Comforting Words: 10/2005

Sunday, October 23, 2005

In the Woods

this is an audio post - click to play

Monday, October 10, 2005

On Becoming A Woman: Lost Childhood

Today, October 10, 2005, is Thanksgiving Day in Canada and like so many people across the country, I went to Church yesterday to give thanks to the Creator for all things.

As I made my way home, my mind was filled with the beauty of the service, the grace-filled atmosphere in which a Thanksgiving Brunch was served to and by members of the LGBTQ community and other church members who are supportive of that community. Not being a lover of turkey except when Juds, my partner, makes it using her secret jerk recipe, I ate mostly ham and some potato salad.

Driving home, one of the hymns we sang stayed with me for the ten minute journey. It was a fairly new one for me, this hymn, written by Carolyn McDade and entitled "Shadow of Your Wing." The words would carry me through the rest of my less than joy-filled evening. It was one in the afternoon when my cell phone rang and as I flipped it opened I heard a frantic Jamaican accent saying, "Miss Cutie, call me back, emergency, emergency, call me back."

We had not planned on cooking any special Thanksgiving meal this weekend and just as well, as that telephone call changed the course of my Sunday afternoon and much of this day - Monday, October 10, 2005 - Thanksgiving Day.

My mother, someone who many of you have met through my unfolding life story, My Life, My Story, My Gifts, caught herself, by accident, on fire and is now a burn patient at the Kingston Public Hospital in Jamaica.

The extent of her burns is still not yet known to me, as I am awaiting words from a cousin whose face I cannot recall. My dear woman-friend, who I have also written about here, DZ is also on her way to the hospital and is expected to call me before the end of today with a full report.

Here I am sitting at my computer in Edmonton, Canada, thousands of miles and thousands of dollars away from Kingston, praying for Compassion to take me under the shadows of Her wings. Some may wonder why and so I decided to write another installment of my story, hoping that it will be both cathartic for me and will lead me into the sorrow and pain that my mother must be feeling now.

My Words of Comfort this week is entitled "On Becoming a Woman: Lost Childhood" and it follows "Upside Down." Those of you who are new to this blog or those of you who have forgotten details of the story may need to re-read the first part of this story, Naked Before God, and also "The Tender Years," which is part two.

The Sacred Words and Words from the Heart that I chose this week are more for me than you, however, I am sure that many of you have been in this place - where forgiveness and compassion abide - and will therefore relate to these words.

As always, welcome to first time visitors. You are invited to become a member of the Comforting Words community by simply clicking on the “Join Our Mailing List” feature at the right of your screen and follow the prompts. Your ‘membership’ gives you a chance to receive one of the monthly surprises! The next draw will be on October 31, 2005 and there will also be a special Christmas Gift to a member of this community. The drawing for the latter will take place on November 15, 2005, to ensure that that gift arrives in time for the season.

The obligations for being a member of this community are few. In fact, there is only one – a desire to live authentically. As the host of this Blog and the Comforting Words Community, I willingly open myself to you. I am here to support you as I am able to, whenever and however needed. You may contact me via email or you can join the continuing conversation at the InComfort Discussion Forum. If needs be, I will call you, if you provide a telephone number or you can call me - members have access to my telephone number.

Sacred Words
(By using Sacred Words to describe the quotations that I chose to use in this section, my intention is to share with you words from a variety of sources that are dedicated to Truth and to what is holy in our experiences as human beings.)

From: World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts, 684:
"Have benevolence toward all living beings, joy at the sight of the virtuous, compassion and sympathy for the afflicted, and tolerance towards the indolent and ill-behaved." (Jainism. Tattvarthasutra 7.11)

From: The Best of Women's Quotations, Helen Exley, 6:
"My will shall shape my future. Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man's doing but my own. I am the force; I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice; my responsibility; win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny." Elaine Maxwell

From: The Mastery of Love, Don Miguel Ruiz, 162:
"The truth is like a scalpel because it is painful to open your wounds and uncover all of the lies. The wounds in our emotional body are covered by the denial system, the system of lies we have created to protect these wounds. When we look at our wounds with eyes of truth, we can finally heal these wounds."

