Socialism in the Public School System?? OH NOES!!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, Socialism – that’s right, I said it: SOCIALISM – has reared it’s ugly face in Our Nation’s Schools and is now terrorizing the innocents. Don’t believe me? Well look at this:

SOCIALISM!!!!

(Graphic representation of Socialism, rendered by supercomputers.)

And if that wasn’t proof enough, here is what I pulled out of my son’s backpack this morning. Not only is he being indoctrinated in Socialism’s false gospel, but he’s being forced to say it after the pledge of allegiance – hand over his red blooded American heart and EVERYTHING:

The Kindness (read: Socialism) Pledge

 

I pledge myself on this day

To try to be kind in every way

To ever person, big or small

I will catch them if they fall.

When I love myself and others, too

That’s the best that I can do!

Leo has this memorized.

And all snarky sarcastic hyperbole aside, I kinda got weepy when I read it. I also thought it best to not show it to his die-hard-Capitalist, Ayn-Rand-quoting-and-Wild-Kingdom-watching grandpa. Because my beloved Father-in-law just wouldn’t understand.

Those of you who read this blog know that I am a pinko-commie nanny-state liberal and proud of it. You probably also know that I adhere to the Gospel of Kindness (in addition to some other Gospels, but we don’t have to get into that right now). The point is that kindness matters, but I’ve never seen it as a central core principal in a classroom before – so central, in fact, that children recite it. Daily.

And I love that.

And I think that I should write my own Kindness Pledge. And that I should recite it – hand over my heart – every day. And I think that maybe our folks in Congress, and the blowhards on the news, and the suits in the Executive Office – they should take a Kindness Pledge too.

Can you imagine if people thought that it would be better to be kind  than to be right?

Can you imagine if we valued kindness over bull-headedness? Kindness over military prowess? Kindness over money?

And honestly, I think we actually do, which is why the lack of kindness hurts us so much. But I think it would be helpful for us – as a community – to actually make explicit that which is implicit. If we put our need for kindness into words.

Because words matter.

Just ask a first grader.

On Forgiveness, Grief, and the Book I Cannot Write

There’s a book (there’s always a book), that I cannot commit to paper. I haven’t scrawled a word of it on a notebook or a cereal box or a sheet of toilet paper or a bunch of wadded up receipts. And yet. It is written all the same. I know everything there is to know about this book: I know the shape of the narrative, the faces of its inhabitants, the dark, hidden places in the story. I know the texture of the language, the mournful cry of the wind through the trees, the rhythmic pulse of the trains that skirt past the scrubby bit of land at the stump of the dead-end street. I know the tragic inception of the story, how it winds around the hands and feet of my characters. How it pulls into tight, hard knots.

I know there is redemption too. And love. But the loss at the beginning – the grief. It stops my hands every time. And maybe it’s because I’m superstitious (do I hesitate to write about the loss of a child because I fear losing my own children? Do I hesitate to examine the role of grief in realistic situations because I’m afraid to do so without the distance of fantasy? I honestly don’t know. And I’m too scared to find out.)

This story is already written along the folds of my heart. I feel it on my skin, I hear it whisper in my ears in the moments before sleep and in the rush of waking up. It crowds my eyes while dreaming. But I have not written down.

I’ve refused to do it.

Because I’m afraid. And I left it at that.

But something happened this weekend that made me rethink it.

I went to church, and this woman spoke the congregation: https://i1.wp.com/www.visitationmonasteryminneapolis.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Mary-embracing-Oshea-300x200.jpgHer name is Mary Johnson and she started an organization called From Death To Life – a group that brings the families of murder victims with the families of murderers, into circles of forgiveness, repentance and love. That woman there – and believe me, you have never met anyone so full of love, so full of the spirit as that dear, dear lady – is embracing the young man who, many years ago, took the life of her only son.

I’m just gonna let that sink in for a moment.

Okay, you with me? Good. His name is Oshea Israel. He was sixteen when he shot Laramiun Lamont Byrd, Mary Johnson’s son. She said that in the aftermath of the murder, and then the trial, and then Israel’s imprisonment, she felt only rage, hatred and hurt. She wanted him to suffer. She wanted him caged. She said, “I didn’t realize that anger and hurt are a cancer in the soul. I didn’t realize that my rage was a prison worse than any prison that the boy who killed my boy could ever be thrown in. I was a prisoner. And I needed to be free.”

The path to forgiveness wasn’t an easy one, but one of the things that really got me in her story is that her path was incited by a poem – “Two Mothers”, by an anonymous poet, which she read by accident after opening to a random page in a book. It arrested her, pinned her heart in place. She decided she needed to meet the boy – now a man – who killed her son. She decided she needed to meet his mother. She decided that she needed to love them both – to forgive the son and to grieve with the mother – and by doing that she would be free. And maybe they would be free too.

After a TON of restorative justice work – with the family, with social workers, with church members and community members and with all sorts of folks who involve themselves in the tough and important work of restorative justice – they met. She asked him to come and work with her when he left prison to heal their community. She told him that he had an opportunity to do something good and brave and beautiful that would help to heal the world. He believed her.

She said: “I took him in my arms and hugged him. And I felt something deep in my body – starting at my feet and moving upwards through my belly and my chest and the top of my head. And I felt it burst forth and fly away. I felt my hurt and my anger and my rage leave my body. And just like that it was gone. And only love remained.”

I sat in the congregation. I shook. I wept. (Seriously, I made kind of an idiot of myself.) She said that the young man is now out of prison – has been for over a year. He lives next door to her and works with her. “I lost a son,” she said. “And God gave me a son. And he gave me his mother, my sister. And then we got to work.”

It was an amazing, thrilling and life-affirming story, and proves to me once again that love really is stronger than hate, and stronger than death, and stronger than revenge. Love has the capacity to do good, to change a community and a country and a life, while revenge and hate can do nothing except to perpetuate themselves. Love is tougher, braver and more resilient than revenge on its best day, and it’s our only hope for a better future.

She could have chosen hatred. She could have chosen rage.  She could have chosen revenge and animosity and isolation. But she would have changed nothing. Instead she loved, and that changes everything.

And she has inspired me to be brave. And she has inspired me to be hopeful and loving and vulnerable and alive.

And maybe I will write that book after all.