Dee's Blog
www.takecourage.org
Fri 10/31/2008
Freaky "Faith"
Topic: Aliens

Halloween Day is a good time to remember that this holiday is supposed to be about nothing but fun. 

It's also a good time to focus on how often we turn, or have been turned by others, into a "freak" when we speak the truth in love.  The truth, as we understand it, that is.  When it comes to doing so within the institutional church or to people who want to defend and protect the institution from facing the consequencs of it's past or present acts of discrimination and prejudice, we can very quickly find ourselves betrayed as freaks or monsters or even satanic!

Good to remember that no matter what masks people place on the messengers, we know that the masks and labels are no more the reality of who we are than the trick-or-treaters coming to our door this evening.

It's also important to remember to be careful that we do not put monster masks on others, too.  For we do not know for certain what is in their hearts or behind their actions.  We can only make an educated guess through the smokescreens of our own prejudices.  Beware of the people you consider monsters or freaks.   In the dark--especially right at dusk--we may fail to recognize that some of them are insecure children underneath the mask.  Missing the opportunity to contribute to important changes that embrace the true freedom of Christianity.  

Happy Halloween on this tricky Friday!


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Thu 10/30/2008
The Exclusion Law
Topic: Aliens

Back to the World War II treatment of people of Japanese descent.....

I love to study the journeys of oppressed people.  They stand as warnings to me, as one of the privileged who didn't go through some particular type of oppression.  Or as one who has known plenty of oppression myself.  Either through personal infliction of persecution or discrimination.  Or because I have witnessed it up close because of my connections with others who have. 

A couple of days ago, I wrote something that wasn't true in this blog.  The people in this story were NOT Japanese-Americans.  That's what their ancestors may be called today if they stayed and became American citizens.  These people, back in the 1940's, unlike other immigrants who had come to America, were victims of an unjust law.  It was an anti-Asian exclusion law.  It was based on paranoia and bigotry--two factors that often go hand in hand, as I'm sure you've noticed.

What arrogance!  Bringing to mind some current issues in American policy today.  Including heavy-handed treatment of people who are "profiled" so that they give up rights that the rest of us have, because of their association or religion or race. 

Clara Breed inspires us to befriend the oppressed and persecuted, in our speech and actions, whenever possible, refusing to rush to judgment.   She reminds us to see the souls of the sufferers, not so that we can convert them but in order to comfort and protect the freedoms of all concerned.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:27 AM CDT
Wed 10/29/2008
Good Grief
Topic: spirituality

Getting news this morning of Wilma's death wasn't a total shock to me.  My mother, who still prefers to write letters over all forms of communication with relatives, wrote of the failing health of her 90-year-old friend just last week. 

Wilma went peacefully, in the wee hours of the morning.  She was alone in her room, in her own bed, with her older daughter sleeping in another room of the house. 

The news came in a very impersonal way, but that wasn't a problem for me.  Her younger daughter, a very close friend in my growing-up years, somehow had my husband's e-mail address in her address book, instead of mine.   Fortunately, he saw it and called it to my attention immediately.

Wilma's death put me immediately into a process of good grief.  She had a very good life, full of much happiness.  And she spread that happiness to many.   Her older daughter in a retired psychologist who does a lot of volunteer work these days.  Her younger an outstanding professional pianist.   Her son, the baby of the family, who was a dear playmate despite the fact that he served me right on one occasion in my teens, by holding me down long enough to rub Vaseline in my hair when I wouldn't stop annoying him, is today following in his father's footsteps as a very successful businessman.  All are testaments of their mother's watchcare.  Wilma had a voice that was like music when she spoke--even when she was firm or needed to raise it.  She was a woman of great confidence in her ability to set limits, to the point that I would not have dared question those limits or do anything to displease her. 

Her death stands in sharp contrast to a lot of griefs I've sustained in my life when friends or family made decisions that had repercussions that brought grief of a different flavor.  She leaves behind so many intangible gifts and an internal voice that will never die for me, as long as I live. 

She was one of several women who have helped to shape my thinking and the way I view the world.  All of them such blessings!

It's still grief I'm experiencing.  Yet this is the Charlie Brown variety that has my heart feeling light and grateful.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 11:15 AM CDT
Tue 10/28/2008
Priorities in the Midst of Limited Resources
Topic: coping

When such luxuries as freedom and voice are taken, the number of choices a person has are seriously limited.   The focus needs to turn toward taking stock of  what remains, especially the things nobody can take away.  Once the re-assessment of resources and needs has taken place, how one decides to invest time and energy is up for evaluation.  At least, this is the process for the healthiest people.

There is an alternative.  Choosing it leads to depression, despondency, and more limitations.  The alternative being to focus, instead, on what one has lost--obsessing endlessly, becoming more and more furious, robbing one's self of the precious thing we call life, even as life in big chunks passes the victim by. 

I've read several of the letters to Clara Breed, the young librarian who chose to reach out to Japanese-Americans who were unfairly sent to internment camps.  It seems that the young people have succeeded in forming a support group.  They talk about their inconveniences--being moved frequently, living in uncertainty and crowded conditions, not being able to stay as clean as they wish to do (yet pouring much of their energy into doing so), and not being able to get tasty food.   Oh, how they miss sugar!   Yet you can almost hear them giggling and chattering, as they appreciate the small things and figure out how to cope.  

As they prioritize their resources, most of which are dwindling, they are most grateful for Ms. Breed's gifts that consist mostly of books.   Books!  A sign of wealth that cannot be easily taken from us today, no matter what the state of lesser riches like the stock market or our personal bank accounts. 

