Monday, November 30, 2009

what i was doing when i learned my friends got arrested...

...which may be why my friends are so much more productive as activists than i am...

Don't Pretend This Is an Allegory for Life

sitting at the back of the train
reduces the whole world
to light & sound.
everything is garish,
collision seems imminent,
& the only things you can see
are the places you've already been.

but the tracks are all well-marked
so you know just how to navigate yourself
around destruction...
or into it.
which helps, i guess.

and you get to catch people off-guard,
& see what they look like
coming & going
from places they love
or can't stand

screaming past the backends of houses
is a reel-to-reel of vignettes
of other people's lives
in 2 second increments.
it's a lot of tvs
& crying
& odd taste in furniture.
sometimes there's a kiss
that no one was supposed to see.

and after you've watched
miles of strangers flash by,
you're the last person to know
that you've arrived safely
at your final destination.

the imminent collision
must just have passed you by.

Monday, November 23, 2009

on being an adult and the process of re-radicalization...

at 3am, i finished a 4-day trip (with 26 hours of driving) to protest the School of the Americas/WHINSEC in Ft. Benning, GA.

Within that statement lives a world of confusion and joy and challenge and faith.

The last time I went to the SOA protest was in 2005 with the lovely JVC folks. I was young and hurting and in need of community. And I found it - I still have fond memories of time with Alex, hitting the Waffle House with Christine, and writing a wonderful poem for Erica at the JVC Atlanta house.

Now, I'm almost 30, still hurting but not so young. The world hurts in different ways now, and my response is different, too. Going down to Georgia with 16 semi-strangers (and the lovely Amy) and arranging all the logistics and managing personal dynamics and trying to make sure we had gas and cars and food and lodging helped distract me, temporarily, from how i felt being there.

But, eventually, when it all calmed down and I remembered that everyone was a grown-up, I didn't have anything to distract me. And that's when I realized how far I'd come from who I wanted to be. Being older than many folks here, I struggle with what it means to live like a grown-up. I haven't really sat down to think about the ways I've pre-defined my adult life. Adults don't protest. Adults don't get arrested. Adults don't drive 13 hours each way to learn things they might just have downloaded from the Internet. Adults don't really think that saving the world is feasible or that protests are effective or efficient. And, I'm nominally an adult so I expected myself to believe those things, too. But, then...

In our hotel room, after a semi-exhausting day, we made crosses. I looked at the list of martyrs from the slaughter at El Mozote to find a name to put on my cross. I found Telesforo Marquez. He was 35 when he was killed. He was also deaf and mute. It made me think of folks I've known with disabilities, including my own mother. I thought about what it means that my government had any role at all in training soldiers who then went home and committed these acts against their own people. Do you know how many children were on the list of the dead at El Mozote? Until we fully acknowledge the role that the US played in providing tactical training for these killers, we can't claim to be a country that loves peace and freedom. At all.

While writing down Telesforo's name and details, I realized how incredibly selfish and safe I've become. What good does it do to come to a protest with all my baggage and not fully examine the ways that I'm culpable, the ways I sin? Every Sunday, I stand with my Catholic brothers and sisters and tell them that I've sinned in my thoughts and my words, in what I've done and in what I've failed to do.

But I don't always think of sins by name. In that hotel room, I feel that I've sinned by not knowing more about the privilege I inherit as American and what that privilege takes away from others. I've sinned in not being brave enough. I've sinned in being safe. I've sinned in thinking that my form of world-changing is better than yours. I've sinned in my desire for comfort over the kingdom of God.

I'm sick of being a sinner.

So, this Sunday, I went to "mass" in front of the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia. We offered to break bread with a cop, and we all provided the homily and the blessing over the bread and the wine. We looked through barbed wire toward a world that's not as it should be. And we prayed for it. And we prayed for ourselves. And we let the dead bury the dead, but remembered their names in the land of the living. With every "Presente!", we called the dead back to us, carried them with us, and set them down in front of the gates of Ft. Benning, with prayers and sorrow for all the ways that our country sins, in its thoughts and deeds, and in all it does and fails to do.

