Friday, July 21, 2017

Summer Excursion           

 It has become a kind of summer ritual - getting on the fast ferry with my grandkids and leaving “The Rock” for a few hours on a mid-July day to go shopping on the mainland.  We join the masses who are leaving behind their vacation respite on the island and we head for “America.”    The ritual has changed little over the last few years.  It usually manages to fall on the hottest, sunniest, most humid day in July.  We enjoy the cool breeze as the ferry speeds toward its destination.  And then, suddenly, we are disembarking into sizzling heat and humidity again.  
            First stop - Friendly’s!  and a cool Fribble!   Years ago, there were giggles about blowing bubbles in the milkshake with a straw.   Now the conversation turns to the number of calories in each menu offering, the size of the portions and whether or not it is possible to make a healthy choice here for a mid-morning snack. 
            Next stop - Staples! and a quick run through to see what is needed in anticipation of the beginning of the school year.  Here the seductive items used to be the biggest boxes of crayons or markers, the Pink Pony pencil boxes and blank note books.  Now the electronics section is the big draw - - and there are many comments about the high prices.
            On to Walmart!  The inexpensive DVDs used to be the big draw -and there was always a challenging bit of time in the toy section. Now the conversation runs toward  the shabby quality of much of the merchandise and how do people live on the wages they earn  making so much stuff that has so little value.
            No trip off island is complete without stops at TJMAXX and The Christmas Tree Shoppe.  By the end of our shopping tour, we’re all tired and feeling overwhelmed by all the lures of consumption.  The kids compare what life is like on the island - trying to live “normal” lives in the presence of so much excess and unthinking wealth.
            As I ponder the expedition on the return trip to the island, I realize that these annual excursions have, indeed, been an educational process for both me and my grandkids.  Whereas the political and economical commentary used to come from me as we made our way through the massive offerings on sale, now the grandkids are pondering the questions of why there is SO much.  They are reading labels and beginning to understand that there are exploited human beings hidden in the shadows of the low prices.  They are beginning to blanch at the price of a small Fribble that has virtually no nutritional value.  Little by little their adolescent dreaminess is awakening to questions about our values and about how we spend our money and about what happens when we are not consciously aware of how we participate in the injustice of poverty and inadequate wages and the ability to afford nutritious food that is not fried!
            Meanwhile, back in Washington, political minds seek ways to cut supplemental nutritional assistance programs for people who already cannot afford to put food on the table for their families.  Saving money by getting the poor off of medical assistance programs seems to be the way to go.  Cutting health care for poor pregnant women will make a huge difference in the money Washington has to give to the more deserving wealthy folks at the top.
            It is a good day for listening to the voice of the prophet Amos echoing down through the ages:  Thus says the Lord:  For three transgressions and for four, I will not revoke the  punishment: they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes - they trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and push the afflicted out of the way.... (Amos 2:6-7).
            But all is not hopeless.  There are a few courageous voices of resistance.  Somewhere in Washington the prophet still speaks.  May we pray that the prophetic voice will get louder with each passing day.

Vicky Hanjian

Friday, July 14, 2017

Music & Terror

I came home tired from church a few weeks ago. I thought I might take a nap. The television was on to the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. This was the second concert, "One Love Manchester," not the first one where so many were killed and injured by the terror attack. 

Ariana had decided she had to do something positive to redeem that horrible experience. So she recruited musicians from all over to join her in a return concert that would emphasize love over hate. She wanted to respond to terror with the antidote, fearlessness and love. The artists filed onto the stage one after the other to speak some words  of healing and share some music to soothe or stimulate the soul. Even Justin Bieber did himself proud.

Fifty thousand young people were present. Instead of staying in the safety of their homes, they were concert bound again. Many held signs saying "for our angels," for those who lost their lives in the earlier attack.  They were sending those souls to heaven with music, not revenge. It was obvious these young people would not be cowed by the terror rained on their friends and neighbors just short days earlier. It was a festival of fearlessness. For me, it was church again, writ large.

