It’s really not political.

Humans, being. Again.

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I know I post a lot of stuff. (I really just try to keep ya’ll informed. Doing the news thing, social-like.)

But I want to be clear: to me this is a moral thing.

If you give me a Democrat who recognizes the inherent dignities of every human being, born and unborn, I will vote for them.

If you give me a Republican who recognizes the inherent dignities of every human being, born and unborn, I will vote for them.

Since neither does either very well, I base my choices on which candidate does so better.

And I try to do journalism that amplifies the voices of those who get drowned out, to make sure that truth is told, to be ethical.

Repeat after me:

Holy InnocentsThe unborn baby is being made in the image of God.

The Honduran immigrant baby being pulled out of her mother’s arms is made in the image of God.

The transgendered person using a restaurant bathroom with you is made in the image of God.

The rural unemployed mom struggling with opioid addiction and keeping the lights on is made in the image of God.

The Syrians fleeing violence across the Mediterranean Sea are made in the image of God.

These are icons. These are what we must protect.

Jesus Carries the Cross
From “The Stations of the Cross” at the Church of the Advocate in downtown Philadelphia. All of the icons or religious artwork have been replaced with photographs of refugees or the poor. A heartbreaking reminder.

I try to keep it simple:

Is this a human being? yes.

If yes, is its dignity being threatened? Yes or no

If yes, help it. If no, applaud its victory.

Humans do not infest or inconvenience.

Humans are.

 

The Stranger

When I backed out of my driveway this morning, I noticed a guest: a small juvenile robin sitting on our door frame. It’s mother chattered nervously nearby.

When A trimmed the hedges this evening, he maneuvered around the little one, again to the chatter and now with added dive-bombing activity of the parents.

I took Helo outside tonight, to take some pictures and enjoy the freedom of a cool-ish evening before summer heat settles in. It was a long week at TJTP and I needed a breather.

I knew what was coming in the afternoon, and I made sure to spend some time in the prayer corner Thursday morning. A reading from Matthew:

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

A visit from the Attorney General demanded coverage, and I sat in room filled with old sources, old friends, and new sources and new friends. I listened to the words of my Holy Scripture being twisted into knots to justify the unjustifiable, to explain the inexplicable.

Anyway, back to the yard.

So I am trying to both take a picture of Helo and throw his tug, and I hear a cacophony from the sycamore over the woodshed. It’s both robin parents, beside themselves. The baby is nearby.

Keeping a close eye on my dog, who would eat it in a minute, I try to find the bird. There it sits, tucked in the root of another tree on the other side of the yard. My heart is glad it’s there, and worries about the barn cat catching scent. There’s nothing I can do, other than allay the parents’ fears and keep Helo out of the way. I put him up as quickly as I can, keeping him moving quickly on the opposite side of the baby.

A natural instinct: protecting your offspring. The killdeer stagger and flop around to keep Helo away from their poorly-planned nest sites. The robins, they shriek in terror, clattering and calling to their beloved.

If I am filled with compassion for a baby bird, how much more so is my God. How much more so should I be for the parents approaching our southern border to find a twisted knot of American ideals and misapplied Scriptures.

They are of more value than many sparrows.DSC_0118 (3)

Don’t stand silent. Do what you can do to keep the predators away. Move them to safety if you can. Don’t just pray and cross your fingers that it will all work out because that is not going to work if you don’t do something.

If you are a Christian, this cannot be you. He’s been clear about it from the get.

Leviticus, Job, the prophetic books–It’s all over the Old Testament.

Then there’s this verse: Matthew 25:35

I was a stranger, and you invited Me in.

That’s unequivocal. Don’t pretend it only applies to the four-walled auditorium where you spend a couple of hours on Sunday.

It applies to all of us, out here in the open. In the yard. Under the tree. Along the border. At the ballot box.

I hope the robin is OK. I’m not going to stress them out by taking her from them.

2018-06-12 09.17.00-2

 

Lap 41: A few scattered thoughts

I am eight days into my 41st lap around the sun. Weird, huh. I told a friend the other day we are who we are in the eighth grade. She argued with me vehemently, but I stand by that. In fact, the older I get, the more I seem to be that person, albeit a more secure, self-assured version of that person. I liked that person. She was competent (working at an animal hospital at 13) and teaching herself the 8th grade (homeschooler!). She was curious. She was a good sister. She was brave, in ways I see now, but am not going to go into here. She loved well. I see nothing wrong with being that person again, though this time with a driver’s license, a good chunk of student loan debt still to pay off and business cards with a title on them. If I brought all that I liked about that girl into life with this woman, I could do a lot worse.

Fort Wayne has had a blue million homicides this year and apparently it finally got to me. Early this morning, I woke up deeply disturbed by a dream involving a young black man walking around with a bullet hole in his head (he was dead and walking around) and I could do nothing about it. I tried to draw attention to it, but nobody paid any mind. I couldn’t help him in anyway. Maddening and nauseating. The timing is puzzling to me, though. In April, I stood at two homicide scenes, feet from the bodies. No problems. I covered a couple homicide trials this year, and had no issues there either. Why I woke up panting and disgusted with myself and all in the world at 4:30 this morning, in a hotel room after four days away from it, I have no idea. I can only guess the trouble is cumulative: too much death in too few days, too much controversy, too much feedback from the public (they can take a step back at any time and it’ll be fine with me).

