Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A Line Across Humanity


A Line Across Humanity

A few weeks ago, when I promised to be a more regular presence here on the blog, I mentioned how much more difficult that promise is to keep that it used to be.  The world has changed dramatically in the past two and a half years.  It seems ridiculous to pretend otherwise.  But I vowed to try and post various things, more regularly.  Then as I was working on a few ideas for this week, the shootings in El Paso and Dayton occurred and I realized how impossible it is for me to post what I'd planned in the cold light of such tragedy.  Anthing I came up with would be so irredeemably trivial it would feel obscene.

There have been 255 mass shootings in the United States so far this year.  The current occupant of the Oval Office, along with his champions at Fox News,  blames this chiefly on video games and mental illness, never once mentioning the idiocy of a citizenry that is allowed to walk the streets with assault rifles in their hands.  While other countries around the world have both video games and mentally ill individuals, their statistics on gun violence reveal these "causes" to be nothing more than what they are:  a continued appeasement of an evil and increasingly unhinged gun lobby.  And while the occupant of the White House decried white supremacy in his official statement Monday morning, one cannot help by refer back to his shocking behavior during his rallies and the endless rascism contained in his tweets to see how well his knows the language of white supremacy.  He uses it freely.  When racist websites are gleeful over their "friend in the White House", it is beyond disingenuous to deny the connection.  When hateful manifestos of mass murderers echo his own words, the responsibility squats like a poisonous toad on his shoulders.

I'll keep trying to write something other than this in later posts.  But for now my thoughts are best expressed by an offical letter released last week, before the shootings, by the National Cathedral.  It is a rare thing for them to put out such a statement, even rarer as it is addressed to a sitting president.  But I'm very grateful they did, and I hope you'll take a few moments to read it.
  This man has drawn a clear line across humanity.  
It is up to each one of us to decide where to stand.

Have We No Decency? A Response to President Trump
The escalation of racialized rhetoric from the President of the United States has evoked responses from all sides of the political spectrum. On one side, African American leaders have led the way in rightfully expressing outrage. On the other, those aligned with the President seek to downplay the racial overtones of his attacks, or remain silent. 
As faith leaders who serve at Washington National Cathedral ¬– the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance – we feel compelled to ask: After two years of President Trump’s words and actions, when will Americans have enough? 
As Americans, we have had such moments before, and as a people we have acted. Events of the last week call to mind a similarly dark period in our history: 
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?” 
That was U.S. Army attorney Joseph Welch on June 9, 1954, when he confronted Senator Joseph McCarthy before a live television audience, effectively ending McCarthy’s notorious hold on the nation. Until then, under the guise of ridding the country of Communist infiltration, McCarthy had free rein to say and do whatever he wished. With unbridled speech, he stoked the fears of an anxious nation with lies; destroyed the careers of countless Americans; and bullied into submissive silence anyone who dared criticize him. 
In retrospect, it’s clear that Welch’s question was directed less toward McCarthy and more to the nation as a whole. Had Americans had enough? Where was our sense of decency?
We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God. We have come to accept as normal a steady stream of language and accusations coming from the highest office in the land that plays to racist elements in society. 
This week, President Trump crossed another threshold. Not only did he insult a leader in the fight for racial justice and equality for all persons; not only did he savage the nations from which immigrants to this country have come; but now he has condemned the residents of an entire American city. Where will he go from here? 
Make no mistake about it, words matter. And, Mr. Trump’s words are dangerous.
These words are more than a “dog-whistle.” When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call, and give cover, to white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human “infestation” in America. They serve as a call to action from those people to keep America great by ridding it of such infestation. Violent words lead to violent actions.
When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president's sense of decency, but of ours. 
As leaders of faith who believe in the sacredness of every single human being, the time for silence is over. We must boldly stand witness against the bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and xenophobia that is hurled at us, especially when it comes from the highest offices of this nation. We must say that this will not be tolerated. To stay silent in the face of such rhetoric is for us to tacitly condone the violence of these words. We are compelled to take every opportunity to oppose the indecency and dehumanization that is racism, whether it comes to us through words or actions.
There is another moment in our history worth recalling. On January 21, 2017, Washington National Cathedral hosted an interfaith national prayer service, a sacred tradition to honor the peaceful transfer of political power. We prayed for the President and his young Administration to have “wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties that they may serve all people of this nation, and promote the dignity and freedom of every person.” 
That remains our prayer today for us all. 
The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington
The Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, Canon Theologian of Washington National Cathedral


Monday, July 29, 2019

Too Soon For School... A Summer Book List


Too Soon For School
A Summer Book List

Humans have complained about change for as long as time has been unwinding.  I do my best to embrace it, particulary because it's one of the best ways I've discovered to learn, grow, or improve.  However, when I run into my local supermarket and find all the familiar aisles have been inexplicably rearranged and I can no longer find the butter, I'm as irritated as the next grump.  It's so often the little things that chip away at my sanguinity.  When your favorite lipstick is discontinued, when the BBC cancels the one show you really liked, or when Ben Affleck is cast as Batman.  Those are the changes that niggle.

Children roll with change far better than adults.  This is perhaps because they are too young to have become well and truly used to much.  For instance, here where I live, school starts this week.  On August 1st.  There are so many things wrong with this I haven't room to list them all.  But for one thing, it's still hot.  Blazingly hot.  What happens to the beloved tradition of "back to school" clothes shopping, which was, let's face it, the seriously great thing about having to go back to school?  How fondly I remember the wool skirts, the sweaters, the plaid.  Dress like that this week and you'll find yourself in the emergency room before lunch, half dead with heat stroke. 

When I was a little girl August 1st was the start of our last, most delicious, month of the summer holidays.  We always went to the beach in August.  When the days were hot and oppressively humid, and it was far too uncomfortable to play outside, all the summer books were pulled out and finally read.  September was the start of school; August was the grand finale of summer.  Here at The House of Edward, it still is.  So even though I'm a little late, here are some great new books to read during summer's last hurrah.
As always, click on the book to see more.
I hope you enjoy them.
xx

The Overstory 
by Richard Powers

Walking in Wonder
by John O'Donohue

Reasons To Be Cheerful
by Nina Stibbe

The Long Call
by Ann Cleeves

Vita and Virginia
by Sarah Gristwood

Woman In Their Beds
by Gina Berriault


What I Stand On
by Wendell Berry

The Testaments
by Margaret Atwood

The Dutch House
by Ann Patchett

The Mueller Report

Where The Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens

Big Sky
by Kate Atkinson



Sunday, July 21, 2019

Big News and Big Dogs


Big News and Big Dogs

No one goes to the Shetland Isles by mistake.  People don't stop by on the way to someplace else; it's never the destination for a day trip.  The ferry takes fourteen hours across seas that are often less than placid and the plane flight, though admittedly shorter, is a wibbly-wobbly affair whose ultimate success is wholly dependent on the whims of the winds.  Choose the ferry if you can.  Being a romantic, I always feel one should approach a Scottish isle by the sea.  True to that conviction, I embarked on my second ferry trip to Shetland in late May, chock-full of Bonine and an almost giddy sense of anticipation.

You see, just two days before I sailed away for a week of knitting and hiking, (a divine combination of activities led by the wonderful Shetland Wool Adventures and one that included copious amounts of chocolate and homemade scones), my literary agent had submitted my novel to twelve of top publishers in the country.  Had I been home during this time I would have no doubt checked my email and phone hundreds of times a day, all the while vacillating between hope and despair while I waited.  However, as I was in Shetland, a place that feels - and, is - so very far from everything,  I didn't really thing about it at all.  My days were spent learning from some of the most creative and talented textile artists imaginable and hiking into the some of the island's most glorious scenery.  We enjoyed interesting and entertaining conversations, delicious meals, salubrious weather... I even got to hold a lamb!   I only had internet at night and was usually too sleepy when I fell into bed after another adventurous, inspiring day to even glance at my phone.  I concluded the trip with several sunny days in London and returned home inspired and refreshed, not even dreaming that my life was about to change.

