Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A White Southerner Takes another Look at Racism

[This essay was originally published June 23, 2015 online at Americablog.com shortly after the massacre at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. I am re-posting it here as a reminder to myself and all of us that we still have some work to do.]

We’ve been reeling lately from blatant issues of racism in our country that illustrate how much work there is yet to do in matters of racial equality. We thought we were making some headway, at least that’s what we kept telling ourselves, yet we continue to be hit with evidence to the contrary. This year is was Freddie Gray in Baltimore dying in police custody from a spinal cord injury. Last year it was Eric Garner dying in New York City after a choke hold by the arresting policemen. There was also the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; before that it was Trayvon Martin in Florida. All the while, we have seen numerous laws passed throughout the country that made it harder for African-Americans to vote.

Our racial bias is evident, and it’s not just in the South. Just this summer, The New York Times released its summer reading list with nothing but white authors – and The New York Times is supposed to know better. Moreover, we have a prison system nationwide that is systematically removing black men from society, and most of us take no notice at all.

Now we are faced with another mass shooting, this time in an historic African American Church in Charleston, South Carolina, that highlights the blindness and the hatred that still exists in our nation. How have we gone this long with blinders on, refusing to deal with prejudice and hate?

The hopeful moment that fell apart 

I’ll never forget the electricity, the excitement and the amazement that I felt when Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. I had to work that day, so I set the DVR to record. At work, people gathered in the break room to watch Mr. Obama take the oath of office. The sea of people, as far as the camera could take into its field, spread down the National Mall and spilled into the streets. One of my college buddies was there, sending pictures via Facebook as the event unfolded. What an accomplishment! This country had elected an African-American president, and I was witnessing it in my lifetime after having seen the struggle for civil rights during my childhood. Perhaps we have made a breakthrough, I thought.

What I was not prepared for, however, was the almost immediate outpouring of hatred seen in social media comments and in the Tea Party’s media events. Bear in mind that the day President Obama was elected, our nation’s most popular hate site, Stormfront.org, received so much traffic that it shut down. I realized that the racism that I had witnessed in the South growing up never really went away; it just lay dormant until people became threatened by the notion of an African-American President. I really should have seen it before, but my white working class eyes kept missing the clues.

One such clue surfaced recently when some friends and I went out for Sunday brunch at a popular restaurant in town. The place was busy – we had to wait for a while before a table was available – but the service was good and the food well prepared.  By the time we sat down, we noticed that all of the people serving in the restaurant that day were African-American. As one friend put it, “the people who are doing the serving, the cooking and the cleaning,  are the same ones who cooked and cleaned in 1850 – something is wrong with that.”

What is wrong with that is that we look at how far we have come since the civil rights movement of the 1960s while we fail to see how much has remained the same. We tell ourselves we are making progress and doing fine, while entire segments of society continue to face injustice and oppression.

Persistent cultural racism

It is true that our country has made great strides for equality. On the day of President Obama’s first inauguration, I was thrilled to see how far our nation had come. Dismay soon followed with a deluge of verbal attacks on the president making thinly-veiled references to his race, and the unspoken (and frequently denied) racism in the call to “take our country back.”

When I have pointed out the element of inherent racism in the system to some of my friends on the far right, the response has usually been quick denial. Someone at one point asked if I placed myself among the racists in the privileged class. After giving it some thought this was my response:

Speaking as a white man and having grown up in the segregated South, I have to say that what was ingrained in us culturally is very difficult to shake. We learned not to use the “N” word and thought that meant we were no longer racist. In truth, there are a thousand other ways we show disrespect without always realizing it.


I am challenged to examine those cultural things that I take for granted but which may be painful or disrespectful to someone else. So yes, I would say that because I was born white, I have to try harder to understand the plight of the black, the Hispanic, and the immigrant in our society. I must examine the attitudes I have, the jokes I think are funny, and the phrases I use that may try to put one person down just to make me feel more secure. (from my blog post, "Who Me? Racist?")

In addition to examining our personal attitudes, we must face up to our systemic social inequities. We can no longer pat ourselves on the back for allowing blacks into our schools when the combination of white-flight and social elitism has left us with schools that are every bit as segregated as they were in the 1950s, and entire neighborhoods living with economic devastation and little hope for advancement. We can no longer tell ourselves how wonderful we are as a society to grant equal opportunity, when those opportunities often seem to be mere isolated tokens compared to the larger needs that exist. 

