The Goddess


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I grew up as a good Catholic girl. In my world, God was man. He was a tall white man with a light brown beard and a white robe.

God was male.

But I’m not a little girl anymore.

Now I am a mother. I saw my own body grow and stretch and bend itself to give life to my three children. That made me wonder if perhaps the true deity was a woman.

I have been lucky enough to watch my daughter become a mother.  I watched her body grow and stretch and bend itself to give life to my grandchildren.  That made me suspect that I was right is seeing the true deity as a woman.

Today I helped my 87 year old mother as she took a shower, washed her hair, got dressed and settled herself into her favorite chair to rest after those efforts.

It wasn’t easy for Mom. She was embarrassed to realize that she needed me to do something as simple as taking a shower.

I need to tell you that my Mom was a power woman. For all of my 61 years of life, my mother has been tough, strong, proud and independent . She was the first feminist in my life. She was my role model.

But today she needed me. She is almost 88 years old. She is recovering from pneumonia. She has difficulties with her memory and her cognition. She is old.

Today she needed me. She didn’t want to need me. She didn’t want to be so frail that she couldn’t bathe herself or dress herself.

But she was.

And she had the strength and the grace to accept that fact. She let me turn on the shower. She let me help her to undress.

“Well” she said, with a smile, “here I am in all my glory.”

And I looked at my mother. Thin, frail, too weak to stand on her own.

And I saw the Goddess.

I saw the body that gave me my life.

I saw the strength and the beauty and the courage that has shaped all of her life.

My beautiful, fragile, goddess Mother.

And now I think I understand.

The deity is a Goddess. The deity is woman.

God or Goddess; the deity is love. It is the desire to share ourselves with others. It is the desire to love and to be loved.

Now I hope that one day I will have the grace and the courage to face my own frailties, and to let my children help when I am no stronger than a baby myself.

 

 

When I lived with Muslims


I was only 17 years old, completely naive and completely sheltered. I signed up for the American Field Service exchange program, figuring that I’d spend a summer in Ireland or Austria or somewhere else that was fairly familiar.

When my acceptance and placement package arrived with the news that I would be moving in with the Barrak family of Kairouan, Tunisia, my reaction was a mix of panic and disbelief.

Where the hell was Tunisia? What would I be doing in a place like that? What were the people like? The food? The weather?

Luckily for me, AFS didn’t give me much time to back out. I read all that I could about the country, feeling somewhat calmed down when I saw that it was hot and dry in the summer, and that the beaches were gorgeous.

The Barrak family sent me letters, some in French and some in English. They were warm, welcoming, excited to meet me. I saw pictures of all of their beautiful, smiling faces and realized that I’d be moving in with a happy, healthy family. In fact, they sounded a lot like my own Italian American family. We had six kids, they had five. They were all fluent in three languages, which was way more than I could say with only my English and my shaky high school French.

I got my shots (OUCH) and packed my bags and off I flew to another world.

I spent 12 weeks with my Tunisian family. I discovered that hard working, family loving Muslims are just like hard working, family loving Catholics. I learned that sometimes the teenagers rebelled against the parents’ limits, just like we did. I learned that when I didn’t feel well, my Tunisian Maman made me special foods and came to check on me, just like my American Mom did.

I discovered that olive trees are gorgeous, that couscous with lamb is beyond delicious, and that it feels cozy and safe to wear a sefsari when you walk around a city.

My summer in Tunisia changed my life. I am still in contact with the Barrak family, through the magic of Facebook. They are still upbeat, warm, loving and still stylishly beautiful (that’s where we have parted ways!)

The ban on Muslim immigration breaks my heart. It is wrong on so many levels. It is the most unAmerican thing that I can even begin to imagine.

I want to write about my time with my Tunisian family. I want to share some of my stories about being a naive American who landed in the middle of a Muslim country way back in 1973, when war was raging between Israel and Egypt and when terrorism hadn’t yet made us fear the world around us.

Stay tuned, please.

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I have met “The Enemy” and he is adorable.


When I was little, I heard about the horrors of Pearl Harbor.  I watched movies about the “bad guys” from World War II.

Of course I did.

My father and some of his brothers fought in that war.  I read “The Diary of Anna Frank”.  I read Elie Weisel. I learned all that I could learn about the Nazi’s.

I grew up thinking of the Germans, and to a lesser extent, the Japanese, as “our enemies.”  They were the “bad guys”.  Pure and simple. We were good, they were bad. I was the biggest supporter of the Jewish homeland that you could imagine. I thought at one point that I’d like to move to Israel, to experience this wonderful righting of such terrible wrong.

Then I graduated from High School, and went on an exchange program to Tunisia, where I learned that Moslems are sweet, gentle, funny, kind, loving and so so much like my Italian family that it was hilarious.  At that time in my life, at the tender age of 17, I began to wonder about my country’s unshakable support for Israel.  I began to wonder about those Palestinians who were unceremoniously booted off of their land so that Europe could make amends for its crimes.  I started to wonder about “good guys and bad guys” at that point.

When I got to college, it was the middle of the Cold War.  The Germans were now our Allies, but we still thought of them with a good deal of caution.  The Soviets were the “real” enemy now.  Israel was our ally, the Palestinians were suspect.  I was confused and frustrated when I recognized that my beloved Tunisian family were seen by my countrymen as “the opposition.”  The bad guys.

