Category Archives: The World at Large

Same old tune

Been hearing that same
old story
one too many times
over and over again

It’s okay.
They’re not bad as stories go –
far off places,
interesting people

You tell of your wife
her adventure in life
said before Alzheimer’s
took her words away

Different times
a generation on its way
to passing beyond
leaving new stories
to take the fold

Tell your stories
your wife can’t process
and I’ll listen
so you can be heard

Achieving Women Against the Odds

There are so many valiant women in the world and most go through their days with no recognition.  Many have gone through traumatic experiences and have lived to tell the tale.  However, telling the tale is not as important as doing the work and achieving against all odds.

One woman I recently read about was sexually trafficked by her mother starting at age 9.  This continued for three years but was halted by Child Protective Services,  Her mother wouldn’t give up her rights to the girl as she was a source of income and needed to support a rampant drug addiction.  Later, she fell into the hands of pimps.  Not knowing another way of life, prostitution continued into her 30’s when her own drug addiction finally came to its end.

She developed a program where young prostitutes could come for shelter and be given the resources to make life changes from prostitution.  To this date, she has assisted more than 300 girls.

I read about women who have gone through incredible suffering in civil wars, by terrorists, revolutionaries, and often loosing loved ones and their homes in the process.  They were given the opportunity for micro-grants, often a cow or a sewing machine, the means to support themselves and their families.  In spite of their traumas, they succeeded in the hard-bitten life they were given.  Greatness is fluid and relative.

My mother was one of those who achieved despite the odds.  As a child she lived with two alcoholics, one of whom was a raging, sexually and physically abusive drunk.  At age eleven, she took her one year old sister and left their apartment, never to return.  She worked in her aunt’s boarding home to pay her way.  Becoming a nurse, she worked very hard to support our family.  She ended up developing three businesses in the home health field.  When she chose to, she sold one for $250K.  She was generous, caring, and though she had a wicked temper at times, she made life easier for many people, even when she didn’t have financial resources for herself.  She removed herself so far from the squalor of her childhood, she was truly great.

Most women are touchstones of love and dedication.  They share from their hearts and give even in the tough times.  Some rise beyond the levels lived by the majority.  They become great.  They are the women I want to know.

Margueritte “Maggie” Barankitse

I came across another fabulous woman yesterday.  The Burundi President has referred to Margueritte “Maggie” Baransitke as the Mother of Burundi and she certainly lives up to that reputation.  Likened to Mother Theresa, which she dismisses, she has adopted at least 30,000 children since October 25, 1993. She calls herself an inventor of solutions. 

In the midst of an extremely violent ethnic war between the Hutus and Tutsis where 100,000s of people were killed, Maggie and her adopted seven children went to the Bishop’s home for security because some of her children were Hutus. Seventy two, people were already gathered. She hid the 25 children there in cupboards in the Church sanctuary.  The Tutsi invaders demanded she tell them where the children were and when she wouldn’t disclose their whereabouts, she was tied up, stripped naked, and one by one all 72 people, including the Bishop, nuns, and others who had come for safety, were executed in front of her, the last, the head of her best friend,thrown in her lap. 

Upon releasing herself, she buried all of those people in the days following.  She begged and borrowed food and supplies to care for the 25 children, then 50, then 100 and on.  On May, 1994, Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Nduhirubuse donated an old school to be made into a shelter.  But Maggie was not content.  Always following the path laid out by her God, she built a school because she knew education was the key to getting out of Burundi’s grinding poverty, where the average person earns the equivalent of one dollar a day.  She developed shelters and homes for small groups of children in other cities throughout Burundi.

The children are treated with love and respect. When people were ill, and 16 women died in childbirth in one day, she talked the military into building a hospital.  When she had troubles with the bank, and was robbed, she opened a bank to service the needs of Maison Shalom, the organization she founded.  During the time when she had saved and adopted 20,000 kids, among them child soldiers, garbage dwelling children, Single mothers, Mothers and children with Aids, incarcerated children, she had to flee Burundi under death threats.  Many of the children went with her to externally displaced camps.

When able, she and the children returned. The children of Maison Shalom have become extraordinary in their own rights according to the people of Burundi.  Many have gone to college, some internationally, then returned to lend their skills to the community as doctors, lawyers, and business entrepreneurs.  Maggie gives micro grants to single mothers and women to set up businesses.  The loving life of Maison Shalom continues to flourish.