It is time to listen

I am no mover or shaker; I can claim no gifts at social organizing. One thing I can do is to listen. That is what I recommend to all of my white cohorts, privileged and working-class alike. We must start listening to those who are oppressed and excluded from society. We must hear the black community when it speaks of police brutality, unfair voting regulations, exclusionary institutions and bias in the judicial system. 

We must also be willing to listen to all of those who have a stake in our society but limited representation – the LGBT community, immigrants, etc. White men such as myself don’t know what it’s like to live in an America in which the game is rigged in someone else’s favor. If we don’t listen, we run the risk of thinking our problems are solved just because we’re in good shape.

I may not like everything I hear, but I need to be listening. I do know that on a personal level when we truly listen to someone else’s story, it can change our whole orientation and attitude. We have had a very long spiral of racial unease that has now hit us all with pain, heartache and tragedy. It is time that we listen, on a national level, to someone else’s story.



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Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Music: White Man's World (Jason Isbell)

Jason Isbell is on the rise as a significant voice in in today's music milieu. He is a popular musician who who sings and writes in the folk tradition. Reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan or a Bruce Springsteen, this artist from Florence, Alabama is one to watch.




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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Welcoming Summer



resting in the reeds
a green frog welcomes summer
by simply being






_________________________

Photo by Malcolm Marler



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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Life Is a Seamless Garment

Serengeti National Park in Tanzania (Public Domain photo, courtesy of  pixabay)


Life is a Seamless Garment

Life is a seamless garment... 
   To be worn by the Queen of Heaven
   when she comes to her oceanic court
   under a bright crescent moon.

   That sways across the Serengeti Plain
   gathering members for a wild nighttime orchestra.

   That covers an old man in his feverish delirium
   as he is cared for by other men's children.

Life is a seamless garment...
   Worn by a joker, tailored by a thief
   who can turn the world upside down and inside out
   until things level out again.

   Run up a rusty flagpole
   by myopic adolescents in heady celebration.

Life is a seamless garment...
   To be worn by the Cosmic Christ
   when the galactic wheel turns around.

   Stitched with a genetic code
   that was born in a primordial sea.

My grandmother called it a patchwork quilt,
      put together by a motley crew.
   Diverse and beautiful in its own way,
      tiresome but adequate in the end,

But I know life as a seamless garment
   Whose surface patterns may change
   In the hands of shamans and poets,
      alchemists and chefs,
   But whose essence is of one piece.

Life is a seamless garment...
   That is constantly being gambled for
   By soldiers as they do the emperor's bidding.

   Unfolding under starry nights
      and blown by desert winds,
   Whose story cannot be told
      in less than three generations.

   It has been borrowed, bartered,
      stolen and discarded, 
   But never lost.

Life is a seamless garment...
   That covers a banquet table
      where even the outcasts are invited,
   For it was a joker and a thief who cast them out
      in the first place.

   That wraps around a mother and her infant child
      as they steal a few moments of sleep in the afternoon,
   Their breathing in synchrony
      with ocean waves and cricket wings.

Life is a seamless garment...
   To be enjoyed by lovers in the night.

   Adorning mountain tops and river beds
      with beauty and mystery.

   Knit into the sinews of the tiger
      as she hunts along the steamy banks
   Of an Asian river valley.

Life is a seamless garment...
   With jewels about the collar,
      mud at the hem,
   Its span is higher than knowledge
      and further than remembrance.

   Woven into redwood, oak, and pine;
   Stitched to dragonfly and hawk,
      tubeworm and toad.
   It leaves its indelible imprint
      upon your skin,
   And the cells of your bone
      will always remember
   Flights above the forest
      and migrations in the sea.

Life is a seamless garment...
   That stretches from father to son
   Even when they claim they do not know each other.

   Covering concert hall and circus tent,
      tavern and cathedral,
   Bringing us together.
      hinting at something beyond.

   Woven in the mind of God,
   Stitched into the dreams of children.

Life is a seamless garment...
   That flows from city lights
      to candle light
      to dying embers of old forgotten fires.

   That provides a mantle for saint and guru
      and a cloak for the one whose development
         has stalled.

