Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Call Upon Those You Love"



Today is the 55th birthday of British singer-songwriter Kate Bush (pictured at left in 2001).

Knowing I greatly admire Kate and her music, my friend Walter posted one of her music videos on my Facebook page earlier today. It was "Moments of Pleasure" from Kate's 1993 album The Red Shoes.


The video is actually part of a short film Kate made at around the same time as The Red Shoes, called The Line, the Cross, and the Curve. It features Miranda Richardson and Lindsay Kemp but is not one of Kate Bush's greatest artistic endeavors, as she herself now readily admits. But it has it's, er, moments. And "Moments of Pleasure" is definitely one of them, thanks to the strength and beauty of the song itself.

I often find myself drawn to that part of the song's spoken word introduction where Lindsay Kemp tells Kate's character in the film, a poor soul cursed with a pair of possessed red shoes, to "call upon those you love." By doing this, the film implies, the love we've shared and/or continue to share with others empowers us to deal with difficult situations. Because in the song Kate calls upon those dear to her who have died, there's also the sense that, if called upon, our loved ones who are departed can somehow channel to us guidance and strength. In The Line, the Cross and the Curve, Kate's character begins to reclaim her soul from the red shoes after calling upon those she loves through the singing of "Moments of Pleasure." One can't help but think that Kate's writing and recording of the song was a way for her to reclaim a sense of connection to a number of people in her life who had died.

Notes Wikipedia:

[In "Moments of Pleasure"] Bush remembers friends and family who have died, including guitarist Alan Murphy, film director Michael Powell, dancer Gary Hurst, lighting engineer Bill Duffield and others. . . . Bush wrote the chorus "to those we love, to those who will survive" for her mother, who was sick at the time of recording. She died a short time later.


Following the music video for "Moments of Pleasure" (below) is a review by Terry Staunton of The Red Shoes. It's a review that offers a number of insights not only into the music and journey of Kate Bush but of the complexities and struggles of life, the "genuine fears, emotions, doubts, worries and problems . . . that plague us all." On a number of levels I've always appreciated this particular review by Staunton. Indeed, I've held on to a cut-out of it from the November 6, 1993 issue of New Musical Express for 20 years! So I'm happy to be able to share it's wisdom – along with the beauty and talent of Kate Bush – with you this evening.




. . . Just being alive,
it can really hurt.
And these moments given
are a gift from time.
Just let us try
to give these moments back
to those we love,
to those who will survive

And I can hear my mother saying,
"Every old sock meets an old shoe."
Isn't that a great saying?
"Every old sock meets an old shoe."
Here come the Hills of Time . . .


________________________________________


Plimsoll Asylum



A Review of Kate Bush's album The Red Shoes
by Terry Staunton

New Musical Express
November 6, 1993


"We think you'd better wake up, captain," suggests the crew of Kate's ship on "Constellation of the Heart." "There's something happenin' up ahead."

"What am I supposed to do about it?" she asks.

"We don't know, but you can't run away from it. Maybe you'd better face it."

"I can't do that."

"C'mon, face it!"

"What am I gonna do? Is it gonna hurt me bad?"

Can you imagine spending nearly half your life signed to the biggest record company in Britain, while at the same time being cocooned from the rest of the world? How many of us could stand the self-imposed exile that has been the adult life of Kate Bush?

She's elevated privacy to an art form. Not that she's particularly mistrusting of people, it's just that early on in her career she chose to stick close to a small circle of family and friends. Kate Bush records have been the formidable product of the most homely of cottage industries.

But things change. Life changes. Halfway through the making of The Red Shoes Kate's mother Hannah died, and this album is dedicated to her memory. Also, Kate's 11-year relationship with her bass player Del Palmer ended. The small circle is getting smaller, and perhaps it's time to take a walk outside. But is she ready for it?

She was thrust into the spotlight with her very first single, "Wuthering Heights," a song which saw Kate become the only person ever to take a mock 'A' Level paper into the pop charts. After turning to Emily Brontë for inspiration, Kate continued to draw from the worlds of fiction and fantasy for her songs. When she was a teenager it made sense. Kate had experienced little of real life, she had no stories of her own to tell. Now a thirtysomething, Kate is writing about herself for the first time.

Her two most recent albums, Hounds of Love and The Sensual World, were both semi-thematic collections, and while The Red Shoes is a more mixed bag, there is still a strand that links the majority of the songs; it's a sense of loss, in particular the loss of love and loved ones. This is a very sad record, and on two separate songs Kate sings: "Just being alive, it can really hurt."

Kate's self-doubt emerges right from the beginning on "Rubberband Girl," the relentless one-chord single where she wishes she could learn to give, learn to bounce back on her feet. Her cries for help, for the courage to take risks crop up again on "Top of the City," "Constellation of the Heart," and the Prince-arranged "Why Should I Love You?" – surely a single, that one.

Her personal exorcisms reach new heights on "Moments of Pleasure," a deceptively simple ballad with a swooping chorus and a coda where she name-checks the people who've been important to her over the years. It's a song that may baffle the world at large, but it wasn't written for us; Kate's just decided to share it.

If her mother was the inspiration for "Moments of Pleasure," then it's her love life that is the driving force behind "And So Is Love" and the closing "You're the One." "Life is sad and so is love," she sings on the former but it's the brutal honesty of the latter that will strike a chord with anyone trying to cope with the devastation of the end of an affair. "It's alright, I'll come round when you're not in and I'll pick up all my things," she offers from the outset, pausing later to declare, "I know where I'm going but I don't want to leave. I have just have one problem, we're best friends, yeah?" Her grown-up resolve and common sense desert her as the song fades, and she makes one last desperate plea: "Sugar . . .? Honey . . .?"

The Red Shoes is a paradoxical thing. It's her most personal album to date, yet it's also her most accessible, in which the listener can identify directly with the pain she's trying to pull herself through. Also, it's often musically light-hearted. "Why Should I Love You?" is hearty and happy, with the curious combination of Prince, Lenny Henry and The Trio Bulgarka providing chorus vocals. "Eat the Music" is a shopping list of exotic fruit, as if Kate is pulling Carmen Miranda's hat apart looking for metaphors for love.

Even "You're the One" has a little in-joke, where Kate borrows a line from "A Whiter Shade of Pale" while Procul Harum's Gary Brooker, who wrote the original, plays Hammond organ in the background.

Teen angst can be very tiring in pop music, mainly because it is usually given to us by self-pitying little drama queens who haven't quite got the hang of adolescence. When Kate Bush started making records she spared us all that but now she has genuine fears, emotions, doubts, worries and problems, the kind of things that plague us all – life doesn't get easier as you get older, kiddies.

There's nothing any of us can do to help Kate Bush through this difficult time in her life but if by telling us about it on this exceptional album she is able to see light at the end of the tunnel herself, then we can at least listen and wish her well. We should commend her bravery and her honesty, and if her next record falls short of The Red Shoes, hopefully it will be because she's happy again. To repeat, a truly exceptional album.

– Terry Staunton
New Musical Express
November 6, 1993


For more of Kate Bush at The Wild Reed, see:
Wow!
Just in Time for Winter
Scaling the Heights
Celebrating Bloomsday in St. Paul (& with Kate Bush)
"Rosabelle, Believe . . ."
Oh, Yeah!

Related Off-site Links:
Happy Birthday, Kate Bush!The Huffington Post UK (July 30, 2013).
Kate Bush Awarded CBE by the Queen at Windsor CastleBBC News (April 10, 2013).
Singer Kate Bush Dedicates Her CBE to Her Family and Musical Collaborators – Tony Jones (The Independent, April 10, 2013).
"I'm Not Some Weirdo Recluse" – Tom Doyle (The Guardian, October 27, 2005).
Kate Bush's Official Website


Quote of the Day

[A]t a time when the world, including most U.S. Catholics, is increasingly accepting gay rights and even gay marriage, here ‘s what’s really significant about the Pope’s statement: The love-the-sinner-but-hate-the-sin trope no longer carries much if any moral credibility. How – given our awareness today that homosexuality is as biological as heterosexuality, and that homosexual relationships have proven as valid and socially enriching as straight ones – can we take any religious leader seriously when he claims to love gay people but at the same time demonizes the consummation of their love for each other?

