I’m Ashamed
Oct 1st, 2008 by Sonja

Danziger on So, like many US-ians I’ve been following the market and the hoopla surrounding what is being called the financial crisis and bailout.

The President is calling for a lot of money to be earmarked to spend on companies which made risky bad financial decisions.  Otherwise, so the thinking goes, our market will crash.  Our credit will be bad.  All sorts of horrible things will happen.  There are, apparently, monsters in our national closet just waiting to come out and eat us.

Well, there’s a part of me that’s feeling the crunch on behalf of my in-laws.  That’s for sure.  People who are depending on the stock market right now for their retirement income are bearing the brunt of this.  People who are planning to retire in the next five years or so will also bear the brunt of this.

Here’s the thing though.  Or perhaps it’s several things that I’ve been thinking about.

First is this.  This crisis did not happen overnight.  It has been slowly building over the course of about 30 years.  It began during the Reagan administration and has been the result of successive Republican AND Democratic administrations AND Congresses turning a blind eye to the consequences of their economic policies.  This is a bi-partisan issue.  No party can point the finger at the other and say, “It’s all their fault.”  Because both have done some good and a lot of bad.

For a crisis that’s been coming for so long, how is it that our government got caught with it’s pants down?

As a Christian, I do not look to a government, or a political party, or a president for redemption, perfection or utopia in this world.  However, I am a citizen and so I am a bearer of the social contract that we all hold with our government here in the U.S.  I believe that social contract gives me certain privileges and rights, but it also brings with it certain responsibilities.  It also gives the government and it’s representatives certain rights and responsibilities.  We tend to dicker amongst the left and right about what those rights and responsibilities should be.  And how they should be meted out.  But we don’t dicker about the necessity of having a government.  We all tend to agree about that.

There’s been a lot of noise and heat generated lately about this crisis heralding another Great Depression.  This feels like fear-mongering to me.  And that makes me ashamed of my government and our leadership.  Lord knows, I do not want another Great Depression, nor the panic or Dust Bowl that accompanied it.  It was a terrible time for our country and the world.  People struggled and died.  But people also struggled and overcame.  We forget that part of the story line.  We came together as a nation during the Depression.  We helped each other.  Yes, FDR put into place some things that have frayed around the edges and are coming apart at the seams now, but at the time, they were a safety net.  This allowed people to help themselves and each other.  I think of our National Park System and our national highway system both built in part by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  When people were out of work, Roosevelt created jobs for them.

Our current government though, is not living up to its part of our social contract.  Regardless of which bits and pieces you feel the government should be providing (i.e. whether you’re a liberal or a conservative), our government in its current form is not looking out for the citizens, but is looking out for business entities alone.   By rushing through this enormous financial bailout and forcing the citizenry to bear all the bad risk brought on by greedy decision-making on Wall Street, a Democratic Congress and Republican Administration are reneging on their end of the bargain.  Congress (both House and Senate) should slow down, ask for hearings from professionals in every walk of economic life.  A couple of weeks won’t hurt (as we’re seeing).  There are more options for solving this problem than all or nothing as the politicians would like us to believe.

Some of those options might involve all of us planting gardens and growing our own vegetables (Victory Gardens).  It might involve personal sacrifice on the part of the executives and executive boards of those fat cat companies; as it really should and as I seem to remember from my economics classes.  It might involve real leadership from the top, real ideas, real negotiating, real compromise, real change.  There are other options out there.  And if we’re going to put that much money on the line, we all need the opportunity to step back, take a breath and decide if it really and
truly is necessary. Or, are Adam Smith’s bones chattering in his grave  about now? Because from what little I remember from my economics  classes, this bailout/rescue seems to fly directly in the face of  solid capitalist market theory.

Privatize Gains; Socialize Losses
Sep 20th, 2008 by Sonja

I’m so angry right now I almost can’t sleep at night.  It’s a boiling, gutteral fury.  When I try to speak of it, I begin to sputter and use bad language because I don’t have enough words to express the utter depth of my rage.

My In-lawsMy in-laws turned 70 this year.  My mother will turn 70 early next year and my father is 75.  My parents are extremely fortunate because a relative left them unexpectedly very well off about 14 years ago.  However, my in-laws are not in that place.

