Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

Santa Fe Post #5, Moving to NM   2 comments

Going away to a war and returning to life in the average town or city on Oak or Elm or Washington Street must be the oddest and most difficult re-adjustment to the old “normalcy.” The times in our lives when we leave one known life for another, changes us. Experience alters our perspective, or should, if we allow.  Just moving out of the country is like seeing the photos of earth the first time, seeing your home from a distance and its vulnerability floating out in space. Its precious greens and blues and all the plant and animal life it supports. Seeing it this way encourages a need to care for it. It also opens a path for questions about the way you have always accepted your old world, your life, your family, your home, and street and neighbors. You see other ways of doing and living and how those others’ view you as an American, as a person, as citizen of this earth. To be confronted with another perspective, not only from other people but your own new view and understanding, excites. It is beyond the old cliché of eye-opening, but creates a place of wonder when something is discovered, learned. A place in this country we call life, in your own life where the landscape cannot return to what it once was but in this case, that is good.

I have lived in another country. England was not seriously different from America, but I learned to see America from not only  English viewpoints but from other foreigners living in England. There are a few other places where I have spent only five days to a week,  but knew I was exiting an experience and returning to my regular life with my personal landscape altered while those around me continued unaware of my change. Responsibility for reshaping our landscapes is all our own. Time does some of it for us. Time, that funny thing we judge by clocks and calendars but it cannot really be gauged that way. When I consider that my married life was 27 years long, I cannot wrap that seemingly long time around my head or my life today. Or how small children disappear into adults, but I know how many mornings we rose together and curled up on the bed, how many meals we ate, how many shoes we fitted and tied onto their feet.

When I heard that some butterflies live only three days, I remembered an injured butterfly that was in a 3rd grade class where I was working with the students. It was just before my mother was scheduled for surgery to remove a mass from her lung. I tried to help the butterfly lift the wing that wouldn’t rise as it should. This brightly colored little yellow and black creature seemed too connected to my gentle-as-a-butterfly mother and I felt such sadness, for myself most likely, because I could not bear the thought of my mother dying. When I heard a reference to the three day life of a butterfly, I researched them and found that depending on the type of butterfly they live a week to nine months. I wondered should I feel less sad if the butterfly with the hurt wing died only a day or two before she would have anyway, or greater sadness because her short life was cut shorter still and those two days were 1/3 of a life.  Questioning the degree of mourning over a butterfly’s demise may seem an inconsequential waste of time, but it’s not.

Twice I have spent a week in the Colorado Mountains with 1000 people gathered for a Buddhist retreat of silence, friendship, meditation, listening and learning. Driving down from the mountains after the retreat ended, the roadside fruit stands standing cheerful and expectant.  Their signs enticed us to stop for cider and jams.  Just being in a car with its shape, smell, and sounds felt odd. Other cars sped around us.  All before had moved slowly. We were coming back as if through a tunnel from quiet to noise, from natural colors to gray cement and stainless steel. The radio informed us. We shut it off and talked about the retreat. It helped with the debriefing, the re-entry to noise and expectations after a week of nowhere to go and nothing to do, but also a week where the mind considers much, works through some things, experiences intense, not always comfortable feelings, and allows questions to rise with no answers.

The next summer, I spent a week on the Yampa River. My call to this trip was as one of several artists invited to experience and then create from what emerged after being on this last free-flowing river in Colorado. We rafted the river in early May. The cold pushed past my neoprene socks and shoes, cracked the skin on my fingertips, and taught me quickly how many layers I needed to stay warm at night. The most impressive landscape I’ve ever seen surrounded me for days. The canyon walls rose bigger and bigger, from light to dark imposing colors, shapes, and markings. We worked hard loading and unloading our gear each night, and setting up camp. Then I just rode on the raft while my captain rowed and watched the river to guide us safely past rocks and through rapids. I trusted a stranger. We give ourselves to doctors we don’t know, to the driver at the intersection whom we trust will stop at the red light, but we don’t trust a man on the street asking for a dollar. Their motives are much the same. Money, safety, both?  I left the river with the same odd sense of re-entry into my “normal” life but with grateful memories and work created by those amazing days.

One fall a few years ago, I spent four or five days in New Jersey at the Dodge Poetry Festival in the historic Waterloo Village, a huge park with great old trees. Thousands of people wandered between tents where poets read or panels of poets discussed poetry and their work and lives. The listening was intense, and shared by so many at the same time in a different way of being with others. Billy Collins spoke in the largest tent with hundreds of people listening. The unusual quiet with words spoken in images, and this continued throughout the four days that my partner and I were there. We left “feeling” just “feeling.” And again it was with a sense of re-entry, a leaving of one space where strangers linked in an unusual, experiential way.

