Sunday, March 30, 2008

Conversation Recap for March 23, 2008

Intros- 2 new participants who met Eve over the weekend and invited them to The Conversation.

Keith’s sister, Brandy’s Story

Girard, founded in 1848 by Stephen Girard who came to US in 1776. Gave all his money to found the school. The school was originally meant for white orphan males. In the 80s the school opened to females. Now the school is for low-income students from single parent families. Funded through the original trust funds. Located right in the middle of the city surrounded by an 8-foot wall, tuition is $36,000 per year. Students apply, much like a college application process. More about Girard here.

Story of Easter is a story of an itinerant prophet who challenged the status quo and died as a result. Those who followed him went to look for his body and couldn’t find it. It's the story of a person who gives sharp criticism of a society and that society tries to kill him and out of that ignites a movement.

Act II of When the Levees Broke

One participant remarked that alluded to in the film is the notion that the city of “sin” brought the tragedy on itself.

Another reiterated the reality of “on your own-ness”.

Our guest went to NO from Feb. 15-20. Something had told her not to believe the news reports from 2005. She got in touch with a community service group and traveled there to see for herself. She found that 3 years later, 9th Ward, St. Bernard Parish etc. it’s just as bad. People are still trying to survive in areas that no one should be living in. FEMA villages are depressing. Now that there are reports of toxics in these FEMA trailers, people have to move out and have nowhere to go.

Dexter picked up on the religious theme of God’s wrath cleaning up a city full of evil. Some of us might be surprised at how prevalent that thinking is.

America sees itself as the chosen nation in the world. The “Shining City on the Hill”. If you go into evangelical churches you will hear that God is doing a “new thing” and we (America) are the new thing. We are the new Israelites. When “we” introduced smallpox into the native communities, that was God “clearing the way.” The Christians viewed the “New World” as wilderness rather than as a group of nations because they brought that perspective from the Bible. Rev. Wright, when he says God damn America, he is following the tradition of the prophet Ezekiel by saying that God blesses America when it does right and God damns America when it does wrong. It’s hypocritical the outrage about Rev. Wright’s damning America because this happens in pulpits all across the country every Sunday.

We ascribe motives to God when we don’t want to take responsibility. When Europeans wanted to justify their wiping out of the Native people, they went to the Bible. The strong Europeans came and tamed this wild land.

One participant wondered if religious justification comes after the political action in a cynical fashion. But the response is that in America you cannot separate politics from religion.

Another participant said that she’s still not sure if religion is a tool of politics or vice versa.

Also mentioned was the danger of fundamentalism, whether it be Christian or Muslim. Our foreign policy is immoral—over a million Iraqis dead and our president telling us that the surge is a success and democracy is flourishing in Iraq.

One person said that a big part of the problem is in ascribing centrality to one’s self, either as an individual or a country or a political/economic system. A sign of maturity is to see one’s self outside of one’s self and see another’s perspective.

Another reminded us of the question asked in the beginning today—can we operate in truth with one another? There is an anatomy, a science and a politics around Katrina and nobody has it right. Therefore we ought to start with respect otherwise we devalue my perspective or your perspective.

Another’s thoughts were that she is a complex jumble. As a young girl she began to question religion because of how she saw her father attending church and smiling and being friendly and then being an angry tyrant at home. She’s now learning how to deal with the complexities, contradictions, hypocrisies, goods and evils embodied within her and that’s a personal journey of internal work.

Another talked about the Bible being a kind of psychic projection of all of humanity’s contradictions. She would like some direct instruction in Liberation Theology. A LT person might think about the people on the rooftops “walking on water” forsaken by the rest of the country might be a reminder about the evils of our government rather than the evils of New Orleans.

One person talked about viewing the Bible in layers rather than literally. Fear keeps us from being honest.

Another talked about the Old Testament versus the New Testament. If there were just one law of God it would be to love. That includes holding people up to being their best selves, of course who decides what that best self is? Some try to simplify it by going to the Bible (page 143, verse 2, King James version).

Dexter brought us to a close by making several general observations.

When we say that some people take the Bible too seriously by taking it literally, we are giving ground. A Liberation Theologian might say we take the Bible seriously because we take up the fundamental question of Jesus which is what do we do about poverty? What we should say is “you have a particular interpretation of the Bible and I have a particular interpretation.”

Liberation theology begins with the context and the Bible may inform you on that reality rather than those who say begin with the text and interpret life from there. Also it focuses on spirituality as an everyday material reality not an ethereal reality.