Within a week my novel sold to Random House.
It will be published in early 2021.
And no, I still can't quite believe it.

Writing a novel is an all-consuming affair, as evidenced by my sporadic appearances on this blog over the past year or so.  I found it impossible to do any other kind of writing whilst I was immersed in the book.  Now that it's done, I'm hopeful I can be here a bit more often, though I'll admit, I'm still figuring out what that will look like.  To be perfectly candid, in this space I've always written what was on my heart at any given moment, and these days my heart is often heavy.  Three years ago a rock was lifted up off parts of my country and lots of ugly things have since crawled out, more of them emerging with each passing tweet.  It's impossible not to notice, and difficult to refrain from commenting.  I'm one of those people who believe that history has shown us silence is often equated with complicity.  But I've always tried to make this blog a honest place of hope and light in the midst of darkness, and even though at present there seems to be more darkness than ever, I'll continue to keep that as my focus whilst I'm here even as I sometimes shine a bit of that light on the more repellent parts of our current culture.  There is still love, there is still humor... there are still dogs.



Which brings me to Andrew, the big puppy who is now a year old and ninety-four pounds.  Andrew is happy all the time.  He is not afraid of thunderstorms or fireworks and he has a outsized love of cake.    He lavishly adores everyone he meets.  His favorite activity is riding in the passenger seat of the car and as he sits up as high as I do we provide lots of hilarity for our fellow drivers whenever we're out and about.  He sleeps on my feet every night when I'm knitting and rests his head on my chest when I'm reading in bed, which makes it sometimes challenging to adequately see the pages.  If he could sing, he'd sound like Ray Charles.


And I'm delighted to say that at fourteen and a half, Apple is going strong.  Her hips are sometimes stiff on cold mornings but she still goes for two walks a day and rolls around on her back after she eats to celebrate the feeling of a full tummy.  Like any vain and aging Southern Belle, her fur is still jet black though I can verify she's had no help from a salon.  She's very zen, very calm and gives off an certain air of wisdom which is, I suppose, what we all hope for in our golden years.

That's the view from here for now.  I'll keep you all up to date on the progress of the novel and I sincerely thank you for reading over all these years.  Your kindess and affirmation to me as a writer have been an inspiration always and no doubt gave me some of the confidence I needed to attempt this. 
 Bless you all.
xx
Pamela

Next up:  Summer Books, While It's Still Summer!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

How Similar We All Look


How Similar We All Look

When the flame-eaten spire of Notre Dame fell yesterday it caused a pain of grief as sharp as any death.  People gathered on the bridges of Paris - staring, singing - strangers made recognizable to one another by the shared shock of unimaginable loss.  I myself fought against tears all day long, on another continent, many miles away.  Into a dark night the tentacles of collective heartbreak spread and spiraled out over the civilized world.

Notre Dame was a symbol of beauty.  We feel its loss most acutely, for as humans, we need such beauty to fully live.  Anyone who had stood in the Holy light of Notre Dame has stood in the midst of such beauty and felt the presence of God.  And, as the late Irish writer, John O'Donahue, reminds us, "we feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul."  To watch such a structure, one that has withstood the barbs of revolutions and world wars, crumble into dust right before our eyes was shattering.

In this holiest of weeks, it is difficult to view the fiery consummation of one of our world's most beautiful holy places as anything less than an symbol of something vital:  a reminder, a portent, an omen.  We live in a time when we are fervently encouraged to slide backwards into tribalism, when we are told our chief concerns should only be those within our own borders, when we are urged to separate, label and fear.  How quickly those darker impulses fade when our eyes are turned towards the same burning light.  How similar we all look, weeping.

Notre Dame will be rebuilt.  It will rise from the ashes stronger and more beautiful than ever before with the help of a myriad of many-colored hands from many different nations.  For while it is a landmark of Paris, a hallmark of France, it is also a lodestar for the rest of the world, one that points humanity towards hope and light, and we cannot lose its Holy beacon when we need it most.  May yesterday's tragedy awaken our better angels to unite and rebuild not only a broken cathedral, but a broken world.