One shoe off

November 26, 2007

Immigration, redux.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liz @ 9:59 pm

“You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land.” Deuteronomy 24:14

“Build your home in such a way that a stranger may feel happy in your midst.” Theodor Herzl, August 6, 1896

I haven’t kept my promise of writing more about Oklahoma’s immigration law, which went in to effect on the 1st. To be honest, there hasn’t been much to write. The Latinos haven’t completely disappeared — I still see some of the families I first met when I worked at the health department — but their presence is significantly muted. It’s having a quiet effect on the economy, I hear — homebuilders have lost 10 percent of their crews, an Oklahoma City grocery store in a Latino area reports a $50k-$75k weekly drop in sales … but the stories of undocumented families, those don’t make headlines.

The other night my mom was musing on WHEN the immigration issue became such a hot button.  Any ideas? She said she didn’t remember it really being the major issue that it is now. “I just don’t remember people caring this much about it before,” she said. Granted, we spent close to 20 years out of the country, so we missed a lot.

I realize that the U.S. has a long and troubled history with immigration.

Here’s a great quote from essayist Bonnie Honig’s piece “A Legacy of Xenophobia“:
“Americans are so used to thinking about foreigners as either a poison or a cure for the diseased national body that they are poorly prepared to think about them simply as persons. This poor preparation is captured by the dehumanizing American term for foreigners—’alien.'”

That gets to the heart of the issue for me: the way in which immigrants are continually dehumanized in order to make them more effective scapegoats. Around here it’s not just “alien.” It’s that ugly-sounding phrase, “The Illegals.” There are many things about Red staters that leave a bad taste in my mouth. But the way many of them can invoke Jesus and the Bible in one breath, and then in the next start railing about “The Illegals” takes the cake. You would think, wouldn’t you, that anyone who takes the Bible seriously — even those who take the Bible LITERALLY — would realize the importance of hospitality, of welcoming the foreigner. I would think so, anyway.

Perhaps there are signs of hope, however. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, the state Southern Baptist body, this month passed a resolution that, while they recognize the importance of obeying laws and honoring the government, the law would not cause them to change the way they do ministry or determine who they will and will not serve.

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November 5, 2007

Family tree (Warning: LONG and sappy).

Filed under: family values — Liz @ 11:44 pm

So, tell me about your family? How close does your family match up to the “real” family that gets printed in the illustrations in Sunday School curriculum, or on the cover of Focus on the Family magazine, or by the Republican party?

(As a side note: ever do a genogram? Want a good way to kill a few hours and learn more about yourself and your family than you ever thought possible … or even desirable? Find someone who knows what they’re doing to tell you how to do it and to look at it with you. Trust me. And bring tissues).

My family: two still married, straight [white] {Protestant} parents. Two children. Sound pretty o.k.?
Both parents have always worked. (uh-oh) For a significant period of time, my mom made more than my dad did, worked more hours than he did, and he was my primary caretaker. (slippery slope … must … stop … sliding). But still, two parents, two kids. Well, except for when Leonardo moved in. Leonardo was a seminarian who was one of my dad’s students after we moved overseas. Leonardo started coming over for lunch every day to tutor my dad in Spanish and help him plan his lessons, grade papers, etc. Eventually, Leonardo moved into the spare bedroom. He lived with us, off and on, for about 10 years. Leonardo made cookies with me when I was young, he read “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” to me in Spanish before I ever read it in English. He was my baby sister’s favorite person, the only adult she let pick her up besides my parents (She was a fussy kid and didn’t really like anyone besides my mom. She tolerated my dad. But when Leonardo came … she ADORED him) So. Two parents, two kids, and the man who lives in the spare room who’s there for the teeth-losing and the escaped hamster-chasing and the first bikes and the birthday cakes. Still, an o.k. family, right?

