They’ve finally changed the sign on the paint factory next to my writing studio at the Open Book building downtown. Valspar, who donated paint for our Guerrilla Garages Program—quick murals over graffiti in the alleys around the church—was bought out by Sherman Williams, and today I see their name is on the building next to where I park. Not the old Sherman Williams Paint logo, with a paint bucket labeled “SWP” is pouring red over the globe—as if the Socialist Worker’s Party finally did succeed in worldwide revolution—but new style neon words that continue the corporate model of making things that are at once fancy and boring.
Last night, BBC News reported that around 7,000 people from the mostly Christian minority in Kachin State in northern Myanmar have fled their homes after a military crackdown in the war for independence that started soon after what was then called Burma’s military took over in 1962. That hasn’t received much international coverage, especially since 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the genocide by the Myanmar’s army and their “Buddhist allies”. In college, I did my paper on Burma in the International Relations course. I remember that Burma was noted for the particular brand of Buddhism practiced by the majority there: Theravada Buddhism. Apparently, if you practice that kind of enlightenment these days, ethnic cleansing, rape and murder are allowed. Of course, Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize Winner blamed the trouble on “terrorists”, the favorite word of military dominated governments worldwide.
On Monday, the Israeli military killed at least 58 Palestinian protestors and injured more than 2,700 on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, a day for celebration in Israel, and the nakba—catastrophe—for Palestinians, who remember hundreds of thousands pushed out of the homes and towns. The protests were intensified because our commander in chief moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem (but didn’t go, because Trump doesn’t go to anything—baseball games, correspondents’ dinners, international events where he can’t pick the entire audience). Israel says the deaths are the fault of the “terrorist group Hamas”, and that Israel is the only true democracy in the region. The United States is “always pro-democracy” and always pushes for “free and fair elections” in any international situation. Hamas won the elections a few years back, and the US immediately denied their legitimacy. Solid history there: elections in Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile, Viet Nam and a lot of other places that didn’t go the way the U.S. wanted were met with brute force, blockades, coups, invasions and so on. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nicky Haley said of the carnage inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians on Monday that “no other nation has shown greater restraint than Israel.” Hmmm.
But then I thought: when a thousand people peacefully protested the police murder of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, they were met with close to 2,000 city and state police and National Guard in riot gear, with tear gas and so on. So maybe Haley has a point about restraint. See Ferguson, New York, Philly, Minneapolis, Nashville, etc.
I am thinking about my Pentecost sermon coming up. The usual suspects: Getting on Fire! What Wind Can Do! We’re Not Drunk! Well, they just aren’t ringing any bells in my head. I’m thinking of using a quote I can’t attribute because I don’t know who said it. The gist of it is that after Pentecost, the disciples “stayed not with certainty, but with courage.” That is, they didn’t do business as usual, but took big, joyful, powerful risks. Are you listening, church? Nation? Me?
Wednesday mornings and early afternoons, I write at the studio. I was looking today to see what the themes of my most recent poems published in journals. In no particular order: immigration, a 4-year old’s response to witnessing her mother’s boyfriend be shot dead by a policeman while she was sitting in the back seat of the care, immigration, my dad’s barber shop as a gentle confessional, teaching gardening to a 6th grade science class, a love poem to my wife and to God in the same poem (interesting), immigration, feeding an abandoned dog in a Philly park the week of Christmas, and getting late to planting at our Shalom Community Garden last year, because the county seized it, padlocked it and put no trespassing signs on it. Today, I began a poem about meeting a South African political exile at a university in the Soviet Union and worked on revising poems about ghosts, a nine-year old thief, Judas’ last moments and riding our bikes around the slaughterhouse in my home town. Psychologists—amateur or professional—are welcome to comment.
Minneapolis got 17 inches of snow on April 15, the second big snowfall of the month. Then we got heat. All of the trees have blossomed at once, and the lilacs are wonderful. My nose loves the aroma and my eyes love the stunning beauty. Both of those body parts are suffering for their love. Allergies, anyone?
A bunch of friends from college and I are planning a July “Medicare Reunion”, since we’ve all turned or will turn 65 this year. Both my new knees should be in pretty good shape by then.
In exactly 21 days, our baby, our little one will graduate from high school. When I think about it for more than a few minutes, I start to cry—for joy and for loss of her early days.
Be justice. Be beauty. Be random (as the kids say)