My father-in-law worked hard all his life.  He still works hard.  He is 70 years old and with a bachelors degree in economics he works in a hardware store.  This year they will not be taking their annual three month winter trip to Florida as they cannot afford it.  Financially.  Unfortunately, their children and children-in-laws are all holding their breath for the toll this will take on their health.  They are good people who depend on the vagaries of the stock market for their fixed income retirement package.  They are good people who were depending on the stability of real estate to sell their home of 35 years when they needed to to supplement their retirement income.  Now they can do neither.

Remember when I said that the first national election I ever voted in, I voted for John Anderson?  Well … I had turned nineteen that May and Ronald Reagan won that election for those of you who remember which race John Anderson ran in.  So, for the entirety of my adult life, I have heard lessons on the economy from the conservative side of the street.  In a nutshell, those lessons may be summed up by saying, “The market will correct itself, the government does not need to regulate it.”  and “We’re not a socialist state, keep the government out of the market.”  Don’t fool yourselves, Bill Clinton was no liberal when it came to economics.  There was a very good reason why he kept Alan Greenspan in charge of the Federal Reserve for almost the entirety of his presidency.  Clinton was a fiscal conservative and only barely a social liberal.

Yet, every time I turn around these same fiscal conservatives … these Republicans who hue and cry about the government staying out of the market … run to the government for a bailout when their greed fails them.  When their pride, hubris, greed and foolishness fail and put all of us in jeopardy … they run to the government teat, just like a welfare mother in the projects.  I am way past disgust.  Just where exactly do they think that government money comes from?  The trees?  No … I have news for these financiers of great and immortal fame … it comes from me and you.  We are now paying for their foolishness.

Those men of millions and billions, who ran their companies into the ground, ran to Uncle Sam for help cleaning up the mess, are now keeping the millions they gained personally and have the unmitigated gall to fight for their 60 and 70 million dollar severance packages.  They are keeping their houses (multiples each), their personal jets, their yachts, their jewelry, their … whatever, whatever, whatever AND all their money AND we get to clean up the mess they made; AND we get to pay the court fees for the battle that they’ll stage to keep their severance packages.

The ugly thing about this is this is privatizing gains and socializing losses. So when things are going well, the managements make out, the shareholders make out, the counterparties are fine. All the private sector people do well. But when something goes wrong, when decisions are made that turn out to be bad decisions, the U.S. taxpayer has to take on the problem.

And there’s something very wrong about that. Because all of those people that made all that money are running off here into the distance with the money, carrying it in their bags. And the United States taxpayer is on the hook. Gretchen Morgenson of the Times on Bill Moyers Journal Sept. 19

So … when does the market correct itself?  I’m just curious.

I think these people need to help pay for the mistakes and help clean up the mess they’ve made … just like I do with my children.  The only thing anyone “needs” is one house and one car.  Strip them of everything else and use that money to begin the bailout … that’s market correction.  Because I want someone, anyone, to help my in-laws out of this mess.  They have lived life well, made responsible, wise, and even generous decisions … so why on earth should they and everyone else who have done likewise be made to clean up this mess?

After all, the only people who didn’t see this coming were those who don’t know their history.  That would be … almost everyone.

Dear Sarah
Sep 8th, 2008 by Sonja

Unbelievable.  I scarcely know where to begin.  I should be glad, you see, that a woman is running for Vice President.  I want to support you.  You are, after all, a woman.  You are my age.  You have children the age of my children.  We even share the same moniker … Hockey Mom.  We are both Hockey Moms.  I’ll bet you even managed your kid’s team, the way I do.  Well, then again, maybe not the way I do, but we’ll get to that later.

Here’s the deal.  I can’t support you.  You don’t even know me, so this won’t matter at all to you.  But that’s okay.  I’m just using this letter format as a cute form within which to express my ideas.

There was very little chance that I would have ever voted for your ticket in the first place because of your running mate’s slavish adherence to the disastrous war in Iraq.  But I was hoping that Senator McCain would choose someone with experience, strength, wisdom and stability to bring to the ticket that I could give serious consideration to.  Instead, we are presented with … um … well … you.  You represent none of those things.  You may have that facade, but you  are like the movie set of a fictitious western Gold Rush town … all fizz and no bang.

Your candidacy is offensive to me and many other women.  It is patently obvious that it is an attempt to manipulate us into voting for someone we may not otherwise vote for, simply because you have breasts and ovaries.  I did not vote for Hillary Clinton on that basis and I won’t vote for you on that basis either.  I don’t know who is making the decisions in the Republican party, but it is insulting and offensive that they think so little of women voters.  Most of us would rather see a person in office who is carrying out decisions that we are interested in, than someone who looks like us.  As a woman, I am offended.