Of course, then there’s the matter of the aunts and uncles. When my family moved overseas in 1983 we left behind a host of aunts, uncles and cousins who would never be much more than strangers to my sister and me. But, we moved into a host of missionaries who insisted we call them “Aunt ___ and Uncle ___”. We had Thanksgiving all together every year, a huge extended “family” of about 100 people. “Aunts” “Uncles” and “Cousins” who knew more about us than our own relatives did. They watched each others’ kids when parents got sick or went out of town or took a weekend off to celebrate their anniversary. We gathered with smaller groups of Aunts and Uncles for Christmas dinner. Aunts or Uncles who were in the country with no spouses or children of their own might come over and spend the night Christmas Eve and open presents with us around the tree on Christmas morning. Aunts and Uncles took turns teaching each others’ kids to drive. Aunts and Uncles still, years down the road, years past retirement, years after living overseas, drive across the U.S. to attend each others’ kids’ weddings. Or each others’ funerals.

O.k. O.k. Two parents. Two children. Man in the spare room. A substitute extended family. We’re still close enough, right?

Well, except for cousin K. (withholding the name here for privacy purposes). She was a blood relative — an actual child of my mom’s actual sister. K. fell into some trouble in her Southern California hometown. She was about 15, having a terrible time, and so her parents in a final attempt to “straighten her out” sent her to live overseas with us. My parents, parents of two young children (I was 9, my sister was 5), suddenly also became parents of an unhappy rebellious teenage girl. And I, the oldest, suddenly became the middle child. I was none too pleased. She stayed with us for several months. She made friends, but she missed California. My parents parented her the best they knew how — with lots of love and encouragement, but also firmness and an insistence that she start respecting herself. A tall order, and one it would take her several years to fill. When she left, even though I’d despised the intrusion, I missed her and used to write her letters every so often. She was family, after all.

So … two parents, two children, man-in-spare-room, surrogate aunts and uncles, wayward cousin.

Oh, I forgot to mention Jeremy. Jeremy was one of the “cousins.” He lived with us for the last part of his sophomore year in high school. His parents — my “aunt” and “uncle,” of course — had to go back to the U.S. before the end of the school year. So I had an older brother for about five months. And then there was Mark. Mark was a med student from the U.S. who came overseas to spend a semester working at the Baptist Hospital. He lived with us, in our other spare room (it was a house with lots of spare rooms, rooms that never seemed to stay “spare” very long). Oh, and Joel. Joel was another one of the “cousins,” but he was more like a little brother. He and his family lived way out in the country. A couple times a year we’d invite Joel to come stay with us in the Big City, show him the sites, teach him how to talk to girls, that kind of thing. And a couple of times a year we’d go out to his place. He’d show us the sites, take us to see the cows, teach us to crank the generator. That kind of thing. Oh, and then there’s Malena, the national female kickboxing champion. After I left and came back to the U.S. for college, Malena moved in for a little while. She played with the dog, helped plan my sister’s 14th birthday and broke my parents’ hearts when she ran off with a U.S. mission volunteer who’d come down for an evangelistic crusade. A U.S. mission volunteer who happened to be married with several children.

O.K. I guess allowances must be made for overseas living, after all. Surely we straightened up once we got back to the States. And we did. Two parents. Two kids, one in college, one in high school. Then, two parents, two kids, one working who comes to dinner every Sunday, one in high school and dating. Dating, of course, boys who seemed to be attracted almost as much to the family as they were to her. Boys who became fixtures at every meal, who always came over Thanksgiving and Christmas as soon as they could get away from their families. Boys who became, in spite of ourselves, part of our family.

Then there was Brandon. The foundling child. The 17 year-old ball of muscle and glee and Jesus-joy who couldn’t stay at his house anymore, so my parents — already having sent two children off to college and the world — brought him home to theirs and taught him how to live in a family, how to do his laundry, when to do his laundry (midnight is never a good time), and how to be responsible, and then sent him off to college too. He still comes home for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Then my sister came back for awhile, took a break from college, moved back in with my parents, got herself together and moved out and on.

Then came grandma. Too lonely and too sick and, at last, too blind to stay by herself anymore. They brought her from California to Oklahoma along with a load of her most prized possessions.

