‘Chocolate Cream Soldiers’

“Independence? That’s middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.” ― George Bernard Shaw

Fourth of July on a Canadian village stage, gunshots not fireworks assail the senses. The imagined war, prefiguring the Great War that began 100 years ago this summer, occasions fantastical combat.  Humor, wisdom linger in the theater. WHAT MYSTERY! His mind conjures a stinking, filthy runaway from combat scaling the Shakespearean balcony of the privileged flower of womanhood. Byronic beauty, her modesty, her romantic distraction are the soldier’s shield, his protection. Cream chocolates, not bullets, replenishment for the return to war.

What uses are cartridges in battle?

Soldiering, my dear madam, is the coward’s art of attacking mercilessly when you are strong, and keeping out of harm’s way when you are weak.”

(Act II, ARMS AND THE MAN)

Imagined in an age before the western world became intimate with the sound, images and everyday commerce of the slaughter of war, ARMS and a MAN seduces with comedy. The play is wise. This early Shaw is not yet so enamored of his own voice as to clutter his comedy and stultify his style with  the detritus of his didactic ego. Sage appreciation of human emotion combines with a satiric cynicism that still allows understanding.

This relatively early play of Shaw, currently in performance at the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario mocks rather than condemns militarism.   Sergius, is a “hero”, for the failure of the opponent’s weaponry.  The aristocrat, Petroff, the ranking military leader of the Bulgarians, roars, a comic character.  Society’s glorification of war and patriotism is pilloried in this play.

‘nine soldiers out of ten were born fools’

Arms and the Man

“Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it….”

“War does not decide who is right but who is left.”

― George Bernard Shaw

The rapid changes and resulting peculiarities emerging from modernization of society, industry,commerce,and international relations also endure Shaw’s analysis.  His “Man”,  Bluntschli, the ‘coward’ we initially encounter escaping the battlefield, arrives later in the play, distinguished, handsome, astonishingly efficient.  Not only is he headed back to his native Switzerland, appreciative that he holds the high honor of “free citizen,” and accomplished in matters military and administrative, this merchant soldier, unburdened with ideology, but gifted with efficiency, now develops troop movement plans for the Bulgarians, the  battlefield “enemy”  so recently fled.  This task had overwhelmed the aristocratic leadership Petroff and Sergius.  Shaw playfully questions whether the benefits of “progress,” from mechanization of households with servant buzzers and buzzing clocks to national armaments truly advances humanity. Or, not?

“We shouldn’t have been able to begin fighting if these foreigners hadn’t shewn us how to do it”

Act II, Arms and The Man

Two other major themes of Shaw’s life and work are realized in this play as well:  class politics and sexual politics, in equal measure seen as of an antithetical nature. Shaw parodies the romance between the social equals, the wealthy young woman and her ordained suitor who do and act as each expect the other should, and convince their world,themselves and each other they are deliriously “in love.”  Stilted language and exaggerated stage instruction enhance the enjoyment.  A cross-class romance, wherein the servant beguiles the master to marry her, amuses although the audience perceives its shocking character in the social constriction of the day.  And the pragmatist who has abandoned all romance, philosophy, and blind creed, wins the Byronic heroine, finally, to the apparently inexorable  gladness and admiration of all.  In the end, Shaw allows us to see the age of the modern days of the “real,” displacing old idealism, but we do so, gently and without pessimism.

“everything I think is mocked by everything I do.”

 “I have to get your room ready for you: to sweep and dust, to fetch and carry. How could that degrade me if it did not degrade you to have it done for you?”

 “As for her, she’s a liar; and her fine airs are a cheat; and I’m worth six of her. “

“When you strike that noble attitude and speak in that thrilling voice, I admire you; but I find it impossible to believe a single word you say.”

ARMS AND THE MAN (ACT III)

  

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Fire in the Cities

BEACON CONFLICT RESOLUTION CENTER

Just days after the nation commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Right Act of 1964, our faces turn to the dead and wounded in our twenty-first century cities.

President Johnson was eloquent on July 2, 1964:

Americans of every race and color have died in battle to protect our freedom. Americans of every race and color have worked to build a nation of widening opportunities. Now our generation of Americans has been called on to continue the unending search for justice within our own borders.We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment.We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet many Americans do not enjoy those rights.We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being deprived of those blessings—not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skin.