International praise started coming in, recognition for both her achievements and the love which flavored every action she took.  In June 2009, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg visited Burundi, stopping to see Maison Shalom for herself.  Impressed, she invited Maggie to Luxembourg in October 2011 for a photo exhibition of the Maison Shalom project and has subsequently proffered additional support.  In November of 2011 Kofi Annan gave her the Prize for Conflict Resolution.  And on April 24, 2016, Maggie was awarded 1.1 million dollars through the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, an award given in memory of the Armenian genocide and presented by Humanitarian George Clooney.  Other awards have followed.

Travesty and the Lack of Succor at the Borders and Within Our Lives

Believe me, I think it is heinous what is happening at the Mexican border.  That nursing and Down’s syndrome children, or any others, should be ripped away from their parents’ arms is an atrocity.  And for a Bible passage (Romans 13: 1-14) to be used for justification of such activities is unconscionable, and incorrectly used as justification.  What happened to, accept the huddled masses?

Now we have withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Commission saying Israel is not being treated fairly.  What hypocrites!  And the fact that we don’t seem to have any alternatives to shredding families apart and causing permanent psychological and perhaps physical harm to the children, and parents, is infinitely sad.  I feel nauseous when I hear President Trump or the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Neilsen.

But human rights violations have been going on in our country since its inception.  Our “Enlightened” society has been prejudiced against each immigrant group that has come to our shores or were already on them. These past few decades alone have been filled with discrimination:  LGBQT, Blacks, Women, Native Americans, Latinos, Puerto Ricans, the list goes on.  It behooves us to have a psychological change in our interpretation of social order and justice.  Sometimes there doesn’t seem to have enough pure air to breathe.  Arians, Bigots, Thoughtless people who may not even know their actions are prejudiced are making me feel claustrophobic. I’m not saying I am without fault, the fault lies within all of us.

But the plight of the people trying to cross our borders is heartbreaking. Yes there are those who come with the intent to do harm and we need to prevent that.  But the vast majority are people just like us who have been ostracized, had their lives threatened, or lived amid civil unrest. They deserve succor even if they are not allowed to stay.  They don’t deserve to find their illusions of safety shattered, their children taken to be put in cages, in internal Guatanamo Bay for kids.  They don’t deserve the massive stress of separation, not knowing where their children are taken, and the trauma of possibly not seeing their kids again.

I don’t know what the solution is – only that what is going on right now has to stop.  Restitution needs to be considered.  These people are not cattle.  They don’t deserve what they have to content with.  Their lives matter as much as our own and we would never stand idlely by while our own children were taken, or those we knew already in the nation’s borders.

This is feeling more and more  like a police state with an almighty ruler sanctifying adversity and trauma. We need to take action. Day by day our rights are being threatened, the country we took for granted two years ago is being devastatingly ruined. We must act for the children and parents coming to our southern border. It could well be us down the road.  Maybe I seem reactionary but I feel helply watching as innocent people are herded into concentration camps.  We are doing exactly what we did to the American Japanese in World War II.   Didn’t we say, never again when that happened?

The Immigrant Situation

I am by no means an expert in this area, but we have to raise our voices against the horrible conditions illegal immigrants are facing in this country.  I hardly recognize the United States anymore.  It is no longer the place of hope and dreams.  It is becoming a military state, and those in government are not working to improve conditions.  They are letting this President become a despot and semi-dictator without stepping in to stop him.

Donald Trump is a man even his wife doesn’t want to be near.  He throws away people as much as he throws away the last vestiges of the greatness that made this country the best in the world.  The laws and rules of society, the manners of decency and goodness, don’t seem part of his constitutional make-up. Our representative leadership is not doing their jobs and not acting in their constituents best interests.  Sadly, we can no longer lay claim to being the greatest country in the world, and each day seems to bring us further down into the trenches.

One of the greatest issues facing this administration and the peoples of this country is that of immigration.  Illegal Immigrants face hardship and trauma.  My own grandmother was an illegal alien.  She lived under the fist of an abusive man who threatened to turn her in and take away her children if she didn’t behave as he dictated.  She lost her life because of him. She didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. She lived in fear.

Illegal aliens always live under a blanket of fear.  People who have been working, productive members of society, who have given of their lives to this country are being herded up like cattle and shoved back to the countries they no longer know and probably not safe to return to.  They are separated from their spouses, children, friends – often with no notice. They have become members of this society, and have earned the right to stay.  They are bound by not getting their green card, for whatever reason, many times valid.

