12 July 2004

Various

Waterfront Blues Festival
I'm glad to report that my Scandinavian skin was not burnt to a crisp this year at my annual four-day bliss-fest at Portland's Tom McCall Park. I was delighted to see that Portland's own Rose City Kings won the Journey to Memphis competition; the totally wonderful Delta Moon band returned this year; James Peterson and Lucky Peterson did a father-and-son set that showed what happens when traditional blues showmanship and great musicians come together to heat up a receptive crowd; and Judy Tint, appearing with Kenny Lavitz and Jersey Soul, proved that good songwriting is still happening.

Bread and Water
As sometimes happens, I was using amazon.com to be sure I was getting the name of a book right, namely Jennifer Haines's Bread and Water: A Spiritual Journey. The amazon.com entry said, "Be the first to review this book." The FIRST??? Come on, readers, this beautiful gem of a book has been out for seven years. When I first met Jennifer Haines, she was staff person for Right Sharing of World Resources, based at the time in Friends World Committee for Consultation's quarters in Philadelphia. I continued to follow her path through her occasional writings and appearances, including a memorable lecture at Pendle Hill in Wallingford, PA, where she challenged a roomful of people to consider what would happen if they really put God first in their lives. Her own path continued through a charismatic community and into the Catholic church, and into a path of deepening prayer that involved some costly civil disobedience. Those costs included federal prison, the background for her book. However dramatic the outward circumstances portrayed in this book -- the sounds and smells, the little graces and big indignities of prison life -- they don't overwhelm the true core of the book, which is simply the theme of growth in prayer.

Little graces, continued
Well, maybe not so little ... I hope it isn't too soon to detect a hopeful pattern:

  • Israeli high court requires review and re-routing of the security wall, just weeks after the government faces almost unprecedented criticism from within of its Gaza operations.

  • U.S. Supreme Court requires Guantanamo detainees to have access to legal help (but watch the Pentagon trying to circumvent this decision with tribunals of its own).

  • Success of Michael Moore's flawed but brilliant cinematic polemic Fahrenheit 9/11 reawakens grassroots-level conversations on the dishonesty and arrogance of our national behavior.

  • The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee comes up with a wholesale rebuff of the rationale for attacking Iraq. We await the Butler Report in Britain, which many anticipate will examine serious flaws in the buildup to British participation in that attack.

  • The coalitions of the haves and have-mores face unusual scrutiny, as the Republicans' Texas redistricting campaign is charged with fundraising illegalities, Kenneth Lay is arrested, and Republican attempts to appropriate Southern Baptist church directories for political purposes are exposed.

If, in this political season, my glee seems aimed more at Republicans than Democrats, rest assured that I'm under no illusions about what the latter would do (and have done) with too much power. It is just that, after the last three years of sanctimonious rhetoric covering destructive policies and even more destructive improvisations, I'm desperate for some relief. Even so, there's more sorrow than glee. I confess that the Abu Ghraib scandal did something to my sense of humor that I've not yet recovered from.

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