Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

strange and stranger

The last two weeks have been strange and stranger. This morning I set aside time to review instructions for an appointment to get yet another unhealthy bit of my skin removed. The amount of paperwork I just tried to wade through was ridiculous. Legalese from beginning to end.

It reminded me yet again that our health-care system has become a bastion of data (often not correctly entered). It has also become a frighteningly verbose machine responsible for staving off legal challenges that might properly be brought against medical facilities or personnel.

If it’s so dysfunctional for me, it must be totally dysfunctional for thousands of citizens or visitors in this so-called “land of the free and home of the brave.” I say the brave people are those who, against all odds, just keep going. Health care or no health care.

We’re not the nation we’ve been told we are. Nor is our data safe in so-called ‘secure’ records that could be highjacked in a heartbeat. Sadly,  many informal health-giving personal connections we used to have are fraying, some beyond repair.

In the midst of this, POTUS is showing up again behind his Covid-19 pulpit in the White House. His latest campaign strategy. I’d rather hear from Governors of states dealing with tough facts and truth about Covid-19, whether their citizens agree or not. It’s sad when a disbeliever in Covid dies of Covid. Yet it happens every day, and too many still think this is much ado about nothing. Fake Covid-19.

D is driving me into downtown Philly on Friday to get this bit of skin removed and analyzed further. Am I apprehensive? Yes and no. I’m not happy about having this procedure yet again. Still, I know and trust this doctor. My worst apprehensions are about navigating the medical center in downtown Philly–getting in and getting out. As quickly as possible. With my trusty chauffeur at the wheel!

Right now I’m going to get my disgustingly healthy smoothie lunch together, and think about doing a proper (or improper!) post for tomorrow.

Cheers for showing up and reading!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 July 2020
Photo of Love Park in Philadelphia found at flickr.com

A matter of life and death

Downtown Savannah, Georgia, 1955
Note the historical marker on the far right of the photo

I’ve been thinking about the life and death of John Lewis. My generation paralleled his generation. Yet my life in the Deep South during the 1950s and 60s was light years from his life. It didn’t matter that I saw and heard about the Deep South every day. What mattered was the bubble in which I was raised.

In a nutshell: I didn’t have a clue how much I didn’t know, even though it was in plain view.

Back then, our family had room for many colored people. As a child, I assumed they were our friends. Still, our family was almost always in the mode of ‘helping’ them. Or joining them at special events at which my father sometimes preached. We daughters sat with our mother in reserved seats on the front row, always decked out in our Sunday best.

We also led regular, less formal Bible clubs for children in our rural setting and in Yamacraw Village. The Village was built on what had been a Yamacraw Indian settlement. Now it served colored people on the west side of Savannah.

The Bible clubs were also our family’s way of ‘helping.’ Plenty of fun, lots of singing (I often played the piano), a Bible lesson from my father, Bible verses to memorize, and snacks at the end. I always knew we ‘poor’ white people were more fortunate than they, and assumed they needed us.

Looking back, my family offered me only one role during my growing-up years in Savannah: a friendly helper. I didn’t have the means or courage to change what often felt unfair and even embarrassing.

Alongside family activities, I attended school. Beginning in grade school, we studied the glorified white history of Georgia. Especially the “Civil” War/War between the States. This continued through high school. Sometimes, especially in grade school, we celebrated heroes. A few were colored; most were white. Christopher Columbus was the greatest national hero. The slave trade remained shrouded in mystery, though Savannah was one of the largest East Coast importers of slaves, and exporters of cotton.

Praying you’re as well as you can be right now, and surrounded by activities that bring you joy, comfort, hope, and a challenge or two.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 July 2020
Photo of Downtown Savannah, Georgia (1955) found at reddit.com

Thank you, John Lewis

Today has been more than a bit somber. My most recent burning memory of Representative John Lewis is his sterling leadership during last fall’s Congressional impeachment investigation of Donald Trump. The 5-minute video above shows him supporting further impeachment investigation.

And now Mr. Lewis is gone. He was the last Black leader living who participated in the 1963 March on Washington, shortly before the 1963 Civil Rights Act became the law of the land. In his speech (below) he clarifies his opposition to the legislation.

The young Lewis is speaking to citizens gathered in Washington to demand racial justice. John Kennedy was President. As you can hear, John Lewis wasn’t one to tone things down. He speaks without apology, and without pretending the proposed legislation was what Black people needed. He was correct.