Words of Comfort

My world, the world as I had come to know it - turbulent yet full of simple pleasures of sweets, meat loaves and childish pranks with the neighbourhood 'gang' - came to an abrupt end.

Mama recovered the furniture that the bailiff had seized within a few weeks but we lost the house and the home that sheltered and gave me a sense of belonging. Our new house, still rented, was lower down in the same community and far removed, at least to me, from the hub of activity.

Maybe it was by accident but the community had a structure, characterised by the economic status of the families. At the entrance to Pembroke Hall, coming from the main highway, lived mainly lower income families. Driving through the area, the 'higher' up you got, the more prosperous the houses looked. In fact, many Jamaican communities have this feel, with the poorest living at the foot of the hills, while the 'masters', the old moneyed families, perched on top of the peaks. Those of median income lived, you got it, in the middle.

We would move to the lower part of the community, which was actually called "bottom Pembroke Hall," and eventually would move out completely to the neighbouring community, Patrick City. Yes, we lived very close to the entrance of that community also and would reside there for a few years before I left for University in the Ukraine.

In the space of ten or so years I grew up rapidly, from a not-so innocent child to working woman in every sense of the word. Truth be told, childhood was a shortlived experience for me, lasting possibly all of eight years from birth. At least that was my initial impression.

Years later, when I was thirty-something, standing in one of the largest commercial banks in Kingston, I had a flashback as I greeted a man who was part of my very early years. The memory and the image that panned my vision left me stunned as I shook the hands of the man who first molested me.

How old was I when this happened I cannot tell for sure but as he asked me how I was doing and about my mother, the memory of his youthful hands on the most private part of my body was so clear and disgusting that I quickly ended the conversation, ran out of the bank, got into my car and sat in the parking lot and wept.

Too ashamed to tell anyone, I kept this secret to myself for many years. Who would believe me anyway that more than twenty-five years after the fact, I had a flashback and recalled being molested by my babysitter, someone who my mother had trusted to look after me?

Who would believe the other stories I could tell about a life of sexual abuse by older boys, children of my mother's dearest friend, at whose house I had been left to be protected while she went to earn a living? Certainly no one would take my word for it that the father of one of my 'gang' members was having a fun time with me each time we all played hide and seek in their house?

I held these secrets close to my heart, never feeling safe enough to share them with anyone. What would they think of me if they knew that my 'uncle', who had come to live with us after he was injured on farmwork in Canada, was having sexual intercourse with me at almost every opportunity he could get? Of all the secrets I have kept over my lifetime, this may very well be the one that eats into the deepest part of my soul.

Here was a man who had a long history with my mother's side of the family. He was the father of my cousin, a child who my aunt had passed off to be the offspring of another fellow. My mother knew the truth, however, and it was her 'big stick' over her sister's head. I suspect she, my mother, threatened her somehow, as their relationship to this day remains acrimonious.

My aunt was married to a fairly wealthy man and lived just above the median line in Pembroke Hall. We were not really welcomed to visit but my mother would find every reason to go there and would always return home with parcels of food and other goodies she could never afford to purchase after her own marriage and business failed.

When Mr. Mc returned from Canada and needed somewhere to live, Mama was probably the first to offer him a place as not only had he come back with appliances which she could never afford to purchase, but he also had some money. By that time, live and living cash and more to come in compensation, was a commodity that was scarce around our house.

His arrival signalled a new low in our house, as not only did my aunt stop speaking to my mother, my cousin who was also living with us, was coming face to face for the first time with her real father - a surprise for which no one prepared her.

Things hit rock bottom, at least for me, when I realised the relationship between Mr. Mc and Mama had taken another turn. Realising this left me feeling completely lost and so alone. At the tender age of nine or ten, where was I to go or who was I to tell that Mr. Mc had been fondling me whenever I went into his apartment to listen to the stereo system he brought from Canada? Who would dry my tears the first time he had sex with me and told me what would happen if I told anyone?

Something tells me my cousin knew what was going on but she did nothing to stop it. Maybe she felt I was getting just reward for the terrible physical abuse she was suffering at the hands of my mother.

