Skip to content

YOU DON’T REGRET THE THINGS YOU DO HALF AS MUCH AS THOSE YOU DON’T

        The story is that Reverend Cox from Drexel Park Church in Chicago believed this to be the most important rule of life.   He was my mother’s pastor.  She told it to me when I was quite young and I took it seriously and with very few exceptions have followed it my whole life. I discovered fairly early that its not just that you are saved the guilt of missed opportunities but that doing the “thing you should do” visiting someone before they die, writing the thank you letter or going to the funeral, returns blessings beyond that expected.  Today was no exception.  When I heard that my friend Eileen had the hospital bed moved in and her daughter was talking hospice I needed to go see her.  I know Eileen from church I don’t have a relationship with her outside of church.  But she is someone who is in my heart.  We talk politics before church.  I reassure her that everything will be ok and who to vote for. So I took her daughter’s number Sunday and planned to go this week.  So today was the day.  I made the call and planned to go this afternoon.  As I was driving up to the house the doubts started.  The things that keep us from doing these things.  “This is going to be awkward” “Am I doing the right thing” Etc.

    As I walked into to her room she greeted me with excitement and grabbed my hand,  We talked about politics.  I told her to not worry about Franken and Dayton.  That I would take care of it.  She bemoaned how President Obama was not as progressive as she had hoped.  I reminded her about Oscar Romero’s prayer.  That the Kingdom of God is beyond our reach. She responded: “Oh Oscar Romero… We have had some good Captains haven’t we… and Nelson Mandela.”

   There was something about how she said it, that gave me that “Word of God” feeling or was it the fact that this was a Mathew 25 moment. 

 

THE WEAVE OF GOD

On my way to St. Paul, I took University Avenue and passed all of the shops near Dale.  Out in front of one of them was a small Hmong man with a giant machete clearing the path from his shop to the street by chopping at the snow bank.  I was reminded again that without diversity in our lives we are far from the divine.  Just as those of the Jewish faith believe you should not write the word God because God is beyond our imagination I have a hard time conceiving of a true picture of the divine.  The best that I can do is think of it as multi colored piece of woven fabric.  The kind that by its contrast of color becomes more beautiful and majestic than single threads alone would be.  If one looks at humanity as the weave of God you can see how our contrasts magnify our individual beauty.  When someone expresses their intolerance for one group of people or another I think how sad it is that they have chosen to not see the immense beauty of the divine.  Why would someone chose to ignore the full picture of creation?

THE PROBLEM IS NOT WITH THE SOMALI COMMUNITY. THE PROBLEM IS WITH OUR COMMUNITY.

WARNING: MY HAIR JUST HAPPENS TO BE ON FIRE ABOUT THIS.

For those of you not up to date:  On February 4th the DFL caucus, which was held at the Brian Coyle Center was shut down because it broke out in violence.  Specifically a young woman who was supporting one candidate was assaulted by supporters of another.  She was taken to the hospital and treated for a concussion and sprained neck.

Now if that is all you knew about this you would assume that the following has happened:

1.  The incident has been investigated by the police, the party and each campaign to determine whether violence was committed and by whom.

2.  Once the investigation was complete the individuals who committed physical assault were charged by the police, sanctioned by the party and expelled by the campaigns.

It has been sixteen days and none of this has happened.  How is this possible?  Because it didn’t happen in South Minneapolis or in the Northeast.  It happened in one of the Somali Precincts.  Admit it a click just went off in your head.  “Oh of course”. 

What has happened?  Leading members of our party have treated this as if it’s a problem in the Somali community.  They have said both sides are to blame; it’s due to a language problem; our beloved mayor RT gave a speech to the community saying you’ve come too far to let this happen.  Then when the caucus was reconvened and resulted in the election of delegates these same people call it a victory for democracy.  A VICTORY FOR DEMOCROCY?  The candidate whose supporters committed the violence ended up with more delegates than they would have if the first one had not been shut down by their violence.  Sounds to me like democracy lost.  So how is it a victory for democracy?  It is only a victory for democracy if it was an open question whether this Somali precinct could successfully hold a caucus.  Why couldn’t they successfully hold a caucus?  Because of their language? Their country of origin? Their skin color?  The only question that should have been open is whether these same individuals chose again to commit violence.  Seems unlikely when all eyes are on them. 

HAVE YOU GOTTEN MY POINT YET?  Any leader of our community, the police, the party or the candidates that treat this situation as anything other than a criminal act of assault are letting their inherent subconscious racism color their perception.  (And yes I believe anyone who was raised in this culture is racist.  The question is what you chose to do with it.)

