Sunday, August 29, 2010

I have a dream--this year

While the chattering classes were stuck on the images of Glenn Beck vs Al Sharpton at the Lincoln memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's I have a Dream speech, RantWoman was stuck in nostalgia mode:

(An image of a Chinese fan in a message in worship: RantWoman somehow missed whatever the point was about "lies; all RantWoman could think of was a recent hot spell and some of her fellow buss passengers waving fans and joking about "African American church hot.")

-RantWoman is too young for the original march but helped out with a 20th anniversary in 1983: RantWoman has this flair for practical and spent a whole DC afternoon telling buses where to park and directing people over a bridge to the rally. RantWoman herself made it to the site of the rally as things were breaking up, but RantWoman still has a cool T-shirt.

--Sometime later, RantWoman caught a wonderful Cosby show re-run. One of the Huxtable children had a history project and the show summoned elders to recollect and newsreel footage of people who spent multiple days on buses in their best church clothes, something RantWoman can barely imagine.

RantWoman lives a zillion miles from our nation's capital, but after the fact of yesterday's rallies, RantWoman was seized with an inspiration: surely some affinity groups well-schooled in nonviolence and public theater could have thought of SOME themes in common between the two rallies and then shown up long enough to have an ad-hoc sing-in spanning both rallies.

Okay, it COULD make cool theater!

Seeds of War, Seeds of Peace

RantWoman's inner compost heap seems to be a fertile ground for reflections on others' blog entries.

Here is Mark Wutka on seeds of war in our current political environment. RantWoman recommends clicking through the other topical links in this entry.

RantWoman's point: RantWoman shares concern about focussing too narrowly on specific political outcomes. HOWEVER, RantWoman has other riffs in mind too:

--At the same time as RantWoman was reading the piece above about everyone digging themselves into political trenches with no-mans-land in between, RantWoman was also reading a few different items about legislation supported by blind people to ensure that basic electronic devices are usable and that public transportation systems provide certain very minimal levels of service.

RantWoman has been thinking about how clearly articulating needs and engaging in a political process can enlarge the space for everyone. If the default processes could meed the needs of subpopulations, perhaps this would already be happening. However, when a process has space for everyone to articulate and discuss their needs, the total space for everyone expands by more than the increment of a certain subpopulation size. This is a long-winded way of saying legislation DOES sometimes do God's work.

--Seeds may be just seeds. Not every seed ever sprouts. Some seeds get ground up and baked into bread or pressed for oil or chopped up into quickbread. Even things that get planted do not always germinate. Some do not turn into full-scale war but might grow into tall trees that mess up a sidewalk or drip pine sap all over people's car windows, but that is still a big leap to full-scale war.

On a different note, here is a lovely item from FOR about different paths and conflict prevention:

It's kind of full of academic diplomat-speak, but worth the read anyway.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

2010From Genocide to Ugandan Relief for Hurricane Katrina Survivors

RantWoman gets this dispatch by email and is reprinting in deep humility and prayer.

Dear All,

As perhaps some of you have heard through the grapevine, I have been spending the last year writing a book. I have finished the first draft and editing and now am in the process of reviewing and editing the book as a whole. The tentative title of the book is Reflections on a Peace of Africa: Life in the Great Lakes Region. Here I have included the first chapter of the book, From Genocide to Ugandan Relief for Hurricane Katrina Survivors.

If you would like to be placed on an email list for notification when (no promises) the book is published, please email me at
I hope you find the chapter interesting and thought-provoking.
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams
P. O. Box 189,
Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya
Phone in Kenya: 254 (0)726 590 783 in US: 240/543-1172
Office in US:
Dawn Rubbert
1001 Park Avenue,
St Louis, MO 63104 USA

Chapter 1 From Genocide to Ugandan Relief for Hurricane Katrina Survivors The Rationale for GenocideThere was one little child, probably three years old, just big enough to walk. The others had gone ahead, and this little child was behind following after them. The little fellow was perfectly naked. I saw one man at a distance of about seventy-five yards, draw up his gun and fire—he missed the child. Another man came up and said, “Let me try—I can hit him.” He kneeled down and fired at the little child, but he missed him. A third man came up and made a similar remark, and fired, and the little fellow dropped.Such is the reality of genocide. One can pray for the soul of this little boy who never had a chance in life. The totally innocent are slaughtered as if they are no longer human beings.

In talking with many survivors of the Rwandan genocide that I know personally, the wedge between life and death was no more than some chance happening. Note that we only hear the stories of those who survived as dead people tell no tales.For instance, Charles Berahino, a Hutu from Burundi, was caught by a group of Tutsi youth who were planning to kill him with machetes. He called out a loud prayer to God indicating that he was about to come to Heaven. One of the youth said, “He’s a Christian. Let him go.” He was saved and lived to tell this story.

A young man who was thirteen years old at the time of the genocide told me this story. At one point he had on an oversized coat. An interahamwe seized him by the back of the coat in order to kill him. He quickly shed the coat and ran through the forest with the interahamwe in fast pursuit. As he ran, another man who had been hiding in the forest became scared and ran. The interahamwe then ran after the other man and probably killed him. So the boy was saved because someone else took his place. Solange Manirguha, one of the lead HROC facilitators in Rwanda, was also saved. On the first day of the genocide, the interahamwe attacked her house. They broke through the roof, entered, and killed her parents. Then the one who killed her parents turned to Solange and her sisters and said, “Run, run.” They ran. So this man who helped kill her parents helped save her life.

Surveys have found that most of the people who participated in the genocide felt that they had no other choice. In 2002 Scott Strauss, in The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda, interviewed 209 genocide perpetrators who were in prison. Before the genocide most of the perpetrators had had good relations with their Tutsi neighbors (positive 86.5%, “no problem” 11.2%, negative 2.4%). Almost all (98.9%) would have allowed their child to marry a Tutsi. This is not too surprising when one realizes that 68.8% had Tutsi family members. The 4.8% who were married to Tutsi wives or were hiding Tutsi were most reluctant, but felt forced to commit atrocities.

Only a small percentage, perhaps 4.8%, were “true believers” and killed willingly. The largest percentage (64.1%) said that they were coerced by other Hutu to participate. If someone actively opposed the genocide, he was frequently killed himself. Most of the killings were done in large groups – 76.3% were in groups of over ten people. In other words it was mostly mob killings.

What does one do when one’s government is the motivator and instigator in a plan to kill one’s neighbors, including perhaps one’s relatives? How many people have the moral strength to resist when there is a great possibility of being killed? Like everyone, I fantasize that I would have resisted, but that is in the comfort of my quiet study. Can anyone really predict how he or she would have responded in such an impossible situation? It is remarkable that after one hundred days of daily “hunts” by a large percentage of the male adult population, about twenty-five percent of the Tutsi survived. Almost all of those Tutsi who survived had to be helped by one or more Hutu.

What was the rationale behind all this senseless killing? The architect of the genocide, Theoneste Bagasora, with his extremist group, called “Hutu Power,” had this rationale: If they could get all the Rwandan Hutus to participate in the genocide and exterminate all the Tutsi, then there would be a conspiracy of silence. This would develop into Hutu solidarity and their reign over Rwanda would be secure. Since everyone participated, everyone would be guilty. This is why they worked so hard to force people to participate. With this unity in crime, there would be total impunity for everyone. I think that this justification is one of the greatest horrors of the Rwandan genocide.

Nazi Germany killed their millions of victims out of sight and sound from most Germans. Most Germans could claim that they didn’t really know what was going on – although I think that they had to be blinding themselves to the people missing around them.

At this point I need to add a few words that I left out of the quote at the beginning of this section:There was one little child, probably three years old, just big enough to walk through the sand. The Indians had gone ahead, and this little child was behind following after them. The little fellow was perfectly naked, traveling on the sand. I saw one man get off his horse, at a distance of about seventy-five yards, draw up his rifle and fire – he missed the child. Another man came up and said, “Let me try the son of a bitch; I can hit him.” He got off his horse, kneeled down and fired at the little child, but he missed him. A third man came up and made a similar remark, and fired, and the little fellow dropped.This is from the testimony of Major Scott J. Anthony, First Colorado Cavalry before the United States Congress, House of Representatives, “Massacre of Cheyenne Indians,” in the Report on the Conduct of the War (38th Congress, 2nd session, 1865), page 27.

The extermination of the Native Americans in the United States, and the marginalization of the few remaining Native Americans is the same rationale as that of the Hutu Power group in Rwanda. Although it took about 300 years rather than 100 days, there is today a conspiracy of silence in the United States about this genocide.*****

How Could So Many People Participate in the Rwandan Genocide?
This is one of the most difficult questions to understand. Even Rwandans ask, "How could we have killed each other like this?"
Deborah Wood, who was an AGLI work camper in Rwanda in the summer 2008, is a teacher at Westtown Friends School near Philadelphia, and wrote the following article, "Just Say No? Reflections on Peace Work in Rwanda," for the school’s newsletter, “Professional Development at Westtown” (Volume 8, Issue 1, December 2008).

She began the article by quoting one of the Rwandan facilitators she worked with there:"We Rwandans like to follow orders. That is how we so easily killed each other in the genocide. We just follow orders. We don't think about them". These were the words of one of the facilitators of the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshop I was a part of in Gisenyi, Rwanda. I was there under the auspices of a Quaker organization to help the local Friends Church build a peace center in their community that had been in the home territory of many of the leaders of the Hutu Power movement that orchestrated the 1994 genocide.

The words, an undenied truth, were spoken as we debriefed a workshop activity. There were signs of agreement from all the Rwandans in the room. For the activity, the facilitators had lined the nineteen other participants and myself up face to face and instructed the line on the left to push our partner out the door, then to switch roles.
When given this task we had already been working together for over a day talking about the roots of violence in our communities, hearing about the 12 steps to transforming power, and playing silly games with each other to keep us awake and get us laughing. We had grown comfortable with each other and our facilitators. No one had asked for the purpose of this activity, we just did it. In the first round my partner hadn't made me move an inch or even put me off balance. When we switched roles I pushed my partner halfway to the door. She had flexed her knees and staggered her stance, just egging me on; she had read my competitive athletic nature accurately. Another participant, a mother and deacon in the Friends church who taught other church members to embroider so they might be able to earn money, pushed her partner, a young man, a third of the way to the door.

