Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Abuse of Power

Are you willing to be condemned? | Lent, Holy Week and Life

I learned condemnation from my father. When I was very young I heard and felt it in his voice and punishments. Or was it the day I was born female? I wasn’t the son my father hoped for.

If only you would keep your mouth shut and play the piano more often! I really like it when you play the piano. It makes everybody happy and proud. And don’t forget to listen to the men. I like that, too!

No, sweetheart, you don’t need to read all those books. Though we’re proud when you make the honor roll. Still, I don’t think you’ll find what you’re looking for at a big university.

You want to be what???? A theologian? A professor? But you’re married aren’t you? Well….if your husband approves of it, who am I to stand in your way?

How dare you cut your parents off until you’re willing to talk with us again? You need to wake up and remember who you are! You were always rebellious and angry. Too bad you couldn’t be more like your sisters.

Am I willing to be condemned? It’s the question I’ve lived with for years. Not because I live in the past, but because I’m always in the present.

Condemnation can arrive cloaked as something else: being overlooked, underestimated, disbelieved, targeted for harassment.

So…For what am I willing to be condemned? For being the woman I am, fully accepted and loved by our Creator. Not always right; not always wrong. Always one of our Creator’s beloved daughters.

In the meantime, my goal is to keep True North in view, and put one foot, one word, one poem, one truth in front of another.

Thanks for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 April 2020
Image found at kissclipart.com

Being Great Again

Quietly
The world intrudes
With vain ideas
Of grace if not glory
Old paths and old ways
Seemingly gone forever
In the blink of an eye
Some say Allelulia

Being Great Again
Takes its toll on
Good will toward all
And hopes for
Better than this
Pomposity about
Our glorious deeds
Especially those
Perpetrated behind
Closed doors and
Without our consent

Standing before
The camera
Yet again
Clothes arranged
Just so
Each re-dyed
Hair touched up
And weary face
Held together –
We look into
The mirror
Of our sure demise
Without a thousand
Interventions and
Hail Mary’s

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 April 2020
Photo of Lynching Memorial in Alabama found at al.com

all the king’s horses and all the king’s men

The taste and sound
of denial parades daily
before clamoring cameras
unaware of disconnects
between reality on the
ground and fake scenarios

Propping up the current
prince who wants to be
king takes effort of the
most subtle kind if one
wants to retain favor
as well as political clout

Looking on I’m reminded
of all the king’s horses and
all the king’s men who
couldn’t put humpty dumpty
together again despite
best efforts to salvage him

and if it weren’t so very
personal I could laugh
at this show of barely
clothed disinformation
parading before cameras
as the real thing it is not

or better yet I might try
raging in disbelief though
today I’m grieving the loss
of our small fragile world
never to be put back together
again despite its deep flaws

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 March 2020
Image found at businessinsider.com, as of 16 March 2020

From where I sit today | Politics

We have yet again reduced our integrity as a nation by resorting to a white-male-only race for the Grand Prize, President of the USA.

Cloaked in our national Trance, we appear unwilling to acknowledge our collective history, or make changes from the top down. Instead, we find ourselves yet again fighting from the bottom up.

I know whom I don’t want as President of the United States after the next election. I also know I won’t have as President of the United States a woman of any color at all.

Our nation remains deeply invested in Trance mode. After centuries of practice, too many of us are highly skilled in stepping around and over our inglorious past, making nice, and believing we’re the greatest.

In addition, we’ve been bought and/or sold to the highest bidder so many times we don’t always recognize when it’s happening.

This doesn’t mean past elections were simply another version of what we’re seeing today.

Forget about Russian or other foreign intrusions into our elections. We have uncounted, unaccountable home-grown intruders flying under the radar as well as in plain sight. They’re enabled by our current President plus too many national and local leaders willing to tolerate injustice in order to maintain their own political agendas, life styles, or access to the Good Life.

For each woman who announced her candidacy to become President in this environment, I say Kudos! The crushing weight of USA-style white male dominance began early in our history. What you have done was daring, courageous, and visionary.

I’m not saying women are perfect. Nor are we, on our own, the solution to our descent into warring madness.

I am, however, saying we, as a nation, cut off our own hands, feet, and huge portions of our brains and hearts when we ignore, belittle or misappropriate the gifts of women in leadership.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 March 2020
Image found at learn.kqed.org

Thank you, Anita Hill

I’m reposting this in honor of women who stand up to power today,
and in light of news about the Harvey Weinstein case.
 

In October 1991 I listened to your courageous testimony about Clarence Thomas. Your words took me back to my first boss. It was 1960. I’d just graduated from high school and was now a clerk in a bankruptcy court. We called the boss ‘Judge,’ though he was actually a referee in bankruptcy. He’d held this governmental appointment for years. He was about 60 years old; I was 16.