P, my cousin, was no more than a domestic slave in my mother's house. By this time, my mother had 'taken in' five other children of a woman who was escaping domestic violence and needed someone to leave her brood with until she got back on her feet. In all fairness to her, my mother had strong feelings about women being physically abused by men (how ironic) and would always be 'fighting' for her 'sisters'.

However, this generosity of spirit did not extend to P. She had to rise at the crack of dawn, cook a huge pot of boiled dumplings, green bananas and yellow yam with steamed callaloo (spinach), which would be mid-day lunch for all of us. Then she had to wash the breakfast plates and utensils and sweep the entire four bedroom house, including Mr. Mc's apartment before she left for school. My comments about the amount of work she had to do was greeted with a slap across my face once too much, so I soon stopped noticing.

P hated my guts and this grew more intense as Mr. Mc showered me with gifts and attention and she in turn met more abuse from my mother. Recollecting all of this is so painful, yet it is by intentionally going back and facing what I have locked away that has brought me healing.

Growing up an only child had its high's and low's and my relationship with P was the same. There were days, as she combed my hair, making corn rows in the most intricate designs that I felt her love of me. This love quickly turned to hate after she was hit across the face, with a hot metal pot full of Saturday afternoon soup, by my mother.

I tried in every way I could to show P how much I loved her but I am not sure if she ever understood. Once she had a terrible fever, dengue fever I believe and I wrapped my skinny self around her, praying that I would get the fever so that I could stay home with her and comfort her. Of course, my wish did not come true and so, looking back, I surrendered myself to her father's sexual assault thinking that was the least I could do for her.

Telling this piece of my story is one of the hardest things for me, because I cannot understand how my mother would later claim that she never saw what was happening. How could she have not seen me changing from the innocent, long legged child who loved to run the avenues with friends to the quiet, sulking person who locked herself away in a room when home, playing love songs and crying in a pillow for the protection of a father who was now long lost to her?

Did she not wonder when all my 'boyfriends' were men much older than I was, some as much as thirteen years? Her seeming oblivion to, yet condoning of my sexual behaviour was so confusing for me. It actually drove me nuts one summer during a visit to family friends on the North Coast and I was not permitted to go to a date with a sailor twice my age.

Aunt J, as I called her, was not my real aunt. She was my mother's best friend who would host me every summer at her seaside home on the northern coast of Jamaica, close to the world famous Dunns River Falls. This particular summer, I was either thirteen or fourteen and during a window shopping expedition in Ocho Rios, my beautiful 'cousin' J and I met a couple of sailors. We chatted a while with them and they invited us to dinner and dancing that evening, not realising our age.

Imagine my shock when Aunt J said no way under the sun would we be going! I remember bawling my eyes out, thinking what kind of woman she was to deny us this once in a lifetime opportunity of fun. Who knows, maybe I would marry one of these guys and get to leave the dreadful world that I lived in! Obviously, she knew what type of fun these men had in mind for us but to me she was a wicked witch. Furthermore, back in Kingston worse was being done to me in my own house, so "what's the big deal?"

The real sad part is that I could not even tell Aunt J the hell house I was living in and how my own mother had told me, at thirteen, that if I was going to bed a man, I should at least be getting something for it, i.e., money.

Her understanding of womanhood was quite strange to me, as on the one hand she was obviously turning a blind eye to the sexual abuse that was being done to me and the resulting promiscious attitude and behaviour that were becoming a part of my persona. On the other hand, she was preaching the gospel of justice and education for women - go figure! "Two things will get you through this world," she would scream at me, "good manners and a sound education."

This might have been the only piece of advice from my mother that I took seriously as it was the thought of freedom that drove me through high school and later to gain a scholarship to the former U.S.S.R. where I earned a Master of Arts in International Relations. I could still hear her voice as I went back to school a couple years ago in pursuit of a Master's degree in Theological Studies, thankfully though, for me it had a different meaning.

As for the good manners, well that is debatable.

(To be continued)

Words from the Heart

Shadow of Your Wing
by: Carolyn McDade
Stay by me now that I may feel the shadow of your wing,
the shadow of you wing, the shadow of you wing on mine.

Lay down your load that I may feel the freedom of your wing,
the freedom of your wing, the freedom of you wings on mine.

