National Poetry Month: Pray For Peace

It’s Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem. Jesus, being of the Holy Trinity, knew that he was entering the city in which he would be crucified. His disciples, his flock were unaware so they greeted Jesus as a conquering hero and threw palm leaves in his wake to honor him. It’s a juxtaposition that has always been in my head, the fact that Jesus could go from hero to villain in less than a week.

My heart is heavy. I’m typing this at McDonald’s. I’m having breakfast before I head for church. I know that my breakfast will cause me to be a little late but I’m usually late.

CNN is playing on the TV near me. David Petraeus is talking about the bombing of Syria. He likens Syria to Humpty Dumpty and how he feels that Syria will never be put back together. Petraeus cautions that whatever is done, it’ll have to be a generational act. He talks about blood and treasure and I know that’s what this fight in Syria is about. So many innocent people will be killed so the country’s oil will be preserved.

The poem I’ve chosen for this morning, Palm Sunday morning, is by Ellen Bass. It is called “Pray For Peace” and it’s exactly what I’ll be doing this morning and most mornings. And what I especially love about this poem is that Ellen Bass realizes that we all have different names and faces for our idea of a higher power.

“Pray For Peace” — Ellen Bass

Pray to whoever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or marble or plastic cross,
his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the Bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah, raise your arms to Mary
that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekinhah, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent.

Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, Record Keeper
of time before, time now, time ahead, pray. Bow down
to terriers and shepherds and siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.

Pray to the bus driver who takes you to work,
pray on the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus
and for everyone riding buses all over the world.
If you haven’t been on a bus in a long time,
climb the few steps, drop some silver, and pray.

Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,
for your latté and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,
each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.

Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.

Making love, of course, is already a prayer.
Skin and open mouths worshipping that skin,
the fragile case we are poured into,
each caress a season of peace.

If you’re hungry, pray. If you’re tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.
Pray to the angels and the ghost of your grandfather.

When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,
to the video store, let each step
be a prayer that we all keep our legs,
that we do not blow off anyone else’s legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheel chair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer that as the earth revolves
we will do less harm, less harm, less harm.

And as you work, typing with a new manicure,
a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail
or delivering soda or drawing good blood
into rubber-capped vials, writing on a blackboard
with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas, pray for peace.

With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.

Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds for peace, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.

Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child
around your VISA card. Gnaw your crust
of prayer, scoop your prayer water from the gutter.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling
your prayer through the streets.

Thoughts About MLK Jr’s Vietnam Speech 50 Years Later

Fifty years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Riverside Church in New York City. He spoke out against the war in Vietnam. Now, his contemporaries within the civil rights movement were hesitant about Dr. King speaking out against the war. They thought that by speaking out against the government, against the Johnson administration, Dr. King would hurt the civil rights movement.

I was unfamiliar with this speech until a few days ago. After reading it, I’m struck by how relevant this speech is for today’s audience. Replace the word “Vietnam” with ISIL or the vague “terrorist” and Dr. King could be talking about the here and now.

I fear that, under the Trump regime, people are so focused on the threat of terrorism that we ignore the real problems. Dr. King said “I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor.”

I haven’t written about OrangeAsshole lately. Every day I wake up to another nightmarish scenario and I don’t know how to write about it. OrangeAsshole’s proposed budget would cut funding for all the things that truly make America great and funding will be funneled into the military.

Right now OrangeAsshole has us duped into thinking that undocumented citizens are out to destroy us and that we need to build a wall and restrict immigration from certain countries. It’s classic bait and switch. Get people talking about that so they’ll ignore the Russian hacking controversy.

It’s sad to me, fifty years later, the antics remain.

International Women’s Day

Today is International Woman’s Day. I keep thinking about a Tupac song called “Keep Your Head Up”.

And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies that make the babies
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up?
I know you’re fed up, ladies, but keep your head up

Since we’re living in the OrangeAsshole regime and he seems to have little regard for the modern forward thinking woman, today was also a day that woman, if they were able to, went on strike.

I’m the only male in my connection group. I usually host it but it was at Diana’s house. I’m thankful that the women in my connection group decided to show up. We’ve been having great discussion as we grapple with forgiveness. This afternoon was a discussion about needing forgiveness. I know that I’ve hurt people and I’ve needed to ask for forgiveness. The odd thing is that the consensus was that it’s easier to grant forgiveness to another person rather than to ask for forgiveness. It plays into being vulnerable, lessons we learned about in our previous book, Rising Strong by Brêne Brown. 