Your candidacy is offensive to me as a historian.  You seem to have no sense of the office or of your place in history.  Several months ago you candidly admitted you do not know what the Vice President does.  Yet, here you are putting your family on the line and in the spotlight for what can only be seen as personal gain, if you have no understanding of the office.  The office of president and vice president should never be sought for personal gain … read what George Washington had to say on this matter.  Or John Adams.  Or Abraham Lincoln.  Or John Kennedy.  Or even Ronald Reagan.  I would suggest, dear Sarah, that you take some time to study the difference between being smart and being wise.  It takes very little to be smart, most anyone can do it; especially if one has a good speech writer and the chutzpah to deliver as you seem to.  But it takes some time and study and dedication to become wise.  This is what we need in the Vice Presidency, wisdom.  You are smart, and you proved at the convention that you can be a smartass, but you are not wise.  As a historian, I am offended.

Your candidacy is offensive to me as a citizen and as a political watchwoman.  From looking at your history in government, you seem to have little sense that the primary role of a mayor, or a governor or a Vice President is to be a civil servant; with emphasis on the word servant.  This hearkens back to your lack of understanding of history, Sarah.  My guess is that you eschewed history classes as an undergraduate and just partied.  Here is a very short course.  What seems ubiquitous and unremarkable in 2008, was radical and unorthodox in 1776.  It was this … that the nature of government is to serve the needs of the people rather than the reverse.  It was this unlikely sentiment that got Thomas Paine, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Washington, and all of our other founding fathers into such hot water with England.  You seem to have forgotten that ideal and believe that being in government is to serve the needs of those in government.  Hence, you left your tiny town of Wasilla in state of outlandish debt, you clearly have no idea how to run the state of Alaska (evidenced by the line item vetos which make little sense) and I shudder to think what would happen if you were given the keys to office of the Vice Presidency.  As a citizen, I am offended.

Your candidacy is offensive to me as a Christian.   You understand so little of what our government is intended to be that I scarcely know where to begin.  But I’ll begin with scripture, Sarah.  With the Gospel of John and your acceptance speech.  In the Gospel of John chapter 13, we find Jesus saying this, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  My dear Sarah, as a Christian and disciple of Jesus Christ, would you please point me to the place in Scripture where Jesus is shown making fun of people for their choice of citizen action?  Where He makes jests at the expense of another person for any reason?  I’ve studied the Scriptures fairly intently and I can’t find it anywhere.  But I will acknowledge that I may have missed something.  I would also like to bring the following to your attention:  the two Great Commandments as Jesus spoke of them in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 22 ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  In what fashion may it be considered loving of your neighbor, to call him a racial epithet?  How is it loving the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your  mind, to stand before a convention hall filled people and lead them chants the way you did the other night?  In many ways that you might not have forseen you have become an icon for the Christian way in this country.  You must bear that mantle with wisdom and respect.  Or we will see more articles written like this:

Democrats are not the enemy of course, but even if they are, I saw no expressions of Christian love for them.  I saw plenty of sarcasm, put-downs, mocking, and bitterness.  Palin mocked Obama’s decision to serve others as a community organizer.  Giuliani, a very wealthy and cosmopolitan man himself, made fun of Democratic elites.  I heard misleading statements and flat-out lies.  Palin falsely suggested that Obama wants to read a captured Bin Laden his rights–of course, this is preposterous and Obama has never said this, but it didn’t stop Palin from spreading misinformation.  On a more mundane level, she also suggested she had sold an expensive government plane on eBay–it didn’t actually sell on eBay, but McCain is now falsely claiming that it did sell on eBay–at a profit (also not true).  Of course, McCain is no stickler when it comes to the facts–he falsely claimed in his own speech that Obama will raise your taxes, leaving out the important caveat that 95% of Americans get tax cuts under Obama’s plan.  Mike Huckabee fired off a zinger about Palin winning more votes in her mayoral election than Biden garnered as a presidential candidate.  Sounds great–unfortunately, it’s a lie.  I am no theologian, but I vaguely remember there being a commandment inveighing against this kind of thing.