When asked why we had pushed our partners off balance and toward the door, most of us answered that we were following the instructions and I added that my partner had prepared to push back and so I pushed hard and moved her backwards to the door.
Then came the point to the lesson, the facilitator asked, "but why would you push your partner out a door?" One or two of us chuckled to break the sudden shame-filled tension. The mother and church deacon, feeling a bit defensive, replied again, "You told us to, so I just followed instructions". And then the facilitator said the words above about how easily Rwandans follow orders, how much more comfortable they are when they are doing what they have been told to do.

In the following days I saw that characteristic mirrored in other people and activities. Perhaps I saw that willing obedience because I wanted an answer for how it was that the people I lived, worked, played, and worshipped with for five weeks could have killed their families, neighbors, and colleagues. Yet at the same time, I didn't want to see how it was that a few years of propaganda, free beer for the militia, economic hardship, a supply of French ammunition and Chinese machetes, and a tendency to follow orders was all it took to trigger the most intensive killing of the 20th century.

Close to 1 million people of the country's 8 million died at the hands of fellow citizens in just 100 days during the spring and summer of 1994. In no other conflict has the rate of killing been as quick as it was at the start of the Rwandan genocide. The AVP workshop, one of the ways communities in Rwanda are hoping to prevent genocide from happening there again, gave me insight into the social framework of Rwandan society that eased individual Rwandans into the role of genocidaires.

I witnessed a similar AVP exercise in Rwanda. In this instance the facilitator placed the chairs on the side of the room, had groups of five people hold hands and without talking sit down as a group on the chairs at the side of the room. Three of the groups quickly found their seats while the fourth group had people pulling different ways and never got anywhere. A woman from one of the “successful” groups commented, “The strongest man in my group pulled us the way he wanted to go and we all followed. I felt like I was in prison”. Everyone agreed with this. Therefore, those groups which completed the task for the exercise succeeded for the wrong reason. Then someone commented, “This is exactly what we did in the genocide. The big leaders pulled us where they wanted us to go and we all followed.”

***** Roots of Genocide
For years, I have been thinking about the psycho-social root of genocide and other acts of extreme violence. These are not particularly common but do happen frequently enough to show a pattern. Why do some places have a genocide and others places don't? I am not talking about the specific socio-political causes or the role of those at the top who are most responsible. Rather I am thinking about the issue, what is the real root?

My thesis is that the Hutu's untreated trauma from being at the bottom of society during colonial times allowed them to use extreme violence against the Tutsi later. As we have learned from the testimonies of so many participants in the HROC workshops, unacknowledged trauma leads to withdrawal from others, a feeling of isolation, lack of communication, the burden of anger, hostility, revenge, family violence, substance abuse, and a sense that the person is no longer human.

When many people in a society have these feelings, then this becomes the zeitgeist of the society. Societal violence is a probable outcome. Latent, unresolved trauma which can be passed down for generations is the root cause of the extreme violence.

Take Rwanda, for example. In the early 1930's, the Belgians who considered the almost White “Hamitic Tutsi” to be superior to the Black “Bantu Hutu,” divided everyone in Rwanda into Tutsi and Hutu, making the Tutsi the ruling class and the Hutu the subservient class. The Tutsi were then instructed to treat the Hutu severely. They required the local Tutsi leaders in each community to recruit forced labor Hutu gangs.

Rwanda is a very hilly country and these forced labor gangs, controlled by whips used by the Tutsi, built by hand the still excellent roads throughout Rwanda. If a Tutsi did not fulfill his quota of Hutu laborers or did not drive them hard enough, he was relieved of his duties, punished, and another Tutsi was put in place.

In AVP, there is an exercise called "Masks". Half the participants are given masks – the low class –and the other half are unmasked – the upper class. The rules include "masks can only speak if given permission by the unmasked", "masks must address all unmasks formally with a title", etc., and if anyone breaks the rules they must remain silent. Within an hour to an hour and a half, two antagonistic groups are formed. In the AVP manual there is a caution, "Don't push too hard. This exercise explores some of our most emotionally charged areas." Think then of what thirty years of this can do to two opposing groups.

When the AVP facilitators do this exercise in the Great Lakes region, they add a second component. The Masked underclass is unmasked and made the ruling class, while the Unmasked ruling class now becomes the underclass. The result of this exchange of position is that the former underclass, now the ruling class is much harsher and antagonistic to their former rulers than their former rulers had been to them.

During the colonial period the Tutsi were given all the positions of authority, education, and wealth while the Hutu were whipped and taxed into submission. No one can doubt the anger, bitterness, and sense of injustice that the Hutu felt. The Hutu were the victims of the colonial system which placed the Tutsi on top. A few years before independence in 1961, the Belgians decided to switch sides and support the Hutu over the Tutsi. The first attacks against the Tutsi began in 1959 and the Belgians did nothing to stop them. Now the Hutu victims were on the top and, as predicted by the AVP exercise described above, they wreaked revenge against their former Tutsi masters.

"When Victims Become Killers" is a book that explores this psychology: When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, by Mahmood Mamdani.
So let us apply this to the other examples.
Germany lost World War I. Large numbers of young Germans were killed in the war, much of the country was destroyed, and reconstruction was curtailed by the demands of the victors for restitution. Germans felt that they were victims. It makes no difference if their feelings were "right" or "wrong," real or imagined. The trauma of WWI and its aftermath pervaded the population and therefore the society as a whole.

Hitler read this wounded psychology correctly and was able to channel it first into his rise to power and then into finding convenient scapegoats in Jews, gypsies, communists, the mentally retarded, Jehovah Witnesses, gays; those who were seen as deviant from the ideal norm. Many Germans willingly participated in the Holocaust. See Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen.

It has been frequently stated that the saturation bombing of Cambodia by the United States during the Vietnam War totally disrupted normal Cambodian society. This disruption led to the rise of the Pol Pot regime of severely traumatized people. In this case they took their revenge on their own countrymen – those who were educated, those who had previously been on the top, or those who just happened to be in the way.

I have never seen any plausible explanation of why the Afrikaners, when they won control of the South African government in 1948, decided to impose Apartheid on the country. There were other options available. Moreover, why were they so adamant about Apartheid and so cruel and relentless about enforcing it? The Afrikaners considered themselves victims also. The turn of the century Boer War with the British was probably genocide. The Boer men became fighters, leaving their women and children at home. The British rounded up these women and children and placed them in concentration camps without adequate food, health care, or shelter. Then they hunted down the Boer soldiers and killed as many as possible. Those who were captured were treated severely. The result was not only the displacement of a large percentage of the Boer/Afrikaner population, but an extremely high death rate. It took the Boers/Afrikaners over forty years to gain control of the South African government, but when they did, their wounded, traumatized psyches made Apartheid seem justified. Then it became time for the Black South Africans to resist. I am convinced that the very high homicide rate and other violence in the South African population after independence from Apartheid in 1994 is due to the traumatization of the Black population during Apartheid.

This is similar to the segregation in the southern states of the US. The US Civil War was brutal to the southern states. Nineteen percent of the adult White male population was killed. General Sherman's March to the Sea was just one of the many northern campaigns to loot, destroy, and kill in the South. By the end of the war the South was devastated, traumatizing the entire population. It ended in 1865 and northern control through reconstruction ended in 1877. While it seems "natural" to us today that the South would re-construct slavery through segregation, in fact this was not the only option. There could have been a “live and let live” attitude. But again, the whites traumatized by the war needed a scapegoat to vent their anger, fears, and feelings of revenge. The former slaves were an easy, available, marginalized group to attack.
When a group has been traumatized by war, it is necessary and imperative to deal with the resulting trauma. If not, in the years or decades ahead, that trauma which can be passed down through the generations, may lead to another, perhaps worse, war or genocide, frequently against disposed, marginalized people close at hand.

After September 11, 2002 the Bush Administration quickly used the anger, fear, and feelings of revenge from the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to psychologically enable traumatized Americans to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. In both places, the American actions may be planting the seed of another genocide or acts of extreme violence in the years or decades ahead.

These are not very happy thoughts, but we need to explore those roots of extreme violence and genocide if we are going to prevent them in the future.

*****Soldiers versus CiviliansI had a great uncle, Donald Colvin, who was building railroads in Mexico during the time of the Mexican Revolution (1912). I have his letters written home to his mother and sister. In one of these letters, the Mexican army and the Zapata rebels were fighting in a town close by. Even though he was a gringo working for the American imperialists, he showed absolutely no alarm about the fighting nearby. In those honorable days, soldiers fought each other and didn't bother the civilians. When the Zapata rebels won, he continued on in Mexico building railroads for the new government until, unfortunately, he drowned in a flash flood.

Alas, this is not the case in the African Great Lakes region. Soldiers rarely fight each other, but attack and terrorize citizens to get them to flee. There is not going to be any lasting resolution to the fighting and wars until the international community understands this aspect of the conflict.This is how it works. An armed group, which can include government troops, decides that they are going to attack and conquer a village and its surrounding area. They announce their intention by such means as wounding a townsman, and telling him to return home and tell the villagers that the group is going to attack. He returns to his community, raises the alarm, and people take what they can carry and flee. One frequently sees pictures of these people with large loads on their heads or pushing a loaded wheelbarrow fleeing along crowded escape routes. If a few soldiers or other armed actors are in the town they also flee knowing they will be overwhelmed. The conquering group then enters an almost deserted town, loots it, takes over the best residences and businesses, and controls the territory.

This works best when the invading group has a fearsome reputation. They get this fearsome reputation by killing civilians, raping women and men (see below), looting, setting buildings on fire, and feasting on livestock. The more terror the armed group spreads the easier it is to conquer territory.In the meantime, the fleeing people are subject to all kinds of hazards: lack of food, lack of medicine, exposure at night when they perhaps sleep outdoor in the forests, the possibility of rape, and the breakdown of cohesion, which is what keeps a community functioning.

The armed group now controls the area with few people in it. If people decide to return, then they must do so under the terms of the new rulers of their area. This can mean "taxation," conscription into forced economic activities, and whatever the new military rulers of the area demand. The armed groups wish to control various territories for different reasons. There may be a lucrative illegal mine in the area or it might be on the route to export minerals that can be taxed as they move through. Also they may have used up the resources of a conquered area and need to move on to more “fertile” territory. When Laurnet Nkunda's rebel group seized Rutshuru in eastern Congo in 2008, he controlled the Gombe National Park and if a person wished to see the gorillas, Nkunda's group collected the fee.

This was probably not a big money-spinner at the time, but this illustrates that all sources of income are seized to enrich the rebel group.This explains why so many people in the region have died – not by being killed by armed actors, except during the Rwandan genocide, but due to exposure, hunger, and disease. Frequently this includes revenge killings as people are accused of supporting the "enemy".Soldiers in this scenario are dispensable. When there are reports that so many soldiers from an armed group have been killed, meaning mostly young men who had little other option, this has little meaning in a strategic sense. New soldiers can be recruited immediately and since there is little training, they are soon ready for action. This is to say, regardless of the numerous campaigns to wipe out this group or another – they have been trying to wipe out the Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda for the last 24 years – this never happens.

The international community continues to support military solutions like the 2009 Congolese/Rwandan armies’ attempts to kill and capture the former Hutu genocidaires in North Kivu. Since the Congolese army is one of these armed actors – controlling mines for the benefit of the soldiers only, sometimes looting, raping, and killing as does any other armed rebel group – the expansion of area controlled by the present Congolese army is not a solution to the problem. Nonetheless this is the solution supported by the international community including the UN forces in North and South Kivu.

The fact that this "solution" has failed for years, even decades, does not seem to deter the international community, students of the region, and the involved governments from trying it over and over again. A more creative, workable solution to the wars in the region needs to be developed. The first step is to understand that these are wars of armed actors against unarmed civilians.

*****Where will the Women Sleep Tonight?While a certain amount of attention has been devoted to the use of rape as a weapon of war, particularly in North and South Kivu, I have not seen many explanations of why this is happens.“Battles” are really one side terrorizing people in an area, these people flee and the terrorizing side moves in thereby "conquering" the territory.

One of the most effective methods of terrorizing a population is "rape" – particularly gang rape. I submit that it is more effective than killing someone because the raped person is traumatized and he/she then affects his/her family, neighbors, and community. A killed person’s body would just lie there and, if no one saw it, it would not "terrorize" anyone. Reports of the mutilation of bodies have this same affect – the mutilation terrorizes people who then flee.

Note that above I did not use only the female gender. We conducted a survey of seventy-nine people in Burundi and of the nine people who reported being raped; two were men. As everywhere in the world, rape is under reported and I expect the rape of males is even more under reported. Here is the testimony of an anonymous female HROC workshop participant in North Kivu who was raped during the First Congo World War in 1996.

I was raped and contracted HIV/AIDS. So is my daughter of 12 years. We all lost hope – no one to comfort the other. We just saw death as the next thing happening to us anytime. But God has been gracious. People have stood by us and those [HROC] teachings have really helped me to live positively. I am always bitter about the rapists but that had not changed me. Instead it worsens the situation because whenever I think about it everything comes back fresh in my mind. I have understood the meaning of forgiveness.

Many are times we wait for offenders to ask for forgiveness. In my case where will I meet them; and I wouldn't like to meet them anyway. I have decided to forgive them. I am going to share with my daughter what we learnt. I believe it will help her so that we may begin this journey together.

In North and South Kivu, where rape is prevalent, it is difficult to understand all the consequences. Not only is the woman exposed to pregnancy, gynecological problems, and becoming HIV+, but she is stigmatized and ostracized by her husband, her family, and the larger society. Here is the testimony of Rebecca, a thirty-five year old rape survivor with three children. Her husband divorced her after he discovered she had been raped. She lived in the Mugunga Internally Displaced Persons camp outside of Goma until it was dispersed in September 2009. Do not misunderstand her meaning when she says her sisters “go out to meet men” – they are prostitutes. When she says “married,” she means that they lived with some man for a period of time.

In 1998, I was in the house with my younger siblings and my mom. We were all raped. Even my mother was raped, and she died as a result. It was all in the night. The men were all in the military, or at least they wore military uniforms. We don’t really know who they were, but the Interahamwe used to wander through that area at night. The Interahamwe would mix with the locals and the locals would tell them where to loot and who to attack. After it happened, we took my mom to her brother. But he had no money for medical care either and so we took her home. That is where she died. My dad died a year later. After that, we moved to another territory. I took all of my siblings with me. But it was insecure and we could not stay there, so we came to Goma. Everything was difficult. My sisters, in desperation, would go out to meet men. Then they would get married. Things wouldn’t work and then they would come back to me. Things got bad. They would get jobs at factories picking through beans, working long hours, and making less than $1 per day. My brother in desperation joined the army; he was only 14 years old. Today, we don’t know where he is. One of my sisters has gotten married in Muaso. The other two have given birth twice, but they live with me. My sisters still have flashbacks. When one of my sisters gets a flashback, her eyes will get stuck in one direction. She fears something coming at her day and night. She can never stay alone or sleep near the door. I personally don’t get flashbacks like I used to. That has come with time and the [HROC] teachings. It was at the workshop that I realized I was not alone. And through that I felt I was able to take the first step towards forgiveness.

In November 2008 Gladys and I visited the internally displaced camp mentioned above and talked with thirteen rape survivors. We met secretly in a small office because the women were afraid to be identified as rape survivors. Here is my report of the meeting:

While we were there thirteen women, many with children, one by one entered this office. We went to do a listening session with them – victims of rape. One woman had gone with ten others to get some small branches to support the four-foot plastic hovels of the IDP people in Goma. They were all raped by government soldiers. During the fighting the previous year another woman watched as her husband and three of her children were killed. She, in turn, was first beaten so badly that she is now blind in her right eye and then raped. She is now 65 years old. A sixteen year old girl had also been raped and sat with her six month old little boy. The girl next to her, also with a baby, was only fifteen, meaning she was raped when she was fourteen. Most of the women were gang raped and many had incurred major gynecological problems including the removal of their uterus. As a group the only support they get is medical care at one of the Goma hospitals. One woman was clearly psychologically deranged.
I was surprised by how graphic the women were in their descriptions of the rapes and their results since in their culture talking about anything sexual in front of a male is taboo. As usual in these situations, all the women were anxious to tell their stories, as if the telling itself was a healing act. The rest of the time they had to go around hiding in shame, pretending that nothing had happened.

I asked if any of them had been tested for HIV/AIDS. They almost unanimously agreed that they had been tested by the doctors but the doctors had refused to tell them the results. This is criminal! Women have a very low status in this region and women who have been raped really have no status at all. Therefore they are no longer considered human, e.g. they are unworthy of being told their status. One 42 year old woman was in a Catch 22 situation, unwilling to tell her husband that she had been raped because if she did she would be thrown out of the household. Her husband wanted her to return home in the rebel controlled area, but she was afraid that she might be HIV positive, although she didn't know for sure, and she didn't want to go back and perhaps infect her husband. So what could she do? I admired her because there are many people who don't wish to know their status so that they can be oblivious about whether they are passing AIDS on to their unsuspecting partners.

I asked Zawadi, the HROC coordinator, how much it cost to be tested for AIDS and she immediately called someone she knows who works at a testing center. We were told that the cost of the necessary AIDS test is only $5!!!This kind of rape is, to me, only the most obvious, what I would call "violent rape". When you see all those pictures of people fleeing with goods on their heads, where will the women sleep tonight? Many will have to find a man, perhaps a soldier or policeman, to protect them for the night. The cost is "consensual rape"; the agreement to have sex with the protector. This "relationship" might last a night or two, or a week, or a month, but in the end it is temporary and the woman is turned out and has to find another "protector". The result is unwanted pregnancies and HIV. Many of the women at the Kamenge Clinic in Bujumbura were infected by this "consensual rape".

Recently a disturbing report came out about rape in South Kivu. Formerly 99% of the rapes reported were done by soldiers. But the practice seems to be becoming acceptable in the larger community as now 39% of the rapes reported were done by civilians. So in addition to all the health issues and trauma of rape survivors, there is the added burden that rape has become more acceptable in society. How will this be overcome?

The Healing and Rebuilding Our Community program in North Kivu has begun HROC workshops with these rape survivors using only female facilitators. In addition to dealing with the trauma, the intent is to bring the women together into support groups much as I describe in Chapter 4. At least they will no longer be alone in their sorrow and problems, but have the benefit of a cohesive group.

*****The Best Side of Human NatureOn the Sunday after post election violence broke out in Kenya in 2008, a woman came to the front of Lumakanda Friends Church and gave the customary closing prayer. After church, Gladys told me that this woman was hiding a Kikuyu woman who was a neighbor in her house. The trauma of the violence had induced labor and the Kikuyu woman gave birth that night. Of course we could not tell anyone about this because the Quaker woman’s house could have been burned down if the attackers knew she was hiding a Kikuyu.When politically induced ethnic violence breaks out the media covers the atrocities but rarely covers attempts by people to save others from the opposite side. They report on the worst aspects of human nature rather than the best of human nature. This section covers the best side of human nature. In some cases the rescuers were able to save the intended victim, in others they failed, in another example the rescuer was killed for his attempt, and in another the successful rescuer was saved by those he rescued.

On October 21, 1993, President Ndadaye, the Hutu democratically elected president of Burundi, was assassinated by the Tutsi military. This led to countrywide chaos as Hutu attacked Tutsi in their communities and then the Tutsi military retaliated by killing Hutu. One of the worse massacres occurred at the gas station on the road below Kibimba, the first and largest Quaker mission station in Burundi. A hundred Tutsi students from Kibimba Secondary School along with other Tutsi were herded into the gas station office which was then set on fire. Sixty people died and forty escaped. The next day the Tutsi military arrived and killed Hutu at the gas station and looted the small community. I remember reading about this massacre in the US media at the time.Three weeks later, my great friend, Alison Des Forges (see Chapter 2), was at the site of the massacre doing an investigation for a consortium of American and European human rights groups including Human Rights Watch. She later returned to continue the investigation. Her report was published in French, but because of the Rwandan genocide in April 1994, she never got time to translate it into English.

I always wondered what was in her report. I recently obtained a copy of two sections of the report; one on the Kibimba massacre and the other on violence in Mutato where AGLI has done a considerable amount of HROC work. I then sent the French version to Sheila Havard, a former AGLI work camper from Canada, to make a rough translation. This she did. In her email she wrote, "There are a lot of references to people saving or trying to save others". In only eight pages of the report there are fourteen incidents of people trying to save others. I quote them here:

1. There was even a Hutu teacher who tried to save some of the Tutsi, and he was killed. He was a biology teacher. His nickname was Kavyimabuhiye. Magnifique Bizimana, a 21 Tutsi student.

