Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: National and Global Politics

Will there really be a “Morning”?

This child-like poem from Emily Dickinson still speaks to me. Especially now, five years after I first published it. Imagine you’re a child again, wondering about what comes after this life. Or even what’s already here in this life–given Emily’s historical setting and your own. My response follows Emily’s poem.

Will there really be a “Morning”?
Is there such a thing as “Day”?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?

Has it feet like Water lilies?
Has it feathers like a Bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?

Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!
Oh some Wise Man from the skies!
Please to tell a little Pilgrim
Where the place called “Morning” lies!

c. 1859

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

Dear Emily,
I wonder what was on your mind when you wrote this. Maybe the War between the States? Family members who fought in it? Or how about the devastation left behind when so many cities and fertile fields were laid waste via fire?

Some people don’t think things here are that bad now; others don’t agree. I’d say we at least have something like it.

Then again, maybe you were thinking of less visible things. Perhaps a personal loss you couldn’t show the world. Or the piled up anguish of watching one family member after another decline in health and leave this world. Or your keen awareness that this world doesn’t always value what you value, or see things the way you do.

I think we have all of that right now, and more just keeps coming. I also think we’re getting tired of it.

Maybe you were lonely when you wrote this. So lonely that you would have been happy to leave this life behind. You might have been lonely for the birds and insects, trees and shrubs, water lilies and butterflies, sunrises and sunsets. All creatures great and small. Your outdoor cathedral and congregation where you felt safe, understood and appreciated. Without having to explain yourself over and over.

In your poem you call yourself a little Pilgrim. I like that. It’s a very kind and tender way to talk about yourself. Almost, but not quite putting yourself down because you don’t happen to be a scholar, sailor or wise man from the skies. I think you’re already a wise woman, a sailor of sometimes treacherous social seas, and a deep scholar of human life.

Now that you’re There, I wonder whether, as a Wise Woman from the skies, you might tell me where the place called “Morning” lies. Could you? Would you? It seems we have many lost souls here who are looking for that place. If not here, then where? Can you help us find it? Or at least send us a little poem about it?

Your pen pal, Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 July 2017, reposted 18 August 2022
Photo found at collegewritingpoetry.wordpress.com

Thank you, Mr. Trump – Again

I have not changed my mind since I first published this on 20 June 2018. 

Thank you, Mr. Trump.

I don’t really want to say those words to you. Yet I must. It seems the abuse of power has more educational value than all the well-intended lectures and lessons of this world.

Just think about it for a half-minute. Who would have thought we could all so quickly know the meaning and the impact of things that are ‘systemic.’ Evil is systemic.

Simply put: What happens in one corner of the world has tentacles that reach to every other corner of the world, sooner or later.

Good is also systemic. Ultimately, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe good will triumph, though at an exceeding high cost. Perhaps we’re paying it now?

In the meantime, systemic evil seems to be our sad and sorry tutor these days. As I see it, thanks to your moves and counter-moves and flourishes of your pen, we now recognize and feel the impact of systemic evil.

Soy farmers get it; steel manufacturers get it; those without a living wage get it; people who live on the streets get it; human beings from the wrong side of our southern border get it; people with skin that isn’t your color get it; people in mansions get it; and so do people in power. All this and more.

Of course some ‘get it’ more than others. And some are happy to get it at great cost to others. This becomes crystal clear as the consequences of evil multiply and hive off faster than ants or bees. Though even the bees are feeling systemic neglect as well.

Perhaps the word evil is bothering you. No problem. I can use another word. How about systemic lying? Systemic cheating? Systemic abuse? Systemic violence? Systemic greed? Systemic robbery? Systemic inhumanity? Systemic distrust of scientific research? Systemic neglect of those most in need of help? Just to name a few.

We don’t live in air-tight surroundings. We live in complex webs of connections, even when we think we’re living disconnected. Or off the grid. Which is, in itself, another form of denial.

No President of the United States has made the word ‘systemic’ so clear in so little time as you have, Mr. Trump. As a theology professor who struggled often to explain how systemic evil works in the world, I have to hand it to you. You’ve done a masterful job in very short order.

There’s just one hitch. You give every sign that you believe you’re an island unto yourself. Able to push and shove the world around at will or by hook and crook, hiding beneath your POTUS status and your highly proclaimed ability to practice the art of the deal.

Sadly, your relentless pushing and shoving is painfully and abusively open to inspection every moment of every day, whether you attempt to hide it or not. I wish I could feel sad for you. Instead, I’m mourning what’s happening to my friends, my neighbors, my family, our country and our integrity as one nation among many.

Not that we were perfect before you became POTUS. We were not. Nor will we ever be. Still, it seems that what we’ve become as of today or even tomorrow will never, ever be called ‘great.’

