Dandelion Warriors, Incest Survival and An Artist Statement on That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405I have blogged excerpts from my novel That Christmas Morning Feeling in progress previously—the first excerpt here and additional ones here and here. This blog serves as an “artist statement” regarding the novel in progress.

I want to discuss in this blog thoughts on my own creative process—how a project can percolate for years (this one for well over ten years) and be in pieces in several places (handwritten, hard drives, on a laptop, here in FAR) and then some magical “tipping point” comes that creates the necessary conditions to put other things aside and work on that project, birthing it forward.

Certainly the death of both my parents in one year, and the resulting fallout in the last two years, complicated relationship struggles both to be sure, prompted me to want to write this novel and put it out into the world in a finished form, which is what I’m trying to accomplish now.

This book is not an autobiography…it’s not “my story.” But, to be sure, I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and the feelings and experiences from that time have been published in autobiographical form in my poetry book, I Am Your Daughter, Not Your Lover,  a play (of the same title, while much of this dramatic work is out of print, my work is catalogued at UCLA; here is the finding aid) based on the book produced in Los Angeles, and a one woman show I did entitled Blessed Virgin. I also created the activism project, Dandelion Warrior, which awarded medals to survivors who came to my numerous readings in the nineties who were willing to give up the option of suicide. To date I awarded well over a thousand buttons/medals to survivors in the States and internationally. When the buttons ran out I simply shook hands with the survivors who were willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with me and make the commitment to stay on the planet.  


I was the first artist the state of California awarded an Artist in Residence grant to, to work specifically with incest survivors, and I worked also with women from forced marriages, and also prostitutes, creating dialogues with them and with survivors of childhood sexual abuse and created projects that showcased their voices coming together in the struggle for survival. I performed slam poetry about incest survival when it was just called reading poetry in bars; I did one woman shows and got flack in my reviews, as well as praise. For instance, one reviewer simply said “Speak Repressed Memory,” as he went on to say he didn’t believe survivors’ stories coming forward and did not at all review my play or performance except to say I was an “accomplished actress.” The rest of his review was about how he hated incest survival stories, and therefore the reader was to assume also my play.

I continued with my work. Continue reading “Dandelion Warriors, Incest Survival and An Artist Statement on That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier”

Toxic Masculinity: “Masculinity Must Be Killed” by Carol P. Christ

Carol Molivos by Andrea Sarris 2A few days ago I watched the movie An Unfinished Life starring Morgan Freeman, Robert Redford, and Jennifer Lopez. Though it was recommended as a sensitive psychological drama, and though on the surface level it criticizes (male) violence against women and animals, on a deeper level, it confirms the association of masculinity with violence, suggesting that violence is the way men resolve their problems with each other.

At the beginning of the film, Robert Redford, who lives on a ranch in Montana, picks up his rifle with the intention of shooting a bear who mauled his friend Morgan Freeman. This act of violence is stopped by local authorities who arrive to capture the bear. However, the bear is not removed to a more remote area, but rather is given to a local make-shift zoo where it is kept in a small cage. At the end of the movie, Redford frees the bear after Freeman realizes that it should not be punished for injuring him. The bear is last seen crossing a mountain ridge in the distance.

Redford is grieving the death of his only son who died in an automobile accident while his son’s wife (played by Jennifer Lopez) was driving. After being beaten by her current boyfriend, Jennifer Lopez escapes with her daughter and ends up on Redford’s doorstep, announcing that her daughter is Redford’s granddaughter.  Redford, who believes Lopez is responsible for his son’s death, grudgingly allows them to stay.

When Lopez’s boyfriend tracks her down in Montana, Redford drives him out of town, threatening to kill him with his rifle. When the boyfriend comes back, Redford shoots out the tires of his car, smashes the car’s windows with his rifle, and beats the boyfriend bloody before putting him on a bus out of town.

The movie asks us to condemn the boyfriend’s violence against Lopez and Redford’s desire to kill the bear, but it also asks us to condone and even to celebrate Redford’s violent acts against the boyfriend. After all, in this case, justice is done. Right?  Continue reading “Toxic Masculinity: “Masculinity Must Be Killed” by Carol P. Christ”

What Traci West Taught Me about Dominant and Excluded Voices by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsIn my previous post, I mentioned a book I am writing about how theological and ethical considerations in architectural design can define good architecture.  In that post and in ones to follow, I am acknowledging the feminists and womanists and mujeristas who have influenced me while also opening up the dialogue to the feminists in this community who continue to inspire and guide me to do my best work.

But today, instead of talking about creativity or architecture, I want to discuss how I arrived at the conviction that community decisions about how we ought to live—whether those are decisions about laws, institutional policies, religious practices or architectural buildings—need to include the voices of the diverse people they directly and indirectly influence. Continue reading “What Traci West Taught Me about Dominant and Excluded Voices by Elise M. Edwards”

Human Trafficking by Valentina Khan

Valentina KhanRecently I saw SOLD, a movie based on human trafficking taking place in Nepal and India. Within the first thirty minutes of the movie I was cringing, holding my hands, shrinking into my chair. Naively, I begged the question how families could sell their innocent children to strangers, even if they are fed the lies of working for pay? I am a mother of two children, who are my heart and soul. Deep inside I feel that if we as a family were in desperate times, I would rather sell myself than my children, or I would escape with them, and if we die, we die together. Yes. So extreme. But I can’t fathom letting my children go. Not for any amount of money, no matter how dire times were. I wouldn’t be able to live not knowing where they were, what they were doing, and with who. Just writing this or thinking about it, churns my stomach inside out.

I feel bad to make such statements and appear as if I am passing judgment on these mothers and fathers, who are living in desperate conditions, not knowing what else to do but to sell their flesh and blood to this multi-billion dollar industry. Many are not even aware and might truly believe that their children will go off to earn money for the family. As I write this I have a more informed position, because human trafficking is not a problem concentrated in a certain area of the world, this is a world wide epidemic with mostly women and children being bought and sold not just far away but here in my backyard, Los Angeles, California. Continue reading “Human Trafficking by Valentina Khan”

I am a Suicide Attempt Survivor by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezIn the past year, I have several friends that have lost loved ones to suicide. The statistics are real, raw and all too sobering. In the United States, an average of 117 people choose to end their lives every day. Almost all of us know someone who has lost someone to suicide, or, personally know someone who has taken their own life.

