Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Monday, January 30, 2017

Do Justice and Love Kindness

"He has told you, O people, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
- Micah 6:8, English Standard Version of the Holy Bible

The Micah text was the theme of our Sunday school TAG ("Talking About God") yesterday, and my son is cursed with me as a co-teacher. He kept a wary eye out as I successfully stammered the two lines to our group of eighth graders. I usually choke up, stumble and wipe away tears during this verse but I pulled it together for my teenager.

Do justice and love kindness. Difficult commands at the best of times. Achieving a humble balance seems to be flummoxing the American populace. I'm troubled by Facebook rants that judge people who marched, or people who didn't march, and who say that one group or another is not Christian. I'm sad that relationships are being hurt further by the unkindness that proliferates. How do we show our young people the way to balance both loving kindness and a passion for justice with a godly humility?

We need leaders who can show us that narrow path. There's a dearth of leaders in politics and in churches and in all walks of life who can speak of justice lovingly, who can guide us all through the treacherous maze of right and wrong without sitting in judgment. I myself am the lowliest of sinners, plagued with a lack of patience, a distaste for relinquishing control, a devilish certainty on various issues. I cannot sit in judgment on anyone, but I do believe that God is firmly on the side of the most vulnerable. The Bible tells us repeatedly that actions against women, children, refugees, poor and marginalized are without exception wrong and unjust, and that God requires us to do justice. I interpret justice as protesting unjust laws and edicts, engaging in civil disobedience and acts of valiant citizenship whenever necessary. 

I backed off from naming such specific examples in our TAG group, fearful of sowing dissent. I hope that parents are having these discussions at home. Instead, we talked about how our church practices kindness. Kindness, like roses, contains fewer thorny tangles, shows more uniform appeal, smells better than justice.  But I wanted to say this, and even more I want our pastors to say it:
- Hate crimes are wrong
- A Muslim ban is wrong
- "Gagging" government agencies is wrong
- Building walls is wrong
- Sexual predation is wrong

Regardless of party, regardless of respect for authority, regardless of our love for each other, it becomes necessary to stand up for what is right and to challenge what is wrong. As Amos put it in another Bible verse about justice, "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (Amos 5:24) And let us have leaders who can balance doing justice with loving kindness, who can find a humble path through those troubled waters and lead us forward together.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like

"Tell me what democracy looks like!"
"This is what democracy looks like!"

At 7:45 am the line for coffee stretched out into the Shaw neighborhood Safeway. Women in pink hats filled the entryway. The breakfast pastries were gone, and pink roses and balloons were flying off the shelves. It was breezy and cool, almost raining. We walked south on 4th street, merging with other purposeful groups of men and women. Exchanging smiles and thumbs up and "hey - love your sign,"  a sense of elation began to swell.

At the botanic gardens we saw the Colorado delegation of marchers and a Congressman from upstate New York in a bright pink scarf, but not our friend Terri, who was supposed to meet us. In response to our text she replied, "Stuck on train! Huge crowds. Isn't it great?"  A group of four women who came in on Metro from Baltimore told us they had arrived at the station at 6:30 am, thinking that was more than enough time for a 10:00 start, but they didn't get on a train until 9.

The mood was spirited - everyone a long-lost cousin, an old friend. We packed in toward the Jumbotron by 9:45, but the microphones gave off only vague mumbles and the screen was soon blocked by increasing numbers of tall people. As the crush grew intense, we sidled and side-stepped our way out of the crowd. It took us an hour  to reach open space, an hour of "Excuse me's," watching out for puddles ("drain the swamp!" called one wit), and admiring clever slogans. We sang "Happy Birthday" to a grandmother turning 70, and learned from her daughter that Trump White House had already taken down all pages in Spanish, as well as the link to climate change, and to LGBTQ rights, and had put up a link to Melania's jewelry line on QVC.