In the meantime, governments and the media used the Manchester bombing as one more occasion for spreading fear and violence. You would think they would know by now that terror thrives on fear? You would think they would know by now that violence breeds violence that breeds more violence? It's a vicious circle. And occasionally we get a glimpse of those who will break the cycle of fear and violence, with their bodies and with music. I saw it at "One Love Manchester." God bless Ariana Grande! God bless them all!

A couple of days after the concert I was on a plane to Mexico. There I met with some thirty people from all over the country. Two were former gang leaders. Some were academics. A few were students. One was an artist; one a lawyer; one a banker. We ranged in age from 21 to 75. We spent nine days together studying and learning nonviolence as a way of life, courtesy of Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus and so many others. I dare say everyone left convinced we don't have to answer violence with violence. There is another way. But in a world where we are usually given just two choices, fight or flight, the alternatives are usually buried or quickly dismissed.

Take the burial and dismissing of important, positive events in the Islamic world. You won't find reporting of these responses to terror on the front (or last) page of the paper. 

On May 27 in Pakistan, Islamic religious scholars issued a unanimous decree that suicide attacks and armed insurgency against a state to impose Islamic rule was forbidden in Islam. The religious edict condemned terrorism and extremism and declared suicide attackers and their supporters as traitors.

After the killings in Manchester, local Muslim leaders walked to St. Ann's Square, a place of remembrance for those who died and laid flowers at the site. They shared remarks, condemning ISIS as an affront to Islam and humanity. They spoke about how Islam rejects suicide bombings. They thanked those who aided the victims and called for unity and strength in the face of terror. Other religious leadership from Christian and Jewish communities joined them.

After attacks on Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, Muslims started a fund raising campaign to help the victims and their families. One cited the Koran, "Repel evil with that which is better." It's the same thing Martin Luther King said in an essay he wrote on "How a Christian Overcomes Evil." King said you don't push evil out. You crowd it out with something better.

I do believe most young people would rather be listening to or making music than putting on a suicide belt. There is so much beauty all around us. Are they seeing it? Couldn't we do better in crowding out the ugly with beauty? Couldn't we do better crowding out fear with fearlessness? Couldn't we crowd out the violence with the alternatives of a Gandhi or a Jesus? Couldn't we crowd out the hate with love? 

Couldn't we learn from those fifty thousand young people, crowding out fear and filling our lives with music?
Carl Kline

Friday, July 7, 2017

“They Flew Away, that’s what Birds Do”
Rabbi Victor H. Reinstein

I worried about them during the night when I awoke to the sound of a hard rain falling. So too, my first thought upon waking in the morning was also about them. I hurried downstairs to check on them after the rains. In the damp morning air, surrounded by the scent of the rhododendrons, I felt panic when I realized they weren’t there. I looked in the bush among the pink flowers and green leaves. I looked on the branches of the trees that ring the yard. They were not there, not upon the garage roof either. I thought perhaps they had taken shelter in the yellow birdhouse hanging from the eaves of the garage, but no, it was empty. I felt sad and lonely, missing our visitors who had been with us such a short time, hoping that nothing untoward had happened, not wanting to think about it. I thought of the neighbor’s cat that visits the yard, thinking I should have done something more to protect them. I called to Mieke, asking her to come out, to stand with me where we had stood through the week and beheld with awe the simple miracle of love and creation, of perseverance and purpose. “They’re gone,” I said. With warm reassurance, Mieke answered, “they flew away, that’s what birds do.”