What I’m loving most about The Book Of Forgiving is the choice between renewing relationships or releasing relationships. I’m at a point of my life where I’m more likely to release a relationship than I am to renew it. At forty I don’t feel like I have the time or want to make the effort to deal with other people’s drama.

Ironically, I wore red without knowing that supporters of woman’s rights was supposed to wear red. I’m at the end of my laundry cycle so my red sweater was the only thing I had clean. I’m wearing dirty pants because I split the pants I was wearing earlier taking a case of bottled water out of the back of Laura’s SUV. 

Of course if I had known I would have worn red regardless. I support women and I don’t understand those who don’t. I have a mom. I have a sister and a sister in law. I have nieces and great nieces. I had a grandmother. I have aunts. I have female cousins. I have female co-workers and classmates and friends. Some of the most important people in my life are women and I support them 100℅.

We Still Rise

All of this week I’ve had appointment television. I’ve been watching the epic ABC miniseries, When We Rise. For four days I’ve watched a brief history of the LGBT movement play out on the small screen. When We Rise was written by Academy Award winner, Dustin Lance Black and helmed by Dustin Lance Black as well as the legendary Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho among many others), up and coming Dee Rees (she directed Pariah) and the one and only Thomas Schlamme (he did The West Wing). Despite the established pedigree of those involved and the talented cast, the ratings haven’t been what I hoped. It’s something that I have questioned and I was reminded that people interact with their media differently than they once did. While When We Rise was appointment television for me like previous miniseries (Lonesome Dove, Gulliver’s Travels, V, The Tenth Kingdom, Alice In Wonderland), a lot of people were waiting to watch it all in one sitting, an ultimate binge watch.

This post isn’t about ratings though, it’s a public service announcement. When We Rise started with the 1971 Year In Pictures issue of Life magazine and ends with the 2013 Supreme Court decision on California’s Proposition 8 which legalized same sex marriage in California. With the title suggesting that the LGBT movement has risen and the passage of marriage equality via the Supreme Court in all 50 states, one might think that the fight is finished. 

I appreciated that When We Rise showed the intersectionality of the LGBT movement with the woman’s rights movement and civil rights movement and other various movements although I was disappointed that little was shown about the transgender struggle. In that vein, I wanted to make sure people knew that the fight continues, not only in my home state of Michigan but across the United States.

It was a glorious day when the decision on marriage equality came down. I celebrated in Detroit at the Spirit of Detroit statue and I later celebrated with my friends in Ferndale. But I didn’t forget the fact that I could have gotten married that night and fired the next morning because I was gay or even perceived as gay. 

There are only 19 states that have nondiscrimination laws that protect both sexual orientation and gender identity. The fight continues here in Michigan to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include both sexual orientation and gender identity. 

When the Red Cross announces that there’s a blood shortage, I can donate blood unless I’m celibate for a year. There are so many screening steps that doner blood goes through before it reaches a patient but I’m still stigmatized because of HIV/AIDS.

We all know about gender inequality when it comes to getting paid. That’s something that we need to still fight for but it’s a little known fact that, on average, gay men make less than straight men while lesbians make more than straight women. Don’t even get me started on how a person named Mark will be called for an interview but a person named Marquil will not. 

Non-white American citizens are being harassed and sometimes killed on an ever increasing basis. OrangeAsshole has given ignorant people carte blanche. Two Indian-Americans were attacked a Kansas bar because immigration discrimination is increasing.

My trans* brothers and sisters are being treated like second class pariahs.

Yes, we have come a long way but the fight isn’t over. It’s far from over.

Ash Wednesday

I grew up Baptist so I wasn’t aware of Ash Wednesday and the concept of Lent until I started working at 8045. The notion of a 40 day sacrifice to get closer to one’s spiritual self sat well with me. My parents didn’t understand why I was suddenly going to practice Lent but I gave up sweets that first year, adding Lent to the patchwork of religious ritual I’ve appropriated throughout my life in order to express my faith.

