Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Editor-in-Chief


Long long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I was a professional technical writer and editor.  Then I had kids, and Kevin and I started our beekeeping business, and we moved out of Silicon Valley, and we had many adventures together.  Writing occupied a minor role in my life for fifteen years.

Thanks to the internet, that’s about to change.  Ebook technology has made publishing inexpensive.  The internet has made audiences accessible.  This is a magical time to be a writer, and to be a publisher.  In What Would Google Do? (a book I highly recommend), Jeff Jarvis points out that in 1947, there were 357 publishing houses.  In 2004, there were over 85,000.  Six huge publishing conglomerates control the lion’s share of the book market—the mass-market appeal books and the blockbusters—but that leaves the rest of the market to the remaining 84, 994 publishers.  Oops.  Make that 84,995 publishers.  Kevin and I have gone back to our roots, and are embarking on yet another adventure… as publishers.

We will be re-printing public domain Quaker books, starting with Margaret Fell’s Women’s Speaking Justified.  Beyond that, who knows?  Kevin has a novel he has been working on, and I have several non-fiction pieces in the works, including one about our homebirth experiences.  All our publications will be ebooks, although I am currently looking into a print-on-demand service, for folks who still prefer to kill trees for their reading experience.

I keep thinking, “Gosh, this is so cool! Why didn’t I do this fifteen years ago?”  And the answer comes back to me:  Because you couldn’t.  Oh yeah.  Little details like it was impossible to be a small home-based epublisher back then.  This is so cool.  Did the futuristic science fiction stories of our childhood (those of you who are old like me) even do this present-future justice?  I don’t think so.  But that’s another blog post.

I have started a new blog dedicated to our publishing venture: http://GypsyBeesPublishing.blogspot.com, and Kevin is working out the details for the website....  and I will be sure to tell everyone when Margaret Fell is available.....
This is so cool....I love the internet.... but that is another post....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Now All I Need is an Obama Bumper Sticker


October 9, 2012

Dear President Obama,

I registered to vote today.  I decided you could use the help.
I haven’t voted since I helped to re-elect Bill Clinton, a fact which I am still ambivalent about.  Since then, I have tended to stay away from elections.  And the country seems to muddle through pretty well without my input.  Of course, I supported you in the last election, although I wasn’t registered.  I wore your campaign button, and I cried on election night, because I was just so proud of my country.
You lost me for a little while after you ordered the assassination of Osama Bin Laden (yes, I know there are other official words for what you ordered… but that’s what it was).  It hurt to see you giving in so blatantly to an end-justifies-the-means mentality.
But you won me back when you finally came out of your closet, and declared your support of same-sex marriage.  That was the single bravest thing I have ever seen a politician do, because you had nothing significant to win and everything to lose.  You didn’t have to say anything at all.  And yet you did.  That made me cry too, this time because I was so proud of you.
You’ve worked hard for this country, and helped it get back on its feet.  Things are looking better today than they did four years ago…  it’s not the Great Rock Candy Mountain just yet… but it’s looking up.  It has been a tough time to be president, but you have worked for us through it all, not just with short-term solutions, but by also working to help us find good long-term goals to work towards—like renewable energy, for example.
Which brings me to the camel that finally made me decide it was time to cast my vote:  the so-called “War on Coal.”  You don’t live in southeastern Ohio, so you haven’t seen the signs:  “Stop the War on Coal: Fire Obama.”  No doubt someone has told you about them.  The biggest problem with the War on Coal, so far as I can tell, is that it is a lie.  Coal production in Ohio is up since you took office, and coal industry employment is up as well.  Our local big coal mining company, Murray Energy Corporation, just built itself a new three-story office building… as I drove by it on my way to register to vote, the landscapers were installing the trees around the pond out front (you drive up to the building across a stone bridge over the pond… it will look beautiful when the landscaping fills out).  The industry hardly looks embattled to me.
Yes, you support renewable energy, and you have spoken about our need to begin to move away from coal eventually… but that’s good.  As one miner who supports you told me recently, “I may be a coal miner, but I ain’t just a coal miner.  I like clean air and clean water.  I think they’re a good idea.”  And it’s inevitable anyway.  Someday, the coal will run out.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have that be a seamless and transparent transition?
But more than simply misunderstanding your hopes for the long-term, Romney and the Republicans, and Murray Energy Corporation, have resorted to lies to try to influence the people of this area.  Romney claims to care about the welfare of coal miners, and yet when he had his photo-op coal mine rally, the mine was closed for the day, and the miners lost a day’s wages, so he could be photographed talking about the plight of coal mining, in front of a coal mine.  That didn’t seem like the sort of thing a man who cared about the welfare of working people would do.  And then I discovered that Murray had made it mandatory for his Murray Energy Corporation employees to attend.  So he padded the event with employees who had to be there, but who weren’t getting paid.  Was that the sort of thing that someone who cares about the welfare of workers would consent to?
But today, I discovered that apparently Murray had also lied about mine closings and layoffs….  At the rally, you were blamed for the closure of a mine and for the layoffs of mine workers.  But according to a miner with Murray, the mine had been closed because the ground wasn’t stable… “Nothing more than gravel holding hands”.  Unless your policies destroyed the integrity of the soil, that mine closure had nothing at all to do with you.  Nor did the layoffs.  My source told me today that Murray lays off miners at that particular plant every summer when the demand for coal goes down.  Murray likes to lay them off, I am told, because it’s a union shop and apparently he hates unions.  So you were a convenient political scapegoat that Murray and Romney and the Republicans blamed, knowing you had nothing to do with the reasons behind the closure or the layoffs.  …And maybe a lot to do with an improved economic climate that enables energy corporations to build fancy new office buildings.
And that was that.  I decided that I wasn’t swallowing that camel. 
To the best of my knowledge, you have always been honest with the American people.  Your honesty and integrity, in fact, has placed you head and shoulders above most politicians in this country (except for that little slip with Osama Bin Laden, where you descended to business-as-usual politics).  You care about the welfare of the United States and its people, and about liberty and justice for all… not just for the already powerful and wealthy.  You are running against a business-as-usual dishonest politician, with nothing to offer but short-term solutions, that are only designed to make his wealthy dishonest friends wealthier.
You deserve to win.  The country will be better if you win.
So, today, after I registered, I cast my ballot.  You’re +1 in Ohio.
Thank you for your continued service to your country.  I hope you win.

