Archive for the ‘Light In Action’ Category
Whatever was Djhokhar Tsarnaev thinking– accused of setting off homemade bombs on April 15? It’s baffling. Here is a teenager, deeply wounded, isolated from all he knew, and now in police lock-down. I did meet him a few times when he was 16 at the Cambridge high school. Djhokhar grew up in Massachusetts where “all the kids are above average.” (as said by Garrison Keillor). His fate is wrapped up with the fate of hundreds of injured people. I do not excuse what he did.
When my curious sons entered high school, I was shocked at the danger exposed to them: the hazing, the used needles, the assaults. In 2005 I woke up from a daydream that the US is a safe and law-abiding society. Like ice cubes down a sweaty back I realized our cities can be a war zone for teenagers. My son was harassed by gangs after school: he was intimidated and paralyzed. He escaped physically in one piece, but his inner landscape was scarred.
Now after Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT an epiphany strikes me. A major problem of our culture is that Americans murder one another as much as we kill “enemies” overseas. An armed police officer is employed at the high school, where students have been removed for
carrying switchblades. After Kennedy’s assassination Malcolm X famously said, “The chickens have come back to roost.”
You know what I’m saying? These massacres, by and for Americans, show how our young men are addicted to violence. It’s not criminals pulling the trigger– it’s not the drug dealers, nor the crazies, nor the sociopaths. It’s our children, growing up under the opium of the gun. By 10 years old, Americans learn that problems will get solved if you carry a gun. Our boys are executing the values promoted by the NRA and allowed by the media (TV, games, CDs). It’s Djohkar this time, next time it could be your nephew. Kids have access to guns, and access to making bombs. The hard truth of the Boston bombings is this: we are all complicit.
The effect of mass violence is a people in trauma. Our haunting fear is that our children are at risk in schools, on buses, huge concerts, and now at large sports events. Where is the fierce mother bear icon to protect the defenseless? Imagine a grizzly hunting for berries, and finds her cubs in danger? See her stand rising up on hind legs, bobbing her head– doing anything to keep her cubs safe.
Christians wait piously inside church, praying for their salvation. At night Godly people lock their cars with a McFlurry shake in hand, hoping not to hear gunfire outside. Will salvation come in church, in the courts, or in the jailhouse? Where can we reverse the gang-busting, trigger-happy attitudes of our young people?
My sons are excelling in college, but did not escape unscathed the initiation rites of teenage cruelty. My sons grew up happily engaging with people like George Zimmerman and Djhokhar Tsarnaev. My sons are constantly living out the question: how can you be a respectful, strong man without being violent or revengeful.
How can we stop accepting violence?
We will talk for months about the Marathon bombings in Cambridge where the two Tsarnaev brothers grew up. Djzokhar, the 19 year old, was a year behind my son in high school. They played volleyball together, my son was the team captain. My older son worked for at a summer job for 3 years with Krystal Campbell whose body was blown up by the bombing. One son knows the accused, the other one knows
the victim killed. If you didn’t know someone who was injured, you probably know someone one step removed.
Our family is struggling, the same as most of us are trying to make sense of it all. Let’s not just continue work as usual. We do not have to accept the use of violence when our cubs get as big as we are. Mother bears can do more than growl.
The Jewish scriptures provide understanding for Boston’s tragedy and the culture of violence:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children…, because they are no more.”
This is what the LORD says:
“Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded…” (Jer. 31) Let’s get to work.
Not the Boston marathon. OMG. Not 2 explosions during the marathon. This is worse than a Hitchcock nightmare. Oh Holy God. 4 people dead and countless injured. Here, in my cheerful cocky energetic hometown. And the Marathon, started in 1897 with 18 runners, is emblematic of savvy Boston. Now I know the violence in the US is a run-away train. Now I know we Americans are over the top. So. Help. God. So help me God.
Don’t call me naïve if I chortle that Boston is a wonderful city. The health fairs, the new city-wide bicycles, the parks used for skating, baseball, picnics, dogs and Frisbees. We don’t even call it Boston central park: instead it is Boston Public Garden and Boston Commons, because the land is commonwealth to us all. That’s all 4.5 million of us packed into a peninsula beside the Atlantic Ocean.
We have public transit that works dependably; the universities attract a UN rainbow of people; we have specialty health centers like and Dana Farber for cancer. Our exquisite health care system is aided by an amazing high Tech industry, employing lots of software engineers after graduating from a prestigious school like MIT. Tufts, UMass, BU, and Harvard all have strong undergraduate programs and medical/dental schools. We are replete with young people, artsy folks and street jugglers. Mayor Menimo budgets lots of money for youth summer jobs, and with the same fervor doffed to our beloved Bruins/Pats/Celtics, Boston has built up a hefty police force. The Red Sox nation is a unique phenomenon–winning the World Series in 2004 and in 2007– we are proud, wielding our economic hammer with a Bossypants attitude. But we, like other places– Newtown CT; Aurora CO; Virginia Tech and the Twin Towers in NYC—don’t tolerate senseless violence. We are vulnerable now and in tragic mourning. Our town with its Yankee ingenuity has just taken a whuppin’. So we put down the brass and show our tender side: the side that loves Jack/Bobbie/Ted Kennedy, the side that lets OccupyBoston camp out in the middle of the commercial district, the side that treats children suffering from severe burns and cancer, has Spring races for the hungry, for those raped, for our Vets, for AIDS survivors, and for the healthy. We embrace them all.
