Archive for January 2011

Israel, Palestinians, Dr. Abuelaish, War, Labels   Leave a comment

No More Labels

Some of us are slow to anger. I am one of those. I remember the first time I felt the unfamiliar sensation of my teeth clamped tight together. It occurred around age ten and was caused by an evil culprit, my younger brother. His intensity matched his fiery red hair. His adeptness at knowing exactly what buttons to push to cause an instant flush of anger was phenomenal and at such an early age. I am happy to say he is a warm generous human adult now, and I am still slow to anger.

Something this past week did cause my anger to rise along with frustration, shame, sadness, all things that cause one to “feel.” I watched an interview with  Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. He spoke about the book he has written, I SHALL NOT HATE: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey.  Two years ago, this Palestinian doctor who lives in Gaza was preparing for an interview on Israeli TV. He is an Israeli-trained doctor who works in Israel, and has saved the lives of his Israeli patients. Two years ago this January, the doctor was preparing for that interview, which was to give him the opportunity to speak about the horror happening near his home in Gaza caused by Israel’s 2009 invasion. While preparing for his interview, two tank shells, exploded into his home killing three of his six daughters and a niece. Bessan, Aya, Mayar, and his niece Noor were all killed.  He found one decapitated. He could not evacuate other wounded family members because of the gunfire outside. One daughter’s eye was on her cheek. Dr. Abuelaish phoned the TV station where his interview was to take place hoping to find help. You can imagine the unbelievable anguish and despair in his voice on that phone call. The doctor’s wife had died four months earlier of leukemia and now three daughters and his niece.

When asked about that day in January, he chooses to tell you about his daughters. He will tell you Mayar always helped with dinner. That Aya hated doing the dishes. Bessan once attended a peace camp in New Mexico. There she met a number of teenage Israeli and Palestinian girls like herself. “I remember her coming back and saying, ‘Those girls are just like me,'” he says. The call Dr. Abuelaish made that day to the TV station has been broadcast live with the hope of opening the eyes of the Israeli public, so they will hear the pain of a father, and not ignore the fact that children are dying? Bright capable loving children are dead. Will it open their eyes? Or will they continue to hate? And continue to label the Palestinians as the “other” and continue killing children. The Palestinians forced to live in camps in Gaza do not have enough food and medical supplies and Israel will not allow humanitarian groups to help. America backs Israel.

A rant on anger will not bring four young girls back into their father’s arms, back to the classroom where one was the best mathematician, or back into the world with plans of being a journalist, back to the home where the oldest helped her father with the younger children since her mother’s death. There is much to be angry about in 2011 – anger at war, at rhetoric, at violence, anger at food prices rising while bailed out banks doubled their profits, at corporations having the same rights as individuals, anger at talk of Social Security cuts while the wealthy do not pay their share, anger at my own self-absorption while women and girls throughout the world are raped. I am angry that bullets and shells fall on innocent children throughout the world. The Israeli Defense Force has conceded firing those shells, but government authorities have declined to apologize, calling the incident an “operation of war.” To hell with war.  If a man who loses three daughters and a niece to excuses of war has the forgiveness and courage to proclaim a voice for peace, where are the rest of us?

If we do not stop hiding behind our military industrial complex and reach out to meet our neighbors in peace, we will all be dead either physically or in spirit, and we will live in a country where military occupation supersedes the quality of our citizens’ lives. What good is having more military weapons than all other countries combined if 50 million people have no health care, while our media uses ridiculous distractions like pretending that a birth certificate does not exist. I’m angry that children in Iraq have war as their background, their foreground, their life, and we expect them to avoid violence and terrorism as adults when we have killed their families and called ourselves liberators.

Anger only helps if one refocuses it towards solutions and stops labeling those with different views as “the other.”  When we take a marker and label something, we capture it, put it on a shelf with others marked the same. It instantly limits possibilities. What if Americans refused labels and instead discussed ideas and solutions?