This nation has lost one of its true patriots. If you’d like to read and hear more, Vox has posted six speeches (including the two above) that capture John Lewis’ remarkable service to this country. You can find them here.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 July 2018
Videos found on YouTube 

The High Cost of Living in the USA | Part 2 Revisited

This old post gets regular random visits these days. So here it is again, with one exception: The high cost of living in the USA is much higher today than it was two years ago.  

The high cost of living in the USA has fallen on African Americans from the beginning of this nation. The goal has been and still seems to be this: Keep ‘them’ in their places and optimize the gains of those in power. Including the power of those of us who think we have no power.

The high cost didn’t go down when slavery was outlawed. We simply notched it up with lynching, and then discovered mass incarceration. Some argue that mass incarceration is simply the latest way to get cheap labor and ‘disappear’ black or brown Americans without getting into legal trouble.

Are we the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes and no. Yes if you’re able to reach and maintain inner freedom and courage in the face of overwhelmingly negative odds. Perhaps we’ve looked to the wrong heroes to show us what true freedom and bravery looks like.

More than one of my younger African American male seminarians said he didn’t think he’d live to be an adult. Besides a history of slavery, lynching and entrenched racism, we witness or read about random gun violence every day, entrenched poverty, and limited options regardless of ability. Add to this the availability of drugs and alcohol, and the mistake of being black or brown in public spaces.

In April 2018 a new Memorial to Peace and Justice opened. It makes visible our history of slavery, lynching and now mass incarceration. I want to visit this new Memorial before I die. Why? Because it’s also about part of my heritage.

In summer 1950, my family moved from California to rural Savannah, Georgia, just a short walk from what we called ‘colored town.’ I wasn’t aware of animosity between races. I was, however, painfully aware of economic disparities on display every day. Not just in our rural community, but in the city.

I now know, thanks to this interactive map, that the state of Georgia is #2 in states with the most lynchings on record between 1882 and 1930. From 1877 to 1950, Georgia lynched 586 black men, women and children. How many were lynched in your state?

I’m told I enjoy white privilege. It’s true. When I get up in the morning I don’t have to worry about things like being seen in public as a white woman. For me, this ‘privilege’ is white ignorance or worse. By breathing the air around me, I learned to be blind and unresponsive to what’s right before my eyes.

I don’t think the solution to our problem lies in miles of data. I’m rooting for poets, songwriters, storytellers, and truth tellers. Including truth-tellers like those who birthed this new National Memorial.  Plus pieces of lost history embroidered on small bags.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 May 2018, edited and re-posted 17 July 2020
Photo found at Wickipedia; y Shameran81 – Courtesy Middleton Place, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55786120

Lost in a maze of hallways

In August 2015 I wrote and never posted this poem. Prompted by a dream, it describes my inner sense of disorientation as a new blogger. I wanted and needed to tell the truth. Still, I was uncertain how to proceed, how to find my way home to myself.

Today, as a citizen of the USA, I’m in another maze of hallways. I’m not in a dream. I’m disoriented. Wondering where the exit might be. Not just for me, but for all of us. Our nation is in turmoil, anguish and pain. Denial won’t work. Neither will a constant diet of diversionary tactics, or fake promises about tomorrow.

I’m wide awake lost in a maze of hallways
filled with small shops and out-of-sight
merchandise if only I will give up my
determination to find the exit and go home.

The young man with me seems happy to
be there smiling at me while dragging
his feet and holding me back with his
nonchalant air of everything’s fine just fine.

It is not fine. I know it. I feel it. I keep
looking around searching for the way out
I know this mall. I’ve been here before.
What happened to all the old landmarks?

Doors are locked. Other doors open onto
new hallways filled with glittering shops
and female shopkeepers smiling and asking
for my attention and presence. Won’t I stay?

I seek help from a woman standing in the
doorway of a small shop. She assures me
I’m not lost and will find the exit if I keep going
Her words soothe but fail to help me.

