Credit: CreativeCommons / kevinwgarrett.
Several weeks ago, the American media was transfixed by a story of racial “passing.” Now the story has been pushed off the front pages by the true tragedy of the massacre of nine African American congregants in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The media saturation bombing of Rachel Dolezal, the former president of the Spokane NAACP, looks increasingly trivial. In a country where black folk are seemingly eternally subject to violence, the story of Dolezal now seems trite. But why was the nation briefly so focused on her story? Ms. Dolezal, born “white,” was accused of disguising herself as “black.” She had become a community activist and had married a black man. In addition, she had adopted black children. Her parents “outed” her as white. They stoutly maintain that they are “Caucasian” (but one assumes not in the same way as condemned Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev). I find the jumbled facts of the case insufficient to explain the national furor. She and ISIS appeared on the front page of the New York Times on the same day. Dolezal may be personally mendacious and manipulative, but her construction of herself, however contrived, struck a raw nerve in the American psyche. The “white” woman turned ‘black” is even more transgressive than transgenders. Her professed bisexuality attracts less attention than her racial identification.
Wow. For a brief moment I am feeling such gratitude for our Supreme Court—well, at least for five justices of the court! This is a time to celebrate. Gay and lesbian couples are finally recognized for their commitment to love their partners just as any heterosexual couple does. What an amazing moment of honoring and respecting people who choose love and commitment. What an amazing moment of honoring the sanctity of marriage. I am overcome with joy and celebration.
With this decision, the Supreme Court made it clear once and for all that anyone who loves another person can marry that person in any state in this country regardless of their partner’s sex. No longer will gay rights advocates have to waste time and money litigating the right to marriage on a state-by-state basis. No longer will they have to waste time and money fighting for partner benefits from their spouse’s employer. No longer will they have to argue with hospitals to be at the bedside of their loved ones when they are sick and dying. (I realize that some of these battles will persist but they will be resolved much more quickly than if they had been challenged on a piecemeal basis.)
The impact on the families is enormous—as one of the plaintiff’s from the case in California said after hearing the decision, his children will no longer have to explain to kids at school why they have two daddies. Gay and lesbian youth who suffer a sense of loneliness, separation, and bullying will now know they are not alone, they are not crazy and that their love of someone of the same sex is not only natural but even recognized and held in equal regard as heterosexual love. What a beautiful day it is.
by: Rabbi Belle Michael on June 27th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
Credit: CreativeCommons / Chris Richards.
As we all heard, 2014 set record for being the hottest year in a decade; in fact scientists say that every year in the past few decades set a record for being the warmest year. We know it for fact now; our planet is getting warmer each year.
Some scientists are still trying to figure out the causes for Global Warming while others study the effects of Global Warming on extreme weather events such as heat waves, hurricanes and droughts. As to the drought in California, so far no scientific link between Global Warming and the drought was found. Research has shown contradicting evidence and thus, contradicting conclusions.
by: Martha Hennessy on June 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
Peace doves fly on the grounds of the historic Hazrat-i-Ali mosque, in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. The doves are part of a campaign launched by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in observance of the International Day of Peace in 2007. Credit: CreativeCommons / United Nations Photo.
June 19, 2015
Kabul–Outside the windows of the room where I sleep, here in Kabul, the Afghan Peace Volunteer (APV) women’s community maintains a small walled garden filled with roses. The community plants tomatoes, cilantro and greens. An apricot tree grows in one corner, a mulberry tree in another. The prayer call, chanted from a nearby mosque, awakens me just before dawn. Light appears in the sky around four, and soon after, the doves and neighborhood children begin to stir. Normal activities and routines persist here in Afghanistan, despite the decades of war and impoverishment. Military helicopters roar through the skies as sounds generated by ordinary work day tasks fill the air: the whine of a machine cutting sheet metal mixes with a jingle played by an ice cream cart rolling down the street.
Zarguna, Khamed, and Zahidi host Kathy and me in this house of peace. Because of intensified security concerns, we step outside only occasionally, generally once a day, to visit the APVs Borderfree Center. During my last visit here in 2013, we were much more relaxed about walking through the neighborhood for errands.
The youth, now studying in secondary schools and universities, run several thriving projects and teach at the Borderfree Center for street children.
Credit: CreativeCommons / Josh.
I typically find pride in my ability to find words to express what I am thinking and feeling on a given topic. After reading the reaction from Charles L. Cotton, a board member of the National Rifle Association, however, responding to the terrorist act perpetrated against worshipers at a Bible study group at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston by a deranged racist ending in the fatal shooting of 9 good people, I fell speechless, enraged, and emotionally overwhelmed. I had to absorb, attempt to grasp, and reflect upon Cotton’s statement.