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 June 2018, reposted on 28 July 2020
Image found at ideas.hallmark.com

Dealing with Apathy | Dear Mr. Trump

On August 1 I wrote the post below. It’s in the form of a letter to Mr. Trump.

Then I decided not to hit Publish. Why? Because I began hearing a small, nagging voice: It won’t make any difference anyway. Why bother?

So I didn’t trash it. I kept it, and looked at it yesterday. Still no joy in posting this. So I didn’t.

Yet if I’m not clear and open about what I’m experiencing as a citizen of the USA, I’ll completely lose my nerve. The unthinkable will merge into the thinkable even when it isn’t. Or worse, I’ll just give up and fall into that bottomless pit called Apathy.

I’m not one to let things go. Especially when they’re important to me. So I’m posting this for my sake. It’s also my way of standing with others still figuring out their own journeys through this alien landscape, uncertain what’s coming next.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, my hope is not now and will never be built upon Mr. Trump’s performance–past, present or future. Or on the performance of anyone else in any administration, national, public or local.

____

Dear Mr. Trump,

I see you’re distressed yet again about Robert Mueller’s ongoing, legally-authorized investigation. Yet again, you’re asking the Attorney General of the USA to halt Mueller’s probe.

I also observe that you don’t enjoy being an onlooker who is unhappy with the way someone else is doing his or her job. Perhaps you’re also afraid of what this might mean for you or someone close to you somewhere down in the road.

In any case, I respectfully remind you that every day we wake up, every American–whether she or he voted for you or not–must live with the reality of your administration.

Please demonstrate your trust for the man you hand-picked to be Attorney General of the USA, and let our justice system do its work without interference from the top.

Respectfully,

Elouise Renich Fraser
Citizen of the USA

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 August 2018 and 3 August 2018

shadowy islands beckon

shadowy islands beckon
the end of the day

promises of greatness
if not prosperity linger
dying on the surface

perhaps tomorrow
will bring clarity and color
to a world gone missing
before the first day ended

(Many thanks to my Australian blogging friend John for permission to use one of his beautiful photos.)

As each week ticks by, seconds tick down with frightening speed. Especially when we measure damage done in what amounts to the blink of an eye. For example, almost overnight our government and its officials have created conditions that ensure hundreds if not thousands more children, young people and parents will suffer from PTSD.

When nighttime falls or even when daylight breaks, the nightmares won’t end.

The photo above isn’t ugly or deeply disturbing. It’s beautiful. At the same time, it’s full of ambiguity about what’s happening, especially beneath the surface and in the distance.

It reminds me of the shadowy picture Mr. Trump projects now under the guise of Beauty. As in, ‘It’s going to be really really Beautiful!’ As though repeating this mantra will calm us down or reassure us.

Yet when push comes to shove, I don’t see evidence that Beauty is happening for everyone in this country, much less elsewhere. Nor do I see a clear and present pathway from here to there that doesn’t involve backtracking and distractions and attempts to make something really really big out of nothing.

We have deep rifts and problems that need solutions. But creating more enemies internally and externally just doesn’t add up to a good day’s work or a good night’s sleep for any of us.

I still believe Resistance is Never Futile. If it doesn’t get us killed, it can make us both softer and stronger. I consider myself part of the loyal Resistance. It would also be nice if we could all enjoy a peaceful evening by a duck pond.

Peace to each of you,
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 July 2018
Photo by John of Australia. You can check out his blog site here.

Thank you, Mr. Trump

I don’t really want to say those words to you. Yet I must. It seems the abuse of power has more educational value than all the well-intended lectures and lessons of this world.

Just think about it for a half-minute. Who would have thought we could all so quickly know the meaning and the impact of things that are ‘systemic.’ Evil is systemic.

Simply put: What happens in one corner of the world has tentacles that reach to every other corner of the world, sooner or later.

Good is also systemic. Ultimately, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe good will triumph, though at an exceeding high cost. Perhaps we’re paying it now?

In the meantime, systemic evil seems to be our sad and sorry tutor these days. As I see it, thanks to your moves and counter-moves and flourishes of your pen, we now recognize and feel the impact of systemic evil.

Soy farmers get it; steel manufacturers get it; those without a living wage get it; people who live on the streets get it; human beings from the wrong side of our southern border get it; people with skin that isn’t your color get it; people in mansions get it; and so do people in power. All this and more.

Of course some ‘get it’ more than others. And some are happy to get it at great cost to others. This becomes crystal clear as the consequences of evil multiply and hive off faster than ants or bees. Though even the bees are feeling systemic neglect as well.

Perhaps the word evil is bothering you. No problem. I can use another word. How about systemic lying? Systemic cheating? Systemic abuse? Systemic violence? Systemic greed? Systemic robbery? Systemic inhumanity? Systemic distrust of scientific research? Systemic neglect of those most in need of help? Just to name a few.

We don’t live in air-tight surroundings. We live in complex webs of connections, even when we think we’re living disconnected. Or off the grid. Which is, in itself, another form of denial.

No President of the United States has made the word ‘systemic’ so clear in so little time as you have, Mr. Trump. As a theology professor who struggled often to explain how systemic evil works in the world, I have to hand it to you. You’ve done a masterful job in very short order.

There’s just one hitch. You give every sign that you believe you’re an island unto yourself. Able to push and shove the world around at will or by hook and crook, hiding beneath your POTUS status and your highly proclaimed ability to practice the art of the deal.

Sadly, your relentless pushing and shoving is painfully and abusively open to inspection every moment of every day, whether you attempt to hide it or not. I wish I could feel sad for you. Instead, I’m mourning what’s happening to my friends, my neighbors, my family, our country and our integrity as one nation among many.

Not that we were perfect before you became POTUS. We were not. Nor will we ever be. Still, it seems that what we’ve become as of today or even tomorrow will never, ever be called ‘great.’

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 June 2018

rising far above

rising far above
earth’s chilling chaos
the sun smiles warmly. . .

inviting me to bask in its light
instead of teetering on the brink
almost but not quite addicted
to insurgent adrenalin
coursing through veins and heart

chaos begets chaos of similar
proportions while inhumanity
goes for the jugular of decency
draining me of common bonds
erased by more urgent notifications

arriving by the millisecond
I emit gasps of horror about
this or that gross inhumanity
perpetrated against him or her
or us or them here or over there

breakdowns firings and hackings
poisonings fake smiles and killings
threaten to deliver our undone humanity
to the evil we deplore yet cannot
banish from titillated eyes and ears

rising far above
earth’s chilling chaos
the sun smiles warmly. . .
inviting me to bask
in its healing light

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 March 2018
Photo by David Henke, found at suburbanphiladelphiarealestatenews.com
Sunrise over the Delaware River on Easter Sunday 2011

Misfit and Misbehaving

It’s the early 1950s. I’m about 11 years old. I’ve just taken my assigned seat in my 6th grade classroom at a private church school. I look around the room and it hits me in the eyes.

All but three girls are wearing matching white skirts with a bold flower pattern around the hem of each skirt. The flower pattern is in five rainbow colors with not one, but two skirts in each color. My two best girlfriends are wearing blue flowered skirts.

Our teacher, clearly caught off guard, says there must have been a fire sale on this particular pattern. The skirts are homemade. Obviously this was a planned event.

I’m mortified. Why didn’t I know about this? My mother is one of the best seamstresses around, and could have whipped one up for me. I try to make it OK in my mind. Especially since only three girls in the class aren’t wearing the uniform. The other two are the least popular girls in the class. Surely there was a mistake.

My two best girlfriends try to make it OK. I wasn’t left out because they didn’t like me. It was because the club had decided there could only be pairs, and I was the odd girl out. Besides, I was at least a year younger than they.

Which wasn’t the full story. Along with the other two misfits, I was a scholarship student. My parents couldn’t afford to pay tuition. It didn’t matter that I was bright, intelligent, interesting, faithful, truthful or any of that.

Things got worse during recess. The club had designated certain parts of the public park (a lovely downtown square in Savannah, Georgia) as their special places. They had rules about who could play with whom during the first part of recess, and where they would meet for regular club meetings during recess.

The following day was a ‘regular’ day which meant the club didn’t wear skirt uniforms to class. My friends talked the club into letting me join as a substitute club member. I would have to have a blue-flowered skirt. However, I could take part in activities in the park only if one of my two friends was absent that day. And I would have to vote the way my friend would have voted. That way the voting wouldn’t be off-balance.

Long story short: My mother agreed to make a skirt, but couldn’t find the same flower pattern. I wore my painfully obvious substitute skirt once or twice before the club disbanded.

In the end, this episode wasn’t about how smart, friendly or truthful I was. It was about white money and white family history. Which is to say the white Protestant pecking order and the subservient pedigree of white hens.

What I now understand:

  • It’s important to divide white women from each other as early as possible.
  • This will serve the goals of white male supremacy.
  • The tactics of divide and conquer are cheap, easy and effective in almost any setting.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Women’s History Month. I wonder how willing I am to refuse being divided in order to change history?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 February 2018
1950s young teen fashion images found at pinterest.com

How I’m praying about Mr. Trump

Gingerly. Yet with more conviction than ever.

Everything I see ‘out there’ is a microcosm of my heart. Not always in the same form, but always about the same kinds of issues. My desire to change situations. My need for affirmation and affection. My love of power and control. My constant preoccupation with security and survival. And, I might add, my Greatness.

“Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” was never so difficult to pray as it is right now, given what we see and hear every day. This includes what I see and hear in my own thoughts and feelings.

Whether I look into my heart or see it on TV or on my iPad news feed, I’m reminded daily that I have limited power, control, security, and hope for survival.

My prayers don’t guarantee that justice will be done immediately. They do, however, help me stay focused on what really matters to the Most High God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the One who chose to become one of us. To show us how true leaders lead, and how true followers follow.

Below is a Psalm that clarifies exactly what is both needed and woefully rare in politics today. It also clarifies the outcome for leaders who fail to deliver the itemized goods.

In the Psalm, I take the term ‘god’ to mean rulers and leaders who must answer to the Most High God. I strongly suggest you read it out loud, with anger/distress/disbelief or whatever emotion you are able to draw upon from your own experience of injustice and wickedness.

Whatever you do, don’t try to dress it up all pretty and nice. Or explain it away. It’s truth, not fiction or a make-believe game about another time and place. It’s about now. With plenty of comfort and hard words for each of us.

Psalm 82, A psalm of Asaph. (NRSV, small edits by me)

The Most High God presides in the great assembly;
Rendering judgment among the ‘gods’:

“How long will you defend the unjust
And show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the parentless;
Uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
Deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing,
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are shaken.

“I said, ‘You are ‘gods’;
You are all children of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals;
You will fall like every other ruler.”

Rise up, Most High, judge the earth,
For all the nations are your inheritance.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 February 2018
Image found at www.provencio.com

fake smoke and cold mush

fake smoke
wafting from a thousand fires
signifies nothing

yesterday’s hot memo
is today’s cold mush
tasteless

Is this speaking truth to power? I don’t know. I do know it’s a reminder to myself that my voice matters. Especially now. Not as a way of manipulating reality, but as a way of staying honest and getting on with life at the same time.

Granted, this is life in a strange key. Academics and analysts who study patterns say we in the USA have been moving toward this social/political stand-off for a while. Still, current events are disconcerting. Sometimes it feels like a slow-motion, high-impact train wreck.

Hence my verses above. Spoken because for me, silence won’t do in this climate of intimidation tactics, fake smoke, hot memos and cold, tasteless mush.

Have I given up? Only if I fail to use my voice and cast my vote. And only if I act as though I or some other human being were God or even God’s Special Agent as defined by me.

Sabbath rest sounds like a good idea. Time to acknowledge I’m not in control, and that my voice matters. As does yours. Or, put another way, it’s time to let our lights shine.

Thanks for reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 February 2018
Photo found at nilemuse.blogspot.com

blustery wind blows cold

blustery wind
blows cold against my face –
shadows lengthen

I’m just back from a brisk walk outdoors with D. In freezing temperatures, with the bright sun in my eyes and an unpredictable icy wind gusting at will. Imagine the sound of waves against the shore on a stormy night. That’s the sound of tall evergreen trees being tossed around by winter winds.

Almost the moment I finished writing the haiku above I thought about the current sound and fury of winds of change if not warfare.

Our airwaves are full of blustery wind these days. The kind that gives me a chill. I don’t laugh easily or often at political ineptitude. From my perspective, it feels like I’m shrugging it off, defanging it, or even giving up and not facing it for what it is. Which right now includes facing the reality that Mr. Trump’s presidency isn’t going away anytime soon. Nor will we ever return to the way things were.

This isn’t necessarily bad, except for this. The damage done by Mr. Trump’s bold ‘initiatives’ is going to trickle faster than predicted. Not up to the good of those who most need help, but down (yes, down) to the ‘good’ of the most wealthy corporations, men, women and families in the USA.

Shadows lengthen. All the laughter and bluster in the world won’t cover up growing disgust, betrayal, and in-your-face nastiness being dished out to immigrants and to citizens of this nation, many of whom voted for Mr. Trump. The fact that I didn’t vote for him doesn’t make me righteous. We’re in this together, and are already paying the price. One way or another.

Even so, nothing will take away the grandeur of a walk outdoors with D in brisk cold weather, the sun in my face and the wind whipping around me. It’s a tangible reminder that Mr. Trump does not own or control the sun, the wind or the temperature. He is not now, nor will he ever be the Creator of this universe. Much less its Savior.

Praying you have a wonderful Sabbath rest, if not a lovely walk outdoors in the freezing cold!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 January 2018
Photo found at staticflickr.com

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