If only they had listened to Jefferson: “The idea of amending constitutions at regular intervals dates back to Thomas Jefferson. In a famous letter, he wrote that we should “provide in our constitution for its revision at stated periods.” “Each generation” should have the “solemn opportunity” to update the constitution “every nineteen or twenty years,” thus allowing it to “be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time.”(The New Republic)
Lately I have realized how little I know about how things “should” work in my own nation and how they “do or don’t” work comparatively. I completely agree it is time every citizen was more educated in civics and through that education that the people are heard in terms of changes that need to be made yesterday. We must ask ourselves — when does a document like a government charter (which is what our Constitution is) become an idol to worship and not a tool to use for the good of the people? There are a couple other idolized documents I can think of that we should be better educated in and asking these questions about as well, but that’s a whole other can of manna.
As Jesus, the brilliant student of Torah law and the expert in the government charters of Israel said, we are meant to fulfill and live out these truths as guides, not worship or desecrate our written guides by our inability to change and be changed by “these truths that God and humans hold self-evident”…. We will be thinking about the story of that great statesman Pilate soon and his sad, sarcastic, narcissistic and oh so telling question that he asked of Jesus: “What is Truth?” We should not put up with our officials today asking the same thing — we should be the answer — We are the Truth of which you are merely the temporary guardians of.
To riff on an oldie — instead of “following the money”, we must start to “Follow the Truth”. And the questions are always the same for individual, community, and nation: Who do we want to be? What are we called to do? What changes do we need to make to be and do that which is our highest calling?
~~ Let’s do this, folks. Let’s help each other. I know I could use it. ~~Jane
There are going to be a lot of family firsts this year, most of them foisted on us, or chosen by us for the newest “reason for the season” ; the reason being The 2020 Worldwide Pandemic. I was lying in bed this morning at 3:30 a.m. deciding whether or not to get up AGAIN! to let-out the old senile barking -for -no- reason Daisy the Dog and then wondering afterwards whether I should just stay up or try to fall back to sleep before starting my at-home temp job answering phones and taking payments for grumbling scared people (who just don’t have quite enough this year to make those payments but if they don’t they lose their job but I usually end up after we hang up feeling that at least they reached me and I am a good listener and empathizer so there’s that, so….) since I can rarely fall back asleep after rising any time after about 3:00 am, I decided — well, here I am, aren’t I?
As the coffee gurgled, and the old dog ate her third treat, one from the TJ’s Advent Calendar for dogs that I bought this year, I started thinking about how many things were going to be different for me and for my family specifically this year. Starting with the dog. This is the first year Daisy will not have her evil step-sister, Jolie, the Golden-Coyote, to fight over Christmas stocking treats with. We helped Jolie across that Rainbow Bridge this past June and it was a sorrowful time. We miss that crazy coyote so much. (And yes, we did a DNA test if you can believe we would spend that kind of money on it and she is indeed, as we always knew half “Wolf, Coyote, CanFam”. Jolie was a street dog we rescued from the pound and she never got the “wild” completely out but we loved her almost as fiercely as she loved us, so….). Our first Christmas in fifteen years without Jolie, will be a couple of big black chalk marks on the negative side of life’s score sheet for all of us. On the plus side, we don’t have piles of shedded hair to clean up daily, a terrorized mailman, the hard times of watching Jolie be in pain, and Daisy gets to keep all her treats without getting beat up and bit, so…. Pros and cons but man, do I miss that crazy old coyote-dog.
So I started making a mental list, as any good mixed breed mongrel (I am part Native American, Scottish, Irish, German, English, and Godonlyknowswhat pronoun-ed she/her.. And no, I haven’t done a DNA test because my husband’s greatest nightmare is for him to be falsely imprisoned and somehow he fears that if my DNA is on record, he will somehow be arrested for something he didn’t do, and no we are not first cousins and yes he is a scientist, so go figure, but anyway…..) Here are some other firsts I thought of at about 4:00 am while the coffee perked and Daisy farted (another sad thing about old dogs is they really have a lot of gas and it smells like the worst meat packing factory you could possibly imagine spewing fumes constantly in your very own living room but The Guys at my house swear that Daisy’s farts actually smell likewhat- ever we ate for lunch or dinner that day, and they are scientists, you know so I have to accept that as fact, and I feel for my sake and Daisy’s that from now on I will only eat rose petals or lavender bud so Daisy’s farts will smell like that, according to “The Guys”, so….). And so it goes, and so here is a short list I made this morning while the rest of the world slept-on, with pleasant memories and dreams of Jupiter and Saturn kissing (See!? A year of firsts!)
Firsts of 2020 Christmas
(which I hope mostly not to repeat except for maybe a few of them but mostly no, so…..)
We did not buy a Christmas tree this year. With a pandemic on, there were very few places to buy a tree and my adult kids were unavailable to go along and play “Who Picks the Tree we Buy this Year? Race”. Raoul and I went to Home Depot just the two of us, and he was fairly excited, knowing he would win this year, but when we saw the prices for the scraggly little Charlie Brown trees and the even bigger prices for the decent looking trees, we both balked. We thought about it for a few days and decided this year we would not get a tree. (Sad, but on the plus side, I am working down to the wire this year, and even though I am working from home, I don’t have the motivation or really the time to decorate the tree all by myself and pretend the rest of the family helped me because I make whomever is around put a few ornaments on so we can pretend everyone helped and I dread having to undecorate it all by myself, and that’s a positive, so….). But we love the lights and the smell of real tree. So I strung a bunch of lights inside on our windows and bought some pine and balsam scented candles –and Bob’s your Uncle! Win-win. And on the super duper plus side – Raoul and I decided that money we would have spent on a Christmas tree? – we will give the money to a charity like The Bail Project or Feeding America. For Pete’s sake, I said to myself when I felt a bit teary over no Christmas tree in my home for the first time in over 35 years, “Jane, Old Girl, there are people starving in, well, in your own backyard today and people who are in prison at Christmas time because they can’t afford bail, I think you can go without a Christmas tree this year, right girlfriend?”
