Monday, October 31, 2005

Parks and Boromir explained...

Andy asked… “What’s the connection between Boromir and Rosa Parks? Can you make that more clear for people?” (paraphrased).

Rosa Parks remained seated, not for fame or glory, not because it was easy, but because it was the right thing to do. There was no real reason for her to believe that anyone would give a damn about what she was fighting for. I have heard it argued, as if to lessen the credit due to her, that she was not an accidental warrior, but an activist well aware of what she was undertaking - as if this somehow means she wasn’t as strong as we thought. On that bus she refused to give her seat to a white man in a city, in a society, in which less resistance on the part of African Americans had resulted in fatal consequences. Without real reasons for hope that things would change… (the ring of power still on the hand of the oppressor…) “she sat down and stood up” for civil rights.

I have the kind of respect for Ms. Parks that I have for Martin Luther King, jr. King continued to struggle for what he believed was right despite threats and in the midst of violence. He knew his life was in danger for the things he espoused. If you listen to his last speech, it is unimaginable that he didn’t know his death was imminent. He was flesh and blood, flawed as we all are, yet he struggled without any assurance that the situation could truly change.

These days, the ends seem to justify the means… and what are the ends that justify these means? Even among high school and college students there is often a wink and a nod to things like cheating. It is the sum of our lives, the moments when we think no one’s looking that the “content of our character” is laid down. We pull for the figures in books and in films that “do the right thing”… Harry is our hero; Aragorn our king… but in the day to day struggle… do we fulfill those virtues we pretend to embrace?

Parks and King were like Boromir… they fought on in the face of hopelessness… yet, unlike Boromir, a construction of the ideal realm, their hearts beat faster with the fear that they faced. The danger was not imagined.

(I wonder for myself what my life will stand for…) A life lived well, with an awake mind and a passionate heart, that is the greatest kind of art. The sum of our lives together make the world that we live in…

What is right is rarely easy. By what standard will we judge what we commit ourselves to?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

just wondering...

Someone asked me what the last death toll was for Katrina:

approximately 1,281

How are things in Florida after Wilma?

In the Islamic world community, what would it do for us to really reach out to Pakistan?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wilma and Ben

To the people in Cancun, in Florida, in Pakistan and in Iraq… may dark times come again no more… (Hang in there Ben… I hope you make it home soon.)

A ring of power & a strange tribute to Ms. Rosa Parks…

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One ring to
bring them all and in the Darkness bind them.”

Tolkien’s most interesting character, whether presented through film or in print, is Boromir. All of his other characters have their place… they have either fallen or they persevere. Of those that have resisted, they are somehow prepared. Aragorn has spent a lifetime, spurred on by fear, proving that his mettle is more than his ancestors. Gandalf is a shaman, a priest, with eyes that see beyond the physical realm. The elves are ethereal creatures, with a perspective made possible by a luxury of time. The hobbits are bred to comfort, not glory or power.

Boromir, however, was born and reared to seek power through brutish force. In a household that distains the high-mindedness of Faramir, Boromir was trained as a man of action, one who understands the world through physicality and not well suited to philosophical musings. He is the least equipped, and perhaps the most likely to succumb to the pull of the ring.

Yet Boromir struggles to maintain his pledge and his allegiance to his traveling companions. Only very slowly does it take hold of him… and then, as we all do, he slips. His fall is what makes him the most human of Tolkien’s characters, yet in the aftermath of that fall, when, as far as he can possibly see, every promise of the future or success is lost, he struggles to regain his footing. As far as he knows they will all die there, unknown in the forest, the ring on the hand of their enemy – everything lost, but even without hope, he continues the struggle…

The best of us fight on, even without hope, simply because the cause is just…

This is what art does for us…it articulates these ideals… our hopes for… our dreams for…

And for myself… I hope I will be able to stand and deliver… to do what is not easy.

Here’s to your courage Ms. Rosa Parks… I wish Alabama had been kinder to you, but I’m glad you weren’t afraid.


My favorite artist… one of the greatest artists working today…

Mel Chin

Friday, October 21, 2005

what were we talking about?...

Soooo…. When are we going to see those telethons for earthquake relief? Anybody heard anything? Where’s the big push? What’s the deal?


I had an interesting conversation with a young man the other day. Let me begin by saying, he is a sweet beautiful intelligent young man. He had recently engaged in a conversation with an young African American woman. He is white. She was telling him about her local community’s response to racism and how there seemed almost a desire for segregation among her friends and family as an option to dealing with racist whites. (I’m paraphrasing of course).

