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Archive for June, 2017

the power of “s”

A few weeks ago, I read briefly from Michael Harrington’s Socialism. Early on, he used the word “socialisms.”

I stared at the word for a couple of minutes. For all the times I’ve read, heard, and spoken the word “socialism,” this was my first time encountering it with an “s” at the end.

The “s” highlighted how little I actually know about socialism. It taunted me with the implication that, as Neil Postman might caution, I knew little enough of socialism’s histories to know an “s” could even belong there.

Another book made me think about the power of “s” to provoke deeper reflection. Called Late American Holocausts, it forced me to confront the idea of multiple holocausts. As an American, I’d grown up with the idea there was but one.

Of course, without even having begun reading the book, I could already see precisely why many Americans are taught that there was only The Holocaust … in which Americans were the victors, fighting evil, self-nominated, for the good of the world.

(The script hasn’t changed much, and–despite the tens of millions of people killed by America, its allies, and its arms sale recipients–American leaders still portray America as the lone, brave cowboy out bringing justice to the world. (Bah!))

Where else does an “s” invite deeper inquiry?

After “soldier,” for one. Who are the individual soldiers who sacrificed so much of their selves so that so few could gain vast riches? How do their stories vary? How do their losses ripple out to impact those who love them and must also face the daily consequences of those losses–of safety, of limb, of life? Who are these millions sacrificed by those who will never directly understand the individual costs of war?

And “war”? There’s another one. Though I didn’t see it until a few months ago, to read the word “war” and glide over it is to trivialize it. There is no one, uniform war. Each individual war killS and woundS different personS, placeS, and dreamS in dramatically different wayS.

Little has done so much for my seeing more clearly what is than the pluralizing letter “s,” which challenges me to explore the stories concealed by words used in misleading singular.

beyond resisting

My sister Rachael recently texted me to gloat that Naomi Klein would be in Portland, Oregon to promote her new book. She didn’t type “neener-neener,” but she might as well have.

There’s no way she’s visiting Portland and not L.A.! I thought. I dropped everything and searched her publisher’s events page. Nada.

When I saw an announcement including an L.A. date, I messaged Rache again. “LOS ANGELES!!!” I said.

“I get to see her first,” Rache replied.

(Neener-neener.)

Who is Naomi Klein, exactly? Apart from being author of The Shock Doctrine, she’s an inspiration to both Rache and me.

Klein looks brutality squarely in the face, assesses it, and writes about it without losing either her passion or compassion. For a couple of decades now, she has looked into the abyss without becoming it.

She’s been a light along a very, very dark journey (of history and politics) I’ve been making for about a year. I’ve read her words and heard her podcasts and thought, “I hope I can emulate her someday. I hope I, too, can choose to look upon the darkness and see within it the possibility of greater love.”

My sister listened to Klein speak in Portland on Monday. I listened, alternately tearful and laughing, in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

nine two

Far from resenting my sister for hearing Klein first, I was grateful to listen and know Rache had heard the same heart, the same compassion, the same entreaty.  Read more…

my playlist

I’ve been building and rebuilding a playlist in my mind the last couple of weeks. I’ll write about it someday, I’m sure, I thought. When I’ve finally gotten it right-enough.

Without pressure or hurry, it could have been months before I solidified the playlist. But then I read a post that got me fired up, and I found my playlist.

The post bemoaned how everything is a competition now: singing, playing instruments, sports, politics. Everyone’s in it to win it. Period. Read more…

perspectiving

Earlier today, I glanced down and saw an awful, judgment-filled word scrawled in my older son’s handwriting.

Hold on now, I thought. When would he have even heard that word, and how would I have missed it in two years of having this same piece of paper behind my desk?!

Having written so recently about perspective(s), I smiled when I uncovered the rest of the paper to find the answer a split-second later. 

I’d seen the marks as they were, sure, but … I’d interpreted them upside-down, leading (briefly) to a very different, very wrong reading.

What a difference perspective–and context!–can make.

(NO)tifications

When I set up
each of my very few
phone apps, I set
notifications
to “off.”

I did this
intentionally;
I want to see the
sky, the leaves, the
wrinkles at the corners
of peoples’ eyes,

and hear
the birds chirping
with the rustling of leaves
behind them, and
chatter off in the
the distance.

I don’t need
notifications
of a virtual world
to interrupt
my experience
of the physical one.

And yet,
the companies
who release these apps
reject my rejecting their
notifications.

“Are you sure you
don’t want notifications?
You’re missing out on
so much good stuff!”

Every.
single.
day,
the
same
notices
I should
reconsider
notifications
and so keep up!!!.

Today, I
looked at those
reminders and thought,
“You know, I know
what I want to keep up with,
and it’s
not
this.

“The fact my
saying ‘no’ once isn’t enough
means maybe I shouldn’t
be checking these apps
at all. Okay, then,
once a day
from home
suits me
just
fine.”

Since
curtailing
online time,
my offline time
is so much more
vibrant;
merry;
full.

If I don’t see
any update
from any friend,
that’s fine;

I hold our
histories
in
my heart,

and I know
we will pick up
right where
we left off
the last
time.

Histories
in my heart
can be eroded
by too many notifications
about too many little things,
so:

even if I don’t
heart your picture
or thumbs-up your status,
please know it’s because
I want to remember
the you I know,
not
what
you
posted
yesterday.

shaved ice

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