But just as bad is what is going on at our borders.  Children are being separated from their parents, decimating families, held in concentration camp style settings.  They are isolated from those they love, and even if they are allowed to return to their countries, they run the risk of not finding their parents.  I’m not sure why this is even happening.  It looks like they are being kidnapped.  What is the purpose of holding these children?  We have a large military, we aren’t trying to turn them into soldiers or child brides. It is mean-spirited and malicious. And pointless.

I understand the need to tighten our borders even if I don’t agree with all the reasons why.  There is a problem with illegal aliens entering the U.S. But these are largely people who are escaping terrible circumstances in their lives.  They need understanding and to be given to opportunity to be led through the process of legality.  They have value.  They are not animals.  And their children are not commodities.

This is indicative of the broadening trampling of American values and the lack of rational leadership.  One man, Donald Trump, is dictating egregious atrocities in many areas of government.  We need to hold him accountable and retract the harmful, short-term or long-term, acts he has done.  And we need to hold him accountable for the lawbreaking he has done himself.   Our country’s future depends on it, as do the lives of these children.

Conference Findings

This past weekend I went to the United Methodist New York Annual Conference in Garden City, NY. Why they can’t call it the New York and Connecticut Conference I am questioning, but that’s another whole topic.  This writing is about the issue of gays and transsexuals in the church.

This is my first conference.  A lot of legislative activities go on during the course of the weekend.  I was shocked to find out there is a profound division in the Church.  It is hanging precariously on a thread regarding the LGBQ issue.  The Biblical conservatives in the Church are demanding that LGBQ and other sexually different people, should not be allowed in the Church – whether it be marriage, ministers, or even in congregations.  The Church might divide into two seperate denominations because of these matters.

The other, more Liberal persuasion believe we are all God’s children and everyone has the right to live their lives as they are meant to.  Even the issue of whether Women should be pastors has been a loaded one in many denominations.  The Catholics are also struggling to find their Center.  Everything goes back to Leviticus and the apostle Paul.  Two plus centuries ago.

This issue has come up in my own family, with my children believing conservatively and I believing a more liberal, inclusive approach to Christianity.  This may rattle many cages, but I believe the LGBQ group brings more openness and diversity, obviously.  But they also can bring fresh interpretations and vital ideas to congregations.

This may prevent me from getting into Heaven but I believe all have the right to worship openly.  Jesus had all kinds of people, most being the underappreciated, displaced, rejected members of society, in his circle of influence and accomodation. Not once did I read in the Bible where someone was rejected.  And Jesus had one whom he loved more than all of the rest….what does That even mean?

At the Conference, I saw quite a few gay and lesbian people.  A couple were Pastors.  Depending on the status of the vote in St. Louis in the Fall, what could that potentially mean for them.  “Hey sorry, but you no longer are a minister, don’t have a job, and aren’t welcome to attend Church. ”  What is that?  How can you take people who are actively sharing their Faith and leading their congregations toward a more open, accepting view of the World, and throw them out like yesterday’s garbage?

My children do not consider me to be a true Christian.  I’m not going to Heaven unless I radically change my belief system and values.  I believe God is more accepting…that love is more important than orientation…that the most important thing you can do is Believe in Jesus Christ and the Trinity.  I might not get to Heaven because I question sometimes whether Jesus was the son of God but I wouldn’t really want to be in a Heaven that draws lines, makes distinctions, rejects people because of who they are from the moment they are born.

I pray the Church remains whole in its entirety and those believing diversely get the opportunity to believe in diversity and inclusiveness, no matter the sex or orientation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

School shootings

“There have been at least 288 school shootings in the US since 1/1/09, 57 times more than the other six G7 countries combined.”   –CNN

These numbers are, unfortunately, no surprise to me. Our culture has been steadily shifting to one of violence and our young people are caught in the crosshairs.  The rhetoric perpetuates, spinning round and round as the NRA spins the mental health issue and our politicians take their sides without paying much attention to what their constituents feel. And here I am, spinning my own rhetoric.

What I can’t wrap my head around is how this perpetuates in such a vacuum.  Parents don’t know what is going on in the minds of their children, don’t check their internet pages, don’t look at those others their sons hang out with, or whether they have friends at all, don’t know if they have guns and don’t secure guns in locked safes.

