Somewhere on a Mountaintop….

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASomewhere on a mountaintop …. dawning caresses awareness; the nearly flawless skin about her eyes lurches;   her silken limbs emerge – brocade and silks, so softly set aside.

On the terrace, the chill has not absconded.  She lifts her shawl, steps out to the abundant morning; beyond, sierra silhouetted against the breaking day, blue enveloping.

The breeze is piquant with juniper, pine ,musk, and sage, and the trace of dew lingering. Collecting into a cloud of steam, above the translucent coffee pot, morning air  steeps her soul with satisfaction, and with a twinge of sadness: her eye contains the image of migrant men in the open truck far down below on the rocky road ascending to a farm somewhere out of view.

****

Somewhere on a mountaintop….she accompanies her flock to accept the day as it arrives upon the chilled and rocky slope above her whitewashed cottage on the hillside so distant now and barely seen.

Stillness, then the silence snapped by the crack of  sheepdogs barking, the sharp calls echo through the hills, the herd replying. A melody of hooves and brays and barks and bleats and birds and morning.

She settles in a meadow for her meal, the thermos steaming. Her swollen hands,red and knobbed and rough, grasp the teacup clumsily, and are warmed.  Sunshine gathers strength as does the smile that lingers behind flagging eyes that surveil the rock and  field and sky and perceive majesty.

 ****

Somewhere on a mountaintop….  she  no longer knows if it is night or  it is day.

 

Cacophony. Dissonance. Tumult. Noise. Horror, Wails. Moans. Groans. Torment. And worst: Silence.

 Her eyes, unsighted  now, are parched; tears remain her burden. Fouled air. Ruthless heat. Implacable hunger. These cower in the face of fear. Pulverized sand and dirt cling to her skin, climb down her throat. Her thoughts emerge from blackness to watch again helplessly as he is stolen from her life ,his own extinguished. 

Words amass and seem to mean something about survival …

 

 http://www.blogsbywomen.org/

window on the world

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That portal, appraising a refuge from that insistent insomnia which followed the  uncommon and lingering cold of that Pennsylvania winter, made too dark by death and distance and recurrent themes of global iniquity, offered succor and satisfaction.

That sanctuary improbably contains entire unseen worlds: icy rivers, fragrant fields, ancient towers; long-lost seasons, war battered villagers, sun-kissed nordic children; human depravity; graceful forgiveness; unconditional love.

MHZ Woldwide , MHZ Networks Worldwide.or might easily become an addiction.

U.S. television never tantalized in this way.  The “comedy,” too mean, or cheap, or base, rarely spawns a smile.  The fantastical or blood-drenched drama fails to engage.

Is the “small screen”  in truth a magnifier of  larger culture?

I see in most US made television too omnipresent toilet humor and flesh bared for the sake of it.  No longer, if ever it was,  art or narrative, or even excitement, but seeming  as a naughty child announcing his own defiant and dubious accomplishment. Rarely does the screen reflect the economic truth that is our life and will be our videographic legacy.  Rather, fabulous images permeate: pristine interiors; not  a single unwashed dish awaits the harried mother on her return from work.  Poverty, so rarely seen, is never seen true: one can never see the broken glass  in the subway or the detritus in the alley or the smells of urine, blood, rotted food and sex  emanating from the darkened halls of the tenement where the brave and perfectly coiffed FBI agent with his shiny gun snakes through with such grit and virile vigor.

Too much physical beauty: the highest of the high-end of  runway fashions painted onto idealized forms of starving actors who exhibit bodies turned out by gyms or film editing tricks to emphasise the muscles on anorexic female forms.  Anachronistic:  emphasize the female form in costume above historical accuracy.  Inappropriate: what matter if no lawyer, doctor would truly wear such fashion in the hum drum halls of her profession? Product placement:  Whether cable or subscription or the network: the means to market to the masses(the car, computer or refrigerator in the scene) must never be forsaken!

Sex and violence.  Violent sex. Cannibalism and cult criminality.  Such themes sell, apparently.  Heterosexual, the predominant cultural fantasy but increasingly same-sex relationships are scripted into shows, much as “racial quotas” are often witnessed.  The marketing of violence and male sexual fantasy is the persistent  “sell.” Infrequent now, tenderness on the small screen.  Rather, sexual encounters as violently “passionate” encounters, virtual rape fantasies.  Not that the small screen lacks for the portrayal of actual rape encounters; whole series dedicated to sex crimes.

The Anglo-American television drama produces more than its share of the misogynist serial rapist murderer, frequently ritual misogynistic rapist/murderer.

It tires. Saddens.  Disheartens. More than rarely, it disgusts.

The discovery of  MHZ:  a cornucopia of  European vision.  Perhaps, it sparkles brightly in proportion to its novelty.  Possibly.  Or, it offers a genuine thread to untangle worlds unknown.

The mind awakes to the varied patterns of language; attending not merely the sound of the tongue but the eyes, the face, the gestures and body movement of the language as well.  Communication in each country emerges uniquely. In drama, in comedy, the actor engages her entire self.

Landscapes incorporate the narrative.  The thrilling North Sea cliffs  tell a different tale than the Palermo seascape, the mood of the autobahn is different from that of the fifth arrondissement.

Food and celebration are conveyed so clearly in modern Swedish Solstice celebrations but vivid too are postwar Danish Christmas rituals, spare and sincere. A  family dinner in 1950’s Milan creates a different feeling than the urban family meal in a Parisian restaurant.

There is pleasure in the private discovery of the cultural codes and conventions one might learn from the unfolding presentations.

