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The Theater Has Never Been a “Safe” Place

Last night Vice President Elect Mike Pence attended the blockbuster Broadway hit Hamilton! and appeared to enjoy it up until the curtain call when, with the undivided support of the entire cast and writer,  Brandon Victor Dixon (Aaron Burr)  made a short address to Pence, who scurried out of the theater.  Dixon’s point was to simply point to Pence’s appreciation of the skills and talents of the cast, many of whom are gay, some of whom are immigrants or minorities, and all are allies to those groups because they understand that is what makes America great now.

Perhaps the curtain call should have proceeded with signs…..first all the women. Then all the immigrants. Then all the gays. But that would have been too easy to ignore.

President-Elect Trump quickly grabbed his phone and tweeted not once but twice, demanding an apology.

For what? Intimidating his VP so much he ran from the theater? For speaking the truth in a space where it could not be ignored?

Trump says the theater should be a safe place. Well, time for a bit of a review.

While some plays, musical and otherwise, are simply entertainment, a bit of fluff with a set boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl kind of plot, many many many others throughout time have been used to stage very political messages. To educate the people and yes, to hope the powerful also get the point.

“Theatre remains any society’s sharpest way to hold a live debate with itself,” writes renowned English director Peter Hall in his book The Necessary Theatre. “If it doesn’t challenge, provoke or illuminate, it is not fulfilling its function.”

Written in 1999, a senior honor’s thesis by Boyd Frank Richards explains how three popular musicals in the past 20 years are clearly evident of the musical theater being used as a forum for political expression.

Much of America is unable to attend musical theater but there have been numerous television shows that have definitely had political messages. , mashwhile set in Korea was most definitely a protest against the Vietnam War.Image result for west wing helped Americans upset with the George W Bush presidency, see there could be a more honorable way.   Even Image result for survivor showed us how lying and cheating might get someone to a goal but not with many friends.

For Trump to tweet the theater must be a safe place is one more indication that his reality is not the same as all of ours. Theater is entertainment and yes, theater can be thought-provoking.

“We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” he said. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

And by the way, schools should be safe places.

 

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Déjà Vu

The term déjà vu is French and means, literally, “already seen.” Those who have experienced the feeling describe it as an overwhelming sense of familiarity with something that shouldn’t be familiar at all.

Of course you have to educated to recognize the connection when it happens. In other words, those people who do not know history, tend to repeat it.

I know personally how hard it is not to react in anger when something is irritating. I know personally how hard it is to stay calm and analyze a threat before making a decision what action I need to take. I also know personally that the road to a better world is to take a pathway of compassion and reconciliation whenever the personal threat is not imminent.

V0009398 A frontal outline and a profile of faces expressing anger. E Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org A frontal outline and a profile of faces expressing anger. Etching by B. Picart, 1713, after C. Le Brun. 1713 By: Charles Le Brunafter: Bernard PicartPublished: [1713] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

I also know that there may come a time (again) in my life when action will be needed. When there will be a risk to my own person with potential injury or even death. I know that there are some things that are so important that a stand must be taken.

Some people also feel that way but their threshold is a whole different place. Their personal arousal is close to the gutter as they react in anger without thought.

Such was the case yesterday when a woman in Kentucky was badly beaten because she looked “butch”. While it is easy to blame Trump for rallying the anger and fear of bigots, it is important to realize that the bigots’ hated and feared before Trump gave them “permission” to act out.

This is the same group of people who scorns the concept of “PC”. Political correctness to them is horrible. Why should they try to understand that people of color, women and people with various sexual orientation and identity want equal protection under the law? Why should they “love their neighbor as themselves”?

This incident in Kentucky yesterday is become a repeated event. What makes this even more remarkable is that people stood around and watched. They did not help. But they did not hinder.