How, for example, can the Catholic [hierarchy] declare homosexuals “disordered” and their lifestyle an “intrinsic moral evil,” yet expect us to applaud its “love” for gays somewhere beneath all that homophobic bigotry? My mother was born in Mississippi and has often told me of Southern whites in the mid-20th century insisting they could love a black person even if they hated the black race. No, you can’t have it both ways.



Related Off-site Links:
Pope Francis Asks "Who Am I to Judge?" But Real-Life Gay Catholics Continue to Experience Marginalization – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, July 30, 2013).
Will Francis' Statements on Women and Gays "Make a Mess" Inside the Church? – Mary E. Hunt (Religion Dispatches, July 29, 2013).
Catholic Pundits in Damage Control After Pope Says Something Halfway Nice – Evan Hurst (Truth Wins Out, July 30, 2013).
Sodom, Homosexuality, Drone Strikes and Prayer – Thomas Reese (National Catholic Reporter, July 29, 2013).
How Pope Francis' Gay Comment Was Oversold by the Media – Sara Morrison (Reuters via Yahoo! News, July 30, 2013).
Who Am I to Judge? Francis Redefines the Papacy – Alexander Stille (The New Yorker, July 30, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Why I Take Hope in Pope Francis' Statement on Gay Priests
Be Not Afraid, You Can Be Happy and Gay
The Gifts of Homosexuality
Gay People and the Spiritual Life
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
Knowing What to Do, Knowing Why to Stay
Getting It Right


Monday, July 29, 2013

Why I Take Hope in Pope Francis' Statement on Gay Priests


In undermining – if not abolishing – the judgmental
"spiritual paternity" argument against gay priests, Pope Francis
plants seeds of hope, renewal and transformation



Do you remember how, about four or five years ago, there was a lot of talk about something called "spiritual paternity"? It was actually an idea, a theological concept, used to support the judgment that gay men and women are ontologically deficit in such a way that they are incapable of serving as priests.

Speaking in October 2008, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski of the Congregation for Catholic Education stated that "Homosexuals [and women] cannot be admitted to the priesthood because of the nature of priesthood in which a spiritual paternity is carried out. . . . When we ask why Christ reserved the priesthood to men, we speak of this spiritual paternity."

The cardinal's statements were in relation to a Vatican document on homosexuality and the priesthood, one that made it clear that homosexuals were barred from being priests by the "paternal" nature of priesthood and their inherent lack of "affective maturity."


Judgmental and insensitive

I recall how many people were deeply offended by the judgmental and insensitive tone of both the Vatican document and Cardinal Grocholewski's remarks on gay priests.

At a Vatican press conference at around the time of the release of the document, Grocholewski was asked if homosexuals committed to lifelong celibacy could be ordained. He said "no," adding that:

The candidate does not necessarily have to practice homosexuality (to be excluded.) He can even be without sin. But if he has this deeply seated tendency, he cannot be admitted to priestly ministry precisely because of the nature of the priesthood, in which a spiritual paternity is carried out. Here we are not talking about whether he commits sins, but whether this deeply rooted tendency remains.


I don't know about you, but I look back on those statements and the notion of "spiritual paternity" and see a lot of judging going on in relation to gay men and the priesthood. Now, at the time, I don't think anyone was that surprised by this anti-gay rhetoric or even its increasing intensity. After all, Joseph Ratzinger was pope and he had for decades been obsessed with issues relating to homosexuality. My own belief is that Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI was attempting to work through his own issues regarding same-sex attraction. The problem, of course, was that the rest of us ended up being saddled with his impoverished theological conclusions. Chief among these is the notion that homosexuality is an "inclination" which "intrinsically disorders" a person towards "grave moral evil," i.e., sexual activity with someone of the same gender. Now, this may match his reality, but for the majority of gay people striving – and more often than not succeeding – in living lives of integrity and wholeness, such concepts and terms are both erroneous and offensive. The idea of "spiritual paternity" is, I believe, another example of an erroneous and offensive concept cobbled together to support the hierarchy's profoundly dysfunctional notions of gender and sexuality.

Pope Francis, unfortunately, isn't directly challenging these foundational notions of the hierarchy nor the 'official' teaching' that results from them. However, his words today to journalists traveling back with him to Rome from Rio de Janeiro are a step in the right direction and may well pave the way for future developments.

While nothing Francis said suggested acceptance of what the hierarchy labels "homosexual acts," homosexual people, said the pope, should be treated with dignity and not blackmailed or pressured because of their sexual orientation.


"Who am I to judge?"

And then, according to media reports, the pope said the following in relation to homosexuality and the priesthood:

If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?


Many commentators are saying that this statement shifts the hierarchy's message not just on gays and the priesthood but on gay issues in general. For one thing, it's apparently the first documented use by a pope of the word "gay" – the term that gay people themselves most often use yet which some within the church view as implying "ideological commitments" at odds with being Catholic. Also, the pope's conversational tone is a welcome change from the more dogmatic approach we're used to from members of the church hierarchy. And what's hopeful about this and may signify a shift is that the pope conveys a willingness to listen and an openness to dialogue. And as many of us know, such qualities allow the Spirit to break through in often unexpected ways so as to guide us in new ways of understanding.

Yet there's another way the pope's statement on gay priests shifts the message on gay issues in general. This is because his statement undermines, if not completely abolishes, the whole "spiritual paternity" argument against gay men becoming priests. We can no longer say, or rather judge, that a same-sex attracted man lacks something in his nature or his level of maturity simply because he is same-sex attracted. I would argue that this same line of thinking has positive implications for gay men in contexts other than the priesthood. It also has positive implications for women, including within the context of priesthood, as we can no longer say, or rather judge, that a female lacks something in her nature or her level of maturity simply because she is female.


The way of the Spirit

The implications of the pope's in-flight news conference remarks are quite something, aren't they? And it could be that they are implications of which the pope himself is still growing into full consciousness. That tends to often be the wonderful trickster-like way of the Spirit, wouldn't you say? And I have no doubt that it was God's Spirit that inspired the speaking through Francis of these particular words – words which, seed-like, contain much potential for hope, renewal and transformation within the church.

My prayer is that Francis continues to be open to the Spirit and thus continues to say and do things that challenge all those things – be they unjust economic systems, selfish attitudes, or judgmental theological concepts – that hinder and obstruct the flowering of that abundant life that Jesus proclaimed for all.


Related Off-site Links:
Pope Francis Signals Openness Towards Gay Priests – Lizzy Davies (The Guardian, July 29, 2013).
Pope Francis Offers Respect for Gay Priests, Signaling a New Papal Direction – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, July 29, 2013).
Pope Francis on Gays: Who Am I To Judge Them? – Paul Brandeis Raushenbush (The Huffington Post, July 29, 2013).
Pope on Homosexuals: "Who Am I To Judge?" – John Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter, July 29, 2013).
Pope Francis on Not Judging and Marginalizing Gays: My Reflections – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, July 29, 2013).
Will Francis' Statements on Women and Gays "Make a Mess" Inside the Church? – Mary E. Hunt (Religion Dispatches, July 29, 2013).
Catholic Reactions to Pope Francis' Comments on Accepting Gay Priests – Francis DeBernardo (Bonding 2.0, July 29, 2013).
Pope's Comments on Gay Clergy Mark Change in Style If Not Substance – Emma Margolin (MSNBC, July 29, 2013).
"Spiritual Paternity": Why Homosexual Men Cannot be Ordained Catholic Priests – Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, January 14, 2009).
Ministry, Not Maleness, is the Theological Starting Point for the Priest – James Moudry (The Progressive Catholic Voice, February 18, 2009).

