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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…

grace

Someone
I’d trust
with my life
told me about
a time he’d been
unexpectedly
granted
grace

Years later,
his memory of that
grace-granting
inspires him
to show
grace
often

After we talked,
I thought hard about
what he’d said

Until then,
somewhere far
deeper than words,
I’d thought about grace
in terms of deserving:
“Has she earned this grace?”
Or,
“Is he worthy?”

Thanks to my friend,
I saw I’d been asking
the wrong questions

Who the hell
am I
to decide
whether anyone
(self included)
deserves
grace?

Maybe
what makes
it “grace”
is that
it’s not
too concerned
with what is
or is not
deserved

Categories: Friends, Reflections Tags:

For [our kids]

In his latest post, my husband wrote that I’m worried about the world we’ll leave behind for our children.

It was a side point, and his post wasn’t about politics, but it’s been on my mind since I read it.

I am worried, and it’s a hopeful thing.

I always thought politics was this weird and terrible dark art only a few could practice.

There was the real world, and then there was politics. Politicians politicked while the rest of us lived.

That changed a few months ago. After my siblings introduced me to Bernie Sanders (as more than an impractical joke), I saw that politics and real life could and should converge–that they could converge to start improving right now the world we adults leave to our children.

Before, I didn’t really feel there was cause to hope. Doom and gloom would prevail no matter what I did.

It’s different today when I worry out loud. These political musings aren’t meant to be grim or despairing, though they may sound it.

If there were no cause for hope and catastrophe were truly a foregone conclusion, there would be little point worrying. Doom would be settled and sealed.

But it’s not settled. There is cause for hope.

Hope and worry are woven together for me.

I worry because I still have hope. I choose to use that worry to propel me to work for shaping a better world. To find the steps that will make that possible.

I know only that the first step is finding my voice by engaging in discourse.

The rest will follow.

So for my kids and yours, I’ll seek.

This 9/14/16 post transferred from L2SP 6/21/17

so lucky

my mom did
a helluva lot
with virtually nothing

i used to love
to shout it here,
but recently? i have
seen she was more
(and did more) than
i could ever
express,
and i have chosen
to hold her close
(and not exploit
her memory)

but now,
now i am reading
our children:
the american dream
in crisis
and seeing that
what she gave me
(and my younger
siblings)
was upper class
aspirations, and reach,
from
a lower class life,
and i am floored
all over again,
weeping,
that i should
have been
so lucky
to have
the mom
i did

forever grateful to this in-and-out beautiful woman

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…

wild and magnificent

June 15, 2017 Comments off

My sister Rache prefers [flowers] wild
and I couldn’t
agree
more

Categories: Family Tags: , ,
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