I wake up troubled not anxious yet
eager to know the meaning of this
frustratingly endless dream lost
in a maze of diversions going nowhere

So what about today? In my real world? So far: A walk with D through the neighborhood, writing, pondering challenging material about white racism in USA churches, along with a Psalm of Lament. On the whole I’m feeling grounded, and grateful for friends and family members. Which includes Smudge, of course!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 August 2015; posted on 15 July 2020
Image found at pinterest.com

moss-laden oaks loom | 1950s in the Deep South

moss-laden oaks, magenta azaleas

I posted this poem in 2014. It’s an attempt to capture my first impressions of the Deep South, including strict segregation between Black and White citizens. There were 5 of us in the car (Sister #4 yet to be conceived). We’d just driven from Southern California to rural Georgia, 15 miles outside of Savannah. Another world. One I’d never imagined in my 7 1/2 years of life. 

moss-laden oaks loom
magenta azaleas blaze
deep south path through woods 

* * *

Late summer, 1950

It’s past midnight
I’m asleep with Sisters #2 and #3
Are we almost there?

Mother’s tired voice wakes me up
Nothing but darkness outside
and cobwebby stuff hanging from tree limbs

A log-cabin tavern fades into view
Neon beer ads flicker on parked cars, old trucks
Daddy reluctantly stops for directions

He goes into the tavern.
Are we lost?
No. We just aren’t there yet.

Daddy drives slowly
No street lights no signs
The old road is dark, narrow, mysterious

Mossy oaks loom overhead reflecting
weak rays of yellow light from car headlights
Weary shacks line the road

Unexpectedly we pass grand fenced-in wooded lots with driveways to nowhere
Then modest houses and a few larger houses
The road ends abruptly.

Daddy stops, gets out, peers at the giant mailbox
He turns into the driveway
We’re there.

Deep South
moss-laden oaks, no blazing azaleas
Just heavy humid air, wealth next door to poverty, fiercely guarded secrets

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 March 2014, reposted with intro14 July 2020
Google image – Springtime in Savannah, Georgia

Everything isn’t always beautiful

This morning I’ve been thinking about Mary Oliver’s poem, Everlasting. On first reading, it may seem Mary is accepting and putting a positive spin on everything. Making things pretty.

Yes, there’s always hope for something better. Nonetheless, Mary focuses intently on what’s in front of her. Nothing is too fleeting or small to notice.

Much, if not most of her poetry captures the small details and stories of nature’s wonders. Yet she also describes the horror and ugliness of human behavior. Some of it shows up in nature as well, putting beauty at risk.

I picture her with a ‘camera’ (her ever-present writing notebook), in which she records everything she observes. The good, the beautiful, the bad, the unexpected and the ugly. She doesn’t flinch or soften the blow of reality.

Mary challenges me most when she lets her unvarnished truth go public. Truth about herself, her family, her father (A Bitterness), and small scenarios playing out in predatory behaviors in the non-human world (Small Bodies).

Beginning with me, there’s so much we humans hide, or carefully dress up to mask our neediness. Mary invites us to find ourselves in the midst of whatever we’re dealing with or see in the mirror. Sometimes it’s a real mirror. Other times, it can be the mirror of Mary’s poetry. Or the morning news. Or an unplanned trip to the doctor.

Hoping your day is thoughtful and rewarding, no matter the cost.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 July 2020
Invasive Mission Grass image found at 123RF.com

What we need to stop doing

This morning I read a hilarious and sobering opinion piece from Damon Young in the NYTimes. It’s titled “Yeah, Let’s Not Talk About Race.” Damon Young offers a strangely funny lament (my choice of words, not his) about what happens when he’s out on his evening walk around the neighborhood.

If you can access this piece, here’s the link. 

Here’s why his piece struck a chord with me. It’s a cry for honesty and for justice. In a nutshell, he’s tired of being expected to listen to uninvited comments from white people who aren’t willing to pay for his time or do their own homework. Especially when he’s out walking at the end of the day.

No, he isn’t mean. He’s just suggesting we might want to back off. Put another way, he’s letting us know we can’t atone for our sins of commission or omission by talking with him. Nor can we receive absolution from him. It doesn’t matter how much we care about him and other black and brown people. Or how eager we are for him to answer our questions for free. Not that he’s looking for our money. He isn’t.

You might say this behavior toward him is the price of being a celebrity. I don’t think so.

Furthermore, we don’t have time to try atoning for our white color by interrupting persons of other colors just to signal  or prove to ourselves (?) that we’re one of the good guys or gals. Or that now we’ve got it, when we don’t.

Seriously, the problem of presumed or arrogated white superiority has been our problem since the founding of this nation. It’s high time we white citizens began addressing it with each other.

I’m not saying a conversation with a black or brown friend or colleague is out of bounds. Still, I want to know I’m having the conversation because I’m a learner, and my friend of any color isn’t afraid to tell me the truth about myself as a white woman.

