In case you were wondering, that is. It is the tenth month. October.
October is "just get through it" month for me. If I make it all the way to the end without committing a serious crime -- I've already had to ask Dave about the legal status of some activities; they're still illegal -- we'll chalk up another victory for the healing of the soul.
October is the month I was attacked. October was hell from start to finish (not that I was aware of the finish; the last 9 days are missing from my memory).
Thirteen years ago. 13! And I foolishly thought I was all better. As in, all better. Felt great, was productive, reconnecting with some old friends, being brave. Daring even. Creative. Active.
I taught a class for three weeks on Palestine! And it went very well. My brain worked. I worked. It was tremendous to have Palestinian friends here last week. Their resilience and sense of hope had me feeling so strong I actually wanted to talk my psychiatrist into letting me go over there. Their resilience and sense of hope is jaw-dropping amazing.
"Every time we get angry, we start a new project," Mitri explained. "You must be very angry," said an observer of the dozens of projects that have been initiated by Christmas Lutheran Church in - where else - Bethlehem (Palestine, not Pennsylvania). They are setting things on their head. It is a wonder!
It was inspiring and the trauma of their lives did not trigger any of my old junk.
But today did. Meeting two brave and kind people -- one Israeli and one Palestinian -- who each have had children killed by snipers or soldiers from "the other's side," undid me. Why?
They told the truth. Together. They told the truth. All of it. Unvarnished. Ugly. The horror of the occupation.
It is ugly. Bassam has a terrible terrible, tragic story to tell. The Israeli occupation of Palestine is cruel and a living hell. And it frankly isn't good for the Israeli's either. Robi's story is also tragic. Terrible. At the end of the day, a parent's tears are a parent's tears. No difference, Israeli or Palestinian. And so together they tell their stories and work for reconciliation. It is a beautiful gift they give the world, but at far too high a price. We are not worthy.
Bassam was very blunt about the reality of their life. "Palestinian children don't have to be taught to hate," said Bassam, an Arab from the West Bank. "They see it modeled from their earliest childhood by the Israeli's."
Not by their own parents. But by their enemies. They learn hate from being hated. "I was robbed of my childhood. It started at the beginning."
Now,this is the astonishing part. He stood and told us his story, including this part, while Robi, a very powerful Israeli woman, who, if she didn't like something would say so in no uncertain terms! and STOP IT, stood inches from his shoulder. And she sighed in agreement.
WHAT??? As I listened to him, I watched her. And wondered, how unbelievably uncomfortable is she now? To stand by as he tells us what I also know to be true about life in the Territories. And so, I asked her privately afterward what it feels like for her, day after day, to stand by Bassam as he tells the honest truth of the horrific conditions of occupation. Doesn't it sting? Isn't she angry? He's saying this about 'her' people.
"It is the truth," she said simply. "We have to tell the truth." About who we are. And "we have to hear it." Even when it implicates us. Especially as it implicates us.
And that is when I fell apart. Telling the truth. Is. No. Small. Matter. Nor is having to hear it. I never got that. Will likely never get it. Not from this institution. It is far more impervious, nonporous to the winds of Spirit than the broken hearts of middle eastern parents. They know that truth makes you free.
Ironically, the people who 'own' that text as one of their own don't get it. The Jew and the Muslim do. The Israeli and the Arab get it. But not the former bishop of my church. Or his associates. Or the other folks, laity, for whom it is inconvenient. (I know, I'm starting to sound like I'm whining, but, well, read the Psalms, for starters. And then think about this. This very event today, the one I'm describing. Is it SO hard? Yes. But they know how healing it is.)
I felt ripped open. All my own trauma bled out and I was back in a room with a slick liar and pile of slander, cruelty, and basic stupid incompetence (or uncaring). Poor Robi. What a woman. She was beyond kind, compassionate. Sat me down. Reminded me that making peace with the awful, evil experience I had did not also require of me to forgive. "If anyone says that to you, they're immoral."
I have to make peace with the reality that I will never see justice. And certainly, revenge is not even in the realm of this universe. I thought I had made that peace.
But, oh, shit. I haven't. I so want the truth to come out.
Even Palestinians and Israeli's can do that: tell it, to and about and in front of one another. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the one miracle that prevented a bloodbath after the end of Apartheid in South Africa. And it is desperately needed, still, in Poland, where history is an open wound, festering, preventing progress.
But in that church? with my former bishop? his staff? And church members?
No way, Jose. They lie and slander me to this day.
I've told this truth before. On another blog. I wrote about it. So some know. But not the folks closest to the perpetrators. Not the vulnerable. And I did not speak my truth in the presence (nor to my knowledge, to the knowledge) of the perpetrators. They refuse to listen.
So I read the Psalms. Out loud. Loud. "Find yourself in the Bible," Dave quipped, quoting an old book we'd read. I read Psalm 94, (vss. 8 ff),
"Understand, O dullest of the people;" (names omitted to protect the guilty, I guess), "fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?" You think you get away with your deceit? Your wickedness? There are no secrets here.
This was cathartic: 'he sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them, and frogs, which destroyed them..." It gets worse. God gets pissed. Very. God does get good and pissed off at injustice. By whomever.
That is somehow just good to see. I don't wish people ill. I just want the truth. God will somehow take care of justice. (I do think frogs would be a good touch, swarms of frogs, horned toads, slimy, croaking all night, overwhelming flotillas of frogs floating through their lives...alas). God will take care of justice. If frogs are involved, it's fine with me.
Also, Psalm 109 is nice, in a not at all nice sort of way: "For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They beset me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me -- even while I make prayer for them! So they return me evil for good, and hatred for my love." And whipping a rather dull - oh, again, guy into such a frenzy he thinks he needs to attack me on their behalf. I never hated him. He was only the weapon the others were wielding, controlling. He was a victim of their propaganda too. I couldn't press charges. Make him their fall-guy.
Yep. This's it. The poet is repeating my rhyme. Or I his. And both of us: a slice of the story of Jesus. He did die. I only felt like it. __And apparently, at times, still do.
As the song goes, "This is my story..." - this Psalm, so far. That's what happened. It must happen a lot. We are a screwy motley bunch. (And also brilliant, amazing, wonderful! How do we move on from our hates?)
Then the poet gets totally frank with God. "Wipe them in the own curses! Wrap it around them like a belt! May they be wrapped in their own shame like a mantle...clothed themselves with dishonor..." Note to reader: the poet is NOT ready to move on, reclaim his higher self. "Wrap them in their own..."
Would that please me? I suppose it would. But I'm not asking. Only for respect, dignity, the dignity of telling my truth to the assembly of the involved. But even for that, that bit of justice, I have given up hope. Things are too entrenched. They go blithely on.
As my friend reminds me, however, "Well, they do have to live with themselves." So true. And if they are too dull and foolish to 'get' this, then they are missing out on a lot of the good stuff, too.
Read the Psalms, especially the parts we left out of the prayer books and hymnals because they were 'too much, too harsh' for the laity. Oh, I think we'd all do well to have the entirety of this gift. It is truth. And truth-telling sets us free.
Read the Psalms. They are for reading aloud, with feeling. Ask Dave. He heard them today. The anger, fury, heartbreak. I ranted today. About the insolent. The ruffians, the slanderers. The poet is in pain. If he or she can wail, I figure I can. Especially if I'm quoting. So. Good catharsis.
And so it is. Good literature is good catharsis. Whaddaya know.
Moreso, is truth.
Steer into the wind.