This didn’t make a whole lot of sense, knowing what I knew about Tunisia, but I was intrigued by international relations in 1974.

I decided to major in both Political Science and Soviet Studies.  I wanted to become an expert on “the enemy”.  I learned to speak Russian, I read all about the Russian Revolution, I learned a LOT about the workings of the Soviet Union.

It was easy to identify the “Soviets” as the bad guys, but most of my college professors were from the Soviet Union.  They were sweet, gentle, funny, kind, loving and smart. They were Russians and Serbs, and Ukranians and Czechs.  They were my friends.They didn’t really feel like “the enemy”.

And so here I am, in the winter of 2015.  I am watching the news, and seeing that “Muslims” are the new Germans.  They are our new “bad guy”.  I hear my President trying to explain why he needs War Powers to fight this “existential and ideological threat.”

I’ve heard little children in my classroom talking about “Muslim terrorists”, and I remember when we used to play “Nazi’s” in the backyard.

I am sitting in my living room, waiting for my German student, my German “son”, to come home for dinner.  I think about him for a minute. He is sweet, gentle, funny, kind, loving and smart.  He is everything you would want your child to be.

I look up at the German flag that is hanging in my living room.

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It was a lovely gift from Lucas’ mother, my new friend from “across the water”.  She is wonderful! She is absolutely everything I’d ever want from a friend.  I am so excited that I’ll get to meet her and her husband next fall, when they come to Boston for a visit. I’m even more excited that they have invited us to visit them in Berlin!  I can’t wait to go!

And this all makes me wonder: why do we feel such a need to identify and label an “enemy”?  Why can’t we just step back and realize that there are wonderful, phenomenal Germans/Russians/Poles/Serbs/Japanese/Chinese/Islamic/Israeli/African humans?

And that there are horrible, despicable, violent, bitter, crazy Germans/Russians/Poles/Serbs/Japanese/Chinese/Islamic/Israeli/African humans?

I am happy to have my German flag, my Russian dolls, my Italian food, and my Islamic jewelry in my home.  I am happy to have my Jewish friends and relatives, my Muslim family and friends, and my wonderful, sweet German “son”, all a big part of what makes my life meaningful.

The enemy keeps changing, the enemy keeps moving, the enemy keeps giving the US Government a reason to spend money on more war.

I have met the enemy.  And he is us.

Time For Some Serious Smiting


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I feel the need to write a post to God tonight. Or least a post about him. And his whereabouts.

I have been listening to the news again.  And I can’t help asking about God.

Where is He? Where the hell is He?

I’m not all that religious, really.  I don’t know if the God I am looking for is the one who was born in the manger, the guy with the long dark hair and soulful eyes. I’m not sure if the God I am waiting for is the one who Mohammed talked about, or the one who Buddha revered. I’m not sure if He’s the guy that my Jewish friends are praying to, or the one that that was once thought to live in the mountains or the God who lives in the trees.

Whatever.

I don’t have a preference, actually. I just want to see or hear from God himself.  I am in need of some Godly reassurance.

I mean, every time I read anything about God, he seems to be all about peace and harmony and forgiveness and love.  He seems to be the God of a reasonable life.

So, pardon me, but where in God’s name is God?

A bunch of psychopathic lunatics decide that, in the name of God, they will attack a school and massacre as many children as they can possibly massacre.  Seriously?  Hello, God, you out there?  You couldn’t send a lightning bolt for this?

A twisted angry man in Pennsylvania decides to get back at his ex wife by murdering her and her entire family and then killing himself for good measure?  Ah, yo?  Allah, you listening?  Where ARE you?

The world is seething with war, most of it waged in Your name.  You couldn’t make even a cameo appearance for this nonsense?

I read about the horrors that are happening in Syria, about the babies dying in droves as the men with the guns duke it out over who will control the money and the military.  I read about the actions of the twisted, demented maniacs who callously behead innocents in the name of Islam and then post the videos on YouTube.   I remember the images from Newtown.

And I can’t help but ask, Where in all of this sickness and death is the God of mercy?

Dear God/Allah/Buddah/Vishnu/Jesus/tree spirit/Zeus: if you’re out there (and believe me, I’m not saying you aren’t), can you please, please, please flex your mighty hand, and drop it with a gloriously resonant thwack onto the heads of all those who murder in your name?  I beseech, thee, O Holy Person In Charge, can you please, please, please use some of your Heavenly power to smite the living crap out of those who slaughter innocent children?  Can you please reach down from your place on the throne of eternity and squash the life out of every single human who thinks that it is acceptable to commit murder just to make a point or just to even out the pain or just to express his psychopathology?

God, you seem like a very sweet and caring soul.  Don’t you think this would be a really good time for you to part the slivery clouds and send forth your thunderous voice to the mortal souls below?

You might want to say something like this, if you get a chance to reach out to those who carry out these horrors.  You might say, “Cut the shit, all ye who act in my name. I am the God of death and pestilence and if you touch the hair of one more innocent child, I will fill your bowels with the molten lava of Vesuvius.  You commit these acts of the devil just one more time in MY name, and I will smite the crap out of every single one of you.  And I am NOT fooling around.”

I’d feel SO much better if you’d do that. Just this once.