Matthew_Shepard_never_forget_500_350_55Does anyone besides me remember Kitty Genovese?  Nazi Germany where only a small minority of people tried to fight the tide of the horrible discrimination and death camps? Matthew Shepard? holocaustp

Why do people slink back into the shadows? Personal fear. Fear of being hurt and possibly killed themselves for the most part. Maybe also a small part that the people being mistreated deserve it. Maybe not so small a part?

But what happens to a society that decides some people just are really not equal. Not only not equal but they deserve punishment or death?

That society is very sick. That means the people who are that overall society have a horrible flaw in their soul, in their psyche, in their thinking.

Where are you on this? Why?

 


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A story within a story and a concept to consider

Years ago my maternal grandfather would preside over the Passover Seder. For hours and hours and hours he would intone the readings and prayers in Hebrew while my cousin Nancy and I would compare the levels in our glasses of diluted wine and water. It was all but a meaningless process and once Grandpa died and my father started to preside, I asked my mom if we could perhaps use another Haggadah.

“Oh no!” she replied with shock that I would suggest such blasphemy. “This is the ONLY one.”

(unsaid) Really, Mom? This wine-stained freebie from the liquor store where we buy the Manischewitz?

I tried again when Dan and Lisa were really young. “Mom,” I pleaded, ” Can I revise the Haggadah to reduce it to 20 minutes so the kids really understand and participate?”

“Oh no!”, she replied. (Repeat with me) “This is the ONLY one!” More wine stained than ever.

So, when Graham and I got married and we decided to host a Seder I told him a bit more emphatically than I needed to that I would be finding one that worked better for us. He didn’t care, of course. There are literally over 1000 versions of the Haggadah, each very much following the prescribed order, as Seder means “order”, and telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

That’s the first story. The second is next:

The story we share at the Seder is not simply what Cecile B. DeMille’s movie with Charlton Heston shows. We talk about what went on in the minds and hearts of the people affected there and then. And then we try to make it into something we can relate to.

IMG_1033I don’t know about you, but I can not relate to working my entire life building the pyramids or other structures.  I’ve done some physical work and I work pretty hard at the food processing business, even when my body hurts, but to FEEL like a slave takes a stretch of imagination. Growing up here in the United States in the 50s, 60s and 70s, my freedoms expanded and my opportunities were ahead, ready for the taking.

And yet, each of us are enslaved to something that we know we would be healthier without. Me, it is easily sugar. Someone else maybe their tobacco. Someone else their wine or beer or pot or whatever. We can identify people in public life enslaved to the concept of power and how that has warped their view of what is healthy.

Once we can recognize that item for ourselves we can begin to think about how it feels to get rid of it. And not by our own choice. That freedom from slavery in Egypt was not desired by many. Afterall, there is some peace found in a routine that is not desired but has no responsibility. To become free means to take on a huge change. And we know most people do not like change.

In the Seders I host I try to get the people attending to recognize their own enslavement and how they (and I) fight the change that provides freedom.

So that’s the second story. And now, to the concept I hope you will consider.

In the news today one of the issues is the brouhaha about transsexual individuals using the public restroom for the sex they feel is their identity. There is so much fear about perverts attacking children.  There is so much condemnation for the wrongness of these people. There is not the loving (supposedly Christian) acceptance that they have a difference we might not understand but can respect.

We also have grave concern, all of us, about ISIS and other terrorist groups and how they seem to be difficult to stop.  It is horrible how a few people continue to flow to those groups from western society here and in the UK. Why? But the more difficult concept for me is the hatred of ALL Muslims based on these extreme groups. The people I hear who are so afraid seem not to recognize that all fundamental ends of all religions have their extreme and narrow definition of what is acceptable and believe all others who profess to practice the same religion but in different ways are NOT that religion. And need to be changed. It is true in Islam. It is true in Judaism. It is true in Christianity. Meanwhile, it seems hate of the others is easier than acceptance of the other.

I wrote a blog a few months ago in answer to a friend about whether I would welcome a Syrian refugee family into my home. You can read it here.  That issue, as well as a myriad of others supporting people who have had incredibly horrible events occur simply because they were both where and how they were are not hard for me.

