Back Window Semiotics: the continuing saga

Summer                                                                              Monsoon Moon

Followed this Mercedes sedan into Evergreen yesterday. American flag fluttering from a small plastic pole in the passenger side window. A Marine Corps decal on the lower left. Believe in America faded and scraped in the center. The lower right medallion reads: Friend of Coal. The upper left sign is: Stay Calm and Frack On. On the bumper is a Christian fish. Go, Murica!

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Oh, my aching back

Summer                                                                     Monsoon Moon

sacroiliac-joint-and-hipsX-ray of lower back. Might be that my back pain is arthritis in my sacroiliac joints. Well, that part of my body, like the rest of it, isn’t getting any younger. After thinking about my life, I realized I spent 20 years gardening intensively. That was considerable time bent over, weeding, planting, dividing, pruning, harvesting, amending soil, all the various chores that go into horticulture. A lot of chainsaw work over the same time, too. I enjoyed it immensely, but repetitive motion is one of the causes of arthritis. Seems logical. Not a lot to be done about it. Dr. Gidday gave me a tramadol prescription, which I will use mainly for sleep.

Moral Minyan

Summer                                                                             Monsoon Moon

justice

Suggested to the woman who organized the immigration talk that perhaps the Beth Evergreen Social Action committee should be doing this kind of work. She passed my e-mail on to the Rabbi and to the chair of the Social Action committee. Lengthy response from the Social Chair chair amounts to, we do small things because they’re not political. Sigh. Same ol, same ol. Heard this all the time as a clergy in the Christian church, less so in the UUA. Say the word politics and you’ve touched the third rail.

Uncharacteristically, however, I intend to stay back from this conversation. I’ve got Jewish Studies Sunday Sampler and 6th grade religious school to prepare for. Perhaps the slight nudge will create a larger conversation. Hope so.

justice2

Kate and I are going to a protest at the Aurora ICE detention center next week. It’s led by the Moral Minyan*, a project of bendthearc. Family separation, though attenuated by the court ruling last week, remains a reality. Immigration is a distinctive American good, mixing our polity with new citizens from all over the world. It’s always been fraught with tension, with nativism, xenophobia, chauvinism, and, our record as a people with regard to persons of color is still miserable, but that French gift, Lady Liberty, with the poem by Emma Lazarus, represents the ideal toward which many of us strive. I believe most of us.

This notion that only a certain kind of person, usually white, can be a good U.S. citizen is racist at its core. The obvious rejoinder is the facebook meme of Indians confronting immigrants on the Mayflower. As Valentina said Tuesday night at Beth Evergreen, “Immigrants work hard. Immigrants pay their taxes, raise families.” Immigrants contribute to our national well-being and always have. In fact, immigrants created our nation.

justice obama

This current politics of meanness, of grudge-settling, of honoring foreign strongmen over our own government BY OUR PRESIDENT, the unleashing of the American id typified by the Charlotte rally and the way too many video clips of various individuals calling out persons they suspect of being “illegals” or “terrorists”, makes us all smaller. He who shall not be named is spending the capital accumulated since World War I which made this country a superpower. Shame on him.

Justice theodore-parker-bend-the-arc-email1

Parker was a Unitarian clergy, an abolitionist, and an activist who kept a loaded gun at his desk in case slave catchers showed up. Be like Theodore.

 

*In Jewish tradition, acts of public prayer require at least 10 people to gather to form a minyan.

In this moment of political crisis, we’re calling on progressive Jews across the country to gather to form Moral Minyans for acts of public protest, solidarity, and organizing as part of a national network of Jewish Resistance.

People who become leaders of Moral Minyans have a variety of skills and experience levels. We provide trainings and support for activists in our network who are organizing their Jewish community in living rooms and in the streets.

 

A Mountain Summer

Summer                                                                         Monsoon Moon

Coming back up 285 from visiting Dr. Gidday yesterday there was one of those temporary l.e.d. signs with orange cones around it. It read: High Bear Activity. Secure trash and lock cars. It was just after the big overhead l.e.d. sign saying fire ban in Jefferson County. Its usual message is: Watch for Wildlife and Falling Rocks. Summer in Colorado. In our now three and a half years here this is the first time I’ve seen the High Bear Activity sign. Those redlined fire danger signs are stuck at Very High, one notch below extreme.

Red sky in the morning. That's my weather station in the lower left.

Red sky in the morning. That’s my weather station in the lower left.

