Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sherman Alexie's poem on going 'native'/Gynophobia

Sherman Alexie's poem on going 'native' "Introduction to Native American Literature Somewhere in America a television explodes & here you are again (again) asking me to explain broken glass. You scour the reservation landfill through the debris of so many lives: old guitar, basketball on fire, pair of shoes. All you bring me is an empty bottle. Am I the garbageman of your dreams? * Listen: it will not save you or talk you down from the ledge of a personal building. It will not kill you or throw you facedown to the floor & pull the trigger twice. It believes a roomful of monkeys in a roomful of typewriters would eventually produce a roomful of poetry about missing the jungle. You will forget more than you remember: that is why we all dream slowly. Often, you need a change of scenery. It will give you one black & white photograph. Sometimes, it whispers into anonymous corner bars & talks too much about the color of its eyes & skin & hair. It believes a piece of coal shoved up its own ass will emerge years later as a perfectly imperfect diamond. Sometimes, it screams the English language near freeways until trucks jackknife & stop all traffic while the city runs over itself. Often, you ask forgiveness. It will give you a 10% discount. * Because you have seen the color of my bare skin does not mean you have memorized the shape of my ribcage. Because you have seen the spine of the mountain does not mean you made the climb. Because you stood waist-deep in the changing river does not mean you were equal to mc2. Because you gave something a name does not mean your name is important. * Because you sleep does not mean that you see into my dreams. Send it a letter: the address will keep changing. Give it a phone call: busy signal. Knock on its door: you’ll hear voices. Look in its windows: shadows dance through the blinds. In the end, it will pick you up from the pavement & take you to the tribal cafe for breakfast. It will read you the menu. It will not pay your half of the bill." Sherman Alexie Old Shirts and New Skins John Chuchman Gynophobia I will no longer debate the issue of women’s ordination in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how all of Jesus’ Apostles were male, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how “only males can be representations of Christ," about how women have a “different role” in the Church, or about how male-only ordination is “the Church’s Tradition.” Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate that women be happy being nuns and priests’ helpers. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved at the expense of the dignity of women. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumented claims of certain gynophobic religious leaders who advocate for Male Superiority. I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that "Male-Only Ordination is the Church’s Tradition." That statement is nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people fear women, yet somehow know that this fear is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is "high-sounding, pious rhetoric." The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn't. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to "Roll on over or we'll roll on over you!" Time waits for no one. It is time for the Church to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full Equality for Women. There is no way that justice for Women can be compromised any longer. I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude. I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it. It is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Women have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. The ordination of Women is recognized by the state and must be pronounced holy by the church. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of Women in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote. The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for Women is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon. Things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the "Flat Earth Society" either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church's participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people. Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: "New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth." I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever. No longer . . . ### Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/ "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

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