You cannot label an American. I live in the city, I live in the country, I am a black Catholic, a white Muslim, I converted to Judaism,  I am an atheist. I hunt for deer and pheasant, I am a vegetarian, I am a liberal against abortion, and I am conservative who wants the mosque built in New York. I believe in single payer health care and that does not mean I am a socialist. I am a Republican who cares about the poor. I am a citizen of the United States of American. I have opinions, which you will never learn or understand unless you talk with me about them. If I tell you that I am a liberal or a conservative, you will make a judgment that just might not fit who I am.

Care to join me in a refusal to be anyone’s fighting rooster or pit bull? I have not been starved, or teased, maybe taunted a bit, but no more will I succumb to the label of either liberal or conservative, democrat or republican. But I will say that I am for children.


Posted January 24, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays, Uncategorized

Wizard of Oz, Bluebirds, Mom   2 comments

Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops

Most Christmas movies tell a story with a merry ending and a good dose of melancholy before the end to increase the satisfaction of “happily ever after.” The film “It’s A Wonderful Life” taught us that every time we hear a bell it means that an angel just got his/her wings. Most people long for and work to create the Christmas magic that can and does happen this time of year. For some it’s midnight mass in a community of believers singing Silent Night. For others it’s watching a loved one open the gift that took much thoughtful planning to bring to fruition.  People string lights on cold days, give puppies as gifts, bake special treats, or visit relatives they have not seen for too long. There will be a new story to tell and repeats of old ones too good to keep from telling again, new babies to greet, empty chairs and sad hearts for those no longer with us.

My large extended family celebrated Christmas a week early when the largest number could gather. There were 12 children under five years of age and seven more a few years older. Thank goodness for my sister’s large house.  No better Christmas present than seeing every one of those children happy and healthy with shiny hair and eyes. My three-year-old niece, Addison, told me about her new favorite movie, the Wizard of Oz and all the best scary parts. As a child my mother read all the books by Frank L. Baum the creator of the Oz stories, and I watched the movie with her many times when I was a little girl.  A few months before my mother died in March 2008, she promised to send me a sign of life after death if she could. We agreed that she would send a bluebird. The day after her funeral I went to a local store to make copies of photos of mom to give to my brothers and sister. While waiting for the photos to be copied, and feeling very sad and wishing I had not tried this so soon after her funeral, I heard a song playing overhead on the store’s sound system. The words I heard were “Somewhere, over the rainbow, bluebirds fly.” I smiled. I never hear this song played unless it’s when the movie is playing. Then a few days later, I put a disk in my CD player.  I had not listened to the entire new CD. It was a collection of duets by Ray Charles and other artists. I popped the disk in and Ray Charles sang, “Somewhere, over the rainbow, bluebirds fly.” I had not realized that song was on this disk. Wow! Bluebirds again from mom’s favorite movie. I returned to work a week later, and checked my email. A friend sent me photos of mama animals and their babies and the background music was “Somewhere, over the rainbow, bluebirds fly.” Unbelievable! I told the story of bluebirds to my brother who called me a few days later to say that he heard the song on the radio at his workplace. A few days after this, his girlfriend called him on the way to his house and said turn on your radio. Yes, the song was playing again!

Listening to my tiny dark-haired niece with shiny brown eyes tell me the story of her deceased grandmother’s favorite movie was more than special, and one of my best presents for 2010.  Happy New Year! May all your dreams come true and troubles melt like lemon drops.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can’t I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I?

Posted January 18, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays

Marcel Duchamp   Leave a comment

Art hurts. Art urges voyages – and it is easier to stay at home.
Gwendolyn Brooks

Visual artist Marcel Duchamp said, “The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative art.”  Emily Dickinson said, “ If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me. I know that is poetry.” Ever feel like your senses need a good shock to wake them like the dare you accepted to make a naked snow angel in below freezing weather? Maybe it is a severe case of spring fever that makes one cry out for a change of venue for the emotions, the senses, and the mind.

What else makes the created haunted house fun at Halloween but the unexpected and allowing one’s self  to be frightened even when he/she knows it is safe. Tidy happy endings make for feel-good movies, but the unexpected in films, the ones that touch deeply and make our senses sit up and take notice are most likely the less tidy ones with loose ends never quite wrapped up. These films remain in the mind long afterward like a great novel. Art takes us from our comfort zone and pushes buttons that excite or cause unease but what a ride if we allow ourselves to be taken.