With follow on comments such as this:

 Try to make a list of 5 great things that religion has done to significantly increase the happiness and well-being of humanity. Now make a list of 10 terrible atrocities that have been committed in the name of religion. Which list was easier to make? The Republicans suddenly make a lot more sense if you stop assuming Christianity has anything to do with love. Christianity is nothing more than the sum of the actions of all Christians. (emphasis mine)

Dear Sarah, remember that little bit I dragged out of the gospel of John … they will know us by our love.  I don’t care what you want, or what you think, or what you love.  You are vastly unimportant to me, because I do not know you at all.  Except for this.  I do know that for millions of people now, you represent Jesus.  What kind of Jesus will you be?   Getting laughs, applause, and/or votes by telling lies (no matter how small), and belittling others is unacceptable for those who claim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.   Thus far, as a Christian, I am offended.

So, we come to the end of this small exercise.  To say I am disappointed in your selection as the Republican vice presidential candidate would be a gross understatement.  I am offended by the misogyny and manipulation that the Republican National Committee is attempting with your selection.  I am terrified by the betrayal of our historic national values that is at stake.   We are indeed at a turning point in the history of our country; I wonder how many people really understand this.  How many will look back and say, “I wish I had …?”

Respectfully yours, Sonja

Fully Known And Fully Loved – August Synchroblog on Poverty
Aug 13th, 2008 by Sonja

“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” Mother Theresa

That’s a pretty well known and ubiquitous quote by Mother Theresa.  It’s been co-opted by the folks who believe that life begins at conception and would like to pass laws to that effect in our country.  I still remember the sense of shock I had the first time I saw it on a bumper.

I know people who’ve had abortions.  Some are very close to me.  Is that really what they’d done?  I had to think it through.  I knew their reasons very intimately.  Most had gone on to have children later in adulthood.  Having the child would have been disastrous for both child and mother at the time of the pregnancy.  Some of the pregnancies were the result of rape, others the result of very protected intercourse but the protection simply failed.  In every case, mothers (and fathers) go on to mourn the loss eternally.  It is a drastic decision made during a time of crisis in a situation that is kept secret in most cases.  Very few terminated pregnancies are made known before they are finished.

It seems to me that it’s become far too easy to make snap judgements, and reduce a nuanced topic, such as abortion, to a pithy sentence and slap it on a bumper sticker to make your sentiments known to everyone else.  So I was wondering the other day, which was the real poverty?  Who is impoverished?  Where are we now that we have polarized ourselves into tidy camps.  Right and left.  Red and blue.  Take it or leave it.  For us; against them.

Then LightHusband sent me this story about a feral child discovered in Florida a few years ago.  Beware if you read the whole story.  It’s very graphic and full of lurid details about the filth the little girl lived in.  Terrible really.  It’s likely that her biological mother is ill and or at least terribly self-centered.  Because of the neglect she suffered, this girl may never be able to talk or communicate on a meaningful level.  Her brain may never develop past six or seven years old in terms of her ability to process information.  No one really knows.  There have only been two or three feral children in recorded history.  One in France in the 1880’s and another in California in in the 1970’s that were reported in this news story.

Don’t for a moment make the leap that I am suggesting this child would have been better off aborted.  Not at all.  No, I am suggesting that we are all impoverished for not knowing.  Not knowing our neighbors.  Not loving our neighbor.  When we do know, we do not take their hands and walk with them, we call CPS.  We rely on the law to transform, rather than relationships.  We want to make laws, call policemen, stand at an arm’s length away and point out the flaws in one another.

What struck me most about this story was the unknowing.  The secrecy.  The darkness.  The lack of love.  That is the nexus that this story has in common with mothers who face the choice to terminate a pregnancy.  They make choices in secrecy, without the love and support of most of their network, in crisis; hard, difficult choices that hurt everyone including themselves.

The biological mother in the Florida case had been trying unsuccessfully to keep her family together.  She failed catastrophically.  When the little girl was found both mother and daughter were nearly in a catatonic state but with different origins.  The mother was arrested and convicted for breaking various Florida laws concerning child welfare.  She was given a suspended sentence with the proviso that she rescind her maternal rights.  So the little girl has been adopted into a home with very caring parents, who are doing their best to help her develop on a more normal trajectory.  In many respects the story has a happy ending.  The little girl is learning, growing, loving and is loved.  Her biological mother is alone.  Alone with regrets, blame and an empty home.  Many would say that she earned all of that and then some.  Maybe my heart is too soft.  But then I read Larry Vaughn and I wonder what might have been …

My theme becomes concrete: What would it be like to be known fully and loved completely? Most people know of this tension. Most adults, anyway. Fortunate children know what this is like. But because they don’t know anything different they take the situation for granted. Somewhere along the way to adulthood we start putting price tags on people and become capitalists of humanity. We also pick up a few undesirable qualities along the way.Another meteor.

