Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
--TS Eliot, Ash Wednesday
In the middle of a very contentious thread titled What if the feminist blogosphere is a form of digital colonialism?--an atheist feminist named The Apostate let loose with the following:
(Yes, she really did add the "Haha"--which I think really makes the post.)
The feminist blogosphere is VERY correct and proper. There is a huge orthodoxy, on race issues, on sexuality issues, on major progressive themes, on language. on religion. I don’t think this is a bad thing, but it makes it hard to embrace outliers like me who might otherwise contribute to the conversation. For instance, I personally violate the religion orthodoxy (I hate Muslims and Islam and religious people in general), I am not all that sensitive about language (once called an Islam-apologist feminist a bitch, insist on continuing to use verboten words like “lame” and I like my gendered insults, such as prick), I refuse to include Sean Bell in my list of feminist issues, I often say I hate men, I am publicly glad when misfortune is visited upon my enemies (anti-choice Andrew Sullivan is HIV positive - yay! Marc Ambinder is ugly - yay!) and other such horrifying things. No wonder nobody links to me!
And she was ignored on the thread. Which was good; if her intent was to derail, it didn't work. But I was also disappointed that the comments about religious women and a gay man with HIV, were not challenged. Only Renee (at Womanist Musings) challenged the comment; no one else did.
Why? Did they agree with her? If any other group(s) of people had been insulted with open hate speech, would feminists have remained silent?
Initially, I wrote off Apostate's little tantrum, since I know that she once was Muslim herself, and I well understand that ex-fundamentalists are often traumatized by their upbringing. But hey, aren't we all? I responded to my racist father by becoming an anti-racist activist, for instance. Apostate has responded to her strict upbringing by trashing Islam, and then extending this critique to all religion.
Later in the thread, Apostate proclaimed--"What a lot of petty self righteous assholes the feminist blogosphere is full of," and after her proclamation that she hates most of the women in the world (who ARE religious, take note), I had just had enough. We ended up in an argument on her own blog, and she ended up censoring my comments and banning me permanently.
Admittedly, my first emotion was: thrilled!!! Oh boy!!! Finally, after years of arguing, I was outright BANNED from AN ATHEIST BLOG!!! Hot damn. (I will be linking Apostate for years, she must have known her hits will increase from now on.) Atheists looooove to brag (rightly and correctly) that they get tossed off of religious blogs and boards as soon as they even announce themselves. BAM, gone. I've seen it myself, countless times. And they are pretty proud of that, as well they should be.
On one now-defunct Christian message board I used to frequent, the censorship was particularly aggravating. I was usually having great FUN arguing with the atheist or agnostic, while others would become greatly agitated, and eventually ban the person. I would end up defending them, and on at least two occasions, I left internet bulletin boards over the banning of intelligent, well-mannered atheists, who did nothing more than freak Christians out with tough questions.
And at least twice, I was called on the carpet for my own heresy. Yes, you know what it is, my beloved existentialism, my Kierkegaard, my science fiction and Teilhard de Chardin. From an amalgam of these sources, I employ my standard argument against the atheists, which is one they cannot refute. As far as I am concerned, the only argument. THE argument.
The reason I believe in God/religion/Church/sacraments, etc is an endless variation of these statement ...a riff, if you will:
I like it.
It is fun, it gives pleasure.
It makes me ecstatic/happy/peaceful/optimistic.
It makes me feel better than I would feel otherwise.
It's great. Aesthetically, it's really neat.
I want to be a priest/holy woman myself, I am pretty good at it!
I feel that God listens to me/speaks to me.
These statements make no claim for objective truth, as I don't think we can. These statements are MY truth; they are about why I choose to practice as I do. It is about ME. I have taken full responsibility: this is what makes MY life better, gives MY life meaning, this is how I view the world, and how I relate to what I call the high concepts, and you call delusions. I do not care if you like it or not, because I don't do it for you, I do it for me.
If one is a rational atheist, you should be able to admit I am right. If I go to Mass or read a book or meditate or sing or clap my hands and claim to conjure up the living devil--why should you care? Do you care if people go to football games or rock concerts? Do you care what kinds of sex people choose to have? Do you care about which movies they watch and which books they read? Well, why is the choice of belief or religion not the same?
BECAUSE, the atheists intone, RELIGION CLAIMS TO BE TRUE.
Well, duh. The Buckeyes will kick Wolverine ass, and that is TRUE TOO, ask any Buckeyes fan. Ask any diehard fans of STAR WARS or LORD OF THE RINGS which movie is the best, and they will assure you STAR WARS and THAT IS THE TRUTH! If people are having sex and claim to enjoy it, I assume they are telling the truth and I take their word for it that it is true, this is good sex for them. But you know, it might not be good sex for ME.
We all say what we claim to be TRUE, and we constantly disagree with each other about clothes, about shoes, about where to live and how to spend our time. We all testify to the truth as we know and believe it, and yet, religion is somehow a "special" case, something apart from other choices we make, about sexuality, about occupation, about marriage, home ownership, carbon footprints, childbearing. Actually, my contention is that religion is the same type of choice as these other lifestyle choices, that feminists can discuss without hyperventilating (or should be able to). We are not living in the Holy Roman Empire; we have choices. We are no longer forced to be XYZ just because our parents were. And then again, there are lots of characteristics we share with our parents, our families or villages of origin, and this might be another one.