2. According to other testimony, the principal [of Kibimba Secondary School] did all he could to save the hostages.

3. Mutoya Parish: A lot of Hutu families hid and kept neighboring Tutsi families in their homes.

4. Mutaho Commune: A Hutu priest or church staff member from the parish said that some parish workers had come to get him to save a Tutsi on Thursday 21st at 9 p.m. He said: “We went to tell the people who were all worked up not to shed any blood."

5. A Hutu nun or church staff member recounted that she had hidden an UPRONA member/supporter [Tutsi] and his family on Friday morning. He already had a head wound. In the afternoon a gang armed with lances came to get him but the nun/church staff member managed to thwart them.

6. The same nun said, Then an old woman came to seek refuge. Her husband and son had been captured. She only had a blanket left.

7. She continues, Then, with the priest, we rescued a young man who was being arrested/stopped on the road. There was a crowd on the road going to Mutaho, shouting: “We’ve been told that people are dying on the road” .

8. In the Mutaho trading centre, on Friday morning, a group of Hutu armed with pangas (machetes) and clubs went round the houses inviting everyone to come and demonstrate against the assassination of President Ndadaye. Those who refused were threatened with death. So an UPRONA member/supporter had to seek refuge in the house of a neighbor who was a Hutu shopkeeper, a member/supporter of FRODEBU and of the Muslim faith" FRODEBU was the Hutu party of President Ndadaye.

9. Somewhat later, this same shopkeeper intervened to prevent a rich Tutsi shopkeeper from being killed. He was hit with a stick and had to flee without being able to save the Tutsi.

10. The same Muslim shopkeeper, Later on he hid the principal of the commune college and an English teacher in his home, both Tutsi, as well as a Hutu member/supporter of UPRONA and the wife of the rich shopkeeper who had just been killed. He hid them for two days until the military came on Monday morning and took them to an IDP camp.

11. Again the same shopkeeper, The Hutu Muslim shopkeeper risked being killed at this time but the people he had saved pleaded for him and saved him in turn.

12. A 53-year-old Tutsi, a member/supporter of UPRONA living on Nyakero Hill explained how he had fled from the killers: “They wanted to exterminate only the ethnic group of UPRONA -- Tutsi. We fled into the bush. When the soldiers arrived, most were dead. Three of us escaped out of a group of eighteen. I fled when I saw that my brothers and neighbors were being killed. I was saved by a Hutu from my hill, who hid me. Then I went to my Muslim boss, who hid me in his ceiling until the military arrived."

13. On Wednesday, after the 7 AM mass, the parishioners again went to clear the road near Mubarazi River. After the road had been cleared, the soldiers fired on the people who had helped them, killing about fifteen or twenty of them. A student was able to escape, as was a young teacher from Muyange, called Félix, who had a bayonet wound. We thought he was going to die. But the Tutsi nurses who had been hidden in the parish cared for this young Hutu. The priest recommended that they not say anything to the soldiers. Félix was transported to the Kibuye Hospital by the Red Cross.

14. Church staff from the parish stated that they were aware of numerous cases of solidarity where Hutu had risked their lives to save, hide and feed neighbors.

***** Lancing a Stereotype I would like to comment on the Muslims in the previous section who were involved with saving people. The stereotype that I want you to "lance" is that Islam is a religion of violence, jihad, Al-Qaida, and terrorism. This stereotype underlies much of the reporting about Islam in the US – particularly those from Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In the January 9, 2008, Daily Nation, the main newspaper in Kenya, there is an article titled, "Muslims urged to shun violence". Somewhere between 10% and 20% of the population of Kenya is Muslim. Hamad Kassim is the chief kadhi in Kenya and a leader of the Muslim community.

Here is the report in the paper from his speech in Mombasa on the Muslim celebration of Idd ul Adha. The chief kadhi yesterday asked Muslims to refrain from engaging in practices that cause bloodshed. Mr. Hamad Kassim said Islam does not allow its followers to kill anyone...Muslims should maintain peace at all times. “I see no reason why people are killing one another. As Muslims, we should avoid taking part in any acts that can cause bloodshed because our religion is against such acts."

I have heard the following in Rwanda many times over the years. At the time of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Muslims were 2% to 3% of the population. They are now approximately 6% of the population. Why this increase? Because the Muslims were the only major religion that did not participate in the genocide. I myself have heard first hand the story of one Quaker youth who was hidden in a mosque during part of the genocide. In Christian denominations, many priests, pastors, and religious leaders actively participated in the genocide. So Muslims say, "This shows that Christianity doesn't work!" This argument is hard to refute. In this case, the stereotype that Muslims are violent is incorrect since it was the Christians who were violent. If we realize that Islam is a religion of peace, as Christianity is supposed to be, then where does this lead us when considering the anti-Islamic propaganda in the United States which is used as the basic fear for promoting the "War on Terror?" Christian and Muslim peacemakers should come together and confront those who are using Christianity and Islam as excuses for violence.

*****You Cannot Do Much for Peace if You Fear Dying for Peace In January 2010, I received an email from an American asking for help/advice on getting a Kenyan out of Kenya because he was being threatened due to his possible testimony in the International Criminal Court about the 2008 post election violence. There is no doubt that Kenyans were being threatened. Two human rights workers had already been assassinated. But the request was from an American in the United States and I saw no indication that the Kenyan had asked to be rescued. Perhaps he wanted this, but I would want to hear it directly from him.
This illustrates one of the major differences between Western thinking and African thinking. American thinking puts individual survival as the highest priority. African thinking, under the concept of ubuntu (humanness), considers the individual only in the context of the larger community. Let me give you a number of examples illustrating how this plays out.

The first occurred with a report I received from Adrien Niyongabo, the HROC Coordinator in Burundi, about a project we planned to do in Burundi for the upcoming Burundi elections. HROC/AGLI planned to train citizen reporters who have attended our HROC workshops and join them together in Democracy and Peace groups to observe and try to make the elections fair and non-violent. Since the citizen reporters would be known by the population and government authorities, there is a certain amount of risk in doing this work. The response of one of the HROC committee members was, "You cannot do much for peace if you fear to die for peace".

I have observed this before. A number of years ago I was at an AVP meeting in Kigali, Rwanda and Eddie Kalisa, a young Tutsi facilitator, brought up the request from Kaduha government officials for AVP workshops. In this remote hilly area, Hutu were still killing Tutsi. Among the eight or so people at the committee meeting, not one, including Eddie who would be an obvious target, expressed any comment or reservation about going to do three day workshops in this clearly dangerous place. Their work was to bring reconciliation and that was what they were dedicated to do, without any qualms or hesitancy whatsoever over safety.

Alison Des Forges, the friend and human rights expert who wrote the report above, once told me that before the genocide, when she was doing investigations of the small massacres that were then taking place, whenever she asked a Rwandan informant if she could use his/her name, he/she always replied in the affirmative. A frequent comment was, "These people massacred here have died for no reason whatsoever and, if I die because of what I have told you, then I will have at least died for a reason”.

Theoneste Bagasora, the "architect" of the genocide, and the other genocidaires understood this westerners' individualistic thinking. They realized that, when they brutally killed and mutilated ten Belgian UN peacekeepers, all the Europeans and Americans would flee the country enabling them to do the "work" – as they called the killing of Tutsi – by themselves without outside knowledge or intervention. They were absolutely right. President Bill Clinton was very concerned about getting the 254 Americans out of Rwanda, but when this was accomplished, the plight of the 500,000 plus Rwandans who were killed in the genocide was not his concern.

What is ironic is that the one American, Carl Wilkens, a Seventh Day Adventist missionary who refused to be evacuated – although he sent his wife and four children out of the country – saved more lives in the genocide than the whole American military with its hundreds of billions of dollars and awe-inspiring weaponry. When Carl saw that one of the orphanages filled with Tutsi boys was about to be attacked by the interahamwe he ran to the nearest government center and happened upon Jean Kambanda, the prime minister and asked him to intercede and call off the interahamwe and their attack. The prime minister agreed and the boys survived. You can hear the event first hand in Frontline's 2004 documentary, "Ghosts of Rwanda". He was one who was not afraid to die for peace.

Then there is the little known fact about the Rwandan genocide. A number of Tutsi men living in Rwanda were married to Belgian, French, or French-Canadian women. When the genocide came, those women had the choice of leaving Rwanda and their husbands and children, who were considered "Tutsi" by the rules used in Rwanda, to almost certain death or staying with their families and risk being killed as well. As far as I can tell, most stayed with their families and most were also killed. But in the weird way that the world thinks of "significant people", when these "white" women married Africans they gave up the privileges of being "significant". Their deaths, like that of so many Rwandans, were little noted and not remembered.

This may all sound academic, but is a crucial issue for me. When the 2008 post election violence occurred in Kenya, Eden Grace, a Friends United Meeting's staff member living in Kisumu, offered to put me on the list of Americans to be evacuated by the US Embassy if necessary. This was not unlikely as the Americans in Kisumu – a city with a lot of violence at that time – were evacuated twice. She indicated that Gladys as my spouse, although not an American citizen, would be evacuated along with me.

I declined for two reasons.

First, I might potentially save myself and Gladys, but what about her father, six sisters, son, daughter, two grandchildren and so many other members of her family? Could we flee leaving them to perhaps perish? While I might be in more danger by staying, there was also the possibility that Gladys and I, having more resources – contacts, money, knowledge of the way the world works – might be able to assist other family members to survive. Would we live with souls at ease if we were evacuated, but other family members were killed?