Life is a seamless garment
   Woven in the mind of God
   Stitched into the dreams of children.


                                                                    ~ CK



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Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Music: Lift Every Voice and Sing

Today is Juneteenth. In commemoration of this day, let us take some time to listen to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by James Weldon Johnson.  



 “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900. As he tells it: 

A group of young men in Jacksonville, Florida, arranged to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday in 1900. My brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and I decided to write a song to be sung at the exercises. I wrote the words and he wrote the music. Our New York publisher, Edward B. Marks, made mimeographed copies for us, and the song was taught to and sung by a chorus of five hundred colored school children.

Shortly afterwards my brother and I moved away from Jacksonville to New York, and the song passed out of our minds. But the school children of Jacksonville kept singing it; they went off to other schools and sang it; they became teachers and taught it to other children. Within twenty years it was being sung over the South and in some other parts of the country. Today the song, popularly known as the Negro National Hymn, is quite generally used.

The lines of this song repay me in an elation, almost of exquisite anguish, whenever I hear them sung by Negro children. (1) 

Celebrating Juneteenth

June 19th, 1865 was the day that Union General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and to officially enforce the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in the United States. General Granger publically read General Orders No. 3 which declared, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

It was two months after General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, and two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but it June 19th came to be noted as the day that freedom came for slaves throughout the country. Thus “Juneteenth” came to be remembered as the day to celebrate freedom for slaves. It was in December of that year that the ratifying of the 13th Amendment made the abolition of slavery official.

While Juneteenth was celebrated by African American communities through the years, it was not until 1979 that Texas became the first state to make it an official holiday. (2)

______________________________________________________________

(1) Quote from The Poetry Foundation at   https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/46549


(2) See “What is Juneteenth at Ask History, http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/what-is-juneteenth



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Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Father's Day Memory

(For Father's Day, I am reposting a blog entry that first ran in September 10, 2010 on
the 100th anniversary of my father's birth, then was repeated on Father's Day, 2012)


About My Father's Business



"I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.” – Albert Einstein

Clyde Kinnaird
A friend once asked me, "What motivated your father to be different from those around him?" Certainly that is the underlying question that motivated the essays I have written about him, and it probably influences much of my response to life. The question itself is much more effective than any specific answer that might be given. Some questions are best left out there calling to us, rather than giving definitive answers. I imagine that if my siblings were to answer that question, you would get some similarities, but many specifics would be different. So you see, any answer I give may say as much about myself and my opinions (by what I choose to remember) as it does about my father. With that in mind, I will tell you a little more about my father, "Pop," as we called him.

On Baptismal day


Clyde Kinnaird was a Baptist minister and educator. He pastored small churches in Alabama. Later on his career he became "bi-vocational" when he began teaching in the public school system while continuing as pastor in rural churches. Unlike most Baptist preachers, his sermons were more often taken from the sayings of Jesus than from the teachings of Paul. In fact, when I picture my father in the pulpit, I have a simultaneous image in my mind of Jesus teaching on the hillside. To this day, when I think of Christ, I see the teaching Jesus and the compassionate Jesus rather than the crucified Christ. I can thank my father for that image.



Pop bringing me down to the waters of baptism at Lake Martin, August 1964

After my father died in 1996, I became especially conscious of the influence he had in his own unpretentious way. When I delivered the eulogy at my mother's funeral, three and a half years after my father's passing, I said, "Both of my parents left the world a little better than they found it. That is their inspiration and challenge to those of us who remain." It is that realization that caused me to do some reflection and to ask myself what kind of influence my own life may have.

One reason I began writing essays was to put down in writing what I believe and what I value. My thinking is that it is of benefit to me to express it, and if nothing else, my daughter will have a written record of what is important to me. I wish that my father had written things down, but he was not one to write. I have two notebooks of sermons written by my maternal grandfather (whom I never met), but not a single note or letter from my father. He was not one to write things down. I have to rely on memories and recollections of what he said and did. In reality, though, memories and recollections are all that anyone has of a loved one who has gone.

