Love Deez Nutz, or Why Van Jones Is Wrong and Maybe Even a Bit of a Bullshitting Magical Negro, or Happy Friday from My Corner of Trump’s America–Whatever You Like–I’m Tired

Michelle R. Smith spills some powerful truthspeak that needs some serious attention. Bowing to her beauty and brilliance….

The Bluest i

One of the reasons that I dislike the way that black people deify Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is that it makes a lot of us adopt a passive way of dealing with racism and racist white people that is really fucking unproductive.

MLK was a Christian minister. He advocated for nonviolent protest and civil disobedience because these principles aligned with Biblical doctrine. He combined a political message and mission with ministry. But this isn’t a mandate. This is not the only or the “right” or at this point a proven way to effect change around issues of race in our society

As courageous, wise, and principled as MLK was, we can look at the racial climate in this country today and say–in all fairness–he might not have been as effective as we needed him to be.

Because he sought to change people’s minds. He sought to make the Masters…

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Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2016

All Angst Aside…

Take me, every ounce of this flesh and bone, pulse and blood of being, down that road,
that road long avoided, long ignored. Take me down that road, past all the detour signs and the “do not enter” and “wrong way” warnings. In the night, we journey. Past the sleeping towns and the slumbering souls barely breathing, we ride. All angst aside, all in, all gone on oppression, take me down that forgotten highway where only my body’s direction may lead as my soul receives and gives, leads and follows on a path of ancient knowing.

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2016

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2016

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2016

The Church of May

You leap beyond all
despair and hopeless falling.
Fiery woman, live;

no spire reaches
past your own sacred lightning,
flaring out fierce love.

Stomp and squeal delight
against a night of constant
yearning. Your love’s dance

blurs us past façades,
awakens all our hoping
towards sun’s warm call.

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2016

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2016

“May” is one of my daughter’s nicknames. On this day, pictured here as blurred trees and a church held steadfast against our movement, Marion drove us around to see some of the more lovely parts of Pittsburgh. Our trip to see her began with her trademark spontaneity and abandon when we drove up to her home. She leapt up and out the front door into the 1am cold night air and squealed with joy and then down the stairs, doing little run/skip/dance moves out into the street to reach into my car for a huge hug. And that is the best of the “Church of May.” She reveals, at her most fiercely loving moments, what we’re all made of and what we’re all here for … no matter how dark the time. We are the sacred, spiritual, divine-as-love.

 

 

Lines Bestowed

I love how all these leaves flutter and hover,
held fast by a moment in which the next moment
has already asserted the limitation of the time of holding,
of hovering aflutter as all that lies on ground cluttering earthsongs
once was held a few yards up ‘tween earth and sky
and how we are all right here uttering without much regard
for the brevity of the time or the lines bestowed on our minds…
the power to transform our bullshit and make meaning before we,
too,
fall to ground, joining an ancient chorus of ancestral rhyme,
a rhythm unrelenting, calling us all
to love,
to grow.

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2016

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved, 2016

J. Ruth Kelly, All Rights Reserved

Where We Stand

(Former Semi-Evangelical Facing Post-Trump Choices)

There was a time in my life when I had to make a choice about where I stood on a crucial issue in my community and personal life. It feels like a lifetime ago. I have since faced similar choices — deciding “where I stand now that I know this…now that I have experienced that.” Sometimes I can choose the luxury of not standing, just flowing with and being with what life has been. But the one point in time that defines so many moments for me and especially helps me find clarity in the midst of confusing feelings, thoughts and impressions stands out in the starkness of illumination that only abuse survivors can provide.

At the time, my children were only toddlers and I had one more beautiful child to bring into this mad world. I was sure of so much. I had been raised Republican, evangelical Christian and most of what that entails, with the exception of racism. Or so, I thought. In any case, as I look back, I can see the cloaks falling away from me, the ones that covered my humanity in shame and confusion, the labels and identifiers now wiped away by a love of human, of being human and the divinity found where my skin begins — stripped by life’s more relentless tides, timely connections, brutal truth and a refusal of my own bullshit. No longer evangelical, republican or much else, I sit here viewing where we are as a nation with a Trump presidency on the horizon and it asks me to choose.

And I’m drawn back to that time when I chose to stand with a family member who had survived sexual abuse at the hands of one who was meant to protect her, her husband. The fact that so many in Christendom have believed that a man has every right even if his wife isn’t consenting was not without oppressive effect at that time in my life. (The historical imprint of this toxic belief may well be what has influenced so many white women to vote for Trump. They have become desensitized to their own value.) So, I fell back on pure logic and grace. It was the next phase in my walk out of the confusion created by the dogma of my youth as I asked myself: what is marriage and how is a marriage shaped by actions and how do divorces evolve out of those failed marriages? What are actions of divorce vs. actions of union? I asked myself how much a ceremony makes something real. And how much more real the actions of those involved in the relationship might be, more real than beliefs and more real than stated intent. I asked myself how a broken person could ever truly join with another broken person if the breaking point had to do with capitulating who you are in order to survive authoritarianism. Questions like that gave me no room for pretending. It impacted my own marriage in the process. And in the final analysis I found myself at that place where you ask: “How do I show love to both of these people in my life without betraying the one who was abused?” That question is inevitable when you have shared your life with both people and are faced with the truth. Then ensues questions about love and what love does or doesn’t do and especially Ruth as love and love as Ruth being honest with herself about things like spiritual energy and historical imprints of abuse on family trees. And.