I don’t mean to be ragging on the parents.  Sometimes their sons externalize very differently than what they internalize, but certainly, parents can determine if their children are depressed or angry or manifesting signs of mental illness.  Perhaps one problem is they don’t know what to look for.  Mental illness isn’t covered in most parenting books, that is if they read those books.

Schools are also part of the problem as are the communities.  The “not in our town”, mentality is a pervasive glitch in our psyche.  There aren’t enough instructors to demonstrate what to look for and how to prepare for it.  Police departments are also not involved enough, although in many towns there just aren’t enough police officers and perhaps not enough budgeted funds to train them adequately, particularly in small towns.

But, I think the greatest problem is that there is a lack of Hope in these young people, and in those who perpetrate mass shootings at concerts and movie theaters, or wherever crowds merge. They lack the foresight to see there are better ways to handle their feelings, that going out in a blaze of rage is not the answer. They are, too often, left to their own devices.  Nobody is wondering why a person is acting strangely or if it’s their responsibility to do something about the warning signs they see.  And young people who see what is emerging in another classmate keep that tight-lipped stalemate of not acting in protection of one of their own, even one who no one wants to be near.

I had a dear friend who had an arsenal of over 200 weapons, including cannons he had built himself.  Everyone looked on it as a quirky obsession and hobby.  He grew depressed and was so hateful to his family that they avoided dealings with him – left him to his devices.  I can’t blame them, dealing with his rage and depression filled them with despair. I talked with his wife about the possibility of therapy but he wouldn’t hear of it.  In the end, he blew his brains out. In front of a son. The guns are his sons’ legacy.  It makes me crazy thinking about it.  They should be sold and the money’s used to start their adult lives with.  I mentioned it to my friend, but that is where my advice ended.  Guns are just part of her reality even though she doesn’t touch them.

Hope is strangely lacking in so many of our lives.  We huddle in masses of despair.  Those who have church may find comfort there; therapy is a God-send to many. But to those who have no real support in their lives, whose lifestyle and decisions seem to have no awareness in those around them hope is just 4 letters strung together.  And they are already strung too tight.  And we stand by, hands dangling at our sides, vacant expressions on our faces, saving “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa.”

 

 

 

Sticks and Stones

A child lies screaming in an improvised tent in a refugee compound. Her arms and legs are sticks, the femur and tibia bones on display for any to see.  The skin on her head is etched to her skull, no cheeks or even flesh on the lips, dysentery, and measles having stolen away her health.  She cries for food, her mother attempts to feed her from shrunken breasts.  The child was healthy once, flesh full.  Her mother says she thinks the worst is over.  The girl has stopped loosing weight. Perhaps there is hope, but it seems unlikely.

In Gaza, Palestinians look like makeshift Davids, slingshotting stones at the Goliath Israeli troops with powerful weapons.  Hurling their bodies at the border wall, thinking themselves as heroes trying to take back land they haven’t owned since 1948.  Even in mass, they haven’t a chance to overwhelm such well armed and trained enemies. The Israelis’ tenaciously holding on to land bequeathed them after the Holocaust.

In Syria, the White Hats cast rubble aside looking for survivors and bodies in the remains of what was once homes and shops.  Their heroism speaks for itself.  They sacrifice for the sake of others, bright spots of hope in the ruins of war.

The Middle East is by no means isolated in their violence.  It spreads throughout the World, sometimes insidiously, sometimes with brutal force. Our own country is filled with terrorist activities – our school children bearing the brunt of wounded souls’ rage.  I know God gave us free will but what type of World is this when the mightiest beings are intent on destroying both their own races and what others might call lesser beings.

The child’s screams echo in my ears, warning me that war and horror can be lurking close by.

Nadia Murad

In our Me2# time, it seems particularly important to examine the women who have gone before us or are with us now for the great achievements they have made and the cost it took to get there.  One woman who has made a quick leap from obscurity to fame is Nadia Murad.

A quiet, country girl in Iraq, she is of the Yazidi faith and lived in Kocho, a small village in the northwestern province.  The Yazidi are a people who have been practicing their religion since before Christianity or Islam.  They are not vocal about it; they tend to keep to themselves.  On May 4, 2016, ISIS attacked the Yazidi, forcing many to flee up their sacred mountain, Sinjar.  However, estimates of 10,000 were killed.  Being somewhat out of the way, Kocho’s attack didn’t start until the 16th.