The cool breeze was mostly blocked by bodies, though smells of rain and pot wafted by. The swish of jackets sliding off each other, the noise of drums and occasionally a band punctuated our consciousness. Sign corners pricked at our shoulders and mud pulled at our toes. We made it to the steps of the Art Museum and watched an impromptu parade drift by. People chanted slogans "show me what a feminist looks like," "this is what a feminist looks like!"  As we couldn't see the big picture of the day nor hear the events on stage, the people near us came into sharper focus.

A poodle mix with a pink tutu trotted close by, to the adoring "oohs" and "ahs" of the crowd. "You can pet her," said the male owner, "She's used to protests."  A young man with stars in his eyes related how John Kerry came out into the crowd. "I shook his hand," said the boy, in a daze.  Every so often a cheer would begin spontaneously and swell through the ranks of the crowd like the wave. The noise was like a jet taking off.

We saw a red-curled toddler on the shoulders of her grandfather, babies in front-carriers with their young families, a young woman in a wheelchair laughing at her friend's antics. (They were starving, and kept chanting "What do we want? Guacamole! When do we want it? Now!")  Older men and women carried signs saying, "We'll still marching for this?" or "I'm here for the kids."  An eight-year-old boy chanted about democracy and girls paraded around in neon Tees that said "Girl power."

An East Coast group made a pyramid while onlookers gathered to snap photos, and pockets of people talked about which Congresspeople were fighting back for the planet and for healthcare, shaking their heads about those who were not.  I received a text from my daughter showing sister marches around the world, then texts from my niece in Chicago and my college roommate in Boston. Everywhere people wondered - how many are here??

We drifted around the mall until nearly 1:00, daring the Don Jon potties only once. (The name "Don Jon" had to be covered up during the inaugural due to the similarity between the company's name and Donald John Trump). The plastic groundcover, port-o-potties and refreshment stands were still up from the day before, though no refreshments were served and the mythical food trucks promised by the organizers failed to materialize. We snacked on granola bars and gum as we waited and I wondered if the amazing uplift that we felt was shared by folks at a Trump rally. I doubted those rallies had the same diversity: Muslim women in pink headscarves or black women with signs reading "We got y'alls back: 94% for Hillary," or transgendered people dressed in 18th century patriot garb.

At nearly 1:30, when the jam-packed crowd was growing restless and shouting at people in trees to give us information ("Hey, tree-girl, what do you see?"), we finally started. Thrilled to be walking, we flowed peacefully for a block or two and then ran into a logjam at Independence. Little did we know that streets were full in every direction and no true march would be possible. Just like the situations in Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago - numbers brought the march to a stand-still.

I would have been terrified had I known the crowd swelled to nearly 700,000 people, but there was no aerial view. People were still smiling, polite, helpful. Despite a lack of visible security, everyone adhered to the restrictions: no poles for posters, only clear bags or backpacks, no weapon-like materials. A band marched down the fringes of the crowd and hips swayed and feet tapped in rhythm. Miraculously, we ran into our friend Terri in the midst of the crowd, and clung to each other like survivors in a flood. After inching forward toward Pennsylvania we left the march before it turned toward the White House. Atop a small hill we turned to look back at the pink- and rainbow-dotted crowd pouring in from every direction. Calm policemen and women waved off traffic as marchers filled every side street.

There were no arrests that day, no conflicts. References to political parties were close to nil, and unity the underlying theme. I've seen Facebookers express frustration that we still post about our respective marches, and I want to explain that buoyant, powerful feeling of love and support that surrounded us. That we marched for the planet, for healthcare, for freedom to love and live, for the ability to protest or advocate for your beliefs, even if they differ from ours.  As citizens we have a role to fight for our democracy using the tools provided for us by the constitution, and it turns out there is no greater thrill than partaking in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Monday, January 23, 2017

From Sadness to Euphoria

"They say that these are not the best of times
But they're the only times I've ever known
And I believe there is a time for meditation
In cathedrals of our own.