Then came me. The Chicago daughter. Broke, effectively homeless and bruised after too many knocks by the big city. The daughter who’d induced more than a few angry tears. Come home to stay awhile, to get her feet back under her. Because she’s family, after all.

Perhaps when Jesus said that his disciples should hate their fathers and mothers, that they should leave their family of origin to follow him, what he meant to do was to open up our families a little bit more. Because when you follow Jesus, Jesus shows you what it means to be a child of God. And when you see what it means to be a child of God, you see that everyone else is also a child of God. And you can open your arms and home and life to them, all of them.

Because they’re family, after all.

That’s “traditional” marriage alright …

Filed under: family values,marriage,politics,poverty,rights,theology — Liz @ 10:53 pm

So the state of Oklahoma, faced with one of the highest divorce rates in the country, decided to pour money into a marriage initiative designed to encourage engaged couples to undergo premarital counseling, provide marriage enrichment courses and disseminate educational material about families and relationships. Prevent divorce, encourage marriage, support families. All that jazz.

O.K. Here’s the thing. Take your blinders off for a minute, especially if you’re married. I’m sure that YOUR marriage is absolutely wonderful, spiritually and emotionally and intellectually fulfilling, the best thing you ever did, etc. etc. etc. Of course it is. But the historical fact is, marriage was created NOT as some sort of fuzzy, warm, “companionate” (to borrow a term from my Psych 101 class in college) thing. Nope. Marriage was created as an economic and political instrument to ensure wealth, security and protection for family groups or clans. Family Group A and Family Group B decide to pair their children to offer protection from rival clans, economic stability, merging of assets, assure the birth of heirs, transfer wealth, assure that there would be plenty of offspring to work the fields … pick one of a myriad of economic and political reasons. And at its heart, of course, regardless of the power, protection or property transferred by the families, marriage involved the transfer of female property from one male — her father — to another — her husband. Unless you’re in extreme denial about the history of civilization, or just completely ignorant about it, you need to accept that this is the history of marriage.

Fast forward. I’m reading the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative page and all their “fact sheets” they have. And they have all these stats from research that Oklahoma State University has done. Any why should you get married, according to their research? Take a gander at the “Is marriage for me?” tip sheet. Why get married? So that you don’t have to do all the housework alone, it says. You can share the labor. Someone will be there to take care of you if you get sick or have problems. You’ll have more money because it’s cheaper to live as a couple than it is to live alone. How different is this, really, from the economic marriages of days of yore? (I know, I said “days of yore.”) Why are we so hung up — why are CHURCHES so hung up — on something that still works out to a matter of economics? And does it strike anyone else as kind of selfish? Save money.Don’t work as hard. Be taken care of. Oh, and there’s the better sex thing on their, too. Hmmm…

The fact is, the state of Oklahoma is getting a whole lot of churches in on their campaign. So, let me get this straight? Loving, committed same-gender couples DON’T fit in with the Christian view of marriage. The Christian view of marriage, DOES, however, gibe with the idea that people should get married (or people should be convinced to marry) because of what’s in it for them. Straight people who want to “save more money” or “have better sex” can get married. Lesbians who want to live out the rest of their days loving and giving of themselves to their soul mate, nope. Straight people who want someone to bring them soup when they’re sick can get married. Gay men who want to care for one another in sickness and in health, nope.

Yes I’m oversimplifying. Yes, it’s true that research bears out that people who are married and who stay married tend to be happier, do better economically, and maybe even have better sex. But it’s my contention that you can’t hold on to the so-called “sacredness” card AND the utilitarian card.

Much (possibly too much?) has already been written in the marriage debate. But I can’t help but insert that yes, the church should have something to say about relationships. Christianity requires that relationships be based on selflessness, love, generosity, concern for the other over the self. And lots of time churches spout that kind of rhetoric in premarital counseling sessions or marriage enrichment classes. The fact is, though, is that those are the rules that are to govern ALL of our relationships. For the Christian, marriage, if and when it happens, should really not be all that indistinguishable from any other relationship we have. And if that’s the case, if we approach all our relationships with the same self-sacrifice, generosity, kindness, love and deep sharing of our self, does the gender of the person we’re “married” to matter anyway?

