Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rachel Corrie, Patient Widows, and Having a Home

Justice was denied again yesterday in the case of Rachel Corrie, the U.S. peace activist and advocate who was killed in Gaza in 2003 by an Israeli military bulldozer, a Caterpillar D9. Rachel's parents, who I have had the honor of meeting, had brought a suit against the Israeli military in Israeli courts. The verdict of the case once again completely whitewashes her death. I'm no reporter. You can read about it more at CNN, or read this article in the Guardian, or this press release from Jewish Voice for Peace, which includes information about divestment. I support divestment, with my whole heart. But tonight I don't have the heart to write about it.

Cindy and Craig Corrie remind me of the patient widow in Luke 18, slowly trying to wear down the unjust judge of militarism and the organized destruction of a people. Cindy always speaks with such compassion in her eyes. My heart breaks for them as, once again, they relive the death of their daughter. A few years ago I remember Cindy talking about the trial, then in its early stages. The bulldozer driver testified from behind a screen. "They wouldn't even let us see his face," she said. "He'll stay a machine to us now."

Hearing about Rachel's death reminds me of the house demolitions that continue today in the occupied Palestinian territories. If you've been following this blog long enough you've seen me write about some of the ones that I saw. I remember the noise--I still get tense when those jack-hammer bulldozers dig into the asphalt--and the dust, and the sound of the mother keening. And that deep sunk pit in my stomach, that internal, accusatory voice whenever I opened my mouth to complain: "But you have a home, but you have a home, but you have a home."

I have not been doing advocacy this past year, I think for some understandable reasons. But if anything gets me back into it, it might be that voice. I have a home. I have a home. I have a home. And whether it's bulldozers in Palestine or poverty in DC, something has to be done as long as I have a home and someone else doesn't.

Rachel is dead. She died trying to protect a home from being demolished. What sort of life can we live so that everyone can have a home?


"oh rafah. aching rafah.
aching of refugees
aching of tumbled houses
bicycles severed from tank-warped tires
and aching of bullet-riddled homes
all homes worm0eaten by bullets and then
impregnated through bullet holes by birds" -- Rachel Corrie, as printed in Let Me Stand Alone

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A cure for loneliness

This blog might very well be about my undying love for Jimmy Sherrod.

Or for you, for that matter.

I am surrounded by such incredible people such an incredible amount of the time. I am offered such grace, and I don't know what to do with it, and I don't know how to be grateful for it. And I don't know what to do  with the fact that there are so many people--I have met too many of them--who are still so alone in this world, or the fact that I can be lonely in a crowd of people, in a crowd of friends even.

I wonder often about a cure for loneliness.

I have told this story before, but it needs telling again. When I was in the hospital, in the psych ward at Sibley, one of the social workers asked us to do an exercise in which we were to name 5 supports that we had outside of the hospital. Five people who could be part of our mental health safety net. I could fill my 5 slots entirely with Methodist clergy and not even get to friends and family members. I was the only person in the group who could name 5. One person said he could not think of any.

Loneliness is fallout from the brokenness that we all see in so many shapes and sizes. Loneliness. As pervasive as economic inequality, as structural and overt violence, as racism and sexism. As omnipresent as war, but more subtle, growing more like weeds out of pavement. Is there a cure for loneliness?

Depression--and probably plenty of states besides depression--makes you lonely all the time. Being actually alone is the worse for me. The walls close in. The floor rears up. I scream, soundlessly sometimes, sometimes not. But you can be talking to someone you care about and feel alone. Feel trapped in a body you don't want, a mind you can't live with. Is there a cure for loneliness?

I don't know anything other than to surround myself with people who help me beat back the loneliness. To wage a constant struggle with it. To open the door to my room. To say hello to my housemates. To pray, and trust that I am heard.

There are people, so many people, who bring the candle of their love, of their presence, into the dark room of my loneliness. Thank you all. Despite all the barriers thrown up in your way, you keep coming. Maybe together we can find the cure.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I met with my new psychiatrist on Wednesday. I'm pretty sure I'm older than him.

This is an ageist comment, the kind of comment I hate when I hear it said about my young clergy friends. But I thought it, and I figured I'd keep this blog honest, so there it is.

Since we were new to each other, we had to rehash some of the ground that I've been going over since last June. He had to ask me the questions about hypomania and side effects and suicidal ideation and self-harm and all of that.

He was really positive about me and my current condition. And that freaked me out.

Here's an example. We were talking about suicidal ideation, and he asked me if I still experience it. "Sure," I said. "It's in the background, always there."

"So do you have a plan?"

"Sometimes. But it's controllable."

"Good. That's really good. That's great."

And that's the thing. I don't want it to be great. I don't want "Feeling suicidal but I'll be alright" to be a good thing. I don't want to be acclimated to this, to accept it as part of what's "normal" for me.

But it is, and I have to.