And then I remember the year we got a call from Raoul’s dad that his mom was worse, and we had to literally toss our Christmas tree out on the stoop so it wouldn’t die inside our house and maybe catch the house on fire (okay, so not too rational in our frightened worry and while gathering up our two kids with another one on the way, quickly packing clothes and dashing to the airport) and we left a message for our neighborhood teen, Robin, who used to baby sit our kids, to ask if she could sometime come over and take all the decorations off the stoop Christmas tree for us because we were rushing across the country to see Raoul’s mom who had suddenly had a very bad turn from the cancer and so then, twenty-five years later — I remember what family is all about and how much I miss those who have gone on before us and how very much and how very many people will be missing loved ones for the first time this pandemic season, and well, not having a dead tree in my living room is small sacrifice to pay if instead this year I instead put some live people ahead of my traditions. Because while I love traditions, I hope, when asked, to love people more.
2. Our family of six will not all be together this Christmas. This is the big cry, the big waaa-waaaa for me and for my husband. Our eldest is stuck in North Carolina, a gazillion miles away during a no-travel pandemic. We have not seen Justine for over a year, having to cancel our plans to go there last spring and her plans to come here this summer, even for her big birthday event this past June. And while this makes me super-duper sad, I am so very, very grateful that all six Tawels are still alive. We have survived a year of a pandemic. And we all have jobs, and more than enough food to eat, and roofs over our heads, and no one is being conscripted into a war, and we aren’t being hunted down and persecuted, and as long as we wear masks we can walk our streets safely, even at night. So, to keep the world a little safer and my own family a little safer, not traveling, not gathering is a small price to pay, isn’t it? And when you think about the prices so many have paid and are still paying in this life to keep their own families safe, who am I to complain?
To be alive and able to say to Justine and all of us – “we will wait, and we will hope”, that is a wonderful spiritual gift when I think about it. That is the idea that Christmas is actually supposed to be about, not getting, not even giving, but “waiting and hoping”. Too many people have to live lifetimes with nothing but waiting and hoping to keep them going. For me to do it now in 2020 is a time to engage in more reflection, more empathy, and more “owning” of what being fully human in community with all humanity should be like – and isn’t that the message of the Christ baby who came to be human with all of humanity? Isn’t that what the God of the People of Jesus kept telling them: “Remember. Wait. And Hope.”
3. The rest of my list of firsts pales in comparison after the biggie of missing a family member, but here goes:
We will not share a fondue this year on Christmas eve (leaning over a communal pot with sticks is not advised I imagine, by Dr. Fauci and his ilk. Besides my daughter Verity who is our family’s Pandemic Health Czar has forbidden it, which is another positive thing about changes because your adult children sort of gradually take over bossing each other and their parents around and maybe they will forget all the bossy things you pulled on them as a parent when they were young, so….). And we will read our favorite Christmas stories wearing our pandemic masks (“The Nativity” with illustrations by Julie Vivas, “Wombat Divine” by Mem Fox, and this year, we will definitely add the classic version, not the movie version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” because he really almost did this year for a lot of us, so….). We will gather with just our little family and sadly not be able to invite our various friends and “spares and strays” that we love to include in our feasts and our lives. We will wear masks when we talk and when we play Christmas trivia and Christmas bingo. We won’t snuggle except in our individual house pods as we watch Christmas classic movies and later I will sanitize all blankets used. We won’t pile into the car to go see Christmas lights, but we may take a walk around the ‘hood to see the lights.
And so, it will go, like a lot of things this past Pandemic Year of 2020, this Christmas Season, a lot of things will change; there will be a lot of firsts I didn’t plan on. They aren’t the fun exciting firsts of a new car or a new house or a new baby or a new citizenship. But if I can change my perspective, I can maybe shift my worldview into something more truly True and more worth leaning into and living out.
A lot of families will have much, much harder and more sorrowful firsts to lean into this year than we will. Far too many will have the loss of jobs and income, the loss of a place to live, the loss of the hope of gaining citizenship, the loss of a town and a place one grew up in, the loss of a place to worship, the loss of one’s health, or the loss of a loved one. So, I tried to make my list of “Firsts in a Year of Pandemic Christmas” seem as inconsequential and small as they are in comparison, and add a little bit of “Jane-humor” besides. Because in the scope of things, my own year’s changes, both foisted and chosen, are rather small when I compare them to how very, very, very much others have suffered and suffer, and how very, very much I have had my whole life and continue to have even in these strange and mind-bending, heart-rending times.
And just one more thing – when I think about a season of firsts this year, I realize that is what Christmas and the Coming of Jesus, the Messiah of God is all about. It was a first for Jesus, a first for his World Parent, Adonai. It was a first for human beings and a first for angels and the devils alike. Jesus came and for the first time the Son of God was without a Parent, without a home, without power, without a healthy environment, without resources, and without any security for future survival. Remember, the “first Noel” was to “certain poor shepherds who slept rough in the fields.” And even in all those “firsts”, he brought hope. He brought joy. He believed that “the first would be last and the last first” in a new Kingdom of Humans centered around the Divine Love that humans were meant to live out. The Christmas Child grew into a human being and brought a new way of looking at life and a new way of living this life. When Jesus first became a human, he became one of us; and he lived and suffered among us, and he laughed with us and celebrated with us and he wept with us and he loved us.
I hope that is what 2020 Pandemic Christmas can teach me, and maybe enough of us to make a different world. I hope we can learn first, how to be more fully and divinely human; how to first, love more with less; how to first, care more for others than for myself; and how to not just be more grateful but to be more responsible and more worthy.