These days I no longer give up something for Lent. I live an ascetic life because of financial hardship so to give up the little I have would make my 40 days less of a spiritual examination and more of a spiteful attack against others. Now I seek a balance of external and internal examination. I strive to practice a generous Lent with the help of 40acts.org.uk while usually choosing a spiritual text to deep dive into.

This year I’ve had three spiritual books sent my way via the Divine Wow. I had already chosen May Cause Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein because it bills itself as a “40 Day guidebook of subtle shifts for radical change and unlimited happiness”. Then, as I was walking near the Ferndale location of John King Books I saw a copy of Oriah’s The Call and it called out to me. I’ve admitted that I’m going through a bit of an identity crisis. I’m hoping the book will help. Then, after a moving conversation with my friend, Crystal, on a lovely Sunday afternoon, she gave me a copy of Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. I knew, through Crystal, that he’s the patron saint of journalism. I’ve discovered that Pope Pius XI proclaimed him a patron of writers as well. Since I’ve gone back to keeping a journal and I’ve started to write again, I’m curious to read this book. 

I’m also going to be focused on my wellness. I need to start treating myself better than I do and the Lenten season is a great time to do that. I indulged in some pączki including a buttercream filled pączek from Apple Fritter that has become my favorite. But waking up yesterday to another swollen ankle and having to wait a few hours until I was able to walk without pain makes me realize I need to focus on overall wellness, mind, body and soul.

Forty days of contemplation about where I’ve been, where I’m at and where I need to be, the direction I need to head paired with an ongoing study on forgiveness and awareness of how blessed I am and how appreciative I am will make for an interesting Lenten journey.

OrangeAsshole

When President Trump was elected I told myself that I probably wouldn’t watch any of his presidential addresses. His unofficial State Of The Union was tonight and I decided to watch after all. My thinking is that I’d rather know what was coming and hear it from the source than be left in the dark and let my news be filtered through someone else.

The way that Donald Trump describes the United States makes us sound bleaker than we really are. He talks about the Detroit inner city and how it’s been failed without mentioning that Detroit is going through another renaissance period. Trump talks about how drugs are pouring into this country and it makes it sound like there are drug houses on every corner and that every other person is on drugs. I’m beginning to realize that Trump exaggerates everything. 

Trump loves to talk about immigration and how Radical Islamic terrorists are out to destroy us. He neglects to mention that a white guy shot two Indian-Americans in Kansas while highlighting those in the gallery that had been harmed by undocumented immigrants. Don’t get me started about how reckless his new VOICE (Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement) program is and how similar it is to what the Nazis did to the Jews.
The immediate reaction to Trump’s presidential address is that he has now become presidential because he honored Carryn Owens, the widow of a Navy SEAL killed in Yemen during a disastrous raid. William “Ryan” Owens was killed in action along with over 20 civilians. The sad thing is that the high level person we were after escaped so the intelligence that was captured is in doubt. President Trump tarnished the memory of Owens by using his death to further the Trump Regime’s militant aspirations. 

Others thought that Trump was presidential but I think he’s an asshole. I’ve given him a little over a month to get his act together. Since January 20th he’s introduced a budget that cuts money from the EPA, the arts and all the important things while funneling more money into the military. He’s taken away protection from trans* students. His stance on immigration is atrocious. Fuck, his stance on most things is atrocious. And that’s why I’ve made the decision to take away the respect I usually reserve for the sitting president. He might be the sitting president but I no longer recognize him as my president. Three more years under the OrangeAsshole. God help us all.

24 Hours In

It’s been a little over 24 hours since Donald Trump gave his inauguration address. The speech made me speechless and I had to take sometime to process it.

The speech scared me to be frank. During the campaign there were comparisons to Hitler that I thought uncalled for but now I’m not sure. The nationalism in the speech gave me chills. There was an Orwellian air to all of the talk to patriotism. I’ve already seen the antagonistic view he takes with the press. In Donald Trump’s patriotic country, is there room for dissent? Is there room for protest? 

As a spiritual person, the talk of God bothered me. There is a separation of church and state. Is Trump’s God the God for everyone or just the evangelical Christians? He spoke against “radical Islamic terrorists” but does he consider all of Islam to be radical terrorists? The God that Donald Trump thinks protects us isn’t my God because my God is of love and nothing of that speech was love.