UPDATES: Pope's Comments Raise Hope for Change Among Minnesota Catholics – Jeff Strickler (Star Tribune, July 30, 2013).
How Pope Francis' Gay Comment Was Oversold by the Media – Sara Morrison (Reuters via Yahoo! News, July 30, 2013).
Catholic Pundits in Damage Control After Pope Says Something Halfway Nice – Evan Hurst (Truth Wins Out, July 30, 2013).
Pope Francis and Gays: “Loving the Sinner” is Still Intolerance – Tim Padgett (Time, July 30, 2013).
Pope Francis Asks "Who Am I to Judge?" But Real-Life Gay Catholics Continue to Experience Marginalization – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, July 30, 2013).
A Single Step Can Begin the Longest Journey – Herbert W. Chilstrom (Star Tribune, August 3, 2013).
Pope Francis and Gay Priests – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, August 9, 2013).
Pope Francis and the Gay Elephant in the Room – Phillip Clark (Expressions: Liberated, August 18, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Homosexuality and the Priesthood
Officially Homophobic, Intensely Homoerotic
A Fact That Should Be Neither Surprising Nor Derogatory
Report: Homosexuality No Factor in Abusive Priests
Vatican Stance on Gay Priests Signals Urgent Need for Renewal and Reform
Gay Men in the Vatican Are Giving the Rest of Us a Bad Name
Catholic Church Can Overcome Fear of LGBT People


Quote of the Day

If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?

– Pope Francis
Quoted in Rachel Donadio's New York Times article,
"Pope Says He Will Not Judge Gay Priests"
July 29, 2013


Related Off-site Links:
Pope Francis Offers Respect for Gay Priests, Signaling a New Papal Direction – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, July 29, 2013).
Pope Francis on Gays: Who Am I To Judge Them? – Paul Brandeis Raushenbush (The Huffington Post, July 29, 2013).
Pope on Homosexuals: "Who Am I To Judge?" – John Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter, July 29, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Homosexuality and the Priesthood
Officially Homophobic, Intensely Homoerotic
A Fact That Should Be Neither Surprising Nor Derogatory
Report: Homosexuality No Factor in Abusive Priests
Vatican Stance on Gay Priests Signals Urgent Need for Renewal and Reform
Gay Men in the Vatican Are Giving the Rest of Us a Bad Name
Catholic Church Can Overcome Fear of LGBT People


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Prayer of the Week


Love all Creation,
the whole of it and every grain of sand.
Love every leaf,
every ray of God's light.
Love the animals,
love the plants,
love everything.

If you love everything,
you will perceive the Divine Mystery
in all things.

And once you have perceived it,
you will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly
more and more everyday.

And you will at last come to love the whole world
with an abiding universal love.



Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Friday, July 26, 2013

From Autoheart to Moscow, with Love…


British band Autoheart has come up with a creative way to respond to the terrible anti-gay crisis in Russia.

But before I share it, here's how Alexander Abad-Santos, writing for the Atlantic Wire, summarizes the current situation in Russia.

Over the past few months, Russian lawmakers have made that nation increasingly hostile to homosexuals. In June, for example, President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning "gay propaganda," which not only prohibits gay pride marches but potentially sends people to prison for explaining homosexuality to children. That same month, Putin signed yet another law allowing police to jail tourists who are believed to be homosexuals. And in July, Putin signed a law that bans gay couples, among other constituencies, from adopting Russian children. BuzzFeed has a powerful series of photos starkly showing the state-sanctioned violence gay people routinely face there.



In the face of all this anti-gay violence, some are calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will take place in the southern Russian city of Sochi. Others are encouraging gay bars to stop buying Russian products, such as vodka and brandy. One bar in Chicago, The Call, has already propped up a sign that states, "proudly serving non-Russian vodkas."

And then there's Autoheart's charming song "Moscow" and its accompanying video, one which depicts (very Pierre et Gilles-like) two Russian soldiers kissing in front of the Kremlin. Here's what the band (pictured at left) says about "Moscow" on their YouTube channel:

"Moscow" is a song about the daft optimism of being in love, when you just want to run away with that person, dream about being together forever, the house, the dog, and nothing else matters.

We are lucky in Britain to have laws that mean whether we are gay, straight, bisexual or anything in between, our relationships are recognised and our rights protected by law. But in Russia there is an anti-gay crisis happening right now: their government does not want to afford their people those same rights and are trying to criminalise even the discussion of gay equality.

In our video, two gay Russian soldiers kiss in front of the Kremlin – yet just last month a group of same-sex couples in Moscow were violently attacked and then arrested for doing just this.

Wouldn't it be amazing if one day all consenting adults could be free to love who they want to without fear of persecution?


Indeed!

So, with Friday night periodically being 'music night' here at The Wild Reed, here for your listening and viewing pleasure is Autoheart with "Moscow." Enjoy!





Related Off-site Links:
Russia's Anti-Gay Crackdown – Harvey Fierstein (New York Times, July 21, 2013).
Russian Neo-Nazi Groups Tricking and Torturing Gay Male Teenagers: The Blood is on Putin's Hands – Adrian Garcia (The Gaily Grind, July 25, 2013).
Russian Neo-Nazis Allegedly Lure, Torture Gay Teens with Online Dating Scam – Cavan Sieczkowski (The Huffington Post, July 26, 2013).
Protests Growing Against Russian Anti-Gay Laws – Nico Bell (DailyXtra.com, July 25, 2013).
Stoli Vodka Boycotted by Gay Bars, CEO Publishes Open Letter and Queer Nation Responds – James Nichols (The Huffington Post, July 26, 2013).
Russian Gay Activists: There is ‘No Point’ Boycotting Vodka – Joe Morgan (Gay Star News, July 26, 2013).
Russia Should Learn from Britain's Record on Gay Rights – Robert Wintemute (The Guardian, July 24, 2013).
Autoheart's Official Website

UPDATES: Mr. Putin's War on Gays – Editorial Board (New York Times, July 28, 2013).
22 Russians Who We Won't Let Vladimir Putin Forget Were LGBT – Christopher Harrity (The Advocate, August 6, 2013).
Why Do Activists Reject Russian LGBT Strategies for Olympics? – Colin Stewart (76crimes.com, August 8, 2013).
Hundreds Protest in London Against Russian Anti-Gay Law – Costas Pitas (Reuters via Yahoo! News, August 10, 2013).
International Olympic Committee Forbids Athletes to Speak Against Russian Anti-Gay Laws – Jase Peeples (The Advocate, August 13, 2013).


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Quote of the Day

I am certainly among those Catholics who tend to gush about what some religion writers are now calling “the Francis Effect,” and who make much of our new Pope’s evident distaste for baroque vestments, Prada shoes, and ecclesiastical bling; his evident preference for clerical work clothes to pontifical regalia, a casually hospitable residence to the opulent papal apartment, and a four-door Ford Focus to an exotically accessorized Mercedes Benz. All these splendid chops have been on worldwide display during his visit to Brazil, and we haven’t seen the last of them.

It is refreshing to witness the embarrassment of princely churchmen as they’re shown up by the new boss, but even among us good middleclass Catholic outliers, “Commonweal Catholics,” NCR editorialists, nuns on buses, progressive directors of religious education, innovative liturgists, advocates of women’s ordination, and exasperated leftist pro-lifers, there must stir an uneasy sense of “tu quoque.” When the newly elected Pope Francis said that he longs for a Church that is poor and for the poor, he undoubtedly had overdressed and bejeweled cardinals, careerist bishops, and cufflink priests in mind, but he was addressing all the rest of us, too. Just because I don’t sit on a Bernini throne, keep a limo driver on hold and have a staff of vowed religious waiting on me at dinnertime doesn’t mean that I have no ballast to throw out, no occluded lifestyle to simplify, open up and focus.

