Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Black Lives Matter

This uncivil war

Up and down
All over the map
Ecstatic one moment
Discouraged the next
Willing myself
To get up in the morning
And begin yet again

So many opportunities
So little time
So little access
To things I think I need

How will it all turn out?
Does it really matter?
Is my small loaf without fish
Enough for today?

A million questions
Race through my mind
As life falls apart
And trash piles up
Just outside my
Window on the world

Deep inside I know
Only a brutal housecleaning
Will tame this deadly nightmare
Of consequences we now
Live to regret
One day at a time

Is the American Dream dead? Can we survive this uncivil war? Actually, we’ve been fighting it from the beginning. Today we can watch the latest episodes unfold right before our eyes, thanks to ever-present news media, and unnumbered sources of information and dis-information.

If you’ve visited my blog during the last several years, you know I’m not a fan of Mr. Trump. Tragically, what we see today is in keeping with everything we already knew about him.

Yet in the middle of it all, there are opportunities for people of good will to work together on issues that have scarred our hearts and souls from the beginning. The evidence is clear. White citizens like you and like me disenfranchised and brutally murdered American Indians, exploited and terrorized slaves night and day, and serially mistreated every ethnic minority that has set foot in this country willingly or unwillingly.

Surely we can come up with another way of going at this. One day at a time. One risk at a time. Pondering our next moves. Not alone, but with others hungry for change. Giving up something of value in order to receive something much better.

After all, white people and their black and brown neighbors also have a history of resisting evil. Even in the most tragic circumstances. What might we learn from and with each other?

Praying for courage to change the things I can. No more and no less.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 September 2020
Azar Nafisi quote found at http://www.idlehearts.com

A Prayer of Lament | Pastor Leah Wenger

Reverend Leah Wenger has served for nine years as Pastor at The Vineyard Church of Central Illinois. Her prayer of lament (below) can be found with others on the Mennonite Church USA website. Each lament responds to the violence of racism in the USA.

Most churches aren’t accustomed to prayers of lament. A Psalter I own has changed many Psalms of lament into something else. Is that because we don’t like negativity?

Here is Rev. Leah Wenger’s prayer of lament, followed by a few comments.

Battered, Broken, Betrayed.
I stand Before you
Between the lines
Breathe on me Breath of God

Because I have Betrayed
My Brother and sister
By my silence
Breathe on me Breath of God

But what is Breath
when it is stolen
Humanity Beyond recognition
Buried in Blood

Bring us transformation
Beauty for Brokenness
Expose me for my blindness
Breathe on me the breath to see

Be Brave and Bold
Beyond what others can see
So when I can’t Breathe
God Breathe on me

When I cannot see my Betrayal
Bring me to the light
I Beg for the wisdom to Be Better
Bless me with the strength
to never stop Becoming

Beyond the patience to listen
Bring me into action
I can’t Breathe
So God, Breathe through me

Prayer from Pastor Leah Wenger,
Urbana Executive Pastor of the Vineyard Church of Central Illinois
Prayer found at the Mennonite Church USA website

Can an entire nation lament the ongoing violence of racism in the USA? Perhaps not.

Nonetheless, it would be most appropriate for white churches in the USA (and their members) to lament. Not for a day or an hour, but for a lifetime of being major players in this sick drama. Sometimes we’ve joined the enemy outright. Other times we’ve looked the other way, or called what we see anything but ‘racist.’

We’re at a crossroad. We are not, however, out of options. Pastor Leah’s prayer is good place to start. It breathes life. The life of our Creator who understands and knows us inside out. Today is a good time to stop, lament, look around, and get moving in a different direction.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 September 2020
Image found at mem.intervarsity.com

a foreign land

Display at Jim Crow Museum of Memorabilia

I’m 71/2 years old. We just moved from California to a rural neighborhood 15 miles from Savannah, Georgia. It’s 1951.

Today we drove
Out of our long driveway
Into a foreign land

Don’t stare, Elouise
Those are colored people
They were born that way

Which means
Many things you can’t
Understand just yet

See their small gardens
And rows of cheery flowers
In front of their homes?

And look!
That woman just waved
At us driving by

She’s even hung out
Her handiwork
A handmade quilt

Isn’t it lovely?
I wish we had enough
Money to buy it

Adults and children smile
When we drive by
Some even wave

It’s as though they already
Knew us even though
We’ve never met

Indeed

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 September 2020
Photo of Jim Crow Memorabilia found at ferris.edu

Is Mr. Trump the Problem?

Or is he a convenient and problematic distraction?

After working on An American Lament and reading Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited, I can’t in good conscience say Mr. Trump is The Problem. Nor is he the Solution.

Our Problem began the moment white people arrived on these shores, proclaimed this “our” country, and wedded politics with religion.

Yes, we can say this was ‘allowed by law’ back then to explorers of so-called ‘undiscovered’ lands (a figment of the imagination). However, it stretches my imagination to say this means we’re legally a White Country run by and for White People with the occasional Great Exception.

Jesus, like all children of Israel, was one of the Disinherited. He was a man without a country and without the protection of the reigning monarch. When they came for him, he endured a mock trial and was hung on a ‘tree’ with other convicted men. This scenario has been played out over and over in the history of slavery in the USA.

Today, many white citizens claim to be following Jesus and following Mr. Trump. Yet choosing to serve both is not an option.

Nor is it about which party we choose to follow. We can no more ‘follow’ a party than we can ‘follow’ Mr. Trump or any other POTUS. Not if we say we’re following Jesus of Nazareth. Though we vote, we aren’t pledging allegiance to the winner. Our allegiance is already clear.

Unfortunately, the white Christian church has too often chosen to follow and actively support those with Presidential Power. Though there are remarkable exceptions, they haven’t become the rule. Instead, many white churches have retained the name “Christian” while marching to the drumbeat of politicians, big donors, and fat endowments.