The Message of This Season is Change; but The Story is Open-Ended
By Jane Tawel
December 15, 2020
The Year 2020 has been the most remarkable paradox of stagnancy and change. This is true on a global scale, (due to what it’s always due to, which is that old theme of Good vs. Evil); but it has been brought home to us as individuals on a vastly more knowable and just plain bigger-impact scale. Health, Wealth, Stealth, The Poor and War — those are the things that have always effected nations, communities, and individuals. The Year 2020 decided to “go all out” on all of the above.
I have known people this past year who have raged against the dawn of big changes either foisted on them from outside or accumulated by a lifetime of choices. I have known those who stick their heads in the sand or pull them back into their shells like turtles, pretending none of it is happening. There are good friends who abhor change and decide that they don’t have to accept it but instead can recreate a past where changes were all in their favor and everyone like them went to bed happily, healthfully, and securely, singing out “Goodnight, John Boy! Goodnight Mama! Goodnight Moon!” And I have friends, who have been hit by the changes like a sudden bolt of lightning, suddenly understanding things in a very different light, a light that reveals the darkness for what it has always been and the great need for changes, both personally and systemically. Of course, at various times in the past year and throughout my life, I could check the box of being all of the above “sorts of person”. So Change in order to make a difference must be both reflected and mirrored back.
There are those in my own country and in countries around the world, who protest against change and those who protest for change. There are those who long for change, write songs about change, or work to prolong the winds of change. It seems that John F. Kennedy was partially right when he said, “There is nothing more certain and unchanging than change and uncertainty”. But there is also nothing more certain that when change and uncertainty combine on a world-wide scale, people will either rise to action or fall into inaction. Which brings me to what some call their “reason for this season” which is also called Christmas.
Christ-Mass is supposedly in celebration of the start of a story. It is a story that begins with the birth of and the earthly journey of the god-figure and ancient Hebrew man named Jesus, later called Messiah, or The Christ. The story told for a couple of thousand years now, has become rather stale and stagnant for many believers and non-believers alike. The same bath-robed small shepherds appear in Children’s Nativity Plays and the same people gather to see how to best combine Jolly Old St Nick and lots of overspending on Christmas gifts with the reality of the birth of a poor, minority, despised class of person of color religious minority human being who somehow revealed to humanity the nature of God. But this year of 2020, everything is slightly askew, isn’t it? And because of that, anyone who wants to celebrate the reality of Jesus should be rejoicing. Because if there is any one word that we should associate with the person of Jesus The Christ, it is Change.
From babe born in a sheep’s straw pile to convicted and state-sanctioned-murdered religious radical, Jesus was the personification of “Be the Change”. Change with a capital “C”. CHANGE writ large. Change that is painful, unnerving, invigorating, unexpected, programmatic, outstanding, surprising, awe-inspiring, terrifying! Change that is individually and systematically, outside, inside, upside-down Change. A Change that was meant to effect me; and that “e” in effect is not a typo, since the old usage of Effect is intended. The kind of Big World-View Change that Jesus represents is world-upending Causal and meant to Effect you, Effect that guy, that woman, that child; Effect that town, that family, that nation; that river and tree and rock and lion and bird; that friend and that enemy. Jesus was and is meant to be the Changing Causal Reality that was and is meant to Effect the whole World. In fact, when compared to Jesus The Christ, pandemics can look rather small change.
So how can people who claim the Name and espouse the Belief-System, be surprised when we “Christ-ians” are asked, required, forced or even blind-sided and run-over by Change. It is, after all, the Stunning Way of God- Change that the person of Jesus was meant to signify; a change that was meant to effect this town, that nation, this government, that education, that art, this science, that environment, and this whole world. It is The Change that was mean to effect and infect the user with Love and Hope. It is the earth-shaking, evil-shattering Change that is meant to Effect the walk in The Way of all who would claim to want to be changed by a knowledge of Jesus.
If Christ-Love and Christ-Life is the Cause, then surely we who call ourselves “little-Christs” are meant to embrace the Effects of Changed Lives lived-out boldly but humbly in an ever-Changing World.
Followers of Jesus were meant to be changed by unanticipated pandemics and by anticipated stumbling’s. We are meant to be changed by not just the knowledge, but by personal involvement with starving children, with immigrants and sojourners, by the plight of prisoners, and by the reality of long injustices. We are meant to care deeply and rise to the challenges needed to heal fetid waters and burning forests and dying ice-caps. We are called to believe that we can change our violent ways and turn guns into farm tools and eradicate wars and rumors of wars. We are meant to protest greed in our places of commerce, government, and worship as well as practice personal commitment to root out greed insidiously lurking in our own selfish ways. We are meant to abhor the lies of any Judas, whether friend or official. We are meant to give freely, love fiercely, and practice peace; and we are required to practice rest and restoration as is the intent in the meaning of Sabbath.
Followers of Jesus are also meant to be changed by the homeless person on their very own street corners. Followers of Jesus are meant to be changed by someone else’s pain, to mourn with all mourners, to grieve with others, and to be willing to give up everything to follow in the ways of The Son of Man, a homeless, family-less, in the end friendless radical Lover of the One Parent that Jesus himself sought to be shaped and changed by. This is what it means to see Change as ultimately not Against us, but For us. Change is For our good. Change is for making us Good. But it can only make us Good if we receive Change as Gift, not curse; as Life-affirming, not Freedom-stealing; as the Truth of what we are meant to be, not a threat to who we are. This is what it means to believe in our great ability to change into something / someone we haven’t yet imagined; some one amazing and miraculous and profoundly whole-ly Human. As one of Jesus’ early followers said, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be. We know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is”. (I John 3:2)
So here is a little story for this 2020 Year of Changes:
“In the fullness of Time”, Jehovah Jireh sent a Savior, The Begotten One, to bring change to a world stuck in the stagnancy of sin, sorrow, helplessness, hopelessness, brokenness, pain, and death. The Begotten One was born among the poor, uneducated, country-less, minority, despised of this world, to show the world where and how Change had to happen. He was educated by radicals living off the land in the desert; lived life away from his family and the comforts of work and home, and gathered a rag-tag bunch of students that he could teach the meaning of Life to. He was crazy-smart and very, very kind, miraculously so. He loved life and lived it with abandonment and joy de vivre. He showed people what humans were meant to be like and he lived to tell his stories and teach his disciples for a scant three years before the Religious / State Combo Powermongers of his day, used the inquisition of their time to convict him and the capital punishment of their day to murder him. But before that sad death came to be; something had already happened…..