In my life, when I have felt emotionally overloaded and blocked, I find a way to process my feelings by taking on some kind of simple physical activity, one I can perform that gives me immediate gratification like mowing the lawn or performing housework. This time, I reached under the kitchen sink for the spray bottle of floor cleaner, gathered a cloth, kneeled to my knees, and scrubbed my kitchen and living room floors as my little doggies licked my face with soggy kisses. I then mowed both the front and back lawns, ate my lunch, and took a long and deep early afternoon nap.
Credit: CreativeCommons / DixieSCV.
In February, 2009, then Attorney General Eric Holder, in an address at the Department of Justice to commemorate Black History Month, said we in the United States were “a nation of cowards” when it comes to an honest conversation about race. He continued to speak about the importance of Black History Month and the shame that such was necessary because so much of African-American history has been erased from American history. He thought we ought to dedicate Black History Month to a conversation on race because as the demographics of the United States change, there will be no racial majority. We will need to put racism behind us.
The conversation on race is a difficult conversation to have because it goes to the core of our own identities. While race is a constructed concept with its own history, it never-the-less goes to the heart of the myth of ontological, hereditary goodness. The courage required in this context is the courage to face the reality that none of us is good because goodness is inscribed in our very being. We are not good or bad because our ancestors were good or bad. We are good or bad according to the moral decisions we ourselves make. We cannot inherit moral rectitude.
In the wake of the sad, shocking, heartbreaking, mind-soul numbing murders of nine African Americans at a prayer meeting/Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by a young man with racist motives, the nation once again faces the meaning of the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia that is commonly thought to be the flag of the Confederate States during the Civil War. It was a symbol that the young white killer used to represent his racist ideals. The flag that flies on the statehouse grounds in South Carolina and in other states in the south is controversial because of its use by whites during the civil rights movement and beyond.
For many Americans it is a symbol of slavery, the bloodiest war ever fought on American soil, legal racial segregation – American apartheid (apart hate) – and a white supremacist ideology. For others it is a symbol of southern pride, heritage, and a way of life. The problem is that the southern way of life is built upon a deception of white supremacy. Let us be clear. Racism and white supremacy are manifestations of a social psychosis found north, south, east, and west in the United States. The problem with people who want to make a confederate battle flag a symbol of southern heritage is that it is love for a fantasy that is not real and that cannot love you back.
A heart centered approach to assist combat veterans with PTSD has not only proved effective but has led to inner transformations for many combat veterans in the past five years. I present a composite of two graduates of the Healing the Wounded Hearts (Band of Brothers) program in Northern California where Johnny finally came home to a life of meaning , value and framed in gratefulness: Allen L Roland Ph.D.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is estimated that at least 40% of combat troops suffer from Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a disorder that an individual is diagnosed with after being directly exposed to an extreme traumatic event such as witnessing an actual or threatening death experience, serious injury, or someone who has been fatally injured. PTSD can also be triggered by a threat to one’s physical integrity or learning, or witnessing an unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or being threatened of death or injury by a family member or other close associate.
by: Cat Zavis and Rabbi Michael Lerner on June 24th, 2015 | No Comments »
Credit: CreativeCommons / jamieskinner00.
Racism is the demeaning of an entire group of people and refusal to see them as fully human in the way we see ourselves and those we deem to be “like” us. When we fail to see the humanity of the “other,” we ascribe to them ugly characteristics that somehow justify treating them with less honor and less generosity than we would others who are part of the groups we do see as fundamentally like us. From this place of separation we justify denying the “other” equal rights, benefits, and caring that all human beings deserve.
Racism in the United States has a long history. It was foundational to U.S. expansion throughout the North American continent, allowing white people to justify to themselves genocidal policies toward Native Americans, to allow slavery, and to incorporate into our Constitution a provision that would count African slaves as three-fifths of a human being so that Southern States would have higher representation in the Congress, though racists both North and South didn’t think of them as human beings at all.
Credit: CreativeCommons / Jagz Mario.
While all available evidence points to Dylann Storm Roof’s racist motives in his admitted mass murder of 9 worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday evening, June 17, in Charleston, South Carolina, still, a number of conservative Republican politicians frame the tragedy as either something we can never truly understand, or primarily as an attack on Christians, Christianity, and religious liberty.
According to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley: “While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”
Well, Governor Haley, I believe that in most instances of terrorism directed against houses of worship in the United States, the attackers’ motives were crystal clear: white supremacism!
by: Sunita Viswanath and Christopher Fici on June 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Credit: CreativeCommons / U.S. Geological Survey.
In his recent eco-encyclical (ecology and economy) Laudato Sii (“Praised Be”), Pope Francis invited every person on the planet into dialogue on the many pressing ecological issues facing humanity – and their impact on the poorest people of the world. The reality of climate change “represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (#25). Humankind is responsible for care of the natural world, and that responsibility extends toward protecting poor and vulnerable people and our children and grandchildren.
Pope Francis made five key points in this teaching document, a new foundation of Catholic teaching on the environment: