“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Morning Musings: Living Into Dreams

I learned of the death of John Kennedy on a school bus as I was heading to first grade. The bus had a radio and it came over the news. I was living in Salt Lake City. I remember a very solemn afternoon at school and later watching the funeral.

I don't remember where I was when I learned of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death. I think I may have been watching "The Monkeys" and it came across the news. I do remember learning a lot about the racial tensions on television and from my mother who was sympathetic to equality for all people, races, and genders. I lived in Wisconsin at the time, in a small community not far from Milwaukee.

I was sleeping the night Bobby Kennedy was shot. My mother woke me up to watch the news with her. She was watching Bobby's speech and saw the shooting. Although I was young I understood how difficult it must have been for her to watch that news alone and her impulse to wake me up.

These events have shaped how I understand life. The yearning for, the need for, profound systemic change that expands our understanding of who "can." Who can lead. Who can serve. Who can be the President, Governor, Senator or Congressperson, teacher, doctor, minister, priest.

I remain somewhat astonished at the level of fear this strikes in some folks - the reality of who can, and who does. Why is this so scary? I suspect that as it is has become appropriately incorrect to be prejudiced/sexist, the  feelings/fears manifest in other ways. Usually as extreme efforts to undermine the credibility of the person(s). Sometimes the efforts to undermine include out-right lies. Mostly these efforts have manifested in discord, impolite behavior, rudeness, a failure to be kind, and a sense of entitlement that is alarming.

When I listen to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech I am filled with emotion. One day I was in the car with my kids, going to a mall for something, and I made us stay in the car until the rebroadcast was over. And we had to talk about it.

And now the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords calls us once again to look at who we are, what we say and what we do.  But will it? Here is what an article  suggest's in yesterday's NY Times:

Within hours of the shooting rampage that killed six and critically wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords, liberals were accusing conservatives of inciting the violence, and conservatives were accusing liberals of exploiting the actions of a madman.

In what may have been his most emotional speech since the 2008 campaign, President Obama registered his own disappointment, pleading with all sides for temperance. “What we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another,” the president said in his Tucson eulogy. “If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.”

If the shooting didn’t feel like the turning point in the civic life of the nation that some of us had imagined it might become, then it may be because such turning points aren’t always immediately evident. Or maybe it’s because the murder suspect appeared to have no obvious ideology, his crime an imperfect parable for the consequences of political rhetoric.

Perhaps, though, we have to consider another explanation — that the speed and fractiousness of our modern society make it all but impossible now for any one moment to transform the national debate.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
You know, I just looked around and he's gone.

Anybody here seen my old friend John?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
I just looked around and he's gone.

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
I just looked 'round and he's gone.

Didn't you love the things that they stood for?
Didn't they try to find some good for you and me?
And we'll be free
Some day soon, and it's a-gonna be one day ...

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
I thought I saw him walk up over the hill,
With Abraham, Martin and John.

(Richard Holler, 1968)