Everything had changed.
Changed with a Capital C.
Because when Christ with a Capital C was around, “the blind received their sight and the lame walked, lepers were cleansed and the deaf heard, and even the dead were raised up, and the poor had good news preached to them.” (Matthew 11:4)
And once His life was “over”, Life had really and truly only just begun.
And in His Changed Life, New Life for All had just begun and was forever Changed.
Jesus lived so that we might be changed, “reborn”, reshaped, renewed, resurrected — because that is What he taught, that is What he lived, that is What he offered, that is What his life was. But the story of Jesus Christ really changed the world because that is Who he was and Who he is and Who he will one day be and Who we can become in him. The Christ asks only one simple thing of any one who wants to claim to follow him and worship His Father; Christ asks simply that we be willing to be completely and utterly Changed.
We who say we love Him, must be “formed into his likeness”. In the same way that in The Beginning, The Genesis, humans were formed “in the likeness of God”, we “second-wave humans” are to be “formed in the likeness of The Messiah, Yeshuah. We do this by becoming like him but more importantly by seeing him in everyone we meet and treating them like the King we claim Jesus is. Jesus says, “I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant [they seemed], you did for me.” “Give up everything, come, follow and learn to Be Me. Be completely changed from who you are to Who I AM.”
When Saul / Paul of Ancient Tarsus got this part right, he was a man completely changed by his experience in understanding who Jesus was, what Jesus offered, and the extreme changes that Jesus required. The disciple John got this part right, and was able to not only seek to be changed in the here and now, but to imagine great change in the world through the radical realization in changed lives of those living in and leaning into The Kingdom of God and Christ. John received a dream, a revelation, a vision of reality that John recorded in the Revelation, and one that compares with the great dreams recorded by the forerunners of Jesus, the Jewish prophets Ezekiel and Daniel and Isaiah. The dreams of the prophets were that there would be a “new creation” on Planet Earth that would compare with that we can now only imagine to be in God’s Heavenly Places — a world changed into what it was all meant to be, a Kingdom where Love rules, Goodness reigns, and Peace, Joy, and New Life are internalized, externalized and actualized. Change will ultimately mean an Abundantly Healthy and Whole reality for All of us.
For All Good Teachers, All Messiahs, All Gurus, Rabbis, Preachers; All Saints and Prophets and Radical World-Changers, The Message has always been the same. The Message is — Change. But my story, your story, even the whole planet’s and World’s Story is open-ended. Because Change must be allowed into not just our halls of power or our own front doors, but into the deepest recesses of our hearts, our lives, our very souls. Change must be, if not welcomed and embraced, at the very least, given room, given a chance, given, if not a leading role, at least a small role to play in our stories. The role change plays in my life might be as large as a pandemic or as small as a virus. The change that changes me might be as sweeping as an army of Angels or as small as a baby in a manger. Change is always, however, one type of catalyst or another, throwing me back upon my stubborn insistence on self-centering, or leading me forward into a centered wholeness. The Story of Jesus is not told as history but as prophetic dream of mythological proportions. The Story of Jesus is the archetype of what real change can do in the human condition we all live and die in. And we are promised that all who seek, will find. And all who change, will be changed. “It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be changed. We will all be transformed” (I Corinthians 15:52).
The Story of Jesus, that we celebrate at Christmas, is the paradigm-shifting story of Embraced Change, of Worshipped Change. There are always people who fight that change, the Herods and Pilates, the religiously powerful, the nationalists and legalists, and even the common-place, normal friends and family members who reject change, who want to live in the past and stay in control, keep things as they were. But there are always the unexpected change-makers, too, and the amazing thing about this year 2020, is that we each have had the possibilities of real and radical change revealed to our imaginations as perhaps never before in our life-times. The revelations have not come without great pain, great fear, and much sorrow or depression, but if we look past the clouds, we can see Light, and if we keep the Darkness in perspective, we can walk forward with Hope. Like the trumpets of Angels or the brilliance of a previously unknown Star, Change has been born. And humble shepherds will listen to it, and Wise humans will seek it.
This is the message of The Year 2020: Change happens and each of us is Effected, one way or another. Am I going to fight Change, or let Change, change me into something better? To believe in the Cause of Christ, is to believe in the Effects of Radical Change. To believe in the World’s and my own ability to Change for Good, is to believe in the Power of Love. And the Power of Love is the most powerful force for Change in the Universe.
That is the Story of The Christ Child, the Story of Jesus. It can be the story of you and me as well.We just need to change the ending to be a new beginning.
(Time Magazine: 9/11 The Photographs That Moved Them Most)
The 9/11 of The Year 2020
By Jane Tawel
August 15, 2020
As of August, at least 168,000 American citizens have died from Covid-19. This does not include any people that we do not know of, who may have died from the virus or from complications from the virus, nor does it include the many thousands that will continue to die while “Nero fiddles and Rome burns”. Our Congress can’t work together so it goes on holiday and our President continues to lie to the people and golf, and we the citizens are left asking those in charge, “Do you really not understand the seriousness of this current domestic terrorism called Covid-19? Or do you just not care?”