They were a family of robins that had built such a beautiful nest in the rhododendron bush next to the garage. It looked like a perfectly formed bowl, a basket so skillfully woven. We had watched through the week as the mother bird flew out into the yard to forage, returning quickly with food for the young one whose head we could see peeking up from just below the rim of the nest. It is hard to imagine that the little one could mature so quickly to have already been able to fly away. I thought about all the work that had gone into making the nest. There seemed to be lessons to be learned in the willingness of these little creatures to leave it all behind. I thought about the give and take of nest making and of the depth of attachment that most of us have to the things of this world. I wondered if they just assumed that they would make another in whatever place they came to next. Perhaps leaving a nest once built is part of the give and take of being a bird. I wondered if other birds make use of a nest left behind, if a new feathered-family would dwell where others had dwelled before, raising their young where others had nurtured little ones before. I felt grateful for the generosity of our robins, a gift simply to behold the intricate beauty of the nest left behind.

I thought of the Mishkan, the desert sanctuary made to be portable that our ancestors carried with them on the desert journey. Taking in the Torah/Teaching of the birds, I reflected on the difference, one holy dwelling to be left behind when life’s journeys resumed, and another to be taken along until arriving at the next stopping place. The Mishkan is a as a nest as well, a place in which the Sh’chinah as God’s mothering presence might alight, a spirit-nest woven of love, a place in which our souls can rest and be nourished, then to travel on. That’s what people do, they journey on to the next stage in life, taking what we can with us, what we have learned, and, hopefully, leaving behind a trace of beauty simply woven that tells of our having been.

In the Torah portion, Parashat B’ha’alotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:16), we are told of the day on which the Dwelling Place was raised up, all of its parts woven together, a vessel in which spirit might dwell. The raising up of the Mishkan is expressed in the passive, and without a subject, without a name. We are not told that Moses raised up the Dwelling Place, but simply, uv’yom hakim et ha’mishkan/on a day that the Mishkan was raised up. There is no definite article, simply on a day, any day, a day unbound by time. Whenever we create a dwelling place of love and caring, we raise up a Mishkan, a sacred nest, whether it be in a moment of not so random connection, strangers exchanging a smile, a helping hand offered, a song for justice and good offered into the wind and among the people, guests invited to the Sabbath table. Sometimes we take the dwelling with us, and sometimes we leave it behind, the sweet song of little birds to remind, it is okay, whichever way is right in that time and place, and then to another. Transience and uncertainty are part of life, the way of our journeys. Just after the timeless call to raise up the Mishkan, we are told that according to the word of God did the children of Israel journey, and according to the word of God did they camp (Numbers 9:18). It is the uncertainty of life, never knowing, even though we think we do, when change will come, when we journey and when we camp. Nor do we know in the grand weave of life when our very soul will take wing and make its way home, because that’s what souls do.

Would that we could know as the little birds know, “they flew away, that’s what birds do.” As I stood there in the mist of the morning, looking at the empty nest, touched by Mieke’s reassuring wisdom, I thought of an old folk-song that Pete Seeger, of blessed memory, sang, a song called “Little Birdie:”

 Little birdie, little birdie, what makes you fly so high?
 It’s because I am a true little birdie,
And I do not fear to die….

Little birdie, little birdie,
Come sing to me a song.
I’ve a short while to be here,
And a long time to be gone.

In the time we have, in all the places we go, may we weave a nest of love and let it be our raising up of the Mishkan, a sanctuary for God and people, and until they fly away to take their teaching elsewhere, for all the little birds as well.

Friday, June 30, 2017

What kind of people are we?

