Hello Again Friendly Missivistas,
It has been over a month. You probably thought I was going to post lots of baby pictures from here on out all the time. Rest assured, I indeed have been eternally captivated by Eamon’s wondrous baby charms. However, I am on the other side of the continent which helps me take care of business like showing up for work and finally moving into the room in Berkeley I have already been paying rent on for a couple months. (Settling in; still a work in progress.)
I’ll be visiting Eamon about monthly for now. Who knows what will feel right down the road? I won’t be back to see Eamon until Feb 9. Southwest had an ideal flight Saturdays from Oakland at 1:55 pm that dovetailed with my Saturday work, but they moved it to Sunday, so I still need to figure out my best way to go.
I’m very happy that Sr. Megan lives in the neighborhood, a short walk from Lacy’s. We had a delightful visit, and will again, I’m sure.
Standing with Women of Color. Standing with Palestine.
I cheered on and marched in the Women’s March again this year in San Francisco on January 19. The first two were amazing days for me and so many people. There have been persistent and pernicious attacks against some of the national organizers. They’re being attacked as though they are anti-Semitic, an assertion I firmly reject. Whether you know what I’m talking about already or not, I recommend reading this great article about it: “There’s a Good Reason Many Jewish Women Will Be Joining the Women’s March“, January 17 in The Nation by Sarah Seltzer (who I don’t know). Two key quotes for me:
“The months of online shouting have made me feel compelled to show up as a way of reaffirming my commitment to organizing in coalitions, examining my own privilege, and focusing on the threat of white nationalism.” Also, very importantly: “…The gravest danger is not coming from within activist circles but from without.”
Huge praise and thanks to Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow) for her January 20 column in the Sunday New York Times: “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine.” I recommend reading the online version which I think is a little longer. Very important piece hopefully that will be a reference point for future reflection and action.
Recently a very wise friend initiated a Facebook thread expressing disappointment and dismay at Alice Walker for her poem from 2017, “It is our (Frightful) Duty to Study the Talmud,” in which she is trying to figure out what it is about our people that makes us treat the Palestinians so unjustly and without regard. She has been taking a stand for, and putting her body on the line (and boats) for, Palestine for years. The point of the poem is that Judaism’s interpretive, sacred text, the Talmud, about how to apply the law of the Torah in our lives, is the problem. Admittedly, the poem gets weird, but as I wrote in the thread, one of the only people who didn’t rebuke and recoil from Walker for “hating Jews”:
“Ease up on Alice. Focus your outrage on (proudly insistentent) Zionists and what they do in the name of Judaism and our defense. She could have said to look biblically and not even to the Talmud. Consider for a change, the second part of Exodus in which my people descend on Canaan and take it as an outside force slaughtering nations of people. Maybe we need to ignore the oft read, first part of the book and focus on that and try not to repeat it. Israel is making the blood libel look believable more and more, and I’m not the one confusing lie from fact.”
In response to another distraught writer I wrote:
“Walker was digging and walking deep in that poem. She’s not the one who’s gone too far.”
I clarified further which my friend appreciated:
“I’m not sure if Walker, in the poem which I have read through twice, is repeating old tropes or pointing out weird portions of Talmud without citation. Sacred texts often are full of weird shit, and pointing it out isn’t helpful. If you are wondering why a people are behaving cruelly, murderously, the opposite of what you thought them capable of, then one might look at their teachings and be given pause. And you might write a poem in your anguish…I feel like what Jews are doing to Palestinians and people who try to fight for their human and political rights is so egregious as to justify hate back at us, and that will sound very offensive indeed. What is done is done in the name of Jews, mostly by Jews, with relatively little pushback from Jews like me/us. For people to look at what Israel is doing in the name of Jews and say, WTF, Jews?” is reasonable. It can lead to weird shit, and I guess I am sad to see that in there, but Walker has stood up for Palestine for a while, including on a flotilla to Gaza, so I’m not worried about her. If she meets Jews, I don’t imagine this poem will be relevant in how she is with them/us.”
After some time my poet/writer/activist friend responded more fully. I wasn’t informed algorythmically for some strange reason even though they were responding to a comment of mine, so I’m glad to see this great point now:
“Our personal feelings, thoughts, words, and actions contribute to the larger systems of abuse and oppression. Right now, as you know, we are fighting the rise of actual Nazis and fascists. So for a staunch pro-Palestinian non-Jew to speak out with such vitriol (in my eyes) toward Jews? That’s not helpful to me. It actually feels devastating to me. I want us to find ways to keep addressing injustice without spiraling into hatred. Hatred is poison. It is toxic to us all.”
I so appreciate and resonate with those sentiments. Not to over-reduce their points, but I agree that the personal is indeed also political. I’m just aware of a visceral shift I’ve notice in myself. I’m still figuring out how troubled I am by it. I am far less compelled to rebuke almost any response, much less tell women of color how to express their outrage, how to condemn their attacker. I used to make the point about what I found “helpful,” but now, less so. It is still a fair point, but I can’t muster the gumption to say it as I used to. Israel is tragically, ironically providing deadly, new, contemporary reasons, grounded in painful reality, for questioning the morality of my people, Israel. I wish there were more libel than blood being spilled today.
Beyond the inhumane treatment of Palestinians, Israel is carelessly (literally, literally: “without care”) selling the tools, tactics and training for social repression to despots around the world. I can’t fault people for wondering what is wrong with us. And given the terms and weapons Israel is utilizing and spreading, must we not put our most vociferous condemnation there? Must we not resist being distracted? Alice Walker, Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory are no anti-Semites especially next to the classical ones we see cavorting with the Israeli and U.S. leadership, be they Nazis or “Islamists,” in the halls of power, which is where the real threat to freedom and justice lies. They act reprehensibly and beyond all reason while much of their base act like they should be treated as beyond all questioning. Let us help the world direct our questions at them!
Finally, Some Martin Luther King Jr., from “The Drum Major Instinct” Feb. 4, 1968, his amazing, last sermon at home, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia.
I recommend listening to this sermon often. I do. Be sure if you look for it, that it is the full 38+ minute version. Edited forms are out there, and they often edit this part out. Even on what I consider the definitive archive at Stanford, the audio leaves this out although it is in the printed version. The whole point of this sermon is beautiful, compassionate, prophetic. At the end (start at minute 35:30) he tells us of how he would want to be remembered, hopefully as a “drum major for justice, a drum major for peace,” and more. I cry every time. I see it as a call to action. I leave it to you to find that gem however, since I want to share this more politically pertinent point (from about minute 23:45 in the version linked above):
If somebody doesn’t bring an end to this suicidal thrust that we see in the world today, none of us are going to be around, because somebody’s going to make the mistake through our senseless blunderings of dropping a nuclear bomb somewhere. And then another one is going to drop. And don’t let anybody fool you, this can happen within a matter of seconds…
“[W]e are drifting there because nations are caught up with the drum major instinct. “I must be first.” “I must be supreme.” “Our nation must rule the world.” (Preach it) And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I’m going to continue to say it to America, because I love this country too much to see the drift that it has taken.
“God didn’t call America to do what she’s doing in the world now. (Preach it, preach it) God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.
But God has a way of even putting nations in their place. (Amen) The God that I worship has a way of saying, “Don’t play with me.” (Yes) He has a way of saying, as the God of the Old Testament used to say to the Hebrews, “Don’t play with me, Israel. Don’t play with me, Babylon. (Yes) Be still and know that I’m God. And if you don’t stop your reckless course, I’ll rise up and break the backbone of your power.” (Yes) And that can happen to America. (Yes)