Suicide is a choice for many reasons, not just from mental health issues. 42,773 souls end their lives every year. That is the population of a small city in America.

I rarely talk of my attempted suicide and most people are shocked when they find out about it. My sunny disposition, along with a well adjusted approach to all that is, can be construed as me having an extra whip-cream, cherry topped, Hot Fudge Sundae, life. There’s a lesson in that. I was 19, had grown up in an abusive home, had a mother who left when I was 13 years old so she could survive, and I had recently dropped out of high school. My life seemed stagnant, and worse, morbid. The statistics were mounting against me as a woman, a person of color, no parental guidance, and, I was a serious rebel. I think one of the things I had going for me was friends that cared, and the fact that I didn’t drink or do drugs. Continue reading “I am a Suicide Attempt Survivor by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Novel Excerpt III: That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier


MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405I have posted selections from my novel in progress before here and here and here…I am again. My last post here at FAR was about women and silence. Silencing women—from the powerful (Hillary Clinton) to the obscure (this girl that in this novel excerpt is now a teenager) women are silenced.

In this novel, as you can read from the previous excerpts a journal is found by a brother who is twin to his sister. The journals he finds are addressed to him after his parents’ house sells. Upon reading them he begins to discover that they are written by his sister when she was younger and in all likelihood she does not now as an adult remember having written them. She does not remember what it looks like happened to her. Incest. What must he do? This grown up person that he now is finding this information out? She has been silenced and he is holding the key to the only voice she had at the time. I have been working on this novel for over ten years and am currently immersed in trying to pull together all of the pieces I have written over the years. What I have posted so far is excerpts from the journals he, Chris, finds. This excerpt continues that story line. Continue reading “Novel Excerpt III: That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier”

Women First, Rivals Later by Vibha Shetiya

VibahSita, as many know, is the tragic heroine of the Ramayana who gets discarded by her husband Rama because he doubted she had remained chaste while in his arch enemy Ravana’s captivity. Moreover, she is the “ideal Indian woman” in popular imagination because she remains loyal to Rama no matter how unfair his treatment of her. But there is another female character in the epic who meets perhaps a far more violent fate.

Unlike Sita, however, Shurpanakha gets little sympathy from the readers because she does not stick to her socially assigned roles. I would like to talk about Shurpanakha and how she comes to symbolize all women who transgress societal boundaries, while also stressing the fact that although she is often presented as Sita’s opposite, the two share far more in common as women; both Sita and Shurpanakha deserve our compassion and empathy.

In the traditional Sanskrit text, Valmiki describes Shurpanakha as “maddened with desire” when she first beholds Rama’s beauty. The poet then goes into a rather lengthy description of what she is not by comparing her “unsightly” presence with Rama’s exemplary beauty, thereby affirming the fact that she does not deserve to be visible because of the physicality of her body. Upon his enquiring, Shurpanakha tells Rama that she, who roams the forest alone and according to her own will, is the sister of Ravana (who later kidnaps Sita), and she makes it a point to add that she is more powerful than all her brothers. She then declares her undying love for Rama and asks him to be her husband, after which the two of them could seek adventure amid the forest together. Continue reading “Women First, Rivals Later by Vibha Shetiya”

I Am a High School Drop-Out by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezIn 1985, four months before I was supposed to graduate from high school, I awoke one morning, made a hasty decision to escape my harsh reality, and by the end of the day, I was a high school drop-out.

Even now, with a BA from Wellesley College and two theological master’s degrees, I have a difficult time admitting I dropped out of high school. It’s not necessarily because I am embarrassed, but more, it is because it reminds me of that very painful time in my life.

My journey is, I am aware, different, to say the least. However, as I rummage through my past, I am always reminded that I didn’t get here alone. No, indeed, there were many beautiful souls that helped me get to where I am today.

In all the work and conversations I have had with women around the world – women in the Slums of Mumbai, domestic violence survivors, rape victims, women that have experienced war and trauma, incest survivors – I am always reminded of one thing – women are all born with strength, beauty, hope, and a future. Somewhere along the way, for many of us, things change, and the sad reality is that things change because of where we are born, or our educational opportunities, or our social class, or our race, or our religion, or our place in the family, or mental illness, or abuse, and so on. I think a lot of times things change for women, simply because we are women. Continue reading “I Am a High School Drop-Out by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Fear, Guilt, Duplicity, and Cover-up in the Roman Catholic Church by Carol P. Christ

Carol Molivos by Andrea Sarris 2Last week I watched Spotlight, the film about the Boston Globe‘s exposure of priests’ sexual abuse of children, and then I watched it again. There are many reasons for my fascination with this film. I almost always root for the underdog, and in this story the underdog wins. Moreover as a former Catholic (for a period of time) and as part-Irish, I relish an inside glimpse of the machinations of the all-male Church hierarchy and the all-male Irish power structure that supported it in Boston.

Having dealt with child sexual abuse on an almost daily basis while I was teaching women’s studies, I also have a very personal and emotionally-charged relationship to the subject. I was pleased that victims of child sexual abuse were able—after great struggle—to get a hearing. But this I already knew. Continue reading “Fear, Guilt, Duplicity, and Cover-up in the Roman Catholic Church by Carol P. Christ”

Forgiveness is a *choice* by Vibha Shetiya

VibahSomeone I dearly love recently lent me a very sensible piece of advice: “You should forgive.” I know he resorted to these words out of love because he didn’t like seeing me in pain, a sentiment for which I was and remain grateful. I also know he wasn’t judging me when he brought it up, nor was he pressuring me into doing something I wasn’t ready for.