– Michael O. Garvey
"The Francis Effect"
Commonweal
July 25, 2013




See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Doing Papa Proud
Something to Think About – June 6, 2013
Servant Pope
Something to Think About – March 24, 2013
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 1)
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 2)
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 3)
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 4)
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 5)
Beyond Papalism
Gospel Leadership
St. Francis of Assisi: Dancer, Rebel, Archetype
Francis of Assisi: God's Gift to the Church
No Mere Abstraction
Francis of Assisi: The Antithesis of Clericalism and Monarchism
Solar Brother: Franco Zeffirelli's Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Related Off-site Links:
Pope, Among Poor, Speaks of Social Justice – James Martin, SJ (America, July 25, 2013).
Right Wing 'Generally Not Happy' with Francis, Chaput Says – John L. Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter (July 23, 2013).
Apparently Nobody Expected Pope Francis to Actually Be Francis – Colleen Kochivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, July 25, 2013).
Rebel Pope Urges Catholics to Shake Up Dioceses – Nicole Winfield, Marco Sibaja and Jenny Barchfield (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, July 25, 2013).
Pope Francis Attacks Inequality on Visit to Brazilian Slum – Jonathan Watts (The Guardian, July 25, 2013).
Pope Francis in Brazil (Photo Gallery)The Guardian (July 25, 2013).

UPDATES: Cardinal Burke Labels Social Justice Catholics Communists – Joshua J. McElwee (National Catholic Reporter, July 26, 2013).
Equally Blessed Pilgrims Bring LGBT Faith Witness to World Youth Day – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, July 26, 2013).
Pope Francis: My Advice is Always "Dialogue, Dialogue, Dialogue"Vatican Radio (July 27, 2013).
The New World of Pope Francis – Fiona Ehlers (SPIEGEL via ABC News, July 28, 2013).

Image 1: Pope Francis is surrounded by children during his visit to the Varginha favela in Rio de Janeiro on July 25, 2013. (Photograph: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)
Image 2: Pilgrims march along Ipanema Beach ahead of Pope Francis's visit to Rio de Janeiro on July 21, 2013. (Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images)


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

National LGBTQ Catholic Organization Honors Role Played by Catholics and Other Faith Groups in Securing Marriage Equality in Minnesota

.

I mentioned in a previous post that DignityUSA held its 2013 National Convention in Minneapolis earlier this month (July 4-7). The theme of the convention was "Let Justice Roll Like a River."

During the conference's opening ceremony on the evening of Thursday, July 4, State Senator Scott Dibble, State Senator Patricia Torres Ray, and I were honored for our "prophetic leadership in achieving marriage equality in Minnesota" (above).

Writing in the July 10 issue of the National Catholic Reporter, convention keynote speaker Sister Maureen Fiedler, SL, noted that:

DignityUSA is an organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics. Its members are both deeply Catholic and, of course, very concerned about justice in the church and civil society for LGBT people. In the two or three times that I have been at a DignityUSA conference, I have always found what can only be described as a palpable sense of prayer and spirituality. The same spirit pervaded Minneapolis.

This year, the planners clearly wanted members to connect the quest for LGBT justice and other struggles for justice. Thus, I was invited to keynote the conference by speaking on the social teaching of the church, raising themes of economic justice, world peace, nondiscrimination, the rights of immigrants, gender equality and respect for Earth.

Jamie Manson gave a marvelous address on the "intersections of justice." The idea is that issues of justice cannot be separated; they must "roll down like a mighty stream." She joined everyone at the conference in cheering the Supreme Court decisions overturning DOMA and Prop 8 in California. But she said she did so with a heavy heart because of the SCOTUS decision the day before that gutted a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. She praised [Catholics for Marriage Equality MN] who realized [last year] they had to oppose not just an amendment to their state constitution that would have banned same-sex marriage but another amendment also on the ballot restricting voting rights. For the record, both amendments lost, a victory for justice.


As executive coordinator of CPCSM/Catholics for Marriage Equality MN I organized the Catholic event that, as Fiedler says, "opposed not just an amendment to [the] state constitution that would have banned same-sex marriage but another amendment also on the ballot restricting voting rights." This event took place last September and was entitled "A Matter of Social Justice: Catholics Voting 'No' on Both Amendments." Jamie was one of three speakers. (For the transcript of her remarks, click here.) I was inspired to organize this event after reading Ricardo Levins Morales' August 10, 2012 Twin Cities Daily Planet article, "The Marriage Amendment as Decoy and How to Fight the Real Danger."


Right: Jamie Manson at C4ME-MN's September 29, 2012 event, "A Matter of Social Justice: Catholics Voting 'No' on Both Amendments."


Jamie's preparation for and participation in this event was clearly a pivotal experience for her. Not only did she refer to it in her remarks at the DignityUSA National Convention, but she also talked about it in her June 27, 2013 National Catholic Reporter column. The focus of this particular column was the U.S. Supreme Court's June 25 striking down of a key provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, followed the next day by its striking down of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Here's part of what Jamie wrote in her column:

I got a crash course in voter ID laws in September 2012, when I was invited to Minneapolis to offer a talk on the connection between this issue and marriage equality. At the time, Minnesotans were being asked to vote on two new amendments to their state constitution. One would ban same-sex marriage and the other would make it mandatory for voters to show a state-issued photo ID to get access to the polls.

While proponents of voter ID claim these laws are intended to protect against fraud at the polls, the reality is that incidents of such fraud are almost negligible. Those opposed to voter ID (or "voter suppression laws," as they have been justifiably dubbed) have argued convincingly that these laws create unnecessary, if not unconstitutional, obstacles between some of our most disadvantaged citizens and the voting booth.

As anyone who has worked in social services knows well, many in the poor, disabled, homeless, immigrant and elderly populations do not have state-issued identification, and if they do have one, it is often out of date. If these individuals do not have ID or if the identification does not match the voting district, they would be barred from voting or would have to endure a costly, convoluted process in order to vote, often days or weeks after the election takes place.

The law would also render many college students who have identification from out of state ineligible to vote.

Since voter ID laws disenfranchise those who would be more likely to vote for more liberal candidates and causes that protect entitlements and civil rights, it should come as no surprise that these laws are the brainchild of Republican lawmakers. In some states, keeping even a fraction of the poor, elderly, immigrant or student population from the polls could be enough to ensure a Republican or tea party victory.

It should also be no surprise, therefore, that within hours of Supreme Court's decision on the Voting Rights Act, Republican Party leaders in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina declared their plans to proceed with voter suppression.

When I was invited to give the presentation on voter ID and same-sex marriage, Michael Bayly, executive director of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, told me that if the amendment banning same-sex marriage was defeated but the voter ID amendment passed, it would be a "hollow victory." (In the end, Minnesotans managed to defeat both the voter ID and the ban on same-sex marriage amendments in November.)

Bayly's "hollow victory" phrase has been reverberating in my mind this week as the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court building transitioned from a place of frustration and defeat for racial justice activists Tuesday into a place to relief and rejoicing for LGBT activists Wednesday.

The fight against voter suppression laws and the fight for LGBT rights share some deep connections. At the most fundamental level, both are civil rights battles for equal protection under the law. In the same way that LGBT activists have asked other victims of discrimination to identify with our struggle, LGBT people must continue to foster the bonds of identity and solidarity across communities of justice-seekers.

At a strategic level, LGBT activists must also consider the ways in which voter suppression could undermine the fight for equality in the 35 states where same-sex marriage continues to be illegal. If right-wing lawmakers are successful in restricting voter eligibility among the disenfranchised, LGBT civil rights will be as vulnerable as government entitlements, civil liberties, collective bargaining and protections for immigrants.

LGBT activists and their allies know that, even in light of these historic victories, there is still much work ahead. The Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act serves as a cautionary tale of how, decades after they are won and codified, civil rights can be gradually dismantled or undermined.