Dawn tints

Dawn tints

 

Concentration Camps, in the U.S., Right Now

Summer                                                                      Monsoon Moon

florenceSad. Mad. Incredulous. Shocked. Mystified. Hurt. The Florence Project. Kate and I went to Beth Evergreen last night to hear Valentina Montoya*. She’s a mental health attorney for the project, which means that her clients are not only caught in the detention trap, but have serious mental illness as well.

Reading about family separation, shaking our heads, how can they? That’s one experience. Hearing Ms. Montoya talk about children in detention, five month olds, toddlers, blind children, physically and mentally disabled children, children who have no apparent medical care or educational opportunities, children who know their parents as mama and daddy, but don’t know their given names, children separated from their parents with no tracking or identifying system in place, one four-year old boy, for example, who refused to change his clothes because he was afraid his parents wouldn’t recognize him, that’s another.

florence2Ms. Montoya became too emotional to talk. Several times. She answered question after question from this audience of maybe 75 people, all outraged, most wanting to do something. Kate stood up and asked what kind of medical care did these children receive? Ms. Montoya said no particular medical care was available. That means diabetes goes untreated. Other chronic conditions, too. Another asked what kind of education the kids were getting? Ms. Montoya said, “The kids speak Spanish; all the guards and caretakers speak English.”

This was an especially poignant topic for Beth Evergreen. As Renee said, “I’m a child of holocaust survivors. I’m uniquely qualified to call these what they are, concentration camps.” I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s true. No Zyklon B. For now. But, as Renee said, “If they can come for them, they can come for me. Maybe next, maybe three, four down the line.”

Here’s a thing I’d not paid attention to in the news reports. The families separated in Florence, Arizona, a distant, isolated location for an ICE detention facility (not an accident) are asylum seekers. That means they came to a U.S. port of entry and, as required by our law, asked for asylum. These are legal immigrants who have fled horrific conditions of gang violence, local drug cartels, domestic abuse, government oppression and seek refuge here. Let me say that again, these folks are LEGAL immigrants.

The bad elf, Jeff Sessions, has done everything he can to undercut the law by, for example, offering a biblical rationale for family separation, trying to defund basic legal orientation services. DHS lawyers raise jurisdictional issues in immigration proceedings to obfuscate and extend detention proceedings.

florence4Part of the problem for legal projects like Florence and Rocky Mountain Immigration Advocates is immigration law itself. It’s a hodgepodge of laws, rules, exceptions that have accreted like barnacles over the years, making it an area of the law for which even its specialists can claim only partial knowledge. That means even willing pro bono lawyers are often not competent to help. This makes it even easier for mendacious buffoons like Trump, Sessions and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Michele Nielsen to throw forks and knives into the wheels of justice.

It was, all in all, a heart rending evening. Unimaginable suffering. Detention is different from prison. In prison you know when you’re going to get out. Detention is indeterminant. Until Sessions quashed it, each detainee used to get a bond hearing every six months. That hearing at least offered a review of your circumstances and a possibility of release. With that bond hearing eliminated, there is no legal requirement for a time certain when your case will be heard. If at all. This out Kafka’s Kafka. And, it is definitely, a first step toward Nazi area solutions for folks we don’t like.

 

valentina-150x150*Valentina Restrepo Montoya was born in Boston to Colombian-immigrant parents. She earned her J.D. from Berkeley Law, where she advocated on behalf of asylum seekers, latinx workers, latinx tenants, and indigent defendants in criminal cases. Valentina clerked for The Southern Center for Human Rights, where she investigated language access to adult and juvenile courts. After law school, she joined The Southern Poverty Law Center, dedicating herself to litigation against The Alabama Department of Corrections for providing constitutionally inadequate medical and mental health care to prisoners, and not complying with The Americans with Disabilities Act. Prior to joining The Florence Project, Valentina was an assistant public defender in Birmingham, Alabama. She enjoys playing soccer, reading The New Yorker, practicing intersectional feminism, and rooting for The New England Patriots.

Losing Daylight

Summer                                                                Monsoon Moon

The big Dodge Ram sits in our garage, so it won’t get hit with hail in case we have a thunderstorm. Nothing says I don’t give a damn like returning a pock marked car to the rental folks. Supposed to go back today.

Kate had a couple of days clear of nausea, then got hit hard yesterday. It’s difficult to describe how debilitating it is to experience this inner discomfort regularly. I can see it. I can sort of imagine it, but she’s dealing with it. No. Fun. At. All. I feel bad for her, with her.