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Freedom’s Price? Corporate Freedom of Religious Expression Trumps A Woman’s Right of Choice

Religion without humanity is poor human stuff.

Sojourner Truth

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal (Pensees) 1670

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.  ~Mahatma Gandhi

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.
Karl Marx

 

Western Art, Song and Literature  elevate religious thought and feeling, canon and belief throughout centuries.  Women burning as witches, brother slaying brother, specifics of the creed determine lives.  Families fleeing intolerance and persecution, cultures reproduce in unlikely spaces across the world. The United States proclaims a refuge for the persecuted: Puritan, Quaker, Catholic, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Lutheran, Anglican. All voices may rise in free worship; the atheist song as well. Free speech, free association, freedom of religion.  Until today.

Compromised, contained, categorized, freedom of Religion, certainly.  Legal minds splitting threads of legal thought.  Fine, fine filaments. Today,  the Supreme Court  severed the strand.

A circle of owners, a private family business,  Hobby Lobby sells bric a brac, becomes wildly successful.  The family establishes a trust, then forms a ‘closely held corporation’.  Corporate law creates a shield for  individual family members.  The corporate form protects against legal liability. It bestows abundant tax benefits to the family. The  corporation donates generously, strategically to social and election campaigns, pursues  political objectives.  Hobby Lobby, one of Forbes 150 top US  closely held corporations, spends fortunes to create a political agenda.

 Hobby Lobby need not account for how it spends  money:  a corporation can be a  “person” under US law.

And, Hobby Lobby, need not be consistent in belief and behavior.

Hobby Lobby, the corporation, unfettered, free, invests workers money wisely, even into funds of other corporations which are makers of medicines and devices for birth control.(These companies’ business violates Hobby Lobby’s ethical code.  But the fund makes a profit.)  No worker sues to divest this course.  Corporate freedom of investment remains unencumbered.

 Hobby Lobby denies  female workers  access to health care options which include contraceptive care.   Corporate owners announce that their personal moral and religious beliefs oppose reproductive planning health care. They oppose this care even if used to treat a strictly medical condition. The owners assert their corporation has the same religious views.  They assert the right for free exercise of religion by their family corporation.

The Corporation is victorious once again.

The Supreme Court will not require closely held corporations to direct money into undifferentiated funds which finance a variety of health benefits under comprehensive health plans, including reproductive care. Not when the Corporation asserts that the provision of reproductive care violates a sincerely held religious value. Never mind that many workers  have different but equally important and as sincerely held religious beliefs.  Never mind that these workers financially depend on the job for health care and insurance. Do not consider that any worker whose values are offended can opt out of the insurance program or the reproductive benefits.  Why these factors do not matter is not clear.  Corporate free exercise of religion, apparently, trumps all.

Before today, a worker at Hobby Lobby who wanted access to reproductive health care whether for contraception or medical reasons had insurance coverage to obtain it.   Now, no matter the individual worker’s belief system,  she has no reproductive health care insurance coverage whether it is for family planning or it is medically necessary.

What other corporate ethical codes will trump a worker’s own?  Hobby Lobby, and countless other corporate consciences, could contrive religious exemptions to many legal mandates.  Many heard before, will they find favor if raised anew?   “It’s against my religious beliefs to allow…” blood transfusions; antidepressants; vaccinations; anesthesia; gelatin covered, pig derived or animal tested medicine!   “My religion precludes me from…”  employing women, paying minimum wages; employing integrated races; employing integrated religions, employing homosexuals, providing professional services to persons not of my religion, not of my race, not of my sexual orientation.

But, is it again about the woman, the worker, the working woman’s womb?  Is it  coincidence that the challenge which reached the court concerned women’s health?  Should we overlook that this challenge  implicates contraception?

Byzantine though the anti-birth control politicians seem, they are relentless.  A fully realized woman, empowered, employed, sexually fulfilled, a mother, healthy,  and above all happy with this life, affronts grotesque puritan values.  Values which mock us around the modern world.  Values so rooted at home we do not feel the constriction.

The sun is shining bright in Philadelphia,  merely 90 miles away from that decision.  Still, no greater darkness has manifest in the life of women from the law, in decades.