Earlier this year I was interviewed by University of Minnesota student Michelle Zupanc for her academic paper, "The Influence of the Religious Left in the Rejection the 2012 Minnesota Marriage Amendment: Dialogue, Pluralism, Alliance." As Michelle notes in her introduction, her paper "does not seek to explain why Minnesotans rejected the amendment, nor does it seek to argue that religious progressives were the key reason why the amendment failed to pass. Rather, this paper seeks to demonstrate that the organizing and mobilizing strategies religious communities practiced were a key factor in the defeat of the 2012 Minnesota marriage amendment."

At its national convention earlier this month in Minneapolis, DignityUSA acknowledged and honored not just Catholic representatives of those religious organizations that helped defeat the 'marriage amendment,' but a number of representatives from the Minnesota inter-faith community (above). From left: Paula Ruddy (Catholic Coalition for Church Reform), Rebecca Voelkel (Institute for Welcoming Resources of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force), David Lohman (Institute for Welcoming Resources and Faith Work Coordinator at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force), Laura Smidzik (Unitarian Universalist), Robin Mavis (Wiccan), Ralph Wyman (Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance), and Liz Oppenheimer (Quaker).

That's my friend Jim Smith at the podium. As well as being a board member of CPCSM/Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, Jim also serves as DignityUSA's program manager.



Above: Standing with six of my fellow CPCSM/Catholics for Marriage Equality MN board members. From left: Lisa Vanderlinden, Cheryl Maloney, Kathleen Olsen, Brent Vanderlinden, Mary Beckfeld, me, and Jim Smith. Two board members, Mary Kay Orman and Bob DeNardo, were unable to join us that night.

Following is that part of Michelle Zupanc's paper, "The Influence of the Religious Left in the Rejection the 2012 Minnesota Marriage Amendment" in which she writes about Catholics for Marriage Equality MN.

According to Michael Bayly, the Executive Coordinator of Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), Catholics for Marriage Equality (C4ME) was created to bring up the topic of marriage equality within a Catholic context. . . . C4ME was a coalition partner with Minnesotans United for All Families, however, C4ME’s strategy went beyond personal stories and focused on discrimination and theological matters as well. According to Bayly, it was too simple to limit C4ME’s mobilizing strategies to personal stories. This belief became important because C4ME diverged from the Catholic hierarchy’s teaching on same-sex relations. Therefore, C4ME contrasted with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and Archbishop Nienstedt’s Natural Law argument . . . a theological argument in support for the amendment in which marriage is for reproductive purposes between a man and a woman in union. C4ME thus had its own set of language of rights and values based in Catholic theology and used multiple tools for organizing. C4ME’s mainly focused on their talking tips. The talking tips ranged from personal stories, and intellectual discussion on how to respond to certain theological arguments based in Catholic theology. These arguments consisted primarily of the Primacy of Conscience, the Golden Rule, and warnings against false fears provoked by the bishops and others within the Catholic hierarchy. According to Bayly, one should not be afraid to lift up Catholic theological teachings in support for marriage equality. Furthermore, C4ME used their website, literature at events, yard signs and bumper stickers & buttons with the message "Another Catholic Voting No," and their DVD as resources for organizing.





Above: The inspiring Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata, co-founders of Fortunate Families.


Right: My good friends and fellow CPCSM/Catholics for Marriage Equality MN board members Brent and Lisa Vanderlinden.




Left: After receiving my "special recognition" from DignityUSA President Lourdes Rodríguez-Nogués for "Prophetic Leadership in Achieving Marriage Equality in Minnesota," I was able to address those gathered for the convention's opening ceremony. After thanking DignityUSA and noting what an honor it was to be standing with my fellow honorees Sen. Scott Dibble and Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, I said a few things about Catholics for Marriage Equality MN.

I began by saying that our main accomplishment was that we provided a voice – a voice for Catholics attuned and responsive to the presence of God in the lives and relationships of LGBT people; a voice that respectfully challenged the words and actions of the MN Catholic Conference of Bishops. I noted that our voice is a voice informed by the very best of our Catholic tradition – the doctrine of the primacy of conscience and our rich tradition of social justice which, unlike the bishops' medieval sexual theology, was grounded in the radically inclusive life and message of Jesus.

I observed that we were able to do what did because we had leadership and creativity embodied in many people. I especially acknowledged Mary Kay Orman, the creative force behind our heart-and-mind-changing DVD, Catholics for Marriage Equality, and Jim Smith, who provided the galvanizing energy behind not just the music video recording by 300 Catholics of David Lohman's beautiful hymn "For the Children," but of one of our most successful events, the premiere of this music video in Loring Park last summer.

Finally, I noted that we could not have achieved what we did without the support of our straight allies, and that for me personally, such allies are embodied in my good friend and housemate Tim (right). I acknowledged and thanked Tim for the support he's given to both me and the work of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN this past year-and-a-half. It bears repeating that we simply could not have achieved marriage equality in Minnesota without our straight allies. And Tim is up there with the best of them!


Related Off-site Link:
DignityUSA Convention Recap – Mateo Williamson (DignityUSA.org, August 7, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
An Inspiring Evening of Conversation and Camaraderie
Quote of the Day – June 26, 2013
Doing Papa Proud
Drawing the Circle Wide
Marriage Equality Comes to Minnesota
Both 'Marriage Amendment' AND 'Voter Photo ID Amendment' Rejected by Minnesota Voters
Acknowledging, Celebrating, and Learning from Marriage Equality's 'Triumphs of Faith'
The Minneapolis (and Online) Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality
A Catholic Rationale for Opposing the 'Marriage Amendment'
Rediscovering What Has Been Written on Our Hearts from the Very Beginning
Michael Bayly: Changing the Church from Within

Images: Michael Bayly and Tim Lynch.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Quote of the Day

After many long years of discussion and consideration, and whereas I previously held a different view, it is important now to state clearly that I no longer oppose efforts to reform the [Australian] Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) to provide for same sex civil marriage. I have always believed in the value of marriage and family and I have come to believe that the benefits and rigours of civil marriage and adoption should be extended to same sex attracted men and women.

Inasmuch as some organisations and individuals continue to refer to my previous statements on this matter, and some persist in doing so despite written clarification from me, I now reiterate publicly what I have communicated privately. No one should use my name, image, or previous statements to promote an anti-reform campaign or agenda.

I acknowledge with gratitude those interlocutors over the years who challenged me to reconsider civil marriage reform.

– John Heard
Quoted in "Same-Sex Civil Marriage Embraced by Former Opponent of Reform,"
a media release issued by Australian Marriage Equality
in response to Heard's February 20, 2013 Spectator article,
"Aisle of Plenty"


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
John Heard and the Dreaded "Same-Sex Attracted" View of Catholicism
Distinguishing Between Roman Catholic Theology and Civil Law in the Struggle for Marriage Equality
Quote of the Day – June 26, 2013
Jonathan Capehart: "Catholics Lead the Way on Same-Sex Marriage"
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
An Ironic Truth
Thoughts on Archbishop Nichols' Support for Civil Unions
The "Gay Civil Unions" Approach of Some Within the Catholic Hierarchy: Too Little, Too Late
Kristen McQueary: "Yes to Civil Unions and Yes to My Catholic Faith"
Dale Carpenter on the "Win-Win" Reality of Gay Marriage
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"
A Catholic Statement of Support for Marriage Equality
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview

Related Off-site Links:
Dreadnought Comes In from the Cold – Joseph S. O'Leary (July 22, 2013).
It's Time to Recognise Secular Same Sex Marriage – Fr. Frank Brennan, SJ (EurekaStreet.com, July 11, 2013).
Separating Civil and Sacramental Marriage – Part 1 – Francis DeBernardo (Bonding 2.0, July 20, 2013).
Separating Civil and Sacramental Marriage – Part 2 – Francis DeBernardo (Bonding 2.0, July 21, 2013).
Catholics Should Be Okay with Gay Marriage – Andrew Sullivan (TruthDig.com, July 1, 2013).
Homosexuality and the Church - The Toughest Questions AnsweredLifeSiteNews.com (December 7, 2009).
Fisking Dreadnought – Joseph S. O'Leary (February 14, 2008).


Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Hers Would Be the Perpetual Ache of Loss and Loneliness"

.
Remembering how, as a deeply closeted gay boy,
I resonated with the isolation and the fears
of a lovelorn eighteenth-century spinster.


The success of the Poldark television series in the mid-1970s ensured that a boxed-set of Winston Graham's first seven Poldark novels was a popular item in bookstores across Australia. I remember the 'box' part was colored red and, like the books it contained, featured pictures of the actors who starred in the TV series. I also remember pleading with my mum to get me the boxed-set of Poldark books for Christmas. That would have been Christmas 1978 or 1979. Maybe earlier. I can't remember exactly.

Anyway, after checking with one of her avid reading 'tennis lady' friends, a Mrs Davies, if I remember correctly, mum determined that the Poldark novels were suitable reading material for me. The boxed-set was subsequently purchased, wrapped, and placed under the Christmas tree as a present from Nanna and Pop Smith.

I admit is was a rather odd present for a teenage boy. But then I wasn't your average teenage boy. I remember one of my high school friends dismissing the Poldark television series as "eighteenth-century Days of Our Lives." Believe me, the books are far from that. In fact, collectively, they comprise one of the greatest works of historical fiction ever written.

As I've mentioned in a couple of previous posts, I'm currently re-reading all twelve Poldark novels. I'm currently up to number nine, The Miller's Dance. I must say it's been interesting reading them as an adult. I mean, for one thing, when I read them for the first time as a teenager the characters were all older than me. Not by much but, let's face it, when you're fifteen those in their mid-late twenties seem old! Yet now many of the characters, including the series' protagonist Ross Poldark, are younger than me – considerably younger. Well, up until the seventh novel, that is. The eighth novel jumps forward ten years, and so now I'm younger again, but only by a few years (Ross is in his early fifties and has two adult children).

I know I shouldn't find it so, but I must admit I do find it all a little bit disconcerting. I guess it's because I'm reminded of some rather obvious truths that perhaps I've been avoiding. Chief among them the fact that I'm old and getting older! This, in turn, brings up all manner of questions about the ways I've chosen to live my life over the past two decades and, perhaps more importantly, what it is I want to be doing with the rest of my life and where I want to be doing it.

Answering such questions, however, is not what this post is about. Rather, I simply want to share a part of the first Poldark novel, a part that I can vividly remember reading for the first time 30+ years ago and which has stayed with me ever since. It concerns Verity Poldark, Ross' cousin. In the television series she's played by Norma Streader (right). Verity's unmarried and pushing thirty, which in those days often meant certain spinsterhood. She had hoped to marry Captain James Blamey, a man with a violent past yet who has reformed and truly loves and cares for her. Their budding romance is derailed, however, by Verity's father, Charles, and brother, Francis. They view Captain Blamey as dangerous and an unsuitable match for Verity. Ross, to his credit, isn't so sure and has been quietly allowing the couple to meet on his property. Charles and Francis catch wind of these meetings and intervene. The resulting confrontation isn't pretty. Anyway, in the excerpt that I share a little bit further down in this post, Verity has returned with her father and brother to Trenwith, the Poldark ancestral home. She goes to her room and bleakly contemplates her future.

I think the reason this particular passage made such an impression on me as a teenager was that although I'd sensed for a while I was different, I was now beginning to have a clear sense that moving into young adulthood was bringing this differentness to the fore. Things, it seemed, were only going to get more troubling and difficult. For one thing, I was beginning to register the possibility that this sense of differentness might be related to my sexual orientation, a term which was completely foreign to me at the time. Still, I knew what drew my eye and what stirred a certain queasiness deep within me. It was a discomfort that came, in part, from the knowledge that the male forms and figures I found myself drawn to and, yes, turned-on by, were things to which neither of my two brothers nor any of my male school friends were drawn.



Above: A photo of me taken around the time I first began reading
Winston Graham's Poldark novels in the late 1970s.


Accordingly, I had to keep my attractions, thoughts and fantasies closely guarded secrets. As a result, I was, like Verity, though for very different reasons, beginning to feel like a stranger amidst my own family. I too was shrinking inside myself and recognizing a "core of isolation." I also began to fear, in some vague way, a future life marked by a "perpetual ache of loss and loneliness." It was an experience that I explore in greater detail here, here, here and here. I should note, however, that for Verity Poldark and for myself, life did not turn out to be the bleak and lonely ordeal we feared it would be! Perhaps more about Verity's story in a later post.

Here and now, though, is the master storyteller Winston Graham doing what he does best: evoking a powerful sense of time, place, character, and mood. Despite the rather bleak context I hope you'll appreciate and enjoy – if that's the right word – the following excerpt from Graham's very first "novel of Cornwall," Ross Poldark.


And Verity had gone to her room. . . .

She felt herself detached from this household of which she had been a part for twenty-five years. She was among strangers. More than that, they were hostile strangers. They had drawn away from her, and she from them, for lack of understanding. In an afternoon she had shrunk inside herself; there would grow up a core of unfriendlessness and isolation.

She pushed the bolt across the door and sat abruptly in the first chair. Her romance was over; even though she rebelled against the fact, she knew that it was so. She felt faint and sick, and desperately tired of being alive. If death could come quietly and peacefully she would accept it, would sink into it as one sank into a bed wanting only sleep and self-forgetfulness.

Her eyes moved round the room. Every article in it was familiar with the extreme unseeing intimacy of everyday association.

Through the long sash window and the narrow window in the alcove she had looked with the changing eyes of childhood and youth. She had looked out on the herb garden and the yew hedge and the three bent sycamores in all the seasons of the year and in all the moods of her own growth. She had seen frost draw its foliate patterns on the pane, raindrops run down them like tears on old cheeks, the first spring sun shine dustily through them on the turkey rug and the stained oak boards.

The old French clock on the carved chimneypiece, with its painted and gilt figures, like a courtesan from the days of Louis XIV, had been in the room all Verity's life. Its thin metallic bell had been announcing the hours for more than fifty years. When it was made Charles was a thin strip of a boy, not a breathless empurpled old man breaking up his daughter's romance. They had been together, child and clock, girl and clock, woman and clock, through illness and nightmare and fairy stories and daydreams, through all the monotony and the splendour of life.

Her eyes went on, to the glass-top display table with the carved legs, to the two pink satin bedroom chairs, the cane rocking-chair, the stumpy brass candlesticks with the candles rising in steps, the pincushion, the embroidered workbasket, the two-handled washing urn. Even the decorations of the room, the long damask curtains, the flock wallpaper with its faded crimson flowers on an ivory ground, the white plaster roses of the cornice and ceiling, had become peculiarly and completely her own.

She knew that here in the privacy of her own room, where no man except her brother and her father ever came, she could give way, could lie on the bed and weep, could abandon herself to sorrow. But she sat on the chair and didn't move at all.

There were no tears in her eyes. The wound went too deep, or she was not so constituted to give way to it. Hers would be the perpetual ache of loss and loneliness, slowly dulled with time until it became a part of her character, a faint sourness tinged with withered pride.

Andrew would be back in Falmouth by now, back in the lodgings she had heard of but never seen. Through his quiet talk she had seen the bleakness of his life ashore, the two rooms in the lodging house by the quay, the drab woman who looked after him.

She had thought to change all that. They had planned to rent a cottage overlooking the bay, a place with a few trees and a small garden running down to the shingle beach. Though he had scarcely ever spoken of his first marriage, she had understood enough to be certain that much of the fault of the failure lay with her – however inexcusable on his side the end might have been. She had felt that she could make up for that failure. With her busy hands and managing ability and with their mutual love she would have made for him a home such as he had not had before.

