30 July 2008

Tennessee Valley UU church shooting

this past Sunday, a gunman opened fire during a children's performance at a Unitarian Universalist church in Tennessee, near Knoxville. he killed 2 people and wounded at least 6 others.

that's about where my train of thought stops and goes, "this is not ok," and then gets stuck.

i'm having a hard time coping with this, so of course i need to write about it. when i'm at my parents' house, i go to a Unitarian Universalist church, and when i'm not being obnoxious and identifying my religion as "lapsed Catholic," i identify as a UU. it's a religion i came to when i was 16 and needed something, but Catholicism was quite clearly no longer working. (maybe more about that some other time.) for more on Unitarian Universalism, check out the Unitarian Universalist Association. cool people, really. there's no fixed creed for UUs; it has been described as "one religion, many faiths." and instead of something like the 10 Commandments, we have 7 principles, like a belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people. it is one of the most liberal religions, which is why the shooter targeted this congregation.

the shooter, Jim Adkisson, reportedly told police that he believed "all liberals should be killed because they are ruining the country." he targeted the UU church because of its support for gay rights, among other progressive issues.

my knee-jerk reaction is that this is the logical progression of all conservative attacks on the liberal movement. and i hesitate to use the phrase "movement" for either side, especially where a church is concerned. these people were not out protesting the war in Iraq or a ban on gay marriage--they were sitting in their church watching a children's play. liberal, conservative, moderate; Christian, Muslim, or atheist--it doesn't matter in this setting.

i do not understand how anyone could walk into a church with the intention of killing people.

i do not understand how anyone can hate anyone that much.

i think what i'm having a hard time coping with is the fact that this could have been my church. this could have been people i know, people i marched with in the DC Pride parade as part of that church, people i have delivered lay sermons to on my own liberal beliefs, religious or otherwise. people whose children i have volunteered to teach in religious education classes. the children i've taught, who i've watched grow and move from grade school to middle school to high school in some cases, at whose changes i'm always surprised when i go "home" (which i feel i can use in this context because that church is more my spiritual home than my parents' house is home in any sense at this point), could have been the kids in that play, who saw their parents and grandparents spattered with blood as this crazed man full of hatred destroyed something they'd worked so hard to prepare.

it's bad enough when hatred manifests itself so egregiously, but it's even worse when it hits so close to home. would i be writing about it if it had happened in a Metropolitan Community Church? probably not, and i'll admit that. as Sara Whitman wrote in her Huffington Post article on the shooting, "this just got really personal."

and as one other blogger i read in the past few days noted, if this man was trying to harm Unitarian Universalism as a religion, he thwarted his own goal, because a lot of people who have never heard about our liberal faith are hearing about it now.

i could go on for pages about this, but what i really want to get at is the physical realism of the culture wars. verbal attacks are no longer enough, and in some arenas (race relations, gay rights, etc) have not been for a long time. something has to change. people cannot keep killing each other over ideological differences. religion is never an excuse for killing anyone, because if you take away all the trivial differences between religions, they all teach the same thing: Be Good to Each Other. it doesn't matter how many gods you believe in, or if you believe in any at all, or whether you think women should be subservient or whether it's ok to eat pork. contrary to the adage, God/god/g-d is not in the details, at least not in this sense. and if you look for her/him/it there, you're going to miss the bigger picture and the really important things.

i will not be surprised by a few tl;dr's here, but i had to get it out.

28 July 2008

the Dark Knight

so, this isn't the sort of thing i usually post about here, but last week i saw the Dark Knight....and it was pretty fantastic. i'm not going to go all fangirl and "omg best movie evar!!" and nonsense like that, but i was pretty impressed. i will offer the disclaimer that i have never read the Batman comics, so i cannot speak to its accuracy as far as the established story, if that's something you care about. but for a superhero movie, it was very well-done. i will say that i thought it was too long, at 2 1/2 hours, and could easily have been split into two movies, but i would have wanted to see both of those.

Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker is completely deserving of all the hype it's gotten. i choose to believe i would be saying this even if he were still living. the only phrase i can think to use is "completely psychotic," and i'm not sure which sentence to put around it.

that said:
i wish i could see the film without knowing everything i know about Ledger. it sort of goes back to the whole world-in-isolation bit: how would you experience anything if you could come to it with a completely blank slate? how would you watch star wars episodes 1-3 if you knew nothing about 4-6? how would i view the Dark Knight if i hadn't spent time in the theater thinking "this is the role that killed him" and "i would have gone completely crazy too." i can't help wondering if i would have taken something different from it.

so yes. in summary:
1) Dark Knight = very good movie.
2) Heath Ledger as the Joker = absolutely incredible.
3) you should go see it, but i'd have to be heavily persuaded to pay to see it again.

21 July 2008

Irresponsible Abortion/Contraception Proposal

The U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services is moving to redefine "abortion" in such a broad manner that it could include oral contraceptives and emergency contraception, and to require any program that receives funding through HHS to certify that they will not refuse to hire employees who are morally opposed to abortion/birth control, since that would be employment discrimination. Ultimately, all this will do is make it harder for women to control their own bodies, since they may have to fight to find someone who will prescribe or dispense birth control or perform an abortion.

Why This is Stupid:

1) We already have more people than we can take care of. All this talk about fixing health care, welfare, and social security would be moot if the population—especially the lower-income segments who would ultimately be most affected by this policy change—weren’t already overwhelming the system. I’m not saying we should enforce mandatory breeding laws, but it makes no sense to take away means of reducing births when this country, not to mention the planet at large, has so much trouble taking care of the people who are already here.

2) It is more expensive to care for a child in the welfare or foster care system than it is to provide a woman with contraception and educate her as to its proper use. Anyone who is unhappy about the amount of money the federal government takes from their paycheck should be opposed to this policy.

3) Preventing women from accessing birth control will only increase the incidence of abortions. There will be more unplanned/unwanted pregnancies, and women who might not have become pregnant in the first place will abort.

4) Restricting legal access to abortions will only increase the incidence of illegal, unsafe ones, and cause greater harm to women. If a woman is determined to abort, she’s going to find a way to do it, and unfortunately, not everybody has easy access to a Planned Parenthood clinic or a sympathetic doctor.

5) Contraception cannot be abortion, no matter which (established) definition of pregnancy you use! The whole point of contraception is that it works against conception—preventing pregnancy by its very definition! It is irresponsible and totalitarian for politicians to attempt to redefine medical terms in order to further a moralistic agenda.

6) From the job discrimination perspective, rather than the reproductive health one: If you are morally opposed to any aspect of a given job, you should not take that job. I’m not going to go work for Focus on the Family, for instance, or for Liberty University, no matter how good the pay is or how much it might be able to further my career goals. If you are morally opposed to abortion, you shouldn’t work in an abortion clinic. If you are morally opposed to providing any kind of legal medication, you should not work in a pharmacy! It’s just that simple. It’s not discrimination if an employer refuses to hire someone who won’t do their job. Furthermore, it’s perfectly acceptable for the government to discriminate against other groups in organizations that receive federal funding—Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, anyone?

( read the New York Times article about this proposed change )

16 July 2008

ode to Diana

Diana mocks me. she sits in her silver throne and she laughs at my pain and my tears. sometimes she laughs at my joy, but i cannot tell if she is laughing with me, or at my foolishness. sometimes she cries with me, but usually when she cries it is alone. the night Sol hid from her, i heard her weeping, and singing the saddest song i've ever heard. often when i need her most, she will turn her face away and refuse to answer me. she always returns eventually, unapologetic.

when we both have joy, we laugh together, and she lights the sky with her laughter. she is the most beautiful creature i could never define; she is the most beautiful creature none could ever defile.

her blood flows in my veins. my face is reflected in her own. we are one and the same, but worlds apart. she guides me like the tide of an unwilling ocean: even when i disagree, hers is the only guidance i have, and i follow.

i'm not sure i like this yet. i was composing it on the walk home, elated just to have real words again. i'm working on something else, too--not sure how long it will take, but i think i may be even more excited about that one. i want to get it really good.