I truly understand how forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you can set you on the path to freedom. In the sense that forgiveness can loosen the chains that bind you to the past, the anger, the deep sense of betrayal, helping you learn to live again; that forgiveness is not so much about the other person but about the self. I have watched shows in which victims of horrific crimes or their family members have chosen to forgive, not always out of a sense of human bonding towards the aggressor, but because they could not live with the debilitating anger and hatred festering inside, and so chose to forgive to set themselves free. Continue reading “Forgiveness is a *choice* by Vibha Shetiya”

Feminist Grace – Leading to the Why and the How by Karen Leslie Hernandez

me writingOn the occasion of my first post as a new regular contributor to FAR, I decided to share with you my ponderings on my stance as a feminist and what that means to me.

I’m a staunch feminist. However, that doesn’t mean I have hatred for men, or, have a deep-seated desire for men to drop off the face of the planet. Honestly, I like men.

Yet, I have known men to exert violent behavior, be arrogant in the workplace, get paid more than women in almost all fields, harass and cat call women as they walk down the street, and, in the theological context, exercise patriarchal privilege often.

My work as a theologian has taken me many places. I’ve worked side by side with some of the most oppressed women in the world in the Slums of Mumbai, India, and I’ve sat and listened to women that have lived through conflict in Africa and the Middle East. I have also made sure to connect with men around the world and all too often I’ve found myself sitting, as not the only Christian woman in the room, but the only woman, holding my own, listening, and understanding. Continue reading “Feminist Grace – Leading to the Why and the How by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

“Spotlight” and the Recovery of a Lost Faith by Cynthia Garrity-Bond

cynthia garrity bondLast week I was finally able to see “Spotlight“, the recent movie depicting the true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation into the priest pedophilia abuses. What makes “Spotlight” so compelling is the shared burden of culpability by those outside the organized Catholic Church. While hunting down the priestly offenders, including Cardinal Bernard Law, “Spotlight” also takes calculated aim at those official offices and individuals that turned a blind eye from the sexual abuse of children. In his NCR review, film critic Steven D. Greydanus praises the film for its ability to include such collaborators as “Lawyers, law enforcement, family members and friends, and pointedly and repeatedly, the fourth estate itself—the press and specifically the Globe – are all implicated.” Which is to say, the sin of silence through a misguided sense of protection of the institution is as damaging as the act itself.

In the Globe’s investigative work, a team of four reporters begins the difficult work of interviewing survivors of sexual abuse. What moved me deeply was the recurrent syllogism expressed by each in their retelling of the abuse at the hands of their parish priest. In the first statement of a syllogism, the major premise is the articulating of the moral principle. Step two, the minor premise, is the particular act to be judged. Step three is the logical conclusion inferred between the major and minor statements. With regard to the Catholic Church’s doctrine of the priesthood and views expressed by survivors, the syllogism looks like this:

Step 1: “By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church in his triple office of priest, prophet, and king” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1581)

Step 2: All priest (as males) reflect Jesus Christ in word and deed.

Step 3: When a priest abuses children it is as if Jesus Christ is also the abuser.

For those survivors interviewed by the Globe, their early religious teaching of the priest as Jesus made Jesus as God a participant in the abuse. Cries of anger over the abuse at the hands of priest who stood in the place of God turned to lament at the losing of ones faith and belief in a benevolent God. Continue reading ““Spotlight” and the Recovery of a Lost Faith by Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

Wisdom Fiction (Part 1) by Elise M. Edwards

Elise Edwards“I was born in a strange little country town that may be like all other country towns, but I do not know. It was the world I was born to. The world is such a place that you need special things to understand it. I do not think I am a fool, but I do not understand life. It is like I am always standing in the dark somewhere. It could be on the edge of a cliff by a deep ravine… Or on a flat piece of all the land in the world… and I would not know. I would not know whether to step stand still. Either one could be a danger… When I am alone. Some lives are like that. Depending on the kindness of everybody.”

-from “Feeling for Life “ in Some Soul to Keep by J. California Cooper

In my previous post, I wrote about the truths we learn from black women’s literary tradition and from listening to the stories of those we too often ignore. Continuing that reflection over the next few months, I’d like to share some of the lessons from J. California Cooper’s short stories. The quote above is taken from the opening paragraph of one of her works.

Continue reading “Wisdom Fiction (Part 1) by Elise M. Edwards”

The Primal Connection with Domestic Violence by Karen Hernandez

karen hernandezAs we near the end of Domestic Violence Awareness month, I bring attention that as of today, about eighty-four women have died in October in the United States at the hands of their partners.


And three or four more will die today.

I was reading the other day about “honor crimes.” Removed from the regions where these acts occur, we here in “the West” judge these crimes, where fathers, husbands, and brothers act on their misogynistic tendencies and kill their daughters, wives, or their sisters for “shaming the family.”

I wonder – how is this act so different from what we call, domestic violence? The impetus for the killing might be different, but the fact remains, it is violence against a familial member, violence in its most intimate form, almost always against women, and violence that stems from control and power, as well as “justification” of ownership and righteousness.

Continue reading “The Primal Connection with Domestic Violence by Karen Hernandez”

Another Excerpt from That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405Author’s Note:  This post continues to serialize excerpts from my novel, That Christmas Morning Feeling. Please see last month’s post for the initial entry.


Book Number Seventeen

Look, I’m not the one. I don’t have an investment here. This is not about me. But, I think that when you think you can actually do some good in the world you should do it. I mean what if you have this whole body of knowledge. And you say nothing. Is that morally acceptable? I think not. I’m sure everyone has thought it. You are going along in your life, and you stop suddenly. The color of the trees, sparkle on the water, but maybe not so wow world, you are cool stuff. Maybe just the mundane world, maybe even the curve of the paint on the wall, even paint drying as the saying goes, could be enough to catch you up and you realize – life. Life’s here. Right now. And it needs me. Do I love it, or do I not? And if you do, if you love, love it – just life. Then you have to do something about it, to make it better. Like if it was your kid, you couldn’t just sit by – right? Well, you could. People do, God knows.

Or he doesn’t. You’d think he would do something, or she. Guess it doesn’t work that way. Maybe it’s true what they said in the church last Sunday. I’ve been thinking about it… even though I was only half listening. Personally I usually hate being there, big waste of time. But it is a waste of time, and in some ways that’s a good thing…just a predictable waste of time, nothing dramatic happening –that’s a new way to look at Church. I guess. Have to remember that.