God bless you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Walking Unarmed in an Armed World

Jesse-Blue Forrest has been staying at my meeting’s guest house this week.  He is a Quaker Cherokee medicine man, with Buddhist training.  When he is at home in Charlottesville, N.C., he worships with the Charlottesville Friends Meeting.  He hasn’t been home since early June, however, and he doesn’t expect to be home again for at least 2 years.  Jesse-Blue is walking across the country, from Virginia to California, and back, to raise awareness of and support for a movement to pass a constitutional amendment to abolish the military draft as a form of involuntary servitude.

Jesse has first-hand experience with the involuntary servitude of the military draft.  He was drafted for the Vietnam War in 1966, when he was 18.  He told his draft board that he wouldn’t kill, but he didn’t know the correct procedure for qualifying as a conscientious objector (and he had not, at that time, even heard of Quakers).  As a result, he ended up in several military prisons.  Eventually, he was beaten so badly in prison that he ended up in a coma and spent several months in a hospital recuperating.  A nurse gave him an opportunity to escape, which he took.  After several years underground in the U.S., Jesse went to Canada and lived there for 26 years before he was able to clear his name here in the U.S. and return.
Currently, Jesse is following a leading from God to walk across the country on behalf of The People’s Campaign to Abolish the Draft.  Yes, we still have a draft in this country.  Those of us with teenage sons know this, because our boys are required by law to register for it when they turn 18.  The draft isn’t active at the moment, but it’s a proverbial sleeping giant.  The latest legislation proposed to re-activate the draft, in 2010, would have allowed the government to call up both men and women between the ages of 18 and 42.