Marcel Duchamp lived in Paris in the early 1900s and it was the most amazing locale in the world for artists at that time. Roger Shattuck writes about Paris in his book “The Banquet Years.” He says that old ways of expression were challenged and exciting changes in art occurred daily in a raucous carnival atmosphere. In an attempt to fuse art and life as a means of forging a new personality nothing could be normal any longer in the old sense. Artists of this time period set out to extend the artistic creative self until it displaced all guises of habit, social behavior, virtue and vice. Artists and writers came to Paris in droves to experience this creative energy and life. Male waiters went on strike for the right to grow beards, feminists demonstrated, painters, writers and musicians lived together and tried their hands at each other’s works in an atmosphere of collaboration. Artists banded together in what came to be known as the avant-garde, the unorthodox and experimental in art and living. They created a tradition of people who defied civilized values in the name of individualized consciousness.

Duchamp came of age at this time. He had grown-up in a household of artists and is said to have had a precocious talent for drawing, so it is understandable that he quickly bored with continuing the same old art that had been done, and he did not have a desire to paint in the same way as his older brothers. Duchamp has been compared to Leonardo da Vinci in that both men were dedicated to the concept of art as idea, art as a mental act. Duchamp rebelled against the “craft” of painting. He thought that just copying what one sees was stupid, especially with the advent of photography. Many believe him to be the most influential artist of the twentieth century, because his belief that art is about ideas reached through decades and we see his influence on conceptual artists of the past 40 years.

It seems ironic that the Cubists, artists who pushed the boundaries of art themselves, were critical of Marcel Duchamp’s work, most notable his piece “Nude Descending a Staircase” which caused much discussion and disgust at the New York Armory Show in 1913. There is no discernible nude in the painting, but the early Cubists held the objects in their work to a limited subject matter and nudes, recognizable or not, were not one of these. They used everyday objects such as a guitar, carafe, a table, but nudes were not considered proper subjects. The Cubists considered the Duchamp piece the work of a Futurist because it portrayed movement, which suggested time passing. But perhaps the Cubists were feeling and just what this column is proposing that Duchamp’s piece stirred their senses, and did just what art should do –shake you up, make you wonder, feel, and think. For Duchamp good taste is no less harmful than bad, and we all know that what was tasteful yesterday may not be considered tasteful today.

Marcel Duchamp rebelled against all previous theories of accepted art, which dictated subject matter, perspective, and materials. He rebelled against retinal art; art that is attractive to the eye rather than to the mind. Being a participant in an artist’s work gives one the opportunity to engage one’s mind, to be transformed, to wonder, to imagine and to allow the complicated, or not, action of the unconscious mind to complete the work. Each of us as viewer, reader, and listener is needed to complete an artist’s work. Our response to a work of art creates an individual, subjective and wondrous action and gives the creation the gift of posterity.

Posted January 17, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Art, Essays

Right As Rain   Leave a comment

bundles of thread
what Germans call

           of rain

would you save your bundle of thread
for a rainy day?  decline a rain check?
and pour  that bundle
over yourself until


makes the mineral spring in you
run wild
until the rain of cats and dogs
laps at your ankles
Billie Holiday sings,
“Don’t threaten me with love, baby. Let’s just go walking in the rain.”

                               Mary Strong Jackson
                               January 2011

Eureka   Leave a comment

I finally figured out how to format poems on this blog instead of the paragraph format and spacing the space wanted me to use. Keep trying to no avail, then ask questions and get answers immediately from  Yes, my poems will look more like my poems again.

Posted January 10, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Astonishments   Leave a comment

Our astonishments are unique to each of us.  What amazes you, what fascinates, what astonishes? Making note of what these things are just might spark some joy, brain excitement, and compassion. Author Annie Dillard said, “You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.”