This Pandemic on American soil, is our generation’s Pearl Harbor, our D-Day, our Boston Tea Party, our 9/11.
In one of the most horrific events in modern American history, a day forever known as 9/11, 2,977 people died. Our national response to 9/11 was swift, immediate, sweeping, and although in many ways, it has been shown to be wrong-headed, and short-sighted, at the time it was something that every single patriotic citizen of America saw as something our government did for the protection and well-being of our citizenry. The 20/20 of our hindsight about the consequences of America’s reactions to 9/11 should not blind us to the brave and absolutely necessary reaction of our leaders at the time this unprecedented horror happened.
The federal government led by people who had never experienced anything like 9/11 before sprung into action and worked together, President and Congress making the best of their responses to an unprecedented and tragic situation, in order to devise national and necessary changes for increased safety measures, protections from danger for its citizens, and the rebuilding of our trust in our government and in each other. Slightly less than two short decades ago, Americans, having seen the worst that could be thrown at us, rose to the challenge of trying to be the best that we could be – the best we have ever been – by working together, rebuilding literally and figuratively from the ground up. Governments both federal and state-wide enacted historical sweeping measures in security and protection on a national scale. The attack on American soil was nothing compared to the attack on the American psyche and in fact to this day we are fighting two unending wars because we took so seriously this unimaginable thing that happened on September 11, 2001.
Today another unimaginable thing is happening on American soil. Today we are also living in unprecedented times. Today we have the choice humans so often have: Shall we learn from history, and do our best, or shall we ignore history, and make mistakes?
Today, we look back, at the mistakes the government made in its response to 9/11, and we should do this, because by looking at yesterday’s mistakes, we can do better today. But we must also continue to cherish and hold-fast to what our nation did right, and especially to what individuals did heroically and sometimes, miraculously. We should read and reread, tell and re-tell, the true stories about the heroes of 9/11 who from Day One waded into danger to save strangers, and those named and unnamed heroes who continued year after year to work to make this country safer for everyone, and better for every citizen. The moral of the Story of 9/11 was at heart – our hearts! – and the amazing character of the average American who rose to that challenge of the moment.
The federal response (and the responses to 9/11 of New York City, New York, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia) are overshadowed, as they should be, by the rising up of the often forgotten, often unnamed, unsung, and sometimes even unknown heroes of the average American who waded bravely and literally into the danger, and then the ashes and destruction, and figuratively into the gaping wounds of need that many citizens experienced after 9/11. No one asked, “Why should I?”. Everyone asked, “What can I do?”
What we as a nation did in the shock-waves reverberating from the falling of the Twin Towers and the attack on our nation – what we did, not just in one or two places, but across the plains, from ocean to ocean, and from individual American to individual American, was not perfect, but it was perfectly what we said we wanted to be when we became a nation – “one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all”. And leading the way, not trailing behind or excusing itself for not knowing what to do, or hoping that everything was going to be okay in time, was our federal government. This was their responsibility and therefore, their duty to respond to an act of terrorism.
I have seen great things in this United States of America and I have read of many more amazing, miraculous, phenomenal things that both government and individuals have done in the history of this “Sweet Land of Liberty”. And, yet, people are still telling me, in August 2020, that we, this country, this “shining city on a hill”, can not hold our current federal government accountable for a response to a pandemic that is killing Americans on our soil? People are still telling me that our President and our Senate are doing everything they can? What about everything they SHOULD?
People are telling me we can not hold our neighbor accountable? People are still telling me that every citizen is free to do whatever they want no matter what the consequences to other citizens; that we can not be expected to give up our politics in order to all work together? People are telling the essential and emergency workers that what they are doing is pointless because many citizens are still unwilling to give up a little here, and share a little there, and build back our safety and health from the ground up? And I have to ask, What country is this? Surely it isn’t the same country that responded to 9/11?
People are telling me it’s only a “small percentage” of people dying, or getting sick, and I have to ask, “Is that how you responded to the 2, 977 people who died in 9/11? Did you comfort yourself with the fact that only a very small percentage of Americans had died?
People are telling me we can’t make voting by mail safer in same way we made flying safer? Or that we can’t all wear masks in public for a while in the same way we all learned to take off our shoes at the airport? That we can’t give up a trip or two, or a bar party or two, or a church service or two in the same way people gave up their families and homes to fight the war on terror? People are telling me we can’t possibly require some people to make a little less money out of the millions and billions they make so that other people can have a place to live, and some electricity, and their children can have enough food today because the idea of unfettered capitalism is more important than human life? People are telling me their weapons of terror are more important as a freedom than the freedom to walk safe streets? People are telling me that America is no longer the nation of “Yes, we can” but a nation of “No, we won’t”?
And I just can not, for the life of me, understand. Because I woke up the morning of 9/11 not knowing, not understanding as I watched the same horror that every American citizen watched that day, a horror we could never have imagined, a thing incomprehensible even as we saw it happen before our very eyes. And none of us knew what to do. And then, as a nation, we did it.
I don’t understand so many leaders and people today in America; I can not get my head around their hard hearts and illogical, uncaring, foolish behaviors. Because I once saw this nation simply pull up its sleeves, and say, “We aren’t sure how, and we aren’t sure we will do it all right, (we most certainly won’t) but we are sure we will try our best. Because if we aren’t in this together to succeed “one for all and all for one”, to rise from these ashes like a phoenix; then we will certainly be in it together to fail and fall.” Divided we will fall, and united we will stand. That is who we were after 9/11, and as much as we mourn those who suffered and continue to suffer because of some of our bad decisions made in the wake of 9/11, and as much as those in charge then regret now some of the things we did because of 9/11, we did not shirk our duty to all that is ethical and true and right about our responsibilities to our ideals and to each other. I love the America that we were on 9/12/2001. And I find myself wondering, what happened to that America?