I merely remember that I was once a slave in Egypt and was delivered out of bondage. It is my modern role to help others who desire to, escape their slavery.freedom


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Where are YOU in the Dumbing down of America?

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” I may say, except it wouldn’t do much good, as very few Americans would understand me.

Some facts about the dumbing down of America:

18% of Americans still believe that the sun revolves around the earth, according to a Gallup poll.geocentric_model-_of_the_Universe-300x298

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs commissioned a civic education poll among public school students. A surprising 77% didn’t know that George Washington was the first President; couldn’t name Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence; and only 2.8% of the students actually passed the citizenship test. Along similar lines, the Goldwater Institute of Phoenix did the same survey and only 3.5% of students passed the civics test.  Try to pass a typical citizenship test to see how YOUR knowledge rates.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities report on education shows that the U.S. ranks second among all nations in the proportion of the population aged 35-64 with a college degree, but 19th in the percentage of those aged 25-34 with an associate or high school diploma, which means that for the first time, the educational attainment of young people will be lower than their parents. And while the lack of a college education limits earning potential for most people, the escalating costs and increasing debt load of young people make the cost of a college education difficult to value. Meanwhile, the US is falling further behind other western nations.

According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 68% of public school children in the U.S. do not read proficiently by the time they finish third grade. And the U.S. News & World reported that barely 50% of students are ready for college level reading when they graduate. Few people read for pleasure and even more, many people do not seem to have the ability to do basic research skills so they accept what they read at face value.  How many books have YOU read so far this year?

Gallup released a poll indicating 42 percent of Americans still believe God created human beings in their present form less than 10,000 years ago. This has a lot to say about science education and the lack of interest by almost half of the population to know basic physical facts about the world around them. 

A 2008 University of Texas study found that 25 percent of public school biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth simultaneously and there is a museum in Cincinnati that shows this so it must be true.dinosaur and person

In American schools, the culture exalts the athlete and good-looking cheerleader. Well-educated and intellectual students are commonly referred to in public schools and the media as “nerds,” “dweebs,” “dorks,” and “geeks,” and are relentlessly harassed and even assaulted by the more popular “jocks” for openly displaying any intellect.  These anti-intellectual attitudes are not reflected in students in most European or Asian countries, whose educational levels have now equaled and and will surpass that of the U.S. Again, just one more way we have fallen behind. When more people are interested in Kanye and little about their current representative to Congress, there is a serious problem. 

And the list goes on…..

So the question is what are you doing to keep learning?tellign the truth


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Maybe a Teenager

Imagine you have a plumbing problem and since you’re the kind of person who can fix that kind of thing, you remove the toilet and then the floor in the hope of getting to the pipe and replacing it. That was Lucciano Faggiano’s goal when he had a toilet problem holding up his dream of opening a trattoria. What happened next was amazing..castle keep interior

When I read this story this morning it reminded me how young the United States is, how short our history, how immature our culture. Maybe a teenager when compared to most other parts of the world civilization.

Who are we to tell people what to do? How can we go into a nation whose culture is so very different from ours that it is almost incomprehensible, and expect to fix it? And when that hasn’t worked numerous times before, why do we keep trying in other places?US-war-graph

Like a teenager with limited experience we keep butting our head against the wall.

Or maybe the people pulling the strings, the power players, want it that way. Whenever the sabers rattle, look at who has to gain. Wars almost always are about expanding markets. Using our young people as fodder, the rich old men get richer. puppet-master

It has always been this way. Pretty sad to think we are in a rut, banging our head against the wall.Again and again and again.

Pretty sad we race around the world to help others when there are people here at home that also are wanting freedom, education, medical help and food. think globally


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Ready…..Get Set……Share

Later this week the nation shares a holiday that Abraham Lincoln set aside as a national day of celebration. Take a moment and read his Proclamation. The timing of it is significant.

