“Imagine what we mothers could do if we brought that spirit of loud, uncompromising, creative defiance to the necessary project of dismantling the fossil fuel industry and emancipating renewable energy, which is its hostage? Imagine hundreds and hundreds of mothers peacefully blockading the infrastructure projects of the fossil fuel industry, day after day. Imagine us, all unafraid, filling jails across the land. Imagine the press conferences we would give upon our release. Imagine us living up to our children’s belief in us as super heroes.”- -Sandra Steingraber
On April 24, 2013, Sandra Steingraber completed her fifteen-day prison sentence for “acting out” peacefully against the violation of our bodies and the earth by corporate polluters and environmental exploiters–in this case, the gas and hydro-fracking industry.
Sandra is my hero.
Jason Collins today became the first active NBA player to reveal his gay identity in the league’s history. And he did so on the pages of Sports Illustrated with the grace and stoicism befitting an accidental activist, which indeed is what Collins has become: a brave activist determined to combat the homophobia and hatred rife in American sports.
Not because he set out for this to be his mission. But because nobody else has done so.
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.
In an astonishing number of situations, knowing the “why” – why someone did what they did – is what helps us make meaning, be motivated, transform our assumptions, or open our hearts. At the same time, the “why” question – “why did you do that?” – is often the most difficult to hear, leading us to defensiveness and contraction. Both parts of this paradox have clear reasons (their own “why,” if you will). Once we know them, we can find ways to support ourselves and others in knowing the “why” that are less taxing for all.
Why “Why” Matters
For myself, understanding the “why” is the fundamental bridge between me and another. When I see another person’s action, decision, or choice, or hear their request of me, and I don’t know the “why” – either by being told, or by managing to imagine it effectively enough – a gap forms within me, made up of lack of understanding. The gap may be tiny and temporary, or it may be the beginning of growing and ongoing mistrust. This gap is likely bigger and lasts longer the less the other person’s movements align with my own preferences.
I have heard similar themes often enough to trust that in this particular way I am not that different from others. Just think of the last time someone didn’t show up at the time you expected them and you were irritated, then you found out the why and the irritation disappeared. Without knowing, we tend to fill in the gap of understanding by providing our own “why,” creating our own stories about what someone’s behavior means.
At Boylston and Berkeley, 8:00 a.m., Monday April 22
Two days after the Boston Marathon bombings, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was asked in a public radio interview if there would be a permanent memorial to the victims of that horrific act. Patrick understandably felt it was too early to speculate about such a memorial – this was before the dramatic lockdown of Boston and surrounding communities. He went further to say that the most fitting tribute would be to return next year with the biggest and best marathon ever.
That surely would be a testimony to the city’s spirit, but it seems the governor, as a good technocrat, was missing the point. Fact is, people were already finding makeshift ways to memorialize the event. And if past atrocities are a guide, they’ll eventually find a permanent space for that solemn purpose.
If I didn’t know this already, I’d have found out just by standing for a few minutes near Copley Square this past Monday morning, at the intersection of Boylston and Berkeley streets.
Boylston, a crime scene, was still closed at the time. But people stood silently on a sidewalk at the corner, leaning against a police barricade in front of a popup memorial. They gazed at the flowers, flags, candles, handwritten notes, and other items left by anonymous people. They stared at three white crosses in the center of that growing memorial – in remembrance of the three who perished in the twin bombings of April 15. The shrine to eight-year-old Martin Richard was teeming with Teddy Bears, balloons, and children’s books.
by: Lynn Feinerman on April 26th, 2013 | 9 Comments »
Memorial for the Boston Marathon attack on April 15, 2013. Credit: Creative Commons/AnubisAbyss.
On April 20, 2013, days after the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon event, President Obama asked: “Why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?”
Media reported that on April 22, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two brothers accused in the bombings, answered Obama’ s question. He stated they bombed the event in reaction to U.S. attacks on Islam.
Is Obama listening to that answer? How does he interpret it? Are the mainstream media, and in particular Fox News’ Erik Rush, listening to that answer?
I don’t think Erik Rush is listening. I doubt, in fact, that the Obama administration is listening to that answer… heeding the message. And innocent U.S. citizens are paying the price.
Nietzche was preoccupied with the question of where the “good” came from, and who was responsible for it, that is, what is its “genealogy”. Here is his summary statement on the matter:
The judgment “good” did not originate with those to whom “goodness” was shown! Rather it was “the good” themselves , that is to say, the noble, powerful, high-stationed and high-minded, who felt and established themselves and their actions as good, that is, of the first rank, in contradistinction to all the low, low-minded, common and plebian. It was out of this pathos of nobility and distance, as aforesaid, the protracted and domineering fundamental total feeling on the part of a higher ruling order in relation to a lower order, to a “below”- that is the origin of the antithesis “good” and “bad”‘ (The Genealogy of Morals, Kauffman edition pp 25-26).