But the second reason is that if I fled I would be an accomplice to the violence. The whole concept of protecting human rights is based on the fact that an observer – and as an American, whether I like it or not, I am one of those "significant people" – might be a deterrent. Moreover, since I had a cell phone and internet access, might not my reporting from such an out-of-the-way place as Lumakanda where we live be a testimony and witness to what was going on? Might this not alert the rest of the world – at least my contacts – about the unfolding events?. *****Agathe

Here is a testimony of a woman named Agathe, who lives in North Kivu and was greatly affected by the fighting there. Note also how her sister, using what she learned in the HROC workshop, worked with her to keep her out of the army. When I was 15, I was in love with a young man and I got pregnant. When I told him, he told me to go away. After two weeks, he married someone else, not me. When my parents later asked who is responsible, I told them. They had heard that he was married and they chased me away. My brothers said that if they ever met me again, they would kill me. I walked for ten miles, and where I went, I suffered. After birth, my family looked for me. They said we could live together but that they would not provide for me. I must take my child to the father. But the father said “No,” as he would have nothing to do with the child. So I didn’t know what to do with my child. I sold cassava flour trying to sell enough to at least get a little bit of soap. I got no help from my family. They said I just brought them shame. Whenever my child got sick, I had no money. I would go out into the bush and find herbs and try to help my child. I thought of joining the army so that I could come back and kill my family.

But God came through for me. I had already registered and enlisted to join the army. But then I thought that I should not go without saying goodbye. I went to ask advice from my sister, but I asked her not to tell me not to go. Instead, she told me she had just come from a [HROC] workshop. Then she said she would accompany me to the military office if I wanted her to. When she told me this, I cried. Then she called the office and it turned out there were no flights that day for the army. So I stayed the night with my sister. I kept thinking about what I was doing. Even if I went into the army, I was going with my child, my baby. Through the night my sister read to me what she had learned at the workshop. I was not satisfied. After awhile, she sent me an invitation [to a HROC workshop]. She said it might be helpful for me in the army. Then I went to the teachings and felt the facilitators were like my brothers. But then my heart started to loosen up and I chose to not join the army.

***** “Do Unto Others as They Do Unto You” Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, I was passing through Kampala, Uganda. I read the following story in The Monitor, one of the major papers in Uganda.

There is a group of HIV+ women in Kampala who work together as I described in Chapter 4. Their work is to pound rocks into gravel which is then sold for construction. I have seen these women along one of the roads next to a ridge full of large rocks. They sit on the ground and with a small sledgehammer pound away turning the rocks into a heap of gravel. The paper indicated that they earn about $1.00 per day for this backbreaking work. These women had heard about Hurricane Katrina and how it had destroyed so many homes and possessions of the people of New Orleans. They decided to donate over $900 for the relief of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. When one of the women was asked why they would do this, when their own condition was dire, she replied, “Our custom is to help people when they are in difficulties. We see that those people have lost everything so we want to help out.” It is sad to think how little $900 contributed to the relief of Hurricane Katrina victims. On the other hand the response of these HIV+, rock-breaking women through their humanness, their connection to suffering all over the world, is overwhelming.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Unto Charles II

RantWoman began this post way back when she and the Barclay reading group were first wading into the Apology. The file is dated 8/27/2010. RantWoman is unclear whether the blogosphere cares in the slightest about the saga of RantWoman's slog, together with a flock of hardy, erudite fellow readers from her Meeting, through the Apology, but heck, electrons are cheap and the file will take up space whether RantWoman posts it or not.

RantWoman remembers being struck by the passage at the beginning entitled Unto Charles II. RantWoman's knowledge of 17th century history including England and the nuances of various religious and theological rows is SPOTTY at best. RantWoman expects her grasp of history to get expanded.

RantWoman notes the we're just peaceful ... followers of Jesus" thread. RantWoman THINKS she knows what was meant, but that line makes RantWoman almost as nervous as "God made me do it" as a defense for civil disobedience. Why underplay the transformative nature of one's faith, particularly when Barclay spends so much time in the rest of the book upholding the virtues of Quaker practices which clearly WERE an open challenge and perceived threat to the established order?

RantWoman found a wonderful Pendle Hill talk by Quaker theologian Lloyd Lee Wilson:

about Min 37 or so, there is a wonderful bit about who is the most subversive group in this country, Christians. ... Think of the Lord's prayer and "Thy kingdom come"

RantWoman is wondering in hindsight after the end of Proposition Eleven whether Barclay will come again to relationship to temporal authorities, acknowledgment of his own self-justification. RantWoman also promises to meditate some more on the submission to the Divine inherent in early Quakers.

"Excuse me, we don't vote."

RantWoman is going to spare her readers a few details about the circumstances behind "Excuse me, we don't vote." Instead RantWoman is going to elaborate on worlds in collision.

A Friend who attends Business Meeting only very occasionally recently presented a routine matter where approval was almost certain, but the word "vote" came up. A Friend who had beenout of the room at the time asked "Did that Friend really say that?" Yeah, and we must embrace it as an opening.

For a few different reasons, RantWoman would guess that Presenting Friend might not necessarily be deeply steeped in concepts such as Business Meeting as mystical experience or Quakerese about the search for unity. RantWoman also would guess that a decent number of other infrequent presenters at Business Meeting, not to mention total newcomers could easily have made the same mistake. So first RantWoman, and, RantWoman HOPES, a topical committee, must hold some questions about Business Meeting as living our walk and what might better tend that.

The next point would be what to say in public rather in private. One usually quite direct Friend tsk'-tsk'ed to RantWoman a few days afterward that that Friend would have spoken to Presenting Friend in private. Friend who said "Excuse me, we don't vote" in Business Meeting probably is not acquainted with presenting Friend at all but is concise, spiritually grounded, and plain-spoken in many contexts. RantWoman considers the absence of "voting" such a basic point of Quaker process and practice that she found herself appreciating the comment at the time it occurred even though it leaned heavily on the plainspoken rahter than the "keeping low" end of the Quaker communications continuum.

Presenting Friend has been providing some measure of adult supervision over email in the Compost melodrama. RantWoman still does not know Presenting Friend well but has come to appreciate very measured communications from this direction. Furthermore, RantWoman has been slogging along for over a year with a very messy nomination process involving both vexatious matters of Meeting life and painful personal issues not related to Business Meeting.

RantWoman has been fighting to speak up for herself and NOT easily or repeatedly enough finding the right words. RantWoman has also felt miserable in her efforts to find specific Friends to walk alongside. Furthermore, RantWoman has not exactly felt more than superficial outreach from others to walk alongside. Sometimes RantWoman has been glad of spells of taking a break from certain topics; other times RantWoman has been peeved by month-long intervals when words did not line up well about superificial inquiries as to how she is faring and lined up only inadequately about what is the next step. In other words, based on RantWoman's experiences she decided it would be totally appropriate just to talk more to Presenting Friend to see whether he was bothered by Business Meeting. Presenting Friend did want some clarification but has not replied to RantWoman's offer of more of a dissertation or to comments about academics who study Quaker process and the lessons it offers for the business world.

RantWoman also spoke to our Clerk. RantWoman and our Clerk both have considerable life experience with different forms of consensus decisionmaking. Our Clerk has been active on a wide variety of Quaker bodies, college boards, and other bodies where decisionmaking is at least nominally grounded in Quaker practices. RantWoman has a lot of experience in activities where Quaker influence is strong but for various reasons decisionmaking occurs without nearly the same level of centeredness as RantWoman experiences when the search for unity is grounded, covered, intentionally cultivated. One of the things that initially charmed RantWoman about Friends was precisely this intentionality and groundedness compared to her previous experiences.

Anyway, RantWoman and our clerk had a charming conversation based on our experiences and the catalyst moments from Business Meeting. RantWoman left the conversation being clear that more conversations are needed but not clear what they might be.

RantWoman will start with the point that the more conversations are probably both Quick and Easy Quaker Process, Applied Quakerism and maybe fuller dissertations. RantWoman is FINE seasoning the question some more over time. This is a GOOD thing because RantWoman, in an effort to be transparent with other members of a committee she now sits on got shushed and told she should have waited on the whole committee, that is waited nearly a month, before saying anything even to Presenting Friend.

All RantWoman can say is Meeting belongs to all of us and RantWoman suspects there is work to be done tending community life even between meetings of a certain committee! Delegate? Empower? Stay tuned.

RantWoman is pointedly trying NOT to wander near the catty comment that a certain Friend who is always ready to expound with great certainty and to opine in definite terms in Business Meeting or otherwise about Quaker process happened to be absent this month. RantWoman does NOT want to gloat, only to point out that perhaps that is one of the circumstances that created space for problems to come forth from other perspectives.

In any case, RantWoman supposes she gets to be grateful that this topic involves specific community problems rather than one Friend who can barely absorb help from God alone and keeps fending off some of that when it comes in others' hands.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Truth Commission on Conscience and War

Thursday, November 11, 2010 (All day)




Sunday, August 22, 2010

Do it yourself eye surgery and The Plague

RantWoman occasionally flirts with the idea of some kind of Quaker standup comedy gig. If RantWoman ever decides to do more about the idea than flirt, this morning's Meeting for Worship will be one reason.

(RantWoman heartily commends Friends who held ad-hoc discussion hour. RantWoman felt well-enriched.)

On to 11:00 Worship.


One modest pastoral care message and then blessed silence.


Chronically Tardy Friend arrived.

Then a Friend rose with a message about the story from Matthew and Luke about the log in one's own eye and the mote in others'.

This Friend was questioning her right to judge the financial behaviors of someone she shares a house with. RantWoman has no clue what it was about this message that conjures of images of do-it-yourself eye surgery.

Well, the RantWoman visual experience includes blurred vision, double vision, a couple variants of grow-your-own-lava lamp and may or may not include any logs, or as RantWoman teases the providers who keep peering in with bright light, any bunnies and gerbils either. RantWoman's eyes have had different motes come and go due to various surgical interventions. These motes, scars actually, have been variously detectable or not to others, RantWoman a time or two has had almost literally to fight off some well-intentioned soul trying to remove something RantWoman knows is firmly attached. The point is that, NO, RantWoman cannot necessarily be counted on either to see the logs in her own eyes or to get sensible info on the motes front either and was seasoning a message about calling forth community to deal tenderly.

There were a couple more messages about motes and community.

By this time the hour was ending, but Spirit was definitely not done. along came another message, one that absolutely spoke to RantWoman's condition about altruism and the work of community. About this time, Eye-roller Friend had an outbreak of audible eye-rolling and Crusty Elderly Friend asked for a definition of altruism. EyeRoller Friend suggested the dictionary and there was vigorous shushhing before meaningful message continued with splendid articulation including references to The Plague by Camus and pneumonic plague arising when people turn away from each other.

A good spell of blessed silence and then close of worship.

RantWoman COULD just stop here, but since when has RantWoman ever known when to quit?