Growing up in Centreville

Pop was born in 1910, the seventh of nine children, in Centreville, Alabama. He was born 45 years after the Civil War ended. My father's parents and grandparents had current memory of living in a defeated nation and an occupied territory, while at the same time being absolutely patriotic with an undeniable love for their country. Pop spent his childhood with horses and wagons, and as a young adult, he was a mechanic who worked on Model A's and Model T's. His father, "Lud", was a rough-and-tough rascal who made a living farming, running a black smith shop, driving a taxi, and serving at least one term as road commissioner. His mother was the local midwife who was known in the community as "Aunt Claudia."

Apparently, he knew early on that he would be a minister. Pop told us of an experience he had at five years of age. He said he was out in the yard playing and was overcome by an unusual feeling, or sensation. He could not fully describe it, but he said he knew then that he would be a preacher. He recalled that he ran inside and told his mother, "Mama, I'm going to be a preacher."

To me, this sounds like a mystical experience that would have been precocious at that age. The way I interpret it is that my father became aware that he was living in the presence of something far greater than himself, and that awareness was an uplifting, comforting experience. My father's explanation would probably lie in something I often heard him say, "Sometimes God gives us a little taste of Heaven just to assure us that everything will be alright." Compare this to Einstein's question, "Is the universe a friendly place?" My father would have said, "Absolutely!" A mystic like Meister Eckhart would say, "Without a doubt."

Pop graduated from high school in 1928. I once looked through his senior yearbook that a classmate had sent him late in life. I was struck by how optimistic his class was in their statements and dreams of going out into the world. I was also impressed with the good-natured humor I found in those pages. The class prophet said of my father, "Clyde Kinnaird thought he was going to be the next Charles Lindbergh and fly across the Atlantic. He hopped into an aeroplane and made it across the Cahaba River. He landed in a field, thinking he was in Paris." It was especially poignant to me as I read the upbeat messages of that class, knowing that those graduates in 1928 had no idea what lay ahead in 1929 when the Great Depression hit.

Moving On During the Depression

My father claimed that the Depression did not have much noticeable effect on his community because most people in their small agrarian town had very little money anyway. Nevertheless, I cannot help thinking that the Depression influenced the timing of my father's higher education. He did not go to college until six years after graduating high school. It must have been a call to ministry that motivated his going on to Howard College in 1934, in the middle of the Depression, without enough money to make it through the first year. Even then, at a time when many Baptist preachers had no higher education, my father completed college and seminary.

One person my father admired, and who surely must have influenced him, was a retired missionary to China, Dr. Napier, who came to pastor the First Baptist Church of Centreville. "Up until then, we had not had an educated pastor in the pulpit. Most pastors would come and stay about 18 months. By then, they would have preached all their sermons and would move on." Dr. Napier, my father recalled, would carry books with him to the pulpit and share with the congregation what scholars had written about various scriptures. "We had never had anything like that before."

Dr. Napier's son, Davie, also must have had some influence on my father. They were both at Southern Seminary at the same time and would often ride home together. Many times while I was growing up, I would hear Pop comment about something Davie Napier had said. Davie Napier went on to become a renowned professor at Yale Divinity School, a United Church of Christ Minister, and chaplain at Stanford University. Somewhere along the way, my father latched onto the conviction that education and religion were vital to individual and community development. If the Napiers did not instill the idea, they surely encouraged it.

A Career and a Mission

Pop showing my daughter
how to shuck corn
Pop said late in his career that he had essentially done mission work all his life. I think that is very true. He spent his life, by deed and example, trying to bring education and religion to the farmers, mill workers, housekeepers, laborers, and merchants of Alabama. On the one hand, I could tell that my father was often frustrated by the lack of education and the dearth of thoughtful religion among his peers. One the other hand, he demonstrated a sincere respect for people whether they were rich or poor, educated or uneducated. He brought dignity to the pulpit and to the classroom, but always related to the working class and the working poor. After all, his own family were farmers and working class people and he himself had been a garage mechanic who went off to college to "make a minister." He was never interested in moving up the social ladder. Pop considered such actions "uppity and pretentious."

He was a conservative man from the Old South who took some remarkable stands and had some progressive ideas. More important, he left his corner of the world a little better than he found it. My father understood when I left the Southern Baptists after fundamentalism had become so rampant and entrenched. I think, though, that he regretted that I was living with the same frustrations that he had lived with. I may be a little more open to change than Pop was. In some ways, maybe I am a little more tolerant, but that is only because I learned from his example of granting dignity to others and showing respect for all.