13 July 2008

simple pleasures

church bells

the sound and feel of the train as it passes through the tunnel under my street

the way the cathedral is lit at sunset

finding stars in the city

softball chatter

silence after sirens


the wind after the bus drives past

little children who wave even though they don't know you

grass under bare feet

the moment that the sun comes out from behind a cloud....and the moment it goes back

hearing your favorite song from 5 years ago on the radio

meeting the eyes of a stranger and smiling

flowers that close at nighttime

knowing you will probably get a sunburn--and not caring

the way the grass dances in the wind

ceiling fans


10 July 2008

a list to return to when motivated

i'm scrambling for something to post....i miss the months when i posted every 3 days, because i had something to say. there is a haiku-stanza'ed poem on my refrigerator, but i did not compose it so i would feel guilty publishing it. i haven't written anything of note lately. this upsets me. i've been having weird dreams lately. and a stream-of-consciousness just doesn't seem right.

i could write about intramural softball. or about my impending birthday. or about the letters i've stopped sending, partly because i know they won't be received and partly because so much has changed so fast. i could write about the weather, or the books i'm not reading, or the water spot in my ceiling that has only grown since the maintenance guy came to fix it. i could write about public transportation or polyamory or my failing research project. i could write about those people who, much to your dismay, present themselves so much better than it seems like they should. and yet, none of this inspires more than a line.

i could, perhaps, write about the piece of paper taped to my wall which reads, "TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME." but i can't remember if i already have, or if there's any more to say about it than that.

or i could write, once again, about the times when words are simply inappropriate.

07 July 2008

ohm tattoo

(parts of this entry are borrowed from a piece i wrote elsewhere.)

on july 2, i got my first tattoo: an ohm on the top of my left foot. this is something i'd been thinking about for years, and finally decided it was time. (i actually decided a year ago that it would be time now, based on a suggestion from a friend of mine who had a good rule about how long you should think about putting something permanent onto your body.) i had an excellent experience with it and will gladly talk details with anyone looking to get a tattoo done!

the reason i wanted an ohm in the first place stems from th
e fact that, as i've been telling people for the sake of simplicity, it's the Sanskrit symbol for the divine. in truth, it's a bit more complicated than that, as the wikipedia article will automatically tell you just by its length. ohm is supposed to be the most sacred syllable you can utter, which is why it's so often used in meditation. there seem to be a bunch of different ideas as to its true meaning, but my favorite comes from a story i found in, of all places, a jewelry booth at a renn fest several years ago. the story goes that in the beginning, there was nothing but the Goddess, and the Goddess made a sound, and the sound was Ohm. and out of that sound reverberated all creation. so, ohm is the basis for all existence, the common thread that ties us all together and ties us to the source of our being. the way i prefer to think of it is, ohm is the piece of the divine that exists in all of us.

i decided a long time ago that if i ever got a tattoo, it would have to be an ohm, as a constant, permanent reminder that there is divinity in me, and that i a
m connected to all that is around me. furthermore, the process of getting a tattoo of that symbol--of physically having it put not just on me but literally in me--would serve to reinforce its meaning. so as i was in the chair, under the needle, whichever prepositional idiom you like, i was thinking about this, and breathing, and doing the most simple meditation i know and sort of channeled everything Up, and it barely hurt at all. when i was doing it best, it actually felt really cool, in a completely unpainful way. and i knew exactly what i had been hoping to learn through this process, even though i don't think i could articulate it at all.

so now i have this constant reminder of what i am--what you are--what we all are and where we come from. and i couldn't be more pleased with
how it turned out:

05 July 2008

quick notes:

i want to write a long piece on getting tattooed (which i did on wednesday!), but i also want to wait until i have a picture to post with it. hopefully soon.

just made a rough recording of the last song i finished. i do not have good equipment, but i want some record of its completion. my written notes don't do anything justice.

wall-e is an incredible movie. you should all go see it.

productivity continues to elude me.