Life In the Turn Lane offers comments and reflections to help us balance and integrate our progressive political and religious lives. The hope is that bringing our confusion, concerns, frustration and celebrations into the light will support us as we walk forward on the shifting sands of our times.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pause and Refresh

December 12, 2009


I don't know about others, but I've reached my saturation point.  My capacity for complexity seems full.  So, climate change conferences, sex scandals - too numerous to be considered scandals anymore, shifting healthcare amendments and compromises, even the wish lists of needy neighbors have pushed me into information overload.   All this and the incessant 50 year old Christmas songs that blare in every public space; why is it that someone has not written new popular Christmas music?  Or better yet, why not turn down the volume so that my numbers-challenged brain can think about the merits of 50% off the list price plus another 15% off.

            The net effect is that I'm turned off and tuned out.  The complexity of the culture has accomplished what LSD proponents searched for.  What I've tuned in to is respite: from candle lit Taize services, to baking cookies, and replacing CNN with meditation like the white "smoke" curling up out of chimneys on these frosty mornings.  This common wintry scene has a Currier & Ives quality for me– bringing images of fireside comfort, hot cider and all things snug and warm, contrasted with the sharp, cold, relentless jolts offered by the media as news of the day.  


This week's advent collect strikes a sympathetic chord:

"Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us, and because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us..."


It's the "...with great might come among us..." that resonates with me.  What if we don't notice when it happens?  Just in case, I've turned my attention to moments of herald.


I think Barack's Nobel mode and speech is one of them.  Not pandering to international powers, acknowledging the realities of war in tandem with the ideals of peace, and the strength of resolve, he seems to me 'a great might' that's come among us. Surely this is a time for his gifts of intellectual clarity, and ability to place our idealism along side the nuts and bolts of war on both our health care system and terrorism.  Considering what he's trying to do, the nit-picking political arguments of the day seem tawdry by comparison.


Another "great might" that's come among us is a little booklet with a big message about immigration.  Called, Cincinnati: A City of Immigrants it was originally funded by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Humanities Council with 25 civic co-sponsors.  Perhaps because this area of the country has been more resistant to change than others, we see the negative effects of this resistance more easily.  As I understand it, it was some recent, unfortunate effects of discrimination that prompted this project.

            Subtitled "Struggling Toward Acceptance and Equality", this project follows the history of six ethnic immigrations into southern Ohio.  It is intended for use in junior high schools because "the struggles for acceptance and equality encountered by Cincinnati's immigrants are not normally taught in schools."  Is there any age that's more concerned about identity, belonging and rejection that junior high students?

            Most of us are not aware that in the 1850's "immigrants (German and Irish) were killed during riots in Cincinnati that were organized by local residents". 

            The research that underlies this project shows that each wave of  immigration followed the same pattern: isolation, rejection, assimilation.  Of the six groups described my perception is that only three, German, Irish and Jewish seem to have moved through all phases, melding with the protestant settlers of English origin who came from New England in 1788.  But maybe it's only two.  The other groups still struggling: Africa-American, Appalachian, and Hispanic.


Once health care moves to the back burner, immigration reform will come under our national microscope and overwhelm our governmental and cultural systems.  We will be sorely in need of "great powers" of reconciliation, and awareness to come among us.  Cincinnati and its illuminated history are the canary in this social coal mine.  We will need 'a Barack Obama' to help us glue the pieces of reform together with the spiritual, idealistic platitudes we think underlie the American experiment. 


So, the Lord is gracious unto us; great powers do come among us. My prayer is that we not be so "sorely hindered by our sins" that we miss them, and the hints toward salvation they provide.


            In this time of cold analysis and political in-fighting, may we all find fireside warmth, hot cider and all things snug and warm promised by the curling white smoke of our wintry chimneys.


© Beverly Jones 2009

     Do Good.  Together.