So, the picture of someone standing over a line dominated my thoughts: one foot set on the ground on one side of that line, the other set down on the other side of that line and one hand outstretched, holding the hand of the abused while the other is holding the hand of the abuser. Straddling one truth: someone brutalized another and I’m the connection between them now. Why? What message does this send to the abused? The abuser? There are some mind fucks that just shouldn’t ever occur. But there it is. I realized that there are times when our deepest expression of love for abusers is to refuse their darkness, to turn away from them as a whole organism and silently hold out for their battle with their demons to end well for all of us, banishing the darkness. There are people who dedicate their lives to helping abusers. They invariably discover the abusers have been previously abused. But they don’t rush out to the most recent victim and say “Hey, s/he couldn’t help it…”

I look at this election and the racism, misogyny, climate-denying, xenophobia and bigotry teeming from the underbelly and oozing from every orifice of its history. It reeks. And in the middle of it all, I find my parents voted for Trump and in the ensuing confusion find myself trying to understand why people vote for Trump. Previously, all I could do was knee-jerk react: You choose Trump, you hate and enable hate. But these are my parents. I’ve faced plenty about my past. Why now this? Why did we have to also add this to the strain of our shared history? Where do I go with this? And on Facebook, I find posts of articles that ask us to look at what motivates Trump supporters can be met with intense disagreement by some who passionately loathe Trump. I passionately loathe all that Trump has created with his life and his platform, if you could call it that, a platform. It’s more like a quagmire. Those disagreements catapulted me into days of silence, reading, poring over my own words, posting, deleting posts, blogging, deleting the blog post. It’s tough when you want to speak to the heart of what is critical right now.

Suddenly I’m standing on that line in my mind and I realize that at this point, as had been true way back when, my only choice is to pull my whole being to one side and one side only for now. I am with those who mourn, who need healing and restoration, who see the abuses hurtling down the lines of generation after generation, individual after individual for centuries of oppression and abuse. The only way for me to hold to what I value the most with my life is to turn my back on any attempt to understand why a person would vote for Trump. For. Now.

For now, my questions to those who say they did not mean it as a racist / misogynist / xenophobic / climate-denying choice is this: Why were you comfortable with the associations of racism et. al. if you are not thus? Why is it so easy to ignore and/or dismiss the centuries of suffering of minorities, the marginalized, women and the earth? How much more easily will you be dismissed should this monster decide you have no value? These questions remain when all others have been somewhat answered. I cannot yet find an answer that assuages the sense of the power of this particular association.

To stand over the line and hold the hand of a Trump voter and the hand of those who hurt is to abandon so much of what is precious, vital, essential to our wholeness as individuals and as a people. It is a splitting down the middle and a tearing asunder. Until there are better days, more clarity and more of a sense of change of heart in those who protest the “deplorable” label (without self-examination or attempt to understand the minds of those of us who have a huge issue with enabling an abuser the likes of Trump et. al.), I can’t smooth ruffled feathers when statements about Trump voters are made. Those statements have been earned. I can’t seek to understand something that, at this point, appears insane and not make a liar of myself and a sham of the work to oust oppression. I can’t do that without abandoning my own humanity, my own grief.

(But I am wired to seek that understanding eventually. And it will be part of what I write and post about here, there and everywhere at some point. In fact, I did diverge into a moment of understanding here already, didn’t I?)

While I left the rigor of adhering to Biblical codes aside with a few exceptions, I remember a passage of scripture that resonates to this day: “To everything there is a season…a purpose…under heaven…a time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing.” The season of standing with those who mourn is upon us here in the US and all over the world. Until the majority can agree that our exceptionalism serves only to rape, maim and destroy value, we must hold together with those here and abroad who know, who are kith and kin of the heartaches and losses created by the violations and brutalities of ignorance, “rightness” and elitism. Our work will be one of supporting and birthing a new way of being with our humanity as a nation and as people refusing the hatred, and ugliness that has landed us where we are today. We pull ourselves together in unity, in reform and in the hope for deeper understanding when the time is right. We stand in love.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

My dad, L.S. Kelly, Jr., was born in the depression years and spent his early childhood in a nation swept up in World War II, a war that makes Memorial Day meaningful to many. He lived in Englewood, NJ at the time. He conveys the times, their import revealing just how different his world was from the one I now know. I read his words from an interview and find myself confronting the visceral impact of a time of upheaval, the imprint on his psyche, his perspective of the U.S. and of the military, of “us” vs. “them” shaped by circumstances more stark in their contrast to what we now live, more surreal in hindsight. No one could point at the term “axis of evil” and shred its hypocrisy because It applied. And it applied thoroughly in the minds of those shaped by the fallout.

Memorial Day

L.S. Kelly, Jr.

In the only way I know how to memorialize a day that has become, to me, less about the idea of a noble U.S. military infrastructure and more about honoring those who bring integrity to a failing ideal, I’m posting my dad’s responses to the interview questions here. His heart comes through the lines he wrote for my son’s A.P. U.S. History class. The clarity of what matters shatters my hesitation to note the day, my frustration with the distortion our military might has become. The day should be noted and we should never forget, no matter our stance on the military-industrial complex, because there was a time…

What can you remember about growing up during WWII?

A feeling of heaviness and fear – dread – during the early years.  The Japanese, Germans and Italians were portrayed in the media as some pretty awful folks. And they did some pretty awful things, which were shown at the movie theater before the main event.  Newsreels were gross.  Life magazine was as graphic as they could get away with.  That changed a whole lot with military successes.

We had rationing of materials and food. Gasoline. Nylon – women went back to silk stockings. The war effort took a lot of stuff off the shelves of the grocery stores.

Cigarettes. We saved cans [-] like vegetables came in. Flattened them and took them to some point where they could be given up for scrap metal. Then came victory gardens.  We had three plots in the back yard one summer, and after that five families that socialized together Kellys, Jim Kellys, DeSaussueres, Whitsons, Stokes, had huge garden in Cresskill, NJ where DeSaussaures lived.

Our next-door neighbor was the block air raid warden. When we had an air raid alert (practice of the system), we hung blankets over the windows, kept the lights down low so as not to disclose the whereabouts of a populated area to enemy bombers. The warden would knock on the door if light was showing around the blanket. He wore a white helmet and acted extremely seriously, as did we all.  Just about everything we did was in the context of national defense.

The doctor who lived across the street was in the army in Europe.  He had a son my age who received packages of souvenirs from his father, actual Wehrmacht uniforms, which he and I dressed up in and paraded around the neighborhood. Once.  AS widow lady around the corner got all upset, and that was the end of my German career.

When the A-bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945, I was 9 years old. We knew nothing could survive that and continue to wage war, and the feeling of relief brought a sense of elation and national pride.  We had fought two wars at the same time and beat the bad guys.  Which they were.

How did it impact you personally?

I got to eat a lot of organ meats, since they were undesirable and carried a lower meat-coupon penalty.  Tuna, chipped beef.

Sometimes we had nightmares:  Go to the movies on Saturday afternoon and come home, to go [to] bed and recall the newsreel. The boy next door was in the navy in the Pacific and we worried about him.

Mrs. Knowles’ 2nd grade class at Franklin School in Englewood, NJ would pray together every morning, the Lord’s prayer, and we’d recite the pledge to the flag and would sing the National Anthem. Often Mrs. Knowles would then have some story or inspirational thing she’d share with us. She had a brother who was a dog-face in France at the time. That means in the Infantry, in the mud.

One morning she held up a quite thick, yet shirt-pocket-sized thing, that turned out to be a book.  It was her brother’s bible. He had been carrying it all the time. We watched as she opened it enough for us to see the hole in it, which still held the kraut bullet that her brother’s bible had stopped, effectively ending its deadly journey toward his heart.

That was the classroom where I broke down one morning when we were singing the Star-Spangled Banner. Boo hoo. Everybody looking at the simple goose crying. I couldn’t tell why. They called my mother, and she couldn’t tell them, either. When I got home, I couldn’t tell her why. I didn’t know. She didn’t know either.  Nobody was gonna ask my Daddy.  Who knows?

Any observations about that time and that war in general?

Nobody even thought about burning a flag. Not a stars n stripes.  It was a time when the nation really seemed to be together about one thing: beating the Axis.

My 80+ year-old dad, who texts his daughters every night when he goes to bed – sending his love, who loves silly humor and growing tomatoes reminds me what shapes the minds of a nation, what lays the foundation for exploitation of fear: the real thing. Not that we have not known terror here in our time, but most of us have no point of reference, no way of knowing what war looks like. And the experiences of a child, his reflections over 70 years later reveal what we hope to never know but to also never forget, even if only for the sake of those who lived it. Here and abroad. Here’s to those who gave. While I may not want us to ever drop another bomb and though it hurts to think of the suffering of Hiroshima, this, too, is true: we must never lose sight of the humanity, the lives given in service.

Sweet Journey

At this time 21 years ago, I was in labor with my first child and only daughter who, in a handful of years, managed to birth parts of me I had never known before. It has been such a beautiful path with plenty of challenge and I’m sure more adventure and growth for us both to come. But in the meantime, it feels right to get back into the swing of blog posts by acknowledging the celebration and gift of Marion’s life.

I am a rich woman!

J. Ruth Kelly, 2016, All Rights Reserved

J. Ruth Kelly, 2016, All Rights Reserved