What is it that astonishes you? Is it that a female emperor penguin has to catch the egg that she produces with her wings before it touches the ice and then place it on her feet to keep it from contact with the frozen ground? When she successfully does this both the mother and father penguin sing in unison while staring at the egg. Eventually, the male penguin will transfer the egg to the top of his feet where he will carefully walk around for months this way and does not eat during this time period. Astonishing! It might be as simple as seeing the roses growing in your yard or as complicated as studying the course of economics for the past 50 years and what decisions and events have led countries and peoples to where they are today.

Remember the first time you saw a cicada shell, or what we often refer to as a locust, attached to a tree. The distinct form of it with bulging eyes made it seem like an ancient creature made with papyrus paper, and maybe you found more and kept them in a cigar box. Then you saw a live cicada and pondered how that bigger body had gotten out of that stiff formed skin without breaking it, so you asked questions and found your answers, but kept your astonishment just the same. Maybe it is the first time you added shadowing to a drawing and watched the shape of lips form on paper.  Sharks and bears astonish with the power of their bodies. People never fail to astonish in good ways and bad. My nephew ran a 50 mile marathon, another young man had to cut a portion of his trapped arm off to survive a fall in a canyon. People jump into raging fires and lakes to save strangers. Discovering new ideas and new phenomenon makes the brain take notice. I remember my astonishment at age 10 as I waited for my best friend to finish her piano lesson; I looked through the piano teacher’s copy of Life Magazine. It had an article about two girls, Siamese twins, about my age. Astonished is an understatement as I studied the photographs of this unimaginable way of being and living. The bodies we are given to reside in and our attachment to them, be it love or hate, is an astonishing aspect of who we are and how that shapes our lives. Learning a few years later after watching the Christine Jorgenson story that some people feel that they were born in the wrong body and that they should be the opposite sex astonished me and made me want to understand the difficulties of a person who feels trapped this way.

When speaking to a man from Africa, we talked about how easy it is to spot Americans in England. He pointed to people walking and said that they were from Africa. I asked him how he knew and he told me that Africans walk slower than Europeans or Americans. It is hot where he is from and so they walk slowly due to the heat. People used to spending part of their year in cold weather hurry from place to place, add to this the busyness of life and we speed along even more.  Walking slower might cause one to notice more, think more, which might shape a person’s personality based on the landscape. This is an intriguing concept. How have the plains shaped your personality?

Our astonishments may cause us to choose professions based on what we loved as children.  Thinking about our play as children may help us reconnect with those astonishments and guide us to what occupations would excite and delight. Think about what you liked to do as a child. Watch children and it’s easy to pick out the organizer, the comedian, the boss, the artist etc.  The joy of showing a toddler new things is seeing their wonder at a butterfly, fireworks, salamanders, and then onto Legos, dinosaurs, skateboard skills. The child that is encouraged at building forts in the backyard becomes the architect satisfied in his job. Unfortunately, it does not always work that way. But here’s a good test that works for children and adults.  Notice a child or think of the time for yourself as an adult when you are doing something you enjoy and become so focused and absorbed in the activity that you lose track of time and your surroundings disappear. This happens when you are completely engaged in what you are doing. This could be decorating a room, cooking, writing, playing with a child, reading, listening to music, working on a car, sewing, painting a house, pulling weeds. Whatever it is that causes the rest of the world to dissolve around you.  Imagine parents and teachers discovering what that activity is for every child and building on their love of that activity, encouraging types of work that evolve from what they naturally love to do. Then there would truly be no child left behind.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

John Lennon

Posted January 9, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Scared of 2011   2 comments

caught in memories
no matter this staying in the moment work
the shadows of that life before fall solid
 the flesh and blood children
        one melted cheese in a bowl to eat in the bathtub
         one kicked the trunk leaving a mark    angry at small town living
       one wrote his 10th grade autobiography as fiction 

caught in the slope of the future
it’s all a search for love   what else?

while the muscle of security slips
down the belly of aging skin
foreshadows and memories weave
but never explain

       you are enough    you are not enough
   is you being plucked
like a daisy
by a hand you don't recognize

Mary Strong Jackson

January 2011

Posted January 8, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Poetry of Mary Strong Jackson

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