Dee's Blog
www.takecourage.org
Mon 12/29/2008
Out of the Mouth of a Grandchild
Topic: Aliens

Sometimes discrimination just sticks out like a sore thumb.

Other times, we adults see differences and find ourselves feeling very awkward as we try to show sensitivity to someone who has an obvious burden or handicap.  

Little children can be so good at accepting differences.  I suppose it's because they haven't had a lot of time to practice rationalizations that allow them to feel separated from people with differences.  In fact, they have a way of seeing "handicaps" in a different light altogether.

Like all of our grandchildren, 4-year-old Kellyn has never seen her grandfather walking without a serious limp, caused by a severe spinal injury 45 years ago.  In fact, I suspect that one thing children adore most about him is that this limitation never allows him to get ahead of them.

Tonight as Kellyn and her sister made their way upstairs at bedtime, I didn't pay much attention to Kellyn's waddling side to side, until she proudly announced:  "I'm trying to learn to walk like Papa!" 

Oh, that we could have such a perspective about so many things that set others apart!


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:24 PM CST
Updated: Mon 12/29/2008 8:26 PM CST
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
Sun 04/13/2008
Re-Defining "the World"
Topic: Aliens

Some people call it "separating the sheep from the goats."  Yet I don't see their application of the concept with biblical origins to apply.  I do see the original meaning to be very useful to what I'm about to say, though.  About the need to separate ideas and behaviors that are congruent with what rings true for me after much soul searching.

Sometimes that will be old ideas that still ring as true as any bell.  Over time, some of those old ideas become like a gong, as I start to understand myself and the world in a different way. 

Or as any good therapist would say, as reality becomes clearer.

As a kid, I was taught to see "the world" as anyone who didn't believe like people in my church and home did, which was the way most people in my family and southern culture had seen things for centuries.  In other words, it was the "wierd people" or the outsiders. 

What I currently understand as sweet and fair, what I see as really caring, what I see as valuable--these are not necessarily the things I was taught to see as good.   The old southern culture and it's accompanying conservative theology, that managed to spread like a virus across our land and globe, didn't/doesn't care much about anyone growing and maturing to the point of finding functional ways to stand up to the status quo.  Yet many of my generation have found ways to develop our own set of cares.  Finding ways to be the exception whenever we find opportunity.

Today, I understand "the world" to be ways of thinking and talking that are not life-affirming.  It's very likely that what I understand as "the world" will have some degree of alteration in the years to come.  Unless I get to be an old lady, too set in my ways to change.  Heaven forbid!


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Wed 04/09/2008
The Good Rush of Activism
Topic: Aliens

While activists often feel like aliens, and sometimes are treated like aliens, in the way others question why we do what we do. 

Recently, I found http://protest.net/activists_handbook/   It's a site that provides a handbook for activists.  I encourage you to visit it, to devour it's many messages.  Here's one of them:

"When people tell me that I'm crazy to work for others, I remind them that not all gain can be stored in a bank. I tell them that I can't live in this country with a clear conscience unless I'm working to make it better. I tell them that people I know are directly affected and I want this world to be better for both them and for my fellow humans. I tell them that the feeling I get as I realize that I'm changing things is a rush.

"Take a few minutes and think about what you care about, and why you do. Do so on the way to work, during commercials while watching TV, right now or any time you have a minute or two. It'll help you be more sure of yourself, and when you're approached with 'why do you do that?'  you'll be able to answer. "


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sat 04/05/2008 7:53 AM CDT
Tue 02/12/2008
So Much for the Mall
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Aliens

The night before my exciting Saturday with the foreign exchange students, attending museums, I had some one-on-one time with the student from Tanzania.  After supper, I asked her to choose from several options as we explored the largest U. S. city she's ever visited.  She decided on the mall.

When we arrived, I noted with dismay that we only had 55 minutes before closing.  "We can see a lot, though, in that time,"  I assured her.