RantWoman, by her own estmation at least, did pretty well about a non-judgmental inquiry of Eye Roller Friend as to the cause of his distress. Eye Roller Friend mentioned the expiring clock; RantWoman probably could have said something more Quakerly in response, say "have you considered that your clock may not line up with that of....?" RantWoman supposes she could also aspire to channel whichever early Quaker she was reading about recently who addressed Oliver Cromwell as if the Inner Light were already at work within.

Alas, RantWoman was busy with one of her own motes in eyes problems: RantWoman has heard Eye Roller Friend say a number of interesting and soulful things, but Meeting for Worship seems mainly to evoke the sort of behaviors for which a four-year-old's grownups would say "use your words." RantWoman thus finds herself urgently beseeching whichever form and gender of Holy Presence keeps showing up among us: could you and Eye Roller Friend please work a little harder to get the words lined up in time for Meeting for Worship? RantWoman thanks you very much.

RantWoman reads:

Psalm 15 (RSV, Braille) "...may the words of our mouths and the meditations ofour hearts be acceptable in thy sight"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tardy or Just in Time?

RantWoman, herself such a continuously centered and well-grounded paragon of Quaker virtues, naturally tends towards friendships with other challenging and challenged souls. RantWoman supposes she is to feel blessed to be offered several such right in her very own Meeting.

Lately, one topic exercising RantWoman has been tardiness. For one thing RantWoman has been paying visits to 9:30 worship. RantWoman is deferring judgment about whether more silence is doing her soul any good. RantWoman's soul is such a jumble that RantWoman figures if she puts herself in the way of more shared worship opportunities, sooner or later the right things will land. Plus Adult Education is on hiatus for the rest of August.

In any case, RantWoman is intrigued by the degree to which 9:30 worshippers apparently favor silence, or personalized messages only--as well as flagrant tolerance of total and unrelenting tardiness. RantWoman actually feels blessed that frequently once she is seated, others' tardiness is of little distress, though RantWoman finds herself tempted to install a drive-through window for those who arrive 5 minutes before the end of worship. Selling lattes too comes to mind, but that would be too much noise even for RantWoman.

Uh-oh. One sin RantWoman sometimes excels at is self-righteousness. Besides the above, RantWoman can get herself, either sorry or totally unrepentant to Meeting on time ON THE BUS. RantWoman knows people who arrive on time by bicycle as well as by car. RantWoman thus knows that arrival on-time is possible via a number of modes of transport, from a number of directions, and even from considerable distance. Besides, RantWoman is a greedy sort who wants to enjoy as much of everyone's "irregular ministers" presence as possible, so RantWoman permits herself to be peeved by others' tardiness.

In view of this peevishness, RantWoman thanks the Friend who sent her the following comments recommending

the wonderful Pendle Hill pamphlet "A Joint And Visible Fellowship", by Beatrice Saxon Snell (1965), which speaks both to the condition of the late arriver and to the condition of the irritated person who had arrived on time. It also, by the way, has good passages on preparation for meeting, how to center down and dealing with troublesome ministry.

A few of the paragraphs: [For the late person] . . . "it is wise to forego conversation on the way there, stepping into the state of worship and 'breathing to God' as we step out of the house. Not only is it wise; we owe it to our fellow-worshippers."

" . . . so also it is essential for the punctual not to be resentful and self-righteous in their attitude to those who are late. If our thoughts are so loosely knit to God and to the offering we are trying to make to him that we look around with angry curiosity at the creak of the opening door or rise in
stiff irritation to let the newcomer pass to his accustomed place, we are not helping either his fault or his misfortune."

" Yet how rewarding it can be when a real effort is made to feel not that the worship of God has been interrupted but that yet another of his sons and daughters--our brothers and sisters--has arrived to share it! I sometimes think that we are spoilt by modern conveniences in travel which keep strict time; in the days of horse travel and unmade roads the Meeting often took far longer to assemble in body, but was more gathered in spirit . . ."
RantWoman notes that this pamphlet is also available as a downloadable pdf from RantWoman will also at some point recount her preparations for worship aboard the number 48 bus.

RantWoman appreciates the thought that God is generally glad to see worshippers whenever they appear. However, a lot of people in daily life are quite a bit less than godly and thus considerably more prone to offense. RantWoman's concept of eldering includes the thought of feeding back the deleterious effects of tardiness on both fiscal and spiritual lives. This would be in line with RantWoman being blessed (?) by affection for / entanglement with the sort of problematic mortals who really do sometimes need to be upbraided in whatever spirit of loving attention will help them get their acts together and also from time to time to need her own reinforcement in the keep act together vein as well.

For instance, RantWoman has a personal friend who seldom attends worship right now and has gone for exceedingly long spells of arriving at 11:35 along with certainty that she is called to offer vocal ministry. Because RantWoman talks to this Friend regularly RantWoman knows that baselessly expecting the world to conform to her desires causes her problems in many aspects of life. RantWoman therefore feels that she must speak up to be true to the whole picture. Plus, when RantWoman has been speaking up, this Friend says it's refreshing. Refreshing or no, RantWoman would not mind feeling called less often and meanwhile is working on just "walk with me."

But the other point of this item: Last week RantWoman missed 11:00 worship and got the digest version from Chronically Tardy Friend. Chronically Tardy Friend mentioned two messages, someone else's which RantWoman has now forgotten and her own. Judging from reported comments there was update about Chronically Tardy Friend's latest dramas as well as recounting of a Chinese story about complaints resulting in capital punishment rather than an apology from an offending party which was all that was wanted. RantWoman wonders for whom if anyone that message landed.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bus Eldering 1,2,3

RantWoman's readers, considering the RantWoman slightly less interpersonal finesse than a Brillo pad demeanor, may be surprised that RantWoman manages to have friends. Perhaps it will come as no surprise that RantWoman, challenged as she is by many standards of humanness, also has friends who are challenged by some or another standard of civilization.

RantWoman's life is also filled with realities such as the city bus, a realm which might as well be another universe for many Friends. These Friends when presented with data from this universe may thus not even be equipped to detect exactly what about the data suggests need for eldering. Below are several items that finally crystalized in connection with the intersection of RantWoman's and another Friend's spiritual paths in the realm of public transit. This Friend being a particularly tough study, RantWoman tried several approaches.

RantWoman is humble about the limitations of her methods even for herself and the fragile tremulousness accompanying striving for gestures of faith in this environment. RantWoman is humble about the possibility that the RantWoman efforts at spiritual path are not going to work for Other Friend. RantWoman is meditating about the possibility that speaking too plainly of the issue is just recreating and re-energizing all the the downside points motivating RantWoman's massive spell of eldering. With all those disclaimers, RantWoman is going to plunge in anyway.

Rantwoman apologizes that the phrasing falls considerably short of a very gentle "keeping low" she has observed among many very centered Friends. RantWoman is TRYING for better Quakerese but definitely does not have it down yet. RantWoman also freely acknowledges that some of her amusement categories may be telling rather too much of the truth about people and circumstances where That of God may be difficult to detect and RantWoman strives to maintain strict spiritual discipline about holding all such in the Light. Frankly, sometimes one just has to work with the material one has.

Dear Friend of RantWoman

In an effort to deal with some of RantWoman's own psychic sludge, you and others in RantWoman's orbit have been selected to receive slight variations of the following comments and requests.

Every time RantWoman talks to you by phone or in person, you have bus grumbles. RantWoman urgently requires either less input, better narrative, or more blessings. By less input, RantWoman means only the most piquant, poignant, humorous, or earthshatteringly vexatious and with narrative to document your impressions. RantWoman knows you CAN do narrative and may or may not even demand a two-way narrative exchange.

RantWoman fears that a certain level ofaggravation may be necessary to remind one of one's spiritual path and calling. RantWoman can perfectly well understand why you might think you are overfulfilling plan in this area. RantWoman's spiritual path seems littered with such overfulfillment. But then who is RantWoman even to pretend to understand your path, let alone to evaluate your pathbased on her own experience?

Perhaps in offering less input and focussing on better narrative there might be openings to cover the various categories here. Other blessing that may be fair game:

--weirdest or most outrageous driver lapse

--best overheard cellphone call.

--top rated little known fact of politics, demography, medicine or all of the above.

--most entertaining example of spectacular familial or interpersonal dysfunction.

--most intriguing or inscrutable clash of cultures.

--In honor of the Dona S the Interpreting teacher school oflinguistic research, the best samples of new argot in any language one knows enough to catalog terms in.

--Best Rolling Anthropology Project moment, unspecified category.

Why pay the cable bill when you can get all this entertainment live for free?

If you have made it this far and not managed to think of some blessings of your own, maybe you can borrow thoughts from one of those earnest African American folks in RantWoman's 'hood who always says, when asked how they are, "blessed." Or maybe there is no hope, but perhaps you could still sit with the question of what this is teaching you.

In the Light.


Dear Friend of RantWoman

In an effort to deal with some of RantWoman's own psychic sludge, several people in RantWoman's orbit are receiving slight variations of the following comments and requests.

Every time RantWoman talks to you, you have bus grumbles. RantWoman can faintly entertain the hypothesis that you are some kind of intergalactic nexus of bad bus karma or a malevolent global conspiracy against you specifically. RantWoman can entertain that hypothesis for maybe a nanosecond or two, but the Occam's razor thought would beg for a simpler explanation, say a vast wave of generalized vexation calling you to some as yet unspecified service: drivers not doing their jobs, shrubbery that needs to be trimmed, bad lines of sight for drivers at certain shelters....

In this universe, rather than a personal nexus of bad bus karma, perhaps the operative concept is calling to specific service. Metro like all bureaucracies is NOT going to figure these problems out telepathically out of thin air and it REALLY is RantWoman's experience that sometimes honest complaints get results, results that not only improve life for the complainer but SOMETIMES accidentally, willy nilly, unintentionally wind up benefitting other people too. RantWoman has previously encouraged you to report at least the highest highpoints of your disasters.

Perhaps you will draw encouragement from a heartwarming tale of RantWoman's big mouth working to positive effect:

Please consider whether you also are being called to public service in the form of sharing your observations with Metro.

In the Light



Dear Friend of RantWoman

Do YOU want to drive the bus?RantWoman is guessing that driving a bus is not really consonant with (...) , but if by chance you do want to drive the bus, RantWoman expects Metro is hiring drivers, part-time, two-year probationary, bottom of the route pick priority, (intemperate ranting deleted). Oops sorry. not helpful digression, but you get the idea.