October 19, 2007

Finding Allies, Part I

So I had a job interview on Wednesday (prayers and well wishes welcome) and one of the questions they asked was “What does building collaborative relationships mean to you?” I gave what I thought was a decent answer, and they seemed o.k. with it as well, but it was kind of a fluffy answer, one that didn’t really deal with the difficulties inherent in the whole “Building collaborative relationships” thing.

Last week for TEC 300 we talked with Rev. Tim Ahrens of We Believe Ohio, a diverse group of faith leaders committed to social justice issues. That got me thinking about finding allies and building collaborative relationships. Then, a few days later I saw on the news that CONLAMIC, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, had filed suit against the state of Oklahoma to stop the implementation of H-1804 (the Oklahoma Citizen and Taxpayer Protection act of 2007, which I’ve blogged about on here before). (By the way, the CONLAMIC Web site is mostly in Spanish. You can find an English translation of the press release about the suit here. (also of note — the news release is dated the 4th. I don’t think the T.V. weasels — as we not so affectionaltey called them back when I worked for a paper — carried it until the 10th? maye the 12th?)

After I heard the story, I rushed to log on to the CONLAMIC Web site. I was excited, as I usually am, to learn about Christian social justice organizations. So imagine my dismay when I clicked on their platform, that their top three points — their key priorities — read like something off of the Focus on the Family Web site. 1. A constitutional amendment limiting abortion rights. 2. Reinstating prayer in schools and 3. Opposing gay marriage and civil unions, and any attempt to “legitimize” relationships between same-gender partners.

Grr. Everything I despise about evangelical politics. Their other points — health care access for all, access to public education, respect for the rights of all immigrants, documented or not — were ones I agreed with.

Can I be an ally of these people with whom I share so many values, but with whom I am in conflict on several key issues? Is it too coldly utilitarian to collaborate with people on one issue and one issue only, when you disagree virulently on so many other things?

I think of something Jesus said. (Surprise, surprise). Some of his disciples come to him after seeing another exorcist casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They tried to stop him, they said, “Because he does not follow with us.”

Once again, we have evidence that Jesus doesn’t care much about affiliations. Jesus says, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50).

Jesus is often disturbingly utilitarian in the gospels. Disturbing to me, at least, because although utilitarianism has always appealed to my need for simple solutions, it’s always struck me as the least nuanced of going about life. I like to think of Jesus as more nuanced, I guess. Probably because I like to think of myself as nuanced. The gospel evidence is, of course, quite to the contrary (cursing the fig tree, anybody?)

So what do we do as progressive, justice-oriented Christians? Can we collaborate towards a common goal with those with whom we disagree on so much? Those with whom we not only disagree, but whose beliefs we find reprehensible. Who are, indeed, “against us” on several issues? Can I find common ground with CONLAMIC as they oppose this unjust, racist, evil law? Even though I find other of their views to be unjust, homophobic and yes, evil?

Beggars can’t be choosers, especially in the Bible Belt, and I fear that, for now, my answer is going to have to be “yes.” In the fight for justice right here in Oklahoma, I’m going to have to find common ground with those who think that my identity as a lesbian is morally reprehensible. It seems that I may have no other choice if I am to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.

(More to come, by the way.)

October 5, 2007

“That may work in Tough-girl land … but not in real life.”

Editor’s note: This post acknowledges the existence of women’s reproductive organs and makes general references to routine medical procedures. As such, it may not be suitable for “more sensitive” readers. In addition, it is extraordinarily long, particularly for a blog entry. And finally, it’s overly confessional, highly personal and barely even tangentially related politics, theological reflection, or the current topic in TEC 300. Look for THAT kind of stuff sometime this weekend.

