What would that look like?








[Today’s post inspired by the news that Michele Bachmann’s stepping down.]

Saturday, I attended a worship group at the home of a Friend who lives on the 11th floor of an apartment building in downtown Boston. While in worship, I looked outside; we were eye level to the steeple of a nearby church. Up close and personal to a huge, stone cross, I suddenly wondered: If, as some claim, this is a Christian country, why in the world would the United States of America tolerate any form of torture or cruel and unusual punishment? Surely, given Christianity’s pervading and horrifying symbol, there would be no place for “enhanced interrogation” or waterboarding or solitary confinement, right?


What would a truly—as in according to my very own version—Christian nation look like?

For starters, I’m reminded of that old bumper sticker: It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.


Sinking Down



Layers, layers, layers. After yesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon, trying to make meaning of this tragedy so close to home is almost impossible! But I know that underneath my outrage and fear and needing to blame is infinite sadness. And that when I can access that sadness I will pray: Make me, make all of us, instruments of Your peace.

January 6, 2013: Night Voices

In the wee hours of this morning, I was wakened by two loud voices outside my first-floor window, one a young man (ethnicity undetermined), the other a young woman who, I think, was inside her car, its engine running.

Their voices muffled and, maybe, ten feet away, only two words were audible: “. . . . fight!” shouted the young man.

“. . . no fight!” shouted the young woman. And then she high-pitched laughed as if trying to keep their conversation light and breezy. They repeated this exchange several times.

Three-quarters asleep and not aware of the time (it turned out to be a little past 4 am), my first reaction was, “They’re Somerville High School students on their way to school. Someone from the high school’s mediation program can handle this.” (It was only after they’d moved on that I was awake enough to realize that today is Sunday and that these two had probably just come from a club on Somerville Avenue.)

But here’s what I, a peace-loving Quaker, want to say: How deeply I was struck by the excitement in that young man’s voice every time he said “fight.” How, lying under my covers, without seeing him, without knowing anything about him save his gender and approximate age, his zeal for violence—and its attendant drama—made perfect sense! As if, at last, he were being offered an amazing opportunity! I wasn’t hearing rage. I was hearing his relief.



December 19, 2012: Rush to Judgment?

[Here’s another op-ed piece hot off the press—or, should I say, JUST e-mailed toThe Boston Globe.]

Rush to Judgment?

How easy, immediately after the Newtown massacre, to want to blame or to fix. How easy to blame the death of twenty-six people, twenty of them children, on a horribly troubled young man’s “personality disorder” or on our inadequate mental health system. How easy to want to fix our gun safety laws and to ban assault weapons immediately, or to radically improve access to quality mental health services. Let’s fix this nightmare right now, our hearts cry out, while our sadness and outrage are most acute.

But, I’d like to suggest, before we can fix—and there’s plenty to fix—we need to mourn. Individually and collectively we need to pause, to take whatever time is needed to acknowledge our pain and our brokenness. For, I suggest, it is from that deep, sorrowful place within each of us that the hard questions will eventually emerge. It will be our answers to these hard questions, not our all too human impulse to blame or to fix, that must inform our future actions.

Why do I, an ardent supporter of gun safety and accessible mental health care suggest this? A stunned and pained face I glimpsed yesterday among the holiday-shopping crowds at Porter Square is why. That young woman’s public sorrow reflected my own and called to mind the days following September 11th when so many of us were visibly bereft.

On a lovely fall afternoon a couple of weeks after the attack, for example, strolling to the end of Rockport’s Bearskin Neck, I came upon a hushed crowd simply sitting on the jetty’s rocks and looking out over the water. Seated among that silent crowd and looking at their pained faces, I’d felt our shared grief meant something different, something thoughtful, something wise would happen in response to that heinous attack. I believed that our shared grief meant a different outcome from a response engendered by anger or fear or the need for revenge. Eleven years and two wars later, thousands killed, our civil liberties thwarted, trillions spent on The War on Terror; how dead wrong I was!

I also remember, soon after that lovely afternoon, calling Senator Kennedy’s office to say much the same things at much the same length and to hear a young, bored voice on the other end reply, when I’d finally stopped to catch my breath, “So. Restraint?”

Our shared grief can guide us; so can the thousands of voices among us who have lost family members to violence; Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York, for example, or the September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows or the Boston-based Louis D. Brown Peace Institute. Let’s listen.

After Columbine, after the brutal attack on Gabby Gifford and eighteen others in a Tucson parking lot, after Aurora, after Newtown, let’s get it right this time.

December 6, 2012: The Real Story

Have been wresting with another op-ed piece for the last week. And about to throw in the towel.

Which is hard because the prompt for this piece felt right.

The prompt was this sentence from Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree : “The horrors of war had propelled Elmer into integrity.”

Yes! I thought. I totally get that. (although “horrors of war” is uncomfortably close to a cliche, isn’t it.) Yes, I’ll write a piece begging for an honest and courageous conversation about war. A plea for integrity.

But after a week of struggle, it’s feeling like the real story is my own, deeper understanding of the pervasiveness of the military-industrial complex—the subject of this quote from Eisenhower’s 1961 speech: “Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.”

