Friday, April 15, 2011

Text of the Day...

No, I don't text. But a friend of mine passed this along to me in the form of an e-mail, and I Iam passing it along to you in its original form (for the grammar geeks, no I did not correct anything...) I think it's worth sharing and reflecting upon...

Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR, and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401K's, took trillions in tarp money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yea me neither.


Think about that the next time someone crabs about those "wealthy" teachers, and how "useless" public employees are, and how Planned Parenthood is "wrecking the American family."

By providing education to our children, making our government work (for the most part!) and providing care to women who would otherwise go without basic medical screenings. I only have my MBA, but if Planned Parenthood's "abortion business" is only 3% of their total business, that leaves.....let's see: NINETY-SEVEN percent (97%) of their business in testing for STDs, basic screenings and providing birth control. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Interesting what happens when you actually use facts.

Kid #2 ends his student teaching today. So he says, "I go from unpaid teaching to UNDER-paid teaching." If he can find a job. Because somehow, the great unwashed -- who have become a very loud bunch of screechers -- have decided that "we don't need TEACHERS."

And also, did you know that the majority of hospitals would rather deal with Medicare than a private insurance company? Medicare may pay the doctors and hospitals less, but Medicare is NOT FOR PROFIT, so they don't have to satisfy stockholders. The government functionaries making that program work are efficient, they have a process and it goes quite well; according to family members who've dealt with the system, and nurses and doctors I've spoken to. And yes, it IS an "entitlement," but since most of us have been paying for it our entire working lives,  then yes, we are "entitled" to it when we need it: when we're retired and living on a fixed income.

Points to ponder during your day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Truth about Planned Parenthood...

So John Kyl can get up on the floor of the Senate and lie. He said that the "majority" of services provided by Planned Parenthood, are abortions.

When called on his lie, Kyl said, "Oh, I was just making a point." Well, how about making a point with facts and not lies?

Under Federal law, NO PROVIDER can use Federal funds for abortions. Not Planned Parenthood, not your local county health department, no hospital in the United States. This is all political hysteria.

It has to do with giving women affordable health care. One in 5 women comes to Planned Parenthood for healthcare in their lifetime. The organization helps women prevent pregnancies, and also provides basic screenings: mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer, etc. Services that many of us who have insurance take for granted.

Services that will cost a woman's life if she doesn't have access to them.

Do you really want to be on the side of preventing women from getting basic health care? There are about 3 million women who go to Planned Parenthood clinics. The clinics are often in rural areas or medically under-served areas. The organization is more about preventing unwanted pregnancies, rather than terminating them.

Only 3% of Planned Parenthood services center around abortions. THREE percent. That's not a majority in anyone's math; unless you're a conservative who "wants to make a point."

Why are we going to ration care? Why are the Republicans so eager to decry the Affordable Care Act, claiming "death panels" and "rationing care" and all that garbage...when they're doing that for about 50% of the population: women.

Ohhhhhhhhhh.  It's because it's women. Usually poor women. Apparently, poor women are disposable. They don't count. They're not the constituents who really matter to conservatives. And the whole "Christian" thing? Sorry, I'm not buying it.

The argument is this: "All life is sacred. The life of the unborn is sacred." OK, so what about the life of the woman who carries the baby? And what if, if all life is sacred, and the woman chooses to complete the pregnancy, she gives the baby up? Are you standing there waiting for it? Are you applying to be a foster parent or an adoptive parent? Or are you just concerned with the fetus, and after that, it's another one of those persons who don't count in your calculations? And if all life is sacred, what about the woman who goes to Planned Parenthood because she hasn't got insurance, hasn't seen a doctor, and has a medical problem? Is your concern for life only if it's a fetus? What about that woman? Who may have children at home who depend on her, and she's found a lump. She has no other recourse but to go to Planned Parenthood because maybe she's unemployed or under-employed, with no insurance, no doctor who gives her an annual physical.

Isn't her life worth something? It's life. It should be, under your argument, sacred. As sacred as any theoretical fetus.

You're willing to go out on that limb and deny basic health care to a large number of women. And do what? Throw them under the proverbial bus to complete your religious agenda? The religious right is driving this bus, and nobody's calling them on it.

