“All Children Are Our Children” by Carol P. Christ


This is a rather long read the gist of which is this: what if “we were taught to love and nurture and be generous to others” and these were the primary values in the world rather than the current values. “What if we were taught to open our hearts to the world? Would domination, violence, and war be possible?”

Carol P. Christ by Michael Bakas high resoultion“All children are our children.” As I was posting my recent blog about the shooting of black men by the police, these words came into my mind with the force of revelation. At the time I was looking at a photograph of Philando Castile, taken at his place of work. Yes, I thought, my heart opening: “he is my child too.” This widening of the heart is at the center of the maternal values of ancient and contemporary matriarchal cultures around the world. It is a feeling some of us who were mothered well enough or who mothered children—including children not our own—carry within us. Is this the healing balm our world needs today?

Maternal  values?  So many of us turn up our noses at such a “gendered” term. Perhaps we were not mothered enough in our families of origin. Perhaps we still feel un-mothered. Perhaps we don’t want…

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The WT Swimming Pool, Stereotypes, and Africa


This afternoon I took three children aged eight and ten to the WTAMU (a local university) swimming pool, found myself a comfortable chair, opened my book, and proceeded to read.  When I looked up I saw this:

“This isn’t a democracy anymore.

It’s a Ricktatorship.”

These words boldly stood out in white on a black T-shirt.  For those not from Texas, the Rick to whom the statement refers is the governor of Texas where I live.  Between the two sentences was a photo of a cop with a gun pointed directly at me, the reader of the quotation.  Looking at the woman, young, unkept, no makeup, pimpled, overweight, I never would have expected her to adorn herself with this particular shirt especially in this intensely Republican part of Texas.  Then it hit me; I was stereotyping. I felt a bit horrified with myself.  How can you tell by the appearance of a person whether they are liberal, moderate, or conservative.  You can’t.

 

I went back to reading which was perhaps a mistake.  When it first became a rather famous book, I purchased Say You’re One Of Them by Uwem Akpan, a Nigerian writer-he is originally from Nigeria.  It contains five stories some quite short and some of novella length.  Why has it taken me so very long to get through this book?  These are not stories one can sit down and casually read.  This volume of searing, well written stories tells of immense horrors. The settings of the stories include various countries in West Africa, including Nigeria, and Rwanda, Kenya, and Ethiopia.  Today, I finally got around to reading the story from which the book gets its title.  Now I wonder how I can sleep tonight.  All the stories describe the lives of individuals brutalized by war, modern slavery, and ethnic and religious hatred.  All the stories are from the viewpoint of a child, the oldest of whom is sixteen.  Today’s story, the longest in the book, takes place in modern times in Nigeria.  If you do not already have some inkling as to Nigerian politics, the whys and wherefores of Boka Haram, the violence in the oil fields in the south, and the intensity of the rivalries and hatreds among the various tribal factions and Muslims and Christians, this story will both enlighten and horrify you.  The sixteen year old young man in the story is fleeing the north with many other refugees.  Although he is Muslim, his Muslim friends turn against him even though he had his hand chopped off for stealing a goat.  They think he is too moderate and does not hate Christians sufficiently.  The Christians with whom he is a refugee turn against him because he is Muslim.  His story is not uncommon.  Look at Syria, Iraq, the Congo.  The rest of the world needs to know.  Hatred and violence can occur anywhere.  What happens in a distant corner of our planet affects each and every one of us.

Amazon


His milk chocolate, heavy lidded eyes stare at me from the

front of the magazine.

His cheeks display charcoal tattoos, a criss cross

design, tiny Xs on top, stopping where his nostrils flare.

His straight hair barely touches his shoulders.

not the black I expected, but the color of mahogany.

His eyebrows grow thin and wide,

no visible eyelashes.

His skin, color of morning coffee with two teaspoons of milk,

looks clear, smooth.

His full lips only slightly darker than his skin

do not smile.

He, a Kayapo Indian, continues staring.

He lives in Kayapo Territory, Brazil, land the size of

Great Britain and Ireland.

