Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reflections on the 10th anniversary of 9-11

Someone asked me about my experience of 9-11.  I live in the suburbs of New York City.  

I recalled how I had been in a PTA committee meeting that day, how one of the other women in the committee normally worked in the twin towers, how I watched her face as she watched the television and saw what might have been her co-workers jumping in a vain attempt to save themselves.  Her face was such a picture of horror!   It punctuated the horror on the screen, humanizing and deepening it for me.

We adjourned the committee and went home.  I, who never watch TV, watched the TV for the rest of the day.  I saw the towers fall at least a dozen times.  I heard wild rumors about what might be happening elsewhere.  I called my brother, who was cocooning with his newly adopted daughter, who he managed to get into this country only a couple of days before 9-11 shut down the airports.  I told him to turn on the TV.  When he demurred, because he felt too busy, I found myself almost at a loss for words to try to explain to him why he should turn it on -- and just kept repeating "Turn on the TV," though perhaps I managed to offer some clarification, because he did finally turn it on.  My ex, who I was still married to at the time, worked nearby.  I was very concerned for him as he walked to Grand Central Station, through that black cloud of smoke; and as he went back to work day after day, falsely reassured that the air was safe.

It was a very dramatic time for me.

And, yet, looking back on it, I find that I cannot bring back the sense of horror, loss, fear, and drama that pervaded my consciousness then.

Instead, what comes to me is the much greater horror that some in this country felt justified in visiting on the nation of Iraq in response to the events of 9-11: the unprovoked war, the overthrowing of a stable government and leaving a state of violent anarchy in which upwards of 600.000 people were killed, mostly civilians.  The deaths in the war on Iraq came on the tail of the 500,000 Iraqi children who died as a result of the embargo instituted at our behest after the first Gulf War.  In other words, the blood  of well over a million totally innocent people is on our hands -- a figure that dwarfs the number killed in 9-11 here in the USA.

And the people in Afghanistan and the mountains of Pakistan, who were allegedly hiding Osama bin Laden, when in fact he was in a totally different place -- people who we attacked repeatedly in a vain search for him -- what of them?

It is so easy not to notice suffering thousands of miles away.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own rather parochial view of events.  It is so easy to pretend that we are the ones wronged.  It is so easy to pretend that we were justified in causing these massacres of the innocent.

When I look at people commemorating the events of 9-11, I cannot see them.  I see instead the specter of the greater wrong, what we did elsewhere.

addendum of 9/12/12:

I find myself wary of telling my 9/11 story.  I feel my story -- and the stories of so many other people -- were abused.  Our trauma became a justification for visiting trauma on others.  I do not like my story being used this way.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why rigid creationism is inconsistent with Christianity

Rigid creationism, for me, is when a person so literally interprets the wording of scripture, especially the book of Genesis, as to feel compelled to deny the possibility that dinosaur fossils are tens or hundreds of millions of years old.  Such denial stands in the face of a great mass of rigorous research by intelligent, careful,  highly educated, and well-trained people.

This essay will discuss why I think such rigid creationism is inconsistent with Christianity.

Jesus, the founder of Christianity, lived in Israel at a time when Talmudic scholarship was becoming well-established.  For those who are not familiar, Talmudic Scholarship is a branch of thinking within Judaism that uses an extremely literal and legalistic interpretation of scripture.  Decisions interpreting scripture, within the Talmud, are made like decisions of a court of law.  

Jesus seems to have disagreed with this process.  He stated "Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." Luke 11:51-53 (King James Version)  This passage does not refer to the practice of law in civil courts, but rather religious courts, because the context of the passage is in challenging religious authorities.  Therefore, he is confronting religious lawyers, telling them that their legalistic interpretation is wrong.

Jesus's confrontations with religious authorities of his time were defining aspects of his ministry.  They were what got him crucified.  We must not suppose that he said these things lightly.  These pronouncements are therefore to be taken very seriously -- really at the heart of his teachings -- by those claiming to be followers of Jesus.

Yet rigid creationists, while claiming to be Christians, are in fact doing precisely what Jesus preached against in Chapter 11 of Luke.  They are interpreting scripture so rigidly as to preclude the gathering of knowledge.

These same scriptural passages in the Old Testament, especially Genesis, can be interpreted more flexibly and metaphorically.  What was a day for God?  What was a day before light and dark were created?  What was the intent of the original story teller here, as opposed to those who came later and tried to make the story into law?  These words do not have to be interpreted as literally, legalistically true.

Not accepting the story of creation as literally true is not the same as rejecting the idea that God created the world or life.  God could have created life by creating evolution.  God's processes may be beyond our understanding, not describable in words.  Words might be a bit like an impressionistic painting, creating broad stroke impressions, without precision.

The brain, reason, the ability to gather knowledge -- these are God-given gifts.  Using the Bible as a mental trap to prevent their use is not Christian.  Using the Bible this way is being a rigid, religious lawyer: exactly what Jesus inveighed against.

These fundamentalists who claim that the Bible is contrary to evolution are in fact not Christians.  They should be denounced by anyone who really cares about what Jesus said.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

On accommodating the weak of bladder

I belong to a very large, but little discussed, handicapped group. This is the group of people who have weak bladders. This group includes everyone under 5, most people over 60, and most women who have born children -- which is probably the majority of the population at this point.

Despite the large size of this group, it is little discussed -- no doubt due to embarrassment at discussing the topic.

Due to the general lack of discussion, little has been done in the way of accommodating group members. Many public facilities are not accessible to this group, due to lack of adequate toilets.

For example, I live in the NY metro area. I would very much, some year, like to attend the ball dropping event on New Year's Eve in Times Square; however, I believe this is impossible. In order to get into this event, one must show up five or six hours in advance. Then one is confined to a standing area by police barricades. And one is expected to stand there until the even occurs.

If there is no public restroom in the area where one is confined, and, if one leaves the area, one will not be able to get back.

I know I cannot stand and wait for five or six hours without using a restroom. Most people cannot.

I would like to propose legislation that every retail merchant must provide a toilet to the general public, not just their customers or employees. The merchant should be allowed to charge for use of the toilet, so long as charges are non-discriminatory. People leaving a mess in such toilets should be chargeable with a ticketable violation.

Moreover, public parks should have toilets as well.

These measures are necessary for public accessibility to members of my handicapped group.

In addition, we should have public toilets that are available all night long, even when parks and businesses are closed.  I often find myself walking through New York City and night and toilets are extremely rare.  This is an even bigger problem for the homeless. I think the right to access to a toilet is a basic human right.

How do you feel about improved accessibility of restrooms?

Addendum: 4/28/17

In view of the recent incident with Delta Airlines kicking off a passenger for needing to use the restroom, I thought this blog of new relevance, so I'm re-posting it.  This idea that a passenger has to pee himself while on the taxiway is not a good one.