Now I have seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes
And I can only stand apart and sympathize
For we are always what our situations hand us
It's either sadness or euphoria."
- Lyrics from "Summer, Highland Falls" by Billy Joel

If November 8th brought great sadness to many Americans, then January 21st delivered euphoria in the form of the greatest single-day protest in American history. One of every 100 citizens took to the streets  across the U.S. I added my body to the numbers in Washington DC next to my friend, Heidi, and a cohort of friends and neighbors who were swallowed up by the crowd of 680,000.

From an airplane virtually held aloft by the cheers and exultation of marchers, through the DC airport full of pink-hatted people, the journey from Denver activated feelings of sisterhood and solidarity like I've never experienced. We laughed and shared stories and motivations without fear of censorship. We were marching for our children, our parents, our cherished beliefs and our hopes for the future. Love for country, for constitutional rights, for our planet, human family and for each other filled the air. The Southwest gate agent in Atlanta took numerous photos and videos of the gate area, completely full of women marchers, as we cheered and forgot the inauguration on TV's behind us.

We met women  from Georgia, California, Alabama, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington and Oregon. Later we made friends with people from Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, Florida, Hawaii, New York and New Mexico. Our Colorado contingent was strong, even as we left 200,000 marchers back at home to step out in the Denver march, which was the fifth largest in the country.

On the flip side, it was obvious that our day of euphoria failed to connect with others in the city. When we arrived at the Chinatown Metro and took the escalator up to the streets, which had recently been full of inaugural visitors, we were lifted up while our gazes slid across people going down. Eyes snagged on contrasting uniforms: red, white and blue beanies and scarves with the name of our new President warmed well-dressed women who stood directly in front of black-jacketed protesters carrying white flags with a circle and a line around the new president's face. "Not my president" shouted the flags, even as the people kept silent. Then a group of red mesh-cap wearers, men bearing posters and other souvenirs, were briefly blocked from view by a bevy of pussy-hatted women in hiking boots. Though it should have been a day of celebration for Trump supporters, they kept low profiles, and seemed less buoyant than the protesters who rapidly moved to fill the open spaces in the wet streets. Bemused, we asked an officer if the crowds had been big. "Not too bad," he replied, "we're expecting more tonight and tomorrow."

Through the gracious hospitality of Rob's cousin, Scott, and his fiancee, Cyndi, we were able to stay in the Shaw neighborhood of northwest Washington, DC. As we walked to dinner on Friday night, we dodged puddles and wonky sidewalk bricks as tuxedoed men and ballgowned women teetered on fancy heels toward the inaugural ball at the convention center. Police blocked off streets, waved on armies of black limousines, as the ballgoers were forced to walk from the cordoned area to the party. A group of pink-clad women with roller bags asked directions from a policewoman as a black-and-gold gowned dame swept by, lowering her eyes to the slippery terrain as we made our way to dinner. An invisible divide.

At Thally's we met three young people who came from Los Angeles to march, and they took our picture while sharing inspiration for poster designs. Before dessert we hashed over the common question of marchers everywhere - how did this happen? Why did the Trump voters' euphoria deliver our great sorrow and our time of uplift engender their denial and disapproval? We felt like our march was for everyone, for the planet and its people everywhere.

In Billy Joel's song, "Summer, Highland Falls," he goes on to say,

"Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity
Our reason coexists with our insanity
And though we choose between reality and madness
It's either sadness or euphoria."

It appeared that we chose different realities,  were moved to sorrow and exultation by different factors. But the divide was forgotten in the plans for the march, the messages and photos from friends preparing across the country. More on the day of euphoria in the next entry.

Signs and Chants from the March

For those who were unable to march on Saturday and would like a window into the atmosphere, I have made a list of chants and signs from the Washington DC gathering and others. There were many commonalities between the different marches, but I'm sure I've missed some favorites. If you have a slogan or chant that you want to add to my list, please respond! We will need to continue the protest as the administration gets in gear.  My brother asked me if there were themes at the rally, and I think you will see them in the signage . I've tried to group them into rough categories.