He plans to save it from the rest of us.

He plans to save us from our own worst selves.

 

SAM_1502

 

The Kayapo and other indigenous Amerindians have lived in the rainforest for millennia.  They and most environmentalists view their rainforest as a priceless haven for biodiversity.  Their Amazon remains a major defense in the fight against global warming and habitat destruction.  Fifteen per cent of greenhouse emissions, more than all the trucks, cars, buses, and planes combined, come from deforestation.  Although Brazil has slowed the deforestation rate by 70 per cent in the last nine years, last year saw a reversal with an sudden increase of 30 per cent.  Brazil also began construction of a network of canals, dams, and a huge hydroelectric project on the Xingu River in the middle of Kayapo territory.  The Kayapo and other Amerindians defeated a larger project in the 1990s. They intend to defeat this one.

The chief of the Kayapo, Megaron, knows what is at stake, not only for his tribe, but also for the rest of us, long term survival.  One  National Geographic article noted, “It is one of the richest ironies of the Amazon that the supposedly civilized outsiders who spent five centuries evangelizing, exploiting, and exterminating aboriginal people are now turning to them to save ecosystems recognized as critical to the health of the planet–to defend essential tracts of land from the outside world’s insatiable appetite.”

Kayapo success can be attributed to their ability to embrace some of the best of the modern world while retaining a strong sense of identity, culture, and traditions, all of which come from the forest.  As Megaron notes, “Before the white man, we were always fighting other tribes.  Not anymore.  We stopped hitting each other over the head and united against a bigger threat.”  For our own long term health and success, we can support them and hope they succeed.

 

Delighted to Support Desmond Tutu’s Forgiveness Challenge


We need so much more of this in the world in so many places like Ukraine, South Sudan, Iraq, and Syria for starters. When individuals learn to forgive and realize their sameness far outweighs their differences, perhaps we can have peace.

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We’re humbled to bring you this interview with Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu about their new Global Forgiveness Challenge as well as HumanJourney.com, a platform for transformational ideas that Archbishop Tutu is co-founding with book and media creator Doug Abrams. WordPress.com is delighted to be a partner in this initiative.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho Tutu are trying to change the world with the Forgiveness Challenge. Get involved! Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho Tutu are trying to change the world with the Forgiveness Challenge. Get involved!

What is the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge?

The Forgiveness Challenge is a free 30-day online program developed to help people learn the practical steps to forgiveness so they can live with greater love and joy in their life.

How does the Forgiveness Challenge work?

Each day, participants receive an email from us that directs them to a new post on the website that presents an important insight into forgiveness and that offers them…

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Much as Love and Murder, Freedom is a Many-Splendored Thing


northierthanthou

17711-series-header Yapto Soerjosoemarno is a middle-aged man. He is the leader of Pankasila, an Indonesian youth group three million strong. The camera follows him out onto a golf course where he explains; “Gangsters are free men. They want to live life in their style. Relax and Rolex.” A moment later he tells his young caddy she has a mole on her pussy.

And she smiles.

Of course all of this comes after Yapto explains that Pankasila had killed all the communists in Indonesia. It comes after he has spoken at a Pankasila rally, one in which he calls himself the biggest gangster of all.

What else could the young girl do but smile?

KillingAs he and his friends try on colorful gangster outfits, Anwar Kongo waxes on about his inspirations; Al Pacino, John Wayne, and others like them. He goes on to relate the story of how he once placed the…

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Bedtime Reading or Not–the Hazara


A lifelong habit that helps me settle down to sleep remains reading.  However, occasionally I delve into a book that turns out not to be so wonderful to read just before going to bed.  The topic turns to the disturbing and then, suddenly, my mind churns.  By that time, it is too late to go back.  Or, like the book I am reading now, parts of it consist of stories inspiring, amusing, enlightening, parables for life.  Then there are the other parts:  the abuse of an entire people by the other ethnicities surrounding them, genocide, turmoil, invasion.  I remain a lifelong lover of libraries.  Recently, while browsing through new books, I found this one:  The Honey Thief  by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman.  Mazari grew up in a Hazara village in the northern part of Afghanistan, the area known as Hazarajat, became a master rug maker and fled from the Taliban to Australia in 2000 where he met his now close friend and coauthor.  For several days now, it has been my bedtime reading.

