Category: Culture and Current Events

First They Killed My Father: Beauty and Suffering

Last month, Netflix released First They Killed My Father, based on the experience of Loung Ung who is a childhood survivor of the Pol Pot regime during the Khmer Rouge years in Cambodia. It is not only a compelling story of individual suffering and the personal toll of a horrific period in history but also a story with galvanizing relevance today. Director Angelina Jolie, who co-wrote

Last Ship: Family and mission

“One ship against the three of us? They are outnumbered.” ~Sergeant Azima Kandie in the “Detect, Deceive, Destroy” episode of The Last Ship If you read this blog, you know I’m a fan of disaster and sci-fi stories, so it will come as no surprise that The Last Ship is part of my regular summer viewing.

Unoriginal Sin

As far as sins go, a rich older dude using his power and influence to sexually prey upon young women is about as unoriginal as they come. As long as men and power imbalances and women have been in existence (which is to say, forever), the former have been indecently and inexcusably forcing themselves upon […]

Last Ship: Family and mission

Screenshot Copyright TNT “One ship against the three of us? They are outnumbered.” ~Sergeant Azima Kandie in the “Detect, Deceive, Destroy” episode of The Last Ship If you read this blog, you know I’m a fan of disaster and sci-fi stories, so it will come as no surprise that The Last Ship is part of my regular summer viewing. The TNT action-drama, which wrapped up its fourth season

Actually, Guns Are the Problem

Dear Congressional Representatives who Keep Saying that the “Real Problem” is Mental Illness, Mental illness is, indeed, a real problem. Please, by all means, address the issue of mental health in our country. We need more and better mental health clinics, more and better training for teachers, police, medical personnel, and others who interact with…

Blade Runner 2049: Beautiful but flawed

Blade Runner is one of my favorite films. It is layered with meaning and questions and themes that take you in all sorts of directions. And I found Director Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival one of the most thought-provoking and moving science fiction films I’ve ever seen. So, I really, really wanted to love Blade Runner 2049. But I just couldn't. Perhaps if I'd never seen the original film, this

Some Days, We Nap Together (What Tragedy Demands of Us)

Some days, after working in my office all morning and eating a quick lunch at my desk, my body grows heavy and slow and my thoughts turn to molasses.  With just an hour left before the first child arrives back home, before I leave to work an evening shift at the library, I close my laptop, grab my phone and head for my office door.  My dog, Coco, half-sleeping in her corner chair, lifts her head, then jumps down and follows me outside across the blacktop soaked with sunlight, up the back steps, and into the big house.
Inside, I pause while we each get a drink of water – her at her metal bowl and me at the vintage water fountain near our kitchen door.  Then, I grab a blanket or beach towel – whichever is warm enough and near at hand – and head into the winter room where the wood stove sits heavy in the corner, squat and round, a cast iron Buddha.  Coco follows at my heels and watches patiently as I hunt one room, then another, in search of our sole throw pillow.
Pillow in hand, I lay down in the same position, always.  Pressing the pillow into one end of our old, leather love seat, I lay down on my right side, curling my long legs to fit on the too-short sofa.  Coco watches with patience and focus as I spread the blanket or towel over myself, then stick my legs out straight off of the couch, offering a pathway to the pocket of empty space at the far end.
I pat the leather with my hand, twice.  Coco pauses, very still, and looks me in the eye, double-checking her permission.  “Come on, Coco,” I say and up she jumps, then turns and settles in the corner.  I bend my legs again and tuck in around her, careful to keep from bumping her muzzle with my feet.  The warmth of her soft, sweet body adds to my own and we sleep, tucked together, her head resting on my ankles.
Her presence, as I rest, is pure gift.  The gift of quiet, undemanding companionship; the gift of with-ness that cannot be measured save for the way it softens and steadies the human heart.
She wakes, when I wake and shift.  Or, sometimes, too warm and close for comfort, she hops down before the nap gets under way.  Some days, if I'm lucky, our handsome black cat notices our napping nest and jumps down from his solitary leather chair and comes purring along into my arms.  On those days, the cat settles opposite the dog, in the space in front of my chest.  Together, we form a sort of yin-yang arrangement of fur and flesh, the cat in front of me, the dog behind.
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I experience a profound goodness during these naps, which may seem a small thing amidst all the world’s evils and sorrows, not to mention my own small entanglements.  But I am wondering whether tragedy really demands the trivializing of such moments of beauty, wonder, and grace – moments when the human soul stretches and softens, relaxed and at ease?
Perhaps tragedy and sorrow, worry and fear, require instead, that we linger and luxuriate in these moments.  Maybe Love itself invites us to spread them out wide for the world to see or to tuck them in somewhere safe, like a golden leaf in fall noticed, gathered, and pressed between the pages of a book where it can be rediscovered time and again in the long winter months ahead.
I love these moments with the dog, the cat; they are precious to me and I cannot pass them off as something less than mercy and grace.  Evil is never defeat by casting what is precious aside.  Evil is defeated when we gently welcome, gather and share what is good and holy and true.  In this way light and life and love are born and borne and multiplied in our midst.
The world is a heavy and troubled place.  It is also riddled through with mercy, grace and love.  In these days of naming darkness, let us remember also to gather and spread the Light we're given, casting it high and wide, like a million stars lighting up the night.
 Coco and I sharing a little pre-nap love.
Where are you finding Mercy, Grace and Love these days??

Appropriation of Protest

Image result for kaepernick vs trumpI first wrote about 'Taking a Knee' a year ago. That's when Colin Kaepernick began his now famous National anthem protest. He started it to challenge police brutality and racism. Not to make a point about free speech. Not in defiance of Trump.

Now, scores of players, as well as coaches and owners, are taking symbolic postures during the anthem. They're upset that Trump tweeted. They want to express their free speech. They're showing their solidarity. But Kaepernick is still out of a job.

Athletes of color have a long history of political expression, and an equally long history of receiving criticism for it. We want them to entertain us, to serve us, not to challenges us or make us even slightly uncomfortable with the system that put them there.

Abagond observes, "that making it about respect for the flag, or even free speech, draws attention away from what taking the knee is all about: protesting racial inequality and, in particular, police brutality."

Image result for jenner pepsi
And it's not the first time Black expression in the face of oppression has been co-opted by a white narrative. This is the legacy of Black blues, hip hop, fashion, and many other means of voice that were birthed out of a desire to call attention to the lived realities of life as a Black person in the United States.

There is a constant drive in white dominate culture to appropriate, and thus to tame, the expressions of oppressed groups. Indeed, the work of combating injustice itself functions this way. As months protects unfolded after the killings of Michael Brown, there were ongoing calls to “wait for the facts” from many moderate white progressives. Protesters were criticized and marches were deemed a waste of time.

These days, the controversial and “militant” phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ is worn as a badge of honor by progressive social justice warriors that want to show they are truly ‘woke.’ Marches take place every week across the country for one cause or another. And now anyone that wants to feel like they're taking a stand...can 'take a knee.'

Image result for ironic protestToo often, people of color take the risk first, finding a new and powerful way to make their voices heard. Too often, white folks respond first with anger and skepticism, followed by dismissal, and ultimately finished by co-opting to the point of ineffectiveness or distraction.

It's not necessarily bad that more people have become aware, or have been willing to join a cause. But what if we didn't wait so long to stand up against injustice? What if, in particular, the Church were at the forefront of movements for justice, instead of limping along in the rear? What if we stood for the causes we were asked to stand for...rather than just appropriating the methods to our own ends?
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