I've seen this before, which is one of the reasons it bothers me so much. I saw it in Palestine, with the shock of guns and Wall and checkpoints slowly fading into the everyday background buzz of life under occupation. I see it here in DC, too, with just how immune I get to my unhoused sisters and brothers, sharing hot sidewalks and gathering in doorways and under awnings. I just don't have to notice anymore.

So I'm susceptible to normalization, and I don't want to be. I want to keep my capacity for shock. For caring.

Where's the line between radical acceptance and just being acclimated to awful?

I don't know. I really don't know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

We Were in Nicaragua

What to say about Nicaragua?

We flew into Managua and saw the congestion and the FSLN graffiti and the people, the people, the people. We were in Nicaragua.

The first night we played tourist and danced. We were in Nicaragua.

The next morning we met with Accion Medica Cristiana (AMC), Christian Medical Action, the organization we would be working with over the coming week. We learned about the land banks, plots of land offered to locals in the rural region of Matagalpa, who are given a no interest loan for the land that they have to pay off in 10 years. We would work on one of these land banks, El Progreso. We met Belinda, a UMC missionary working with AMC, as well as Alex, a mission intern (the same program I did, what seems like forever ago). We visited a dental clinic that Metropolitan UMC (the church I work for, the sponsor of the trip) supports, and Debora the young dentist cried when she talked about what the church's support had allowed her to do. We went to a market. We saw a volcano. We were in Nicaragua.

We toured Managua. We learned about Sandino, and then saluted the massive silhouette of him that overlooks the city. We joked about his swagger. We heard about the earthquake. We noticed the fresco of the conquistador over the entrance to the old cathedral, killing indigenous people. We ate at a chain, and Kate was upset about it.

We watched a baseball game and went to a Christian Base Community, one of many of such groups that had formed during the revolution and the contra war, providing voice within (and often outside of) the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. We heard the members of the community discuss the gospel, and the service was led by youth and the music as well. And afterwards we talked with the community, and people got defensive when they felt they were being accused of supporting U.S. policy in Nicaragua, and it was hard.

We spent most of the week in the rural mountains of Matagalpa. The views were incredible, opening up in vast expanses, and one day we were driving in a cloud with clouds clutching at the mountainsides across the valley and on the distant slopes you could tell that the sun was shining. We were in Nicaragua.

The people were incredible, too. We worked alongside the families of the land bank, building latrines. Concepcion laughed when I stumbled into the brick wall we had worked so hard on, almost ruining all of our work. Alex and Veronica did most of the work after that. I was, I am, of questionable use. But we asked questions and shared sugar cane, and on a rainy day played soccer with people of the community. And in the end we had three latrines, three steps toward public health, and we'd started two others. And we'd gotten to know the strength and the sharing and the compassion and the hospitality of this place. We were in El Progreso. We were in Nicaragua.

We stayed in Santa Luz during the week, in a little collection of buildings that even had some running water, shock-cold-and-you're-breathless. And Andy got sick, then Jimmy, then I did. It was miserable. But that doesn't stack up against the wonderful meals, the conversations. The children. The rain on the roof. The lightning. The stars the stars the stars. We were in Nicaragua.

We met with the Women and Community group, and heard the incredible work they're doing in domestic violence situations and with access to birth control and even providing shelter and comfort for a member of the community who had come out. And we swam in a lake formed out of an old volcano, and in the background another volcano loomed, smoking. And we leaped off of a dock together. And the volcano was still there, and all of our rhymes ended in volcano, and we drank Nicaraguan beer and played at being tourists. And we were in Nicaragua.

Flying back into the U.S. we had the craziest experience in the Miami airport. We barely made our flight. And then we were back in D.C. And now we are in the U.S., and the question is what to do now, what to do with all of these experiences, what to tell, what to show, how to act and advocate and amplify, what to do with all of the experiences that we had while we were in Nicaragua.


The pictures here were all taken by my fantastic friend Anna. Thanks Anna!

Monday, August 13, 2012

New Blog.

The City of... blog has finally caused me one too many problems, the most recent one being GoogleChrome's insistence that my site is malware (which one of our current Mission Interns blames on some sort of Israeli military mole). So I'm finally signing off of City of... and am going to start posting here at Foolish Hosey. I'm going to write something about Nicaragua this week, but I thought I'd just introduce the blog first.

The name comes mainly from me being a bit of a fool, and partly from one of my favorite Bible verses, one which accompanied me throughout my time in Palestine/Israel and still has meaning for me today:

"Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that none may boast in the presence of God." (1 Corinth 1:26-29)

What we do--whether it's speaking out against injustice, chatting with a homeless person, or claiming that the simplicity of bread and wine has cosmic significance--is foolish to the world. By "we" I mean all sorts of people, people who read this blog and mostly those who don't, but generally people dedicated to voices that aren't often heard, to miracles that aren't often seen, to winds that aren't often felt. And what is considered low and despised, what is considered nothing, reducing to nothing things that are.

So watch out, all of us who hold power and privilege, who hold the wisdom of the world. There are a bunch of nothings out there who will reduce us to nothing, to. So let's all get used to nothing. Let's all be a bit foolish, shall we?

Foolish Hosey