        I was struck by a story that I saw on the MSNBC program The Last Word. on June 23, 2017.  In this program the host, Ari Melber, interviewed Karen Clay and her son, Mike Phillips. Michael suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He lives at home, in Florida, with his mother. Over the last 30 years Michael's disease has progressed and his care and treatment has become more complicated. Medicaid has made it possible for him stay at home and for Karen to remain his primary care giver. This situation will change dramatically and drastically if the Republican plan becomes law.
      The focus of the interview was what will happen to Michael if the Republican health care bill is enacted. Karen explained that there is no facility in Florida that can care for Michael. He would have to be moved out of state and institutionalized. His level of care would deteriorate and the cost for his care would increase--a lot. The family would be uprooted. 
     As I listened to the interview I could not help but think of a passage in the Gospel according to Matthew. In the twenty-fifth chapter Jesus is reported to say to the disciples, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (25: 40, NIV).
     We tend to interpret the words from Matthew 25 in the context of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37). Remember that parable begins with a legal scholar asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, meaning not just a life after death, but life in the here and now. It is an existential question. What do I need to do in the here and now to have a life with God? Jesus answers this question with the story of a man beaten and robbed and left to die in a ditch at the side of the Jericho road. One religious person sees him lying in the ditch and passes by on the other side of the road, and then a second person comes along and he too goes to the opposite side of the road. But when the Samaritan comes he sees the man in the ditch and goes to him, binds his wounds and takes him to the inn and tells the inn keeper to take care of him, promising to compensate the inn keeper for any expenses that he incurs as a result of his care for this person. Jesus then asks the question, “Who was the neighbor to this man?” The answer, of course, is the Samaritan.  The parable concludes with Jesus instructing the person who asked the question, and by extension us, “Go and do likewise” (10: 37, NIV).
     With the parable of the Good Samaritan in mind, when we read the words in Matthew 25, it is natural that we should think that we are called to feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, welcome the stranger, visit those who are in prison and so on. Dr. King famously said that day will come when we have to build a new road so that travelers will not be left in the ditches. Understandably we want to be the people who build that new road, but until then we will follow the pattern set by the Good Samaritan.
     We want to do our best to be faithful to the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. We want to live by the Golden Rule and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Wendell Berry says: "Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you." It's common sense. But it is more than common sense. We are bleeding hearts. Karl Marx who once said that religion is the opiate of the masses also said: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless world." Many religious scholars and preachers have told us that compassion and empathy are the core of our faith and the keys to understanding the gospel. And we believe that.  This is why Michael and Karen's story is so powerful.
     But then, when I remembered the passage in Matthew 25: 40, I had to ask myself: What about the guy in the ditch? What about the people who live on the margins of society and in the economic shadows? What about the people who are victims of injustice. What about people who live in daily fear of police violence? What about "those people" who are, the words of Jesus, "the least of these?" What about them? 
      Reverend Deenabandhu Manchala,  now with the World Council of Churches, helps us interpret these words of Jesus when he talks about "Mission at and from the margins." As he explains, those of us in the West tend to think that our mission flows from a position of power, privilege, and possession. Our mission is to help
those who are less fortunate than we are. Thus, when I was a child my church had a program called SOS, which stood for "Share our Surplus." Then we had another offering called "Neighbors in Need," that was to help the less fortunate. These were ministries enabled by power, privilege, and possession.
     Remember the story of Joseph and his brothers. His brothers sold him into slavery. Over a period of time and after many trials Joseph worked his way to a position of responsibility in the government of Egypt. He became the Secretary of Agriculture. When famine came upon the people of Israel, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to beg for food that they could take home to a desperate people. This may be the very first story about an international relief mission in biblical history. Joseph famously does not reveal his true identity to his brothers until the very end of the story. Then, after he has given them food to take home, he reveals his true identity in a dramatic moment and he says to his brothers, “You intended to harm me. But God intended it for good" (Gen. 5: 20, NIV). 
      From the surplus of Egypt, Joseph was able to help his brothers and save his family. A well-known business consultant has famously said that we must do well before we can do good. Joseph was only able to help his brothers because he had done well. We have learned over the years to think of mission in this way. We have to do well before we can do good. But what does that say about the “least of these.” Are they among us simply to be the object of our mission? Are we the instruments of God’s mercy, and the least of these the object of God’s mercy? Is that the message of the Bible?
     During the MSNBC interview, Michael Phillips was intubated and lying flat on a table. But Michael was very aware of his situation and his surroundings. He participated in the interview. He was very articulate, eloquent in fact. If you had not see him lying in front of you flat on the table and unable to move you would not have known his condition. But there he was. After listening to Michael's story and to the words of his mother, Aril Melber, the host, was close to tears as he asked, "What kind of nation are we?" What kind of people are we? What have we become that we are debating the need for access to adequate, affordable health care?
      What did Jesus mean when he said, "As you do unto the least of these brothers, you do unto me." We tend to focus on the first part of the sentence--doing unto the least of these. But the second part of the sentence is equally important, "you do unto me." Jesus is identifying himself with the least of these—the people who are marginalized, the people who are sinned against, people who are the most vulnerable, people who are the victims of injustice.
     The mission of the church is not limited to charity, sharing our surplus or whatever else we want to call it. The mission of the church is to expose injustice. The mission of the church is to expose the hardness of heart that would make Michael’s health care a subject of national debate in a nation that prides itself on being the richest country in the history of the world.