Instead this room which had seen her grow to maturity would see her dry up and fade. The gilt mirror in the corner would bear its dispassionate testimony. All these ornaments and furnishings would be her companions through the years to come. And she realized that she would come to hate them, if she didn't already hate them, as one hates the witness of one's humiliation and futility.

She made a halfhearted attempt to shake herself out of this mood. Her father and her brother had acted in good faith, true to their upbringing and principles. If the result she remained at their beck and call until she was old, it was not fair to blame them for the whole. They thought they had "saved her from herself." Her life in Trenwith would be more peaceful, more sheltered than as the wife of a social outcast. She was among relatives and friends. The long summer days were full of interest about the farm: the sowing, the haymaking, the harvesting; butter and cheeses to superintend, syrups and conserves to make. The winter ones were full too. Needlework in the evenings, making curtains and samplers and stockings, spinning wool and flax with Aunt Agatha, brewing simples; playing at quadrille when there were guests, or helping Mr. Odgers to train the choir at Sawle Church, dosing the servants with possets when they were ill.

This winter too there would be a newcomer in the house. If she had gone, Elizabeth would have been doubly lost; Francis would have found the well-run routine of the house suddenly out of joint, Charles would have no one to arrange his cushions or see that his silver tankard was polished before each meal. For these and a hundred other small needs the household depended on her, and if they did not repay her with overt thanks they showed her a tacit affection and friendship she couldn't disregard.

And if she had not found these duties irksome in the past, was it not just the first flush of disappointment which said they must be so in the future?

So she might argue, but Andrew said no. Andrew sitting now with his head in his hands in the dismal lodgings in Falmouth, Andrew next week in the Bay of Biscay, Andrew tramping the streets of Lisbon by night, or next month back in his lodgings, Andrew eating and drinking and sleeping and waking and being, said no. He had taken a place in her heart, or taken a part of her heart, and nothing would be the same again.

Last year she had drifted on a tide of custom and habit. She might have so drifted, without protest, into a contented and unambitious middle age. But this year, from now on, she must swim against the stream, not finding stimulus in the struggle but only bitterness and regret and frustration.

She sat there in the room by herself until darkness came and the shadows of the room closed about her like comforting arms.

– Excerpted from Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787 (1945)
by Winston Graham
pp. 207-211




For previous Poldark-related posts, see:
Passion, Time and Tide
A "Useful Marriage" for Morwenna
A Sea Dragon of an Emotion . . . "Causing Half the Trouble of the World, and Half the Joy"

See also the previous posts:
One of These Boys . . .
A Lesson from Play School
Thanks, Mum!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pahá Sápa Adventure

.
Part 4: "The Heart of Everything That Is"


Last month I traveled to Pahá Sápa, which is the Lakota name for the Black Hills of South Dakota. Accompanying me on this journey were my friends Kathleen, Joey and Will.

As I mentioned previously, one of the reasons I was particularly looking forward to this trip was the fact that it afforded me the opportunity to experience places and landscapes associated with the Oglala Lakota warrior and mystic Crazy Horse, someone for whom I have much respect, and in whose life and times I am greatly interested.

Although Crazy Horse lived most of his life on the Great Plains, he was born in the Black Hills and, according to reliable sources, spent time there as both a child and an adult. And, of course, like all Lakota of his time, Crazy Horse understood and experienced the Black Hills as being the most sacred place in creation, as the heart of everything there is. It grieved and angered him greatly to see the Black Hills taken over and exploited by the whites.

Our first full day in Pahá Sápa was Sunday, June 9. We spent much of that day exploring that area of the Black Hills known today as Custer State Park. Now, I have to say that given the sacred significance of the Black Hills to the Lakota (or Sioux), I find it troubling, to say the least, that any part of Pahá Sápa should be named after George Armstrong Custer or indeed any of the white military leaders who played a role in driving the Lakota off their lands. Such naming just seems to add insult to injury. I feel the same way about place names in my home country of Australia. There, however, a "dual naming policy" has been adopted which allows official names that consist of both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name. Perhaps the most well known examples of this policy are Ulura/Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta/The Olgas.

As far as I know, no such dual naming policy exists in the U.S. I think this is unfortunate as it reflects an insensitivity, perhaps even an indifference, to indigenous culture, spirituality, and history. Take, for example, the case involving General William S. Harney, the U.S. cavalry officer who on September 3, 1855, oversaw the massacre of 86 people in the camp of the Brulé Lakota chief Little Thunder. Most of the dead were women and children.

In The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History, Joseph M. Marshall III notes that the young Crazy Horse witnessed the aftermath of this brutal attack as well as the previous "Gratton incident," which resulted in the death of Chief Conquering Bear. Writes Marshall:


History told from the viewpoint of those who consider themselves the winners in the so-called "clash of cultures" casts the indigenous people as the bad guys because they stood in the way of progress and "manifest destiny." The whites, so far as the Lakota – and many other Plains tribes were concerned – were the bad guys. They were not considered honored enemies, such as the Crow, Shoshoni, and Pawnee. The newcomers were arrogant intruders and loud, brash interlopers whose movements into Lakota territory was like a prairie fire consuming everything in its path.

. . . One wonders what Crazy Horse would think of the modern-day irony associated with General Harney, dubbed "Woman Killer" by the Sicangu [or Brulé] Lakota: In the middle of the Black Hills is the highest of all the granite peaks. Like Bear Butte to the north, it was a favorite location for vision quests and other ceremonies. It was, and is, considered by the Lakota to be the spiritual center of the world. That highest and holiest of places was named Harney Peak by the whites. I have seen old Lakota men simply shake their heads at what they considered to be the most grievous of insults, because they could find no words to adequately describe their feelings.

– Joseph M. Marshall III
The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History
pp. 108-110


Given all of this, I prefer the Lakota name for the highest peak in the Black Hills – Hinhan Kaga Pahá, the Place of the Thunders.



Above: At the head of the trail to Little Devils Tower. From left: Joey, Kathleen, and Will.



Above: The Cathedral Spires – a group of granite pillars located in an area of Custer State Park known as the Needles.



Above: With Kathleen atop Little Devils Tower – the second highest point in the Black Hills. Behind us can be seen Hinhan Kaga Pahá, the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and the highest point in the Black Hills.

Wikipedia notes that:

[Hinhan Kaga Pahá] is the site of the [Oglala Lakota] Black Elk's "Great Vision" which he received when nine years old, and the site to which he returned as an old man, accompanied by writer John Neihardt, who popularized the medicine man in his book Black Elk Speaks.

Neihardt recorded Black Elk's words regarding his vision as follows: "I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being."


Black Elk, who died in 1950 aged 87, was a second cousin of Crazy Horse.



Above and below: Views of Pahá Sápa from Little Devils Tower – Sunday, June 9, 2013.


Following is another excerpt from The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III. This excerpt speaks powerfully of the significance of the Black Hills to the Lakota.

Traveling into the Black Hills – even simply observing them from a distance – always evoked a moment of reverence, an unspoken acknowledgement of all that this sacred place meant. such feelings were often hard to put into words, so one simply paused and looked and allowed images to have their impact.

. . . Not only were these mountains the place of Crazy Horse's birth, they were the center of the Lakota world, which carried far more meaning. The heart of everything that is. . . . No one knew how many Lakotas were laid to rest here in these mountains – over countless seasons their flesh and bones becoming one with the most sacred of places. There was no way to own these mountains, not in the sense one owned clothing or a weapon. But this was a place to feel connected, truly related to everything that is. It was a place that owned the Lakota.

– Joseph M. Marshall III
The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History
p. 200





Above: The rock formation known as the Eye of the Needle.



Above: The Needles Eye Tunnel.





Above and below: Traveling the Needles Highway, also known as South Dakota Highway 87.

