Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Observations



Completely slept through the alarm today. This is probably a sign of something.  I do feel slightly more rested, at any rate.

The comments from recent posts have been enlightening. When I first closed comments on this page and asked people to respond on Facebook, I wasn’t sure it would work. It took a while, but the transition has been successful. Eliminating anonymous trolls has been delightful.

I do continue to find it puzzling that comments and “likes” to my blog are primarily from women. I don’t think that my blog is a “women’s blog”. (Whatever that may be in 2019.) Anecdotally, my observations from way back when still hold up. Women will “like” and comment on posts by both men and women. Men primarily interact with and show approval for posts by men.

Most of those aforementioned anonymous trolls? They were men. Hmm...

I once heard the theory that girls will go see a movie about a boy and his dog, but boys won’t see a movie about a girl and her dog, so movie makers generally make the “boy movie” as it will bring in the most money.

Interesting.







Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A Columbia Question



I wish I had something fully formed for you this morning. I don’t.

But I do have a question, for those of you who are Columbia-minded. How long has it been the fashion to distrust and decry the actions of the Columbia Association? Surely it can’t always have been like this. It seems unlikely to me that it has been adversarial from the beginning.

The recent attempt to change CA’s status from an HOA to a Community Benefit Association stirred up that old familiar song.

We can’t trust CA.
You have to watch them every minute.
They’re trying to pull a fast one.

And much, much more.

Another social media disturbance centers around certain statues at the Lakefront which will be put in storage while construction is going on. People are quite heated on this topic as well. Never mind that CA has a proven track record in caring for and returning public art. For some reason that doesn’t factor in to the public response.

Correction: H/T to reader Debbie Nix who pointed out that it is the Howard Hughes corporation, not CA, that will be storing these particular statues. 

My apologies.

At any rate, at what point did the Columbia Association morph from “our association “ to “our hated overlords”? And can anything be done to change that?

I think we really must address this because, were I a new or potential Columbia resident, I would want nothing to do with being involved in the community based on the way people berate CA. Scaring people off before they even begin is hardly a Columbia core value.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Tourists



I told myself I wouldn’t be judgy. And yet, here I am.

A moment that I can’t get out of my mind from yesterday’s Solidarity Vigil at Dar Al Taqwa came at the very end, as folks were leaving. A group in front of me on the sidewalk paused as a man held up his phone to take a picture. Someone said, 

“Put your scarves back on.” 
“Yes, get one with the head coverings.”

And in that moment I felt a prickly uncomfortable feeling that these people were somehow at the mosque as tourists. They wanted a souvenir photo in native dress. 

That one little moment left a bad taste in my mouth after what was a powerful and sacred event.

The message from speaker after speaker was clear: we must come together, again and again, as neighbors. It is not just a nice thing to do. It is essential. 

Being a neighbor is not the same thing as being a tourist. Wanting a souvenir photo wearing your vaguely exotic headscarf is an act of playing pretend, dressing up, and wanting to get brownie points for your efforts. It feels really, really “white man’s burden” to me. And it made me sad.

I don’t doubt that everyone who came yesterday did so because they wanted to do something good, and that they cared about the Muslim community. But that one moment reminded me of how easy it is for those in a position of privilege to “visit” other cultures and yet not truly enter in. 

As for me, I admit I hadn’t given a thought to a headcovering at all until I walked in and realized my mistake. I  am grateful to a well-prepared UU friend who had brought extra. I noticed that that Unitarian Univeralists around me knew the proper responses to the prayers, as well. Their informed and thoughtful participation make me think.


There were many references to love last night at Dar Al Taqwa. Will we carry that love with us? Will we put love first instead of letting differences divide us? Will we learn to put others first instead of making it about ourselves?




Sunday, March 17, 2019

Soup and Solidarity



The first time I attended Soup r Sundae it was the very last time it was held in the old Rouse Building. It was a warm day and some folks wandered out on a balcony to look at Lake Kittamaqundi. The young son of local media team HoCoMoJo got up and danced, much to the delight of the crowd. A charming college student was there in some official capacity. He remembered me from checking out books at the library and I was flattered.

The Rouse Building is now Whole Foods, and that adorable dancing two and a half year old is now in Middle School. The charming young man is a college graduate and works for a legislator in Annapolis. Soup r Sundae, once a project of the local Rotary, is now put on by The Faith Partnership and hosted by Wilde Lake High School.

One important thing remains the same: it benefits Grassroots.

My daughter and I haven’t always made it every year, but we try to. She actually brought it up to me this time. “Are we going to that Souper Bowl thing? Because I like soup.”

I love soup. And I care about Grassroots, so we will be there.

Later today there’s another event quite different than the first. The purpose is not food, fun, or fundraising. There will be a SolidarityVigil at Dar Al Taqwa to show community support for our Muslim neighbors and friends who are grieving the New Zealand massacre of 51 Muslims gathered for prayer. It begins at 6 pm.

I have never been to Dar Al Taqwa. I have never been to a mosque. It’s easy to donate a small amount of money to a familiar charity and eat and drink with friends in a festival atmosphere. It is much harder to come to an unfamiliar place to sit with unfamiliar people in their grief.