Walking into the large Younkers store, she looked with awe at the large selection of women's clothing.  The look on her face was something like I've seen on my own children's faces when first seeing a cartoon character.  A mixture of delight and amusement. 

My husband later reminded me of my own reaction, after being in Africa for almost 4 years, upon walking into the lingerie dept. of Macy's.  It was the first time I'd ever seen women's panties hanging like dresses on multiple racks.  Being the verbally impulsive person that I am, I loudly declared, much to the chagrin of my husband and children (all more reticent than I):  "Oh, my Lord!  I've never seen so many drawers in all my life!"  I'm not sure they noticed a clerk turning to identify the source of the Southern accent, but I busted out laughing at HER strange expression. 

I led my guest through the store and into the hallways of the mall.  "What's this?"  she asked, with eyes wider than before. 

"It's the mall," I replied.

Confusion spread across the young face of this "alien."  "What is a mall?" she asked. 

It was 8:20, fifteen minutes after we'd walked into the mall.  We'd taken a fast stroll around, entered a second store that she chose and even made a trip to the rest room, when she asked in a very matter-of-fact voice:  "Can we go home now?" 

I smiled.  She'd accomplished her mission, seen all she needed to see, and put into perspective the strange phenomenon of shopping for frivolous items--the very thing that keeps our economy going.  At the risk of taking us away from some essentials that we may not even realize we are missing, as we get caught up in the bright lights.

As we were exiting the same store we'd entered 15 minutes earlier, the student saw something that really appealed to her.  I followed her lead.  It was a simple, white, long-sleeve shirt that could have been just as much in style in 1960 as it is today.  A nice one indeed, very useful and practical.  Except for the price that horrified her--$59.  She shook her head in amusement.

This visit stood in sharp contrast to the following day when we couldn't seem to find enough time to do all that interested the students as we explored the museums that were not nearly as crowded as the mall.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:16 AM CST
Updated: Tue 02/12/2008 12:42 PM CST
Sun 01/20/2008
Beyond Mere Tolerance
Topic: Aliens

Recently I had opportunity to see a documentary "The Street of Dreams" about race relations in Omaha, NE.  First in a museum, later on PBS.  It was especially interesting since I live in the Omaha metro and have worked 24th Street (the one highlighted), as a psychiatric nurse.  It is a street that once thrived and prospered as a culturally and economically strong area.  That was 50 years ago.  Before major social upheaval occurred because of a variety of poor choices on the part of the city's leaders, as well as some of the citizens in the 24th Street area.  It was a study that should send all viewers into serious introspection about the complex social and moral issues.

The film was especially interesting since I am in this process of writing about both the international Jewish community and the slave problem in the early days of this nation, long before either Jews or African-Americans came in mass to this metro area.  What the two groups had in common, as they flooded this area about a century ago, was that they were fleeing in mass numbers from oppression.  What they found here was a community that intially received them.  A place of refuge. 

There was limited discrimination and unrest here locally until they became a perceived threat to the well-being of Caucasians who'd always taken for granted their "right" to not compete vigorously for jobs.  It was only when the two groups--Jews and "niggers"--were considered a threat to the status quo that prejudiced really started to grow. 

Most interesting and enlightening was the fact that, in our nation, the problems seem to multiply on the domestic front following each war.  It happens when the job market is squeezed with returning soldiers, and each time (roughly every two decades on the average) the prejudices and oppression is increased in favor of the dominant group. 

This is not unlike what happened to women after World War II.  Having learned skills that were "no longer needed, thank you," the women suddenly found jobs hard to find.  Out of that was born the women's movement that has created many positive changes, as well as challenges, in our society. 

This may seem far afield from the issues that brought you to this site.  Truth is, it's very related.  Discrimination, for whatever reason, increases only when the dominant group or the group in power perceives people with increased courage to be a threat.  When the group or individual is considered to be only a small threat, tolerance is usually the best that can be hoped for.  Tolerance alone does not produce change, however. 

When the perceived threat increases to a panic (often occurring when the oppressed have managed to become sufficiently frustrated so that they find ways to be heard or noticed, whether functional or not)....then the shunning and open spite hits record levels, with increased attempts to even legalize discriminatory practices or block laws that would decrease discrimination. 

If you have had the courage to speak out, challenging the way people understand violence or the myriad of it's related issues, then this likely makes a lot of sense to you.  If not, someday it may.   The trick is to learn to embrace the struggles as a part of being spiritually alive.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Tue 01/15/2008 1:46 PM CST
Tue 11/20/2007
Thankful to Be an Alien
Topic: Aliens

As we prepare to take a break, for the purpose of Thanksgiving, I want to put on my list of blessings an item that may sound totally goofy. 

I'm so grateful to be on the list of aliens that are daring to accept the challenge of looking deeply within, while challenging others to do the same in the hopes of creating a world that is able to look beyond narrow parameters or geographical borders.

May we see beyond ourselves this holiday.  And for those of you who reside outside the small world of America, may you understand that our need to take this time to reflect is important to many of us because we DO want to see beyond ourselves.

To understand that even the survivor movement itself can be narrowly focused and narcissistic, as we come to a deeper understanding that what is a spec in our own eye is like a log to others, blinding us from seeing and blinding them from looking into the crevice of our very souls to see beauty in spite of the terrors we have witnessed. 

True Thanksgiving leads us to see the tragedies that we have NOT faced and to be grateful for the blessings reflected in what we still can hold and the pleasures that nobody can take away.

I'm not going to be writing again until the 28th.  For the next week, I'm going to be literally holding precious treasures in my arms.  They will include my three youngest grandchildren, one who is coming to visit us for the first time without his parents. 

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you, no matter what you are holding dear.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Thu 11/15/2007 8:03 AM CST
Mon 11/19/2007
Destructive Theology
Topic: Aliens

Did you know that the KKK taught that Jesus died to redeem whites!! That is symbolized in the Blood Drop Patch that was adopted in 1965. It showed a white cross, with a drop of blood over it. Jesus blood, they said. Talk about a twisting of theology to sway masses to accomplish one’s goals! Goals that were to destroy others, too.

Who were the enemies to the KKK? I should say who ARE the enemies because the KKK still is very much alive and “well,” one chapter even operating here in the state of Iowa.

I thought the enemy would be people of color. Yet it seems that the identified enemy changes with time. In 1915, they were all immigrants, as well as all Catholics and Jews. While I haven’t researched the exact profile of the enemies today, I’d guess that they would include Hispanics, especially in Iowa where entire established communities have been “taken over” by these immigrants who have come here, as in many other locales, to do work that most whites wouldn’t think of doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Sun 11/18/2007
Visiting the Old Library, Creating a New One
Topic: Aliens

The militiaman’s library includes a variety of books. One is a book about how to blow things up. Another is the King James version of the Bible!

My old childhood “library” couldn’t be assembled in one room. Nor was it necessarily a bunch of books. It included ideas that permeated the choices that my parents made, though, and led me down some paths, making sets of choices that I might later regret as my own belief system changed.

Yet to wish away that part of my life, a part that was filled with riches and coping skills learned even in the midst of the confusion, is not a good thing. It changes nothing, and fails to embrace the person I have become to the fullest extent that I need to do so.

It certainly included a lot about destruction. The “Devil” and God (or God, as I was led to believe who was the only way to see God) were at war. God was going to win out in the end, probably in my own lifetime they said, just as many survivors believe today. It was such a narcissistic way to view God, and it wasn’t much different than the belief system of many writers in the Bible and the translators who complicated things further. These were people who could not see beyond their own dilemmas and shallow set of goals. In that, they were so much like us today.

Becoming the exception, or the person who sees beyond today and looks at the larger picture. This is what I understand of true spirituality. Not that I’m there by any means. Yet I want so much to see the universal problems of power, fear, anger and rage that are our greatest enemies whenever we misuse them or fail to see clearly where they are being misused.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST

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