See, aside from the fact that no one would letRantWoman drive the bus, RantWoman has NO desire to drive the bus. First there are the physical demands. Then there all the delightful but clueless, pickled, addled, sour, hostile attitudinal bus-riding masses, excepting of course thee and me, both of whom are perfect delights to deal with at all times (Not!)

RantWoman is extremely, extremely grateful that buses get driven and she can get around. Some of the bus drivers are kind wonderful helpful souls plugged into the zeitgeist and able always to evoke a sense of community. Some of the drivers are works in progress, overwhelmed, stressed out,struggling in the face of humanity. Some of them are real jerks. RantWoman HAS to hold all of them in the Light. It's not really that RantWoman is wonder Quaker. It's more like RantWoman is not a Quaker because of being any good at this peace and love stuff, RantWoman is a Quaker because she needs all the help she can get and holding things in the Light seems to help. Have you considered trying it?

OR you could

--Filter the vast Metro conspiracy in comparison with your wackiest public transit experiences beyond our borders.


--Try reading the public transit items in Peggy Parsons' So there Iwas in Africa book.


--Meet (another Bus Grumbler in Rantwoman's life). Pick a route where the smaller browner people have mastered the practice of occupying three seats as a survival skill among the larger and paler they ride with. Mix in some mobility aids and shopping carts, a few mysteriously overstffed garbage bags, miscellaneous questionable animals and small children in the disabled area of the bus and hang out and have a peevish white people resentment contest all the way downtown. If you say your prayers and floss regularly MAYBE you will be permitted to get on a stop or two before a couple spots almost guaranteed to have extra vexations (including voardings by RantWoman and her many colorful neighbors). Or you could return to one of RantWoman's other items and try something from there.

In the Light.



Dear Friend of RantWoman

A couple more items:

--Thank you for invitation to Quaker accompaniment for your moments of bus karma. Honestly the RantWoman reserves of Quaker accompaniment are a little thin due for example to a couple underpublicized bouts of hanging with a family member in ICU over past few years. Also, it keeps occurring to RantWoman that your bus karma moments may somehow be intended for your particular path to spiritual perfection, that you have been gifted with capacity to cope, and that in any case maybe you just get to be grateful to be basically ambulatory and as far as RantWoman knows so far to have evaded personal experience as patient in ICU. In any case, RantWoman has to pass on personal presence, but will try to think some kind of well-humored thoughts in your direction and again ask you to consider whether you are called for the good of ourselves and others to speak as plainly and hopefully incisively as led to Metro.

--RantWoman's individual bus karma theme is the route with the most service hours, the most passenger miles, the most security incidents, the most cultural diversity. Because this route leads in so many happiness indicators, this route is likely also at the bottom of the lists of routes any driver with the seniority to avoid the route will pick during their thrice yearly bus route shakeups. Thus it tends to be staffed by the newest least experienced bus drivers in the entire organization. RantWoman's reward for holding each of them resolutely in the Light HAS to be some pool of pardons and peaceable atonement for personal screwups while learning RantWoman's way around something new.

RantWoman needs to apologize for several inappropriate elements of recent emails. Just about the minute RantWoman sent email about messages finding right messenger RantWoman received EXTREMELY topical and helpful phone call. RantWoman tries to expect better of herself on several grounds and needs to apologize on that basis.

In the Light.

Three Offerings

RantWoman has her usual multi-layered stewpot of contentious and challenging issues on her mind. She proposes maybe to get to some of them slant, by writing more of Three Offerings in the Baptist church of her youth. For those challenged by RantWoman's style, this item likely will have three elements, the simple story of RantWoman's experience interspersed with some of the nebulous and all-encompassing ranting RantWoman excels at, and some links to current reading about money.

The Three Offerings were:

--the usual weekly offering
Quakers do that too, though as RantWoman has previously written, at RantWoman's meeting, we are coy about it.

--A special offering to support retired ministers
RantWoman could relate to this since RantGrandfather was in fact a retired Presbyterian minister and also because there were a couple powerful and colorful retired female missionaries in the congregation . Contemporary Quakers, having done away with hireling ministers would likely skip this collection and thus leave some Friends with lifelong and not heavily remunerated service to fend for themselves or to struggle with the overload of multiple part-time or intermittent jobs along with a lot of other people in our individualistic current economy. RantWoman notes further the problem of a great deal of worthwhile work needing to get done with no money to fund it and radio commentators wringing their hands about the need for jobs, jobs, jobs no matter how stultifying and dehumanized but this still does not add up to any kind of fund for retirees.

--The annual Church World Service offering near Halloween for UNICEF.
RantWoman thinks there might be some Friends Meetings who participate in this, but hers does not. As long as RantWoman is horrifying Friends in her Meeting with her tolerance for being asked for money even though she herself frequently feels pinched, RantWoman notes that she always really, really liked this offering because it made her feel so connected to children all over the world. Well, RantWoman did not care for the little assemble-yourself boxes children were supposed to take home and fill with contributions but RantWoman really, really liked this offering. Maybe RantWoman's affection for the symbolic connection to children all over the world was another of RantWoman's Quaker-in-Training moments.

RantWoman feels a parallel rant about use of time and sharing work and gifts among our whole community. RantWoman feels this rant coming on hard and strong and loud enough that it needs its own posting and it's hot enough out that for now maybe RantWoman should chill out and season it longer.

Meanwhile, other recent blog posts that speak to themes monetary.

About the work of sitting with what comes when Friends must ask our communities for different kinds of presence and accompaniment. Well RantWoman is paraphrasing but the entry is definitely topical to several conversations RantWoman is having.

RantWoman especially notes the section of this entry talking about how adoptive parents of different classes respond when their adopted children turn out to be less than the bundles of joy they hoped for:

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sensible Auntie shows up at Business Meeting

Let's face it: parenting is hard work. The kids mysteriously show up whether or not the parents are equipped for duty. Many many parents manage to get equipped as they go along. A lot of the ones who struggle in this area need Sensible Auntie.

Sensible Auntie is the sort of vigilant and occasionally forceful presence who can grit her teeth, swallow her tongue as parents repeatedly blunder impervious to alternative worldviews. Sensible Auntie is there for children. She is also there for the rest of civilization.

Sensible Auntie showed up in several forms in RantWoman's childhood. RantWoman had pretty uptight controlling Presbyterian parents and Sensible Auntie would many times in various ways say to RantWoman's parents, "Relax, they're just children. It will be okay." Sensible Auntie used to show up at the Baptist church of RantWoman's youth. Sensible Auntie understood with perfect clarity why a young RantWoman might see her age group peers as dreadful little snots or other unQuakerly terms. More to the point, even if the dreadful little snots had had any redeeming qualities detectable at the time to RantWoman, Sensible Auntie would still have been more interesting to talk to.

Sensible Auntie showed up at a RantFamily event a few years ago. RantNephew was having a really spectuclar fit because his grandma had moved to town and started telling him "No." RantWoman exaggerates about the dysfunction, but RantNephew was throwing a fit, throwing chairs. He picked up his kid rocker and his mother caught it before it got airborne. Then the tyke tried for one of the dining room chairs. RantWomans arm came down, boom. on the back of the chair: "all four legs of the chair have to stay on the floor." "Mommy," the tyke wailed, "make her give it to me." Um, NO!

Yesterday Sensible Auntie showed up in Business Meeting in connection with some "spirited children." RantWoman has no idea what if anything will get written in the minutes. Sensible Auntie was thinking but did not say, "look, I am legally blind and built like a linebacker. Your "spirited children" and I could do each other serious damage without even meaning to and we both need help from our community to cut the odds of that happening way down! We will either interact on that basis from the outset or I WILL act as necessary in specific moments. RantWoman is, however, humbled to be Sensible Auntie in such different terms than she needed as a child.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Did Someone say SEXISM?

RantWoman is thrilled and blessed (!?!?!) While the Epistle of the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference makes vague reference to sexism among Friends, RantWoman was having trouble coming up with instances that would be fit for public conversation. By fit for public conversation, RantWoman means public and not laden with content that might tread hard on very personalized nerves.

RantWoman finally has in mind a concrete item of sexism she can foam at the mouth about: a few years ago, the Nominating committee in RantWoman's meeting created a Worship and Ministry committee comprised of six men and NO women. RantWoman remembers seeing the proposed roster and wondering about discernment connected with this.

RantWoman does not remember whether that was one of the years she herself expressed interest in service on said committee or whether that was one of the years when a great deal of RantWoman's physical and mental energy was devoted to activities such as deciding which of several possible eye problems, allergies, and general conniptions was responsible for different kinds of pain in her face. The point is that RantWoman did not at the time voice any objections even though doing so would have been entirely appropriate. This week in connection with again turning over rocks related to a certain compost melodrama, RantWoman slammed into the anoying realization that no one else objected either!

RantWoman remembers having a conversation about gender imbalance on this committee with one of the members of the committee, (Guess which one!) to the effect that the members of the committee thought this gender imbalance was JUST FINE. RantWoman vehemently objected: RantWoman thought it might be fine for, say, one year, but that men and women just communicate too differently and approach problems too differently for this to be reasonable longer than that. The next year, perhaps one woman got added and there have been other increments since so that gender balance is now much better.

RantWoman has not attempted systematic onversation with those on the committee at the time. Part of the reason RantWoman has not attempted systematic conversation is the short snippets of conversation touching on the topic suggest it has never occurred to several of the committee members that they might be missing something, what they might be missing, or that what they are missing might be important.

In fact RantWoman had the kinds of conversations with more than one Friend that made her feel elbowed aside, dismissed as unimportant. RantWoman at the time was in great need of spiritual communion of the educational sort she was having trouble providing herself because of all the changes in her vision. RantWoman was also feeling profoundly grateful for community, imperfect as it was, but as as RantWoman has written elsewhere , RantWoman was not feeling very well-nourished spiritually . To make matters worse, even though the act of being present with difficulties and spiritual needs can bring gifts to whole communities, people in such moments of travail sometimes are too overwhelmed to articulate requests for help.

(To RantWoman's great relief, in the course of conversations over the last year, Nominating Committee got the point of RantWoman's concern and gender balance is now specifically mentioned as desirable in the composition of Worship and Ministry!)