Whoa! (Woe)




Election Day, 2012: An update from “The Bubble”

It’s a crisp, cloudless, fall day in the ‘ville, a “weather breeder,” my sailing teacher would have called it, meaning the day before really nasty weather.

And all over Somerville, lines, lines, lines. (and in trash pick-up neighborhoods, pumpkin seeds all over the sidewalks, too.)

Yup. In an overwhelmingly Democrat city in a mostly-Democrat-except -for-those-what-were-we-thinking-elections-when-we-voted-for-Romney-or-Scott-Brown state, people are standing up to 2 hours to vote.

Makes me teary. For real.

Now, to be honest, part of the reason for these lines is that this year’s ballot has a LOT of questions. So voters have to be readers, first. Yikes.

Close readers of this blog may remember that I collected signatures so that one of these questions would appear on the ballot. Budget 4 All, it’s called. And that, indeed, enough signatures were gathered and, yes, it’s on the ballot. Question 5 in Somerville. Whooppee! [see my August 2 post]

Later, today, just as the sun goes down and people are getting off from work, wearing my “Fund our communities not war” button, high performance long underwear and 2 pairs of socks and boots, I will join  supporters of Elizabeth Warren (Yay!) and Question 4 (a local tax to support more Somerville open space; yay) outside my very own polling place to hand out little cards re this initiative.

Ain’t democracy swell?!


October 16, 2012: How do we say “NO!”?

On the other side of way too much busyness—life doesn’t string out our Must Dos over a reasonable amount of time, does it—and feelin’ good. Feeling present. Feeling liberated from those Must Dos (until a bunch of them gang up on me, again.)

So able to sit and to be and to ponder.

Here’s a sampling of what’s now rattling around my less-stressed-out mind:

First, the promised report re sharing NO! with Friends Meeting at Cambridge children. It didn’t quite happen. Or should I say, MY plans didn’t happen.

What did happen was that I had a brief interaction with 3 JH/HS students re the upcoming Textron meeting for worship. And one young man pushed back, declaring that 60 or 70 Quakers sitting in silence outside a factory that produces cluster bombs “a political demonstration.” Hmm. THEN he said, in effect, “And, besides, that’s those people’s job.” Double hmmm.

What would you have said to him?

Second: Vis a vis gearing up to submit op-ed pieces (one of the inconveniently-timed but amazing things I did this past weekend was to attend an all-day symposium at Simmons given by the Op-Ed Project), am pondering a bunch of stuff! For starters, “Do I, a white, privileged woman, have the cred to write about our racist, immoral criminal justice system? How do I, in 750 words, say ‘NO!’ to our status quo Tough on Crime mentality?”

Now do you see why I need some time to wade through such questions?


October 12, 2012: NO!

Next Sunday, Friends Meeting at Cambridge will be worshiping on the sidewalk in front of the Textron plant—they make cluster bombs—in Burlington, MA. Knee to knee, we will conduct a meeting for worship on folding chairs and under the sky.

In order to prepare Meeting’s children for this, I plan to read David McPhail’s NO! this Sunday.

Although I think this book is pretty amazing (I’ll blog how it was received on Monday), something that a young F/friend said years ago seems a better take: Nora, maybe 5 or 6 at the time, her big sister, her mother, my three daughters and I had been standing silently on Boston Common on a chilly, damp Good Friday as participants of FMC’s yearly Good Friday vigil. All five daughters under the age of ten, after a couple of hours, the two moms had whispered that our daughters’ silent participation definitely needed to rewarded. So we left.

Crossing Tremont Street in search of hot chocolate or some other treat, Nora had something to say: “My witness isn’t against war,” she announced. “It’s for peace!”

So, yes: No!

And, better: Yes! Yes!


September 24, 2012: What was left out:

For the past 3 days, The Boston Globe has featured Carolyn Arond’s obituary.

But here’s a critically important fact about this amazing woman’s life The Globe  left out:

“Carolyn was diagnosed with ALS last year. Her commitment to a message of peace continued strong even as she faced this difficult challenge. Carolyn believed that her exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War had caused her to develop ALS.” (from the program for Carolyn’s Standing-Room-Only memorial, held with love and reverence and many, many tears at Friends Meeting at Cambridge on Saturday.)

Like those brave little blue signs on front lawns say: “War is not the answer.”



August 16, 2012: “To Friends Everywhere” (Continued)

[And welcome to the world, Lilian Jane Sanchez!]

When Quakers gather for their yearly, regional gathering, they collectively write an “epistle” which sums up what they’d done in their time together. So as New England’s yearly gathering progressed, epistles from yearly meetings from around the world were read aloud. Which always began: “To Friends everywhere.”

This year, the epistle from Cuban YM was read aloud by one of the visiting Friends from Cuba. (In Spanish, of course. We heard and sang many tongues at YM) And I had a little frisson I’d like to post:

I GOT our global, Quaker connection. I got our solidarity with the Quakers of Africa, of Australia, of Indiana;  Everywhere! I GOT that all over the world, people as hard-working and centered as the people surrounding me in a too-cold auditorium in a college in Rhode Island work just as hard on issues of peace, social justice, interrupting racism, healing this broken planet.

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed. it’s so easy to wonder, “What can I do?” It’s so easy to think that Quaker witness is well-meaning but kind of pathetic.

And it’s so wonderful to FEEL our collective strength!