Most inauguration speeches call for unity and try to bring both parties together. Donald Trump spoke about “American carnage”. He used righteous a lot which always bothers me. It’s one of those trigger words that signify you’re better than me because you feel your value system is better than mine. Most of the speech focused on fear based tactics and implicit bias.

I want to focus on passages from the speech and offer up my two cents worth of commentary.

First he talked about the movement that built around him and swept him into office. He said “At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens.” I find that fucking hilarious. President Trump feels that the nation exists to serve its citizens but one of the first things he did as president was sign an executive order that began the process of dismantling Obamacare. I guess having healthcare isn’t one of the ways a nation should serve its citizens. 

Then he goes on to list the wrongs of this country and he made a statement that reeks of racism. “And the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” When the Republican party talks about crime and gangs and drugs they are talking about the African-American community. There’s a distrust within communities of high minorities towards the police department but President Trump has now said that the drugs and the gangs and the crime will be stopped so that means more unchecked police officers patrolling in communities where people of color live. They’ll be more stop and frisk. They’ll be more racial profiling. The tension will build.

Donald Trump then talked about our military. He said we “subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own. And we’ve spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.”

Now, the only militaries that we’ve subsidized to my knowledge are Iraq and Afghanistan. The only reason we did that is because we illegally invaded Iraq to take out Saddam Hussein after September 11th and we attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan even though the Taliban is a nomadic group. Fuck, Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan. We still have one of the most well funded militaries.
I’ll give the president his due. I’d be the first to agree that the US has this odd habit of bombing places then helping rebuild them while our own infrastructure is crumbling. There are many issues here on the home front that needs to be dealt with before we deal with them in other countries. But I harshly disagree with the idea that the “wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated.”
The “America First” rhetoric worries me. It’s the same argument used in the 1940’s to keep us out of World War II even though there was strong evidence that the Holocaust was occurring. We’ve become a globalized world and President Trump scares me with his talk. I read that that the economic fallout of pulling out of NAFTA could throw us into another recession. 
He said that “we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example” but I’m afraid that’ll turn out false. The United States has a long history of meddling in the affairs of other nations. He said that “we will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.” I can’t be the only one frightened that Donald Trump has the nuclear codes when I hear “ERADICATE COMPLETELY FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH.” That’s some scary talk.
Above all, Donald Trump scares me when he talks about allegiance. “At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.”
Allegiance is a tricky word. We’ve had instances in the past where citizens were rounded up and put into internment camps because their allegiance was questioned. We’ve had citizens rounded up and forced to testify in front of a House UnAmerican Activities Committee. If we’re persuing “solidarity” is there room for a difference of opinion. Donald Trump scares the hell out of me.
Yesterday I pondered what it was like to be an American. I tried to emphasize that being American meant that we got to challenge the president and keep an eye on him. Now I’m afraid that being American under the Trump administration means that we have to kowtow to Trump’s every whim and tell him falsehoods to stroke his ego. He’s already upset with the press because they reported the truth that the inauguration crowds were smaller than President Obama’s crowds. Will he consider it UnAmerican to support immigration? Will he consider it UnAmerican to disapprove of building a border wall? Will he consider it UnAmerican if someone disagrees with him? 
President Trump vows that “our country will thrive and prosper again” but I feel our country already thrives and prospers. He said that “we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms” but that’s a falsehood. There are “religious freedom” laws that are discriminatory towards me because of my sexuality. There are laws that broach on women’s health issues. There are laws that make it easier for the wealthy among us and make it difficult for the poor among us. 

“Together we will make America strong again, we will make America wealthy again, we will make America proud again, we will make America safe again. And, yes, together we will make America great again.”

America is already all of these things. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat myself. We’re in for a long 4 years. If you were content with the status quo then you probably look forward to President Trump and the Republican held Congress repealing Obamacare and limiting the rights of same sex married couples. You’re probably happy that Planned Parenthood is losing its funding. You’re probably happy that Freedom House here in Detroit, a place dedicated to helping refugees, has lost its funding. You probably think this is the start to a glorious age but not all of us feel that way. The women gathering on every continent in protest feel that this is the beginning of a dark time. I feel that this is the beginning of a dark time. All I can hope is that we see the light, that love and common sense win and that everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Until then I hold onto my faith in humankind, my belief that we’re all part of a human family and put my faith and belief into action.