Many regions value food more highly than US television producers.  Care is taken to demonstrate cuisine,  kitchen tools and cooking methods of a period, of a city or a country.  Restaurants and kitchens, dining rooms and patios emanate ambiance so bright as one watches the smells, almost the tastes come alive, one’s palate is tempted with the wines richly described and correctly poured on screen.

Styles of living through the years evolve so dramatically, yet change not at all.  When marketing products or perfection is not the story, dust can accumulate on the mahogany furnishings beneath the open Roman window and  water stains on the tile under the soggy boots of a Berlin winter.  The casual elegance of a Parisian Sunday brunch in an over furnished 1930’s apartment arrests our attention.  People live with wine bottles on the table from last night’s meal and newspapers still being read in the internet age. The viewer is permitted a more realistic, if not a true view, of how wealth distorts lifestyle through the decades whether in northern continental urban Europe  largely residing in apartments, or the Scandinavian and the Mediterranean whose lives,  rich and poor, may have some backdrop of the sea.

Together, these tales tease to discover the values which bind the culture.  When the father who has been grievously wronged embraces his child with forgiveness , is it the omnipresence of the Catholic Church in Italy which allows him to do so?  But would an Irishman do the same?  Or is this generosity something unique to the Italian landscape, sun-baked and steeped in the sweet aromas of the Mediterranean?

Most striking, History is a character in  so many of the dramas.  Most especially, World War II is kept an actor of our time.  The war as action, the war as precedent, the war as motivation.  The man as hero, the child as orphan, the woman as love child.  Often without a direct mention, it is ever clear that the  historical created the dramatic conflict of the moment, the precise events of history,  the reality lived: these people and events  inhabit the stories which unfold on that small screen.

As an American watching  a world in which the characters of the twenty-first century appear deeply connected to the events of  seventy-five or one hundred years ago, I feel a void.  One could argue our culture is more free, unburdened by the past.  One could also suggest we are less prepared to craft a future.

That portal, still a haven for restless nights, filled with the fireflies and the lightening of  these overheated summer days, too filled with replays of unending global conflict, enlightens and directs an understanding which feels a salve for the burdens of the day.

 

http://www.blogsbywomen.org/

 

 

 

 

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.

   

http://www.blogsbywomen.org/

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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They insist I think of War

 

 

cropped-hires_071112-n-9898l-030.jpgA PROSE POEM

They insist I think of war, and yet I always think of you, mother, though I recall not a single word we ever spoke of war, that flesh could tear and blood swamp the sand; that one is just, or not, to footslog into battle and shoot and kill and even die upon demand.

Red and white and blue and cotton candy, thirty-six inch flags festoon facades of brick box houses, dreariness costumed for the day with shiny celebration crowned at evening with sparklers and ice cream; thundering ashes herald colors briefly before the sullen, sulking fall to blackened sidewalks where the beer-stinking men in tobacco stained shirts you told me not to talk to slovenly slump aside the fire engines as the bloated, weary wives chase home children who have now forgotten celebration.  The crisp morning marchers and their rhythmic beat who with bugles and their drums paraded proudly are now as silent as the guns and soldiers no longer in procession, not seen again until the evening news shows body bags on beaches on some other day.

I know, now,  when you avowed the Easter Rising, it was not Christ, your Lord, of whom you spoke, but of men and women, young, proud, and some who were only hungry, gathering in the fields and in the mountains, marching, marching, marching blindly through the night and into day, through the mists and by the rivers, not to capture the flag of freedom but to become your Martyrs, while Others, wielding weapons,  butchers and the butchered,   survivors donning robes of Justice for the executions.

Grandfather from a crumpled photograph regards posterity, defies judgment of us all; no nation’s costume ever weighed his shoulders;  intelligence he gathered sheltered under rock while Black and Tan colors darkened your toddler world, careening you so high, the rifle first a truncheon then a jungle gym, fearsome,  until the chaos and the cruelty receded with the dawn; was it black and tan and red of blood that rankled dreams, a smite forever upon freedom’s call; igniting  bombs, no not mere Troubles, mother, fulsome battles of a war.

You agreed with him: you had not crossed an ocean, breathed a lifetime here upon a foreign shore to release both sons, or either, to a jungle death for some unknown rich man’s gain. He, more than you, esteemed Law and Order; natural law allowed that he abduct them to frozen reaches receiving the rebelling native-born.  A war not blessed by the Holy Father cannot be a War that calls HIS sons to die. He rejects a hand to walk together with the Peaceful; to private pain, a solitary solution is all.

The small screen flashes black and white impressions, leaders slain, cities burning, choppers feeding poison to the air; a child’s screams inside  fires, all are raging; blood-soaked men on stretchers without limbs.  Chants echo charging men in suits with children’s slaughter and youth in jeans with cowardice and fear. Communication crumbles into chaos, its reverberating silence strikes out with pain.

Unlike yours, my life collected pathways: railroad cars and ferries, jumbo jets and caravans, sleeping trains and rented automobiles careening through the darkness into splendor;cardboard camps transfigured into sparkling cities when cartographers and politicians proclaim a nation’s line is crossed.  Outside schools, inside churches, in the harbors where the veteran gunboats rest, on many cars and on more country houses, playgrounds, courts, malls, gas stations, airports, synagogues, temples, in the fields and the stadiums, at the theater and the mortuary as well, in town centers and on the outskirts the colors: the red, the  white, the  blue, and the stars all scream.

Halliburton, Kellogg Industries, income inequality, Boeing, Nestle, homelessness, United Tech, Northrup Grumman, PTSD,  BAE Systems, mass shooting,  Lockheed Martin, rape, General Dynamics, Dyn Corp and  Flourer, failing schools, Elite Foods.

  They insist I think of War…

 

  TO JGJ

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