This month I move from Nebraska to Santa Fe open to ways of seeing, sensing, feeling.

Posted May 11, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays

Santa Fe post #2- Moving to NM, Pablo Neruda and Mandalas   2 comments

“Life transcends all structures, and there are new rules of conduct for the soul. The seed sprouts anywhere, all ideas are exotic, we wait for enormous changes every day, we live through the mutation of human order avidly; spring is rebellious.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                Pablo Neruda

Just a few minutes before I read the words above, I typed an email to a friend and said that I can’t let a structure (my house) determine how to proceed with my life. Well, of course, I can’t and I won’t. Security is an illusion.

My house is a mandala. I’ve created a mandala in the sand and it’s time to let it go. My thoughts are chaotic as I type this post. Does everyone feel so yin and yang, so up and down, black and white, gray and tan, turquoise and brown? I’m a late bloomer. I matured early. I had the height and body that a fourteen-year-old girl should not be allowed; I bought my first very own house when I was 44 years old. I understood the ways of the world at eight years old, but didn’t have my own private checking account until I left my husband of 27 years. I earned my BSW and MA after that, but often felt like a fraud in the workplace like maybe I would be better suited for mowing the lawn or moving furniture. I supervised people but never wanted to be the boss of anyone. I hate meetings. I like people watching. I’m shy but must express myself with words.

The first day I walked into my house with the realtor, it was jam-packed with the belongings of a single mom and her three children.  Stuff and toys everywhere. Fake flowers stretched from the overhead fan in one bedroom to each corner of the room. But I could see underneath the clutter, it was my house. My first place to live all by myself that would be mine, and it was perfect for me. It had a staircase!  Imagine a floor on top of a ceiling. Since I was a little girl, I wanted wooden stairs, convinced that upstairs led to magical places.  I grew up in rental houses and trailers. We moved so often that my sister and I burst into laughter when we picked up a mattress to carry to a pickup truck. Our floppy mattress was difficult to carry and it made us laugh when we tried to maneuver it here and there, up basement steps, around corners. It became a giggle trigger. If we just put our hands on it for another move, we cracked, and had to stop every few steps to get a grip – on the mattress and ourselves.

The realtor showed me the little house. It had an upstairs for a futon, a library, a computer and with the two bedrooms downstairs, I would have room for my three children and their significant others when they came to visit. Those babies of mine! It’s as if they emerged from my body as extensions of myself. Complete little individuals, but with a visceral connection that I had not experienced before. I licked their slobberiest ice cream cones and gave it back to them, wiped their noses with my hand if needed, and loved their open-mouthed baby kisses all over my face.  Even though they were grown, I still had to have place for them. Ideally, that’s what I still want but know that we can figure that out wherever I land. Finally, I am accepting that they are not extensions of me, but whole adults. Maybe my mother had to die before I could believe this to be true.

This house had a dog door to the back yard for the puppy soon to live with me. Perfect! And now after eight years of hauling wheelbarrows of dirt enough to fill several dump trucks, and pulling the same amount of weeds, and painting every room in the house, and laying a wood floor and carrying flagstone until I ached, putting in a wood stove, hanging my mother’s paintings, and my son’s and his wife’s and placing my partner’s art in just the right places, and knowing the comfort of all that, and knowing that if I keep this house, I will have a place of my own and it will be paid for when I am old. I doubt that owning a home will happen if I sell this one but realize that just as my children are separate entities from me, the security of place is an inside job, not a structure no matter how cozy or secure. It is time to reach out my hand and muss the mandala and let the next life enter this structure to abide in it or love it.

Posted April 23, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays, Have a Chair, Uncategorized

Disaster Capitalism   Leave a comment

 

In 2007 Author Naomi Klein’s third book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism became an international best seller and was translated in 20 languages. Today she seems as much seer, sage, authentic psychic as author. Her predictions are coming true.

Klein was the average teenager in the mid to late 80s hanging out in malls and searching for clothes with designer logos, which meant the clothes were expensive and the buyer suckered in as a free walking/wearing advertisement for corporate giants who pay workers little for their labor, such as the children in Thailand stuffing, cutting, dressing and assembling Barbie dolls. Dolls that these child laborers never get to play with while they toil in high heat with hardly a break. But before Naomi Klein learned of the sweatshops and child labor creating the clothing she purchased, life changed.  Her mother had a stroke, which caused Klein to quit hanging out at the mall being “such a brat” and join her physician father and brother in caring for her mother in their home. Klein waited to attend college so she could be home that year and care for her mother.