I am known and I am loved. But not completely. I think my brain would melt from sheer pleasure if the confluence of these two principles ever occurred.

The air is brisk and I cannot hear another sound except for my breathing.

Another meteor.

And then I feel it. I am being watched. My anxiety rises. You have had this feeling before, haven’t you? Out of necessity I have become good at paying attention to my surroundings. It is a casualty of my profession.

I look around expecting to see a deer or a raccoon. Maybe a person. Maybe (it’s 2:00am) the dead owner of the abandoned house. Nothing.

Another meteor.

My anxiety ebbs but the feeling of being watched doesn’t.

I used to enjoy watching my girls play when they didn’t know I was there. Sometimes they would talk to their dolls or draw pictures or play house. Sometimes they would sing silly songs or have conversations with the air. I always felt a sense of magic when I could witness this play unnoticed. When they played without an audience I always got a sense of purity. Whatever they were doing or saying was complete truth. If you’re a parent you know exactly what I am talking about. Like the feeling of sneaking into the movies, I had a sense that I shouldn’t be here. I wasn’t invited to the tea party or the dance or the play. But as a parent, I couldn’t look away. This always, always made me smile. I tried so hard to be quiet. Partly because I didn’t want to interrupt the beauty. Partly because I didn’t want the tea party to end, which it surely would if my presence were made known.

Another meteor.

My feeling of being watched begins to transform. My mind begins to slow down and I stop thinking about thinking about thinking. I am quiet. And still. And small.

Another meteor. Another tear of St. Lawrence.

I am being watched. And the person watching is smiling. Hiding behind a cosmic door. Peeking around the corner.

Another meteor. Another tear.

I am not alone.

Another tear.

My brain begins to melt.


This is a synchroblog on poverty. Please read what my fellow bloggers have to say on the subject below:

At What Cost?
Jul 7th, 2008 by Sonja

Earlier this year I went on a little road trip with two friends.  We were investigating the possibility of purchasing a quilt shop in a little town not too far from here.  That possibility did not pan out, but on the road trip we discovered a wonderful Mennonite grocery store where they sold sandwiches to order.  The sandwiches were delicious.  Hanging on the wall over the cash register I saw this hand-lettered sign:

“The cost of something is that amount of life which must be exchanged for it.”

That is a profound truth.  The cost of something is not necessarily the price tag that is put there by the merchant from whom the customer purchases an item, but it is that amount of life which must be exchanged for it.

So … exactly how much should that bottle of TwoBuckChuck cost? … in light of the following? (ht Christy at DryBonesDance)

Farm Worker Died Connected To Two Buck Chuck

We told you about the tragic death of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez who died while laboring in a Stockton area vineyard in 100 plus degree heat. According to a Wednesday AP story, the San Joaquin County Coroner has officially confirmed that Maria died of heat stroke. Maria had been working 8 hours in the blistering heat without shade or sufficient water. The closest water supply was a 10 minute walk away.

Because Maria worked for a labor contractor, she most likely never knew she was part of the production team for Bronco Winery who is better known for Charles Shaw wines–commonly called “Two-Buck Chuck.”  This best selling wine is available exclusively at Trader Joe’s stores.  According to Trader Joe’s web site, “these super-value wines began as the result of an oversupply of wine and a great relationship with a valued supplier.”

MariaMaria’s Story

On May 14, the official temperature was 95 degrees; it was even hotter inside the wine grape vineyard owned by West Coast Grape Farming, east of Stockton, where Maria and her fiancé, Florentino Bautista, worked. Maria had been working for nine hours.

At 3:40 p.m. Maria became dizzy. She didn’t know where she was and didn’t recognize Florentino. Maria passed out.  Florentino helplessly held her in his arms.

There was no water for the workers from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. When water arrived, it was a 10-minute walk from where Maria was working, too far to access. There was no shade or training for foremen and workers about what to do if someone became ill from the heat—as required by law.

After a number of delays Maria was taken to a clinic. On the in Lodi, the foreman called on the driver’s cell phone and spoke to Florentino. “If you take her to a clinic,” the foreman said, “don’t say she was working [for the contractor]. Say she became sick because she was jogging to get exercise. Since she’s underage, it will create big problems for us.”

Maria’s temperature upon arriving at the hospital was 108.6.  After two days and six heart stoppages, she died.

“The cost of something is that amount of life which must be exchanged for it.”