Lay wide your dreams that I may know the boundary of your love,
the boundary of your love, the boundary of your love on mine.

Lay down your guard, that I may know the sorrow that you hold,
the sorrow that you hold, the sorrow that you hold on mine.

Stay by me now, that I may know the joy that lifts your soul,
the joy that lifts your soul, the joy that lifts your sould on mine.

Walk by me now that I may know the measure of your step,
the measure of your step, the measure of you step on mine.

Blessings, until the next post.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Worn Out

Dette: These are not very "comforting words", but I just feel like I have to share/vent... Your choice if you don't want to post it on the blog. I'll understand. Love, Sonya

As you can see, I chose to post my dear woman-friend's article as the mid-week Words of Comfort. I always ask that you read the posts here with an open heart and mind and a willingness to walk in the other person's shoe without judgement and/or condemnation.

Should you need to discuss anything you read hear, remember you can always contact me via email or join our mailing list and we can speak by telephone.

Words of Comfort
by Sonya

Syndey, Australia, October 2, 2005: Saturday night my partner and I were watching a movie, when suddenly her mobile phone went off. Her friend L sent her a text message from Bali. The bombs had gone off again. L was driving along the highway beside Jimbaran beach, on her way to a meeting in Kuta. The police were putting up roadblocks and re-directing traffic and wouldn't let L through.

Four bombs went off in the sand at a seafood market/restaurant that M and I loved six months earlier during our visit. L and her partner had joined us there for dinner one night as well. Then, the news reports said that there had been simultaneous bombs in a market district of Kuta as well.

We remembered the shop well-- across the street from the shopping centre where we had bought our souvenirs. The now exploded shop had sprayed a light mist of water on all who entered, to help cool down the tourists who weren't accustomed to the Balinese heat. It is not even 48 hours after the bombs as I write this, and the death toll is approaching 100- mostly tourists.

Jimbaran beach restaurant, while an amazing Balinese dining experience, was far beyond the budget of the majority of the Balinese themselves. The shopping centre in Kuta was in the middle of the "only tourists shop here" zone of a very "tourists only" district. In 2002, The Sari club was the place famous among 20-something backpackers as the best place to go for a drink and a night of dancing. Tourists from dozens of countries were killed that night-- but more were Australian than Indonesian.

There is a fundamentalist Muslim group who is either blamed or held responsible for these bombings. Jamaah Islamiyaah [I'm almost certain I have spelt that wrong, so we will just call them JI for short] apparently are sort of the "Indonesian arm" of Al-Quaeda. OH, and they are a recognised political party in the country.

The Australian politicians on the television news [every 5 seconds] are declaring that these bombings are NOT targeting tourists, but I am finding that a VERY difficult story to believe. Restaurants, shops and night clubs that only tourists can afford, that only tourists go to, and the only Indonesian nationals injured are the staff of the place, I just don't see how we can think that tourists are NOT the intended target of these senseless killings.

Ok, so let us add this up: JI targets the main source of income for the country (tourism). Ok, on that point alone, John Howard (Australian Prime Minister) may have a point, that their intent is to weaken the economy and democratic growth of Indonesia. But I get a feeling that there are other causes and conditions that we can consider to factor into this equation. I do not think the JI members just woke up one morning and said: "Let's cripple our country's economy!!" No matter what their goal is, I do not think it started here.

So, one step further back-- the tourists are there and have been going there for a very long time. Among backpackers and budget travellers, Bali has a certain reputation-- it is cheap, and the locals do not really force tourists to obey any social mores. I can only guess, but it is sort of like "we", the locals, have one set of rules, and since "they" (tourists) are only here for a short time, they get a different set of rules. "They" are bringing money into our country, which we need really badly, so let us just tolerate them for a little while and they'll go away.

Hence, the tourists, being mostly 20-something budget backpackers, DO NOT follow any social mores. This is a heavily Muslim country, where all these comparatively rich white folk arrive, start throwing money around, and behave in debaucherous,lewd, morally irresponsible ways. Wait, I think we might have found a problem here.

