Icons, part the infinity

(This is the theme of my life. This is apparently what I am to always remember, to never forget, to paste to the front of my consciousness.

The Icon and The Human. The Image of God.)

It’s another December with a sad story about a girl gone missing, albeit one a long time ago. It’s also that time of year when my heart feels heavy for a variety of reasons unconnected to anything obvious. I feel dark.

Helo and I have been busy with searching, seeking out those who are not with their people at the time of their passing and to return them to where they belong in some form or fashion. That can add to the darkness, even when there are answers, because the questions themselves are heavy, and block out the light.

So I need very much the Advent, the arrival of The Word and the dawning of the Light.

We’ll start at the end, with the sentencing Friday of the man guilty of modern Fort Wayne’s original sin, the first girl missing and killed near the high Holy Days.

My new job, back in news, takes me occasionally back to the courtroom, though I have much more control over the what and the when. (It’s nice to be the boss.) On Friday, I spent the morning at the sentencing hearing, and helping my reporter craft her story on the matter, while I put a written version together for our website.

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The courtroom was filled with the image of the little girl, a picture I could conjure in my sleep having seen it so much for so long. On Friday, it was all over the t-shirts of her family, an innocent image reflecting nagging grief. I saw how tired they were, and heard their exhaustion as they spoke of what he took from them. I observed the still-smoldering rage of those who hunt the monsters. I saw, again, the ripples of the Fall, spreading out and contaminating all that it touches, breaking and distorting on its way through time.

I cannot reach this time of year without thinking of the other A-named girls: Alejandra and Aliana, whose stories intersected mine through journalism and drove me to search work. I will likely again light candles in their memory, pray for peace for those who miss them, those who hunted their killers and all of us impacted by their deaths.

My church has new icons up, a magnificent project with the Theotokos and infant Christ above the altar. Before court, I listened to a story my arts reporter did on the project, her interview with Fr. Andrew as he discussed the importance of the image to us who worship in this way, the Icon as connection of the physical and the spiritual, the Holy Scriptures without words.

I thought about all I’ve seen in recent weeks in both jobs, my heart heavy with the thought of what those families carry in the waiting, albeit 30 minutes or 30 years.

The recovery work, like the journalism work, is so intricately connected to Orthodoxy I do not believe they could exist without each other. Every time I unclip the leash and tell him to “Search”, every time I uncap the pen to capture the story, I feel like I am chasing icons, chronicling the image of God as it presents itself around me.

I don’t mean this to sound too holy, but I think it might. I’m sorry about that. I just cannot seem to shake this feeling that I need this hunt to remind myself of my own nature, to aid in my recovery from the fall.

I have often wondered if the thing our cadaver dogs detect, what distinguishes human remains from all other organic material, even that of other mammals, is this strange thing, this image of God we carry. I wish Helo could tell me, but he only tells me when he finds it. I still don’t know exactly what he’s sussing out. I’m sure some will cringe at the spiritual way I approach such an odd and grim task. I am not sorry about it though.

Anyway, I’m sorry for the meandering. It’s been awhile since I’ve been here. There’s been sadness and success since my last post. I guess I needed to process. Thanks for listening.

Advent is upon us. The light is dawning soon.

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It’s really not political.

Humans, being. Again.

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.

 

Opposition Party

They are your friends. They are your eyes and ears, your voice. They are writing the first draft of history, sometimes in a tweet or in an instant.

Update: 2018

I returned to journalism, now as a news director at a local public radio station.

It sure is a strange new world.

I teach journalism. For most of my entire adult life, I practiced journalism. I still write.

One of the first things I tell my students in my journalism classes is that, as societies transition from closed to open, from autocratic/oppressive to democratic/free, one of the first things to emerge is a free press. It might not be in the forms of printed newspapers  or broadcast television, but there will be a vibrant and growing movement to inform the populace and to keep an eye on the behavior of those in charge.

The converse is also true. When a society transitions from open to closed, from democratic/free to autocratic/oppressive, the first thing to feel the pressure and to be constrained is a free press. Autocracy needs isolation and secrecy. Dictators thrive on darkness like mushrooms in shit.

Never in my lifetime did I think I would see it apply here. But isn’t that always the case? We take what we have for granted, never imagining the house will catch fire and destroy the value.

For my entire professional life, I put my name on every word I wrote. Every investigation, every quote, every single solitary pixel or ink drop, was under my name. It was the same name with which I signed my checks, served on my parish council, and written on the mail in the mailbox.

Rebecca S. Green

With that name came two decades worth of skills honed interviewing, listening, watching, observing. I covered mass shootings, interviewed survivors in their hospital rooms, watched bodies pulled from wreckage, digested and explained hours of complicated court testimony in trials ranging from religious freedom cases to dead babies.

I lost sleep over mistakes I made. I called sources to apologize. I worried daily about whether I made the right calls to the right people, had the right information put together in the right way, and whether I had everything I needed.

I badgered prosecutors who were mishandling cases. I chased files through court hallways. I ran up and down stairs to find officials who were literally hiding from me. I shivered in the cold at scenes and took cover alongside police officers at standoffs. I waded through flood water to listen to victims to find out what needs they had. I didn’t vote for candidates whom I would be likely to cover to remove all question of impropriety or bias.

I did all that for the citizens of the communities I covered. I did this because the average citizen cannot drop everything to go sit in the county commissioners’ meeting, scheduled for the middle of the work day. The average person doesn’t know what questions to ask about why their tax bills are going up. And I was the one who told them their tax bills were going up.

I took calls from people accusing me of trying to ruin their lives. I took calls from people thanking me for changing them.

I was a journalist.

And I was not alone.

Everything I did, I did as part of a team, of men and women who did the same thing I did, with the same standards under which I functioned. We took it seriously. We sacrificed making more money in other jobs because we believed what we did was important to the health of our community and the safety of our democracy.

We were right.

So are the men and women who do this every day at the newspapers in the major cities, the television stations who provide you with your evening news.

Decades ago, we as a culture had a shared set of facts. You got your evening news from one of the major networks, and the flavor was in the accent of the anchor. Your newspaper was filled with the same wire services, and we all agreed on what was going on around us.

Corporate carnivores significantly weakened this model, and an obvious propaganda arms of one wing of our two-party system injected a virus (I’m looking at you FOXNews).

But true journalists persisted.journalist_mug

And they will.

They are not the opposition party. They are your friends. They are your eyes and ears, your voice. They are writing the first draft of history, sometimes in a tweet or in an instant.

Is it perfect? No. But it is made more complicated by an openly hostile government which refuses to answer questions, to return calls, and then misconstrues the very basic nature of the discussion. The government is telling you that water is not wet, that the sun comes up in the west, and that facts have an alternative.

Facts are facts. Water is wet in its liquid form, which it will eventually get to when it touches your skin. The sun will come up in the east every day.

Protect your journalists, for they are your right under the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

They will protect you.