Wurst Case?
Mar 7th, 2008 by Sonja

The next time you fear and/or expostulate that your government just may be spending your tax dollars in a less than useful manner, you might consider Switzerland.

There’s a crisis in Switzerland … of epic proportions. But the sturdy Swiss are taking steps to manage it. In January a multidisciplinary task force was created. People from the field, from industry, from banking … all were asked to report. Now in March the Economy Minister reports that steps are being taken, but a plan B must be implemented.

What’s the crisis, you ask? Why there is only enough bovine intestine for the national sausage until the end of 2008.

Great heavenly day! What will the world come to without ample supplies of cervelat on hand?

Of course … it strikes me that just perhaps there was a time in Swiss history that they produced cervelat (the national sausage … so maybe it’s been around for a while) without Brazilian bovine intestine. Where did they get it then? Maybe that’s a place to look …

Thoughts on the Executive Branch
Feb 16th, 2008 by Sonja

I still remember the first ever election I voted in. It was 1980 and I voted by absentee ballot because I was away from home in college. Jimmy Carter was president and running as the incumbent against Ronald Reagan and John Anderson. hehehe … yeah … nobody except political science professors and poli/sci majors remember that. And the 763 of us who voted for John Anderson; we also remember. Those of you who are so enamoured of Ron Paul … you need to take a good hard look at that race. And the race where whats-his-name ran … you know? The guy who was a software engineer and put all his own money into the campaign, he used to own EDS and has a head shaped like a turkey. He was mighty entertaining, but …

There are at least 87 excellent reasons for a more than two party system in this country. However we won’t have one by starting with the presidential campaign. It will begin by organizing a new party or parties at the local level and electing officials down low and moving them up. It’s a process that will take decades. For the record, many libertarians are nuts. Wackos. A group of them voted to secede from Vermont and join New Hampshire, from the middle of the state … led by my cousin, so I can say this. There is more to good government than low taxes and low level anarchy. If Libertarians cannot win their case at the local level, they will not win at the state and national level … no matter how winsome their candidate appears.

On to more pertinent matters.

I’m not voting for Hillary. If the Democratic party has so lost it’s mooring as to nominate her for it’s presidential candidate come it’s convention, I will vote for whoever the Republican nominee is … or I won’t vote at all.  I’m not going to settle for a vote between the lesser of two evils anymore. I’m not going to do it. I refuse. I’ve only had one election in my life where I felt an honest choice between candidates … and it was the first election I voted in. 28 years is a long dry spell.

I don’t vote with my breasts and I’m a little put out that it seems a lot of my fellow women are. It’s interesting to me that many of my family, friends and colleagues assume that I am going to vote for her … just because I’m a woman and she’s a woman, so they assume that I will take this ground-breaking opportunity to vote for the first woman president. No, actually … I have a little more integrity than that. I don’t like Hillary and never have. I have felt empathy for her. I have despised the manner in which she was pilloried when Bill was in office. I have admired her courage under pressure. But when the chips are down I do not trust her and I really think that she has an unseemly lust for power. To put it quite bluntly, I do not trust her character. In much the same manner as I never trusted the character of George W. Bush. To be fair, at least she is no fool.

I’m not going to vote for Hillary, because despite her protests to contrary now, she supported the war in Iraq when it was expedient to her to do so. I’m not going to vote for Hillary because she does not have a consistent ethic of life. I’m not going to vote for Hillary, because her husband was president 8 years ago and that makes him a loose cannon in the White House … with no restraints. I’m not going to vote for Hillary because if she were to become president that would give us 32 years of essentially the same style of leadership (Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton?) and it’s time for something new. I’m not going to vote for Hillary because she does what is politically expedient to gain votes, not what she feels is best or morally right for the country or her state.  Tom D’Antoni put words to my underlying suspicions in yesterday’s Huffington Post.  I’m not certain I’d go as far as he does, but I suspect it’s true and this is why I don’t trust Hillary’s character:

“‘I will work my heart out for you every single day!’ These are the incredible words of Hillary Clinton, who arranges for a cute little Mexican boy in a sombrero to bring her flowers onstage in Texas. What a pitiful and despicable show.

If you ever see a Latino near her multimillion-dollar house in Chappaqua, New York, he’ll likely be on his knees in the dirt with a gardening trowel.

You are to her a vote, nothing more. It is not you who matters to her. It is your gullibility that matters to her. Her goal is not to serve you. Her goal is to con you and use you to become president, and that is all. You are to her expendable, a mere means to an end that does not involve you or your concerns or your welfare.

