Lágrimas para Puerto Rico

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Revelation 12:7-12

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

I’ve been saying for a while now that the Trump reign seems Apocalyptic. When I read this morning’s assigned Scripture, I started in the shock of recognition, especially at verse 12.

We all know that POTUS goes into an irrational spasm the closer Robert Mueller’s team gets to him. One can be an atheist, an agnostic, a humanist and any other –ist and agree that Trump “knoweth that he hath but a short time.”

The shorter the better, and I pray that his non-response to the plight of Puerto Ricans also becomes the subject of an investigation one day. Such blisteringly cruel abandonment of US citizens is unimaginable. Except, of course, almost any cruelty is imaginable from this government, and that is the American tragedy.

When Dorothy Parker said, “What fresh hell is this?”, she was predicting the words of millions of Americans as they wake up every day to learn of some new outrage coming from the White House.

I’ve heard people saying in astonishment, “How could (Trump, Price, Pruitt, Jared, Ivanka, Pence, Zinke <fill in a name>) not be aware that what they were doing was wrong?”

I don’t believe for a second that any of these people were not aware that what they were doing was wrong, but that they didn’t care and thought they would get away with it. Their white hyper-privilege just makes them think they deserve to do whatever they want. This is the definition of “white-collar crime.”

In the case of these spawn of Satan, however, their crimes are causing death and destruction of innocent people who have done nothing to deserve what they’re getting.

It was known for days that Hurricane Maria was going to hit Puerto Rico head-on. From 8 pm on Tuesday, September 19, to early morning on Thursday, September 21, it ravaged every bit of the island. And yet, no plans for federal help were in place.

Thousands of shipping containers with desperately needed food, medicine, and survival supplies were allowed to sit at a harbor in the days since because there were no troops to unload and distribute them until the last several hours, eight days after Maria hit.

FEMA officials took over the San Juan Convention Center and then told mayors, even of the farthest and most rural districts, that they had to come to San Juan and ASK FOR HELP.

That says it all.

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Genocide in Burma

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It is easy to be distracted from what is going on in the rest of the world by the crazy clown show that has become the US’s daily life.

On a recent road trip, my sister Sally said more than once, “But why isn’t anyone paying attention to the Rohingya people?”

I stood accused, because I hadn’t been attention either. I am now.

It turns out that the Muslim minority in Buddhist Burma has been persecuted for many, many years, despite the fact that generations of them have lived in Burma. Other ethnic/religious minorities, such as Hindus, are also persecuted. None of them is allowed to actually be considered a citizen of Burma and so have rights under the “law.”

Thanks to Twitter, I am following several people, most of them Rohingya themselves who are either in Bangladesh or in other countries as well as people inside Burma who are smuggling videos out. Some of them are following me, and I can tell you that it is beyond humbling that they appreciate my adding my voice.

It was in the mid-1990s that I first heard of Aung San Suu Kyi from a summer intern at the newspaper where I worked. She was being hailed as the savior of Burma’s soul to the extent of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Today, she has isolated herself and gives weak excuses for the genocide of the Muslim minority of her country.

On September 13, 13 fellow Nobel Laureates and 23 other influential people signed an open letter to the UN, and so to her, asking the Security Council to intervene in Rakhine state in Burma, where the military is systematically destroying Rohingyan villages. It is reported that upward of 400,000 Rohingyan people have fled to Bangladesh, which has a Muslim majority; despite its own problems with catastrophic flooding, Bangladesh is setting up camps for the refugees. It is also reported, however, that the Burma military is trying to avert aid ships from delivering help to Bangladesh.

Those refugees will never be able to return to Burma. They are stateless.

In addition, according to a story by Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast, reported on September 18 that Rohingya activists inside Burma and in Western countries report that Facebook is suspending or deleting their accounts when they try to document what is happening.

I have managed to find horrific pictures of dead children and burned corpses of Rohingya Muslims. I wasn’t looking for them and God knows, I wish the images could fade from my mind. They never will.

The Burmese military’s latest tactic is to kill Hindu men while wearing uniforms without insignia on them so that Hindus will think the murderers are Rohingyan. Hindus have been pressed without success by the military to side with it against the Muslims.

 In fact, there are radicalized Rohingyans and the latest round of genocide began when they attacked police stations on August 25. In return, the military has systematically been going through village by village, burning, raping, killing all in their way.

Disinformation is being spread that the radicalized are part of ISIS. Rohingyans who have tried to get word out on Facebook, the only social media available in Burma, are finding their posts and accounts deleted.

The more than 4 million who have managed to make it to Burma will never be able to return to their homeland; hundreds of them are children whose parents were murdered.

It cannot be forgotten that Burma is another of the many unstable countries around the world that were once part of the British Empire. So was Bangladesh, of course, or East Pakistan as it was known after the disaster known as Partition brought to you by Great Britain.

The politics aside, the straight-up fact is that people, fellow human beings, are dying or living on the edge of death. They need help. Here are links to some agencies that are doing relief work. Please consider donating.