People keep telling me that Americans don’t have to do anything anyone tells us to do because that is our right. And I just keep thinking – have we become our own worst terrorists? Will the 9/11 of the Corona Virus be the thing that finally defeats the great American Dream?
All I can say is, Oh dear God, I hope not.
Today in 2020, we are guardians of a great legacy, the legacy of our forefathers and foremothers, the legacy of our brave warriors who fought not just for our own freedoms but for the freedoms of countless nations in countless wars, on countless shores. We are guardians of the legacy of those on our own soil who insisted that all have civil liberties, and of the legacy of September 11, 2001. Will that legacy die at the hands of our own unwillingness to fight this new enemy of the American people? Will a virus be the one seemingly small thing that defeats this great, big nation?
No, it will not be a virus that defeats America. It will be our own selfishness, pride, greed, and ignorance. It will not be our inability to change, it will be our unwillingness to change.
If the Corona Virus is the thing we as a people can not rise up to defeat, then even if only a “small percentage” die from it, it will be the thing that kills the very soul of our nation.
Aren’t we bigger than that, Americans? Aren’t we braver, and truer, and kinder than that? Aren’t we more alike than we are different, because we are Americans, after all? Aren’t we able to rise above this new challenge? Together? United? Can’t we, together, envision the legacy we want to leave in the wake of this new terror and trial?
I want to believe we can. If you’re with me: “Let’s roll!”
There is nothing more foolish than continuing to try to change the mind of a fool or the heart of a hater. Better to go ahead and change the world and let all benefit from it. The fools and haters will never thank you for it, but you won’t need their thanks. Heroes don’t need the praise of fools any more than the Sun needs the earth in order to shine its light. World-changers don’t need the haters to love them, any more than the weeds and stones need to love the Sun in order for it to warm them. As the Good Ones say, “The Sun shines on the good and the evil”. The Light illuminates The Path for those who will walk it and for those who will stand on the sidelines and look for any excuse to sit in the dark. Just as the Sun does, we must let the light of truth and the warmth of love touch all, even those who will continue to prefer darkness and coldness.
Let your light shine and let your love warm. Do not fight or worry about those who refuse to step into the light or embrace the warmth. World-changers don’t waste time trying to get fools and haters to believe that the world doesn’t revolve around them, any more than the Sun needs to convince us that She doesn’t revolve around the Earth. Each day, the Sun shines, whether a person believes in it or not.
The Sun will shine because it is created to shine. You are created to shine.
The Sun will warm because it is created to warm. You are created to warm.
And the Earth will continue to exist to revolve around the Light and Love of the Sun as long as there are Good people willing to keep their lamps full of the sacred oil of love and their lights burning bright, conspicuous and bold with the power of truth.
Be a Sun in the world today. Be the unsung, un-thanked Hero of this moment in the sun.
Be the light and even the fools will feel your power.
Be the warmth and you will find that even the haters will feel less cold.
Be the Light and do not let darkness delay you in your quest for a better world. And when you leave the fools and haters behind, you will find that there are many more heroes in our world than you ever dreamed there could be.
And the unsung heroes are the ones that will one day, receive the only thanks that truly matter in a better world where all will live in The Light of the Sun; the heroes of today will receive the thanks of the children of tomorrow.
Be of good cheer; have hope even in the darkness; shine your light; find joy in your journey; and rise to your very own task of being a light on The Way and a hero to others today – Jane (P.S. And remember that all real superheroes wear masks. 🙂 )
This is something I was originally going to post only on my Facebook page, but then thought it might be useful to some readers on other mediums. I love the camaraderie and kindness and supportive comments of fellow writers on WordPress,and I try to do the same as often as possible, so this is not about anyone or writer that I have come across on this platform. I do know several people on Facebook who “inspired” this passionate plea for allowing freedom of speech and for questioning and for debate, and I think we have seen the problems I am trying to address in this post, exponentially take destructive roots quite clearly in far too many of our leaders in politics and religions. The following is inspired by the voices who are now insisting to be heard after the murder of George Floyd, and the renewed vitality in the Black Lives Matter conversation. Thank you as always, for, as Blanche would say, “the kindness of strangers”. ~~Jane
You Have the Right to Remain Not Silent
by Jane Tawel
June 10, 2020
I’m sorry to have to point this out, I dislike conflict or being the gadfly or bad guy just as much as the next person — but if you are just now getting on your high horse about the injustice that people of color have been suffering or any of the horrible things or violence and the lies told to support them that have been happening in this country, for a long time, and you want to speak out now but you don’t want any conflict about it, then we have a problem. If you are white or “Christian” or a “good person” or an educator or a parent or a voter and you haven’t been saying anything about this until now — and if now you are “speaking out” oh so carefully but making sure on your posts that you also say, “I don’t want any one debating me on this” and “it’s true for people on both sides of the fence” and “no negative comments please” — then you really DO NOT GET IT.
So go ahead — enjoy your comments that cost you nothing, enjoy your peaceful life with no debates and no questions and no dangerous protestations. Don’t worry about people who might wonder “where have you been up til now?” No need to feel bad or ask forgiveness or make changes if you make sure only your cheerleaders communicate with you. Continue to not offend anyone who might be a part of cutting your paycheck or a member of your in-group.
Just keep basking in those lots of likes about what a “nice” person you are, but please — know this — some people aren’t as stupid as you think and they do see through you. Not that you care, because your defenses for protecting yourself are as strong as your defenses of those who need your help are weak.
Some people are taking a stand — for decades — or at least at last — and even when they get knocked down — they get back up. When someone disagrees with them, they don’t back down and they don’t back away and they may even change their minds about something, or apologize or grow up and change for the better even.
Today it is vitally important that we listen and learn, and today it is time to listen and learn from black people, the Afro American communities who today will not ride in the back of the bus of your Facebook posts.