Ms. Breed, the librarian, knew this.  Her gift to those who had lost their freedom, even in this "land of the free" is a strong reminder for all of us today, no matter what we have suffered. 


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:33 AM CDT
Mon 10/27/2008
The Power of Voices Sustained by an Advocate
Topic: Power

At the time of Pearl Harbor (1941), there were 110,000 people of Japanese descent who were immediately considered people to be feared, simply because of their ancestry.  They were guilty by association.  Just as many survivors of abuse are considered to be, despite the fact that the sole blame for the atrocities lies with the perpetrators.

We can gain insight into the importance of the voices of the innocent because one wise and caring woman, who was the librarian at the school where many of the children had been attending, before being abruptly shipped to internment camps.   Her name was Clara Breed.

Clara went to the train station to see her students off.  At the time of that sorrowful departure, she placed in their hands self-addressed, stamped post cards and urged them to keep in touch.  The collection grew to 250 pieces of mail, many of them now available at http://www.janm.org/collections/clara-breed-collection/

Over the next few days, I plan to be elaborating on this important work of Ms. Breed and her students.

All to show the power of the individual voice and the need for each of us to do all we can to encourage communication from people who, for whatever reason, have had their voices squelched from the view of the masses of people who are more privileged.  At least, privileged because of greater power and wealth, which seems to be the way most of us define "privilege."


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 1:56 PM CDT
Sun 10/26/2008
Understanding Grace
Topic: spirituality

 

Ron and I had supper with a great friend last night.  He's a survivor who also happens to be a very spiritually-minded Quaker minister.  In the course of our free-flowing conversation, he mentioned a survivor to whom he had been a support person for several years. 

Sadly, he'd recently received word of her sudden, untimely death from natural causes.  The one who informed him commented that the woman had, sadly, never been able to experience the grace of God.

To which my friend replied that he rejoiced that she was, at least, now experiencing the grace that God had been trying to extend to her all of her life.  That's how he understands grace.  I thought that was beautiful, yet can only be comprehended by a small percentage of people.

May the grace and peace that comes from deep within, connected to the higher power that you understand today, be yours.  Thereby connecting you to a great, universal spirituality that is beyond comprehension for all of us.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:32 AM CDT
Fri 10/24/2008
The Carefree Atmosphere of My Voting Place
Topic: Making Decisions

What delighted me most about the experience of early voting was the carefree atmosphere.  Unlike the usual poling places where I've gone in the past, often managed by aged people who tend to be stiffled, extremely serious and deliberate,  the auditor's office was open and friendly, with younger people who seemed delighted I was there.  Also delighted with the large number of children who were learning at some level about the process as they sat by their parents or just played nearby.  Children who will, hopefully, will never believe like the apathetic woman who is throwing away her vote this year.  

Just being among these young parents and children gave me a spirit of optimism!

These are the children we must inspire and teach in all that we do, even as protect them and their freedoms in every way we possibly can.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Thu 10/23/2008
The Scales of Justice
Topic: Power

To cast my early vote, I went to our county courthouse.  Inside is a statue of the familiar "lady" holding the scales of justice.  Impressive, spanning two floors over the staircase that many people have walked on their way to the courtrooms.  Filled with hope.  Or dread.   Some have exited in handcuffs, escorted to prison.  Others have smiled at the "lady" before departing, I'm sure.  Some family members have wept.  Others have shouted. 

As I stood waiting for the elevator, my eyes weren't drawn to the "lady."  Instead I focused on the scales.   Thinking how often they are weighted by cultural beliefs, before judicial processes even start.  Beliefs that blame the victim or convict the accused before there is a chance to even start the hearings.  What a tricky, daunting, seemingly impossible task it is for those of us who are not God to ever hope of achieving a perfect balance!  What a contrast between the beauty of this lovely "lady" and the ominous, yet very fragile,  scales she held in her hands!


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tue 10/21/2008 8:16 AM CDT
Wed 10/22/2008
Contrasting our Rights with Those of Others
Topic: Making Decisions

 In my opinion, the woman I met, who refuses to vote, needs to spend at least a year in a country where she has none of our blessed freedoms. She needs to be in a place where the government hands down decisions with a heavy hand, behaving as if it is God instead of the tyrant that such governments really are.

I've lived in a country where freedom of speech and freedom of press and freedom of choice were not a privilege.   Neither was the freedom of religion.   Of course, the lady also has the freedom not to vote.  Thereby, relinquishing her right to have a part in one of the most important elections in the history of our nation.  She has the right to be apathetic. 

The first commandment is one I'd like to see as a universal one, even though it comes from a religious text that happens to be Judeo-Christian.  No government, no institution, and no religion--in fact, no religious text--should be God.  When we allow it to be, we make the "god" a tyrant.  And that's power abuse.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tue 10/21/2008 8:15 AM CDT
Tue 10/21/2008
Down with Apathy, Up with Choice
Topic: Making Changes

"I've seen 'em on TV.   I know what they are saying.  I'm not interested in either one.  I'll just see what happens."  That came from a middle-aged woman who opened her door to my attempt to engage her in a conversation about early voting last week.  My stomach was already churning from the reek of tobacco coming from inside the residence.  I found the repulsion of the woman's attitude more repulsive than the tobacco.

While I accept that everyone has a different idea about how to achieve "liberty and justice for all,"  the idea that individuals in a free society would choose to believe that voting is not a responsibility--that's what upsets me far more than the ones who have views far different from mine on the issues that are high on my list.

I voted yesterday and encourage you to do so.   Just in case something happens that prevents you from going to the polls on election day.  It's an opportunity I never want to miss.  What's more, I plan to be using my little set of wheels to get others to the polls on election day.   Maybe you can consider doing this, as well.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:49 AM CDT

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