Now, fine, I have only entered 13 different countries, and given the number of countries that there are in the world, that is a drop in the ocean. However, in that time, I have had a chance to experience only a couple different cultures and religions. Admittedly, very little of this is contact with Muslim nations. I do not think I need first-hand experience, but I might have had a different approach in my travels.

I do not do this often, but let us look at the Bible for some ideas: Ephesians 4, 20-30 talks about changing old ways for new. (4,26-27, 29) "If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin,m and do not stay angry all day. Don't give the Devil a chance. Do not use harmful word, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you."

Another interesting lesson from 1 John 3, 11-12: The message you heard from the very beginning is this: we must love one another. We must not be like Cain, he belonged to the evil one and mudered his own brother Abel. Why did Cain murder him? Because the things he himself did were wrong, and the things his brother did were right. Then there is James 4, which is a long one, so I won't quote, but it talks about Friendship with the World.

It would appear that the Christian interpretation of JI's actions are that they are jealous of the tourists' riches, and that is why they feel they must kill-- I suppose to obtain the riches. This type of action is condemned, as far as I understand this reading from my Bible. Right, one of the commandments says: "Thou shalt not kill", so yah, I guess JI's actions are not popular.

M, being a travel agent, was hauled in to work today, a public holiday, to help the company cope with the glut of cancellations by Australians who have been scared by this, and do not want to go to Bali now. Well, the only similar parallel I can draw is from when I was living in South Korea, and they went through an economic crisis. They had to beg for a bailout from the IMF which totalled something like $47 billion (or was it 47 trillion won?). The currency devalued daily, and things went pretty dismal pretty quick.

For the English teachers who were living in Korea at the time, things went really bad really fast! Those who were trying to pay off student loans "at home" suddenly were unable to eat, for want of sending so much money home. Student numbers plummeted in our colleges, as the Koreans did not want to offer foreign language tuition anymore.

And the racism-- amazing. Suddenly, overnight, my white skin made me a target for any and all Koreans who were frustrated with the economic situation of their country.

Somehow, they felt that the IMF, a foreign [lit: non-Korean] institution, was represented in me. Overnight, I went from living in a comfortable city of 1.6 million to being scared of 1 599 990 people. (I may have made 10 friends since my arrival. I tried to just fit in as best I could. I could not change the colour of my skin, but I started picking up the local language and customs and keeping and spending my money within Korea.

Those who had to pay off debts, well, they just left in droves. They had been the drunkards and those who were not really interested in teaching anyway, they were just interested in fast money. I would not say that the Koreans' racism was justified in all cases, but there certainly were some who were "living offensively" and flouting their "western ways" in the face of the Koreans they encountered. Some Korean friends asked me: "Why do foreigners behave like that?" and I rarely had an answer.

I am sure that if the Korean religious structure would have tolerated violent action, there would have been a Korean faction of JI targeting tourists and blowing things up. No question in my mind.

So, how to avoid the situation? What's the moral of the story? Different approach, same lesson. Tourists should be sensitive to the fact that they are guests in someone else's home. Think of it as going to dinner at a friend's house. Your friend may invite you over for dinner to enjoy each other's company. Your rules that you have for your home may not be the same as the rules your friend has for his home.

The difference does not make your home right or his rules wrong-- different house, different owners, so there are different rules. If you blatantly disregard your friend's requests to follow his "house rules", he will stop inviting you over. Just as if someone blatantly flouted your 'house rules', you would probably not invite that friend to your home any more.

I am still scared. I may not think "Bali" when I look at my next vacation plans. The next time M heads to Bali for work, I doubt I will sleep the whole time she is gone. I doubt the Australians will be vacationing there in droves as has been the case over past years.

Fear is powerful-- and in that respect, the terrorists may have won a small battle.

However, for any tourist who has been to Bali and has taken advantage of the 'freedom' and behaved in ways that were uncomfortable for the Balinese to deal with, I think you are just as much to thank for these deaths as JI. You have done just as much as JI to create and detonate those bombs.

Laws of kharma and dependent origination may be Buddhist concepts, but the chain of cause and effect proves true. I know that justice officials will soon start looking for "those responsible for the bombings," and while there may be JI members who do need to be imprisoned and punished for their choices, I offer that there are causes further back in the chain which lead to these members looking at violence as an acceptable means to a solution.

