Friday, April 20, 2012

Occupy the Vatican?

My initial reaction to the story that the Vatican is cracking down on 45,000 American nuns for "doctrinal deviance" was similar to how I’ve reacted to past actions (or inactions, in the case of child-molesting priests) by the out-of-touch, dictatorial Catholic hierarchy:

It is time for Catholics to take over their church.

In 1517, Martin Luther pushed for change that led to The Reformation. But the antiquated structure of the Church was never demolished.

A 21st Century “New Reformation” could take on that task.

Could the aging nuns of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious provide the leadership? Could they be the catalyst to, at long, long last, dissolve the Papacy, the College of Cardinals and the whole sexist underpinnings of Church governance?

As was the case nearly 500 years ago, the Vatican, through its hypocrisy, isolation and rigidity, has finally brought a Reformation on itself.

This time, Catholic parishioners, nuns and socially progressive clergy, rather than splitting off, should take over in a massive world-wide, non-violent protest.

“Occupy the Vatican” anyone?

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Photographing Truth

“Afghan photos worry military” reads the front page headline in today’s Oregonian.

The headline reflects the story that follows — up to a point.

The story says that the “revelations...caught on camera” have “intensified questions within the military community about where fundamental discipline is breaking down given the nature and length of the war.”

Questions: Are the photos intensifying the questioning? Does the military require photographs before it knows what is happening within its units? Before it gets serious? Do those photographs have to be made public in order for action to be taken? What if they had never been published?

As is all too common with stories that put the heat on government institutions, the very publication of the news (in this case photographs) becomes the story. Should the Los Angeles Times have printed them? What will the publication do to the morale of our troops? Will their lives be in danger?

(THIS STORY in today's New York Times reveals that the Pentagon made an issue of the publication and tried to stop it.)

In short, the publication itself, not what it reveals, becomes the headline grabber.

Lest we forget, the outrages depicted, like those of Abu Ghraib and others (the list long), are bought and paid for by us, the taxpayer. To extend the consumer analogy, we need to know what we are buying. If it isn’t what we had in mind, we need to stop buying it.

The problem is that we are forced to buy it. We have no options. The two major political parties are identical with regard to the brazen barbarity they have allowed in the military, the intelligence agencies and contract mercenaries.

As we get farther and farther into the 2012 campaign, the candidates will lay out sharp, allegedly “defining” differences between their parties. But who will point to their troubling similarities: reliance on massive contributions from the super-rich, the need to pander to and serve the military-industrial-media complex, the defense of “justice” that is anything but, the support of covert operations at home and abroad that shred human rights and human dignity, the denial of the need for immediate, urgent action to stop global warming, the acceptance of grotesque inequality?

“Afghan photos worry military.”

What kind of photos will it take to “worry” us, the People, into changing our current unresponsive political/governmental/military/industrial system?

HERE is an example of what's possible. The short clip is called "Things Happen."

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Confessions of an art student

I’m taking a watercolor class this term at the local arts center. It’s a low-key studio class without grades and with plenty of encouragement.

At the first of eight sessions, I found myself an outsider in the group, which has been taking and re-taking this class seemingly for years. Perhaps that is why this is called an "intermediate" class. I'm "in the middle" of a lot. Everyone is on a first-name basis (Barbara, Marilyn, Jeanne, Tricia, Meg etc.). All but two, Jack and me, are women.There’s talk about relatives, recent vacations and getting over the flu or worse. The one thing we share is time; all are on the retiring side of middle age.

If we weren’t painting, we might be knitting or sewing — or playing golf.

The main idea seems to be making sure everyone paints for at least three hours once a week. Without the class, we’d all be doing something else in our retirement.

Each week, at the start of the class, there’s a time to display our previous week’s painting for comments. The paintings are stunningly diverse, both in content, execution and technique.

I’ve tried to capture the amiable mood of the class above because it has so little to do with my thoughts about being “in class” again.

In the back of my head I hold on to the dark thought that there must be a grading curve, that my fellow classmates — gentle souls — are really dogged competitors. My work will be judged by the teacher and by the others and found to be either wonderful or sadly wanting. Who knows? I might even flunk.

I’ve been surprised that along with my brushes, paints and paper tablet I arrive with such guarded, defensive, almost aggressive feelings — that I still harbor a deep angst left over from years of schooling.

I think the problem resides in the word “class.” I know that some of the course descriptions at the art center use the word “workshop,” perhaps to avoid associations students have with “class.” But to me, “workshop” always conjures up Santa and his non-union elves. Not far away is the term “sweatshop.”

What goes on between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. in our art center watercolor room is something else. But what? A meditation? A respite? An exploration? Discoveries? A gathering of congenial muses? A painting circle?

It’s all of these and whatever else we want it to be. The one thing I don’t want is a “class.”

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