Religion and politics are TWO SEPARATE things.  Our Constitution states that there will be no "official" religion in this country. But more and more, it seems as if the loud and illogical conservative right seems to think that we are a Christian nation.

Here's a bombshell, folks: "The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion."

Want to guess who said that? George Washington; Commander-in-Chief of the colonial armies in the American Revolution and subsequently the FIRST United States President (1789-97).

George Washington. One of the Founding Fathers, who are often quoted by the Right when it's convenient for them to do so.

Medicaid covered abortion services until 1977, when the Hyde amendment went into effect. This amendment restricts federal funding for abortion. See the following link for more information.

http://womensissues.about.com/od/reproductiverights/f/HydeAmendment.htm


As always, it's important to do your research. Think. Connect with your local legislative people...you know, the people YOU voted into office. Let them hear from you, but do yourself a favor: educate yourself on the issues using unbiased sources. Think.

If you're a woman, this is important to you. If you're someone who loves a woman, this is important to you.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Just 32 Words...

 A friend of mine sent me the copy of her pastor's recent sermon. She goes to a Universalist Unitarian Church, and this was the talk the pastor gave.

Much food for thought. I have edited it for some grammatical "oops" that happened. And made the poetry into that format. Any colors, bold or italics in the text are there to point out things I consider significant. Otherwise, this is what she sent me. Think about this. And ask yourself: Where am I when it comes to the 32 words?

It makes me want to try harder.

White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church Sunday 3 April 2011 Larger Love Transcending The Reverend Victoria Safford



vsafford@whitebearunitarian.org


Larger Love Transcending


“I am a conservative Republican and an evangelical Christian.” So writes Mark DeMoss, founder of the Civility Project, which he started in 2008, together with his friend Lanny Davis, who is a liberal Democrat and a Jew. They could not be further apart politically or theologically, but their shared hope, on the eve of President Obama’s election, was to change the tone of political discourse, wherever it happens – in statehouses and Senate chambers, in the press, or in the street – and to encourage “graciousness, kindness, common decency and respect toward all people, and particularly those with whom we may disagree.” Last May, the Civility Project sent a letter to every member of Congress and every sitting governor - 585 letters - inviting them to sign the “Civility Pledge.” “The bar couldn’t have been lower,” says DeMoss. The pledge is very simple, just 32 words:


I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them. I will stand against incivility when I see it.


Eight months later, they had received just three pledges from three members of Congress, and from other people, tons of hate mail, laced with obscenities. DeMoss says they were not looking to dismantle partisanship or to limit free speech, nor to encourage unity of opinion, but they concluded, sadly, “Too many people in public life equate civility with unilateral disarmament.” Or with weakness, or with a na├»ve, nostalgic, impossible ideal. In January they closed the project down, although the tragedy in Tucson, and the hate-filled speech that came before and after it, almost made them reconsider. In a letter of thanks to the three co-signers of the pledge, DeMoss wrote, “I have been encouraged by the words and disposition of our president – a man I did not vote for and disagree with on almost every policy issue. Still, I would defend him as a man who loves his family and his country and wakes up each morning desiring to do what is best or both… If you don’t like Obama’s words,” he says, “try these, taken from…the Bible: But with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself. That verse alone, if taken to heart, would make America unrecognizable – and beautiful.”


Politics has always been a blood sport - and religion, too; I don’t think these guys would try to change that. But somewhere in the last - what? Five years? Ten? – we crossed some kind of line as a society, a culture, a mass of mixed cultures, on the radio, TV, the internet, and the result is very dangerous, not only to little girls and elected representatives and others in parking lots in Tucson, but to our character as a people, and our spirits, one by one, our souls.


That pledge they wrote is very basic –


I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them. I will stand against incivility when I see it.