Maybe God is in “the least of us.” That would be me. And it is up to us to decide what God does, how God acts, or rather to act like God. Then we can get God to change things. Otherwise God is just an idea…without a body. Not much you can do on planet Earth in that state. We have to figure out we are not really in Oz, like Dorothy, no mystical wizard to help us…just some fabulous dream shoes and a great idea about home, and no place like it, whatever she’s rattling at the end… and then going there to do something about it. She can’t do it from Oz. Too bad, but true. She has to wake up there in the middle of the black and white world and get out of bed, presumably without the fabulous shoes. So she just has to get out of bed and get on with it. At least I hope she gets out of bed; we never really saw that part.

We are really here, so we can do something about the here and now.

So no one is talking Incest. No one I personally know of course, since I talk it. That is not because Incest is not happening as an event. It’s just not a newsworthy concept, really. Because it isn’t a concept is it…? It’s an event, as in, “This happened to me.” But it is not a language that is spoken on planet Earth. No language here, except Incest, could transform that event that happens into a concept that’s newsworthy… not that I know of. And no one is taking language labs in Incest. So no one can write about it in the newspapers, etc., etc. It’s obviously a vicious cycle.

Continue reading “Another Excerpt from That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier”

That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405What follows is an excerpt from my current project—a novel I have been working on for over ten years. It is finished—sort of— in various journals and I am currently trying to pull them all together. These are the opening pages. Thank you so much for your support of my work. The novel is called- That Christmas Morning Feeling.

Book Number Sixteen

This is how I feel about incest, I mean learning to talk about it…speak Incest, as in capital “I” – Incest, like French, German, – Incest…right? Because you don’t talk about it, you talk it…you, as in you alone, you talk it; you use it in a sentence. “This is what happened to me…” And no one talks back.

And, why compare it to French or German? There are whole countries who will talk back to you if you speak French or German. Learning Incest is like learning Martian – you think to yourself, maybe there’s a planet somewhere where learning Martian would be useful…but it is certainly not here… no one can speak Martian here, correct your grammar, help you write a poem, check your iambic pentameter…whatever. My point is, learning Martian, well, if you learned it…how would you ever know if you were speaking it right? If someone on Mars could actually understand you? Of course, you wouldn’t know. You would just have to really love Martian enough to learn to speak it – even though…And then, of course, assume that you might meet and if you ever did meet a Martian and you had invested all this time in learning Martian just in case you would ever run into a Martian, you’d hope that he would understand you. Or she. Whatever. Continue reading “That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier”

THE REFUGEE CRISIS IN GREECE: A TEST OF OUR COMMON HUMANITY by Michael Bakas, translated by Carol P. Christ

Note from Carol Christ: I returned home from the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete a week ago to find my island, Lesbos, and my village, Molivos, overwhelmed with a refugee crisis of enormous proportions. We are a town of about 1000 permanent residents, and I would estimate that 10,000 or more refugees from the wars in Syria and Afghanistan have passed through our village in recent months. Local authorities and volunteers are exhausted, and there is an urgent need for help from the European Union. This week instead of my own blog, I am offering my translation of a moving plea for help from my dear friend and colleague in the Green Party, Michael Bakas, who by the way is himself a feminist.

Refugees in Mytiline 1914-1918There is nothing new about refugees fleeing from war. At the beginning of World War I, more than 50,000 people arrived in Lesbos from the nearby shores of what is now Turkey. At the end of the war many of these refugees returned to Asia Minor, but after the Greek army invaded and was driven back, the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922 sent nearly a million refugees to Greece.

Faced with an ocean of refugees flooding the island, the local population was dumbfounded, fearful, and tied up in knots. They shut their doors and averted their eyes: “it was as if a dark cloud of death had descended on their minds, and so they felt nothing. They did not want to see anything or to hear anything that was happening on the other side of their doors.” The end of this story is well-known: with courage and a great will to live, the refugees put down roots and found their way.

In the first decade of the 21st century Lesbos again experienced a wave of refugees who came via Asia Minor. This group, mainly from Afghanistan, came to the island with the hope of putting war behind them. Most of them were held for a year or more in cramped conditions near the capital of Lesbos. This center was closed in 2009 due to the efforts of local volunteers who had alerted European groups to the problem.

But the Greek debt crisis soon followed. For several years, the flow of refugees lessened. When it began to increase at the end of 2012, volunteers from all over the island came together without any government support to provide help. Thousands of refugees were housed in a former campground for children’s holidays, where they were offered clean clothing, blankets, and food, as well as love and compassion.

Lesbos became known as an all-European model for solidarity. Resisting the xenophobia that was growing in Greece and in Europe as a whole, the citizens of Lesbos reached out to the refugees, refusing to listen to those who were promoting hate. The neo-fascist anti-immigrant party known as Golden Dawn gained less support in recent elections in Lesbos than in most of the rest of Greece.

refugee children in LesbosThe good will of the people of Lesbos is currently being tested by the wave of migrants now arriving on our shores. Estimates are that more than 20,000 refugees have arrived in our island alone in the first five months of 2015. There are no systems in place to deal with them. Yes, the European Community has dedicated resources to the “refugee problem,” but most of that has gone into patrolling the borders in hopes of stemming the flood of refugees—not to helping those who arrive on European shores.

Those who arrive in northern Lesbos are being welcomed and fed by volunteers, but the Coast Guard does not have the resources to transport them to the capital city for processing. Thus they are being told—mothers and babies among them—that they must walk 60 kilometers on mountainous roads in summer heat to reach their next destination.

Once they arrive in the capital city, the Coast Guard is not able to accept and process all of them, because the reception center cannot cope with the numbers. Thus, thousands of refugees sit in the harbor, hoping the authorities will arrest them and thus be forced to process them.

The residents of Lesbos are once again beginning to become afraid of the influx of refugees. In the touristic village of Molivos, at the same time that both locals and foreigners are helping the new arrivals, others are saying that “it spoils the vacations of tourists to be faced with seeing so many refugees.”

