Love Will Always Win

It’s been a month since I posted my last story. Where is my muse? Nothing creative is emanating from my mouth, my fingers, my brain.

breathless
she tries in vain to sing
nothing but darkness emerges
her voice silenced by despair
when will her muse return

Perhaps this poem that I wrote on Twitter awhile back is more appropriate for this sad, unholy week, when we are mourning the loss of 49 souls and wondering what evils lie ahead.

Purple Angel

Poem Copyright: Janet L. Brown, Image Copyright: Kerri McClellan-Fotolia.com

Many have said that it’s no longer enough to say that our thoughts and prayers are with the victims. They say it’s time for action. We can see it in the blocks-long winding line of people who volunteered to give blood in Orlando. And we can hear it in the public discourse about gun control legislation (or lack thereof).

In his  June 12th statement to the press, President Obama once again asked the country to do some “soul-searching” about the ease with which people can get assault weapons in the U.S.

We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be.

– President Barack Obama

I wonder if we can finally agree on legislation that would ban or reduce the sale of these weapons, or at least build a database to ensure that access is limited.

A California pastor’s sermon went viral over the weekend, as you already may know, because he blamed the victims for their own deaths.

The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job.

– Pastor Roger Jimenez, Verity Baptist Church

This is the worst kind of hate speech–words that are delivered by a pastor, who we are supposed to be able to trust! Fortunately, no one seems to agree with him. Love is stronger than hate. Love will overcome the devastation wrought by any man. Even if he has an AR-15. Even if he has a pulpit from which to spew hate. Love will always win.
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Carrying the Light

I’m late with my Friday Fictioneers contribution this week. The photo prompt, as some of you may know, is published Wednesday morning. I contemplated the ornate light fixture in the photo and copied it onto my hard drive, as usual.

Photo Copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com

Photo Copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The photo reminded me of some lovely chandeliers I’ve seen in churches, but I had no idea what to write.

That night, I procrastinated and scrolled through my twitter feed instead of writing. I came across breaking stories from various news media and was horrified to learn of the vicious hate crime in Charleston, a mass shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The cold-hearted shooting of a church prayer group…how do we reconcile the irony, the inhumanity?

The historic status of the church and its founder, Denmark Vesey, was mentioned in the first two articles I read. This church has suffered unthinkable losses in the past. The church was founded in 1816 by black congregants who left their predominantly white churches over issues of discrimination. It was burned down in 1822 when its pastor was convicted of planning a slave revolt. When the laws of that era prohibited all-black churches, the members had to meet in secret. The church survived all of this and was rebuilt at the end of the civil war, only to be destroyed by an earthquake in 1886. In the twentieth century, the church was the site of seminal civil rights speeches and demonstrations, including a mass arrest of more than 900 protesters in 1969.

Now they have suffered more unthinkable losses. As I read the articles and watched the news videos, two questions gnawed at me: 1) Why are we the only advanced nation to have mass shootings on a seemingly regular, if not frequent, basis; and 2) Why, in a country that has the most ethnically diverse population of any country on Earth, do we still have racial hatred? The answer to the first question is fairly obvious.  The answer to the second is so complex as to be incomprehensible, but I’m sure we’ll hear many sociologists, psychologists, journalists, pundits and random internet trolls try to break it down for us in the coming days/weeks/months.  I welcome that discussion with open ears.

Meanwhile, the only answer I have is love.

I try to wrap my head around the so-incredible level of love and forgiveness displayed by the families of the victims at the shooter’s bond hearing. No one said it better than Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of one of the victims. She spoke directly to the shooter, saying, “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love. Hate won’t win.” (Source: NBCNews.com)

Mother Emanuel will be open for Sunday services today. The light they carry into the world is witness to God’s love and to our human potential to love, rather than hurt, each other.  I hope my little poem reflects that light.

Photo by Stephen Hyatt http://photos.thechurchesoftheworld.com/Charleston-SC-Churches/Mother-Emanuel-AME/

Photo by Stephen Hyatt
Source: photos/thechurchesoftheworld.com

Carrying the Light

by Jan Brown

Why do churches have such lovely chandeliers? Perhaps…

To remind us there is something irresistibly beautiful, something higher and more permanent than our imperfect selves.

To remind us of the beauty that can shine from just one beacon, even in a world otherwise devoid of light.

To focus the still-bright light of  our lost loved ones, so that we will not flounder in the dark.

To infuse love, the kind of love that shines on every living being, the kind of love that will never falter, never flicker out, never discriminate and never be darkened, no matter how deep the night.

shooting victims

Source: NBCNews.com

Mother Emanuel’s light shines now, this very moment. I pray that everyone will let it in.

Amen.