My apologies to all … the whole working thing has been very mentally draining — YOU try dashing from exam room to exam room asking middle-aged, respectable Latina mothers about their sexual habits , wrangling distressed children and trying to explain possible vaccine reactions to their mothers, and trying to come up with the Spanish words for medical terms you don’t even know in English. Do THAT a couple of days and then try to come up with a hundred-odd words on theology and politics and stuff.

Despite my excuses, I really am enjoying my work at the health department. The initial awkwardness of being the third person in the room during gynecological exams aside (if you ever find yourself in this situation, I offer you my little sister’s — who’s also spent some time interpreting — invaluable advice: “Stand by the head and you’ll be fine.”, it’s very cool to be a patient advocate, to help ensure that women (and children) are receiving compassionate and adequate care.

I’m enjoying it so much that it’s got me thinking (argh! not again!) about a change of vocation. I’ve developed a profound respect for the nurse practitioners with whom I’ve been working, so an inkling of a thought about going into that field has crept into my mind. (Those of you who know me won’t be terribly surprised … I change my mind about what I want to do every six months or so.)

What’s surprising is how out of the blue this is — I have never had any desire to go into the health care field (all those Paraguayan summer afternoons whiled away over my mom’s copy of “Where There is No Doctor” notwithstanding). It’s just never appealed to me as a career choice. So it seems odd to me that, standing at the head of the table while a woman gets Papped, I should hear a voice (I’m trying very hard to avoid any off color Moses jokes. You should too) saying “Whom shall I send? And who shall go for us?” (Operation avoid Moses reference a success; incidentally, the citation is Isaiah 6:8.)

I know this is not particularly “Public” theology, and I had intended to write about some stuff I saw on the news tonight, but I seem to have rambled on and on about this. I may as well try to make it at least slightly theological.

Thing is, I’ve never known exactly how to think theologically about vocation. That may seem odd, because the topic of vocation seems like it would be a theological no-brainer. The fact is, I grew up around people who would describe every decision they made or new step they took as a response to “God’s call.” I went to college at a school where some people seemed convinced that God was dictating everything they did, from “God told me to wear this shirt today for a reason, so that lady at McDonald’s would compliment me on it and I could tell her about our mission trip to Cabo and witness to her about Jesus.” to “God told me that you’re going to be my wife. Will you go out with me?” When I first began to sense a call, I wondered if I just lacked any other language to talk about trying to decide what to do with my life. Plus, it was never a very specific call. More of a “You should be doing something DIFFERENT” sense, and a vague pull toward seminary … and then I went to a visitor day at CTS and that felt good, so I decided to go with it. In general though, I’ve tended to live my life in a sort of haphazard way: following my bliss or reacting to situations that arose. The first took me to Chicago, the second brought me back to Oklahoma. Despite the fact that I have a sort of general direction in which I’m moving, I often feel like I don’t live my life with a great deal of intentionality. Is intentionality necessary to vocation? I’ve finally gotten comfortable with the idea of being “called,” but am I ever going find out what I’m called TO? Is it this?

The whole tone of this entry is getting far too confessional for my own comfort level, so I’ll leave this discussion here, for the moment. Tomorrow, look for the theology of Marion Jones and some thoughts on personal and social holiness (see, class, I’m getting there eventually).

Oh, by the way, the title comes from something the commentator (if that’s what she is. I’m really unsure of several people’s role on the show) on Judge Joe Brown said. It really has no relation at all to the post, or to anything. But I thought it would make a brilliant blog posting title, and figured I’d better use it before it got lost up there.

September 20, 2007

“The Mexicans are Laying Low”

Filed under: Bad Government,Idiotic ideas,immigration,Jesus,politics — Liz @ 11:01 am

I’ll say this for Muskogee, OK in contrast to many other parts of the state — it is an incredibly racially and ethnically diverse city. The Five Civilized Tribes Museum is in Muskogee, and the Cherokee Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation headquarters are in close proximity. Muskogee has a relatively large African-American population, and the Latino population has grown exponentially over the past years. There is even a growing Asian community as evidenced by the number of new Asian families moving in to my parents’ subdivision.