 What kind of people are we? What kind of nation have we become?

      Following the way of Jesus is about making life changing choices. There are lots of Michael’s in this world and there will be many more to come. We can say that his situation is unfortunate and we are truly sorry for that, but we can’t help everyone who is in need. That’s one option. A second option is to say we will do our best to do what we can for “the least of these,” recognizing our own limited resources and the myriad responsibilities that we each have. Random acts of kindness are much better than random and not so random acts of cruelty. Something is lot better than nothing. A half a loaf is more than no loaf. But there is a third option. As you do to the least of these you do to me. God stands in solidarity with the hungry, the poor, the prisoner, the stranger, the unwelcome and the unwanted, the outcasts and yes, “the least of these” because it is here that community is formed. Here on the margins character is tested and shaped and formed. Here is where we answer the question: What kind of people are we?
      From a faith perspective government is not the “art of compromise.” The purpose of government is the pursuit of the common good.  And, the measure of the economy is the well-being of the people.

What kind of people are we? We are about to find out.

David Phillips Hansen

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: The fight goes on

The courage displayed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their fight to protect their sacred land and water and the treaty rights of Native Peoples has given heart to people throughout the U.S. and around the world. The ramifications of the struggle are local, global, and ongoing. The issues are legal, economic, political, and theological. 
            On June 8, 2017, the Wallace Global Foundation awarded the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe the inaugural Henry A. Wallace award "for its brave resistance in defending sacred land and water against the Dakota Access Pipeline." The HAW award is given in recognition of "extraordinary examples of courage in standing up to abuse of corporate and government power." I highly recommend that you check out the website and the powerful video narrated by Bill Moyer. Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, Dave Archambault II, accepted the $250,000 award. In addition to this award, the Foundation pledged up to one million dollars in investments to support renewable energy projects led by the Tribe. 
            On June 14, 2017 , Judge James Boasberg, U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., wrote a 91-page decision finding that the U. S. Corps of Army Engineers did not adequately consider the impact of oil spills on the environment and on people. The judge did not halt the flow of oil in the Dakota Access Pipeline, however. This decision awaits another hearing.
            The trend toward increasing the militarization of law enforcement is disturbing enough. When we add to that the criminalization of dissent and equating protest with terrorism it is imperative that we address questions of corporate wealth and power and the rights of dissent from a religious and theological perspective. When corporations are treated better than human beings, we need to claim higher moral ground. When profits matter more than people, we need to claim higher moral ground. On June 4, 1957, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke about "The Power of Nonviolence" to an audience in Berkeley, California. In his address he spoke about the need to be "maladjusted." He said, "I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence and to tragic militarism. I call upon you to be maladjusted to such things. . . . As maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth  who dreamed a dream of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man [sic].  God grant that we will be so maladjusted that we will be able to go out and change our world and our civilization."
 David Phillips Hansen

Friday, June 16, 2017

Witness, Presence, Unconditional Love

     Perhaps about 15 years ago, after the birth of our grandson, our second grandchild, I had the experience of feeling absolutely overwhelmed with the love I felt for the two beautiful young souls who were being entrusted to their parents and to us for as long as we would have time to be in their lives.  I hardly knew what to do with the feelings I had;  what to do with the awareness of what an incredible privilege and responsibility came with being a conscious grandparent.  So - I prayed for some guiding wisdom for how to go about the awesome task of loving these two precious beings and for how to be a strong and positive influence in their lives.   In the deep silence of prayer, I heard “You are to be a Witness, a Presence, and Unconditional Love.”  15 years later, I am still grappling with what these words mean, but I took this  wisdom as my marching orders for grand-parenting.  It turns out that they were marching orders for my life as well as they have continued to echo in my spirit over the years that I have been a grandmother.   You are to be a Witness, a Presence, and Unconditional Love.

        The words put me in mind of attributes of the Source of All Life, partially revealed in the story of Moses in his encounter with the Holy One of Being at the bush that burned but was not consumed (Exodus 3:1-15): 
 “I have observed the misery of my people...I have heard their cry . . . I know their suffering . . . I have come down to deliver them from slavery . . .  .I will bring them to a good land . . . "
     The Divine Voice further instructs Moses to tell the people that "...the God of your ancestors,the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob has sent me to you." 
       The beautiful story of the beginnings of humankind found in the Book of Genesis affirms that humankind is created in "the image and likeness" of the Creator.  While I am not a Biblical literalist, I take this to point to the notion that we all carry the attributes of the Holy One to some degree - we have the capacity for creativity, for curiosity, for profoundly loving relationships.  We also have the capacity to observe, and hear and know - - the capacity to Witness the lives of others.  We have the capacity to "come down" - to be a Presence in solidarity with those who suffer.  We have the capacity to BE the Unconditional Love alluded to in the affirmation that "I am the God of your ancestors" - the source of creative loving that has accompanied humankind through thick and thin since the beginning of creation.
These attributes lead us to a high calling in our life together as a community of human beings committed to living nonviolence in our personal lives and in the world beyond the boundaries of our comfort zones. The good news is that we are already familiar with these attributes.  Indeed, we practice them every day when we witness, we notice, we observe, we see.   We witness one another’s lives in the joys and the sorrows, the challenges and celebrations, the fears and concerns, the illnesses and the healing that we go through together in community.  We witness the effects of stress and joy, suffering and well-being, wholeness and brokenness on each other - and we learn empathy and compassion. This attribute of witnessing is what makes the center hold in our personal spheres of influence.  It is also what makes us more effective as we take our caring into the world.

When we are present to one another, we become the holy attribute of Presence. Some times we are called upon to take action - to make a phone call in behalf of an important cause, to check in with each other when the news is stressful, or when an action is in need of support,  to attend to one another when one of us is suffering.  Sometimes we are called upon to  be present to one another in profound grief when there are simply no words to be said.  We each have the capacity to be a Presence in each other’s lives - whether through actual physical hands on  help or through prayer, through words of encouragement and comfort.  Being a Presence means saying “Hineini” - - here I am - - my spirit and my energy are available to you - - I am part of your life.  Being a Presence means being a little bit of God available to the life of another person. 
     And then there is the attribute of Unconditional Love. We know from the long saga of God’s journey with Israel that God does not give up when the going gets tough - - and the texts are full of reasons why God could have just thrown up the proverbial divine hands and walked away in frustration and disgust.  But that did not happen.  The love of the Holy One for all of creation does not depend upon how faithful humans are,  or how good or cooperative or thoughtful or sensitive or caring or patient with each other we happen to be.  Unconditional Love is just that - it unaffected by the conditions of our lives.  Being created in the Divine Image, we have the capacity to love one another through thick and thin - - even when we aren’t sure we like each other very much - even when we disagree about how things ought to be done, even when we hurt one another’s feelings - even when things go terribly wrong.  Being Unconditional Love means being in our holy center where we do not get shaken by the dramas and ups and downs of our daily interactions, by political differences, by our knee-jerk reactions to the most recent inflammation in the news - it means being Love even when we don’t feel particularly loving.
     To embrace the command, if you will, to be a Witness, a Presence, and Unconditional Love, is, perhaps, a partial answer to the questions "How do we access soul force?"and "Where do we find the strength to live nonviolently in our world?"  Accessing "soul force" and strength for living nonviolently in the world begins with the practice of living out the Holy Attributes in community: practicing witnessing the lives of those around us; practicing being a Presence in the midst of joy and celebration and suffering and sorrow; practicing being Unconditional love that does not waver when the going gets tough.  With practice, we may yet become the influence that will transform the world.