The Hazara people speak a dialect of Farci, the language of Iran.  Data varies, but they number approximately seven million in Afghanistan and remain one of the largest ethnic groups there.  Nevertheless, in spite of this, other groups discriminate against them for various reasons, including the fact that most Hazara are Shia Muslims surrounded by Sunnis.  Until 1893, they were the majority when half were massacred and many fled to live in Iran, Pakistan, and India.  Some believe the Hazara are the descendants of Genghis Khan’s warriors.  Many resemble the people who live in Mongolia today and in many ways parts of their culture resemble that of Mongolia, e.g. their tents look like yurts; no one knows for sure.  They have lived in what is now known as Afghanistan for hundreds of years.  They are people of the mountains who have learned to cultivate beauty and farm in high, inaccessible places.  They are famous for poetry and story telling.  Unlike other women in Afghanistan, they shunned burkas, fought along side men as soldiers, and believed in education for women.  These attributes fueled discrimination by other groups there.

Now back to bedtime reading.  Several stories in particular contain what I consider the necessary qualities for bedtime perusal:  entertaining and instructive without gore, controversy.  They also hold an unusual quality of something you cannot quite quantify, a hint of the mystery of life, of a particular kind of not quite describable beauty.  Hoping that at least some of you will find the book and actually read it, I will first list the stories to read without dread or worry if you want to read at bedtime:  “The Wolf Is the Most Intelligent of Creatures”, “The Music School”, and the “Snow Leopard”.  Under no circumstances read “The Life of Abdul Khaliq” and “The Death of Abdul Khaliq”.  You will, indeed, learn a considerable amount of Afghan history, but unless you are quite heartless and insensitive, you probably will not be able to drift off to a pleasant dreamland for hours.

If all this stokes your curiosity, here are two websites to learn more about the Hazara:  www.joshuaproject.net and http://www.hazarapeople.com.

For All the Lonely, Lost Young Men


At first, I planned to simply post a poem by this title, a response to the bombing in Boston and the young men who orchestrated it.  Then I decided that a few comments seemed more appropriate.  These comments come from a realization and conversations with a couple of colleagues at work noticing that all the perpetrators of the bombings and mass killings have been young males.  These young men cite various causes from the anger of being disenfranchised and bullied to religious fervor of a certain type to insanity.  All acknowledged anger over something, a rage so profound they felt driven to act, at least for those to whom authorities could talk.  Most appeared to be alienated from their culture, friends, or family, young men who failed to fit in.  Although we must condemn their horrific acts, perhaps it would also prove more productive to ask, “Why?” Unless we know why and address the causes, these events will be repeated somewhere at some totally unforeseen time.  And many innocents will die again and again.  Perhaps equally disturbing is the fact that we are not alone.  These types of events repeat themselves in one way or another in many other countries in the world.  Additionally, I realize that many people feel the solution lies in revenge, punishment, justice as they see it.  For those, many of the sentiments I express in this poem may seem too simplistic, too kind, too naive.  I teach high school.  I work with all types of young men daily.  I see their fear, anger, loneliness even if fleeting and only momentarily.  We can make a difference; we can reach out.

Look at yourselves

filled with

fear,

anger,

hatred.

This world may not embody

the perfect place

of which you dream;

do not despair.

We care.

Do not shoot me.

I care.

Do not throw bombs at the innocent;

They care.

Do not hate the different.

They care.

Do not despair.

2012 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

I started this blog 11 months ago.  I want to thank all my followers, commenters, and friends who follow me via WordPress, Facebook, etc.  for making this a success.  Thank you and Happy New Year.  May this new year bring joy and prosperity to all of you.

Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror


This blog began as a vehicle to “make” me write more and share my writings, e.g. poetry, flash memoir, essays, with others and to learn from reader responses.  Along the way, it morphed into my recipes—starting with friends requesting them, my travels and adventures, inspirations, and thoughts.  This post will morph me into something I fear may be far more controversial, but also feel I must explore. Several years ago, a couple of friends and I enrolled as continuing education students in a course about Islamic thought and literature.  Our hope was to learn more about exactly what the title indicated.  Although I had already read quite a lot of Middle Eastern literature, especially Iranian, and also some Turkish novels as well as memoirs and nonfiction books, I had no one with whom to discuss my readings and thoughts.  This presented an ideal opportunity.  After a couple of weeks, it became quite clear that the teacher had a definite agenda.  Although she never overtly discussed her own religious beliefs, she generally chose parts of readings to discuss to promote a certain, anti-Islamic bias.  We read the Quran (in translation because none of us spoke or read Arabic—mine was a Pakistani translation), Ayaan Hirsi Ali—various works including Infidel, Benazir Bhutto’s autobiography, and short stories by Iranian, Palestinian, and other Middle Eastern authors.  None were from Southeast Asia where the majority of the world’s Muslims live.  None were from India.  When we discussed the Quran, she chose very specific passages that zeroed in on what she perceived to be Islam’s oppression of women and promotion of violence and war.  When the rest of us tried to also discuss passages about ones duty to the oppressed, the orphans, the poor, she would channel the discussion back to her chosen agenda.  Some dropped out.  The rest of us decided to stay because we wanted to read and discuss the writings in spite of the situation.  Over time, our insistence on a broader based view seemed to affect her strong bias slightly.  In the end, she even showed the Iranian movie, “Children of Heaven”, which presents the plight of a poor Iranian family in a very sympathetic light.  The father overtly loves his wife and struggles valiantly to help her and his family in any way he can. This class has led me to further pursue my readings of literature from Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, India, etc., both fiction and non-fiction and to learn as much as I can about the past and present as it relates to issues in these parts of the world.  Since then, I have also experienced the privilege of hosting exchange students from Thailand, Brazil, and Argentina.  One of my closest friends grew up Muslim in Indonesia.  I also have Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan and atheist friends from many parts of the world, and some who have little interest in religion. Recently, the librarian where I teach asked me to read Wanted Women, Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror:  The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui.  I finished it recently and highly recommend reading this book.  The author, Deborah Scroggins, spent six years following the lives of these two women, including interviewing their colleagues, family members, self proclaimed jihadists, and government officials from several countries.  She delineates an incredible amount of information and data.  If you care about the political and spiritual future of this planet and the ongoing controversies surrounding Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, this book provides an excellent opportunity to explore history and the events of the last 20-30 years, and then to develop your own insights.  My hope is that this post will encourage others to explore new avenues of knowledge and open wider venues of thought that encourage a better, kinder world in which we respect and value each others’ differences.

Recommended additional readings:   This is one of my favorite magazines.  It is free and covers art, cuisine, nature, history, literature, geography, just about everything imaginable.  For teachers, they have suggested uses and additional materials at the back.  It comes out six times per year.

If you are unfamiliar with literature from the Arab world, this is a good place to start.  Mahfouz won the Nobel prize for literature.  Although his novels take place in Egypt, the themes are universal.

In spite of the word jihad in the title, this is more of a “fun” read.  The Iranian American author, a journalist, decided to go to the Iran of her roots and work and live there for a while.  This book describes her adventures as a journalist in Iran.

Other books I recommend are Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith by Gina B. Nahai                   (this is one of my all time favorite books), No God but God by Reza Aslan, another Iranian journalist, The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak (this book is a novel about Rumi, whose beliefs Islamists do not find acceptable), and Shattering the Stereotypes:  Muslim Women Speak Out edited by Afzal-Khan.

Another source of information about events, literature, art, etc. in the Middle East is a blog entitled “Sugar Street Review”.  One of their latest blog posts, Top Five Female Arab Writers provides a list of these women with photos, brief bios, and some critique.