So imagine my surprise when, in my first few days as Spanish interpreter at the Muskogee County Health Department, I found myself with no one to interpret for! Not to mention that the tamale lady was gone from the Farmer’s Market. And the music minister from the Muskogee Hispanic Baptist Church had also disappeared. What was going on?

The answer came from my mother, who spoke with a local Latino leader yesterday during a planning meeting for Muskogee’s “Diversity Day” celebration.

“The Mexicans are laying low,” he said. “So just know that they aren’t going to show up because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

You see, back in May the Oklahoma legislature approved (and Gov. Brad Henry signed) the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007. The law requires all state and local agencies to verify resident status before approving benefits. It denies state identification cards to undocumented immigrants and requires employers to check applicants against a federal database to determine their resident status.

The rest of it is quite reprehensible, though, and deserves to be quoted word-for-word:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to transport, move, or attempt to transport within the United States any alien knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law, in furtherance of the illegal presence of the alien in the United States.
B. It shall be unlawful for any person to conceal, harbor, or shelter from detection any alien in any place, including any building or means of transportation, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law.
C. Any person violating the provisions of subsections A or B of this section shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for not less than one (1) year, or by a fine of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment. “

Of course, if you read the text of the law, it tells you that certain services are exempt from the requirement — for example, services guaranteed by federal law (like WIC), and emergency services (like emergency medical treatment or soup kitchens) are still allowed. Try explaining that to someone who was already in fear of being caught and deported, though.

The deadline for all of this is Nov. 1, which explains why people are becoming more and more worried, and why this issue is going to continue to stay at the forefront of discussions in Oklahoma for the next months. Robert Waldrop wrote an excellent piece about the legislation back when it first passed Oklahoma House. More on this as it develops.

September 15, 2007

This is SO 1984 …

Filed under: 9/11,Bad Government,books,constitution,Jesus,libraries — Liz @ 10:04 pm

<sigh> I’d like to get a hold of a prison chaplain and ask them for a copy of the list.

In brief, the Bureau of Prisons has decided that prison chaplains must remove from their libraries any material not on a pre-approved list. Why? Need you ask? The same reason the government makes every decision lately: to combat terrorism. The feds don’t want prisoners converting to Islam while their in prison.

The bureau, an agency of the Justice Department, defended its effort, which it calls the Standardized Chapel Library Project, as a way of barring access to materials that could, in its words, “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize.”

Ms. Billingsley said, “We really wanted consistently available information for all religious groups to assure reliable teachings as determined by reliable subject experts.”

The copy of the list is not public, but according to my Web research C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and a whole bunch of Orthodox Jewish books are in. Barth, Niebuhr, Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People) and Rick Warren (The Purpose-Driven Life) are out. Also gone are the Hadith, and the works of Moses Maimonides.

At the Otisville prison in New York, according to one report, the post-purge Muslim section of the library has been reduced to the Qur’an and two other books. Three-quarters of the Jewish books in the same prison were removed.

As a theological student and someone who spends a great deal of time and energy reading religious books, this first of all hits me at a very visceral level. I’m trying to imagine the pain of visiting the prison chapel library and finding gaping holes in the shelves. And what about the anguish of having a treasured prayer book suddenly removed (as many Muslim prayer books have been)?

On an intellectual/ethical level, this is completely unacceptable. One of my core theological principles is that of soul liberty … the freedom (and responsibility) of each individual to choose what her/his conscience dictates is right, free from the control or coercion of church, government, family, friends or any other outside entity. To restrict access to religious texts is unconscionable from a religio-ethical standpoint because it interferes with the individual’s ability to explore her/his relationship to and understanding of God.
From a constitutional standpoint, this kind of restriction interferes with prisoners’ freedom of religion, of a few rights that they still retain. Further, I would argue that the freedom to read is another core human right that prisoners should retain.