Attributes of Distinction

If I may recapitulate, perhaps I can sum up my answer to my friend's question of what motivated my father to be different from those around him:

1) He saw education and religion as two avenues for improvement. Pop had a strong commitment to continuing education and a striving toward thoughtful religion (he used to say that religion should be reasonable).

2) He believed in showing dignity and respect for every person, regardless of their social standing.

3) He believed that the Universe is a friendly place.

If I can hang on to those things from here on out, I think it would do my daddy proud.



In Memoriam: Richard Clyde Kinnaird, Sr. 
September 8,1910- December 18,1996


For more about my father, check out these other posts:

Trust Yourself: A Message form my Father

A Local Hero

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Summer Rains


not in haste
soothing summer rains
bring forth life



______________________

Photo: "Summer Rain," by Mark Smith
Courtesy of Flickr



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Thursday, June 15, 2017

The 38th Annual National Sacred Harp Convention

The National Sacred Harp Convention meets again in Birmingham this weekend, starting today. (details here). Today I am re-posting one of my past essays from my own experiences at the annual convention.


Sacred Harp and the Sound of Eternal Essence

 

In Martin Scorsese’s documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Ravi Shankar is heard to say that sound is God. Today I made a connection with that concept as I attended the opening sessions of the National Sacred Harp Convention.  Sacred Harp is an old acapella style of singing that came to this country by way of the English settlers. It was taught to people by using shaped notes to designate  and a "fa-sol-la" method for vocalizing each note. It was kept alive in this country primarily by the Primitive Baptists in Appalachia. Back in 2011, I wrote an essay about my first experience with sacred harp singing. 

When I described that initial encounter, I wrote, “I was captivated, stirred on the inside, tears threatening to well up – and no words had been sung yet. It was that bracing harmony of pure notes filling the sunlit space. The sound reminded me of the Bulgarian women’s folk singing that has attracted many listeners  since the 1990 recording, Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares. There was a similar directness and exuberance, a hearty primitive and uplifting – even startling – vocal effect.”

Not Your Ordinary Words

As I attended the Sacred Harp Convention this year, I was fascinated by the turn of phrase used in many of the lyrics and song titles. For example, Hymn 112 is titled, “The Last Words of Copernicus.” It speaks of the day when this life is over and the light from the heavenly orbs, the sun and moon, will no longer be needed.

In Hymn 450 (Elder) the lyrics include:

Life’s an ever varied flood,
Always rolling to its sea:
Slow or quick, or mild or rude,
Tending to eternity.

Hymn 504 (Woodstreet) is an account of Psalm 137 in which the psalmist mourns the Babylonian captivity saying, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”  Poems and songs have been written about “The waters of Babylon,” but this hymn phrases it:

When we our wearied limbs to rest
Sat down by proud Euphrates’ stream
We wept with doleful thoughts oppressed,
And Zion was our mournful theme.”

I don’t think I have seen references to the Euphrates or to Copernicus in other Christian hymnals.  The lyrics to Hymn 450, in spite of the typically conservative orientation of sacred harp, are beautifully reminiscent of the Buddhist or Hindu concept of all of life returning to its source.

Experiencing the Sound

Yet in spite of the fascinating words in the text of those sacred harp hymns, it is the sound that is the most impressive thing.  The singers are arranged in a square with sopranos, altos, tenors and basses each seated on the sides of the square. The one leading the song stands in the open space in the middle of that square. Sacred harp singers call this space “The holy of holies” because they say it is the absolute best spot to be in to get the full effect of the music.  At this point, I can only imagine what the sound must be like in that holy of holies, because simply sitting in the congregation hearing the music is enough to lift me into a divine presence. The effect of that powerful sound brings me back to the words of Ravi Shankar, that sound is God.