   

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To Welcome a New Life

Just after midsummer, a new baby will be born.

Love penetrates the heart  before the eye discovers. Already,unknowing, I have selected  a fine, wide cloth, now waiting adornments. The tapestry as yet unknown.

Joy, anticipating him….

I cherish his velvet skin, delicious, pure for so brief a time. The tiny fist so tightly clenched inspires the effort of living.  His baby smell, effervesced, but still sublimely sweet, exhilarates.

Hair matted against his face, heat of day too much;  his sweat, as all his little life,  extreme.

Whispers of wind, (or call of birds? ) rattle giggles from him.  His busy, boundless journey remains singular, for a time.

He and I do not share blood, or cells or chromosomes.

But he is kindred, still.

Will the unspawned babes of my own young grow up with him,  grasping vibrant  mantle of childhood in accord?   Will attic rooms reverberate each season once again, snickers, shrieks recalling silly scenes of the holiday table? Will summer tents contain their giggles and their shouts when scary stories are unleashed in the darkened wood? Will they  join with him, the oldest one,  when they  denounce the demons of the life they find themselves confronting?

Or will this baby merely be, first, the infant,then, the child, and finally, the man  I love dearly from afar, whom I know not well enough to fill my life?

Time holds the answer and it will be one way or other other.

Joy.  Expectancy.

Now I apprehend his weight, his  warmth, the soft pattern of his breathing.

The reminder, once again, that we can be our best selves, sometimes, when we allow ourselves to simply live.

 

   

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2013-10-02 05.08.42

Lost things..

Just last week I fretted for an hour about a favorite earring I had selected in the morning but discovered in the evening I had lost. Frustration bedeviled my moods. Until I walked into a park and saw a little girl. She was about two or three years old, sable hair, healthy, baby fine.  Her sound returned me to sweet hours in a cloistered tent upon a wooden beach.  Her laughter was the restless air and the cooling mountain stream along the rocky trail.  Her doting parents will never  find the words to show the love and joy the three of them were feeling in that accidentally observed moment, no matter if a telephone recorded every frame. The delicacy of loving bliss cannot be digitized, uploaded. It comes and goes as does the sunlight which etched softness on my heart.

 

   

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Down the yellow brick road after almost forty years

cropped-6-13-14.jpgIt does not take much to make us realize what fools we are, but

the little it takes is long in coming.

Flannery O’Connor

Some  days, green times of the early seventies filter through my memory and energize me with a subtle hopefulness.  It was after all, and as they say, a time of innocence.

For over a hundred years our voices had been unwelcome, our presence banned.   None of our ideas were thought to ennoble this  pleasant urban space. Now, the breath of change, crisp and fresh,  gave life to new friendship all around the campus.  

Willowy, long-haired women in denim skirts which reached the ground or those  in peasant garb or  the ones with shaggy hair dressed in traditional worker blues picnicked in the sun.  Books buttressing shoulders or balancing long sheets of ink filled paper, they sidelined sandwiches half-eaten, collected  yogurt cups on the felt-like lawn.  Miniskirts and mustaches  passed, silent or sneering, either way unnoticed as the gathered women vowed to meet again for dinner on Wednesday night to share, then, a more personal conversation.

Elsewhere, alcohol and drugs were expanding minds.  We adventured  landscapes new and old,  together and separately.  And though it was not always sunshine, it remained mostly green, as we became the star-gazer, the professor, the business woman, the writer, the teacher, and the one who disappeared. Nor can we forget, the lawyer, the one who was made duty bound to make the change for our daughters and their daughters. We thought, then,”if women had the power…” We believed better worlds lay down the yellow brick road. 

Young women dreaming, working hard, studying, achieving, so serious. Perched precariously, preparing for the revolutionary times that were ours to make and to finesse with fine ideas and our own fire.

But it became a summer of sweet content, mainly.

We became a writer and a star-gazer turned corporate traveler, a professor and two lawyers. Life gave  husbands, wives, houses, children, joys, sorrows and to one an early death. With our sisters in the same professions or in book clubs, we met at power lunches, for power walks, power runs for sister candidates.  We got older, looking younger than previous generations, with  expensive lotions, female surgeons and women’s fitness routines. We styled our long hair, recycled peasant dresses, shrunk the denim.