Take a look at Jesse’s progress so far on www.facebook.com/AbolishTheDraft.  He has been delayed a few days here with us, because people keep asking him to come talk to various folks.  I suspect, if our community is any indication, that it will take him longer than the 2 years he is planning on, to make it across the country and back.  There is a website currently under construction at www.AbolishTheDraft.org.  It isn’t ready as I write this, but Jesse has high hopes that it will be up and running within the next day or two.
If you feel led to donate to the cause, you can do so on the Facebook page.  He also has a P.O. Box for old-fashioned paper donations.  Jesse-Blue is very happy and eager to talk about how we can pass a constitutional amendment to abolish the draft.  He also likes to talk about finding ways to ensure that all military personnel are guaranteed the civil rights they had as civilians.  And if you express interest, he will tell you about Native Americans, and even throw in a dollop of Thic Nhat Hanh.  He’ll talk to senators and high school students, and he’ll talk to you and your group too, if you are on his route.  And he is always grateful for hospitality.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Death is Darned Inconvenient

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  John 12:24



It turns out that dying takes a very long time, is extremely unpleasant, and darned inconvenient.  I don’t recommend it.  Physical dying seems to be all over the place, in terms of how long it takes, and how apparently painful it is….  But psychic/emotional/spiritual deaths seem generally to take a while and to be quite painful, according to the literature.  That has been my experience too.
It has been a really nasty couple of years.   During the final acute phase late this winter, after I had articulated to myself that indeed, what it felt like was that I was dying, I tried to find comfort in the verse above.  It helped a little, because I was able to tell myself that dying would be the beginning of a new phase of change and growth and possibly even beauty and betterness.  But I had to admit to myself that probably the grain of wheat didn’t look forward to becoming a green and beautiful plant much.  Probably the grain of wheat was scared and lonely and hurting, and really truly actually liked being a grain….  All smooth and clean and brown and small…..   why change that? What is all this suffering about anyway?  What’s to like about getting torn apart?
Inexplicably (which in my opinion means God did it), I discovered and was drawn to a book about shamanism at just about that time.  In it, I discovered the traditional expectation of the experience of death/rebirth that tends to be considered a prerequisite for acceptance as a shaman in most of the shamanic cultures.  Sometimes, it was induced through various vision quests, sometimes it just happened…  but there was almost always some sort of disintegration/re-integration that was often dramatic and generally painful for the shaman experiencing it.  In a shamanic culture, Jesus’ story would have been understood as the story of a powerful Shaman.  This let me put a little perspective on my own experience…
And then, late this spring, I realized that I was Gone.  Gone.  Empty.  Ended.  “Ah, I am dead now,” I thought.  I had completed the disintegration process, but I didn't immediately begin the re-integration process.  I hesitated to start on that stage….  I didn’t want to just start out re-integtrating myself in the same way I was before, for fear that I would eventually have to go through the dying process yet again, and dying kind of sucks.  So, I have been “in the womb” for a while now, thinking about what I want to be when I am born again.
I made a rule for myself that I wouldn’t even consider any goals that began with “I should”.  This is no list of New Year’s resolutions… no “self-improvements” allowed.  These are promises I am making to myself, not tasks.  It’s a long list so far.  If I end up even half the person I have been imaging, I’ll be pretty cool.

Here’s a partial list:
I will be a child of Light, and I will walk in the Light.
I will have a garden.
I will write.
I will have wild birds in my life.
I will have my hounds.
I will walk in the Spirit, as sensitive to the ever-present Spirit world as to the visible material world.
I will understand what the trees whisper.
I will find meaningful and rejuvenating solitude.
When I’m tired, I will rest.

I will write.  And so I am here again.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cowboys and Indians, Quaker-Style

Today after meeting, we were all standing around and talking like we usually do. One of the other mothers of young children stopped by where I was chatting, and let me know what the kids were up to outside. She looked a little bemused, and not entirely comfortable:

"They're all out there playing Indian Wars. I wonder if I ought to break it up."

I made some vaguely sympathetic comments, and she continued, with a little smile:

"The Indians are the good guys. And two of the girls are out there playing negotiator. They told me, 'We're not on either side. We're negotiating a treaty.'"

We decided to let them keep playing. Bless 'em all, and bury my heart at Wounded Knee.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Long Comment that Ought to Appear under "On the Hope Inherent in Opening One's Mouth"

*Deep Sigh* This is not a particularly well-written post. It was originally just supposed to be a comment reflecting on another person's comment in my previous blog post, but it got waaaaay too long. I apologize for the fact that it is disjointed and clunky.

******************************

Hi John Michael... I have done some research as you suggested, and I have found some information that, after reflection, I have decided should be included here for folks to see. I hope you will forgive me if I seem at all sharp in any of my comments here, it isn't my intention. I like you very much; you're among my favorite people. I think that you and I will continue to disagree about this issue, unfortunately, but I hope we can do it with mutual respect.