The situation seems to be more than government officials can cope with. The mayor of the island has been trying to find a place where the refugees can stay while they are being processed. The regional government has not yet lifted its hand. The Minister of Immigration visited the island, but no interventions followed. The European Community has yet to act. The UN and international aid groups have not arrived.

This state of affairs plays right into the hands of the racists and xenophobes. Rumors are spreading about the refugees—lies about diseases they are carrying and threats they pose to local and tourist women. People who in the past have been sympathetic to the refugees and the volunteers are getting fed up. Their pent up anger could lead to violence within our own communities or against the migrants.

At the same time more and more refugees are arriving, sleeping in the streets, relieving themselves without toilets–among them pregnant women, babies and old people, and even disabled individuals—all trying to save themselves from violence in their own countries.

Instead of fighting each other, it is time to get serious about finding a solution to a humanitarian crisis of vast proportions. Lesbos—along with other islands of the Aegean—must be declared an “Emergency Zone.” The Greek government, the European Community, and international organizations must provide resources.
We need arrival centers in northern Lesbos, where the immediate needs of the migrants can be met—including shelter from the sun, food, toilets, blankets, and a place to sleep if necessary. Processing centers adequate to the numbers of refugees need to be opened in the island’s capital. Transport to these centers must be provided. Trained Greek or EU officials must be sent to staff them.* We also need a plan for August when the ferryboats being used to transport the refugees to Athens will be full, and if no alternate plans are made, large numbers of migrants will be forced to stay on the streets or in already crowded centers in the worst of summer’s heat.

It is time for us to move forward–Greeks, Europeans, and migrants together–in the name of our common humanity and in concern for the lives of all human beings on our planet. We also need to work to end the wars and the violence that drives people from their homes and homelands.

*We have just learned that the EU is planning to send a team of officials to assist with processing the refugees.


michael bakas2Michael Bakas is a leader of the Green Party in Lesbos, Greece and has been working for many years with its committee on Human Rights. This call to action was originally published in longer form in Greek on June 16, 2015 on Apolotaria.gr., and was published in English in Green European Journal on June 19, 2015, the International Day of the Refugee.


timothy jay smithTimothy Jay Smith  has been working closely with volunteers in Molyvos and Mytilini to provide for the refugees. If you wish to contribute to these efforts, you can donate through Tim’s account at PayPal: kosmosfilms@gmail.com or send a personal check to Timothy Jay Smith in U.S. dollars or Euros (French banks only). Also see his “Mister, They’re Coming Anyway.”


Carol P. Christ leads the life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete (facebook and twitter).  Carol’s books include She Who Changes and and Rebirth of the Goddess; with Judith Plaskow, the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions and forthcoming next year, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Explore Carol’s writing.


How Do You Honor Your Parents, When They Do Not Always Honor You? (Part 2) by Karen Hernandez

karenRead Part I here

This is the first time I have written openly about my childhood. It isn’t to get back at anyone, it is more to give a voice to the voiceless. I will admit right here, that, of course, I have anger. Yet, I write this not to blame, or to be spiteful, or to seek revenge. Many of us who move through this world with deep resolved and unresolved pain caused by our parents, are told we shouldn’t talk about our abusive past, because it could hurt our parents. To this all I can say is that children grow up. As children we are muted out of fear and ignorance. As adult survivors, we should speak – not to do more harm, but to create change.

I am happy to report that my relationship with my mother is intact. Although she still has an edge to her, she has not hurt me, in any way, shape, or form, for a very long time. I set boundaries, and in those boundaries, she and I have found a way to coexist. My father and I also have a good relationship. Yet as with any relationship that has gone through what he and I went through together, as well as individually, the past affects our interactions, which are, understandably, sometimes heated.

As I write this piece I am thinking of all the other children who are being abused by their parents in unspeakable ways right now. Children who are afraid, feel unloved, and are simply confused. These kids too will grow to be adults – adults who struggle every day to face their past holistically and with love. Or, they will become adults who can’t deal on a non-violent level and end up abusing their family members as well, and the vicious cycle continues. Continue reading “How Do You Honor Your Parents, When They Do Not Always Honor You? (Part 2) by Karen Hernandez”

How Do You Honor Your Parents, When They Do Not Always Honor You? by Karen Hernandez

karenGod commands it – Honor your mother and your father.

I believe God passed down this commandment with the meaning that when you do honor your parents, you are honoring God, because, after all, God is our ultimate parent, considered “Father,” to many.

The question begged, however, is what if your parents do not honor you? What if your parents are abusive? What if they treat you with disrespect? Are we, their children, still expected to honor them? Continue reading “How Do You Honor Your Parents, When They Do Not Always Honor You? by Karen Hernandez”

What’s Wrong with this Picture? by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsOn Monday, the picture was on my Facebook feed again: The picture of a girl lying face down in the grass under a police officer pressing his knee in her back. It was from the video of an African-American teenager being pinned to the ground by Eric Casebolt, the police officer in McKinney, Texas who was responding to calls about a pool party. When I saw the picture this time, it was in a screenshot with these words below it:

“Funny how a 14 year old bikini-clad black girl being publicly assaulted by an adult male does not accrue mainstream feminist outrage.” – Yohanna

The screenshot was taken of a post to Yohanna’s Twitter account (@maarnayeri). I don’t know her, but she troubled me.

If you haven’t seen the images we’re talking about, you can view the video here with a description of what is concurring or below from YouTube. I was reluctant to watch the video. It seems voyeuristic to view this young woman’s suffering and screaming. And, if I am honest with myself, it also seems useless. Viewing this from my computer screen, I’m in no position to help her. I hear her cries and it make me cry too. But I can’t push him off of her. When other teens tried to come to her defense, Casebolt pulled a gun on them and chased them. I don’t even have the power to get him fired from his position of authority immediately. No, we must have the investigations and inquiries and due process that seems so indiscriminately afforded to the privileged. Casebolt was put on administrative leave on Friday, and on Tuesday June 9, he resigned.

So how should I respond?