There may have been innocent victims, but I believe that the guilty parties are far more numerous.

"May all beings be happy."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Threatened Species

Thanks to all of you for your emails in which you shared with me bits of your own stories, after reading the latest installment of mine entitled "Upside Down."

The next 'installment' of my story is in the making. Members of this community will be automatically notified when it is posted.

For first time visitors and those of you who have not yet joined the Comforting Words community, membership is free and easy.

To become a Member and enjoy the benefits of being part of a growing community of women and LGTBQ persons concerned with love, justice and equality, all you have to do is click on the “Join Our Mailing List” feature at the right of your screen and follow the prompts.

Your ‘membership’ gives you a chance to be the recipient of our monthly surprise. Speaking of which, we have a winner!

The September draw took place on the 30th and the winner was my dear woman-friend in British Columbia, Canada. She will receive the unabridged audio version of the book, "The Invitation," read by the author herself Oriah Mountain Dreamer. You could be the next winner of a Comforting Words Monthly Surprise by simply joining our mailing list.

My Words of Comfort, delayed as they are, is entitled "Threatened Species: People of Colour, LGTBQ and Women." The idea for this piece occured to me after receiving one more email about how discrimination, prejudice and narrow-mindedness have reigned supreme in another community.

Never one to deal the race card nor promote my own sexual orientation, I simply could not avoid sharing my thoughts on recent developments that affect the humanity of millions of people across the world. Along with the Sacred Words and Words from the Heart, I invite you to explore the Words of Comfort and let them open up a space in your heart that will allow you to take action - big or small - to end discrimination, of any kind, in your community.

As always, if you read something here that inspires you, please share it with a friend. Should you read something here that triggers you and you need someone to "talk it through" with, as the host of this Blog and the Comforting Words Community, I willingly open myself to you and I am here to support you as I am able to, whenever and however needed.

You may contact me via email or you can join the continuing conversation at the InComfort Discussion Forum. If needs be, I will call you, if you provide a telephone number or you can call me - members have access to my telephone number.

Sacred Words
(By using Sacred Words to describe the quotations that I chose to use in this section, my intention is to share with you words from a variety of sources that are dedicated to Truth and to what is holy in our experiences as human beings.)

From "Women's Words: The Columbia Book of Quotations by Women" compiled and edited by Mary Biggs, (191, 165-166,):
"We are your daughters, your sisters, your sons, your nurses, your mechanics, your athletes, your police, your politicians, your fathers, your doctors, your soldiers, your mothers. We live with you, care for you, help you, protect you, teach you, love you and need you. All we ask is that you let us. We are no different. We want to serve, like you. Need love, like you. Feel pain, like you. And we deserve justice, like you."
Margaretie Cammermeyer (b 1942, U.S. Nurse and Army Officer who was discharged after 26 years of service in the U.S. Army because she stated she was a lesbian.)

"Justice is not blind - she very often 'peeks' to determine the race, economic status, sex, and religion of persons prior to determination of guilt."
Connie Slaugther (B 1946, African-American civil rights attorney and activist).

From the Hebrew Scripture:
Job 19:7:
"Even when I cry out, 'Violence!' I am not answered; I call aloud, but there is no justice."

Words of Comfort

Some articles are far more difficult for me to write than others. This one falls in the category of very difficult.

The challenge is not in finding the right words or stringing the phrases together. That is easy enough. Whether my sentences are grammatically correct or sound poetic is hardly my concern. Whether one day I will win a Pulitzer Prize is even further from my mind.

What makes writing difficult for me is the pain, physical and spiritual, that surges through my body, causing my breathing to come in gasps and threatening to choke me.

Sitting at the computer to begin this article took some doing. As I have confessed before, very often I have no early warning or sign as to what my next article is to be about. There are times when it is clear, then there are other times when up until the day that I am due to post an article, I have no clue what I am to write about.

For a week my thoughts kept returning to the question, "What will you write about for next Monday's post?" My muse was playing around with me again and information kept coming to me but I just was not putting them together. Right up to an hour before I sat down to put this article together, I had no idea what to share.