Chants  and Call / respond:

Love Trumps Hate

My body, my choice (women)
Her body, her choice (men)

Tell me what democracy looks like
This is what democracy looks like!

What do we want?
- Critical thinking
When do we want it?
- Now!

Show me what a feminist looks like,
This is what a feminist looks like!

We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter....


I'm here for the kids.
Love not hate makes America great.
Protect what you love.
I love my Muslim neighbor.
Make America kind again.
Love your neighbor.
Love is love is love.
Stronger together.
A people united can never be divided.

Women's Rights / Human Rights
Men who defend women are cool, men who defend women's rights are HOT.
Strong men welcome equality.
Women's rights are human rights.
Black Lives Matter.
I'm with her (arrows everywhere).
My liberty is bound up with yours.
I will stand with the most vulnerable.
Power to the girls.
No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here/ immigrants are welcome here.
We all make America great.
Respect everyone.
To all the girls watching this right now: never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving      of every chance in the world.

Respect existence or expect resistance / Respeta mi existencia o expecta resistancia.
A woman's place is in the resistance.
We shall overcome.
Fight like a girl.
We're not sorry for the inconvenience, we're trying to save humanity.
We won't give up, we won't give in.
Silence is violence.
They tried to bury us - they didn't know we were seeds.
I'm no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I'm changing the things I cannot accept.
I'm not usually a sign guy, but jeez.
Stay woke.
Protest is patriotic.

Earth justice / Climate change
Put the P back in EPA.
Science is real.
Protect/love your mother.
Destroy the patriarchy not the planet.
Planet over profits.

Health Care and Reproductive health / Choice / Fund Planned Parenthood
There were signs for reproductive rights which co-opted a word that President Trump unfortunately used in an Access Hollywood interview that came to light during the campaign. This theme was major, and though I respect the marchers and this theme of health care, reproductive rights, and choice, I am not going to list all of the signs here (it's a family blog).

Additional signs were held up for health care, for the popular vote difference in favor of Clinton, to end voter suppression and for jobs (UAW).  John and all, I hope you get a sense of the themes of the day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Moving Forward to the March

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward."

― Martin Luther King Jr.

King worked for the rights of all people, died during a speech for better treatment of black and white sanitation workers. He separated the "wrong act" from the "wrongdoer" and extended love, compassion and forgiveness to everyone he met. King's model of political action challenges me to wrap my arms around inclusion and work for a tide that lifts all people. Challenging stuff, particularly in the wake of abusive and hate-filled headlines of the past six months.

I'm preparing my mind and heart for the Women's March on Washington this coming Saturday. Drilling down on the reasons for marching (I have to add my voice to those protecting human rights), and building up positivity and spiritual stamina. My dear friend Carol told me that her goal was to listen - really listen - to each viewpoint. She said wisely that people need to be heard.  Carol also noted that her job is not to convince anyone of the rightness of her position, and will only explain her stance if asked. I still do want to convince people - lawmakers, particularly - of the need for human rights and a functioning planet, but I will try to practice listening with love.

To assuage my mother's worries about the March, I went to the organizers' FAQ page (link here). Of note: the nonviolent nature of the March, organizers' full cooperation with authorities, and avowed safety of undocumented persons. (Can you imagine wanting to march because you love this country and have lived here nearly your entire life, but because you are undocumented you fear showing your face on the streets?) Legal observers will ensure that human rights are respected.

Mom, here are a few more reassuring words on safety precautions. I'll get back to you on the number of the legal hotline in case of arrest. (Just kidding! I'm not gonna get arrested).