I notice, though, I’m getting a lot more cynical and a lot less tolerant at the same time. It seems counter-intuitive, but even though my gallows humor functions quite (inappropriately) well, I am prone to feeling more sad in the courtroom, much less able to separate the victims’ emotions from mine by distance. I blame age. I blame an ever-deepening realization of consequences, of loss, of anguish, of love, of all that makes life here so completely miserable and amazing all at once. People I love with my whole heart have lost so much in the past year, and it is maddening to be so completely impotent, so totally incapable of doing anything more than walking along beside. And I just am not any good at that. (see above reference to incapability and know that makes me angry). If we have another case like Plumadore in the next few months, I very well might find myself curled up on the floor.

This all sounds very depressing, I realize. I’m really not though, just feeling a tad introspective. Maybe it’s Bach on the headphones, maybe the darkened library in this fancy-pants resort we’re staying in for A’s work conference, maybe it’s the rainy November weather. No worries, though, it’s all good. My blessings are frequently counted these days.

My writing location
My writing location

And they are many.

On a totally unrelated note, I really like wedding rings. As you know, I’m big on symbol (connecting the spiritual reality to the physical realm) and they definitely are that. I like the wedding ring on my finger, I love the one on A’s and I just think it’s a fabulous tradition for a kinesthetic type like myself who is always in need of the concrete and the tangible. (I married Mr. Concrete and Tangible because I need it so much)

 

On a familiar theme

Or actions have consequences, late 2011 edition.

I’m sure you hadn’t heard the news, what with the holidays and the recess appointments and the Iowa clown car, I mean caucus. So in case you didn’t, here you go.

The tauntaun made a bad choice New Year’s day and ate Princess Leia. As my 3-year-old nephew explained it, the tauntaun did not do what he was supposed to do, which was protect her, instead helping the tiger to eat her.

“But she’s ok. She came back to life,” he said as he made the tauntaun climb the door frame on the sun porch.

Well, thank the Force.

Most of our choices don’t have a complete reversal, especially if they’re tragic.

As I wrapped up the tauntaun the day before (we do our Christmas on New Year’s weekend), I was so mad I could spit. I intended to buy L a different present, as well as a more deliberate choice for my new month-old niece MM.

But I never got to the store last week for Christmas shopping or groceries. I ran out of milk, orange juice and patience as I chased the worst story I’d ever covered and the worst I hope I ever cover. It’s not over, so it will continue to aggravate the #*$(& out of me, but whatever. The bad choices of that guy spread out like so many ripples in a shallow pond after a boulder falls into it. The cops missed their Christmas with their families searching for that little girl. Normal people throughout the community prayed and hoped beyond reason for her safe return. And I sat and listened on the scanner to the fruitless hunt, lit a candle, had a good cry and knew in my heart she was dead. But all that work, hours and hours of chronicling the madness (I told one of my judges I felt like a carnival barker in hell…step right up and see the freak show), left me without the time and the emotional energy to engage in my own joy.

Thank God, seriously, I realized that was happening. It only took a day or two to figure out how to deal with it, put it aside for the time being and join in the celebration of so many recent blessings in my life and the lives of my sisters. I sit here now, on the tail end of a week off, nearly ready to go back to work. I know, though, that that one choice made by that mom to put her child in the care of that one guy, who made the choice to do what he did will continue to ripple throughout my own life, professionally and personally. I know it’s going to wear me out, make me cry, make me pissed off and make me spend time in the basement with my heavy bag, hitting the only thing I can.

The little princess didn’t come back from this one. I give thanks knowing that my sister is raising that little boy to understand that bad choices have consequences. And in spite of the resurrection of Leia and the rehabilitation of the tauntaun, L knows some things aren’t made right.

 

Morally mandatory

“The devil he wore such a fine, fine shirt
And it stayed so clean, While he dragged me through the dirt.”

Rocks and Water by Deb Talan.

I am not sure exactly why we’re here again, but we are. Ten years after Cardinal Bernard Law was exiled to Rome and the Boston Archdiocese left in ruins, the reputations of another American institution, this time big time college football and an iconic coach are caught doing the same thing.

Repeat after me, boys and girls: if you see a grown man forcing himself on a young boy in a shower, you do not call your boss. You call the police. I don’t care what the law says. I don’t care what your university policy says. You call the frakking police. Are we clear? OK, moving on…

Somewhere around 1996, my mom and sisters and I returned to Baltimore for a vacation to catch up with old friends. I was in my early 20s and a complete emotional disaster. The thing about abuse is how crazy you feel trying to make sense of it. Your brain can’t make sense of it, of course, because, by definition, it is senseless. But it tries, you try, and in the effort you usually end up tied in an impossible knot, your soul at the center and stuck.