I found a fuller quote from Ravi Shankar that elaborates upon the concept of sound and God:

“Our tradition teaches us that sound is God- Nada Brahma. That is, musical sound and the musical experience are steps to the realisation of the self. We view music as a kind of spiritual discipline that raises one’s inner being to divine peacefulness and bliss. We are taught that one of the fundamental goals a Hindu works towards in his lifetime is a knowledge of the true meaning of the universe - its unchanging, eternal essence….The highest aim of our music is to reveal the essence of the universe it reflects, and the ragas are among the means by which this essence can be apprehended.”
                         [From David Murphy Conducts at http://davidmurphyconducts.org/influences/]

Of the hymns I heard today, there were many glorious moments. One of those hymns whose lyrics and musical sound converged quite beautifully was Hymn 178 (tune: Africa)

Now shall my inward joys arise,
And burst into a Song;
Almighty Love inspires my Heart,
And Pleasure tunes my Tongue.

God on his thirsty Zion-Hill
Some Mercy-Drops has thrown,
And solemn Oaths have bound his Love
To shower Salvation down.

Why do we then indulge our Fears,
Suspicions and Complaints?
Is he a God, and shall his Grace
Grow weary of his saints?

The words are by the English hymnist Isaac Watts. The tune is by the American choral composer, William Billings. To hear sacred harp singers render this beautiful hymn, go here.

[To hear 504 (Woodstreet) about mourning by the proud Euphrates, go here]

For our sacred harp finale, here is a recording of “The Last Words of Copernicus.” The recording was made my Alan Lomax, the ethnomusicologist who recorded and preserved so much of American folk music.





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Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Music: Simple Song (John Paul White)

Last Saturday, I attended the live broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition from the historic and newly restored Lyric Theater. One of the delights of that broadcast was hearing John Paul White, a Grammy award-wining artist from Florence, Alabama.



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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: Fault Lines

President Donald Trump speaks to the Faith & Freedom Coalition's
Road to Majority Conference June 8, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Alex Wong—Getty Images
                               
(Headline from Time Magazine)


Fault Lines

Some say it took about 400 years
For Rome to fall –
At least to fall all the way down.
If that is true,
People still saw it coming.
Barbarians fighting in the streets
Is no small harbinger, after all.

By the time it began to crumble
Rome had become identified
With faith and security.
Indeed, it was seen as
The full measure of Christendom.
The well-heeled faithful
Saw despair in the fault lines.

To that despair
Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, wrote
The City of God.
In part, he sought to set forth
The ideal of that city
Not built by human hands
Which can guide our efforts
In living and organizing
Our public life.

The greater part
Was in the bishop’s assurance
That the end of Rome
Was not the death of faith.
Time has borne out his wisdom
And should have made it clear
That faith does not rest
Upon the foundations
Of the cities we build.

Nevertheless,
On our own shores
We set a shining city on a hill
Declaring a Christian nation.
We wed our faith
To our national pride,
Not allowing ourselves 
To foresee the day
When that city would fall.

                                                                                             ~ CK





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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Coming Home


 streetlight at night
with the ancient starry strands
guides the pilgrim home




______________________

Image: "Bright Light at Russell's Corners" (1946) at Smithsonian American Art Museum
Artist: George Ault (1891- 1948)
Medium: Oil on canvas



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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: Aleppo After the Fall


Ruins near the citadel in Aleppo’s Old City. Credit Sebastián Liste/Noor Images, for The New York Times

"Aleppo After the Fall: As the Syrian civil war turns in favor of the regime, a nation
adjusts to a new reality  and a complicated new picture of the conflict emerges"
(title of article in The New York Times Magazine)


Aleppo After the Fall

In a city so ancient
That a merchant can stand on a street corner
Where his blood ancestor may have stood
Three thousand years before,
There comes a haphazard reprieve from war.

A weary silence falls
Where streets once bustled
With sales of fabric and spice
Amid the sweet cacophony
Of exuberant traders and pilgrims.

Like a shattered plate,
The courtyard of The Great Mosque
Now lies in fragments –
The hundreds of daily footsteps
But a prayerful memory.

Children play –
When they dare come out –
In the rubble-strewn side streets
While old men try to remember
The ancient pathways.

A flute still plays in the distance;
A dancer regains her steps.
The rest of us settle
Into a strange new world
Where victory is as dangerous as defeat.

                                                                      ~ CK




“On March 7, 2006, the sun rises on Aleppo. Aleppo, along with Damascus and Sana'a, is one of the three oldest inhabited cities in human history,  added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1986.” (From The Atlantic Monthly, “Aleppo Before the War - Photo by Khaled Al Hariri / Reuters)



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