Q: What is the security plan?
A: First and foremost we have a permit. The purpose of the permit is not only to secure a location, but to ensure all city agencies, including the police, are involved in the planning process. Security is a top priority. All proper security measures have been discussed and put in place in coordination with the police and other city agencies. Second, we have hired a private security firm and will have numerous professional security workers throughout the entire march. Some will be easy to identify, others will not. Third, we have over 1000 trained marshals in place to help maintain order and to provide direction to marchers.
Q: What if I get arrested?  Is there a phone number I can call?
A: We do not anticipate there will be any arrests during this march. We are working with local and federal law enforcement and do not intend to engage in any civil disobedience. We expect all marchers to abide by all laws and any instruction of law enforcement. We have also spoken to law enforcement regarding their policies as it relates to undocumented immigrants and they have stated they will not be making any arrests of law-abiding marchers, no matter what their status is. Finally, we are planning a peaceful demonstration and are training marshals in de-escalation tactics and ask that all marchers remain peaceful. However, to ensure that all marchers feel safe, we are in the process of setting up a legal hotline for marchers who are detained or arrested, or family and friends inquiring on behalf of someone who has been arrested. 

Q: Will there be marshals? How many?
A: Yes, there will be trained marshals. We will have a sufficient number in attendance to ensure that people are properly directed and orderly.

Q: Are there going to be legal observers at the march? Who are they? 
A: Yes, we are actively recruiting legal observers and training them. Legal Observers are typically, but not exclusively, law students, legal workers and lawyers. All volunteers interested in acting as Legal Observers for the march are trained and directed by the National Lawyers Guild. However, it is very important to note that we are planning a peaceful demonstration and do not anticipate there being any negative interactions with the police. We encourage all participants to observe our principles of non-violence if they wish to participate in this march.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Preparing for a Protest

A week from today I'll be on a plane to Washington DC with my good friend and partner-in-crime, Heidi. Eyes gritty from a 0-dark-thirty wakeup, hearts pounding at the thought of navigating Inauguration-Day Metro traffic and crowded streets, we will nevertheless be tingling with anticipation for the Women's March on January 21st.

Though more starched, dark-blue-liberal than bleeding-heart-hippie, I've been to a few protests in my time, even practicing chants and poster waving earlier this week at the Denver offices of our Colorado senators. But I've never been part of a moving organism composed of several hundred thousand people. I don't know if I feel prepared or scared when I look at this list of suggestions emailed by my friend Allison (also going):

- Bring hand /foot warmers, everyone needs ID, and as few backpacks as possible
- Each of you should bring a small square of corrugated cardboard that you will stand on. 
- Get "warming passes" to go into a federal building on the March route to get warm and use bathrooms. Most places won't let marchers in and the lines for the museums will be insane with protesters trying use the bathroom and warm up.
-Food trucks are best bet on Sat during day- there aren't many restaurants
-Cash only.

So bring cash and ID and heavy boxes, don't drink anything / don't plan to go to the bathroom, wear a sash over a coat and don't buy the T-shirts that will be covered up by  multiple layers of clothing. Prepare for verbal attacks by  opposing forces by planning peaceful, smiling response and held up phone with Facebook Live on play. 

When Mom expressed safety concerns, Dad texted me that as a student at Georgetown University in the 60's, he had the chance to  hear MLK's speech at the Lincoln Memorial, but didn't attend due to his reservations about crowds and safety. He said he's never stopped regretting that decision, and  I should definitely attend the March in 2017. So I am, and so we will.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Meryl Streep and Empathy

I went downtown with friends Monday morning to protest Trump's cabinet appointees - all of whom deny the very real science of climate change. We gathered with other small groups to form a crowd of 100 or so outside of the offices of Senator Michael Bennet and Senator Cory Gardner.  (See photo here). We sang, spoke, gave interviews and supported each other on the #DayAgainstDenial.

Meeting other knots of committed citizens fortified my fighting spirit . . . and then I came home to rest my sore feet and watch the Golden Globes on DVR. And there was Meryl Streep, who gave an empassioned defense of empathy, of relating to others who look and think differently. Ms. Streep moved her real-life audience to tears, even as I ran for tissues, stumbling over the cats in my desperation.