But most of all, I resent Hillary.  She brings a bitter gall to the back of my throat.  Like Hillary and many women, I sacrificed my dreams for my husband and my children.  I do not have such a glamorous husband, he does not have such a glamorous job as Bill.  So perhaps the parallels end there.  However, I cannot go out into the workplace now after 14 years of not being paid for the grunt work I do, and claim that I have “experience” for a glamorous and powerful job that I would like to have.   People would laugh at me if I put 14 years of experience on my resume that looked like what my husband does.  People would laugh at any woman who did that.  Even if her college experience equalled that of her husband’s.  It galls me that politicians, the media, and people in general are buying into Hillary’s experience as if it were true … but for the rest of us women … well … we have to start all over again when we go back to work after raising our families.  I know … life ain’t fair.  The rules are different for those who rule.  But here’s the thing.  Our country is founded on the idea that the rules are not supposed to be different for those who rule.

So … who am I going to vote for? Well, the primary came to Virginia last Tuesday (February 12). I voted for Barack Obama with joy and glee.  He won by a landslide.  For the first time in 28 years I think we have candidate who is a voice for change. Not change for the sake of change, but change in how we think about ourselves. I think Mr. Obama will bring back respect to the position of President. Respect that it began to lose even under President Nixon in the early 1970’s.

I’m very excited about his campaign.  I just hope the pols in the Democratic Party have the smarts to listen to the people.

I Don’t Understand
Jan 29th, 2008 by Sonja

I don’t understand the taking of life.  Honestly, I don’t get it.  I become nauseated when I have to squish a spider or an insect … unless it’s a mosquito; mosquito’s get no quarter.  I’ve been wrestling with this lately.  Here’s how it’s been moshing around in my brain.

We watched Braveheart together for the first time as a family about a week ago.  The LightChildren did not see the end.  We stopped the movie at the scene in which William Wallace is captured.  That’s where it all ended for them.  I cannot even stomach that final scene, I was not going to visit it upon my sweet kids.

I was fascinated by the Battle of Stirling Bridge.  That’s the big battle between the Scots and British … the battle everafter referred to as the “Butt” Battle by the LightChildren, because it is the one preceded by a mooning of the British by the Scots with a salute by raising of the kilts and posteriors in such a way as to mock the British.  We all had a good laugh as we were intended to.

As the battle is filmed the camera cuts back and forth between the British soldiers and the Scottish warriors.  Here are some things I noted about the differences in the armies.  It’s something I’ve often pondered and when I think about it these are “rules” that go back to the dawn of time almost.  The British army (the invaders) were uniform.  They all wore the same thing.  They were heavily armored and protected.  Notably they were also cloned.  They weren’t actual clones, but their armor made them all look alike.  You could not tell one from another; they were faceless, nameless units of destruction and killing.  They operated on command and as a unit.  They did not move or react unless told to do so.

On the other hand the Scottish army was at the other end of the armed spectrum.  Every soldier was different.  They all carried different weapons; whatever they had in their home at the time they left.  The same for their armor, what little they had (hand shields for the most part).  Their primary source of energy was their wits.  They operated on a whim and on their hearts.

Now, here’s the meat of what I don’t understand.  The Scots were fighting to regain control of their land, lives and their freedom.  Those are things worth sacrificing your life for.  They are worth fighting for and risking your life for.  But I have never been able to understand how men (and now women) march into battle without those things at risk.  The British Army were not defending anything.  The men on the ground fighting risked punishment if they didn’t and dying if they did.  But, really, I’d take the punishment over dying.

I’m not saying this very well.  The powers that seek to gain empire are never the schmucks who do the actual fighting or take the actual risk.  The powers must seek out others to do their dirty work for them.  But there is nothing to be gained for those doing the dirty work, because the prize goes to the powers.  So, I’ve never understood how they go about getting the battle fought for empire.  I just don’t understand …

Another Wrinkle or Maybe Two
Jan 9th, 2008 by Sonja

Yesterday, just as I thought I was getting my head around the mess of spaghetti that is politics in Kenya, I read this:

Kenya Leader Names New Ministers:

“Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki has named new ministers, just before Ghana’s leader arrived as part of mediation efforts following disputed elections.”

The wrinkle is that he filled all the important posts. He named Kalonzo Musyoka to the vice presidency (who got 9% of the vote). None of the posts were filled with members of the opposition party (Odinga’s party). This was done as a mediator was/is enroute to Kenya.