Black people and Jewish people and sojourners from other countries (usually brown people) at our borders have been trying to involve you in debate for years now — and not only have they had to put up with your own dissent, your negative comments, your disagreements your powerful silences in the face of their powerless silenced-ness — they have put their lives on the line.
To want to say whatever you want with the caveat that none of your friends or followers or anyone can debate or question you is a perfect example of white / “Christian” / American — whatever label you harbor to think you have the privilege to shut people up, to shut people down, to dismiss people who make you uncomfortable. To unfollow those who debate you, who question you, who make you think — that is the epitome of an abuse of power and a greedy need to be safe and liked and untouched. Your “good heart” in your posts that is untouchable and untouched is a stone not a heart.
This is not however how nations or communities or peoples survive or grow or get better from whatever ails them. It is not at all the best of what this country of America was formed to be — a democracy — debatable, questioned, continually questioned. It is not at the center of a sustainable world view or of a valid belief of any kind. It is a mockery of a religion, with its adherents “nice Inquisition-ists”. It is not however an example of the person so many want to quote but not follow who gave His life and His name to Christianity, a man full of debate and endlessly debatable and forever questioning. It is not a path to certainty or truth but a quicksand of thoughts supported only by one’s need to to be right despite any theories or facts to the contrary.
A nation that has stopped questioning itself will surely wither and die, alone and bereft. A person who believes in an unquestionable God who created unquestionable human beings has no hope in a future that consists of the Unknowable powers of faith, hope and love. A human being who stops questioning his own rightness is a king of fools.
If silence is agreement, then silencing someone else is an abuse of power — even if it is only the abuse of the power of your role in a group, of your relationship in a tribe or family or even of just one friendship.
Freedom of Speech and the ability to question authority — It is one of the things our founding forefathers tried to get right in the name of God and nation. It is one of the things our Creator tried to get right when She created human beings a little higher than the beasts and a little lower than the angels.
I am sorry my passion and questions disquiet some of you, I will listen to your requests to “not comment” but I certainly won’t be under the impression you mean all those “nice” things you are saying on behalf of others. Sorry — but real truth is meant to set us all free and real caring for others — enough to fight for them, speak for them, protest with them, change the world for them, love them — means, no protective armor for my own self-serving needs.
We have made a world where people are vulnerable because of their black skin color in a white world. Surely we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable for some black words on a white page.
And by the way, anyone who knows me knows, I would never dream of asking you not to debate or question or engage with my ideas in your desire to make me think. I would never unfriend someone for disagreeing with me and I am grateful not just for those who build me up with support and additional help but those who respect my ability to think and reason and maybe even change and who question or debate me. I may not agree with you but I will defend your right to speak out and disagree with me with my last Facebook breath.
I have more time lately, and reason, to meditate on all the “What If’s” and “Instead Of’s”. Some days, this is instructive and hopeful, such as “What if we realize people in essential services need to be paid more in the future and billionaires need to be paid less?” And some days, this is mind numbingly depressing and futile, such as “What if they win again, and Canada still has closed borders?” Perhaps we all have been made more aware of this frame- work of Possibility Thinking during this “Impossible- to- Imagine- It- Could- Happen-In-Our-Lifetimes” Time. I mean, even dear John Lennon, didn’t “Imagine” this. I truly hope and pray that with all we are all thinking, writing, experiencing, doing, that we, the human race, or at least The Good Guys and Gals, decide to use Possibility Thinking for a better world for all of us. A healthier, saner, safer, kinder, more peaceful, restful, equitable world would be a nice “Instead Of” Outcome.
Though I am rather obsessed lately with the What If’s of the Future, we most often use this rhetorical device for thinking about the Past, and not the Present or Future. It’s human nature, after all to pick over the spoils and pick at the scabs incurred in our Pasts. And of course, it is vitally critical to look at the Past — or should I say, Pasts — plural. We have all gone egregiously and just stupidly wrong in not learning from our individual Pasts, our communal Pasts, and our national, religious, planetary, and world-wide Pasts. It is one of the things that elevates us as humans, this ability to change course, to envision something better, and yet we foolishly continue to so seldom use it. Rather than evolve by learning from past mistakes or last night’s sins, we so often choose to devolve into either helpless or stubborn beast-like creatures, chalking it all up to some other beastie’s problems or some innate inability in ourselves to grow and change. But being a human being was meant to be a glorious thing — a unique thing, a godlike thing. As human beings with souls, we are uniquely placed on this planet to live into the reality of “If-Then’s”. And therefore, when we go wrong, we can live into the miracle of “What If Instead Of this, We do that Instead’s?”. We can choose differently today than we did yesterday. We can regret. We can repent. We can hope. We can imagine. We can change. We can ask, What If we did this Instead Of that?
Now the “What If’s” are closer to home for many of us on a day to day basis now they seem to be more personal and more a very real matter of life and death. We don’t have to imagine quite so hard what it is like to walk in another person’s fragile, vulnerable shoes. We don’t have to try so hard to think what it is like to be afraid of going outside, of being imprisoned, or of not having enough money for the future or even the present day, or what it is like to work among dying patients in a war that makes no sense, or what it might be like to be very ill, afraid of dying and physically impaired in a world meant for only healthy people. Some of us don’t have to rely on memory alone any more or try to imagine what it is like to have pollution- free skies, or birds singing in the morning, or time to just be still and relax and rest. Some of us are finally experiencing a small sense of the prejudice and injustice that people of color have experienced their whole lives. Some of us are mourning over the senselessness and randomness of death.
Some of us are finding out the joys of the “Insteads”. We are finding that it is freeing to make do with less. That love starts at home but you have to be there to be part of it. We are discovering that creating things is vital for every human being and that everyone, no matter how faceless and nameless, matters deeply and intimately to each of us personally. A few of us may be realizing the “Instead-Reality” that we were meant for more — maybe it isn’t completely clear yet, but it is glimmering up ahead as a faint, dream-like Possibility. Most of us hopefully have some clue that instead of getting ahead for just me, myself, and I, Life is more fulfilling, and the Future more plausible, if we realize that we are all in This together.