We need to see this.  Not because of how this affects the Somali community but because of how it affects OUR COMMUNITY.  ALL OF OUR COMMUNITY.  Because this is not about the Somali community it is about us.   

If you are interested in the facts please review this excellent piece in MinnPost. http://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2014/02/allegations-threats-bullying-follow-cedar-riverside-caucus-brawl 

REAL GENEROSITY

I pride myself in doing a lot of free legal work for people who need it.  I can get quite arrogant about it actually.  I have one client who I met at Homeless Connect.  I gave him my card just in case the documents we drafted were not enough.  I was very proud of that.  I probably even said “nobody else would do this”.  Then when it got really complicated and I still did the legal work and felt even more proud of myself and bragged.  But then he became like other client’s, he began to complain.  Complain about the Judge, about the process and about how long it took.  And then I started to complain, but still being proud of myself that I was doing this case for free.  Then it came to me, real generosity is not easy its not clean.  If its not an inconvenience its not real.  Then the story of Jesus made sense to me.  And I thought that when Christianity isn’t morphed into an excuse to Judge others its a pretty powerful story.  So next time I get all full of myself I hope I remember a couple of things.  One of them being “don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing”.  Then I will try to contemplate the deeper meanings of the faith path I have chosen. 

A MOMENT

I was shopping today and the cashier kept looking at my necklace.  I was wearing one of my charm necklaces.  I told her I made it and she couldn’t believe it and kept saying how beautiful it was and then said, there is something very special about how you put the beads together.  I said yes I have kind of an asymmetrical pattern.  And she said no that’s not it..  I write, I write music.  There is music in that necklace. 

MY HEROES ARE GONE

I went to Ken Tilsen’s funeral today.  Ken Tilsen was a human rights lawyer.  He was lead counsel for the criminal defense for the Wounded Knee prosecutions.  He provided representation for the Minnesota Eight (the draftees who broke into the draft office and spilled blood on the draft records).  He provided representation for the Honeywell protesters, and the list goes on and on.  He did this in a relatively selfless way.  Let me just say this.  At the grave-site service in the middle of the day today in addition to family, judges and lawyers there were more than a handful of radical lesbians from back in the day and what is left of the Lakota Elders giving homage.

It was a beautiful service.  But I think what made me unable to stop crying was the thought that this was my last hero.  Arthur Kinoy is gone.  Hayward Burns is gone.  Rosalie Wahl is gone.  Where are my current heroes.  I think of Keith Ellison as a compatriot but in ten years he will probably count.  But I can think of no one who rises to the level of these great heroes. 

Is it because our generation has dropped the ball?  This makes me sad.  So I think the only solution is to really up my game.  I’m not completely sure how to do that, but I have to do something.  I cannot live with the feeling that all of the heroes are gone.

IMMERCED IN HISTORY

The last leg of our vacation was a trip home to visit my mother.  I am writing this to process my frustration into gratitude.  Given the distance between us, her in Chicago and me in Minneapolis I only see her two times a year.  Our quality time always involves a project.  So this year my job was to put back all of the various pictures on her shelves in the corner where her bed is.  Now this does not sound like a huge job even if you factor in her smoking which means everything had to be wiped off.  What makes it a big job is the fact that my mother is almost blind because of macular degeneration and can barely walk because she never got her hips fixed.  Because she is almost blind she cannot really see the precious things and pictures I am putting on these shelves so it is important that I put them back close to the exact same position they were in when she could see them so that she can see them in her memory when she looks at them.  This requires that we talk about each and every picture and sentimental object.  Now if I was a different person this could be sped up.  Because what happens is that my mother will say things that open a window to her rather narcissistic  psyche.  In fairness to my mother she is the kind of narcissist who will acknowledge she thinks its all about her just before she says “look at me”.  Now if I could just ignore these things and let them go and not challenge her perspective this would be relatively painless.  But that is not who I am.  I have always been the one that says “what are you talking about ” or “look there is an elephant in the room”.  So we processed and we processed.  And I learned something.  I think the secret in aging well is to never forget that happiness comes from a life dedicated to giving and not receiving.  You cannot nor should you rely on relationships which are based solely on obligation or age.  You must always be part of the relationship in a mutual way.  To do this you have to at some point find your worth within.  Your worth comes from your contribution not the recognition of that contribution.