And it was the most adult thing I could have done.

ps-if anyone is interested in more information on what I was doing down in Georgia, here's a helpful FAQ. Or, ask me, and I'll tell you :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

on Georgia and the Berrigan Brothers...

Tonight, at 9:30pm, I will head to Georgia with 18 friends and soon-to-be-friends, to put my body and my faith on the line at the annual School of the Americas protest.

This protest has been going on for 20 years which means that, from an American standpoint, it's an utter failure. Where are the results? Where's the individual satisfaction? Why didn't things change right away?

But, from a Christian standpoint, the protest against the School of the Americas is, and continues to be a success. Because we witness. Because we mourn. Because we just show up, which is so hard these days, when there are bills to pay and people to love and a severe lack of time, money, energy, and faith.

The challenge for me is to use this as a first step - I've limited my official protest of violence in our local, and global communities, to letter-writing, public speaking, simple living (or, simple-ish), and prayer. And I want to continue all of those things. But I know there's more that I'm afraid to try, or places I want to go in this world that I don't fully know how to enter.

Whenever I get in that space, I remember this challenging, and true, poem by Fr. Daniel Berrigan. I share it here to inspire myself .

Georgetown Poem (7)
The Trouble with Our State
The trouble with our state
was not civil disobedience
which in any case was hesitant and rare

Civil disobedience was rare as a kidney stone
No, rarer; it was disappearing like immigrant's disease

You've heard of a war on cancer?
There is no war like the plague of the media
There is no war like routine
There is no war like 3 square meals
There is no war like a prevailing wind

It blows softly, whispers
don't rock the boat!
the sails obey, the ship of state rolls on

The trouble with our state
-we learned it only afterward
when the dead resembled the living who resembled the dead
and civil virtue shone like paint on tin
and tin citizens and tin soldiers marched to the common whip

-our trouble
the trouble with our state
with our state of soul
our state of siege -

Friday, November 6, 2009

happy. sad. happy. sad

two new poems, written on the train. God bless long commutes...

windowpane faces

in the middle of the stairstepping rooftops,
and the crystalline brilliance
of a frigid, sunny day,
the light of God shines
with fierceness of all the love
in all the worlds
we've ever created for each other.

the light lets us know that
we shouldn't fool ourselves -
God already knows we're all
see-through bones
& windowpanes faces.

but love makes us solid
& loss makes us crack, so,
without this fierce sun,
we look like
neglected waterglasses
and busted-up vases.
But in this irrationally radiant light,
we shine
like infinitely valuable things,
like shards
reflecting The Greater Glory.

we shine
like we've got nothing better to do.
and we don't.

oh, broken world

oh, broken world,
i walked your streets today
to the beat of plastic jug rhythms
& impatient feet
and i wanted to ask you
how did that beautiful man
learn to sing & lean on anyone,
when the night is so dark?

and do i say to my brother
who's yelling and crying
because his world doesn't add up to ours completely?
who's supposed to help him understand?
who's supposed to help us listen?

oh, broken world,
how can we possibly be the ones they're waiting for?
how can we put one foot in front of the other,
when we know we'll have to step over heartache
whichever way we go?

oh, broken world,
i'm tired & frightened of everything i've seen
& i wish it wasn't too late
for you to pick someone else -
someone faster,
someone braver,
some less-broken saint
instead of this scared little girl

oh, broken world,
you've wounded my brothers
& strangled my sisters
& everything tells me to run,
except that small voice that says
"everything you love can be saved"
and, oh, broken world,
i love you...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

on the eve of All Souls' day...

because i am in need of her advice more than anyone else's right now, and because i miss her now and always, All Souls' Day can't come soon enough.

Jesus said to the crowds: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”
John 6:37-40