I’m a nonviolence trainer and a trauma crisis counselor. Please hear our agony-a pain only us who love our Marathon can feel. If you aren’t from Boston, the Marathon is not just a race—it’s a cherished symbol. The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, with over 500,000 spectators. Amateur and professionals run it, with about 27,000 runners. Massachusetts official nomenclature for this Monday in April is Patriots’ Day, a state holiday so school age children can view the marathon along Commonwealth Ave.
The response to the violence is more telling than the hateful crime. Boston’s real marathon is the healing. Our recovery from fear and reconciling ourselves to each other will take a Herculean effort. Pray for the victims, and pray that our love grows even deeper of this place, for all of us-even the criminals. It’s the legacy of Boston. We will be proud of this Marathon too.
Each step a word
Each toe a pupil
Each pilgrim a sapling
Big toes flex, then probe, and grab
Groping over earthflesh.
Callouses reach blindly for a vista of mountains.
The arch tenderly curves around a root
Prayer is never stagnant
Grace wraps between skin and grist
After decades of walking
The heel grinds a stone
The rough edges carve out decay
Pebbles grown round with sinew and service
Arms ventilate the stuffed cage,.
Moving hands release a closed heart
Arms swing slow beside tree branches
The narrow voice box floats a bit higher.
Worship whispers in your gait.
Each step an answer
Each answer a gift
Each gift a nod
Receiving God. March 2013
The mold is creeping. Here we do not hide the truth.
The portrait of John Woolman can’t disguise the black spoors.
A coffee cup is picked up delicately by an arthritic hand.
Watch the coffee gyrate when she takes a tentative step.
Lentil soup steams as Tom’s ladle salutes a hungry stranger.
A toddler forgets her Spiderman beside the compost bin.
Pink worms ooze inside the black belching box.
Do not expect to see the infinite love of God tumbling from the high hills.
After the prayer undresses you, pick up the shovel and join the worms.
Outside a sparrow sings amidst the greying sun all of the divine’s mysteries.
Seek justice between bites of stew.
Chew up hate; tweet cheerfulness; climb the ladder slowly.
Even Lucretia Mott had manacles muffling her clarion words.
What is home? Where can I find love?
Somewhere between the mold and the Bible. 4/15/13
In Honduras I pick up bits of the culture. I eat an empanada, and the memory is stored on my tongue. I see a boy riding bareback downhill to the bridge, and my calf muscles contract as if trotting along. I’m amazed at the bromeliads growing like spikey lily pads, the branches filled with orange flowers. One tree can host a botanical garden. Thus after a 3 day visit to Honduras, a bouquet of sweetness fills my sensations.
We walked from ‘el castillo’, the castle, to the Central Park planted snug against the Iglesia de San Marco. I was prejudiced without cause hearing the story of Honduran President Juan Lindo (1850c.) and his invasion of Guatemala. The Castillo was a bit somniforic until I read that Lindo said the future of the country depended on breaking forth and educating the people.
We met many Honduran Quaker leaders (Martha learned all the gossip). We visited in colonial Spanish-built houses with tile floors and a style of ceramic roof that lets in air, but not raindrops. We couldn’t resist a trip to the thermal pools: hot springs that flow down from the amazing rainforest of the Celaque summit. My image of Honduras as a poor downtrodden country without much culture to mention was completely overturned.
One of the most intriguing parts of my education was learning about a PreColumbian peace process among the Lenca people here called guancascos. The Lencan Indians are bereft of their language and religion, but guancascos is alive and well carving a peace between communities. This unique tradition can instruct our flailing peace efforts. Guancascos is a bilateral peace treaty between two competing groups fighting over territory. It involves days of dance, ceremonies, a change of local leaders in office, and sometimes weddings and baptisms. Both towns attend the process. It’s the biggest event of the year.
Guancascos begins with the Traida de Polvora, the bringing of gunpowder. At this time the leaders from both sides meet: the costs of the fireworks are negotiated. Every peace summit needs a divvying up of fireworks to whet the whistle for larger conflicts. Then the two communities often have a Broom Dance, where the newly elected leader hands a flowered broom to the outgoing village leader and in turn a Tall Staff is given to the outgoing leader. There’s ofcourse lengthy greetings punctuated by fireworks and music. The parade starts in one town, and then heads to the outskirts, and ends in the second town. The two groups sachet towards the main Catholic Church, over a floor covered with pine needles, and decorated copiously. The climax is the Danza de Gorrobo, the Dance of the Black Iguana, with elaborate costumes and native musical instruments. Don’t these dances sound better than signing a written contract, costly and ponderous?
Guancasco is used in a few dozen villages around Gracias a Dios, and Santa Rosa de Copan. I wonder what ways the Guancasco can instruct Quakers who are a bit stiff around peace initiatives.
It offers formal ways to connect with potential enemies or former enemies. It is renewed every year or every other year. This style of waging peace has happened for 500 years. Ah yea, sounds like a tried and true process to me.
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