As do our sisters of the same color, class and education, we  live in such comfort our mothers dreamt of for the important and the wealthy. Many  mothers, who showed us more than we will ever comprehend about life, age in “assisted living” placements.  Our generation prides itself on our deep, rich, barrier breaking sensibilities.

 Our urban campus today, a testament: “if you let them in they shall seize it all. ”  Women outnumber men by three to one.  The institute  of learning which channeled  leaders to high places in the city, now feeds nurses to the clinics. No less achieved. More?

But, do the women still picnic on the green, grasping a new world order?  What of women vanished into that summer of content?

Deep hued times and even a new century,  women rise with matured aspirations.  Institutions defiantly departed now greet the daughters nonchalantly. Doctors and lawyers and professors, women are not uncommon.  Justice, equality and power remain absent, but inky notes on picnic papers  are quaint  relics of past hopes and philosophies.

The real revolution was women talking.  Women reaching out to women and listening to what was said.  Wanting to know what the other thought, felt, experienced, understood, expressed.  Certainly, this was a way of understanding self, narcissistic.  But it was also, a way of reaching out into the world.  Power, connection, caring.  

As are  blithe gatherings on the green, the conviviality for a cause vanished quickly in the summer. “Sisterhood” soon  shrouded with a bruising cloth.

We used to say the political is personal, the personal, political.

Some us always listened to each other, perhaps because these were the only sisters whose care we had ever known.  In that circle of understanding, learning, justice, connection, but validation above all.  Naively seeing worldly circles equal, these women headed straight to painful falls.

Some of us, unaware we were so vulnerable.  That attachment to a person and a cause would fray so quickly.  “That isn’t the way I see it, I see it differently.  There are extremists on every issue, in every time.”

Some of us,so easily intoxicated, refusing treatment, in denial our whole life long.  For  some, the drug, meanness,  the silent, silken   sway, enchanting, to see the others fall down in the path.  The bitter taste, but men have drunk this brew through ages, so many blends. We drink with gusto.Our right.  Our turn.

We , the bully, the bureaucrat, the shooter,the soldier,now as well.

” and so it goes,” Secretary Hillary Clinton  may refuse to trash Sarah Palin  just because she is asked to do so. But, Terry Gross will  try to trash  Secretary  Clinton  merely to show she can.

The writer will trash the business executive,traveling around the world.  Not in the open, with the concrete thing, which can be seen and defended. But behind the curtains, to some of the others, some words spoken.  The meaning clear, or not so clear, for the executive must believe she herself  at fault.

The director of the community group will trash the  popular professor.  The professor, too kind, too supportive, or, perhaps, presents another defect.  Is she a stand out member, too assertive, too many ideas?  The emails and memos circulate. There are missed meetings, about which the professor was not called. She will later scramble to trace events, as if she is researching her dissertation: who has been told; what has been said; when did this start; what is happening? Falling into a well of darkness, unsure of the beginning or the end.

Trashing is crazymaking.  Conflict announced as conflict avoidance.  Sudden, the unanticipated cold steel apprehended in the midst of warm conversation.

Is this the old, old pattern from years ago, or a dynamic by a newer catchy name: the bully, the frenemy.

Is this just what we did in school when they said that boys were tough but girls were catty?

Oh, has the world changed at all in forty years?

On the TV after another school shooting, another protest.  This time the grandmothers are all marching with colored signs outside the school.  They blame the bullies, they blame the videos and they blame the gun laws.  As I watch them, I cannot hep wonder how they communicate.

The statehouse steps erupt in shouts and angry protest as the car speeds away.  The governor again declares not all citizens have equal rights. At the front, clenched fists are pounding the humid air, relentless.  To the right, a couple embraces, and the woman cries on her partner’s breast.

The small courtroom empties to the lot in the shopping center.  The  man-child marches to his car, the woman-child to hers.  Because he is a soldier, his drunken fists have been forgiven. What will those fists do in three months time in the desert sands of Afghanistan?

…it takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place.  If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!

Lewis Carroll

       

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Memories of an illness

cropped-lightning-night-clouds-lake-thunderstorm-nature.jpg

 

The nerves will not be still.

No, not even in the deepest, fathomless hours of day, new born and dark, time of shape and shadow, no tale yet spawned to drain all thought and heart away.