- And yet I wonder if I myself could sign it in good faith. I think I’d be okay in terms of public or professional behavior, but what if it included private discourse also, casual conversation, the things I say in jest, or not in jest, about politicians whose opinions I dislike? What about religions we don’t like, or relatives who disagree with us on issues that we care about, or co- workers, or anyone, those others, about whom we may sometimes speak scornfully, derisively, if not on the radio or on a blog blasted out to millions of blood-thirsty readers, then just among ourselves? Within ourselves? Am I respectful of others whether or not I agree with them? The pledge sets a high bar after all. In some liberal communions, “sin” is defined, gently, as “missing the mark.” This might be where it lies for us; this question of respect may be where we sometimes miss the mark. I think of the little parable in Jean Olson’s poem:


I tried so hard to bring him to my level. ... he struggled but could not rise.
I pulled with one hand, and then two... I finally sat down next to him
And he gave me some cool water to drink.
Suddenly we were both there.


In the matter of humility, we may sometimes miss the mark.


Not long ago I was at a gathering of local ministers, a friendly and informal lunch. It’s “interfaith,” but only when I go; otherwise it’s Protestant and Catholic. I find a most warm welcome there. We were talking about Japan, the devastation of the earthquake and the growing nuclear disaster. This was common ground, the shared landscape of grief. Then one colleague said that for him the crisis proves what he’s been saying all along, that the only solution for American energy is to drill for oil, wherever we can, as much as we can, as soon as we can. He didn’t say this with arrogance; in fact he said, “I know some of you will disagree with me,” but right away I felt a veil descend between us, an iron curtain of my own design. I tagged him then (this was all subconscious, involuntary, but still real) as someone I’m just not even going to try talk to (even though I barely know him) - he’s too conservative, politically, religiously, environmentally; he won’t understand me; his mind is made up; I’ll never “bring him to my level;” he’s dangerous, he’s stupid, he’s wrong. I could feel the tectonic plates of my heart shifting and locking into place. I dismissed him easily, though I’m sure I was smiling and superficially polite. And I’ve been thinking on it since, wondering how that happens, why I do that, why I choose shutdown or retreat instead of engagement, which is always difficult, but which I know is the holy work of human beings. This is where justice begins, and peace, everything I say I care about, the worth and dignity of every person, including him, including me. Why, instead of deeply knowing someone, understanding him, hearing where he’s coming from, where he’s truly coming from, and seeing him as worthy, would I write him off? I was not uncivil there, I wasn’t ranting (at least outwardly), but nor was I practicing my faith, my beautiful, open-minded, open-hearted, radically hospitable and brave Universalist Unitarian religion. I was “missing the mark,” even though no one else could see it, and missing most of all the opportunity to grow my own spirit. It’s been said by many linguists and philosophers that we cannot describe the world we see - we can only see the world that our limited language allows us to describe. I think it’s also true that we cannot see or hear or hope to know or love the person whom we label; we just label what and whom we won’t take time to understand, the one whom we’re afraid to understand, or too proud to try to understand.


Yehudi Amichai, poet of Israel, has a poem called “The Place Where We Are Right:”


From the place where we are right
     Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
     Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
     Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.

And a whisper will be heard in the place
     Where the ruined
House once stood.


That whisper, made of doubts and love, and risk and courage, is the sound that at our best we strive to hear. That’s the song we’re trying to sing, as Unitarian Universalists, as good people, and it is an old, Universalist hymn tune. Its harmonies are hard, demanding, and it takes a lifetime to learn it. It is the sound of radical inclusion, this love of self and other that insists all are saved; none are lost or worthless; all are worthy. Not all ideas, not all opinions, not all policies and principles, but every single person. “Lower the bridge,” says Mario Benedetti, who wrote from the other side of the world, in Uruguay, “Lower the bridge and keep it down:”


I can stay here in my bulwark in this or that solitude ... enjoying my last clusters of silence...


but I’m aware, I know, I never forget that my fertile voluntary destiny is to become the eyes the mouth and hands for other hands and mouths and eyes


lower the bridge and keep it down


let love and hate and voice and shouting in let sadness in with its arms open wide and hope with its new shoes... let rage and its dark gestures in let in good and evil and that which mediates between them which is to say the truth, this pendulum. let fire in with or without rain . . .


let in the one who knows what we don’t know...


in short to avoid confusion let in my fellow, the insufferable, so strong and fragile one, the necessary one the one with doubts, face, blood and a life that ends the welcome one


lower the bridge and keep it down.