And so, we may find ourselves asking, “What If we want things to be more like this in the Future?” What if I want to care more about others less fortunate than I, now that I have a better idea of what their lives have always been like? What if I want to help heal the planet from the outrageous things we’ve done to it? What if I want to work less and live more, and try to make sure that everyone has that same opportunity — to stop living for our work and start working so that we all might live — more equitably, more freely, more safely, and more joyfully? What if I want to spend more time in creative pursuits and supporting those who create art — whether it is on a stage, in a gallery, or in a garden? What if I want to spend more time outside in a world made for our enjoyment? What if I want to help protect the things in nature that before I have endangered? What if every day, I want to look at those I love and be more forgiving, more accepting, more understanding, and more selflessly helpful? What if everyone I love becomes Everyone? What if everyone I love includes you? And what if everyone I love includes myself — me?
What if I carry the lessons of the Past into Today to change myself in order to be a part of a better Future for the world? What if I become an “Instead Of”?
At this crossroads time in the history of humans, we are forced perhaps like never before in most of our lifetimes, to look backwards and wonder, “What If”. We ask it of the whole world: “What If they had done this Instead Of that?” We look at our leaders and weigh them in the balance of this equation. But it will never mean a thing if I am not asking the What If’s of myself. If we are at all honest and seek any kind of life of understanding or at least desire something better up ahead, we must look within our own hearts, our own minds, our own individual wills. We must peer with intention into the very essence of what makes us human — we must look within our souls. While we have been picking at the Past scars of What If’s that we can not change: — What if I hadn’t let Grandma go to work that day? What if I hadn’t gone to that birthday party where that woman was coughing all over the buffet table? What if Uncle Pete hadn’t gone to sing in the church choir that Sunday? — We must now let the scars heal over, and begin to seriously look at the “Instead Of’s” from here on out going forward. The What- If’s of our past choices should be given a very short shelf life. They are rather useless “what if’s” unless we can create a Time Machine and go back in Time to change them. (Let me know please, if you do. But I must warn you, I have a rather long list of changes I’d make.)
Some people spend a life-time on “What If’s”. What if I hadn’t married her? What if I had taken that job? What if I had majored in something else in college? What if I hadn’t gotten drunk? What if I had told him how I felt? What If’s can only change the Past-Self if we let it change for the better our Present-Self in order to grow into our best Future Self. We can evolve, we can be born again. That is the glory of our status as sentient, sensible souls. What If’s can pull us under with regret, remorse, anger, sorrow, lack of initiative, brokenness, and a host of other short-term and long-term emotions and ploys for convincing ourselves and others that change is impossible. Emotions without goals for change merely serve to sap our desire for a better life and deplete our energy for action. What If’s are only helpful if one understands that “though I didn’t know it then, I DO know it now”. What If’s are only helpful if you look at the Past and decide that Today, you will choose “Instead Of’s”.
If you grew up “back in the day”, when I did, with any sort of Biblical or Judeo-Christian Worldview, you have grown up to believe that every thing is, in fact, a “life or death” decision. Ideas like, “what does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul?”, or “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life”, used to be the bedrock of a belief system that supposedly was based on a Savior who lived and died in such a way that the whole world might be changed for the better. Tragically, this isn’t at all a popular or wide-spread belief among the most vocal of those who claim this particular religion these days, so please don’t be fooled if you look to those who espouse a religion in name only, and not in deeds. Unlike what we hear today, the Judeo-Christian belief system was meant to be pretty much completely a religion of straight-up, unadulterated, no excuses, no holds barred — Love-First actions. I say that with a great amount of regret and repentance before God and other humans, for my own Past, a deepening humility for my Present lack of virtue, selfless love, wisdom and dearth of loving actions, and my plethora of selfish wrong-doings. I say it with a great desire for a Future that is definitely based on a lot of “What If’s”. What If — I can change — be reborn — starting today? What If — God is real? What If — human beings are meant to live most practically and healthfully when we love others as we love ourselves? What If — we were put here to care for a planet? What If — we will only keep our human souls alive if we make sure that the least and most struggling among us is as essential as the highest and most powerful? What If — Jesus was an example of what we all could be — Miraculous?
So Today, I look outside my window, and hear the little grey sparrows and the large black crows, and I say, “What If God’s eyes are on the sparrows and the crows, and what if I can trust that like a Mother Hen, She is watching over me?” What If I truly have nothing to lose by living in love for all others, by doing right and speaking truth, by choosing to do Good, by changing my worldview, my heart, and my actions, and by hoping and praying that the whole world might be “saved”? What If I have everything to lose if Instead Of that, I choose my freedom and rights over other people’s safety and health? What If I choose my will over their lives — “not Thy will but mine be done”? What If I choose my convenience over the planet’s safety and health, if I choose my pleasure over other people’s needs, if I choose to be right rather than righteous? What If I gain the whole enchilada, but piece by piece, day after selfish day, lose my soul?
Ah, hurrah, hurray, it’s another grand day! To be alive! To be alive to choice and change and chance! To be alive to the idea of being a better human being today than I was yesterday. What If — ah Glorious, Glory-ing thought! What If by believing whole heartedly in the lessons of the Past, by studying them deeply and with humility, I can change. What If by making less of me and more of others Today, there will be something of me Tomorrow? What If by loving others with heart and mind and will in the Present, I can save the very essence of who I was created to be, I can save my soul, and have more than a temporal happiness, have Instead, an eternal life of love, and light, and joy?
What If today instead of Death, I choose Resurrection?
What If my Future, and the Future of the Earth and the Human Beings that inhabit it could, Instead of This be……………? Imagine……