Here in Conifer we’ve already lost 20 minutes of daylight since the summer solstice, 14:59 on June 21, 14:39 today. I go to bed at 9 pm and I can already tell the difference. It’s beginning to get dark now at 9. The darker it gets the happier I am and, as an added bonus, the darker it gets the cooler and wetter it gets, helping sleep and mitigating wildfire probabilities.

Feeling a little sad this morning. Kate and I had an argument last night. It happens, but I never feel good when it does and the feeling lingers. Reminds me that our moods are fickle, sometimes referented, sometimes not, but always changing. Not becoming attached to one mood or another, up or down, being equanimous (yes, it’s really a word. either that or it was made up in our Mussar group) helps level out our moods. Although, I do appreciate both a good up and a good down. Vitality does not lie in sameness.

Looking forward to seeing Minneapolis and friends the first week of August. Groveland Unitarian-Universalist celebrates becoming a Covenanting Community in the UUA on August 4th. They wanted me to come and I’m pleased they do. Like the days in Durango I’ll get a chance to catch up with folks with whom I’ve had long term relationships, seeing Woollies and I hope docent friends as well as the Groveland folks.

Plus, I’m staying at the Millennium Hotel which is on the edge of Loring Park. I lived in Loring Park up on Oak Grove, a wonderful third floor apartment that, thanks to its location on the hill, had a beautiful view of downtown. That was back in 1975/1976. Which is, wait for it, 43 years ago or so. 28. Whoa.

I’ll get to see the statue of famed 19th century fiddler, Ole Bull. When I was chair of Citizens for a Loring Park Community,  we turned down the Daughters of the Sons of Norway who asked us to let them move it somewhere cleaner and safer. Than our neighborhood? Come on. I’ll also get to walk to the nearby Walker Art Museum and the somewhat further away Minneapolis Institute of Arts. When I head to the MIA, I’ll pass through Stevens Park, which was my first home in Minneapolis. I was a live-in weekend caretaker and janitor for Community Involvement Programs. The old Abbott Hospital was right across the street. Lots of Stevens Park stories.

Not to mention that wonderful road trip across the Nebraska plains. Which I actually enjoy when enough time lapses after I’ve done it.

 

Rant.

Summer                                                               Monsoon Moon

In case you’ve been wondering I’m still outraged. On a daily basis, actually more frequently than that. Trump loves Putin and Kim Jong Un. Sees himself in their strongman politics, no doubt. Both of them are better at their style of governance than Trump is at his.

He puts tariffs on our allies, creates faultlines of tension on traditional friendly terrain like Europe, England, Canada and Mexico. He trusts a foreign power who’s been our long time enemy and calls the European Union our foe. And, yesterday, he sided with Russia against our own intelligence agencies. All of this is recent. Leaves out pussy grabbing, mimicking a disabled reporter, outright lies and the mockery he’s making of science. Not to mention morality and ethics. Done.

Eudaimoniac

Summer                                                                   Monsoon Moon

20180526_143004A good soaking rain yesterday, extending into the night. And cool sleeping. Two huge benefits, mitigates fire danger and improves sleep. Go, rain.

Kate has had two days without nausea. Well, up till that late evening coffee cake. She seems to have found at least one palliative measure, stop eating before she gets too full. A major component of the nausea may be later life sequelae from the bariatric surgery. She sees a gastroenterologist for a consult in August. Slowly, gradually getting a handle, I think.

I’m flailing a bit on the lesson planning. Not sure I understand Rabbi Jamie’s grid, so that makes working with it difficult. Gonna push ahead, make some guesses, get done with what will amount to first drafts. Finishing the Superior Wolf revision and writing these lesson plans are my top priority right now. Superior Wolf work is mostly done, I need to enter the edits; so, the lesson plans are up. Due Friday before my breakfast meeting with Alan.

20180705_072608Tomorrow afternoon I get a new workout. Exercising has been more 20180704_111915sporadic of late, partly due to my aching back. The back stays ouchy because I’ve been doing the chainsaw work, cutting up (bucking) the downed trees. This involves bending over, holding a heavy saw well below waist level and controlling its movements, especially the gyroscopic force of the chain around the bar. Not a recipe for good lower back health. I’m getting there with the trees though. I have two fully cut and a third part way there. That leaves two plus the one Jon says he’s going to mill, create boards for a project of some kind.

 

I’m getting a lot of satisfaction right now, eudaimonia. I’m flourishing, using my gifts at their outer limits, getting feedback, moving purposefully through the day. Don’t care about happy, but I do care about eudaimonia. Seems to come when I flow with the work, with life as it comes, rather than trying to force results. A Taoist way to eudaimonia, then.