Our oldest friends as a family lived in a beautiful rural area just outside the city. We stayed with them in a house my parents helped them build and one that my sisters and I ran around countless times as little kids. Mr. Jack and Miss Marian. Their names make me smile, just seeing them on the screen. Mr. Jack and I ran an errand one evening during the vacation, buying milk or something at a convenience store up the road. Earlier in the afternoon, the house lost power and BG&E came out to fix it. Because of the single lane going to their house, Mr. Jack and I were trapped in the driveway for awhile while we waited for the trucks to leave. I will never, ever forget that conversation in the darkening car.

He looked me square in my eyes and apologized. We should have done something, he said. We knew there was something wrong with your father, that there was something wrong with how he treated you and the others in that house. And we didn’t do anything. We prayed for you, but we should have done more.

What could you have done, I asked.

Something more, he said, tears in his eyes.

That conversation pushed me a huge step forward on the path to un-knotting my life and how I felt about it. It made all the difference in the world, particularly since I held nothing against them because of their inaction. It hadn’t even occurred to me at that point that what was going on may have been visible to others.

Over the years, a few others along the way have made similar statements to the women in my home. All were welcome, but none so blindingly gracious as that encounter in the driveway. Someone knew. Even when we didn’t know (or more accurately, didn’t know we knew). And yes, they should have done something. But they realized it and did the best they could years later. They owned it and took responsibility for the damage their inaction may have caused.

I am sure that we’ll be here again, as a culture, as communities, as churches, as brothers and sisters in this place gone mad. But by God, it does not have to be this way. My friends on the blog are still looking for a similar, heartfelt encounter with the POTB at ABWE. Maybe the grand jury that took at shot at Penn State just 90 miles up the road will prompt some fearful action on their part. But I ain’t holding my breath.

We, as human beings, should not concern ourselves with the legal minimum responsibility to each other. And we need to understand it’s always going to be hard. It’s always going to be the respected coach, the medical missionary, the beloved parish priest. It’s always going to be a shock, a horrible surprise. And if you fall asleep at the switch, for the love of all that is good and holy, do NOT stand there and say, well, I did the least I could do. It doesn’t matter the LEAST you can do. The LEAST of US trumps that, every time.

Taking action, being accountable, protecting them…it’s morally mandatory.

Not an option.

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:6

But they did not receive Him…

…and when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?’

But He turned and rebuked them and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.

Luke 9: 53-56 (today’s Gospel reading)

Fixing to get real

I have a bad feeling about this thing, kids. And it’s not that I think the protesters don’t have the right idea(s) or that taking the Constitution for a walk every now and then isn’t a good thing. It needs a little exercise, more than just carrying copies in your pocket and then confusing it for the Articles of Confederation.

Anywho, I don’t think this is going to end well. There are those in the blogosphere who seem to think we’re in the last days of Empire, but, frankly, I think we’re past that already. You know when a person dies, there’s that last breath, the gasp and the rattle in the chest. We’re living in that — the vapors expelled right before there is.no.more. We’re done, as a country, as a culture–as the “land of the free, home of the brave/in God we trust, red-white-and blue” stick a fork in it, kids.

A really smart guy (who uses dirty words, so beware) predicts the #Occupy Wall Street movement is just one testosterone-crazed young man with bigger ideas away from a full-on violent, French Revolution kinda outburst. I tend to agree with him. Right now the populace is adequately entertained with its Real Housewives and its X-Factor and its Monday Night Football, but give it time and we’re going to have the roiling masses throwing park benches through office windows and the police are going to be doing more than just pepper-spraying the inconvenient protesters. Heck, they already arrested a woman who closed her bank account at Citi. True story.

I see it in the faces of the people waiting in the hallways of the courthouse, trying to make ends meet, trying to save their homes, their dignity, their whatever-they-have-left. I feel it sometimes in myself when I open another bill, put those student loans back in deferment, or wait to see how bad my health insurance is going to go up.

We, as a country, could have fixed this years ago. The president could fix this –make those useless bureaucrats in the SEC and elsewhere do something about the crimes that were committed, make the U.S. economy to stop functioning like drunken Midwesterners on a First Nation casino bus tour through Michigan. The GOP (and a handful of Democrats) could fix it too by stop saying NO, by knocking off this non-stop “if I don’t get want I want, I’m going to hold my hand over the country’s mouth until it turns blue”.

We’re done. We’re done because the churches (particularly the Evangelical masses) have long since stopped being a prophetic voice against the wanton accumulation of wealth at any costs. We’re done because the churches (particularly the mainline) have long since stopped being a prophetic voice for morality. We’re done because we’ve confused partisanship for patriotism. We’re done because we allowed our representatives to make campaigns secret. We’re done because we’ve decided that corporations are people too! Yippee!! We’re done because, while there’s no I in team, there’s I in “I want” and “mine.” We’re done because most Americans (largely of Evangelical bent) think that we’re Exceptional because we’re here

We ain’t nothing new and people like us have existed and been wiped off the map of history countless times before by impatient masses who start chanting “mine” louder than the people in power.

Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field until there is no more room. Who chase after rewards and love a bribe; who do not defend the orphan nor does the widow’s plea come before them. Isaiah 5:8, 1:23.