We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

on being an "adult" and the process of re-radicalization

at 3am, i finished a 4-day trip (with 26 hours of driving) to protest the School of the Americas/WHINSEC in Ft. Benning, GA.

Within that statement lives a world of confusion and joy and challenge and faith.

The last time I went to the SOA protest was in 2005 with the lovely JVC folks. I was young and hurting and in need of community. And I found it - I still have fond memories of time with Alex, hitting the Waffle House with Christine, and writing a wonderful poem for Erica at the JVC Atlanta house.

Now, I'm almost 30, still hurting but not so young. The world stings in different ways now, and my response is different, too. Going down to Georgia with 16 semi-strangers (and the lovely Amy) and arranging all the logistics and managing personal dynamics and trying to make sure we had gas and cars and food and lodging helped distract me, temporarily, from how i felt being there.

But, eventually, when it all calmed down and I remembered that everyone was a grown-up, I didn't have anything to distract me. And that's when I realized how far I'd come from who I wanted to be. Being older than many folks here, I struggle with what it means to live like a grown-up. I hadn't ever really sat down to think about the ways I've pre-defined my adult life. Adults don't protest. Adults don't get arrested. Adults don't drive 13 hours each way to learn things they might just have downloaded from the Internet. Adults don't really think that saving the world is feasible or that protests are effective or efficient. And I'm nominally an adult, so I expected myself to believe those things, too. But, then...

In our hotel room, after a semi-exhausting day, we made crosses. I looked at the list of martyrs from the slaughter at El Mozote to find a name to put on my cross. I chose Telesforo Marquez. He was 35 when he was killed. He was also deaf and mute. It made me think of folks I've known with disabilities, including my own mother. I thought about what it means that my government had any role at all in training soldiers who then went home and committed these acts against their own people. Do you know how many children were on the list of the dead at El Mozote? Until we fully acknowledge the role that the US played in providing tactical training for these killers, we can't claim to be a country that loves peace and freedom. At all.

While writing down Telesforo's name and details, I realized how incredibly selfish and safe I've become. What good does it do to come to a protest with all my baggage and not fully examine the ways that I'm culpable, the ways I sin? Every Sunday, I stand with my Catholic brothers and sisters and tell them that I've sinned in my thoughts and my words, in what I've done and in what I've failed to do.

But I don't always think of sins by name. In that hotel room, I knew that I've sinned by not exploring the privilege I inherit as an American and what that privilege takes away from others. I've sinned in not being brave enough. I've sinned in being safe. I've sinned in thinking that my form of world-changing is better than yours. I've sinned in my desire for comfort over the kingdom of God.

I'm sick of being a sinner.

So, this Sunday, I went to "mass" in front of the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia. We offered to break bread with a cop, and we all provided the homily and the blessing over the bread and the wine. We looked through barbed wire toward a world that's not as it should be. And we prayed for it. And we prayed for ourselves. And we let the dead bury the dead, but remembered their names in the land of the living. With every "Presente!", we called the dead back to us, carried them with us, and set them down in front of the gates of Ft. Benning, with prayers and sorrow for all the ways that our country sins, in its thoughts and deeds, and in all it does and fails to do.

And it was the most adult thing I could have done.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Day Without Water

Heading out for my usual noon stroll with the baby I encountered my upstairs neighbor, Tristan, confronting the maintenance men who were working on the unit across the hall. They had once again failed to inform us residents that the building water supply would be cut off. I’d noticed this earlier but had chosen, as I am wont, to accept the injustice with apathetic resignation. For me it seemed little more than a minor inconvenience, so slight in fact that it did not even register as a real irritation. I had enough to keep me busy without calling the landlord to suggest the benefits of increased communication with his tenants. I was glad to see Tristan picking up the slack for the rest of us but also a little embarrassed. My feeling of embarrassment came, not from him speaking up, but the way and to whom he chose to make his voice heard. His tone was irate, inadequately masked by polite language, and addressed to a fella whose blank expression and reluctance to speak more than one or two words of English indicated a lack either of understanding or of interest.