The point is, he was amazed to find out that racism was still such an issue. He said this quite compassionately… but until she had discussed the issue, he had assumed that we were all moving in a “good” direction. He had assumed that the hard work had been done.

I think often there is this disconnect. If things are fine for me they must be fine for everyone. Our style driven culture cultivates this… It’s all about the surface… We’re not bad people, we’re just too often oblivious.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Military Recruitment in the High Schools….

The following is from an email I received from Lyz Bly, a Cleveland area writer and gallery director of BK Smith Gallery… (only slightly abridged and appearing with her permission)…

Dear Friends, Family, and Colleagues,

…an article … appeared in last week's edition of the Lakewood Sun Post. My son Gabe and I were interviewed by editor Brian Horn after we sent a letter to the superintendent of Lakewood City Schools asking that Gabe's name be removed from a military recruitment list that is being generated at almost all public schools across the country. Gabe and I will also appear on Channel 8 FOX News (Cleveland) discussing this important issue (according the the reporter, there is an "80% chance the story will air tonight" -- Tuesday, Oct. 18 -- at 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.).

As part of the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Behind" "education" policy, all schools that receive federal funding *must* submit students' personal information (including names, addresses, email addresses, cell phone numbers, race/ethnicity, social security numbers, extracurricular activities, and areas of study) to the Pentagon. The Pentagon is compiling an illegal database of 30 million 16-25 year-olds (young men *and* young women). Schools that do not submit this information lose their federal funding. To learn more, visit, where you can print a letter to your school's superintendent, print flyers, and learn how to subvert this clandestinely created system of information gathering, which will ultimately make military recruiters jobs much easier -- and it could be used if the draft is reinstated.

Please make the teenagers and parents of friends and family aware that they the only way their/their children's names will be removed from this list is if they send a letter requesting that their school administrator remove them from the list. Details are described in the attached article, at the "leave my child alone" web site, and will be explained (to some degree -- who knows how much of the interview will be edited!) on the channel 8 news interview.

Thanks for spreading the word re. this important issue.


but I play one on TV... :election reform

Based on what criteria do we elect leaders? -- Your religion is the same as mine? You speak the same “language” that I do? You seem like someone I would like to have dinner with maybe?

It’s funny, we are very proud that we’re a democracy; one person, one vote… but it is strange, isn’t it, that the founders didn’t establish a democracy? With appointment of John Roberts and the nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court, there has been a great deal of conversation concerning Constitutional Originalism (vs. judicial activism). Miers and Roberts are both touted as Originalists and it seems difficult to argue with anyone who is committed to upholding the Constitution as it was originally drafted…

Yet it seems that very early on we strayed from the original intent of the Constitution. Within the context of contemporary elections there is a great deal of debate having to do with the continued relevance of the electoral college and the manner in which votes themselves are counted. If we are a democracy shouldn’t we have a system that is truly based on one vote, one person? Yes, but, we are not a democracy, nor did our founders intend us to be… We are a republic.

Our founders understood that it would be best for citizens, rather than to vote directly for a candidate, to vote for people they knew and trusted to select the president. The idea seems to have been that the country was too large, even then, for individual citizens to know a candidate well enough to make an informed, not emotional, choice. A reality that is even more relevant today with the introduction of mass media into the process.

I fear we too often elect candidates based on the character they play on television rather than for their real life qualifications.

The counting of votes also reflects a different kind of thinking concerning the very nature of the country. The state by state vote reflects an understanding of the nation as a collection of smaller, yet sovereign states. It is a system designed to protect the political power of states with smaller populations and weaker economies. It was established to ensure that larger states did not exploit or “rule over” their weaker neighbors.

It seems disingenuous to prattle on about Constitutional Originalism when we’ve moved so far away from the intent of our founders in terms of how we envision the nation. It would be an interesting experiment to allow our system of elections to function as it was originally intended; but then, different sorts of machines would have to be constructed to build the road to power.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Pakistan… South American… and then so many other places…

No wonder Siddhartha took the road to enlightenment. All of attachment is the flower of grief. Everywhere these days it seems there is suffering. Innocent people cannot escape the vagaries of life…

How does the world make any sense right now? I guess it never really does, just sometimes we don’t see quite so clearly behind the curtain.


Happy Birthday John. You are so missed...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

a personal note...

I have kind and wonderful friends. Kisses to you all and remember this blog is meant to save you all from my continual ravings...

can you hear him now?