Howard Thurman argues that each Christian church (of any color or ethnicity) must be the one place in life where privileged and underprivileged persons work together. Not on great projects, but to ensure an environment that supports fellowship between the so-called privileged and the underprivileged. Not a program here and there, but the kind of everyday fellowship that produces “a sense of mutual worth and value.” On both sides.

I can’t help thinking about programs such as AA or AlAnon. Places where each member is considered worthy and valuable. Not because each member is herded through a process, but because, in Thurman’s words, it’s “a real situation, natural, free” (p. 88).

A tall order for any church, regardless of its membership.

Happy Monday, and thanks for reading!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 September 2020
Photo found at theviresvision.wordpress.com

Glory Falls | Maya Angelou

It’s Labor Day Weekend, and we have yet another timely poem from Maya Angelou. My brief comments follow. Please note that periods indicate indentations in the poem.

Glory Falls

Glory falls around us
as we sob
a dirge of
desolation on the Cross
and hatred is the ballast of
the rock
….which lies upon our necks
….and underfoot.
We have woven
….robes of silk
….and clothed our nakedness
….with tapestry.
From crawling on this
….murky planet’s floor
….we soar beyond the
….birds and
….through the clouds
….and edge our way from hate
….and blind despair and
….bring honor
….to our brothers, and to our sisters cheer.
We grow despite the
….horror that we feed
….upon our own
….tomorrow.
We grow.

Maya Angelou, poet; found in Sterling’s Poetry for Young People series, page 47.
Published in 2013 by Sterling Children’s Books, New York, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Editorial material © 2007 by Edwin Graves Wilson; Illustrations © 2007 by Jerome Lagarrigue|

On Monday, we celebrate Labor Day. Typically a holiday to celebrate the end of summer, the beginning of the school year, and all people who count as laborers. Who, of course, have Monday off unless they’re indispensable. A day for fun, relaxation, sports, the beach, the boardwalk, hiking in the mountains, and hotdogs.

In light of this, Maya Angelou’s poem may seem out of place. Yet given our history of slavery, her poem is a grim reminder of the cost slave laborers and people of color paid and still pay today. It also suggests a connection with Jesus’ death and resurrection. This connection can generate growth away from the horror of hate and despair. It can free the soul to “soar beyond the birds and through the clouds,” despite the horror “we feed upon our own tomorrow.”

Is there room for me in this poem? For you? I don’t know the answer for you. However, I believe this poem invites me to become brave. Not just in my personal homework, but in our current political context that reeks of unfinished business.

I’m grateful for your visits, especially given all that’s going on around us these days. I pray we’ll find ways this weekend to nurture our spirits and bodies with courage and strength. Plus enjoy unexpected moments with friends, neighbors and strangers. And grow just a bit closer to the persons we were meant to be.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 September 2020
Book Cover image found at amazon.com

A lesson in humility

Great Blue Heron by John James Audubon

Aging waterfowl
Gaze into moving mirrors
Searching for treasure

This morning I watched
As daylight faded quickly
Into today’s tasks

Life slips into dreams
Grown old before their time
Bowing to reality

Growing old is a lesson in humility. Not so much about who I am, but about what I can do in the space of one day. Upkeep is a harsh taskmaster. Not to be ignored. And yet…

Life keeps slipping by, whether I’m ready or not.

This week I’m working through the sixth (of seven) sections in An American Lament. I’m also thinking about how to participate in ways that require more than my everyday bravery or courage.

What I most want to do is listen to the untold, under-appreciated stories of at least one traveler in a life and time I thought I knew, but didn’t. One story at a time. Unfiltered.

I wonder…How do you hope to spend your one precious life?

Happy Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 August 2020
John James Audubon’s Great Blue Heron print found at http://altoonsultan.blogspot.com/

Jesus and the Disinherited | Howard Thurman

His days were nurtured in great hostilities
Focused upon his kind, the sons of Israel.
There was no moment in all his years
When he was free.

Poem fragment quoted on p. 34 of Jesus and the Disinherited. From Thurman’s privately published volume of poems, The Greatest of These, p. 3.

This summer I’ve been reading Howard Thurman’s relatively short book (less than 100 pages), Jesus and the Disinherited. It’s more relevant today than ever before. A sad commentary on our nation’s untenable situation, past and present.

Thurman’s book describes

  • What happens inside the disinherited
  • What their most difficult struggles are about, daily
  • And why Jesus (not Paul) is the person to whom they are drawn when it comes to real life as they know it.

Like the disinherited of today, Jesus faced fear, deception, hate, and the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself. This didn’t happen one challenge at a time, but every day, no matter the circumstances. In addition, Jesus was one of the disinherited. He was not a Roman citizen, or an official religious leader of Judaism.

It’s one thing to study our history as a nation (which we must), or the history of slavery in this country (which we must), or our individual backgrounds that led to the prejudices and blindness that shape our lives today. All of this is important.

Still, one thing has eluded me. I’m finding it in Howard Thurman’s book, even though he didn’t write the book for me or other white people. He’s clear about this: This book is for people who are black and disinherited, every day of their lives. What white people will do or think when it comes to the disinherited of today is up to them.

I highly recommend Thurman’s book as a way of recognizing everyday racial realities from the inside out. For me, it makes crystal clear what I’ve lived with all my life. This isn’t just about different approaches to life. It’s about the disinherited, and what it takes for them to survive in this country.

I hope you’ll consider reading it. It won’t change everything overnight. It can, however, strengthen our understanding of what our black and brown citizens and church members are up against every day of their lives. It also shows the importance of listening. Silently. Without attempts to explain or justify ourselves.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 August 2020
Photo of book cover found at amazon.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

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

%d bloggers like this: