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A day to honor the wisdom and vision of Mathama Gandhi
Today is International Day of Non-Violence, an official commemoration of the United Nations. The observance falls on the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth, to honor his work as a pioneer of the doctrine of non-violent social change. A funny artifact it is, it seems to me, echoing memories of days long gone, when internationalism was an emerging ideology and folks still had faith in the power of human beings to overcome their own history.  

In the years since 9/11/2001, violence has (again) become the currency of the day. Some might argue that it is as it ever was, and my highlighting of a period embracing a brief moment of internationalism that embraces a strategy of non-violence is but a blip in the history of humanity.

History teaches us that societies far more violent than ours have preceded us, even though their weapons may have offered less fire power. Indeed, one of the defining terms of modernity seems to be a less tolerant threshold for violence as a method for solving human conflicts, at the same time that it develops weapons able to destroy with more precision and power than any seen before. Human beings seem well equipped to test and practice their ironic capacities.

I find it difficult to fall into easy cliches about the "nature" of human beings, or the overwhelming power of violence to capture the political imagination of societies. Visionaries such as Gandhi provide enough of the counter example to make those simplistic arguments about the basic nature of our species questionable.

But arguments about the tendencies of social structures and institutions to promote them path of least resistance, such as those that fall back into violent responses because they "seem" to be the most natural, those are arguments I can embrace.

Why is it I wonder, that violent means seem to so many to be the path of least resistance?

A few things to ponder on this the anniversary of Gandhi's birth and the day to advance his work.

Discuss

Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 09:26 PM PDT

Four Yellow Roses

by a gilas girl

Not Victorian, but flower symbolism just the same
We had to fight to get them in there, but when we finally said good-bye to my sister, there were four yellow roses there. A bit of silliness, perhaps, when all is over and done with, but yellow roses have sort of been a tradition. My grandfather asked for them, before he died. As he had never said a word about his own death, his wishes or anything else when he suddenly told my mother that "yellow roses would be nice" two days before he passed away in the nursing home, my mother thought it important to tell us. And we all agreed, yellow roses it would be. I think that's when the idea started to take root.

About 15 years after that, the first of my mother's elder sisters passed away. My mother was the youngest of five daughters born to her parents. The eldest of those girls died as a young child, before my mother ever knew of her or knew to make a memory of her. So for the great majority of her life she was one of four sisters, part of a set of seven. But her relationship with her sisters was a strong and dominant force throughout her adult life. She an her remaining sisters went to my cousins and my uncle and asked that four yellow roses be included in my Aunt's funeral wreath as a token of those four sisters. It was never said, but I and my sisters had assumed the idea for the four yellow roses came from our mother. She was like that; she paid attention to those kinds of symbols.

When our momma passed away just four short years after her second eldest sister, I told my sisters we needed four yellow roses somewhere, so her sisters would know what they meant to her. So we could make a statement about being one of four sisters.

I have a small enamelled box on my writing table where the dried petals from those four yellow roses live. She's been gone for 14 years, but I'm a sentimental fool, and thus do these symbols have meaning for me. My younger sisters tease me about this, my son rolls his eyes but says nothing. My therapist once told me I imbue my objects with heavy doses of meaning. My roommate notes the endless clutter.

Every so often I open the box and look at the petals.  

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Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 08:41 PM PDT

Adult Siblings

by a gilas girl

your inner child today is nothing like the kid you were...
--my little sis, after several glasses of wine and three days of family hell

For years, I've been plagued by a contradiction in my life I can't resolve, by puzzle pieces that no longer fit together, by a model of life and love and connections that has no traction, and by a simple truth that I fight with so many breaths: I am a bad sister.

I didn't set out to be.  In fact, of all the relationships in my life, "sister" may be the one that most starkly defines my own sense of self. It's the identity that rests most comfortably with me, but it is an identity from my childhood, or my adolescent years. It has no resonance with my adult self and the five or six different lives I've led since becoming an adult.

So I'm fighting tonight for my childhood; attempting to keep it from being erased, from being eliminated by the various adults that my younger sisters and I have grown up to become. Lives that don't really have a place for sisters in them, except for very cliched roles, and very psychologically stale relationships that we hold over from our adolescent years.  

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I once had an order in at the sibling store but the delivery guy messed it up. I was looking for:

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Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 08:34 PM PDT

Staying Power

by a gilas girl

Is it just me, or does the idea of a Ten Year Plan for a Blog seem odd?

Today's my orange anniversary: ten years ago tonight I made my first comment as a gilas girl in a post from billmon.

For every UID, of course, there's one of these orange anniversaries every year, so my individual one isn't such a striking thing. But the fact that it has a zero at its end does remind me that this place, this community certainly has some staying power.  Not bad for a collection of absolutely Not Serious People.

Who wudda thunk it?

As for me, I just want to say publicly: thanks for the anonymity kos, it has brought so much to my life and in such atypical ways than could have ever been imagined when you were putting together your however many year plan back on Day 1. Without a gilas girl or any other moniker I might have chosen, I wouldn't have posted that first comment.  I had actually posted prior to 5 April, but using the "x" that the old system allowed.  It took me a while to get up enough nerve to actually register and connect directly to other folks on the internet, and the use of a moniker was crucial. Had I been required to use my meat space identity, I never would have done it. And the things that anonymity has made possible for me, via participation at the site, are multiple. Sanity and more stable mental health are not the least of them. So, anything I can do to somehow pay that back...I'm here.

Sheesh, enough meta already, don't you people have anything better to talk about?  It's Friday night for cryin' out loud!!

     

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Would you, could you change your moniker? Pick a theme for your new one

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Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 07:13 PM PDT

Thinking Out Loud

by a gilas girl

Have you ever gone to one of those "today in history" websites, or newspaper items, to check out what happened on the day you were born?

I haven't.

Because ever since my 8th birthday, history entered my life. It wasn't until a few days later that I actually understood the importance of that day.

I think I have already shared with the DK community the story of how my mother took me out of school to watch the funeral procession for the funeral of Martin Luther King.  Her reasons for doing so were complicated, I'm sure, but one of them had to be to help me understand how the day of my birth had just taken on world historic importance.

Now that I am middle-aged, my birthday has even more layers of meaning encasing it, my mother went into the ICU for the last few days of her life on my birthday 14 years ago, but 8 years ago it was also the day my beloved UNC Tarheels won their fourth NCAA Championship.  Since 1984, Bono and U2 have solemnized the date in song, so my birthday has its own platinum earworm. Some years I get the added bonus of having my birthday fall on Easter, and those are joyous occasions - who wouldn't want the addition of solid chocolate lagomorph to sink your own incisors into while bemoaning the fact that you are growing older?  

My birthday, you see, always gifts me with plenty to ponder.  It is a day filled with biographical, pop cultural and world historical reflection.  Today, I'm thinking again about my 8th birthday, but in a slightly different context than might be expected.

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Random Emotions for a Thursday Night

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indians at Rosebud Reservation
Money. ::sigh::

It seems it always comes down to money.  What's a cash-strapped progressive to do?

As long as I have been aware of my political tendencies and have voiced them in some kind of active way it seems groups have hunted me down and asked for donations in order to help fashion the world along the vision we all more or less share. In the days before the internet my snail mail box was filled with solicitations/requests for donations from left-leaning progressive groups. The human rights groups always knew how to find me and those were causes for which I often wished for great windfalls of wealth in order to assist. (In those days of my Very Certain Youth, I would otherwise disdain all ambitions toward monetary success, given my cartoon characterization understanding of radical movement politics).

Of course we're all familiar with the internet revolution to fundraising, we helped make it happen here. None of us are strangers to the requests for action complete with "easy button access" to facilitate electronic donations.

As someone who is chronically cash-strapped, as well as deeply cynical about this general trend toward the financialization of everything, these appeals have long given rise to a deep ambivalence in me. An ambivalence that sometimes leads me to question my own humanity. On the one hand there's the recognition that defining the solution to all social and political problems as give what you can fundamentally excludes folks like me from being part of the solution; those of us with little to nothing extra become precisely what Mitt Romney and his GOP apologists want to make us into: irrelevant to the path forward. It's enough to make the cash-strapped progressive rage into the wind.

On the other hand there's the awareness that the needs so far exceed cash reserves that no matter how much we give, another crisis, another disaster, another on-going consequence of our out-of-balance system of wealth generation and distribution will produce yet more groups of people whose need is so great it is unfathomable not to try and help, especially when one notes that how ever little I may have, there is always someone whose most basic needs are not being met. That's enough to reduce the cash-strapped progressive to heartsick tears.

But the Propane Project helps me out of this progresssive First Circle of Dante's Inferno in several different ways.  Follow me after the jump for some of the ways how.  

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Tools of the trade, or merely nostalgia?
I want to tell you about two short stories, neither of which were ever actually written, at least not in any lasting format. Each of these stories has many offspring, and they've been oft told. The fact of their not-written-ness does not render these stories unreal; simply without form.

Interestingly, the biographical events that gave rise to these stories did occur, and do have form.  So perhaps it is best to begin there.

In the southeastern corner of Rutherford County, North Carolina there is a Baptist Church called High Shoal Baptist Church. Both my maternal grandparents, as well as all four of my maternal great grandparents are buried in this cemetery, along with all the infant and toddlers of those couples who died as children. They are all buried in the same plot.  I have only been to this cemetery once, on the occasion of my grandmother's funeral, the day we laid her to rest. My grandmother was the last to be placed in this plot. With her burial, the plot was closed. It was, finally, complete.

For my mother and her siblings, however, the cemetery was not a new experience. As children they had been brought there every Memorial Day by their mother, to clean up the grave site of their father, who had died in an industrial accident in 1945, on the floor of the textile mill where he was an electrician. The yearly trip to High Shoal was an elaborate endeavor. The cemetery lies some 13.2 miles from the town where they lived, and as a widow with 7 surviving children, my grandmother did not own a car. The trip had to be planned, arranged with a friend or family member, along with the yard tools, potted flowers and usually food for the entire family to eat while on their errand. Once there, it was the children's task to pick the weeds from the gravesite, while my grandmother and her eldest daughter arranged all the flowers that they would have brought with them.

Before he had wed my 16 year old grandmother, my grandfather -- at the time an older man of 21 years, had already been married once. His first wife had died at the age of 19, one day after having given birth to a daughter who had lived for only a few hours. Both my grandfather's first wife and his infant daughter were also buried in the High Shoal Cemetery, though not in the plot where my grandparents and great grandparents rest. His first wife, T and their infant daughter, M, were buried on the other side of the road, closer to the church, but on the slope of the hill, with small stone markers that most likely reflect my grandfather's economic status at the time of their deaths. But those graves carry the same last name as the name on the majority of the stones in my family's plot.

During these yearly treks to the family cemetery, my grandmother always insisted that her children tend not only their father's, and then later their grandfathers' graves, but also these two, non-adjacent but nonetheless still family gravestones. This task often fell to the younger of the children, if nothing else they needed the exercise that running across the road and down the hill would bring. And perhaps, it was just easier for my grandmother that way. As the youngest daughter, my mother was nearly always one of the ones sent to do the work on these two gravesites. Ironic in many ways, because my mother, as the youngest daughter, had also been named for this child of my grandfather's first marriage, the one who died.  So her task was to clean and tend the gravestone that had her own name on it. Her younger brothers teased her unmercifully once they were old enough to understand what the name upon that stone was.  

Now today in these days of Google and Facebook, it is perhaps not so unusual to come across people who share a name with you. But in the late 1940's coming face-to-face with this phenomenon was somewhat less commonplace. Granted, the practice of naming a child after a child who has died has a long history, at least among the descendants from the inhabitants of the British Isles. The British in particular seem to relish the use of just a handful of names, if my forays into genealogy are any indication. What is, perhaps most rare about this situation, however is the fact that my mother's name was neither an attractive nor popular one for that era. It was a name out of time by the time she was born, and a name that she had always hated. But every year she was reminded of just why that was her name, so that these trips to the cemetery seemed to carry more meaning for her than for any of her other siblings. Or at least this is what she came to feel, as she used to tell her own children when she shared this story with them once she was, herself a parent. And thus did we, her daughters, learn to identify and even experience in some ways, the strange and sometimes scary "honor" that was also something of a horror for a sensitive young girl of 8 or 9.    

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Random objects: which do you like best?

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I gave up commenting on other people's marriages the day I realized that brother-in-law had become a code word in my family for "the born again jackass who's too stupid to know that he's dumber than all of the women and most of the pets in the family he just married into".

We've had more than our share of brothers-in-law in my family.

There doesn't appear to be much gained from the exercise, unless, of course, you are a character in a Jane Austen novel. And even then, you never know the whole of the story, which is, it seems to me, just as it should be. Projecting appropriate marital values onto someone else's husband or wife never gets you very far, since the only people who really know what goes on inside a relationship and what are the agreed upon parameters thereof, are the two people inside it. This renders the parameters of relationships as vast and varied as are the people that make up our species.

On top of all that, there's just no accounting for taste.  Even in your immediate family (see paragraph one, above). There's little to no objectivity involved in an assessment of tastes.

Nevertheless, there remains in US political discourse, a great heaping tablespoon of marital busybodiness sprinkled across the entire political komentariat's breakfast cereal these days.  And it kind of gives me the creeps.

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Passing judgement on marriages in the public eye reminds me of

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Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 10:38 PM PDT

Sometimes...

by a gilas girl

ghosts visit.

They don't really manifest themselves, they just lodge in my consciousness.  Other times they simply whisper in my ear.

Laughter mostly comprises the bulk of my audio memories; it's what I hear when I remember folks whose ghosts sometimes visit me.  I hear the distinct timbres of their laughter.

The egoist in me wants them to be more literary, my ghosts: to run away from me like Charlotte the child does to Seymour Glass and leaves a yellow scar of happiness across his palm from where he tried to reach out and grab her dress.  Or to appear wise and distinguished as when they attempt to help Peony cross into her own afterlife.  But my ghosts don't play that way.  

You see, my ancestor worship has a Southern accent and thus are my ghosts as far from literary as a disembodied spirit of the past and the ordinariness of working people's particular cultures and lives can be.

Embrace the mundane, I learn from my ghosts.  They are wiser than they look (or sound) on first appearance.

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Preferred Guests at a Birthday Celebration

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Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 06:46 PM PST

Alone

by a gilas girl

Strange word, in many ways: simple, ya know, but not, if you dig down--or stop to think.  It quickly becomes complicated once you start to feel it.  

It's a keyword in popular music, and big on the talk show circuit, too. I'm not sure that the self-help publishing industry could survive without it. Many people have a lot invested in it, for varying reasons.

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Favorite section of the dictionary

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Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 09:33 PM PST

It's the Democracy, stupid

by a gilas girl

This is my rant.  After Susan G. Komen Foundation, myriad attacks on Planned Parenthood, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Catholic Bishops and legions of health care and social work professionals seeking conscientious objector status from the 21st Century, while religious based employers seek the right to act as moral police rather than employers over their employees and the never-ending bait and switch of invoking Freedom of Religion as a shield to protect belief-based bigotry, this is my rant.

The anti-progressive forces are at it again, plying their discursive sleight-of-hand trade to every media and political denizen ready to accept the distraction and run with it. After reading and ranting and listening and eventually simply muting the television whenever the "religious freedom" stories appear, it has finally occurred to me that what we are currently undergoing is not so much a crisis about religion, but rather a challenge to democracy.

The real question underlying all of the religiously tinged social issues that the Catholic Church and its right wing political front men and women keep pushing to the forefront is not "how do we minimize the threats to religious freedom?".  The question is rather: "how does a democracy handle anti-democratic religious beliefs?"

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Most irritating clown in the religious freedom circus

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The President took the First Lady out to dinner at the restaurant down the street from me. My friend who works in a different restaurant kitchen just called me to say that the entire evening was crazy and now he's absolutely exhausted. Clearly the business stimulus aspect of the holiday is working

"Leave it be", I tell myself, despite the annoying level of crass commercial promotionalism of network news and news by-products that appear across my television screen. This morning GMA featured a surprise televised marriage proposal from a New Jersey elementary school. Cynical in both nature and experience, my first thought when I see these televised proposals is how fast could I murder my beloved were he ever to put me in such a situation. I'm waiting for someone to say "no" to the implied emotional blackmail of such a public airing of what should be a private moment. I imagine I'll be waiting a long time.

Many years ago, while still a student in graduate school, I made the observation in a history seminar that commercialism rarely invents new cultural traditions, rather it takes already existing ones and plays with their meanings. We had been talking about the things that commercial culture "invented". But inventing and reconfiguring are two very different cultural processes. Maybe if I dig deep enough underneath all the promotionalism, I'll find something genuine in the sentiments. Cynical, indeed, but nonetheless optimistic, too.  

The commercial versions of love and romance, sex and coupling that contemporary Valentine's Day presents us with, can never, of course, comprise the full breadth of those emotions or experiences. But why do so many people accept it the easy, pre-fabricated solutions?

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Most Hoped for Moment in Televised Valentine's Insanity

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