Finally, from a pastoral perspective, faith is an important part of many inmates’ lives. To restrict their access to books that encourage and strengthen their faith is to do tremendous damage. In many libraries, the shelves have been all but emptied by this project (called, btw, the Standardized Chapel Library Project. Incidentally, it’s been going on since MAY). The project did NOT, however, include any funds to help the libraries replenish their collections with approved books. So now many inmates looking for enlightenment, encouragement and solace are faced with gaping holes on the library shelves.

September 14, 2007

State of the Nation

Filed under: media,politics,State of the nation — Liz @ 9:36 am

1. We’re dumb and fat. I’m a fan of Mike Gravel, I see his point, I’m inclined to agree with him. North Americans ARE fat. That’s the first thing many foreign visitors notice when they arrive. And I’m inclined to agree that people are pretty dumb, as well (else why would we continue to eat the crap that’s killing us, for example). There is a very strong anti-intellectual current running through the U.S. psyche. Not to mention that we’ve become accustomed to accepting information in sound bites without taking the time to question it. This is not entirely our fault … there are very smart, very wealthy people out there trying their best to tell us what to think, buy and yes, eat.

But the populist in me wants to resist writing off the U.S. as hopelessly dumb. In one of his essays, Noam Chomsky points out that, if you listen to sports talk radio shows, the people who call in by and large show a very sophisticated understanding of strategy, statistics and the minutae of their favorite sport. They question and criticize the “authorities” on the sport — i.e. coaches, referees, analysts … with no qualms whatsoever. People offer confident, sophisticated analysis of athletics. The trick is helping them see that they can also offer confident, sophisticated analysis of arenas with much greater stakes.

2. Our loneliness goes as deep as our genes. Actually, that’s not what the article SAYS, but the headlines that many outlets chose for the story makes it sound as though scientists have found a “lonely gene” (akin to the “breast cancer gene” or a “gay gene”). Actually, it’s even more poignant. Loneliness has profound biological effects, even going so far as to effect us on a genetic level. Lonely people die sooner, and it may not be just because they lack resources.

Like most news reports of medical/scientific studies, this one leaves much to be desired where details are concerned. (And what the Washington Post article doesn’t tell you is that the study only looked at 14 people.)

Still, the idea that loneliness is “killing us softly” not just in a vague way but at a very specific genetic level is compelling. It’s always nice to get biological arguments for your basic theological tenets, in any case. One of mine is that human being, being in the image of God, require community.

Not that I’m one to mix science and religion … as we all know, that leads to things like this:

3. I have a new favorite online hangout since I came the Oklahoma: the Web site of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City. Bob Waldrop, the author, fascinates  me to no end. Read his “Woe to the rich (immigration version)” (* I LOVE that there is room for more than one version of his “woe to the rich” I also love his argument that laws that hurt the poor and the oppressed are pro-abortion. I’m not turning in my pro-choice credentials any time soon, but I find it a brilliant leap of logic. And an accurate one, as well. It’s a wonder it hasn’t occurred to anyone else yet … wait a minute, I guess it’s not a wonder).  Also, a very good example of public theology from a Catholic Worker perspective (remember, they’ve been at it A LOT longer than many of us).

Click around Bob’s site some more. He’s doing great things with local food, has some great pieces about various social issues and a really good bread recipe.

September 12, 2007

The day after ….

Filed under: 9/11,blogging,journalism,media,writing — Liz @ 1:53 pm

Sept. 12, 2001 was a turning point in my life.

Sept 12, 2oo1 was the day that my first issue of The Bison came out. I’d been roped into editing the paper by some well-intentioned professors who thought that, in the absence of a journalism major who could do the job, an English major who could write well would be a suitable substitute. I came on board two days before the second issue of the semester. One day before the paper came out, Sept. 11 happened and I fell head over heels in love with newsprint.

We put the paper to bed that Tuesday and I went over to my parents’ house. They were sitting in the living room watching the news. They had gone out a bought a t.v. that day.