It is the hardest thing. How can you hold to what you hold most dearly, the truths that guide your life, the work that gives it form, everything you love and fight for, and still engage the person whose other truth, whose own truth, threatens to destroy what you most cherish? How can you engage at all, let alone civilly, when everything’s at stake, endangered, vulnerable, quite literally melting down? Think of any issue that you care about - civil liberties, gun violence, immigration reform, women’s rights, workers’ rights, gay rights, human rights, racism, poverty, justice, peace, the fragile, sacred web of life on our endangered planet - how can you engage at all, and why would you engage at all, with someone “on the other side” whose mind and heart you cannot change, why take the time, why take the risk?


I think that we can only do it if we do our first work first, meaning, if we take care to sink deep roots, binding our various ideas, our arguments, our opinions and our thinking about things to what we feel most deeply, to what we know within, to what each of us calls sacred. I know that I don’t know all I need to know about nuclear power, say, or about drilling for oil, but I know that I am guided by a sense of reverence for the earth and all that lives upon it, and I am guided by an intuition of old virtues like prudence and restraint and conservation, living lightly, proportion, moderation, deep respect. There’s a difference between what you believe, which may be any number of things, they change and shift as you learn and grow- there’s a difference between what you believe, and what you believe in, what you know by heart. When we engage from that deep place, it seems to me we’re less likely to be shaken, to be caught off guard, to be defensive or dismissive. If you care, say, about workers in Wisconsin, care passionately, it’s good sometimes to unpack that passion, to get down to what in that issue is so deep for you as to be an ethical principle, not just an opinion but a spiritual touchstone, part of your religion even. “I believe,” you might say, “in the inherent worth and dignity of human beings. That’s the very heart of it. That’s why I care so much.” And on that sacred ground, from which, like a tree that’s standing by the water you will not be moved, a human conversation can begin.


Jane Bacon is a member here who has thought about these things more deeply and courageously than anyone I know. (She commissioned today’s topic at the service auction here in 2009.) In one of our discussions she reminded me that though the issues here are huge and over-arching, overwhelming, they play out day-to-day on the very small, human-scale stages of our ordinary lives. “I don’t have to try to understand Glenn Beck,” she said, “or be his friend, or give him any thought at all or even care about him. What I care about are the people I know and the people I meet who care about him - and they are many. What do they really want? What do they fear? What longing is in them? What do they hope for? What emptiness in them wants to be filled by the things that he says? Is it related at all to the emptiness and fear that I feel every day? They sound desperate to me; is their desperation connected to mine? Shouldn’t I care about that? Shouldn’t we, as religious people, care about that?” Jane shared an article from the UU World where someone wrote:


At one time I worked for an ecumenical church council that discussed the problem of “Christian triumphalism,” the belief that Christianity is the best religion and will in the end win over the others. I think there is also a problem of “UU triumphalism,” the belief that our religion is the best and that collectively we ourselves are the best human beings, the most rational, open- minded, and devoted to the pursuit of objective truth. [It may be] so. But we are desperately needy for deep contact with people whose hearts have learned humility and equality. This is where I personally feel too much alone. I yearn for others who openly acknowledge their deep life experiences of failure, shame, and even “sinfulness.” Such feelings are central to our humanity. Sharing them is essential to community.


I’m thinking way back, through years and years, to a definition of nonviolence given to me by an old, old friend. Wally Nelson was already old when I first met him years ago. He first joined the civil rights movement in the 1940’s. Together with other African American activists and together with Black and white clergy, he was developing this method, this habit of being, this way of engaging political work and the work of being a person; this difficult, beautiful spiritual discipline that in time would compel thousands of people in their work for social justice. Some of that work took Wally and others into segregated restaurants long before the famous Greensboro sit-ins. People spat in their faces, spat in their food, poured ketchup on their heads, dropped burning cigarettes down their shirt collars, and beat them and jailed them. When I met Wally, decades later, and asked him how he could withstand it, how he could talk about loving his enemy and truly mean it, how he could talk about the necessary transformation not of someone else’s twisted heart, but of one’s own, he gave this definition: Nonviolence is the constant awareness of the dignity and humanity of oneself and others; it seeks truth and justice; it renounces violence both in method and attitude; it is a courageous acceptance of active goodwill as the instrument with which to overcome evil and transform both oneself and others. It is the willingness to undergo suffering rather than inflict it. It excludes retaliation and flight. It was from him that I first heard the age-old line, “There is no way to peace; peace is the way” - which is a hard and hopeful teaching.