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Friday Fictioneers is a lovely community of writers from around the world. My blog this week was a departure from the usual form. Normally we post 100-word stories based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. To read more stories of every conceivable genre, or to post your own, click here.

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Remember

June 6 is D-Day, and the NaHaiWriMo theme of the day is: FREEDOM.

As I create this posting, it is 06:30 at Normandy, France–exactly 70 years after the Allied invasion. This photo was taken that morning. My haiku/haiga is a small token of honor for the thousands lost that day, and for those who lived through it to know victory.

Into_the_Jaws_of_Death_23-0455M haiga

Photo taken by Chief Photographer’s Mate Robert F. Sargent on June 6, 1944 (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Iroquois thanksgivings

Dreamcatcher wikimedia Media 123 cc by-sa 3-0

Today’s poem is about thanksgiving with a small “t.” It is not specific to the holiday of Thanksgiving. Rather, it is a lovely litany of the natural gifts of our generous planet, gifts that give us a reason to be thankful every ordinary day.

Its sentiments and structure are Native American in origin. The poem, known as “The Thanksgivings” or “The Iroquois Thanksgivings,” has been credited to Harriett Maxwell Converse, dating to the occasion of the Iroquois Green Corn Festival in New York in 1890. Ms. Converse was a Native American advocate of the 19th century and an adopted member of the Seneca Nation.

The faith and beliefs of the Iroquois imbue the natural world with both human and divine characteristics. Their rich, luscious vision of our physical surroundings reveals a profound respect for nature, man and God.

The poem honors “our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.”

According to legend, the “supporters” are a trio of sister spirits who are guardians of the corn, the beans and the squash, respectively. I really like the idea of a spiritual guardian for my squash, especially the pumpkins that become a tasty pie….and spicy muffins…and bread 🙂

The poem celebrates “that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.”

Ga-ne-o-di-o was a controversial leader whose name, in English, is Handsome Lake. He helped the Iroquois Nation deal with the destructive effects of colonization by renewing traditional beliefs, eschewing alcohol and elevating the importance of family and faith. He wrote The Code of Handsome Lake, a moral and spiritual guide for the people. These are “the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o” to which the poet refers.

I hope that you have many blessings and many strong, spiritual guardians to watch over you, now and all year long. Happy Thanksgiving!

Click the link and enjoy the poem! The Thanksgivings, by Harriett Maxwell Converse

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For more information on the poet: Harriett Maxwell Converse bio from pbs.org

For more information on Handsome Lake: Wikipedia bio, Handsome Lake

The Beginning and the End

plate in shape of heart, table knife and fork on red background

At Thanksgiving, we gather at the dinner table and celebrate new beginnings: new babies, new marriages, new jobs, new friends. We remember things that are gone from this plane of existence: loved ones lost prematurely, grandparents lost to age, husbands and wives lost to the bitterness of divorce.

Today I read a poem by Joy Harjo, celebrating the glue that holds so many of us together, the social rites of the kitchen table.

Click the link and enjoy! Perhaps the World Ends Here, by Joy Harjo

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For more information: Joy Hargo bio from poets.org

Giving Thanks

Care

I have readers from 70 countries across the globe, and I give thanks for each and every one of them!

This week, we celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving in the United States. The Poetry Foundation has gathered together some very special poems about Thanksgiving, and I will be sharing a few of them with you.

This moving piece is by Richard Blanco. He was President Obama’s second inaugural poet. I’ve also included a link, below, to his inaugural reading.

His Thanksgiving poem is called “América,” about a Thanksgiving celebration in his Cuban-American home. It strikes me that it is about the difficult loss of the old world, and a somewhat tentative incorporation of the new. I think it is a universal truth that parents, aunts and uncles are prodded into trying strange new things by children, and in this case, by the poet. By the end of the evening, whether they liked or hated (mostly hated) the new tastes, smells and stories, they celebrated each other. They celebrated family.

Click the link, and enjoy!  America, by Richard Blanco

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For more information about Richard Blanco:

Richard Blanco – Wikipedia

Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem, “One Light”

Remembering My Favorite Veteran

Monday is Veterans Day, and I want to say THANK YOU to all current and former service men and women for their hard work and sacrifice, to those we have lost for making the ultimate sacrifice, and to all military families for their bravery and patriotism in the face of personal hardship, loneliness and loss. God bless you.

My father was surprised to be drafted to serve in World War II at the age of 31. He and my mother had been married over a year, and they were hoping to get pregnant, but they put those plans on hold until after the war. My dad was very fortunate to come home in one piece and to observe the celebrations that followed the unconditional surrender of Germany.

As you remember the service men and women in your life, you might enjoy looking at some of their old pictures. Here are some of my dad, his fellow Message Center compatriots, and the happy people of France.

