
Photo by Anne Marino of the Israeli side of the Lebanon-Israel border
Our friends the Traubmans believe that the difference between an enemy and a friend is a story. They recommended that a key part of our shop be a place where people could sit in a circle and share their stories. The other day, Annie Marino, who’d recently returned from two years teaching in Lebanon and had spent two weeks in Israel on her way back, sat with us in those chairs and told us about her experience. Feeling that her stories would be a good fit for Tikkun Daily, I asked her to start writing about her experiences. This is the first installment.
A Look Back for a Look Forward by Anne Marino
As of writing this, it is five years ago to the day that I canceled what would have been my first trip to Israel, due to a war with Hezbollah that had stretched a week with no immediate end in sight (it turned out to be 19 more days). It has now been two weeks since I returned from Israel for the third time, on my way home from a two-year stint working as a middle school history teacher in a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon.
As we sat in the “story time” area of our shop yesterday, working on a curriculum about service learning, a neighbor stopped in and thrust a news article into our hands. She was distraught about the news that Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst / presidential daily briefer and now anti-war activist, was getting ready to board a ship sailing to Gaza. This ship, named The Audacity of Hope, is one of a group of ships forming a flotilla to bring attention to and potentially break the blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. Today the White House issued a warning to the nearly 40 Americans planning to sail on that ship that the U.S. would not only do nothing to protect them, but might prosecute them if they do break the blockade and survive to return to the United States. This won’t be the first time people risk harm, prosecution, or death for something they really believe in. Nor, thank goodness will it be the last.
Two decades ago someone like me wasn’t allowed to serve in the U.S. military openly, so after eight years of service, I left. Back then someone like Derrick wasn’t allowed to openly serve as a deacon, elder, or minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, so he joined a congregation that fought against that ban. That congregation, the First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, had a long history of working for peace and social justice. Along with fully accepting Derrick and me for who we were, the people there also introduced us to the power of nonviolent resistance against injustice in all its forms, and opened our eyes to the many ways we were called to make the world a better place. By truly embracing us as individuals AND as a couple, they also set us on a path to where we are today.
It is 2011 and gays and lesbians can serve in the military and in the Presbyterian Church USA. My prayer is that my GLBTQ sisters and brothers, and all of the allies who have tirelessly worked for inclusion, will celebrate these victories and then join the global quest for peace, justice, and equality.