Saturday, May 18, 2013

American Values Need Re-examination

These days we cannot watch the news without hearing about rape and violence, power over another, perpetrated by someone full of rage and insecurity, victimizing those less powerful physically and/or emotionally. Ours is a society that criminalizes some forms of violence and glorifies others. No wonder we are confused and frightened.
Recently, we became disturbed because some military leaders who are supposed to protect others from sexual assault may also be performing these same aggressive, soul- crushing acts against others. We elect our leaders to uphold our wholesome American values but some violate the law, covering up criminal acts, lying to those who believed in them.
Why do people rape, terrorize or violate others? Certainly the reasons are complex, complicated and almost endless, many of these actions performed by people with histories of severe trauma or neglect, psychiatric problems and more. But, is violence becoming a norm in America, land of the free and home of the brave? Our young people can’t help but notice early on that life is not fair. They witness not just TV and media sensationalism and horror, they also observe America’s consistent aggression toward other countries and its own citizens, the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.
America’s heroes are football players who are trained to do whatever it takes physically, within guidelines, to win. Now, we realize we have also damaged these football players from high schoolers to the NFL, those who worked hard and learned a valuable skill only to suffer greatly, becoming brain and/or body damaged. Why do we Americans enjoy and support such a dangerous sport? Do we want this for our children?
Our nation’s leadership sometimes lies to us and starts wars, imprisons people without due process, and carries out secret drone assassinations. Where is the line between between evil and rationalizing our military actions as means to an end, to keep America safe and free while killing huge numbers of innocent people? We live in a country that justified slavery for so long (and still does, if you analyze the prison industrial complex), and we now watch our leaders and heroes do whatever it takes to win, get wealthy, and exploit others for some perceived good. No wonder we have gotten confused about what is right and what is wrong.
Those who assault others physically or symbolically, be they school bullies, elected leaders, our neighbors, or CEO’s, they are the highest numbers of cloaked terrorists in our country. Far more than those from other countries or religions. The irony is that we glorify these terrorists, they are our role models. We are training our children to take what they want no matter what, within the guise of doing good for themselves and the world. Is this a new American value? Are you frightened and outraged by these seemingly heroic American terrorists walking among us every day? I am. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Death of My Father: A Tribute to My Mother

As I think about my father’s recent death, my mind rehearses the events that led up to that final day.  The deep sadness, the helplessness we all felt as my father withered away in his bed at home, not eating, hardly drinking, sleeping more and more, in and out of consciousness.  But, even as I recall the pain of that time, my heart turns to my mother, and my witnessing her grief.
My father was a brilliant, wonderful, well-loved man who helped so many people throughout his life, including his children, Michael, Helen and Barbara, and his grandchildren Glenn, Clay and Kate.  He and my mother were so amazingly connected that most everyone who knew them still talk about the marvelous, rare interdependence and abiding love that they shared.  My father was in the spotlight, charismatic, teaching and preaching, counseling and assisting people through the remarkable transitions this life has to offer.  And, my mother was right there beside him, holding him up.
My mother stood lovingly by his side, sat amongst his parishioners, and supported my father, handling his correspondence, his schedule, and his life especially as they retired and aged.  No, theirs wasn’t a perfect marriage but it was one of the few that I have ever known intimately, that worked so well.
Imagine this couple who knew each other for 78 years and married 69 of those many years.  They lived through two wars with my father in danger as a Marine pilot.  They had three babies and then my father got the call to seminary.  My mother’s love was steadfast and sure, consistent and deep.  My father blossomed vibrantly in her love and she glowed quietly and adoringly in his.  As I grew older, became middle aged, I watched closely as my mother took care of my father so well.  Imagine then, my mother’s losing this husband of hers.
When I think about my mother, I am filled with grief and she is the one still living, the one who outlived my father.  At almost 90 years of age, she handles herself so beautifully on the outside, but she grieves raw, primitive emotions deep down, filling her with sadness, anger and loss.  She remains realistic and understanding about my daddy’s dying days and how he could live no longer given his physical health.  My father, she knows, is in a better place, and she is still here, very much alive and continuing to live as fully as possible.
This has been the hardest loss I have ever witnessed.  For her.  For the rest of us, surely we miss my father very much.  We are so sad, but we also know he lived a long and wonderful life, and it was time for him to leave this earthly realm.  But, no one can imagine how my mother feels.  Not even me.