I had a conversation with one of my closest friends a couple days ago that provoked me to reflect on what to do when I’m conflicted about how to respond. Her background is in acting and theatre, and now she is a pastor and artistic director of a Christian church and arts initiative who believes in supporting arts, imagination and creativity. In our conversation about discerning the next steps in our lives, she was reminded of a book by Samuel Wells that proposes “theatrical improvisation as a model for Christian ethics.” That reminded me of books I’ve read that talk about musical improvisation or call-and-response as model for living, and some pieces I’ve written about that. Inspired by ethicists and theologians including Emilie M. Townes and H. Richard Niebuhr, I believe that to answer the question of how I should respond, I must first answer ‘What’s going on?” An improvised response or a fitting response is the response to what is already occurring. We must look at the situation critically to respond appropriately.

What’s going on in this video and the controversy surrounding it? I am certainly not an impartial or all-knowing observer, but here’s what I see:

  • A white man forcibly throws an unarmed, African-American teenager to the ground yelling “On your face!” We can see that she is unarmed because she is wearing a bikini.
  • The man is a police officer. He is upset that his authority is being challenged. Other officers are present and seem to be asking questions, but the violent one seems out of control and frantic, running around and yelling. He escalates the situation when he throws the girl to the sidewalk, which causes an outcry in the crowd.
  • As the video went viral, there were many protests and online statements against this violent event, but also statements of support for the officer. And sadly, I agree with Yohanna’s assessment. I may have missed it (and I hope I did), but I didn’t see a broad, mainstream feminist response against this violence.

I’m a feminist. I’m a black feminist. I’m a Christian feminist. I may not be a mainstream feminist (depending on your definition), but I’ll express my outrage anyway. It is sickening to watch his treatment of this teenage girl. This man’s mistreatment of a young black girl’s body is chilling. It is wrong and he should be held accountable for it.

I don’t think outrage is enough. But outrage does express that our moral sensibilities have been awakened and that we recognize that something profoundly wrong has occurred. In the face of comments that say she deserved this treatment, we as feminists must insist on the officer’s wrongdoing. “She had it coming.” “She incited him.” As feminists, we know that these kinds of statements are used in cases of rape and intimate partner violence to explain away violent actions and to shift the guilt from perpetrator to victim. The backlash against feminists and others who oppose these explanations argues that we ignore the victim’s responsibility or agency.

Bloggers and social media users know all too well the horrific statements that often appear in the comments section of online posts, videos, and articles. One comment I saw about the McKinney video says that the girl was “sassing back” at the police and that “if she wants to talk like adult then she’s going to be treated like an adult.” This kind of justification makes my blood boil! Sassing back is speaking up and saying something to an authority figure when you are expected to be silent.  While the term sassing back doesn’t exclusively apply to women and girls, it is nonetheless a phrase with gendered connotations. How many boys are called “sassy”? Is it that no one had the right to say anything to this officer running around yelling at black teen boys to sit on the ground, or is it that this black female should have kept quiet? Regardless, throwing an unarmed person to the sidewalk for supposedly saying something disrespectful is not justifiable behavior to adults or children.

I wish I knew more about what’s going on and how to respond to the violence I see in the world. I know these perennial questions subvert easy answers. I only have a partial response. I am responding with outrage and questioning and take this to my feminist community and into my spiritual practice. “What’s going on?” and “How should I respond?” are questions I ask God. I pray for justice. I pray for God’s presence in the outrage and in the investigations, and in the lives of those children who were violated.

Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or academia.edu.

The Religiosity of Silence by John Erickson

In a repetitive culture of abuse and silence, is it really shocking to find out that an individual who preached such hate and discontent for others actually perpetuated other forms of heinous abuse against others?

John Erickson, sports, coming out.In 2013, I wrote an article about the then latest reality TV scandal featuring A&E’s Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and his rampant foot-in-mouth disease that caused him to express, in the pages of GQ, his true distaste for the LGBT community and specifically for the sexual proclivities of gay men.

Now, two years later in another reality TV show, TLC’s ’19 Kids and Counting’, it isn’t star Josh Duggar’s anti-LGBT statements getting him into trouble but rather his sexual assault and molestation of 5 girls, including two of his sisters. However, while the Internet explodes with attacks against Josh Duggar and his Quiverfull background, it is vital to remember that the silence that he and his family inflicted upon his victims since 2006 has not only been ongoing since then but is also being reemphasized today with each keystroke focusing on the assailant rather than the victims. Continue reading “The Religiosity of Silence by John Erickson”

Traumatic Narrative on the Screen: Is there a Grey Area? by Stephanie Arel

Arel - AAUW HeadshotOn May 8, Fifty Shades of Grey became available in DVD format. Marking its release, this post reflects on the mass consumer consumption of this provocative film and the abuse inherent in its script previously discussed here by Michele Stopera Freyhauf. Grossing $500 million dollars at the box office, Fifty Shades will most certainly sell as an unedited DVD. While some self-proclaimed feminists like Emilie Spiegel commend the story, feminists and conservatives slam it, often pressing viewers to reject the film and deny it financial support. Nonetheless, The Fifty Shade of Grey franchise will most probably have a sequel in 2016, continuing to amass hundreds of millions of dollars.

Concerns about the book and film include how the storyline presents a romantic ideal for women wrapped surreptitiously in abuse. Peering deeper at the narrative reveals the potential for conflicted emotional responses including feelings of guilt and shame, revulsion and interest, disgust and seduction. Confronted with the writing of this post, I responded in turn, torn between whether to watch the film or not. While wanting to deny the franchise any monetary gain, I also wanted to both know what I was rejecting and what, if any, value existed in viewing. Continue reading “Traumatic Narrative on the Screen: Is there a Grey Area? by Stephanie Arel”

Bodies of More and Less Value by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaThere is a story in the collection called Avadanasataka (One Hundred Legends) of the Sarvastivadin school, one of the schools of early Indian Buddhism that did not survive to present day, relating one episode from the Buddha’s previous lives. The story is about king Padmaka who sacrificed his life to cure his subjects of a disease. Here is an academic article about this episode.