Notes Wikipedia:

After splitting from US 16A, the route is known as the Needles Highway. The highway is named after the high granite "needles" it winds among. Access to the Needles Highway requires a Custer State Park entrance license, making that portion of SD 87 a toll road. Along this stretch lies the Black Hills Playhouse. The highway passes through two tunnels blasted through sheer granite walls — Iron Creek Tunnel at mile 25 (40 km), and Needles Eye Tunnel at mile 31 (50 km). Owing to the narrow roadway, sharp turns, and low tunnels, the road has very little traffic. The vehicles that do travel this road are almost exclusively sightseers.

Just after Needles Eye Tunnel, Highway 87 serves as the northern terminus of SD 89. After this junction, SD 87 has one more tunnel, Hood Tunnel, at milepost 33 (53 km).[1] It then provides access to the Sylvan Lake Resort. The route finally ends at US 16/385 south of Hill City.




Above: Sylvan Lake.



Above and below: The buffalo (or bison) herd of Custer State Park.

Notes Wikipedia:

[Custer State Park] is home to a famous herd of 1500 free roaming bison. Elk, mule deer, white tailed deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, mountain lions, and feral burros also inhabit the park. The park is famous for its scenery, its scenic drives (Needles Highway and the wildlife loop), with views of the bison herd and prairie dog towns.



Concerning the correct use of the terms "bison" and "buffalo," Wikipedia notes that:

The term "buffalo" is sometimes considered to be a misnomer for this animal, as it is only distantly related to either of the two "true buffalo," the Asian water buffalo and the African buffalo. However, "bison" is a Greek word meaning ox-like animal, while "buffalo" originated with the French fur trappers who called these massive beasts bœufs, meaning ox or bullock — so both names, "bison" and "buffalo," have a similar meaning. Though the name "Bison" might be considered to be more scientifically correct, as a result of standard usage the name "Buffalo" is also considered correct and is listed in many dictionaries as an acceptable name for American Buffalo or bison. In reference to this animal, the term "buffalo", dates to 1635 in North American usage when the term was first recorded for the American mammal. It thus has a much longer history than the term "bison", which was first recorded in 1774.




I conclude this installment of "Pahá Sápa Adventure" with an excerpt from Larry McMurtry's book Crazy Horse: A Life.


The Sioux [or Lakota] peoples in the time of Crazy Horse were spread across the northern and central plains in many loosely related tribes of bands, each governed, for the most part, not by one leader but by councils composed of tribal elders, men of skill, experience, and wisdom. . . . The Sioux were a mobile people who saw little advantage in rigidly fixed arrangements. Crazy Horse was an Oglala who spent a lot of time with the Brulés (his mother's people), some time with the Cheyennes, and later in life, at least a little time with the Hunkpapas. One of the glories of being a Plains Indian in his time was that one didn't have to stay put. An Oglala might want to move in with the Minniconjou band for a while, and was free to do so. The people were of necessity on the move anyway – the necessity being the dictates of the hunt.

. . . [Crazy Horse's] prominence today, as a symbol of Sioux resistance, owes much to his character . . . but it also is in part a matter of historical timing. He fought his best in the last great battles – the Rosebud and the Little Bighorn – and died young, in the last moments when the Sioux could think of themselves as free. By an accident of fate, the man and the way of life died together: little wonder that he came to be a symbol of Sioux freedom, Sioux courage, and Sioux dignity.

Though Crazy Horse was able to live many months and sometimes even years in the traditional Sioux way, raiding and hunting in turn, the way of life which he had been born was dying even while he was a boy. By the time of his birth the whites were already moving in considerable numbers along the Holy Road (what we call the Oregon Trail); at first the pressure of white intrusion may have been subtle and slight, but it was present, and would be present throughout his entire life. The buffalo were there in their millions when he was born but were mostly gone by the time he died. Crazy Horse would have been a boy of five or six when Francis Parkman camped in a Sioux village whose leader was Old Smoke; it's possible that young Curly – Crazy Horse's nickname while a boy – was even living in the village when Parkman passed through. We don't know that, but we do know that Francis Parkman was well aware that the way of life he was witnessing that summer – vividly described in The Oregon Trial – was a way of life that would soon be changing; indeed, would soon end.

As a lad Curly probably had no inkling of this, nor did most of his people, although the presence of whites in increasing numbers along the Holy Road was already an irritant. With an abundance of game both north and south of the Platte River, it may be thought that tribal life could have gone on with little change. But the lives of hunting people are never that secure. There was, to be sure, a lot of game; but it didn't meekly present itself to those who hunted it. The game still had to be found and killed – then, as now, animals were quick to shift away from places where they were heavily hunted. From the standpoint of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Pawnee hunters who lived by what they killed, the white invasion was almost immediately destructive.

. . . By 1850 all the Plains Indians had to reckon with the fact that though the whites were going through, they weren't going away. They brought many things that the Indians could use, but they also brought something that no tribe wanted: smallpox. The terrible epidemic that struck the Missouri River tribes in 1837, just a few years before Crazy Horse was born, nearly wiped out the Mandans and drastically weakened the Blackfeet.

The Whites came, their diseases came, and the game left – not all of it, of course, but even a slight diminution was enough to affect the lives of hunting peoples. Friction steadily increased along the Holy Road; immigrant trains were attacked, the occasional immigrant killed. There was no full-scale warfare yet, just an ominous, continuous rumbling. From the Santa Fe Trail in the south to Fort Union in the north there were clashes, disturbances, apprehension. The Indians, who had at first been friendly with the whites, soon found their patience beginning to fray; the whites, for their part, had never had much patience with the Indians. The Plains Indians were beginning to be seen as mobile impediments; what they stood in the way of was progress, a concept dear to the American politician.

. . . [By 1873] the severe financial panic [back east] had for a time driven mere Indian fights off the front pages . . . the gilding was suddenly beginning to flake off the Gilded Age; all was confusion, dismay, frustration. There no longer seemed to be enough money; specifically, not enough gold. The conservatives were happy to have the country on a gold standard, as long as there was enough gold for the economy to expand; but in the summer of 1873, there wasn't enough. Paper money had not yet fully caught on.

Fortunately for the nation, unfortunately for the Sioux, the Black Hills awaited; there had long been rumors of large gold deposits in the Sioux's holy hills. Awkwardly, though, for the leaders of the whites, there was the binding and much-publicized treaty of 1868, unequivocally giving those very hills to the Sioux forever, with unusually clear provisions that they, the whites, were to be kept out. The U.S. government had broken many treaties with the Indians; some would say they had broken all of them – the writer Alex Shoumatoff recently reckoned the total at 378 – but few of these breakages involved so much squirming and soul searching and public posturing as the treaty of 1868. General Sheridan began to mutter unconvincingly about treaty violations on the part of the Sioux, but in fact the Sioux were behaving nicely at the time, as the same general had admitted in another context. There were no grounds for breaching the treaty of 1868 except the grounds the whites finally always used: The United States wanted the Black Hills and all the gold that might be there. A big step toward the taking of them was the expedition that brought General [George Armstrong] Custer back to the west and produced the famous photograph of a seemingly endless line of wagons proceeding through a valley in the Black Hills. This expedition soon fulfilled its main, though unstated, purpose, which was to find gold in sufficient quantities to quench the thirst of the starving markets.

– Larry McMurtry
Crazy Horse: A Life
p. 14, pp. 17-20, pp. 77-78





NEXT: "I Will Return to You in the Stone"



See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Pahá Sápa Bound
Pahá Sápa Adventure – Part 1: The Journey Begins
Pahá Sápa Adventure – Part 2: The Badlands
Pahá Sápa Adventure – Part 3: Camp Life
A Visit to the National Museum of the American Indian
Crazy Horse: "Strange Man" of the Great Plains
"Something Sacred Dwells There"
This Corner of the Earth
My "Bone Country"

Images: Michael J. Bayly.