Relentless burn, torpid crawl of scarlet. Piercing strike, fierce, spontaneous and fleeting. No coherent thought: thick, smoky fog of dread and hurt winnow reason from sensation in dark of night.

For the body remembers.

Transfuses a tincture of those former days and all their wretchedness from some secreted organ, imperceptibly, into the soul which shivers, then, in those dark hours of the day. The sun rises, but not so the heart of the one who can trace again the shape of dread, of solitude and torment marking each new day with shadow and proximate depletion.

In the days when nerves seared, the weight of air could bring a tear, and the weight of tears was too great for a hand to grasp.  She was then a stranger set to roam among the loving and the mean alike, each with ready access to bestow or steal some dignity to her.  She was too weak, or too much made a stranger, by so many gleaming strangers, to discern the loving from the mean, weakness from dignity.  In the nights when sorrow coursed through her, her dreams an endless tumbling through space, avoiding arrival,  the destination: despair.

There must have been the months of June, sunlit Sundays conferring perfumed air, lustrous landscapes, verdant fields and animals at play.  Wide beaches, no doubt, allowed buoyant children shrieking at cascading waves on newly sanded shores. Midnight rainstorms, spilling coolness from the sky after overheated hours, dramatic flashes of silver light and drum-roll far away. Surely, there were vital summer days and nights in that unfathomed time.  But the body has not etched a map. The mind  has  no recall.

And so the dread.

She feels herself  in time and space, with heart and mind and body, celebrating each new day, each June, each  sunrise, each rainstorm. The scarlet streak, angry, like a mark of shame, screams the termination of these things. Will she be the one who embraces June or the stranger dreading day.

The question comes.

Can she be a body burning in agony, in the gentle glory of the sun?

Sapped and spent beyond imagining.  Too rare a stranger, in an even stranger world.

 

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Remembrance

20140531_074719Cornflowers sketched on porcelain  reminded me of you that humid afternoon. Anticipating our conversations, the stuffy Philadelphia store, smelling of mustard, onions and incense, too crowded with overpriced goods  from “exotic” lands where poor artists  turned their craft into a trade to feed the village from dollars spent by the good-hearted and  comfortable consumer who likely will never see the suffering, oppressed me .

And more so as I envisioned the early morning clouds rising, your sparkling lake, calls of water fowl, whispered conversation,  strong, strong coffee in that porcelain cup, and you, your reassuring friendship stronger still  than coffee and with no bitterness in all the many decades. Cornflowers,growing freely in your field, is so like your heart, brave, persistent, secluded; any reference to your body then blissfully unknown.

And after. I have never known a love to grow so strong in the face of certain ending.  I have never known a love to grow stronger still each day as I discover new places in my heart I kept you with me.  It is true, each day I find a piece of me which you alone allowed  power to discover; and finding that, each day I feel again how much it is that I have lost since the morning I was told that you had gone.

The cornflower sketched on porcelain greeted me the first time there, the late spring light and all the glories of that place now seeming somehow truly an afterthought, a place for children’s play apart from intent, adult attention, a place for animals to run, but not, any longer, no more, the unifier, the center stage.  Could it be that, without your love, the magnificence and splendour, the healing power we, each, could find in nature diminished itself in size and power.  No god were you.  One bears the stain of your stubbornness and another still grieves the consequences of your full autonomy.  Love that is rich  and generous is god-like enough for me. Life changing.

It was one of the few you loathed, but I suppose, it could have been another.  Carelessly, he cast the cornflowers and porcelain upon the stone. My eyelids burned.  My throat felt there was a fire.  My brain searched and searched for meaning that this late gift had been destroyed.

I sought solace again in nature.  Your empty chair in the shadow of the sun reproves me, and I walk on.  The waters greet me so much sooner than they would have done before, the wide grand yard seems eaten up by lake.  I close my eyes, steady breathing to the sound of small waves that are arriving. I again regard  clear, clear cold northern waters, and turn away. The house appears unchanged.

Inside, he sits venturing a life without you.  His face, bereft, conveys such sorrow, a fragment of what he feels. I love him more than ever. There was that time and now there is another.  We will hold this sorrow the remainder of our days.