By 1991 I’d told only my husband the truth about my first boss. From the beginning, the Judge was on a mission to take me down a notch or two by way of sexual innuendo and outright inappropriate behavior toward me. He knew I was under-age, that my father was an ordained minister, and that I was a Christian. He said he was a Christian, too, and reminded me from time to time of his church membership.

I didn’t know what hit me. I got through three summers plus one full year, thanks to the friendship of other women working in the office, and the kindness of a few male attorneys who knew the Judge and witnessed some of his behavior toward me.

Back then the term ‘sexual harassment’ hadn’t been invented, or connected to Abuse of Power as an issue in the workplace. In addition, my childhood home where I still lived didn’t offer a safe place to talk about anything related to sex.

Flash forward to October 1991, and your testimony before the Senate Committee. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for at least two things.

  • First, your personal account was the first I’d ever heard from a professional woman talking about repeated sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior in the work place.
  • Second, your courage gave me courage to begin talking about this without fear or shame.

I’m sad this happened to you. I’m sad things happened to me. I’m sad things like this still happen every day to others.

Am I angry? Yes, I am. Angry that even in today’s reports from powerful women about powerful men, we’re still using the language of “if this is true.” Which conveniently overlooks the power imbalance that was in place when the alleged behavior happened. To say nothing of optics and the appearance of evil that seems now to be embraced, not avoided. Embraced, and laughed at in a zillion cartoonish ways.

We are not the world’s latest sleazy entertainment opportunity. We are women with every right to stand up and tell the truth about what happened and didn’t happen to us. And why it must stop now if we’re ever to be Great. Not again, but for the first time ever.

May God grant us serenity to accept what we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Thank you for showing me how this is done. Not just then, but throughout your professional career.

Respectfully,
Elouise Renich Fraser

For a 2016 PBS News Hour video discussion between Gwen Ifill and Anita Hill, click here. It’s outstanding.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 November 2017, reposted 25 February 2020
Photo found at gq.com

I believe in god | Dorothee Soelle

Here’s one of the most compelling personal credos (statements of belief) I’ve ever read. Soelle wrote it after World War II and during the Vietnamese War. Even if you’re not an outwardly religious person, I hope you’ll give it a read. It’s down to earth and challenging no matter what your beliefs might be.

Credo

I believe in god
who did not create an immutable world
a thing incapable of change
who does not govern according to eternal laws
that remain inviolate
or according to a natural order
of rich and poor
of the expert and the ignorant
of rulers and subjects
I believe in god
who willed conflict in life
and wanted us to change the status quo
through our work
through our politics

I believe in jesus christ
who was right when he
like each of us
just another individual who couldn’t beat city hall
worked to change the status quo
and was destroyed
looking at him I see
how our intelligence is crippled
our imagination stifled
our efforts wasted
because we do not live as he did
every day I am afraid
that he died in vain
because he is buried in our churches
because we have betrayed his revolution
in our obedience to authority
and our fear of it
I believe in jesus christ
who rises again and again in our lives
so that we will be free
from prejudice and arrogance
from fear and hate
and carry on his revolution
and make way for his kingdom

I believe in the spirit
that jesus brought into the world
in the brotherhood of all nations
I believe it is up to us
what our earth becomes
a vale of tears starvation and tyranny
or a city of god
I believe in a just peace
that can be achieved
in the possibility of a meaningful life
for all people
I believe this world of god’s
has a future
amen

Dorothee Soelle, Revolutionary Patience, pp 22-23, 3rd printing May 1984
English translation © 1977 by Orbis Books
Published by Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY

Wishing each of you a thoughtful, challenging day.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 February 2020
Image found at cia.gov

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper | Poet and Abolitionist

Thanks to Poem-a-Day for introducing me to Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s poetry. And thanks to Black History Month for bringing it to mind. My comments follow.

Aunt Chloe’s Politics

Of course, I don’t know very much
About these politics,
But I think that some who run ’em
Do mighty ugly tricks.

I’ve seen ’em honey-fugle round,
And talk so awful sweet,
That you’d think them full of kindness,
As an egg is full of meat.

Now I don’t believe in looking
Honest people in the face,
And saying when you’re doing wrong,
That “I haven’t sold my race.”

When we want to school our children,
If the money isn’t there,
Whether black or white have took it,
The loss we all must share.

And this buying up each other
Is something worse than mean,
Though I thinks a heap of voting,
I go for voting clean.

First published by Ferguson Brothers in Sketches of Southern Life (1891), now in the public domain
Published online by Poem-a-Day on 23 June 2019, by the Academy of American Poets

“Honey fugle” means to deceive by flattery or sweet talk, to swindle or cheat. Click here to see the full definition.

I love Aunt Chloe’s straightforward language. Rigged voting machines and gerry-mandering didn’t begin yesterday. Nor did pie-in-the sky promises and ‘street money’ handed out to influence our votes. As Aunt Chloe points out, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is if the money isn’t there to fund those lovely promises. Everyone loses, no matter the color of our skin.