RantWoman is going to spare her readers some foaming about the mouth about what in retrospect seems like misogynist bilge related to communications style during some conversations over the past year with one Friend (Guess which one.) RantWoman is also doing the best she can simply to note that said Friend appears much better able to have two-way conversations with some categories of people (guess which) than others. RantWoman would REALLY like not to have to filter a lot with all this in mind; RantWoman is still a work in progress on the "spirit of love and Truth" front.

Monday, August 2, 2010

God, are you out of your mind?

RantWoman reminds her readers of her past as a literature major. RantWoman was actually not that great a scholar of literary forms and literary criticism tends to make her snore or sometimes snort, but this past often seems to affect how RantWoman tells stories.

Then there is the matter of Russian literature in particular where all the characters get called by multiple names and pseudonyms and variants of same. RantWoman also seems to live in an interesting mental muddle where she attends to different aspects of many events in small bites over time with Spirit overseeing gaps of unpredictable length between. Plus RantWoman has read a lot of Latin American works where the timelines jump around unpredictably. Perhaps these points will help readers orient themselves.

This week RantWoman's conversations with God have been going something like this:

"We are called to be faithful, not necessarily successful...."

"God does not call the equipped; he equips the called."

God, are you sure? Really? Is that what you mean?

"...walk with me, mentor elder, friend...."

God, are you out of your ever-loving mind?

"You may only elder someone if you like them?" Uhhhhh, can I please just start about answering that of God within. If we're really, really lucky, maybe RantWoman the really, really bad Buddhist will come up with a spell of Buddhism, sit with the problem and probe what the situation is trying to teach us.

"God accepts us....already good enough for God."

RantWoman is going to be a sort of "show your work" Quaker here. RantWoman is doing this to spell out movements of Spirit in surprising lurches and muddling. Please bear with some details and excursions. Also, this item is part of the reason RantWoman's brain is still not back from NPYM Annual Session in Missoula. RantWoman's body has been back for several weeks, but her mind is still somewhere in transit.

RantWoman was not being a well-adjusted blind person at Annual Session. Despite a lifetime of visual ups and downs, every new phase is one dang trial and error experiment after another and predictably not always a happy one. RantWoman does not always know what help she needs until she tries or fails to try something and has to try something else. RantWoman also was not faking it nearly as well as in the past.

RantWoman was having particular problems planning ahead enough to ask someone the location of things like the interest groups she signed up for or wanted to attend. This meant the first day of interest groups, RantWoman held ad-hoc interest group for sitting on couches and upholding the work of people in important Yearly Meeting roles such as Annual Session Recording Clerk, Clerk of NPYM IT committee, and member of NPYM Ministry and Oversight.

In this form of service, RantWoman starts by not doing anything beyond seating herself on a couch or bench and being available to whoever comes by. This can be a dangerous ministry in that it has a time or two in the past attracted opportunities and offers of responsibility. RantWoman really cannot see out of the fog well enough to initiate any contact herself RantWoman will say Hi to whoever speaks to her while RantWoman appears to be staring trying to pick enough features out of the visual fog to identify people she might indeed want to initiate contact with.

RantWoman was blessed by the people who found her. RantWoman does not in the least regret missing Interest Groups the first day and actually was grateful to be able to fill this role. However, the second day of Interest Groups, RantWoman was determined to actually go to an Interest Group but RantWoman was still being obtuse about needing to be proactive to get the info she needed. RantWoman was debating between Broken and Tender with Marge Abbott, Integrity with the committee revising Faith and Practice, and Conflict and Eldering with a certain problematic mentor figure.

Looking back, RantWoman is considering whether she just wnet straight to Broken and Tender without even reading the book. Before RantWoman gets to that point, she should at least indulge in a good rant about all the reasons reading is hard, there are not enough of the new books people she knows are publishing available in accessible formats, and related whines. One thing at a time.

RantWoman had already had two different conversations with Friends about conflict in their Meetings. RantWoman had conversation with two someones else interested in seeing how things went. Off we all trooped to the location of guess what topic, unencumbered by information about where the other two interest groups RantWoman was considering would be taking place.

By the time this gets published, RantWoman will have survived one last gosh-dang round of minutes related to a certain nomination. Honestly, nerves are still kind of raw and some threads of conversation either very taut or not connected at all about RantWoman's leading that she needed permission from NO ONE, including the workshop leader, to have leadings about service on a certain committee in her home Meeting.

In light of this, RantWoman freely admits that attending this workshop COULD be considered kind of stalkerish. RantWoman was also vexed when one of the Friends she came with wound up not being able to stay because of an ADA issue. Seating was such and Friends had arrived such that it was going to be difficult both for RantWoman to get out of the room and to go find another interest group without being late and really obtrusive in arriving. RantWoman took a deep breath, decided to uphold the people she had already talked with, decided to center on ways for things to be okay, and opted to stay where she was.

Problematic Mentor Figure is in fact frequently a good teacher about the topic and the intro go-around revealed many Friends with conflicts on their minds. RantWoman is the sort of presumptious student who might expect, despite no topical teaching experience, to express at least curiosity about combining two topics, both of which seem large in one short Interest Group. The Interest Group was proceeding; RantWoman mostly was fine with review from her March orgy of conflict resolution trainings and she was thinking about problems in her life outside Meeting. Then there were various instructional and conversational hiccups which RantWoman has since tried with limited success to probe with the Interest Group Leader.

But never mind. Here is where the mental hiccups led. RantWoman had also been thinking about matters on her blog, including the challenge of how to write of Friend Who Brings Odd Teas and Likes to Help in the Kitchen. The conversational hiccup at the Interest Group prodded RantWoman into a whole bunch of observations.

First, RantWoman wrote a blog entry but to date has never actually talked to any humans about how badly it freaks RantWoman out on safety grounds to try to work with people in her Meeting's kitchen. RantWoman had already made the decision, despite a certain affection for the Ministry of Moving Large Muscles and Banging Things, that RantWoman would limit her presence in her Meeting's kitchen on safety grounds. RantWoman is unclear why the conflict resolution workshop led RantWoman to the firm thought that she at least might have complained about this issue when Nominating Committee tried haltingly once again to sell RantWoman on this sphere of activity but did grab hold of the reminder that, really, RantWoman SHOULD try to speak more freely of all her evolving experiments with her new realities.

One of the events which caused RantWoman to realize she needed a different ministry involved two different Friends, hot liquids, performance anxiety due to the presence of Relatives of a Deceased, and a loud, stress-inducing and confrontation between said two Friends. RantWoman has since learned that the phrase hidden disability was applicable on both sides; RantWoman was also unsettled during the Conflict Resolution Interest group to realized that, half-blind fog and all, at the moment of the kitchen events, she was the closest thing available to a functioning adult.

RantWoman is pretty sure this excursion was not really where Interest Group Leader thought he was going, likely partly for tender reasons of his own. In fact, he dismissively used the word "tangent" in an email exchange about the conversational hiccup and RantWoman's key takeaways from the Interest Group. RantWoman for her part also felt the conversational hiccup was getting near territory too tender to be scraped over in public and is going to have to file that theme on her "be tender and proactive in the future" list.

Back to RantWoman's self-inflicted orgy of conflict resolution classes in March. RantWoman hereby offers an account of all the irritations she got fed. . Both series presentations did well about ways to Irritate RantWoman, but the evening the class covered de-escalation was especially bumpy. RantWoman's point: although she has had technical customer service jobs where she has had to de-escalate all kinds of things, a whole bunch of circumstances got in the way of absorbing the de-escalation material in March,

Add the kitchen episode starring two Friends, neither of whom could de-escalate the situation at the moment of the incident. There were hot liquids. There was screaming. RantWoman has no idea what happened, and the fact that one party stomped out of the room in a fit was actually fine, way better than any words at that point and one really direct way to reduce conflictive behavior and increase safety.

Again, RantWoman in retrospect is not ecstatic to realize that, freaked out as she already was on safety grounds, she was also the closest thing available at that moment to a responsible adult. RantWoman had subsequent conversations with half of the screaming encounter. RantWoman learned that this Friend's reaction was probably not voluntary, was in fact out of this Friend's immediate control. RantWoman also learned that said Friend has had previous unpleasant encounters with Friend Who Brings Odd Teas and expects Friend Who Brings Odd Teas to remember and to be able to avoid future difficulties.

RantWoman knows Friend Who Brings Odd Teas in a context outside Meeting. This means for instance that RantWoman knows some of Friend who Brings Teas' immediate neighbors and knows that these people can be even more of a challenge than Friend who Brings Odd Teas. The conversational hiccup in the workshop at Annual Session led RantWoman to an awkward realization: Friend who Brings Odd Teas cannot even avoid unpleasant encounters with some of her difficult neighbors who are difficult all the time. It is completely unrealistic to expect her to be able to remember to avoid unpleasant encounters with someone such as the other Friend who is only, to be frank, unhinged very intermittently. Here we get to the "equips the called..." piece: Presto, RantWoman is equipped with experience and words that do not need more specificity in a blog. RantWoman would so like it if all this equipment would just go call on someone else.

Friend Who Brings Odd Teas attended the same series of conflict resolution workshops as RantWoman, the ones written about in the link above. RantWoman knows from speaking to Friend who brings Teas that she absorbed about the same percentage of the conflict resolution class as she does of educational events at Meeting, which is to say not a lot and she has a really good excuse. Unfortunately, the really good excuse is not really a lot of fun for anyone.

In the Annual Session interest group, RantWoman realized that if she waited until she really liked Friend Who Brings Odd Teas to talk again about things causing Friend Who Brings Odd Teas difficulties, nothing was going to happen. RantWoman also realized that the other half of the difficult encounter probably can be relied on fitfully. To make matters worse, RantWoman has no confidence that she will be able to impart any more information to Friend who Brings Odd Teas than ever, but the "God, are you out of your ever-loving mind" part of the workshop is that RantWoman has to try. Not only does RantWoman have to try, RantWoman in general is going to have to put out her own needs and issuess more unrelentingly. This sounds TIRESOME to RantWoman, but there appears to be no choice.

Along comes a certain theme, "walk with me...." ALL RantWoman can do is walk with Friend Who Brings Odd teas and see whether more helpful words or review of the exercises we attended together will suggest themselves.

RantWoman is also assembling some other data she is not only not happy about but praying ardently to have Held tenderly, Walk with Me, and not just glossed over but that is another whole topic, one for more seasoning.