There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have been long extinct.  There are people whose brilliance continues to light this world even though they are no longer among the living.  These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark.  They light the way for humankind.

Hannah Senesh

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And So The Tears Still Fall…

No shadow is remembered nor an echo recalled of the impassioned campaign the women waged, (year upon year, under purple, white and golden banners) that they be seen and heard and counted:  enjoy enfranchisement alongside men. Ideals propelled them: their voice would jettison poverty, inferiority, powerlessness, within the home and in other spheres for white and black, for wife and spinster.

Marching, publishing, explaining with practiced elocution, they stood in cold and rain, they endured the glass and rocks hurled at their heads, they suffered far too many days of unlawful confinement and vicious jailers’ blows struck in a rage fueled by lack of comprehension.  They yearned for sunlight or the feel of a fresh breeze and writhed with pain and disgust as food forced through their nostrils mixed with their own vomit. They suffered the mantras of their detractors:  “You are not fit to think or speak your mind. You are like an errant child, you who were born for these things alone: to breed and to obey.”

The goal achieved.  The tale forgotten. The marching women’s words erased from our collective memory.

A treasured text from ancient times, feared, revered, misunderstood.  Talking heads on the flickering screen lob phrases: “jihad,” “Quar’an,”  “religious imperialism.”

 On the city street, a young, raven beauty darts before the dark to don again the  hijab she secreted, its heft, its gloom not matched to  her spirit.  She spies her brother in his western dress, and is immobilized; thought quelled; breath quashed. She  ceases to apprehend what is before her.  Her heart  plummtes below ground.  The young man’s eyes lock  hers, then look away, black and beautiful  as her own, burning coldly inside her brain.  The thin young body breathes again, short, fractured, gasping breaths.  The silken hair yields to the cloth as she withdraws into the shadows of the football field now falling into night.

Silken hair spills from the cloth when her body is found days later stabbed twenty-three times.  A father claims it is his right, his duty, to uphold the honor so demeaned by his daughter’s defiance.

After-dinner theater for a highly select group.  The stage: institutional greens, glass and steel.  The script so secret, any miscue, all is chaos and the public show is cancelled.

Out of view, the family arrives, still mourning. They know not what they seek precisely, each or all: vengeance, retribution, finality. Can rage, now after fifteen years, still feed the just and eternal flames of sorrow that scorched the hearts and faces, the eyes that now look on, somewhere, behind the stage, in a quiet room apart. Do those dolorous eyes surveill the set, after all, or do they see again, her face, her wave, her disappearing image  on that last June night of her so cruelly truncated life.

Photographs pose a hardened man, reporters tell a tale of unrepentant evil. He seized a life at random,he dispatched it for no reason.  His state pronounces a right to life, a right to kill.  They have sent him to the place to die.  But his body is recalcitrant and taunts their secret script.  The actors scramble in disarray.  The curtain falls.  Did the man writhe in pain, call out and convulse ?

Reviews are omnipresent: a macabre  performance.

Crimson stream on pearly ground glistens in the cold below the January stars.  Air escapes hissing from the embers still smoldering in the fire pit but the frigid form remains still.  The pistol reflects the light of the blue and white police cars where the woman sobs under blankets.

Inside the stately home, the grey haired detective sits on the leather chair and smells the lemon oil that recently kissed the antique cherry desk.His deep sigh echos on the empty shelves, the papers, arranged in martial rows and columns, announce the imminent seizure of the home by the bankers.

White candles in the night illuminate uncomprehending faces, stricken with loss and fear and rage.

Colored plastic body bags obscure the faces of the students slain on that Freedom’s  Friday.  And so the fabrications begin, the quest to be included in the sorrow, or, surpassing that, to become the tragedy itself. A  ripple,  soon to reach crescendo in a worldwide wave.

So many reach in fatigue, in desperation, with  minds too full, too  severely throbbing to comprehend that no single answer will ever serve to the simple question:  Why.

Communicators tangle threads.  “Another mass school shooting  ” Six young students slain, three slashed and stabbed.  Horrible.  Intimate.  Full of  hate.  And personal. Three students gunned down in moments.   Two, pre-meditated killed in a hunt for female flesh.  One random shot. All  young lives extinguished as the young man preened in his sleek black car through the California college beach town with far too many guns, more ammunition, hoarded,  like a nation’ treasure.One suicide. A bullet to the head.

