Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006



Yes, indeed, you too can buy, buy, BUY some more salvation in your life! Right now, you are probably eating your pancakes without a thought of putting some Anglo-hippie looking guy claiming to be a Nazarene Jew on the surface of them. This means your pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and other fried goods are not properly BRANDED for Heaven!

I'm going to go have a drink of water and lie down now. My poor, doomed, pancakes will just have to cope with being fried in the same pan I've fried them in for a decade. Once the weekend starts, they'll be joined by strawberries that God inexplicably failed to brand with the hippie guy, and we'll all still be here, unbranded and quiet. Man, am I looking forward to meeting.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The enemy

This is something I wrote a few months ago, but felt the need to put up.

Mr. Bush has said that revealing that people have been subject to secret searches without any sort of warrant "helps the Enemy." We are all supposed to know who this means: a shadowy, evil figure, straight out of comic books and nightmares. He (the enemy is always he or they.) has only one goal in mind: destruction. He is always frightening, never redeemable. After all, if the guy intent on world domination instead decided to shave his head and join a group of Tibetan monks, what would Spaceman Spiff do? (Okay, he'd probably run off to play with his tiger in his super-secret "no girls allowed" hideout, but any other superhero would be stuck.)

I am reminded of the "Evil Empire" from my childhood. Everyone knew those Russkies would turn our country into Hell-on-Earth, either a dictatorship or a nuclear wasteland. That was what THEY wanted, right? Well, actually, as it turned out, not really. Most of THEM wanted a job, some music, a pair of jeans or two, some vodka with friends, and maybe a chance to go out for McBurgers. Who knew?

The Enemy is never someone's mother or father, son or daughter. If the Enemy has brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, well, they're probably Enemies, too, or why would they be connected with someone so reprehensible? The Enemy doesn't give or want love, a good-night story, a glass of water, a loaf of bread, or a pinch of salt. The Enemy isn't really a person, so it's okay to hate, okay to hurt, okay even to kill. Certainly, there's nothing wrong with denial of Consitiutional or even basic human rights.

Mr. Bush professes to be a Christian, and I thought for a moment about that this morning when the radio woke me up to loud seasonal wishes and discussion of a gift exchange among the announcers. In my groggy, half-awake mind came the thought, is this what Jesus would want? The record left of what he said and did says unequivocally, that he did not recognize the division into "we" and "they", into "citizen" and "enemy combatant" In a time when Judeans and Samaritans were completely divided, he told stories about Samaritans as human beings, and asked a Samaritan woman to fetch him a drink. He associated with a prostitute. When the whole society wanted to rebel against the Romans, Jesus said to a Roman tax collector, "I must abide at your house today." Roman, Samaritan, Jew, tax collector, prostitute, fisherman, he saw only a common humanity that excluded the possibility of the Enemy.

Perhaps that seems unrealistic. After all, if THEY are out to get us, shouldn't we fight back? My answer is certainly: one fights ignorance with knowlege and wisdom, fear with comfort, poverty with gainful employment, and as Francis of Assisi put it, "Where there is despair, let me bring hope." It wasn't our tanks, guns, and bombs that finally won peace with the Russians, it was words and economics. And words that sound so terribly soft now: detente, understanding, accord.

Part of what disturbs and angers me about this dehumanization is that it spreads far too easily. During the cold war, I was called a number of names for learning Russian. Perhaps because in learning the language, I was learning so many other, very human, things about THEM. During the first round of war with Iraq, in the 1990's, I was called names and shouted at, even once physically intimidated for dressing too much like the Enemy. In summer, my long sleeves and covered head provoked derision. (I'm afraid my pale skin didn't take note of the state of global politics.) In winter, my Russian scarf was assumed to be hijab. I'm sure that the people taunting the "foreigner" didn't expect to hear my Ohio River drawl in answer. Unfortunately, hate doesn't want to find out the facts first.