Returning from the hospital where I had gone earlier in the morning to journey with a patient and his family as he made his transition, my daughter told me a friend had called and as I was not home, he would send me an email.

Having a fair idea what his email was about - telling me that he cannot make it to A.'s 18th birthday dinner in a couple weeks - I rushed to the computer to confirm my notion. The fact that I was right, that this dear man was reneging on our plans, for good reasons, was not what gave me the idea for this article but it led me to it.

In my mailbox was an email from my woman-friend, B. She had forward to me a message about the cancellation of a play, which in itself was harmless as I had no plans on going.

This play, however, was special. It was to take place in the Surrey school district in British Columbia, here in Canada. The school district officials had banned the play, however, stating that it had offensive and sexual content - or something like that.

This was a production of The Laramie Project and for those of you who have not a clue what that is - here is some of what B sent me:
"The Laramie Project is based on the 1998 murder of a gay college student, Matthew Shepard, who was beaten and tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyo. The young man died five days after he was found. Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theatre Project spent more than a year doing interviews in Laramie before writing the play in 2000. Since then, the play has been staged about 1,500 times in the U.S. and Canada."

Whether the production was banned in the Surrey school district because of homophobia, as some claim or simply that the administrators really believed that the content was too strong to be considered family entertainment is being debated. My interest in this story has more to do with the timing of this incident and recent articles in the newspapers about the Vatican starting a new witch hunt - seeking out the homosexuals in its midst.

Then there is the continuing debate about what went wrong and whether racism and class had anything to do with the response to the plea for help from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It was also hard for me not to notice the fall out in Ontario as a result of the Premier's decision not to allow any judicial arbitration by religious 'laws', including Sharia.

Who remembers how much I hailed the recent appointment of Michaelle Jean as Governor General of Canada? Well, no sooner than I had posted that article, the critics came out to either denigrate this woman and/or the office of Governor General.

Questions arose about her loyalty to the Crown and Canada and her qualifications to hold the post became the topic of discussion. Amidst all of this, there was of course the comments about her being an immigrant and woman of colour.

As I watched these developments, my heart sank. And I could not write any further. I turned off the computer and thought I would finish the article later but never got back to it until one week to the day and one big scare.

Reflecting on what I had already written and what had happened with me in the meantime, it was not long before I identified the common denominator in all these situations - being the other.

Non-white, non-heterosexual and woman - these all constitute object for derision, exclusion and domination. The Government does it, the Church has made it the platform of its mission, at least that is how it has played out and those who have any bit of power see this - exclusion, injustice and dominance - as the name of the game.

Being a person of colour, a woman, a lesbian and an immigrant, I often feel like a threatened specie. Maybe the IUCN Species Survival Commission should put people like me on its Threatened Species Watch List. If not them, somebody should because if societies continue at this pace, people who identify as homosexuals, who have migrated from their countries of birth, people who have a non-white skin colour, people who earn less than the average two-income middle class, Caucasian North-American family and half of the world population - women, will soon be extinct.

Just read these few highlights and you will see what I am talking about. I found them on the Internet and in newspapers. While most of them refer to North America, women, people of colour and LGTBQ persons in other countries around the world share similar experiences.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which released a new report, Women’s Economic Status in the States: Wide Disparities by Race, Ethnicity and Region, its first such report in 1996 states:
"[In the 2004 Report, it is noted that] despite changes over the last half century, Americans’ economic opportunities are still greatly impacted by accidents of birth, according to report author Amy Caiazza. 'Being born Hispanic or African American, and being born female, make you less likely to earn a high salary than if you are born white and male.' African American, Native American, and Hispanic women all have lower earnings and higher poverty rates than white women. But all groups of women have lower earnings and higher poverty rates than white men. Women are less likely to own a business and are less likely to work in high-paid occupations, such as jobs in science and technology or top levels of business.

Sex discrimination and job segregation continue to play key roles in holding down women’s earnings. Factors such as women’s lower levels of education, job training, and work experience explain less than half the gap in earnings. Racial discrimination and job segregation continue to hold down earnings for Hispanic women, African American women, Asian American women and Native American women. The report cites statistics that nearly one-third of employees in the low-paying private household sector of the service industry are Hispanics. Asian American women are also disproportionately found in low-wage jobs as domestics or doing poorly paid assembly work in the garment industry or Silicon Valley."