The excuses are many. There might not be enough parking, it will be too crowded, there will be so many people it won’t matter if I am there, it will be an unfamiliar order of service and I won’t know what to do. So many reasons to be uncomfortable. So many reasons to opt out.

But here’s the thing. Even if I go and there are so many people that “no one knows I was there” it will have worked a change within me. Those small changes, from within, are the small miracles from which big miracles grow. If we are willing to be uncomfortable and venture into the unknown for one another out of love, what great things we might be able to do together.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Emerging from the Wreckage



This has been a rough week, It began for me one week ago when friends, family, and former students gathered to celebrate the life of my beloved father-in-law. As beautiful as the service was, it couldn’t ameliorate the pain of the farewell. And that is to be expected.

The week that followed included a brutal (for me) time change, a completely uncalled-for smear of a local advocate, continuing racist jabs on the County Executive’s Facebook page, a horrific slaughter of Muslims in prayer in New Zealand, and a bout of some kind of stomach virus.

Big and small, this week wrecked me.

Into this week came the glimmer of something worth being happy about. The Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission’s Ian Kennedy announced that Darin Atwater’s Soulful Symphony will be the Orchestra in Residence at Merriweather. The announcement has been all over the news so I doubt you have missed it. But it hasn’t popped up here because, well, this has been a really. Bad. Week.

You can get a glimpse of the Merriweather event facilities at the upcoming taping of Elevate Maryland with guest Darin Atwater this Thursday. Although I’ve never been there, I understand that, since the Merriweather renovations, the space has been available to book for weddings, events, and private parties. More importantly, you can get a chance to hear from Soulful Symphony’s Darin Atwater and learn more about what’s ahead in this upcoming collaboration.

We got a taste of Spring weather this week along with the turmoil and grief. A lot of us are just looking for any kind of a sign that good will not be overwhelmed by evil. Sometimes all you get is a crocus or a bit of sun or a song.






Friday, March 15, 2019

Pain



Right now, here in Howard County, people are hurting.

People of the Muslim faith are reeling from the news of brothers and sisters in New Zealand shot down during Friday prayers. People who have made it their business to advocate against gun violence  are hurting, those who have lost loved ones to gun violence are reliving their pain.

Everywhere you go today in Howard County, you will very likely be near someone who is in pain.

The new editor of the Howard County Times, Erin Hardy, comes to us from the Capital in Annapolis. This morning she writes:

I lost five of my loved ones, family members, co-workers in the Capital Gazette shooting last June. Every mass shooting hits me like a ton of bricks that is magnified x 1000. I'm so tired and angry and sad that we KEEP DYING.

To everyone who is in pain today, most especially my friends and readers of the Muslim faith, I offer my condolences and my support. You have friends here, you have allies here, you are not alone. I will not turn my head and pretend this isn’t happening. I will listen if you want to talk. I will use my voice to speak up on your behalf.

The sign in front of my house reads, “Hate has no home here.” But today pain has made its home here. I believe we are all called to find a way to respond to that pain and ease the suffering of our neighbors.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Nine



Almost every day I see comments on the County Executive’s Facebook page decrying the hiring of so many African Americans to leadership positions. It seems perfectly acceptable for these people to suggest that, because Calvin Ball is a person of color, his hiring of other people of color is a scheme, a scam, some kind of racial nepotism. Oddly enough, when previous County Executives hired mostly whites, these people weren’t online complaining.

I wonder why.

I am put in mind of this quote from Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg:


When I'm sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, 'When there are nine,' people are shocked. But there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that.

It has become increasingly apparent to me that many white people are just fine with an all-white world into which one or two “minorities” are slotted to show how open-minded they are. The truth of the matter is that there are enough qualified, even far more than qualified people of color to fill many many positions in the County, yes, even all of them. And they have been there, long before Dr. Ball was County Executive. 

Calvin Ball didn’t invent qualified Black leadership. It has been here. It’s not a plot, it’s not a scam. He doesn’t get nefarious kickbacks from some kind of Black people cartel. The individuals you see working for his administration have been among us all along but the systems designed for hiring have systematically sifted them out. Not because they are unqualified but because those systems were designed by white people looking for white people. 

You know those people who say “it shouldn’t matter what color the person is, it should be the most qualified person who gets the job?”  How blissfully unaware they are that the process is set up from the get-go to make the white candidates more visible and keep those of color at the fringes. Even though many of these decision makers would claim they are not racist, the fact remains that the system and the process for hiring remain systemically racist. If we don’t challenge that, we are complicit.

The recent history of this country has been “allowing” one or two people of color to be in the same space with the rest of us and calling it diversity. How many of us stop to think how exhausting and fearful it is to be one of only one or two, day after day, year after year? As whites in the United States  we move largely in spaces that are designed with our comfort in mind. When we feel the racial balance change, we may subconsciously feel a sense of discomfort. 

I am learning that 1) that discomfort is nothing to what my colleagues and friends of color have been feeling all of their lives, and 2) it’s good to feel that discomfort. It’s teaching me something.

Although it’s unlikely, it would be completely possible to fill every position of leadership in Howard County with highly qualified people of color. And maybe that would make us uncomfortable. 

Good.

When all of them were white nobody raised a question about that.