The chain of blame: a bullied child was he.  A bullied child in wonderland, in wealth and privilege, ancient parkland, grandmother’s tales.  His anguished parents questing until the moments  he lay dying,  speeding through the night to rescue others, to interrupt his action.

A lonely man living in the modern electronic world riddled with thoughts of hatred.  Young women  slaughtered in the morning of  joyous lives, blameless, strong, empowered. Their memory untarnished by his disordered mind.  To honor them we must not seize their tragic story. Nor fail to hear his loathing for the Asian, or see the slashing death he wrought on Asian men with whom he shared nothing more than perhaps a skin tone.

Their lives deserve full honor, not least to be remembered.

In light of day, by clear starlight, the tide returns in peace. Each will reach to touch a heart. Many times, we will succeed.


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memorial

National-9-11-Memorial-Photos-5That Tuesday, my heart continued sore in the absence of his laughter, amid the morning muddle, the sustenance for the emerging day. Understanding the extravagance of this grief,  I humbly gathered their voices, the scents of unbroken books, the press of  lips to cheek.

Cerulean skies compelled contemplation of the day’s perfection: a clarity in the sky; a crispness in the air; compassion in the sun that burned more gently now than  in the unbearable heat of  summertime.

The concrete bunker, windowless, modern, contrived upon  the stately, antique hall of justice, annulled all thoughts of nature.  Business -as-usual numbed  the heart,the mind.

Uncertain voices besiege; turmoil in all directions: “They are Bombing New York!”

“Who, Why, How, Where, When?” No answers mattered in the moment.

The image of the man–child signaling farewell.

“Is he unharmed?  Is he unharmed? Is he unharmed ?” The beat my body pounding.

One Hundred Thirty Blocks or One Thousand Miles. None of us unscathed.

The relentless display of the instant of the abomination:  we are wounded and broken; allow ourselves stare  on and be shattered once again.

Like a dust storm on a prairie in the mid-land, a cloud of horror mutates day time into night.  The despairing fling themselves into a hopeless future. Some of the valiant surrender life in a green Pennsylvania field.  All goes dark as more die in flames in Virginia.

Church bells call.  Sirens keen. Bands march. The Great Men evangelize. An old oak tree crackles with the tension.  Neighbors cry to hear the mother wail. Lights burn all night to comfort  uncomprehending children. Strangers, friends, near and far, gather towards the fires to offer aid.

Twelve Years, eight months and some days later, the grieving, the survivors gather at that place  made sacred in New York. So many lost, no trace found, just fragments.  The grieving steadfast in their  love.

Names are carved atop the iron bars, smoke-covered shoes and paper fragments.    Remnants of what was expected to be a hum-drum day. Photographs of men, once seen, remain enduring; incomprehensibly not observed in time to forestall events.

Speeches still exalt the bravery, the compassion, the kindness seen around the world that September: Life is celebrated in the ordinariness of the moment.  Or in the valor of risking all to render aid.

The flag draped stages proclaim platitudes of unexamined patriotism.  Proponents of power pronounce dominance unassailed.

We feel the shock again as we stand in line at the airport, witness radiation invade the body of our child.

What is private, since that day, has gained new meaning.  What is lawful for the police to take is new as well. To be christian, to be muslim: it clearly matters.   Whom you visit, who you know, what you read  is viewed with patriotic zeal.

Under palm trees, men, facing no charges, sit in cages recalling sudden capture, cruel detention,  perhaps torture. Too many dead in wars begun,  amid cries of vengeance, fought, as rich and poor at home reached a new divide.  Sons and daughters return with dreams exploding in  blood and gore and desert.    Children, playing in the sand, fall; slain  by unmanned drones they grew  up fearing.  USA has a whole new meaning around the world.

We honor the brave one who ran into the building.  We  esteem the passengers who downed their plane.  We celebrate the neighbor helping neighbor.

Can we be  again who we were that sun filled Tuesday? Older, clearly, and  so we surely must have more judgement.  But can we reclaim the courage we surrendered  in the trauma?  The confidence:  freedom is a birthright, or it is attainable by all?   The understanding that too much  fear has engulfed us since that September morning.

The highest honor, the finest memorial is to cast that fear aside.

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