Klein wrote the The Shock Doctrine after doing four years of historical research and on-the-ground reporting in disaster zones. Her theory is that after disasters such as Katrina’s devastation in New Orleans, war, or terrorist attacks when the public is stunned by the occurrence, that is when unpopular economic changes, or what Klein calls shock therapy, is pushed through by those in power.

She believes this backdoor entry to making changes that work against the public but for corporations can be traced back to the Milton Friedman teachings at the University of Chicago School of Economics. His influence is still felt around the world.

Klein gives the example such as when victims of Katrina were moved to various places around the country after the disaster, their public housing, some of which was still livable, their schools and hospitals were not reopened. Milton Friedman, age 93 at the time of the hurricane wrote an op ed piece for the New York Times. His idea – instead of using some of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money to improve New Orleans existing public school system – the government should provide families with vouchers, which they could spend at private institutions, many run for-profit, that would be subsidized by the state. Bush backed this idea with tens of millions of dollars to convert New Orleans schools to charter schools, publicly funded but run by private entities that make their own rules. This idea obliterates any civil rights gains that guarantee children the same standard of education. Klein reports that considering the snail’s pace to rebuild New Orleans’ levees and get the electricity grid back in place, the auctioning off of the city’s school system happened with military speed and precision. New Orleans’ teachers who were once represented by a strong union had a shredded union contract and all it’s forty-seven hundred members were fired. Some of the younger teachers were rehired at reduced salaries. Housing that was undamaged or slightly damaged and which people could have returned to was torn down and the land snapped up by corporations to build hotels and resorts. Klein saw this in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami. The Sri Lankan government declared that out of the tragedy would come a world-class tourism destination. It all sounded so positive, but the reality was that the entire beautiful coastline was handed over to entrepreneurs and foreign investors and blocked hundreds of thousands of fishing people from rebuilding their villages near the water, and so destroyed the livelihood and self-sustaining way of life that they knew.

Klein’s book is full of examples of mega disaster, real or media-enhanced, being used for superprofits by corporations and the United States Government working hand in hand to the detriment of the poor and middle class. The three trademarks of disaster capitalism are privatization (ask any therapist in town how privatizing Health and Human Services foster care system is harming children in Scottsbluff, NE), government deregulation (fraudulent Wall Street Bankers receive huge bonuses following losses by homeowners), and deep cuts in social spending (do you have a family member using Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Headstart, Special Ed?).

The United States Government tested these Friedman theories for the last 40 years in South American countries. Klein writes that Friedman first learned to exploit a large-scale shock or crises in the mid-seventies when he was advisor to dictator General Augusto Pinochet. The Chilean people were in a state of shock after Pinochet’s violent coup (supported by the U.S. and CIA). The country was also experiencing hyperinflation created by billions in World Bank loans, which usually included a structural adjustment policy (SAP). These SAPs have to do with privatization of resources. Friedman advised the evil dictator to impose a rapid-fire transformation of the economy – tax cuts, free trade, privatized services, cuts to social spending and deregulation. Public schools were replaced with voucher-funded private ones. This extreme capitalist makeover was known as “Chicago School” revolution since so many of Pinochet’s economists studied under Friedman who coined the term “shock treatment” for this tactic, because the swift economic shifts cause psychological reactions that facilitate the adjustment. Pinochet used torture cells. Thirty years later this formula emerged with greater violence in Iraq. September 11th provided just the megadisaster that provided the Bush presidency, which was packed with Friedman cronies, to turn the people’s fear of Weapons of Mass Destruction and create “The War on Terror.” Bush immediately outsourced to corporations like Blackwater and Halliburton (Cheney) to create an almost entirely for-profit venture of war. Just what Eisenhower warned against in creating a military-industrial complex where a global war is fought on every level by private companies whose involvement is paid for with public money.

What Governor Walker of Wisconsin is doing is another example of how the shock doctrine works. Governor Walker campaigned on popular items like tax cuts but never mentioned taking away collective bargaining. Then once in office, he exaggerates the budget issue, and manufactures a crisis insisting that a bill be passed immediately taking away worker’s rights, but Walker had already cut taxes for the rich even more.  Naomi Klein is excited about the people’s fight in Wisconsin. She states, “What this fight is really about is not unions vs. taxpayers, as we’ve been told. It’s a fight about who is going to pay for the crisis created by the wealthiest elite in this country.”  “Is it going to be regular working people? Or is it going to be the people who created this crisis? That’s the debate we need to have.”