In our tradition, it shows up as Universalism - the larger love, transcending understanding, in which we are all held, from which we all come, to which we all return, and through which we are called to see, to seek, to honor, to recognize, to bless the worth and dignity of everyone - not the policies and politics, not the principles, opinions and ideas, but the common, living, dying, laughing, weeping humanity of everyone.


lower the bridge and keep it down


let love and hate and voice and shouting in let sadness in with its arms open wide and hope with its new shoes...


let in the one who knows what we don’t know...


in short to avoid confusion let in my fellow, the insufferable, so strong and fragile one, the necessary one the one with doubts, face, blood and a life that ends the welcome one


lower the bridge and keep it down.


MEDITATION


Think of someone with whom it’s hard for you to speak, someone about whom it’s hard for you to speak, someone you can barely talk to, whether you’ve tried to or not.


Maybe it’s a famous person, whom you perceive to hold power, dangerous sway over events and policies and people; maybe it’s not a famous person at all, but someone in your life who clearly holds power over you.


Imagine a conversation between you, how it would go if your intention were not to win, to triumph, but only to be heard, truly heard, deeply seen and finally understood. Imagine if your intention were to see and hear and understand in return.


From John O’Donahue, a Catholic, come these words:


Now that you have entered with an open heart
Into a complex and fragile situation,
Hoping with patience and respect To tread softly over sore ground in order
That somewhere beneath the raw estrangement
Some fresh spring of healing might be coaxed
To release the grace for a new journey
Beyond repetition and judgment,

And have achieved nothing of that,
But emerged helpless, and with added hurt…
Withdraw for a while into your own tranquility, Loosen from your heart the new fester.

Free yourself of the wounded gaze
That is not yet able to see you.
Don’t allow your sense of yourself to wilt.
Draw deep from your own dignity.

Temper your expectation ...
And take your time carefully,
Learning that there is a time for everything
And for healing too...


Draw deep from your own dignity. ________________________________________ FIRST READING


from Jean Olson, Unitarian Universalist


I tried so hard to bring him to my level. I spoke eloquent words of encouragement and he struggled but could not rise. I pulled with one hand, and then two. I tried to lift him, to pick him up and carry him. All to no avail. Hot and exhausted, I finally sat down next to him and he gave me some cool water to drink.


Suddenly we were both there.


SECOND READING Mario Benedetti, poet of Uruguay, from his poem “Against Drawbridges”


I can stay here in my bulwark in this or that solitude without any right enjoying my last clusters of silence – I can look out look on time on the clouds, the river vanish in the far foliage


but I’m aware, I know, I never forget that my fertile voluntary destiny is to become the eyes the mouth and hands for other hands and mouths and eyes


lower the bridge and keep it down


let love and hate and voice and shouting in let sadness in with its arms open wide and hope with its new shoes let in the germinal and honest cold and the summer with its scorched sufferings let resentments with their mists come in and farewells with their bread of tears let the dead come and above all the living and the old smell of melancholy


lower the bridge and keep it down


let rage and its dark gestures in let in good and evil and that which mediates between them which is to say the truth, this pendulum. let fire in with or without rain . . . let work in and above all leisure that right to dream, that rainbow


lower the bridge and keep it down


let in the dogs . . . the midwives and gravediggers the angels if they exist and if not let in the moon


lower the bridge and keep it down


let in the one who knows what we don’t know who kneads the bread or who makes revolutions and the one who can’t make them and the one who shuts his eyes


in short to avoid confusion let in my fellow, the insufferable, so strong and fragile one, the necessary one the one with doubts, a shadow, face, blood and a life that ends the welcome one


keep out no one but the man in charge of raising the bridge


at this point it should be no secret to anyone


I’m against drawbridges.


[Translated by Robert Marquez and Elinor Randall]