Washington, D.C.                            

October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Amazing, even in the midst of a war that had torn the country apart, this beleaguered leader was able to express how much we had to appreciate.  So, I ask you, how do YOU celebrate Thanksgiving?  Many people plan a feast, gorge, and then watch football, with no apparent moment of thought to any of the blessings they have experienced, even in the midst of turmoil.gratitude-rainbowspiral1

Several years ago our Thanksgiving table was full. We always make sure to invite others to join our family to add to the celebration. As I tend to do, I asked the people to take a moment to speak of what they felt had happened to them during the year that was noteworthy of appreciation. It was sad for me to hear several adults say “this meal”. Perhaps they were just saying thank you for the fellowship, as it was unlikely that they had not eaten all year. More likely, they were ducking the thought process. As for the child present, she had no idea how to develop the thoughts. This lack I place on the parent, for not teaching values and ethics. Without appreciation for achievements, how do we learn to make the effort in the first place?appreciation-is-wonderful-thing-voltaire

Why is this so difficult? For those of us who daily take a moment either in prayer or meditation, this lack of connection with the Universe is a startling absence.

Start thinking now…you have a few days. Think of the entire year, not just the plate in front of you. Remember the hard times, yes. Remember the passage through them. Recognize the stresses do not go away, but recognize the ease that comes at times.thanksgiving2

To me, this exercise is not limited to Thanksgiving but is one of the easiest days to express it openly. Tell us what you gained this year.


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Reaping What You Sow

Karma…..many of us know the pretty relaxed concept…..what goes around comes around. You actions, good or bad, will come back to you later in time. send out get back

Taking that concept…let’s look at some of the things I saw on my Facebook feed today.

Now this one is probably a concept many agree with. This person is expressing to the best of her ability her fear with the President’s announcement last night to define, by Executive Order, part of the current immigration policy that the House of Representatives failed to work on. It is an important concept and one many support. While I personally don’t see the need to have an “official” language in this country, I do think it is smart for immigrants to learn English in order to achieve the best success they can. I also urge native born Americans to learn English as well.

English language

If you agree with her message, does her misspelling disturb you or do you think the message is more important than the method?

Many of the undocumented workers keep themselves apart and do not mingle but there are many people of all kinds who may be working at low paying jobs and just have a hard time making ends meet. This is food insecurity and it exists in your neighborhood. Here in McMinnville we  have soup kitchens that operate that provide at least one hot meal a day.st barnabus soup kitchen

The local food bank recently reduced what food the soup kitchens could purchase. This leaves their budgets strained. If you can, give.  If you can’t afford to give, go help.

Related to the latest political wrestling match I still saw a number of these today.exec order

The reminder was not only that Republic Presidents had gone ahead to clarify immigration issues through Executive Order, but they also had done it legally.

And speaking of Republican Presidents who used Executive Orders, I suspect the one that used it to make the largest change in our American history was Lincoln. Although Mathew Brady and others were beginning to use photography in the days of the Civil War, it was assumed no photograph of Abraham Lincoln existed until a plate was found and examined closely.Lincoln

Almost 90 years after the Gettysburg Address, Josephine Cobb, the chief of the Still Photo section at the National Archives, discovered a glass plate negative taken by Mathew Brady of the speaker’s stand at Gettysburg on the day of its dedication as a National Cemetery. Her perseverance and dedication to the task helps us get a better feeling for the events of that charged time.

In the midst of difficult times, some people hunker down. Others feel rules don’t apply to them I heard a lot yesterday of the difficulty the Buffalo area was having because as streets were cleared, people broke the travel curfew, ventured out and got stuck, needing to be rescued and their cars cleared from the streets.  It is hard to repress curiosity, for sure, but I hold this person in high esteem.3 feet of snow

Not only did he or she venture out, but they left us something to enjoy. Art wins.

And finally, something to ponder.potential

How do you chose to express yourself?