My first-ever editorial ran Wednesday. I remember referencing Don DeLillo’s Mao II. By some immense irony we had discussed the novel — which among other things talks about how terrorism shapes current reality in the same way fiction once did — in class the day before the attacks. I remember saying something about not letting fear take us over. I like to remember myself making some kind of statement calling for a response that didn’t involve war, but I haven’t read that piece in years (I don’t even know if I have it in my files anymore) so I’m not sure if I did or not. (Maybe I’ll take a drive down to Shawnee and visit the archives and pull that issue out.)

Why does this all come to mind now? Is it because I’m back in Oklahoma again, like I was in 2001? Is it because I’m writing again — and will be on a regular basis, the way I was during my tenure as editor? Is it simply because the days of the week coincide? Because we once again had a Tuesday, Sept. 11? And a Wednesday, Sept. 12?

I think that recalling that column is a suitable prologue to this blog. Looking back through the lens of what I have done since then, the columns I wrote as editor of the Bison were my first attempts at theological reflection. At a university where so many people lived according to a theological framework which was rapidly losing relevance for me, I needed a venue to try out all my new thoughts. Without fail I impressed my professors and bored my peers. On occasion I angered the administration, but not nearly as much as I wish I had. Regardless, “99.44” (as my column was called) saved my life that year.

(Editor’s note: Big fancy prize if you figure out what “99.44” refers to).

in the poor house

Editor’s note: This was written a couple of weeks ago. It’s a little overdue, but I thought I would share it 1) in the interest of having some kind of content on this blog and 2) because the themes of “affluenza,” poverty and consumerism are ones that continually bounce up to the surface.

So, Tony Snow finally announced his resignation. Funny how people around Bush are dropping like flies. It’s like the party guests who go home early, not hanging around to be rousted off the floor or couch and thrown out by the host.

Funny, also, how Mr. Snow cites financial reasons for leaving his job. Apparently, as White House spokesperson he made a paltry $168,000, which he says isn’t enough to support his family. FYI the median income for a family of five in D.C. is $35,754. Yet, Mr. Snow claims he “had to take out a loan” in order to make ends meet when he left his high-paying Fox job to come to the White House. And yet, his income of $168k puts him in the top 5 percent. So, there are 3 options, as I see it:
1) He’s lying, and he’s really leaving because of a) his cancer or b) everyone else is leaving.

2) Tony Snow and his family, like a huge chunk of people, are mired in debt. For the average American, that’s nearly $19,000 in consumer debt, not counting mortgages. The average principal on a mortgage is about $69,000. So, let’s for fun say that the average American owes about $90,000. We’ll pretend Mr. Snow is indeed average. I suppose that, were his family to suddenly need to pay off all their debt all at once, an income $168,000 would be a little tight. (Failing to point out, however, that even that scenario would leave him with $78,000 to live off of. More than twice the median income mentioned above).

3) Mr. Snow lives way beyond his means. There is no reason at all why a five person family cannot have all their needs — food, shelter, clothing, water — met on $168k a year. Yes Mr. Snow has been ill, but federal employees are one of the few groups of people who DO have good insurance. And what about all that money he was making at Fox? Do you mean to tell me he saved NONE of it? He’s burnt through it all?

I’ve been afraid for a very long time that the industrialized world is going to run into an economic catastrophe on the scale of the Great Depression sometime in the next 50 years. My biggest fear, though, is that we’ve lost the skills to deal with that kind of catastrophe. Cable TV and (and to a lesser extent Internet access) have become “utilities” that are considered equal to electricity or gas service. We each spend about $2100 a year on restaurant meals. We’ve forgotten how to soak a bean, much less bake a loaf of bread. God forbid we brew our own coffee, or drink tap water from a glass.

Maybe my Walden Pond complex is coming back … every once in awhile I get this urge to dramatically simplify my life and start valuing NON-thing things. I can’t help but think that as a person of faith I need to take seriously Jesus’ command to live a life where people matter much more than things, and where we stop worrying about the money and live instead lives that are more humane. Lives that are more human.

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