Vicky Hanjian


Friday, June 9, 2017

Reason for Hope?

       In the midst senate hearings in Washington DC and parliamentary elections in England and reports of numerous terrorist attacks against a variety of homely sites like ice cream parlors, it would seem as though confusion and chaos, dishonesty and violence, subterfuge and obstructionism are the values that rule the day.  It becomes a spiritual discipline to begin each day with a re-connection with what is good and true and hopeful even when awaking into the ongoing nightmare.  Even our small town island politics reflect the larger milieu as a local CEO is fired without adequate public explanation and a popular school teacher leaves the system leaving many questions unanswered.
         It is tempting to wonder if something akin to Lyme Disease is affecting the entire neuro-muscular system of our culture, both national and local.  Lyme is a pesky, often chronic, and occasionally lethal infection - a gift of the deer tick, which seems invincible - a gift that keeps on giving.  It causes all kinds of symptoms from chronic headaches and muscle pain to fever to neurological disturbances and more, all in varying degrees of severity.   The medical establishment's struggle to recognize, diagnose and treat Lyme is ongoing and not yet fully dependable and accurate.  There are days when, for many folks, fear of the deer tick rules the day.
         And so it seems with our human ability to  come to terms with the far reaching effects of dishonesty and violence and subterfuge and obstructionism - along with the confusion and chaos they generate. 
         BUT!  and it is a huge BUT!  Along with the onset of the most active tick season in the month of June also comes the month of celebration of another generation of young people preparing to make the long walk to the podium to receive their diplomas.  All around the world the possibility of an antidote to the infections that stalk humanity is donning its robes and "mortar-boards", or, as is also the case on our island, throwing off their shoes and donning flower garlands on their heads, preparing to step out and make a difference.
         A high school guidance counselor describes the Class of 2017 this way: “Since their freshman year, they have volunteered for every event we’ve asked them to volunteer for, helping with the eighth grade transition, the Race-Culture Retreat." She highlighted the Stand With Everyone Against Rape (SWEAR), for this volunteering spirit, particularly among the young men of the senior class.
“We collaborated and created a training program for boys. They talk about how sexual assault is not just a women’s issue but a men’s issue as well, and how it’s time for men to step up and accept their privilege.”   Seventeen and eighteen year old kids did final research projects on innovative treatments for debilitating diseases and on the effects of gender bias on education in the classroom.  Once again, members of the graduating class, along with a few thousand other kids from around the world, attended a Model UN Conference in New York City for a simulated learning experience that helped them to train their minds to think critically and do problem solving in collaboration with people from other cultures.
     So as the tick season hits its stride and when high profile hearings seem to uncover ever more of the presence of a long suspected disease, it is a reasonable comfort to sit in the crowd as "Pomp and Circumstance" begins and another generation of young adults, far more savvy than the previous generation was at the same age, prepares to make its influence felt. 
     They send a strong message of hope and resilience to the rest of us who feel outrage, sadness, weariness, and often, fatigue, with the enormity of the dis-ease that confronts us on a daily basis, that the "research and development" for an antidote is well underway. 
Vicky Hanjian