Thus, to Nietzche, those who have power are those who create morals for a society. When, as in the ancient times, according to Nietzche’s myth, the leadership was in the hands of the aristocratic and noble, there was a different conception of morality than the currently accepted one in bourgeois society, which derives from the ressentiment of the herd, “perverted” towards concepts like pity and shame. The idea that morality as a concept and practice is the result of forces of power in society is developed in Foucault and others. Is this definition of power = morality the case in Jewish thought?
I propose that our perasha offers a test case in reading of these ideas.
The Earth’s safety seat belt is the honeybee, which is gradually being destroyed through a new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids to the extent that 40 to 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables could collapse.
I am reminded that my greatest teacher is nature, who I return to time and time again in order to witness the living design of a loving plan in action as well as my humble part in expressing and sharing what I see and feel.
Fed up with the violence of the mainstream press and the worship of the military, I am increasingly drawn to love- and hope-centered messages that express the fragility of life on earth and how we can protect it.
by: Ana Levy-Lyons on April 25th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Flowers piled up near the site of the Boston Marathon bombing. Credit: Creative Commons/stiatska.
Why does this shit keep happening? It seems like it’s every week now, another tragedy. Bombings, shootings, hurricanes. A paralyzed Congress, unable to do anything to stop it, swept under by the tide of what sometimes feels like a malevolent force. A force that targets schoolchildren; that preys on the poor and the sick and the elderly; that ravages our ecosystems and decimates wild species; that literally cuts the legs out from under people. Why does this shit keep happening? Is it God? A cruel and sadistic God? Or is that too anthropomorphic? Is it just collective human failure combined with what Albert Camus called “the gentle indifference of the universe?” Or are those two ultimately the same thing? Maybe the ultimate cruelty is the gentle indifference of a God who sits back, the ice clinking in its glass, and allows us to fail.
In the legend of Job in the Hebrew Bible, this is exactly what God does. God gives the Adversary (in Hebrew, ha-satan) license to torture a human being, one described in the verses as “blameless and upright.” So Job loses his children, his livestock, and all his wealth. He becomes sick and disabled, in constant pain. One by one, each of the elements that constitute his identity are stripped away. A man dissolves while God sits back and watches. The practice of “sitting shiva” in silence is said to stem from this legend. The existential horror is literally unspeakable. When Job’s friends come to visit him in his pain, the text says, “They sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights and no one spoke a word to him for they saw that his suffering was very great.”
The gloves are finally off: according to a poll, one third of Americans want a state religion. Two hundred years after the United States was created by men and women fleeing the stifling rule and religious persecution of their homes, we have come full circle by expressing a desire by some to return to a state sanctioned religion. No surprise that the preferred state religion is Christianity. Reflecting on the reasons for such a supposedly non-American public opinion, the pollsters wonder if it could be “reflective of dissatisfaction with the current balance of religion and politics”. In my mind, however, the results of the poll point to some deep-rooted issues, which instead of being dismissed as inconsequential because it could never actually happen, should be analyzed to understand the thought process of millions of the population.
Ella Baker, community organizer and mother of SNCC
Ms. Juanita teaches three year-olds at the Head Start program downtown. She stays just a few doors down from us in Walltown, but I never see her in the morning. She catches a bus to work long before I come downstairs, put the kettle on for tea, and walk down to the sidewalk to get the newspaper. A room full of three year-olds is no walk in the park. (I know; mine usually wakes up before the tea is done.) But when Ms. Juanita sends the last kid home with her parents at the end of the day, she catches another bus to night school. She’s been keeping this schedule for over three years now.
Most nights after dinner is done and the dishes are washed-about the time we’re getting ready to start the bedtime routine with our kids-Ms. Juanita comes walking down from the bus stop. She’s tired, of course, which she’ll tell you. But she always has time to ask how our kids are doing, to tell a story from her day, to talk about the most recent neighborhood news. For the past couple of years, she and I have coached a 7-8 year-olds basketball team together. One night a week thru the winter, we head off for practice about this time in the evening. I’m always amazed that Ms. Juanita is still standing.
When we moved to Walltown ten years ago, we got to know Ms. Juanita’s kids. They’d come by our house in the afternoons and often stayed for dinner. They were middle school kids with sweet smiles. In their early twenties now, they both still live with mom. One is in school, the other has been in and out of jail for the past two years.