Posted March 19, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays

Bullies   3 comments

Being Mean Stinks

Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
                                  Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

 

We welcomed any new kid to our small class at the Catholic school and that September we had a new girl in sixth grade. I do not remember when we lost every positive thing the nuns taught us about loving your neighbor or do unto others… or when our mob mentality developed. The new girl, Jane, only attended our school for one year, maybe not even a full year. I hope she escaped in less than nine months. Her nickname, Pig, was used by the boys to her face. I don’t remember the girls calling her that when she was in earshot but the name was used if she was talked about among us. One day on our way out for recess, one of the boys who was already outside with football in hand, threw the ball with all his might at Jane, his target. It hit her hard in the side.

Over the years, I’ve thought about her and wished I knew where she was so I could send her a letter telling her that I am sorry for our behavior the year she spent with us. I moved from the town where we attended school and someone told me she had moved, also. Mostly though I forgot about her, unless I heard a bullying story or watched a movie like Flatliners. In the film, medical students created near-death experiences and saw their lives replayed. I did not need to nearly die to be reminded of something that I should have confessed in my weekly required confessions to the priest before Friday mass every week of my life until eighth grade. I just had to make a trip to the local Safeway Store last week.

I went hoping to the find the vegetable chips that I’d tried at a friend’s house.  Grapes, coffee, maybe some dog treats and almonds crossed my mind as my cart rolled down the aisles. I wondered about the cost of a cord of wood and who might have some, thought about how I hated the skin on cooked pudding that mom used to make. As my mind wandered around these thoughts and after I successfully rolled my cart past the ice cream only half-checking on the sale of Ben & Jerry’s flavors, I saw her.  How I recognized her is beyond me. People change a bit from age 12 to 54, and there had been no contact during those years since sixth grade. Maybe it was my sorry gut telling me it was my classmate from 42 years before. Some things our bodies just do not forget like riding a bike, knowing how to swim or the way I still respond on the street or in a store when I hear a child call, “mom.”  That day I discovered another thing easy to remember – the face of a schoolmate – a schoolmate who must have begged her mother not to send her to school each morning. I turned my cart around and caught up with her.

“Did you go to the Catholic school in Chadron for a short time?”

“Yes.”

“Are you Jane (not her real name)?”

“Yes.”

“I was in your class. Mary Jackson. Do you remember me?”

“No.”

“It seems that you were not treated very well when you were there.”

She hesitated for a few seconds.  It seemed Jane was deciding whether she wanted to admit and return to that place even here in the safety of the Safeway store but with a stranger privy to her past pain.  “No, I wasn’t treated well.”

“I just wanted to say that if I did anything to you, I’m sorry.”

“You must not have, because I don’t even remember you.”

“Well, that’s good, but I know some kids were pretty bad.”

“Yes, they were.  Steve Roberts (not his real name) was the worst. If I saw him today, I’d punch in him in the face. He was horrible. Him and his buddy.”

I did not tell her that Steve is my cousin and he has become a nice man who cared for his dying mother with such tenderness it amazed me.

“I’m sure if they were here, they would all say they are sorry for how they acted.  I’ll say I’m sorry for all of them.”

“Thanks.” Her eyes became a little teary. But she shook off the emotion and

said, “They probably have kids now who tease other kids.”

“Maybe. Good to see you.”

“Thank-you” she smiled. We turned our carts in opposite directions.

That I ran into this woman and that I recognized her astounds me. What a gift that chance encounter was to have the opportunity to apologize. Even if she did not remember me, I was complicit in her miserable year.

How many kinds of encounters have occurred in grocery or hardware stores while someone searches for peaches or weather stripping? How many of those reaching for a container of milk are fighting cancer, or trying to stretch the grocery money, or worrying about a sick child, or the bullies at school who are making their child’s stomach hurt every morning and damaging their self-esteem.  We all need reminding that we must speak up for the underdog. One brave voice might halt the suffering of another.  As Christopher Robin told Winnie the Pooh, “You’re braver than you think.”

Posted February 5, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays, Uncategorized

teachers, Honduras, Erling Duus, Loren Eiselely, Nebraska, Writing   Leave a comment

Erling and Loren

“Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war.”