The Buddha was prompted to tell this story of his previous life in order to illustrate to his monks, once again, the workings of karma. All of the monks in the Buddha’s milieu were sick with a digestive disorder, while he remained well. The Buddha presented the story of king Padmaka as a proof that no good deed is ever lost and that what he had done then has an effect now in that the Buddha has good digestion.

Continue reading “Bodies of More and Less Value by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Abuse Does Not Have “Fifty Shades of Grey” by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

WARNING: This article or pages it links to contain information about domestic abuse and sexual violence which may be triggering to survivors.


Freyhauf, Durham, Hahn Loeser, John CarrollNo matter what you call it abuse is abuse. This is highlighted in the popular book and now movie Fifty Shades of Grey. Because of the stir this book caused, I delved into the first book and my initial reaction was that of repulsion and wonderment. How could a woman let a man control her like that? Why would she let him do things like that to her and continue to come back to him? Why is this book so popular?

Are women sexually repressed in a way that their own sexual experiences are routine and boring (the book is full of BDSM) or they have never orgasmed (every time they have intercourse, Anastasia is guaranteed to orgasm)? Why do we find it okay to label body parts as “love boxes” or “considerable length” or the multitude of references to a man’s penis or woman’s vagina that is meant to sound sexy or romantic? Why does he announce “I am going to f*** you now” every single time they have intercourse? Can’t the reader figure out what is going on without making this announcement?

However, after I got beyond my initial reaction (or shock), I took a step back and became upset and outraged.  In essence, the overall issue with the book can be summed up in one word: control. Some women argue that the awkward doe-eyed virgin journalist exercises control over the sexually deviantPicture from fanpop.com

Picture from fanpop.com

billionaire that keeps him coming back to her – I disagree. I see control exercised by the sexually deviant man over a woman enamored by him in such a way that is sexually, physically, and psychologically exploitative and abusive. Yes – I understand this is fiction, but this type of writing causes immense problems.

In a culture that embraces “Blurred Lines,” money and power, and “the bad boy persona,” this storyline fuels the fodders of the fire with a sensationalism that plays on sexual fantasies and/or those wishing prince charming will sweep them away. One needs to look no further than “The Bachelor” or Bret Michaels’ “Rock of Love” television shows that promote the exploitation of women’s desires to be with the rich handsome man at any cost to self and dignity. In fact, an article posted about the movie stated that if Christian Grey was not a billionaire and behaved in the same way, he would be arrested and labeled a sex offender. So again, is the message we want to send to our daughters, nieces, and friends is that the rich can do whatever they want and you should let him? I think not.

Continue reading “Abuse Does Not Have “Fifty Shades of Grey” by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Painting Women from Judges – Part 1: Jephthah’s Reflective Daughter by Melinda Bielas

Melinda BielasThe story of Jephthah’s daughter – found in the Hebrew Bible, Judges 11:29-40 – is a difficult story to read. The first time I read it, I was in my Christian high school Bible class and I could not understand why our teacher did not address the violence done by a father to his daughter. In my experience, Christians dismiss much of the violence done to women in the Hebrew Bible as evidence that ancient fathers, brothers, and husbands really did not care for their daughters, sisters, and wives. Since today men love the women in their lives, the ancient problem is no longer an issue, and we can continue with more pressing issues – or so the unspoken logic goes.

However, some feminist scholars – such as myself and Dr. Tammi Schnider – argue that it was common for fathers to love their daughters in the Hebrew Bible, and Jephthah is no exception. His daughter is his only relative in the text, and presumably the only person impatiently waiting for him to return from the war he led. Yet, because of the vow he makes to the deity – a vow the deity does not request or acknowledge – he sacrifices his only loved one. Why would he make such a vow? Why would his daughter go along with it? These are two of the questions I could not help but yell as I struggled with the text. Continue reading “Painting Women from Judges – Part 1: Jephthah’s Reflective Daughter by Melinda Bielas”

Safety and Vulnerability in a Dangerous and Fertile World: A Meditation on Incarnation

Marcia headshotFeeling safe again is often the healing and elusive aspiration of a person like me.

I have been living with the deep and cellular residuum of sexual trauma for most of my life—over thirty of my going-on forty-six years.

For many years, the grief and shame of losing my innocence cultivated an intense orientation to life’s doing. Safety for me back then was activity, noise, frenetic schedules, and a constant soundtrack to my life that meant I never had to be quiet with myself. Safety was in the predictable metrics of success that I could use to measure my self worth. I never had to stop and admit that I didn’t feel safe, ever.

I got a lot done all those frenetic years and my diligent efforts were affirmed with everything from scholarships to awards to pay raises.

But, trauma does not allow itself to be ignored. It demands attention. Its cellular ghosts haunt their host. They must be acknowledged, sometimes cast out, sometimes befriended, other times adapted or transformed. My trauma is tethered to the violence of a dangerous world, a world that knows no boundaries when it comes to annihilating innocence.

How can I be safe in this kind of world? How can any of us? Continue reading “Safety and Vulnerability in a Dangerous and Fertile World: A Meditation on Incarnation”

Operating out of the Good: Interpersonal Interactions and Oppression by Ivy Helman

How humans treat one another matters.  Oppression is not only systematic; it is also personal because humans reproduce societal forms of oppression in interpersonal relationships.   Take sexism for example. Sexism, at its worst, manifests itself in intimate relationships through physical abuse, emotional violence, mental manipulation and/or controlling behavior.

This isn’t the only of form of interpersonal oppression that exists between humans.  Humans oppress one another in many subtle (and not so subtle) but equally harmful ways.  For instance, there are also racist remarks and sexual harassment.  Yet, that’s not what I want I want to focus on here.  Instead, I want to look at interpersonal forms of oppression in which agents often believe themselves to be an agent of the good.

Let’s probe two examples.  As the reader will see, each example has its own motivating factor, its own concept of “the good” and at least one oppressive outcome. I believe all of these agents think they are doing what is best for another person and do not necessarily understand the ways in which they are reproducing oppression. If they did, I’m pretty sure they’d modify their behavior, or at least I hope they would.