There's an insteresting documentary series coming down the pike:

The BBC Two series, "Israel and the Arabs: Elusive Peace" will be broadcast on Mondays from 10 October at 2100 BST.

A thing of great frustration to me is the monolithic nature of U.S. news sources. Try this experiment, take a week to compare your favorite national news programs, evening or morning. Spend a few days channel surfing between them so you can see what stories are being covered... often at the same time.

A friend told me that the similarity of their content extends from their dependence on the Associated Press for information. Probably not a conspiracy... but more likely the result of what is easy.

Who's speaking please?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

the math...

Always the comment is “Why don’t you just… buy a new car, buy new clothes, join a gym, get your bike fixed…? It won’t cost that much…”

On the “Today” show Katie Couric or Ann Curry say things like, “Wow, what a cute little bag (shoes, dress, etc.) and this is really inexpensive, isn’t it… Just $50,…$60,… a $100. Wow, what a great deal… and now to the news… Katrina revealed a side of American culture that we don’t often think about, the millions of Americans living below the poverty level. Why were Americans so shocked by the numbers of the poor revealed by Katrina and why didn’t officials have a plan to deal with the situation?”

Because the eyes of America are the media Katie. The television is the mirror through which we see ourselves. The poor don’t buy hummers. Their whites aren’t as white as the mothers’ in the ads and their homes don’t look like hers. The constant mantra of the television… “if you want to exist, own these things.”

The hidden poor are right here on the train. They’re walking down the street. We pass them everyday. We are them under different circumstances. Their camouflage is daylight and our contempt and fear.

Healthcare: I know from experience the math on that – even with insurance. “Go to the free clinics, get screened, get treatment… don’t worry about the cost for right now.” Yeah, Yeah, Yeah… The calls on the phone from creditors, the letters… if you’re sick you can’t work… other bills in addition to medical accrue… Collectors cold and trained to dispassion often don’t care that you just got out of the hospital… they’ve heard all the sob stories before and you shouldn’t have over extended yourself in this way to begin with. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been humiliated by someone I was trying to pay…* (and Bush signs legislation making it more difficult to declare bankruptcy while he make statements that assure us too many are abusing the privilege because they just don’t want to pay…)

Then there’s the edging guilt that fills in with anger - You don’t have a right to this care if you don’t have the money. There’s the feeling that you’re slipping in under false pretenses. Yes I’ll sign this paper that says I’m responsible for the debt incurred just please just save my life. (A side effect of Katrina… lots of illnesses that wouldn’t have been detected until it was “too late” are being treated by volunteer medical staff.) So you get to the point that you don’t go to the doctor until you have to because it seems like no matter how free it is there’s still a bill you know you can’t pay.

Katrina took the lives of too many of the poor… Here in the land of plenty how many of the poor die from undetected, untreated illness?

(* In 1996 I was diagnosed with cancer. I had insurance but was otherwise living from paycheck to paycheck. I had just become divorced. The delicate financial house of cards came tumbling down and I am only now making a dent in many of my debts from that time. I never declared bankruptcy but I know many who have.)


I had a strange dream about two nights ago. I was talking to Jesus. He was a thin, tall young man in jeans. He had shoulder length black hair and black eyes. We were some place that had an aura of pale blue and white. It seemed like a hall. It didn’t seem at all remarkable to be having a conversation with Jesus. He handed me a fogged-over mirror about the size of my hand. In the condensation on the mirro, he had traced a face with his finger. He said, “Hold it up so I can see myself… I can’t see myself unless you reflect me back.” In my dream I wondered if this was the same thing as when vampire can’t see themselves.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Dear Sisyphus,

You seem to catch my drift...

Monday, October 03, 2005

the train...

I’ve been riding the train in lately. I look around and I see folks with their children, their groceries, their lives. On days it rains, we all get soaked. There is a Herculean effort to move self and possessions from place to place. Here is one of those points of segregation… looking out the window at the cars, cars that offer access to the land of plenty.

To be poor is to be ground upon. It is a struggle, and there is contempt.

The worst sort of prejudice is the prejudice that is so embedded we don’t know it’s there. It’s the default assumption… It is the assumption… It is thinking that we know yet not knowing… It becomes a filter and we see the world through it. When I live your life only then can I understand. I wonder if this was what Jesus was about really… maybe he understood that only by giving up profit, by sharing until each has as much as the other, only then can we understand the burdens of that “other.” Jesus didn’t advocate the halfway measure… Until we live that other life we cannot know its meaning.