In the west we speak of this as a defrauded election and we go about our business. I’m not so certain though. More and more it is taking on the colors of a coup d’etat. A coup d’etat is much more serious than an illegal election.

A leader who has himself declared the winner in the face of an overwhelming parlimentary tidal change and then sets about establishing his ministry as mediation is enroute is not a leader who will be submitting to outside authority in any meaningful circumstances. Let’s just say that in our outloud voices and be done with it.

My guess (if I were to guess … okay, I will) is that he will in short order either do away with parliament altogether or gut its powers rather abruptly. This will happen in the next 12 to 15 months. I will be happily surprised if it does not. You can send me a cake. Remember this … and hopefully I will be the recipient of some cakes.

Herein though is the root (or roots) the deeper problem in Africa and, indeed, all of the developing world. The west went in with a somewhat (okay very little) altruistic nature and attempted to bring democracy to these places. We are now past the point where having a debate about whether or not this was the right thing to do is fruitful. It was probably not right, but it happened and now we must bear out the consequences of those thousands of large and small decisions. The problem is that in order for what we consider classic freedom and democracy to flourish in a state there must be an undergirding web of philosophy, education, economics, demographics and many other issues woven together to support that freedom and democracy. The soil must be nourished in order for those flowers to grow.

By that I mean this … our version of classic freedom (a very Western, Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman notion by the way) cannot be supported in an economic system where there are only two classes of people; the very poor and the very rich. Our notions of freedom and democracy (and capitalism) requires a fertile middle class to support it. Most developing nations have three classes: the rich, the poor and a military class. What tiny middle class there is, is struggling to survive, thrive and grow is not part of the picture at all. Education is also a requirement for democracy. This is why Thomas Jefferson, though an inveterate snob, was such an ardent supporter of public education in our country. He knew that classic democracy (even a republic) could not survive without an educated electorate.

So, I struggle with the lack of conversation that I’m hearing in the blogosphere on this subject. Life goes on here in the west. Poor people of color are struggling and dying against one another now, just as they have been struggling and dying against AIDS, parasites, drought, disease, etc. for decades and we have done nothing. Perhaps it would be disingenuous to begin to care now. Perhaps it is we do not know what to say, so we say nothing at all and pour our energies into discussions about books, and quitting time and ministries and the things we know and the things we don’t know, rendering unto Ceasar, etc. I’m torn between Bill’s disappointment, Maynard’s ennui and Mike’s sense of justice. I’ve given to Amani ya Juu and felt good for one day. Then felt horrible guilt that I have so much to feed my family. No, not guilt. I am overwhelmed with all I have and all I am not grateful for. After all, when I need food, I safely go to the grocery store. I am not limited to 4 tomatoes, 4 carrots, 4 bananas, 2 cabbages, and the few other things for a week as the list on Bill’s page suggests that the women in Nairobi are at this time. And then it all comes back to this:

Where you live should not decide
Whether you live or whether you die

Crumbs From Your Table – by U2

Best of 2007 – My Personal Favorites
Jan 1st, 2008 by Sonja

Today is LightGirl’s 14th birthday. I write that in a much more understated manner than I feel. What the h e double hockeysticks happened? Where did the time go? How did thirteen whole years go by so fast? Why is she wearing so much makeup? So many, many questions with no answers. I feel all gulpy inside. Some days I want to hold her close and make certain that nothing bad ever happens. Most days I know that’s not possible; I have to know that she has a good head on her shoulders, a sprout of faith, and the best I can do as her mom is to prepare her to handle life with grace and aplomb. The rest is up to her. But I still feel all gulpy inside.

So … in order to deal with that feeling of gulpyness here is a list of my personal favorites from last year. These are not necessarily the posts that got the most hits (in fact some of them barely got any), or the most comments (again, most of them got zero), but they are my favorites because they are the posts that I still think about. I may revisit these ideas this year in other forms, you never know …

On The Ways of Geese – perspectives on leadership
Losing Ground – decision making
My Vision – for faith communities
Shavuot-The Feast of Pentecost the Megillah of Ruth
Slice It, Dice It, Anyway You Want It … social, cultural constructs for looking at the Bible
Book Review – Organic Community – surprise! A book review.
Christendom? Post-Christendom? – a look at labels.
Critique, Criticism and the Gong Show – what’s love got to do with it?
On Creating Space – what do hockey and church have in common?
Living Within The System and Non-Violence – a look at living in the world but not being of it.
Good Gifts – every parent desires to give good gifts, but what are they?

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