Aunt Chloe nailed it decades ago. Her words are presented in a no-nonsense voice that invites us to believe her and do something about it. Maybe it’s as simple as getting off our political bandwagons and taking a look at ourselves.

So….The next time you hear politicians making promises too good to be true, think of a flugel horn (profuse apologies to lovers of flugel horns). It may sound sweet and mellow. Nonetheless, sweet music and stars in our eyes won’t buy groceries, pay for medical bills, or turn manipulation into truth. Instead, the cost will continue falling on all of us.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 February 2020
Image found at Wikipedia.org

A Visitor | Mary Oliver

This haunting poem by Mary Oliver comes from a 1986 collection called Dream Work. My comments follow.

A Visitor

My father, for example,
who was young once
and blue-eyed,
returns
on the darkest of nights
to the porch and knocks
wildly at the door,
and if I answer
I must be prepared
for his waxy face,
for his lower lip
swollen with bitterness.
And so, for a long time,
I did not answer,
but slept fitfully
between his hours of rapping.
But finally there came the night
when I rose out of my sheets
and stumbled down the hall.
The door fell open

and I knew I was saved
and could bear him,
pathetic and hollow,
with even the least of his dreams
frozen inside him,
and the meanness gone.
And I greeted him and asked him
into the house,
and lit the lamp,
and looked into his blank eyes
in which at last
I saw what a child must love,
I saw what love might have done
had we loved in time.

c. 1992, Mary Oliver
New and Selected Poems, Volume One, pp. 116-117
Published by Beacon Press

Mary Oliver left home early in life to get away from an abusive situation. Now, years later, wild knocking in the dark of night reminds her of what she ran away from. If she opens the door, she must confront the man she remembers having a “waxy face” and “a lower lip swollen with bitterness.”

She ignores the pounding on the door. The knocking persists at all hours of the night. And so she “stumbles down the hall,” and the door “falls open.”

In an instant, Mary Oliver knows she has nothing to fear. In fact, it seems she’s surprised to discover her father is “pathetic and hollow.” Even his smallest dreams have frozen, and his meanness has vanished.

She greets him, invites him to come into her house, lights a lamp, looks into his “blank eyes” and sees what was needed when she was a child, plus what might have been “had we loved in time.”

The poem isn’t about Mary Oliver’s father; it’s about Mary. In the end, It affirms her decision to leave home, and acknowledges the high cost she and her father paid. With grief, and without apology.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 February 2020
Book cover image found at amazon.com

Outcomes predetermined

Outcomes predetermined –
No need for witnesses

News cameras keep rolling —
Capturing unwillingness
to accept self-evident truths

We have not administered
justice for all with an even hand

We have not allowed freedom for all
in this land of the free and home of the brave

We have not believed
Each person of any color or religion
is created equal and entitled
to full protection under the law

Nor have we been able to stem
today’s flood of party-line mantras
and childlike temper tantrums
from The White House

Welcome to Trump’s world and
the world in which brothers and sisters
now celebrating Black History Month
have lived all their lives

Thank you Mr. Trump
for this unexpected opportunity
to move beyond our current state
of habitual denial and fear

Now playing in your city or town
Every night of the week
No tickets needed

Several days ago I read a news report from CNN. It was about the farce of Trump’s impeachment trial. The message from black folks for white folks: “Welcome to our world.” Ironically, this is Black History Month. What will we make of it?

The meaning of justice has always been skewed against black people in this country. The movie Just Mercy shows how difficult it is in this so-called ‘enlightened age’ for black citizens to get justice. The so-called impeachment trial simply used the same tactics, this time to the advantage of a white male President.

  • a pre-ordained verdict
  • jury nullification (deliberate rejection of evidence or refusal to apply the law)
  • the judge as a prop, offering a pretense of impartiality
  • one of similar trials in which white men are favored

This is a rare opportunity for all of us. Especially, but not only white citizens. It’s still Black History Month. What better topic than the state of our union?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 February 2020
Photo of Lynching Memorial found at heraldnet.com

On the other side of yesterday

Morning rain drops and
tears of cleansing spread
welcome relief on streets
torn with grief and disbelief

An ambulance screams
by my window racing
to aid the sick the dying
and the dismembered

A distant bell tolls mindlessly
chiming out its last breath
of hope for better tomorrows –
Or at least a reprieve from public preening
blind to yesterday’s attempted slaughter
of truth and justice for all

No, Mr. Trump, you did not receive justice.
Nor did many of your friends honor you with truth.
Sadly, enablers are a dime a dozen.

I applaud each leader and member of congress who dared stand up and be counted on the side of truth and justice.

I do not applaud congressional and religious leaders who cheered and applauded Mr. Trump’s rant at yesterday’s nonpartisan, interdenominational and interreligious prayer breakfast. We are all dishonored by behavior like this, no matter what our political preferences may be.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 February 2020
Photo found at bbc.co.uk.jpeg

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