Loren Eiseley

The teacher’s name was Erling Duus. He informed his students on that first day of class in Environmental Ethics that there would be no exams, and the only assignment, other than the weekly readings, was to write one paper about anything the class had discussed that semester.  Those were the only instructions, which immediately freaked people out because they want details. How long should the paper be? “Any length” the teacher responded.  Student questions continued and his response was basically that how and what we did for the assignment was entirely up to us. Students concerned with grades need specifics to ease their minds and feel more assured about reaching a top grade. A few others hoped the questions would stop before the teacher started giving more guidelines. We had free reign to do what we wanted, to be creative, to escape from the limits of parameters and they were going to blow it with their questions.

Many students did not enjoy his laid back style of teaching. The demands of the class were entirely up to the students. No tests and only one assignment made for an easy class but if the student read the fascinating authors of our assigned and suggested readings, what an opportunity Mr. Duus had given us!

One handout we received was a passage from a Nebraska author, Loren Eiseley (1907-1977). How does a writer put marks on a page that reach through time and grab a reader?  Writing that is universal and touches readers from one generation to another and another, but individual enough to feel that just you and the writer alone have experienced the same.  After reading the passage by Loren Eiseley, I remember a sense of frustration and anxiety. I asked my teacher, “Mr. Duus, what if I had not taken this class? I might never have found Loren Eiseley. What if I had never found him? How many other writers are out there that I need to know and will not discover?

A good teacher connects a student to people and ideas that reach into that student’s place of wonder causing more questions, more desire to know.  About the time of my Eiseley period, I visited Lincoln, and went to the state capital. Much to my delight I saw a row of sculpted busts of famous Nebraskans. There was my man Eiseley. My fingers felt the shape of his brow, nose, chin, and cheekbones.

Mr. Eiseley left Nebraska and held a distinguished chair in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. He was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, which confirmed his standing as an author. The fascinating thing about Loren Eiseley and what gave his critics ammunition was his bridging of empirical science with social science. His skill at showing his wonder in the writing of scientific subjects was rejected by the scientists as less, partly because the average non-scientific reader embraced the writing. Eiseley allowed his awe to be present in the work and set the stage, or page in this case, for nature writer Annie Dillard or for writer’s such as E. O Wilson, biologist, researcher in sociobiology and biodiversity who writes scientifically, but believes that art, science, religion, and all constructs of humankind are all part of viewing our humanity in a holistic and conciliatory way.

In Eiseley’s autobiography, he writes of finding a Victorian hand mirror that belonged to his deceased aunt. He remembered that his mother had one just like it when he was a child, but his deaf, angry, frustrated mother had broken hers at some point. His childhood was difficult. He remembers the last time that he saw the twin mirror. It had a broken handle. Eiseley writes, “Mostly things like that did not exist in our house. Finally it disappeared. The face of the child vanished with it, my own face. Without the mirror I was unaware when it departed. Make no mistake. Everything in the mind is in rat’s country. It doesn’t die. They are merely carried, these disparate memories, back and forth in the desert of a billion neurons, set down, picked up, and dropped again by mental packrats. Nothing perishes, it is merely lost until a surgeon’s electrode starts the music of an old player piano whose scrolls are dust. Or you yourself do it, tossing in the relentless nights or even in the day on a strange street in a hurdy-gurdy place.  Nothing is lost, but it can never be again as it was. You will find the bits and cry out because they were yourself. Nothing can begin again and go right, but still it is you, your mind, picking endlessly over that splintered glass of a mirror dropped and broken long ago. That is all time is at the end when you are old – a splintered glass.”

Loren Eiseley and Erling Duus both encouraged all who read their work or were their students to pursue lifelong learning.

While working as a teacher’s aide in Bridgeport, I met a co-worker from the Dalton area and she told me that her older brothers and father camped with Loren Eiseley on her family’s land when he traveled to Western Nebraska on archeological digs. She brought a letter that he had written to her brothers. I held the letter and read his words. It was as exciting as feeling the shape of his face that day in the capital building.

Erling Duus moved to Honduras, taught and wrote for  a Honduras paper in the 1990s.

Sadly Erling Duus died in 2000 of colon cancer. He sent a letter to friends a month before he died when he knew he had not long to live. He ended the letter with these words, “I can without impediment read a letter so invite letters from you for as long as we share this air and these many beauties. I give you my hand, and then beyond those limitations interwoven in the strange mingling of time with the arching and resonate radiance of eternity, I embrace you all forever.”

Posted February 1, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays, Uncategorized

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

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