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Month: January 2012

Pardon My Eruptions

You can know that the poor don’t have many things. You can know that the poor often don’t have cars. You can know that the poor must rely on public transportation. You may even know that public transportation runs on limited hours.

But until you know that Jimmy can’t get to his heart cath because it was scheduled at 6am and the buses don’t run at 6am, you don’t know how frightening it must be to be poor.

Once you do know that, you erupt every time you hear someone call the poor irresponsbible—why don’t they take care of their health? why do they always wait until the last minute to go to the emergency room?

Why, I ask instead, do we spend billions of dollars on our PUBLIC highways, but let the buses limp along? Answer: because we don’t ride the bus. We drive on the highways. We are not poor.

here’s to creative synthesis

Comforting or Scary?

Disturbed by Corrie Ten Boom’s description of the Nazi guards, I’ve been pondering since finishing The Hiding Place: how can humans act like that? The cruelty she described as the guards ordered prisoners about, the forced marches, the insistent shouting in the face of sickness and frailty. Where did the humanity go?

Then I see the Amtrak employees moving crowds through the train station – barked orders, patrolled lines, the confused eyes of the passengers. There was nothing wrong with the treatment, absolutely nothing at all. But in it I see the slippery slope that became what Corrie described. Humans, all of us, in everything we do.

Is that comforting, or scary? Maybe both.

On Dr. King’s birthday, I was reading Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (written with Shane Claiborne and Enuma Okoro) which led me to “Why America May Go to Hell,” the speech Dr. King was working on when he was assassinated.

This led to rumination about Dr. King’s shift to anti-poverty and anti-Vietnam War preaching, and the rejection by young people of his reliance on nonviolence. I wondered if there were a correlation: the young’s rejection of nonviolence when the country was in a paroxysm of war.

I came across an excerpt from a book entitled Protest, Power and Change, by authors Powers, Vogele, Kruegler. The authors cite Dr. King’s referencing the questions of young black men who saw the Vietnam War as evidence of the country’s dominant values. The book quotes Dr. King: “I knew that never again could I raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.”

We are social creatures. One day we will understand that we pass between us things other than germs. Violence is one of those things. So is love. Individually and collectively – micro/macro – we get to decide.

Which one will I choose?

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

I’m at Elaine Blanchard’s writing group in the Shelby County women’s prison, talking about writing, describing the time when I wore a TERRIBLY inappropriate dress to a graduation party for SEMINARIANS and I say, “That’s how I deal with things – I write them.”
Then here comes this quote from James Thurber, refining my comment. Now, it will be, “That’s why I write humor – it refracts emotional chaos.” Refract because the view of the event changes as it passes temporally from currently-experienced to remembered. The jagged pieces rearrange themselves into a beautiful kaleidoscope, still jagged, just funny. The end result shines.
Sometimes, when the emotional chaos passes more quickly for me than those around me, I get scolded: “How can you laugh at that?”
Response: How can you not?

Here’s to creative synthesis . . .

One time, when I lived in Jackson, Mississippi, I walked out of my front door to find a ticket on my windshield. My car was parked in front of my house in a quiet neighborhood, facing the wrong direction. There were no other cars on the street. The ticket was timed at 3:00 a.m.

I was outraged – how dare a cop give me a ticket in front of my own house? I asked around and everyone said, yeah, that cop is kinda crazy. I decided to go to court and give them whatfor. On the way, in the next block of my street, I saw a parked police car . . . facing the wrong direction.

Never before had I sat through criminal court. One by one, violators facing loss of their licenses stepped forward to plead their case. One couldn’t get her child to daycare without a license. Another couldn’t make it to his job. One had a sick relative who needed healthcare transportation. I was a lawyer. I was there “on principle.”

By the time my turn came, I no longer cared. It was ridiculous, really, for me to huff and puff, wasting the court’s time when other people’s lives were falling apart. I sputtered a few things, and the judge told me to pay the fine. Luckily he did not, for whatever reason, assess me court costs.

I thought of this today as I sat through hearing after hearing at 201 Poplar for “driving on a suspended license.” I can’t tell you how much time this took up. The judge threw the book at one fellow who was cited for driving with a suspended license on his way to court for his hearing on driving with a suspended license. I think everyone with a suspended license must just drive with their fingers crossed, hoping they don’t get stopped.

I don’t have an opinion on this, except to say that the criminal justice system struck me this morning as form over substance. We—by which I mean me, who has always praised the theory of our system—we place our trust in the form we’ve rigged up, and don’t look at how shaky the reality is. Maybe I’m jaundiced due to the rusty way I saw the system herk and jerk this morning. For whatever reason, it seems to me that when it comes to the criminal justice system, we are driving on a suspended license.

Reading the Masters

Last Year: War and Peace
This Year: “Pogo’s Sunday Book”

New blog feature: I’ll name a book when I complete it. All comments welcome. Catching me up so far this year:

The Emerging Church, Phyllis Tickle
Pogo’s Sunday Book, Walt Kelly
Coming of Age in Mississippi, Anne Moody

Here’s to creative synthesis . . .

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