The village’s residents watched as the town was blockaded and large trenches were dug on its outskirts.  They were scared, the men continually calling people of prominence elsewhere to try to get support.  The images on television made them panic.

At 19, Nadia was the youngest of nine children.  Her father also had a number of children through his second wife.  On the day ISIS made their move on the village, all residents were instructed to go to the high school. There the men were sorted out from the women and taken away.  They were lined up in the trenches and shot.  Two of her wounded brothers managed to escape.  A younger one was forced to become a soldier. Six died.

The women were then sorted out, older women separated from their daughters.  It was many months until they found out the women had also been shot to death, including Nadia’s beloved mother.  Younger women and girls, some even with young children, were herded upstairs at the school until they were corralled onto buses.  From there they were driven to Mosul where they were placed in a large room with many other Yazidi women.

They were to become sexual slaves, or “sabia”, to ranking ISIS officials and men who had proven their worth to the cause.  The women were traded like baseball cards, sometimes staying with a  man for a week, sometimes only a day or hour.   They were brutally treated by the men, but also by the wives if they saw them at all.

Nadia was held captive for two months until her “owner” forgot to lock the front door and Nadia made good her escape.  She found a family willing to help her, eventually getting her to the border at great risk to their own lives.  While Arab, they could not, in good conscience, reject Nadia.

She made her way to a refugee camp where she found some relatives still alive.  After a time, she was accepted into a program where 1,000 women and children migrated to Germany.  A group called Yazida encouraged her to speak to the UN Advisory Committee.   From there she has spoken in the Americas, Europe,  and other countries about the plight of the Yazidi. Amal Clooney has become her lawyer to support her and give more authority to the condition of her people.

Nadia is eloquent and doesn’t pull any punches.  Rarely does she smile but her words speak volumes.  She has a message to bring to the world and she is doing it one word at a time.  To date, she has spoken in America, the United Kingdom, Germany and Europe along with other countries. She speaks of her own people but also of Genocide in general.

There are many places in the world where genocide is taking place…South Sudan and Myanmar are just two more.  Even though it has been happening since time immemorial, it is a vital issue which must be halted if we are ever to become a civilized world.  And Nadia’s voice is bringing the world to greater attention to both her people and those who also need a voice crying out of the wilderness of violence.

#Me Too

Yesterday I was at work, watching a talk show with my boss.  The subject was the New York Attorney General of New York and his peccadilloes.   Later in the day, the new shift worker came and the topic was brought up.  My boss was of the persuasion that the women now declaring the brutality during sex with the Attorney General had to be willing participants to have 1) gone so long without reporting it, and 2) must have enjoyed it to have stayed in the relationship with this barbarous man.

The two of us, both women, tried to explain the concepts of fear and shame to him.  As it was not going to happen we diverged into talking about how passive and jaded our society has gotten to continue to hear one instance after another and numb our brains to them.  It is overwhelming and heinous, these acts perpetrated by men (or in some cases, women) again and again.  We can’t stand to hear about it so jokes are made to neutralize hearing about the cases and knowing it is not just the power brokers but the garbage man and the local pastor, the insurance man and that nice man who just fixed your plumbing, inside the sanctity of your home. Jokes raw and harmful in that they serve to anesthetize us to the horrors of what humans perpetrate on each other, and in so many cases, get away with.

I want to rise up and do something but lack the funds for donations to the cause and the wherewithal and physical ability to attend rallies.  My voice is drowned in a sea of angry people – those coming from one point of view or another. And, furthermore, I don’t have anything new to add to the subject.  Why even write?  I’ve wondered whether I should for weeks now because of the redundancy and that there are many far more eloquent than I.  Coupled with the fact that I offer no new solutions.

But, in the end, I choose to write because I am one more voice begging for solutions, for restitution and acknowledgment of terrible wrongs.  Of feeling betrayed by all those power figures who I looked up to and admired their integrity, and who committed acts of lewdness and violence against innocent women.  How can I forgive Bill Cosby for acting as a bastion of goodwill and integrity, knowing he probably won’t serve a day in jail.  Or Matt Lauer, a man who interviewed other men accused of sexual misconduct knowing he was still in the land of innocence and getting away with it.

If the government is really watching all of us.  And it is positive they are. Then perhaps my one little voice will be registered on some server somewhere, stored for posterity, but possibly amounting to nothing.  Still, I must write, #Me Too.