The entire content of her speech was published in the NY Times and can be found here. Streep related the agony she felt when watching President-elect Trump's non-empathetic acting performance this past year, when he mocked a disabled reporter in front of a live and television audience. Needless to say, Mr. Trump denied this act and immediately engaged in one-sided Twitter warfare against Ms. Streep.

But the actresses' speech raised tens of thousands of dollars for the defense of the free press, and she has rallied new supporters to the cause of truth and protected speech. Truth, as in climate change is real and strong people don't bully those who are weaker.  Streep is one of my heroes, one of my Dumbledores or Gandalfs. I hope that our Colorado senators stand up to the egregious Cabinet nominees with the same passion and spirit that America's leading actress demonstrated in her speech last night.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Pura Vida

I went on a news fast in Costa Rica. My brother-in-law and his wife get the San Jose paper, the Tico Times, electronically, so there was no paper copy lying around at breakfast. My phone didn't get the news and I refrained from picking up TIME or The Week when sunbathing on the beach. Abstinence suited me well - so well that I approached Rob about retiring in Costa Rica.

A small country the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica has many things going for it. They gave up their army after a painful civil war and spent the money on universal education. They also have universal healthcare and a thriving middle class, as well as consistently good weather and a positive attitude summed up in two words, "pura vida."

The main drawback to daily life in Costa Rica appeared to be the lack of infrastructure. The roads are narrow, not well maintained, lacking in signals and relevant guidelines, clogged with every fenderbender (which are required to wait for police), and laced with bicycles and motor bikes. Every American we encountered complained about the roads and broached theories about why the Costa Rican people and government failed to build a highway system. "But they could attract so many more people! Companies would flock here! A superhighway would cut hours off the trip to the beach!"

Hmmm. Unlimited progress has decided drawbacks, which the Costa Rican people seem to recognize. In a land where energy comes from 90% renewables and the flora and fauna are protected, the population grasps that a superhighway to the coast would come at a cost. That reduced air quality and big hotels and deforestation would follow. Bigger isn't always better, more is sometimes less.

Less news, fewer people, more limonadas for me, thank you. Now that I'm back home, I appreciate the roads but I'm struggling to open that newspaper every day, struggling to see the horizon for office parks and big box stores, and reminded again why vacation felt so good.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year's in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica we watched the sun sink into the Pacific from our vantage point on Playa Tamarindo. The "Sunset Catamaran" would make its nightly tour of the half-moon cove while tourists flocked to the beaches for sunset selfies. One member of our group timed the disappearance of the sun from its starting point, sitting on the horizon, to its absence. Only ninety seconds separated the day from the night.

How laughable, our need to quantify time, even something so liquid and ephemeral as a sunset. While our day ended, someone else's began. The pink and purple of our evening sky was but a reflection of the rising glory somewhere around the world. And yet, we chop our river of time into blocks, charge or pay money based on the arbitrary hour, and we count the years of our lives with pleasure or disappointment (or rising panic).

The hours of vacation melted away in boogie board sessions, leisurely lunches (served by waiters on "Tico Time"), and walks along the beach or neighborhood while a damp breeze brushed away cobwebs of holiday stress like a soft dust cloth on our skin. Diving into the minutes with focused attention we made impressions of painted butterflies, jowly iguanas, curious howler monkeys. We deepened relationships with aunts, uncles, cousins, parents. Time stalked at our hemlines, demanding dinner reservations and travel time estimates, but we escaped the tyranny of calendars, deadlines, Facebook.

Yet the tides of time swept us inexorably back to San Jose and packing for home. The cousins stayed up to celebrate the ball's drop on the East Coast while most of the adults went to bed, as if an early snooze could postpone our return to reality.  Back to Colorado routines today,  I ponder resolutions to eat right, exercise better, write more, even as my creative brain pokes fun at yet another artificial distinction in time. I excuse my need for the New Year on the longing for more sunlight, a turn of seasons, a change of mind.

Happy 2017, everyone. As time flows forward, I hope you find a beachy cove or an inlet to pause and rest before picking a point to begin again.