The Edmonton Journal on Sunday, September 25, 2005 reprinted a centrespread feature on "Canada's Stolen Sisters." While the article focuses on the plight of Aboriginal women of this country, one could easily see this affecting women of colour in any Caucasian majority country. It is a very long article but here are some snippets:
"The death and disappearance of aboriginal women has emerged as an alarming pattern, from western serial murders in Vancouver and Edmonton to little-known Atlantic vanishings. Grim statistics and anecdotal evidence compiled by The Canadian Press suggest public apathy has allowed predators to stalk native victims with impunity. The record also points to an ugly truth behind the political and legal lethargy: racism.

Many young women head for cities from reserves and small communities to find work and, all too often, to escape abuse. Lacking educational skills to find jobs, and frequently battling personal demons, they become trapped in a cycle of poverty, substance abuse and prostitution. They become easy prey.

There are strong suspicions some officers don't spend enough energy and resources on cases of lost aboriginal women - that they're too easily dismissed as addicts or transients.
[One law professor, herself an Aboriginal woman asks] 'why aren't we important?'"

If these stories were not enough, what about the recent reports about Bill Bennett's comments?
"The former U.S. education secretary-turned-talk show host said Wednesday last week that 'if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.' It is reported that he quickly added that such an idea would be 'an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do.' But, he said, 'your crime rate would go down.'"

Does that sound similar to the comment made last year by American televangelist, Jimmy Swaggart on a radio programme on a Toronto multicultural station, which is also heard throughout the US? Only this time, it was about gays:

"During the program, a rambling sermon by Swaggart who is trying to rehabilitate himself after an arrest for soliciting a prostitute, the televangelist turned to the subject of gay marriage. According to a transcript of the program, Swaggart said: 'I'm trying to find the correct name for it ... this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. ... I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died.' The remarks were met with applause from his congregation."

Unable to continue writing this article for almost a week due to the thoughts which kept swirling around in my head, questions having to do with my 'viability' as a member of the human species, one who is non-white, female and non-heterosexual, living outside of my country of origin, I found myself one early morning this week, about 2:30 a.m., alone on the street in Edmonton.

No, I was not walking aimlessly searching for answers but on my way to fulfill a mission I feel the Divine has called me to do and one that I feel a great sense of humility and privilege in being asked to do.

As I parked my car and exited the lot, uncertain where to go to enter the building that I needed to be in, I made a wrong turn and came across a few men. My gut told me this was not a good place to be and so I quickly turned on my heels and started to head back from whence I came. I could hear the men shouting after me and it seemed to me they were beginning to come after me.

Several thoughts crossed my mind as I ran. I will not repeat the expletives that came out of my mouth, but I can tell you I prayed for my life, begging God to not make me the next woman, and one of colour at that, to disappear. Somehow I remembered that I had my cell phone and I quickly called Juds and breathlessly told her what was happening, just in case.

Later that day, having done what I was called out to do and recounting the story to my loved one, I said laughingly, "Thank God, A and I we have been going to the gym again and I have been using those blasted treadmills!"

Jokes aside, however, this story could have ended differently and this article might not have been completed. When I think of that, it makes me realise how much our silence and non-action, even small ones, is helping to kill our sisters and brothers across the globe. For as long as we do nothing, men and people in positions of power will continue to think they have a right to rape, abuse and even murder human beings because they are different.

My plea to you reading this today, do something, anything, that will protect the life of a woman, a person of colour or the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or queer person living next door to you -- they are part of God'd diverse universe.

Words from the Heart
(We sang this hymn in church today and it seems a fitting end to this article. I share the first two verses with you.)

Help Us Accept Each Other
Words: Fred Kaan Music: Doreen Potter

Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us;
Teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace.
Be present, God, among us and bring us to believe
We are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.

Teach us, O God your lessons, as in our daily life
We struggle to be human and search for hope and faith.
Teach us to care for people, for all -- not just some,
To love them as we find them or as they may become.

Blessings, until the next audiopost.