Save The Children

Islamic Relief USA for Myanmar

United Muslim Relief Burma/Myanmar

International Rescue Committee

 

 

The President We Deserve?

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Hubris: exaggerated sense of self often ending in retribution

Hubris has been the distinguishing factor of the Trump Presidency (and how I hate having to use those two words together) since the ridiculous scene of the man and his wife descending a golden escalator to denounce Mexicans as rapists and murderers.

In Greek tragedies, the hubristic protagonist is always brought down by the gods for trying to be a god.

Hubris may well bring down this administration.

But hubris has also been a defining characteristic of this country.

The brilliant Ta-Nehisi Coates said on “All In with Chris Hayes” Friday night that white supremacy raises its ugly head when people feel sorrow for tragedies that happen to white people, as if their whiteness should make them immune from tragedy.

In the same way, since 9/11/2001, the US has acted as if terrorism shouldn’t happen here, and the analog is that it’s okay for other countries to suffer daily from terror attacks.

I was born in 1952. In my lifetime there have been genocides in Africa, Asia, and the Balkans. There have been wholesale killings of innocent people in large swaths of Latin and South America. There have been assassinations of political figures in multiple countries around the world, some orchestrated by the CIA. There’s been apartheid in South Africa, famines again and again in the horn of Africa. Soviet and Russian takeovers of sovereign countries. Ongoing effects of nuclear bombs in Japan. Daily killings in Israel and Palestine. Daily suicide bombers pretty much everywhere outside of North America.

And over all, here at home, the ongoing effects of genocide of Native Americans, slavery and failed reconstruction, Jim Crow, lynchings, unequal rights, murders of black men and women by police, murders of those protesting white supremacy, domestic terrorism, and the list goes on.

Yet still we feel that 9/11 shouldn’t have happened to us. We’re the US. We’re exceptional.

In many ways, the hubris of the present administration reflects the hubris of white America since the 1600s.

In 16 years, I’ve never heard an American public figure reflect that perhaps there was cause and effect in what happened in New York and Washington that day. And I’ve been afraid even to broach the subject for 16 years.

But I can’t help thinking now that perhaps we deserve Donald Trump. White America laid the groundwork for him. Hubris elected him; hubris will probably bring him down, but how much of the US will it bring down as well?

Haroon Moghul: How to be a Muslim

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I heard Haroon Moghul speak about his new book, How to be a Muslim, on “Fresh Air” and was moved to read it.

Little did I know how much his story would teach me about myself.

Mr. Moghul is a Fellow in Jewish-Muslim Relations at Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, a contributor at the Center for Global Policy, and an academic and speaker on Islam. He grew up in a traditional Muslim-American family in Western Massachusetts. That traditional upbringing caused a great deal of inner turmoil in his youth as he navigated adolescence and all the usual hormonal conflicts that arise.

Being eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder did not help. His guilt about questioning his faith, questioning Allah, questioning relationships with non-Muslim girls, and having a neuro-biological disease brought him to the brink of suicide.

How he pushed through it all, and despite (or because) of it all being a successful organizer of Islamic centers for students and speaker on Islam, is important reading for understanding not only Islam, but also for understanding any faith journey.

Perhaps Mr. Moghul didn’t plan his book so, but that is what it brought to this reader.

Even as I listened to his interview with Terry Gross, I couldn’t help but think about being raised Catholic in the 1950s and ‘60s and the tremendous burden of guilt weekly sermons told me I must shoulder. The guilt was enhanced, I have since learned, by the disease of depression from which I have suffered since a small child.

It was when an elderly priest yanked me from a praying position and slapped me for not wearing a hat in church, not long before Vatican II decreed that women didn’t need to wear hats in church, that I vowed to brush Catholicism off my feet and move on.

The trouble was, I confused Christianity with Catholicism. And even as I trumpeted my unbelief, I realized that I wouldn’t be yelling at God if I didn’t fundamentally believe in God. And through it all, I still knew in my heart and soul that Jesus the Christ was my shepherd.

At one point in Mr. Moghul’s seeking for health and wholeness, a therapist told him to try spending just five minutes a day with Allah. As I was reading the book, and believing myself happily faithful now in my Episcopal/Lutheran church, I realized that my anger about American politics and racism and white supremacy was undermining my faith. I had lulled myself into thinking that the prayers I say each morning were holding me in a good place. But many days the prayers were said automatically and without intention.

So I took a cue from Mr. Moghul and started reading Morning Prayer from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer again. I started talking to Jesus about my anger and my anguish at the state of the nation. Oh, what a blessed difference it made! I’m still angry and my Twitter account shows it, but beginning the day with an organized routine of prayer has allowed light in that helps me channel the anger and keep depression from overwhelming me. I can push back against the darkness; as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Of course, Mr. Moghul’s book is not about me, and the world’s problems are not about me. Yet it is impossible to resist the darkness when everything around seems dark, whether that darkness comes from neuro-biological illnesses or the state of the world. I do think that is what Mr. Moghul writes about, and it is what he helped me see.

So I thank Mr. Moghul and I thank Him/Her, the Eternal Spirit, the Father and Mother of us all who draws us from darkness into light.