Example #1

Last month I wrote about a job that I quit because they were so critical of me that I felt like nothing I did was ever good enough.  They treated everyone, regardless of experience, exactly the same.  More than that, the way in which I was made to feel completely inept at teaching dragged down not only my opinion of myself but upped my level of stress as I tried in vain to do better in their eyes.  After months of constant criticism and a poignant discussion with a colleague, I realized that nothing I did would change the system. Likewise, my evaluations would continue to focus on the negative and write off the positive. The corporate culture valued, encouraged and systematized multiple forms of critique with the assumption that this system produced better teachers and better experiences in general. They even had “satisfaction surveys” at their holiday party.  Who does that?empty-exam-hall

Clearly, the company operated out of the assumption that their method of consistently negative feedback motivated people to fix their mistakes. Rather, it inculcated high levels of stress, constant second guessing and poor self-esteem. That’s why it is oppressive. While it motivated me temporarily (I gave my three-week notice after three months of trying to do better in their eyes), no one can operate within that system for long. It is no wonder their turnover rate is so high. I can think of a million other ways to create better teachers.

Example #2

Two weeks ago, I experienced the worst vertigo in my life. I’m not one to rush to a doctor at the drop of a hat so for me to spend the day in the emergency room, something is wrong. Yet, my treatment here in Prague was awful. In the end, I went to three different hospitals before I was seen. The first nurse we went to turned me away saying I wasn’t bleeding and the doctor would not help me. Another office within the hospital took my insurance card and my passport about ten minutes after I arrived. After an hour of waiting, and watching the staff struggle with a patient seizing and puking up blood in the hallway of the treatment area, I was told that it would be hours before I would be seen. I was the only patient in the waiting room. The doctor told me that she did not consider my symptoms to be an emergency and that she was there to help the emergencies. What made matters worse was that she made it clear that she wasn’t going to treat me until she was sure no other emergencies would arrive. How can one be sure no other emergencies would arrive? Clearly, that would never happen. She literally said, “While I can’t technically turn you away, I want you to know you will be waiting a long time.” She was turning me away the only way she could by making me the last patient to receive treatment.

stethoscope-23441288983461x1ZClearly, the doctor felt stressed and overwhelmed. She was trying the best she could. Her concept of the good was to help only those patients she considered to be emergency cases. Yet, she also was extremely quick to judge how she thought I was feeling and made me feel that my experience was insignificant. Rather than value my experience and take what I was saying seriously, she behaved oppressively. Yet, to me, the worst part of the treatment was her telling me that if she could, she would turn me away. I’m speechless.


Because of these experiences I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we treat each other and the ways in which our behavior replicates societal oppression. What bothers me the most is that these people thought that they were acting within the framework of the good. I’ve been wondering whether their definition of the good is wrong. If it is not, then why is their behavior, motivated by a definition of the good, not actually doing good? How could behavior be modified to better align with definitions of the good?

In both of the examples above, I would say that their intentions within their understanding of the good are generally correct (creating better teachers and helping emergency cases first when swamped), but it is the way they are put into practice that produces oppressive behavior. Here, analysis of individual interactions and experiences needs to be assessed as well as corporate models that require certain interactions. Is there a way to do so outside of individual human initiative? From where does the motivation come? Do I, the receiver of poor treatment, have the moral responsibility to call them out on their actions?

I’m not sure how to answer these questions. On the one hand, I believe that they may not be aware of the ways in which their behavior oppresses others, so I should speak up. Yet, on the other hand, people who behave oppressively need to take responsibility for their behavior.

What I am sure about is this: humans often oppress others even when they act out of a common definition of the good. Yet, operating out of the good requires that all of our interactions create experiences that are liberating and life affirming. Failing to do so only replicates oppression. Humanity has a long way to go.

Let’s Begin With Compassion by Esther Nelson

esther-nelsonEvery year, several churches in my area set aside a Sunday morning service to celebrate “The Blessing of the Animals.”  Parishioners bring animals (mostly dogs) with them to church.  The service centers around St. Francis, a Catholic friar and preacher (1181-1226), known for giving us the Christmas crèche, an artistic display prominently figuring Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and angels.  St. Francis soon added cows, donkeys, and sheep to his art.  He said, “Surely the animals praised the new Messiah just as the shepherds and angels did.”  The bulletin of one of the local churches participating in the celebration said, “In honor of this blessed saint [St. Francis] of the church we gather today with our animals, here and in spirit–our pets, our service animals, police dogs and horses, zoo animals and all God’s creatures and give thanks for what they do for us and for what they mean to us.”

The collective prayers that followed thanked God for “animals that comfort us, delight us and give us companionship.”  Also, “thank you, Lord, for animals that give us wool and feathers to keep us warm.  We thank you for animals that give us milk, cheese and eggs to help us grow and to keep us healthy.  We thank you for horses, donkeys and oxen that work hard on farms around the world.”  True enough, we do delight in an animal’s companionship.  We also benefit from animal products and their labor.  However, it seems to me that today, in industrialized societies (especially), we view animals predominately for their instrumental use, ignoring their intrinsic value.  In other words, our concerns center around how we can use animals to further our own wealth and well-being.  Isn’t that called exploitation? Continue reading “Let’s Begin With Compassion by Esther Nelson”

Halfway… by Sara Frykenberg

Sara FrykenbergThe title of this post is meant to reflect where I am in the semester, temporally speaking: halfway. Actually, the idea that I am halfway is a bit of a shock to me, considering I feel like I just started! I have a goddess oracle card sitting on my desk that reads: “Blossoming: You are just getting started,” reminding me to be patient with myself as my work takes shape this semester. But seven of fifteen weeks in, I think its time to pull a new card.Aeracura

When the word “halfway” popped into my head, though, I realized this is also a struggle I am having right now. I feel halfway—I answer “yes and no” to every emotional question. I sleep halfway, working even in my dreams. I am halfway okay: one week I am very down and the next, I feel just fine. And sitting on my patio this weekend, unable to sleep, I thought to myself: you are less than halfway full; and realized I that didn’t know what to do to fill myself up.

Continue reading “Halfway… by Sara Frykenberg”

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