First, I do not care at all what form the sexual intimacy between a married couple takes, so long as that intimacy makes them both feel loved and cared for. This is merely opinion, and is no more or less valid than your opinion about the emotional nature of certain acts. We will have to disagree here, until further Light brings us more into unity one way or another.

When I say "married couple," by the way, I am not limiting my comments to legally married couples. Quakers believe that a marriage is made by God, not by state paperwork. Our Quaker forebears 350 years ago were accused of being fornicators because it was illegal for them to marry outside official church/state channels... they married each other anyway.

Second, anal sex does indeed have health risks attached to it. So does your average white-bread monogamous coitus, at least for women. Urinary tract infections, for example, are not at all unheard of as a result of monogamous heterosexual sex. Every physical thing we do carries certain risks with it...

Also, to base one's objections to homosexuality based on one sexual act seems a little misguided... I don't think that lesbians are known for participating in anal sex much. And I can think of quite a few ways for two men to be sexually intimate without engaging in anal sex. One old Talmudic interpretation of Leviticus, by the way, is that only anal sex is prohibited; no other homosexual activity is prohibited (obviously, Jewish interpretation will vary depending on the group). So being against anal sex does not equal being against homosexual sex.

Now, HIV/AIDS is a serious disease. And the primary risk factor for getting HIV/AIDS is being a man who has sex with men. Interestingly, there are no documented cases of female-to-female HIV/AIDS, although lesbians do contract the disease in other ways. So, if I wanted to make sure of avoiding HIV/AIDS, I would be better off as a female being a lesbian than being heterosexual... in that case, being homosexual would reduce my risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

Now, how many gay men have HIV/AIDS in the U.S.? I checked over at the CDC and found some numbers. There are roughly a million people with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. today. Of those, roughly 53% contracted it through male-to-male sex. Definitely a risk factor for the disease. But how many gay people actually have HIV/AIDS? If we assume that approximately 5% of the population is LGBT (which is the current best guess), the estimated 586,000 men who have contracted HIV/AIDS through male-to-male sex represents about 4% of the LGBT population in the U.S. This means that 96% of the LGBT population is Free of HIV/AIDS. Perhaps they do not engage in those high-risk activities that you have written about--anal sex and promiscuity? Perhaps the vast majority of LGBT folks are just like straight folk in their intimate relationships... limiting their loving to the one they love?

I looked into the "incubation" period for AIDS, by the way, and I think that your estimation of that gay couple's sexual activities was probably extremely misguided, at least based on the evidence. The median length of time between contracting HIV and becoming symptomatic is almost ten years, and can be much longer... nearly twenty. That's without any treatment. With current treatments, it can remain asymptomatic for many many years. So it is entirely possible, even likely, that the man's HIV was contracted before the couple ever became a couple. I think you owe them a mental note of apology for assuming the worst of them.

As a digression regarding stereotypes, I remember taking a psychology course in college. One of the things that I remember was a study of young women. Women with a low self-esteem (that is, women who had been told too often that they were unloved and unlovable), tended to express that self-hatred in their lives through alcohol abuse, drug abuse, promiscuity, and suicide. Just exactly the things that the LGBT community has been stereotypically associated with for many years. Perhaps they were driven to such acts through our cultural disdain, and not through their own "natural" tendencies at all?

I have looked at ex-gay information with interest. It is true that some gay people can and have been "cured" of their attraction to people of the same sex. But I do not agree that something should be cured just because it can be cured. Left-handed people used to be "cured" of being left-handed, at great cost to their psyches.

I also found the available estimated best-case statistics interesting... of people who seek counseling in order to become ex-gay, roughly one-third are "cured." Another third show some progress.. which I guess means that they are a little less likely to become romantically interested in someone of the same sex. This is from the gay population that WANTS to become ex-gay. That leaves a LOT of people out in the cold, when it comes to a cure, even for people who don't want to be attracted to people of the same sex. Becoming ex-gay is clearly not the solution for everyone.