Admittedly, these are “good” views of the war and its aftermath. Today’s wars are filmed from every angle, and the news shows every possible atrocity. But I don’t think my dad needed photos of the terrible tragedies that war brought to so many. I think that veterans carry those memories around forever, inside their heads.

CPL John Brown

CPL John Brown, U.S. Army

"Five Message Center men--and good ones, too!"

“Five Message Center men–and good ones, too!”

Poker Session

Poker Session

On the balcony of the American Red Cross Casino Club at Nice, France, October 2, 1945

On the balcony of the American Red Cross Casino Club at Nice, France, October 2, 1945

CPL John R. Brown, U.S. Army

CPL John R. Brown, U.S. Army

Gathering near the Eiffel Tower on V-E Day, May 8, 1945

Gathering near the Eiffel Tower on V-E Day, May 8, 1945

Gathering near L'Arc de Triomphe, V-E Day, May 8, 1945

Gathering near L’Arc de Triomphe, V-E Day, May 8, 1945

v-e-day-near-letoile1

Gathering near L’Etoile on V-E Day, May 8, 1945

Playing the Percentages

17% and losing out…

A week ago, I posted a rant about the lack of positive activity — or indeed any signs of intelligent life — in our U.S. Congress. Most Americans disapprove of the job that Congress is doing, as evidenced by the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Only 17% approve or have no opinion, one way or the other. I had some theories about who these mysterious 17% might be, among them comedians, Congressional spouses and SuperPACs.

16% and staying in…

Yikes. Anthony Weiner.  He can’t keep his private parts private. He can’t even keep his private chats private, because his sexting partners seem to like the publicity that nudeness and lewdness bestows. Now a Quinnipiac University poll of New York city residents reveals that only 16% would vote for Weiner. This was less-than-gracefully followed by the resignation of his campaign manager, a tell-all interview with a former intern, and an expletive-laced conversation between his communications director and ABC news. Wow. Way to do damage control.

Hmmm…17%, 16%…too close to be a coincidence?

I think we have found the intersection of the mathematical sets of “I don’t give a damn” and “What’s wrong with taking a picture of your junk?”

I knew 7th grade math class would come in handy some day.

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For actual information on these sad, sad topics, click on the following links:

“Weiner drops to fourth in NYC mayoral poll,” Catalina Camia, USA Today, July 29, 2013

“NBC/WSJ poll: Faith in DC hits a low; 83 percent disapprove of Congress,” Mark Murray, NBC News

“More bad news for Weiner,” Kevin Liptak, CNN, July 29, 2013

Cynical much?

lost, soulless

he makes a grab for power

but it’s just out of reach

 he remains weak

mindless, venal

 in other words

politician

gehörnter Boss

Yes, I tend to be cynical. I’m not alone. Yesterday, the results of a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll were released, showing that 83% of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing. This is reported to be an all-time “high” in our contempt for Congress’ effectiveness, or lack thereof.

What surprises me more than the 83% disapproval rating, is the remaining 17% of respondents, who apparently either approve (!?!) or have no opinion on Congress’ collective screw-ups. Who are these people? My first thought was that they are isolated from society and completely cut-off from all forms of news. Perhaps they are bold, independent self-sufficiency experts who raise their own food, sew their own clothing by hand, never communicate with others, refrain from trade with the outside world, and do not require jobs, money, education, transportation or health care. But these mythical cave-dwellers would not have phones and, therefore, would not be included in the poll.

The only conclusion I can draw is that there really are people who participate in American society who do NOT disapprove of the job Congress is doing. Really? These must be people who are:

a) blinded by love (i.e., the politicians’ spouses, lovers, children, parents)

b) dependent on Congress for their livelihood (Congressional staff, campaign staff, lobbyists, special interest groups)

c) comedians (or should I include them in category b, above?)

d) journalists and commentators who agree with the current Congressional majority (they probably belong to category b, as well)

e) too rich to care

Or perhaps they just didn’t understand the question. I think there’s a basic flaw in polling by phone, i.e., assuming that we have a representative sample of the American population when, in fact, we are only drawing from that portion of population that still answers phone calls from unknown numbers and is willing to provide personal information to strangers.

I’m pretty sure the real number is closer to 100%.

Happy Holiday!

fireworks

Tomorrow, we celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!

We celebrate so many freedoms:

  • the freedom to love — family, friends, spouses, partners, neighbors and even strangers
  • the freedom to speak, sing, write, dance and otherwise express ourselves
  • the freedom to gather our friends and barbecue our food till it’s crispy beyond recognition
  • the freedom to enjoy loud music, raucous laughter and tearful joy

I hope you enjoy the day. Celebrate safely and with love!