When I got back from walking I put the baby to bed and set about preparing lunch. The lack of access to running water confronted me with a realization of how constantly I would typically use it. I faced the lack when I wanted to boil an egg, to rinse my hands after chopping vegetables, to wash the dishes that were now filling the sink, to make tea after I’d finished eating but still had the craving to consume (that is another issue, for another time). What would I do if I was in a situation in which water was not available for days or weeks at a time? What would I do if I was personally responsible for gathering the water I would use and once it was gone, it was gone; no turning on the faucet to bring it back? What would I do, in other words, if water was always—not just for these few hours because of maintenance work—in limited supply?

I will say here that I do realize there is in fact a limited supply and water has in many ways become a commodity. Though I concede being ignorant of much of the fresh information on this topic that is making the rounds I am cognizant that there is a dangerous scarcity of water in not only in developing countries but within our borders. That being said, however enlightened my intellect may or may not be about water challenges, I do not feel the truth of it. I don’t feel it because it is not part of my personal experience. When I want water, I call it forth with the flip of my wrist. Experience leads me to feel—whatever I may think to the contrary—that the water running through the faucet is something I have a right to and power over. I feel entitled to it, offended if my expectations are not met (What? Nothings coming out! It’s coming out brown? Outrageous!). It seems quite natural that water should run into my home and become automatically hot or cold according to my preference.

As long as this is my experience of “reality” genuine empathy eludes me and all that I can feel is a kind of billowy sympathy for the family in Eastern Kentucky in a trailer with no plumbing, not because it’s being repaired but because it doesn’t exist. I certainly can have no sense of solidarity with entire regions in India, Africa, Latin America, etc, where the only accessible water supply is contaminated. I recently saw a story on the Real News about a litigation case between the government of El Salvador and a Canadian mining company called Pacific Rim. The latter wanted to establish a mining operation a few miles from the town of San Isidro and was rejected. A primary concern for those in El Salvador is contamination. There is demonstrable evidence that gold mining consistently contaminates water supplies. Already only one third of El Salvador’s water supply is drinkable and they are anxious not to see their source diminished any further. Pacific Rim, through some clever machinations, is suing the government of El Salvador via a U.S. subsidiary for violating a free trade agreement.

This story grabbed my attention and I had intended to follow it, keeping track of what was happening and looking to see if there was any way that I could support El Salvador’s decision to prohibit the miners. Four days later, this is my first time to revisit the matter. The thought has presented itself a few times, but without the motivating force of feeling one would expect in the face of injustice. The thought came more as an inconvenience, an interruption so slight in fact, that it did not even register as a real irritation. I had other things to do and put the thought aside with apathetic resignation. Just like the plumbing, I expected someone else to handle it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kairos Chicago to Gather in Columbus, GA

Kairos Chicago @ The SOA

Kairos Chicago will be gathering for an afternoon of study and reflection on Saturday, November 21, in Columbus, Georgia. We will gather @ 4:00 pm and begin our meeting @ 4:30 pm to spend some time in conversation and community before the Ignatian Family Mass. All are welcome to join us. Feel free to spread the word and contact us for more information or if you are having trouble finding us. We will meet @ the park across the street from the Coca-Cola Space Science Center (at Front Ave & 7th Street, just South of the Convention Center). Contact Jake Olzen: 847.372.4289 or Jerica Arents: 262.366.3785 for further questions.

Also, on Sunday Morning, we will gather for a celebration of the Word and Eucharist. This inclusive, community-centered liturgy will take place just inside the gates to Fort Benning @ 7:30am to read scripture, break bread, pray together, and share the sign of peace.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Climate Justice Fast

Climate justice activists have begun a month-long, water only fast as the world prepares for the international climate talks in Copenhagen during early December.