I support a Catholic's right to believe in Catholic doctrine. I disagree with a lot of Catholic doctrine, but I think that people who think it is true should have that right. I do wish that the Catholic church would examine its practice regarding homosexuals though, because it seems to me that it is currently treading very dangerously close to hypocrisy. Look at the archdiocese of Denver, Colorado. Recently, the lesbian parents of a child were told that the child would not be allowed to re-enroll in parochial school there next year, because the parents do not "live in accord with Catholic teaching." At the same school, I have read, are children whose parents are single, divorced, and non-Catholic... none of whom can strictly be considered to be living in accord with Catholic teaching, either. The Catholic church in this case has singled out homosexuality as some sort of "special" sin, above and beyond any others. That's wrong. I hope that the church is able to figure out how to act in fairness to all people who are not living in accord with Catholic teaching, rather than hypocritically singling some out and ignoring others.

Honestly, if any of my children ever were to discover that they were LGBT, I would have the same advice that I would have for straight children: Your sexuality is a precious gift, not to be treated lightly or with disrespect. In a marriage, it will strengthen your relationship, help you learn to trust each other, and bring you both joy.

Thanks to everyone for your comments here. I've rambled on long enough, but I deeply appreciate everyone's care while replying to each other.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

On the Hope Inherent in Opening One’s Mouth

I was in the Dollar Store a few days ago, browsing through their movies, looking for something that the kids might enjoy watching. Mostly the Dollar Store has things of interest to teenagers… horror movies, action/suspense, Kung Fu, tasteless comedy… but it also has some decent children’s things occasionally… It’s a Big Big World, Dragontales, movies with cute animals… so I check out the rack once a month or so. There, between the cute animals and the grimacing people firing guns, was a lone copy of Milk. For $6. So naturally I bought it.

Milk, starring Sean Penn, is about Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay man in the U.S. to be elected to major political office, in 1977. (The first openly gay person to be elected to public office in the U.S. was Kathy Kozachenko, who was elected to city council in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1974. And Elaine Noble was elected to Massachusetts state legislature in 1975.)

I laughed, I cried, I got indignant, I rolled my eyes like a ten-year-old at the romantic/sex scenes…. It was a great movie. (It definitely earned its “R” rating. The kids haven’t been interested in watching it yet, but we might conveniently skip a few scenes when they do.)

Harvey considered it a political act for people to come out openly as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). He firmly believed that if people knew that they knew someone who was LGBT, then it would be easier for people to accept them as deserving of the same civil rights and basic human respect as everyone else. I think he was right.

I have come to the conclusion that it is also a political act to come out openly as a supporter of people who are LGBT. As I have begun talking to folks in my own meeting and beyond about my concern that LGBT folks need to be accepted as co-equals, the vast majority of folks have nodded, and explained that they had already quietly come to that conclusion themselves. On the one hand, this has been very reassuring. On the other hand, it has been a little troubling.

Right now, today, there are people in the United States who will tell you with a straight face that homosexuals merit the death penalty, because God has said so (see Leviticus). I’ve met them. One of them explained that he didn’t think he could ever carry out such a death sentence himself, but he would not work against any legislation prescribing the death penalty for homosexual behavior, if anyone ever proposed such a law. Now, here is the thing that is both horrific and hopeful about the people I know who have said this: They are really nice folks. Given the opportunity to think about what they believe, I think that most of them would willingly and gladly find a way in their hearts to move, literally, to a Live and Let Live position. (Sooner or later, I hope… although I haven’t convinced anyone yet.)

This is what is so troubling about all those quietly accepting folks that I have met. They may never personally do anything to cause hurt to LGBT folks, but they will never give a nudge to the folks who are overtly hostile to LGBT folks either. Harvey Milk was right; when folks come out, it gives other people the opportunity to think about their own assumptions regarding gays. When non-gay folks come out as supporting the equal dignity and worth of LGBT folks, it gives other people the opportunity to think about their own assumptions regarding what is an appropriate “straight” attitude. (For this reason, I am also openly against abortion… I hope that when I say I support the equal dignity and worth of unborn babies, that it can help people think too… )

Being an open supporter of LGBT folks is as important as it was in 1978. Some things have gotten significantly better. Some things haven’t changed much: “They go to the bars because churches are hostile” (Harvey Milk). As a Christian, that was just about the saddest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say. God sent Christ for everyone. We are all the beloved children of God. So we live in hope… we have faith in things not seen… we dream that if we speak the Truth in love, the Truth will pour down like waters on the whole wide wonderful world, and every tear will be wiped away. Speak the Truth in love. We are all the beloved children of God.

Oh yeah. If you haven’t seen Milk yet, I recommend it.