Who is the Enemy? Are a bunch of peace activists the Enemy? Certainly, the FBI has been "collecting intelligence" on various groups within the United States, including Quaker peace advocates, animal rights organizations, and other similar suspicious groups. In an absolutely hateful statement, a prominent commentator has said that he is happy that the Christian Peacemaker workers were kidnapped in Iraq. How far has the culture of hatred gone? Is my cousin, a Muslim, who likes family gatherings and cheese omelettes, but is afraid of dogs, the Enemy? Perhaps it is her father or brother who is the Enemy? Not mine. I love them all. On the day so often referenced by our president, September 11, 2001, my cousin's first question was for my welfare, and mine was for hers. We are not enemies.

Perhaps I am the enemy? Certainly, I do not support the government's current actions. I do not think that bombing countries into the stone age increases our national security from attack. Instead, it creates scars. Orphans, widows, parents who cry for their lost children, husbands with dead or wounded wives, scarred and wounded civilians, soldiers who have seen Hell. Every one of these is open to despair and despair creates Enemies.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Good and bad in everything

As my mother used to say.

I had been going to put in a post on how my stupid muscles acted up this weekend, and then someone brought up my health in public in a way I didn't like. (For those who don't know, I'm in the process of getting a diagnosis for a problem with my muscles that means I ache a lot. Pretty much all the time.) Humiliating me in public does not mean I'm more likely to go to this doctor you think is good. It does mean I'm likely to dig my soles in and show exactly how stubborn I can be. Luckily, I know how foolish (and not in a good way) that would be, and how much it would interfere with the good already accomplished so far in getting me treatment. (And how much that would upset my husband.)

And then the lights went out. Silence and darkness. And my first reaction was...

"Oh, bother. And that post was nearly done."

Well, there's good and bad in everything - I got to enjoy my beeswax candles, and a small cup of marzipan cocoa (okay there's no storm, but there was a power outage - that counts!) made over my safety lantern. Now, I'm a nightowl, and it's hard for me to go to sleep early once I'm used to a schedule, so, well, I did use my safety lantern (with the windows open - I'm not sure what fumes it produces, but better safe than sorry) and read some Pratchett. (Also got to play with the toy I bought for my husband's birthday - a flashlight that you recharge by shaking it. So nifty. All it needs now is a red filter for stargazing nights.) Now I get to reset clocks and alarms so my morning lark husband can shut them off tomorrow morning.

But I also got an hour of quiet and darkness, and looking out the window to see that everybody else on the block was also turning to candles and lanterns in the darkness. And a chance to sit and read one of my favorite authors. And a chance to think about the whole situation. I know she's doing this because she cares about me and doesn't want me to hurt anymore. But there are limits. I need to think about how to say that I know she's worried and cares, but that if she infantilizes me any further, I am likely to rebel against it. (I mean, for pity's sake, she actually tried to *feed* me - and not on a food I enjoy, either. My arms may hurt, but they still work. If I'd wanted some, I would have taken a serving, or asked my husband to give me a pinch of his.) I don't want to ignore her worry, but there also needs to be a point where I am treated as an adult. Meh.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Simple pleasures today.

Poached egg, toast, and a broiled tomato. Sunshine and a ginger lime soda. Cleaning and taking care of my sandals so they look like new ones. Conversation with my husband over steaming bowls of pho. Folding origami butterflies. A really hot bath. Looking at a field full of wildflowers.

And a not so simple anticipation:

Marzipan flavored hot chocolate the next time there's a big storm. Got it ready and waiting.

Well, I'm setting out to create this blog to help me speak my truth.

I guess the first bit I should tell is why I named this blog just plain foolish. I did say I was a storyteller, didn't I? Most of my favorite stories are about fools - the folks who look at the world from a 90 degree angle. Sometimes it's Nasruddin Hoca, riding his mule backwards so that he can be polite to his guests. Sometimes it's the Fool of Notre Dame, juggling and doing acrobatics until the sweat stands out on his face, because he doesn't know of anything else he can give. Sometimes it's the story of Delia and John Young selling the treasures of their house in order to give gifts to each other. And sometimes it's the story of my great grandfather, standing with his daughter in a field during the Depression, and insisting that she join him in a prayer for whoever stole the potatoes they'd just spent hard sweat in harvesting because that person must have been hungry.

Perhaps these were foolish acts, but they were grounded in love, and we can only hope that our own acts will be so wise.