Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Freedoms are Fragile

Freedoms are fragile.
Slavery ends and voting rights are enacted,
but people of color are subjected to
voter suppression, mass incarceration,
and shootings by police.

Freedoms are fragile.
Women win the vote,
become judges, governors, Senators,
but cannot win the White House.

Freedoms are fragile.
Homosexual celebrities and
transsexuals come out,
but gays and transwomen
are tortured and killed,
here and abroad.

Freedoms are fragile.
Marriage equality becomes
the law of the land.
But court clerks and business people
claim their faith gives them 
the right to discriminate against us.

Let's get real.
Fragile freedoms must be won
again and again.

Marching Out of the Closet

In the early years of Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, marching in the Gay Freedom Day parade was a serious commitment. If we were seen marching with a gay group in public, we could lose friends, family, or our job. Most of us were in the closet then, because no laws kept us from being beaten up, fired, institutionalized, or thrown onto the streets for the crime/sin/sickness of being gay.

But three gay men had founded Sha'ar Zahav in 1977, so we could have a safe place to meet with one another -- where we could be who we were as sexual and spiritual beings, and find family who accept us as we are. Even then, some members had so much to lose that we knew them only under pseudonyms. Our circle of safety did not extend beyond our doors.

Prized Possession

As a little girl, I wasn't interested in traditional, dress-up dolls. By the time I started to notice Barbie, I saw myself as too old to bother with her. Now I realize that being a butch lesbian may have lessened my interest in doll dresses.

But I had a troll doll that was dearer to me than life. I distinctly remember having misplaced it once in the large room where we (roughly seven-year-old) children gathered for drama lessons. My agony over its loss brought everything to a halt as we all looked in every corner and under everyone's belongings. I think it was hiding behind an opened door, between the door and the wall. Sighs and shouts of relief could probably be heard in the next county.

I never lost it again. It accompanied me across the country and as I ping-ponged from Northern California to Southern California and back again.

I think it was during my junior high years that I bought a pattern for troll doll clothes, and made two little jackets out of felt. By that time, I had acquired a second troll. The first one had long straight black hair, and the other had shorter, frizzy magenta hair. Neither of them has, to this day, a name or even a gender. But both have a place of honor on my bookshelves.

At around the same time, I carved a copy of a troll doll out of a fat, cylindrical candle. I don't have the carving any more. I probably gave it to whomever I was crushing on at the time.

Why am I so attached to a funny looking androgynous sprite with short limbs and big ears? Clearly, I identified with it. I myself am short, androgynous, and not conventionally pretty. And I have hair of impressive straightness, which is the only thing about me that is straight. The only troll attribute I lack is big ears. So, when my troll alter ego went missing all those years ago, it was like I had misplaced a part of myself.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Launch Party

Sunday April 9, 2017, was my first public reading from my self-published book Tales of A Seeker. I reserved a medium-sized room at my synagogue, ordered a batch of food to be delivered there, and posted an invitation on my Facebook page, the synagogue's Facebook group, the Koffee Klatch Facebook group, and the Barbary Coast Recorder Orchestra Facebook group. I also sent personal email invites directly to a dozen or so friends.

Nine people actually came, and I was thrilled to greet each one. They listened politely as I read a medium-length assortment of pieces. Even though I had written a short introduction and framing comments in a separate document, I made a point of reading the actual pieces of the book from the paperback copy of the book - to demonstrate that readers would find exactly what I was reading in their very own copy of the book.

There were questions and comments, and applause. One guest read aloud a snippet of the book whose humor had become apparent to her only on her second reading.

Although I thought they'd be the least interesting pieces, my sermons were asked for and appreciated. One guest asked how many of them I had preserved, perhaps thinking they might suffice for a separate book or pamphlet.

One friend pointed out that very few people actually get their writings into published form, and asked how I felt about my achievement. I said, "Proud, and moved to tears."

Monday, April 3, 2017

Wall Art


The Present:

It's A Gift.

Life in Nature

A poem created from bits of Mickey Eliason's new book, Blessings from the Beach

Life is a metaphor.

It's all in the perspective.

We city dwellers need

to stretch ourselves

to get benefits from nature.

We must look up

to see the starry skies.

We must take ourselves

to visit the sunset coast,

and walk on its wet sand.

If we hide inside,

we don't reap the benefits

from nature

as a place of worship.

Think Global; Act Local

When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the vote was fueled by fears of radical Islamic terrorism. And the election results ratified those fears as justified, and encouraged hitherto silent bigotry to focus on apparent Muslims, and gave permission for the bigots to act openly on all their fears and hatreds.

The Brexit bigotry came to my attention as candidate Trump started winning Republican primaries, because his rally speeches stoked peoples' fears and encouraged them to translate those fears into hatred of everyone who wasn't, like them, a white Christian man. He berated women, Muslims, immigrants, and reporters, and hinted that anyone who was "other" was suspect.

I wrote about the similarity of the two campaigns back in July, because using fear and hatred to win votes is a very dangerous tactic. The hatred does not just go away after the election. In fact, after the American election we saw spikes in hate crimes, and the perpetrators often expressly claimed the election as their justification. "It's Trump's America now; go back where you came from!"

As a Jew, I'm particularly concerned about anti-Semitic hate crimes. Anti-Semitism has been a less explicit part of Trump's platform, but is deeply held by him and some of his closest advisors - the Judaism of his daughter and son-in-law notwithstanding. The spike in hate crimes includes burning mosques to the ground, spraying swastikas on and phoning bomb threats to Jewish buildings, and desecrating Jewish cemeteries. Trump's occasional mild words of rebuke have no effect in stopping these atrocities, since anyone can tell that he doesn't really mean them.

I have joined a campaign that was started in the post-Brexit U.K, wearing a safety pin on my jacket to show that I am a safe person to be around for people who belong to some targeted group. This campaign includes a training video made by a British woman of color, showing how to get between a harasser and his victim, to talk to the victim and find out her plans, and to escort her to a safe place while ignoring the harasser.

I really hope that i am never called upon to intervene in that way. Not just because I expect to make every possible mistake while learning this new skill. Also because I'm very uncomfortable around raised voices. I curl up around myself and wish to be elsewhere. But maybe, just maybe, having a specific duty to perform in this uncomfortable situation may help me focus beyond my own discomfort and actually help someone else. I sure hope so.