Liberation Theology says that liberation is from systems and structures of domination. Liberation theology believes that from the voices and experiences of the poor comes our own liberation. Everyday we bring with us our paradoxes and complexities and seek clarification together fro today.


April 12th Seeds of Compassion on behalf of the Conversation, Tom has made a request of 30 tickets

Thursday, March 27th at 6pm SoJust meeting at 414 S. Division Ln. (near 38th & Pacific)

Next Sunday at 1pm at the Mandolin, meet about 501c3

April 26th at 8pm Ebony Fashion Fair at Mt. Tahoma.

Friday May 2nd 7:30pm at Theater on the Square - Luke has co-written a series of pieces called Voices of the Americas. He is also creating a sponsorship fund to help pay for tickets.

Conversation Recap for March 16, 2008

Emma and Abigail’s Stories

We watched “When the Levees Broke”

Katrina exposed problems.

Some struck by contrast between news coverage and reality. Overtly racist news coverage.

Frustration about inability of Americans to see how economic and political interests have no trouble sacrificing people.

One person who has participated in disaster planning is not surprised in some ways about how things went because disaster planning starts with a presumption of on your own-ness. You must survive on your own for at least a few days to a week and also, there are no disaster plans for beyond 90 days. There is no disaster planning that conforms to the expectations we have in our minds about help.

One member wondered about a comparison between the flood in Chehalis and New Orleans and the response.

Another wondered, when will we ever see achieve what we say about ourselves as being “one people?” Why didn’t we see more stories on the news about the heroism of everyday people?

Dexter’s closing thoughts:

The most significant question is what does it mean to live in what we call a society? What’s the role of gov’t, neighbors, elected officials, military? When you see commercials about the military, they can put up a city in a matter of days, they can land and put up a hospital in a matter of hours.

Successive administrations have reduced the role of gov’t. People always talk about how generous Americans are, our churches and charitable organizations give so much. But in Europe, they say “We don’t organize our society that way.” There is not the abject poverty there. We allow the poverty and then praise ourselves about how charitable we are.

In thinking about the expectation that individuals are on their own, the militia types have the argument that you are foolish if you don’t have a gun because you are on your own and you have to take care of yourself.

The way our society is structured creates situations like Katrina. We have to think about restructuring society and there are examples. A first step is divesting ourselves of the notion that our society is the best structured in the world. It’s not just because George Bush is incompetent that this happened but there is a structural problem.

We are not hapless victims. We can choose to think differently, act differently and challenge the news that leaves out stories that they don’t want to tell us.


School Board will have some public presentations of 7 finalists for TPS Superintendent. They will publish their schedule on Tuesday.

The School Board meeting format has changed. Now devote 2 meetings per month for study sessions. For these they do not have comment cards and do not take public comment. This means the opportunity for public participation at meetings has been cut in half.

March 20th WA History Museum “War Made Easy - How Presidents and Pundits Spin

March 22nd Harry Todd Park GI Rights Rally Speakers, music, family friendly

Mar. 28th UWT Carwein Auditorium - Health Equity Summit begins with a PBS video called Unnatural Causes-Is Inequality Making Us Sick?

Shiloh Baptist Community Forum at 7:30 parents speaking out about how they and their children are treated in schools

Dates for MLK 09 planning have been booked first Wed. of each month, the first meeting will be in April.

Dexter brought up that we have talked repeatedly in the past about getting back to reading a book. He has several copies of “Hope in the Unseen.” Race & Pedagogy used it and agreed to pass it on to another group. We may decide to pass it along to the Maxine Mimms Academy when we finish.

Next 3 weeks continue watching “When the Levees Broke”

April 13- we will meet Temple Beth El. Special guest Rabbi who will talk about issues related to the multiracial coalition for civil rights.

April 20th finish Conversation document and V-Team assignments

April 26th Ebony Fashion Fair at Mt. Tahoma 8pm

April 27th discuss the book “A Hope in the Unseen”. It’s very inspirational about one individual’s grit in overcoming odds. Let’s not overlook the inspiration but let’s look at the structure that makes this kind of heroism necessary.

We now have the MLK event keynote posted on the Conversation blog and we also have copies on DVD.

We need a volunteer to take the lead on looking into a 501c3 study group. It was suggested that some of us meet with someone from the Non-Profit Center to get some preliminary info.