Happy reading and talking about things that matter!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 July 2020
Image found at NYTimes.com

What we need to hear

Maybe I’m the only one. The only white PTSD survivor who didn’t get it. Do I feel humiliated by this? No. Chagrined? Yes. Yet above all, I’m challenged to find out more.

Here’s what I didn’t and still don’t get.

I know this is hard for many enlightened and well-meaning Christians to hear, but here’s the truth: If you are white, you have no clue as to the PTSD-like realities black people in this country face every single day. —James Ellis III

It’s one thing to accept this as information. On the other hand, are we willing to let this sink into our understanding of the way things play out here in the USA? Not just in public places, but in white (often lightly colored) churches?

The quote above challenges me to learn more about “PTSD-like realities” black people face daily here in the USA. The easiest connection (for me) is to think about post-Viet Nam War veterans with PTSD who showed up in my theology classes in the 1980s. Yet even that isn’t the same as what’s happening today on our streets. Neither is my own history with childhood PTSD.

One quote doesn’t explain everything. But that isn’t James Ellis III’s point. His point is that we white, so-called “enlightened and well-meaning Christians” have a hard time hearing and accepting truth about Black Lives.

How tragic if we fail. Not because we didn’t try, but because we don’t like hearing bad or disturbing news about ourselves. It’s easier to push it off on the government, or ‘those white people’ over there, or even on Black citizens themselves.

James Ellis III’s article, from which the quote above comes, was first published in May 2020. Read it here, if you dare. It’s titled “A Lowdown, Dirty Shame: Ahmaud Arbrey’s Murder and the Unrenounced Racism of White Christians.”

Praying we’ll find our way out of this mess. Not the mess created by our government, but the mess we’ve created for ourselves.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 July 2020
Image found at pinterest.com

Pyramids and Camels | Photo Memories Revisited

Camel rides and Pyramids

The worlds of 2010 and 2019 are gone. I pray we’re up to the task of making wise, faithful decisions about our lives as world citizens, not isolated human beings. Enjoy the pics! This was one of many great adventures. Getting married 54+ years ago was the first!

It’s a good thing, being married to D. My life might have been dismally dull without his get-up-and-go. He’s no extrovert, mind you. He just has the Travel Bug in him, bigtime. Our trip to Egypt, piggybacked onto a week of D teaching in Cairo, was a Spectacular Adventure.

It’s January 2010, just one year before the uprising in Egypt. Our driver and guide picked us up early in the morning. We arrived at the pyramids of Giza before the site was crowded with visitors and vendors.

It’s winter, yet the sun blazes down almost every day like a hot flame. The air temperature begins chilly but often rises into the low 70s.

Hence our sun hats and my white sun shirt peeking out from my travel jacket. The jacket is a small men’s silk blazer—a thrift shop find here in Philly. It has ample side pockets (note water bottle peeking out) and vest pockets inside. Best bargain ever! It doesn’t bother me a bit when airport personnel and passengers call me “Sir,” then beg profuse pardons….

Now we’re going to back track a bit. I want you to appreciate how tiny we feel. I’m there in the center, standing at the base of a pyramid.

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Here are a few pictures of us on and next to the largest pyramid.
Note the size of the building blocks!

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David and Elouise on Giza pyramid

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Time to go get on a camel or two! Just for comparison, here’s an expert camel rider. Note his legs resting casually on the back of his camel, his super comfortable clothing and air of confidence. Even his camel looks relaxed, if not smiling. Nothing to it! The rider doesn’t even have foot stirrups.

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So here we are, getting up close and personal with our rented camels. They’re going to take us off on a little trek into the desert. No problem. Our guide will be right there if anything untoward happens. Just relax and do what the patient camel guide tells me to do.

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Whew!

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Do I look like the cat that just swallowed the mouse, or what?
Now it’s D’s turn!!!

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Showoff!
Here we go….off into the desert.

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Note: Without our trusty guide who accompanied us on foot, we wouldn’t have these photos of the two of us. And, I must add, without workouts at Curves my legs would not have been up to the task of keeping me on top of the camel!

Here’s a bit of what we saw, including a photo of Cairo in the distance.

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The camel ride ended near the Sphinx.
After spending time there, we said farewell and left.

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This was only one of our Egypt adventures. The others simply added to my sense that I owe Egyptian history, culture and inventions a debt I can never repay.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 February 2016, reposted 8 July 2020
Photo credits: DAFraser and our Egyptian tour guide

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