Sunday, September 17, 2006

Disconnected Threads

There are times when religion, sex and politics mushes together into an indecipherable mess. I can't make sense of any of it.

The dead bodies of two women have been found here in the last week, one in an abandoned storefront near the Boardwalk and the beach and the other on a dirt road in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The first has not yet been identified and the second, a cashier at a supermarket in Ben Lomond, was six months pregnant. Causes of death are so far unknown or unannounced. Before I moved here in the mid-1970s, Santa Cruz was called the "Murder Capital of the World" because of three serial murderers who had been captured and sent to prison a few years earlier. I am sure people are fearful, wondering if something like that could happen again.

A week ago, agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (new name: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) swooped down on Santa Cruz and San Benito counties in the early morning hours and carried off 107 people without the proper citizenship documentation. Most were Mexicans but a few came from El Salvador, Guatemala and India. Some were parishoners at Star of the Sea Catholic Church, and I've heard horror stories of cases where one or both parents were taken, leaving children born in this country behind to fend for themselves. Understandably, members of the immigrant community here are terrified. It sounds so similar to Nazi Europe when unwanted people were taken from their homes in the dark of night.

Religious leaders have been speaking up: "It is clear that we have reached a point where we need legislation that will produce a viable path to citizenship for undocumented persons residing in our nation and one (law) that protects the integrity of families and the safety of children," said Monterey Bishop Sylvester Ryan at a press conference at Resurrection Catholic Community Church in Aptos. But the Homeland Security goons need to show they can protect our violated borders to boost Bush's ratings in the polls. Once deported, these immigrants, many of whom have lived here for years, with homes and businesses, will never be able to return. More raids are promised by the Feds.

And in Washington, El President Bush is pressuring legislators to legalize torture in the bogus War on Terror (and is not torture a form of terrorism?).

On the other hand, Sojourners founder and editor Jim Wallis, a self proclaimed progressive evangelical Christian, came to Santa Cruz last week and filled the pews at First Congregational Church. Wallis, who is stocky and feisty in a prophetic sort of way, could easily be called a white Martin Luther King Jr. He has the charisma for it and his message is the same: end poverty and violence in the name of moral values derived from religious faith. Wallis is constantly on tour to promote his current book, God's Politics: A New Vision for Faith & Politics in America, now out in paperback, and his talk was polished to a fine shine.

On his journeys he said he saw a hunger in America for spirituality and social justice, "and the connection between the two is one the world is waiting for." While he thinks the monologue of the religious right is over, Wallis said "it's easier to be gay in Boston than religious in the Democratic Party," and he called for an infusion of moral values in partisan politics. In the 19th century evangelical Christians were abolitionists. "People of faith have done big stuff before; it's time we do it again." He advocated replacing the "politics of blame and fear" with the "politics of solution and hope," and he said the choice is not between belief or secularism but between hope and cynicism. In attendance at Wallis's talk, sponsored by the Resource Center for Nonviolence, was an hopeful mix of followers from various faiths, Jewish and Muslim, Christian and Buddhist, mostly united in the belief that poverty and nonviolence were more important issues than gay marriage and abortion.

Wallis is an inspiring cheerleader for peace and social justice and serves as an example that the religious right has not hijacked religion totally in this country. His talk, however, while heavy on aphorisms and slogans, did not contain any clear solutions to the obvious crises in America and the World. And where are all the the rest of the faith-filled people who are "mad as hell and not going to take it any more"? A week ago about twenty of us were standing on the corner by the Clock Tower with our homemade peace signs during the weekly interfaith Vigil for Peace when a passing car skidded to a stop and a small man with a tall wife at his side ran up to us and started shaking hands. It was Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, the tireless campaigner for peace, on his way to a local Democrat fund raiser, and he was thanking us for what we were doing. Next week I expect to see Michael Moore or Al Gore drop in to encourage us in our lonely protest against the madness in Washington and the Middle East.

Maybe it's just pissin' in the wind, but we do keep trying. Next week a a local group working on The Declaration of Peace campaign will launch a national week of actions, Sept. 21-28, to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq with a series of events here in Santa Cruz. On Monday we are getting together to make signs. On Thursday, Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace, Quakers will lead a silent vigil at the Town Clock from 5:30 to 6:30, followed by the lighting of candles all over the nation, and on our coast the Night Light display. On Friday small groups all over town (at least 100) will stand on street corners and bear witness to their wish that the troops come home from the Middle East NOW. The next morning, at 10:30, a silent peace march will start out from Mission Plaza and wend its way through town. On Monday, Sept. 25, there will be a "Die-In" in front of the Post Office to graphically illustrate the tragedy of U.S. involvement in the Middle East. The Raging Grannies will be there to lead us in song and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship will set up their display of the photos of dead U.S. soldiers. It may not end Bush's war on terror but it will certain help strengthen our resolve to oppose the regressive regime in Washington.

And what about sex, you may ask? Last week, in a continuing search to find like-minded friends and companions of the opposite sex, I put an ad on Craig's List personals (no, I'm not planning to reprint it here). I was amazed at the response. Even though I proudly announced my age as 67, almost twenty people found my self-description interesting enough to reply. Personal ads on internet singles sites tend to be depressingly similar and sad, particularly for those over 50 like myself. The challenge to be genuine and real, and particular rather than general, is daunting, and quite humbling. And then there is the matter of a photograph. The camera can often be brutally honest. I included a picture of me dancing the tango in Buenos Aires, even though I stumbled over the poor lady's toes and it's been several years since I've gone dancing here in Santa Cruz.

As I tell all who will listen, I love the unencumbered single life. And yet...I will say no more.

1 comment:

The Geezers said...

I find the whole concept of national boundaries pretty absurd to begin with. Pure utopian foolery to think this is possible, but wouldn't it be nice if there were no restrictions on human movement whatsoever? The native Americans had it right, I think, to understand that the concept of land ownership was insanity.

There is no club more artificial than that of nation. Before Bush misuses the term "fascist" again, he should look in the mirror. The idea that we have the right to move innocent people to places they don't want to go is fascism at its worst.