We may have something very special to bring to the table, for this reason.
Which is better, a Chevy or a Ford?
If we don't know what to believe, we ask someone we respect, someone we think knows about cars: Should I buy a Chevy or a Ford?
Chevy, says the Respected Person authoritatively. Then, you buy the Chevy and it breaks down in rush hour. It costs a fortune to tow it, you have no spare. You are fucking livid. GODDAMN CHEVYS! I WAS TOLD THEY WERE GOOD CARS!!!!!!!
And you know, the guy who told you that, thought they were. Chevys had always been good to him. Not a one had given him trouble, he went coast-to-coast in one and had a blast. Alriiiiite! Took my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry...
New Chevy hater: Don't sing that fucking song around me!
Yes, I just compared God to cars. As Aldous Huxley famously said, Ford's in his Flivver and all is right with the world. It is an excellent analogy. Things do not work the same for everyone. They just don't, and no, I don't know why. (I am currently studying Buddhism, trying to figure out that part.) But why would we expect religion to fit everyone, if we can't even agree on which songs are good, which food is good, if a Ford or Chevy is best? Those are easy. Now, you bring in GOD? And we wonder why we disagree?
Apostate's Chevy might have broken down anyway--maybe her parents had (as I suspect) already driven the damn Chevy into the ground by the time she got it. But my Chevy works well, always has, still is.
Am I an idiot because I got a good Chevy?
You can see how this argument might make very devout Christians (and devout Muslims and any other devout fundamentalist of any type) very upset. They do not want you to suggest that religious truth is not an objective truth, THE truth. They claim they have the truth. And I answer: if it was, it would be self-evident. And it is not.
That is to say, we mostly agree on, say, the color green. We don't know why we do... but if I say, check the green box, most people will.
If I say check the most Godly box? I create chaos immediately.
Religion is therefore in the category of art, music, beauty, love, aesthetics. It is opinion, something experienced, an acquired taste, or maybe something someone has been starved for. Or something someone is very angry with, as in the angry Chevy-buyer. They were promised something, and it didn't deliver. Or it was delivered, rather like Apostate's sedan delivery, by wrecking her whole house with it. (Certainly, that's no way to make a good first-impression.)
The anti-religious people declare religion irrational. Music, art, love and sexual desire also are quite irrational, but they don't seem to want to ban those. And yeah, when I say that, the religious people can get as livid as the atheists. (Often the self-described agnostics are the only folks who stay with me during this discussion, nodding the whole way, agreeing that comparing religion to music makes sense.)
And few people turn against religion as thoroughly and furiously as ex-fundies. I can spot them in a line-up. Know why? Like Apostate, they sound the same. They have exchanged one form of intolerance for another. While they were subscribing to fundamentalism, it was the sinners and infidels and devils and so on, who were bad. After the backslide? You are stupid, ridiculous, sky-fairy believer, idiot, moron. (Apostate called me stupid also.) What gets me is IT'S THE SAME PEOPLE. The religious people who curse me for not being strict enough, fall away from the Church, the Mosque, wherever, and pivot perfectly into the ones who trash me for stupidity as a believer. I am sure when Apostate was a proper, strictly devout Muslim, she would have hated me just as much as she does now. She just uses different words now.
They are the same people. I can't tell them apart without a scorecard. The approach is identical: intolerant, judgmental, finger-pointing, merciless, hateful. If you don't see things their way, you are a fool. Period. I often forget who I am arguing with, and have to stop--wait, is this the atheist or the fundie?
I usually can only tell them apart because the fundies won't say "fuck"--and the atheists will.
There are feminist enclaves literally everywhere. Even in the strictest, most dangerous places on earth for women--there are women strategizing for freedom and access. What bothers me is how they are walled off from each other.
Often, this is because the women hate each other. Their countries are at war with each other; possibly their religions have historically been enemies. But they will not come together for their own rights, there is too much bad blood.
In every religious women's community, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Sikh, etc etc... there are feminists. EVERY SINGLE ONE. And they struggle alone, often, because non-religious feminists don't regard them as "real feminists" although these same non-religious feminists live under male governments, work for male companies, vote for males, sleep with males, give birth to males, take money from male daddies and love male brothers, sons, friends, etc... they say religion is unfeminist because men run it. (I know, makes no sense, go figure.) So religious feminists try to get it done within their own faith communities. But in the process, they are not interacting with the larger feminist community, from whom they feel estranged. As a result, they don't learn all the lingo, the habits, the culture of feminism. They are thus easily shocked when they first meet feminist libertines or political radicals. It is my contention that if they were allowed in the coalition, if their presence became commonplace and unchallenged, they would get used to it, as we all get used to everything.
I assume such women, emissaries from their various communities, would be largely like me, pretty tolerant, or older and jaded from having seen a lot already (particularly if they are ordained ministers or professionals). But I can still remember back in the 70s, when Carter Heyward was on the cover of Ms, and all hell broke lose, as atheist and agnostic feminists complained. And I am there saying, wait, doncha know, this is CARTER HEYWARD!!!!
Without stopping to ask who this groundbreaking feminist even IS, just the knowledge that she was a priest, was enough to inflame the atheist rabble. It's the IDEA, you see, that women would put FAITH IN RELIGION (instead of, you know, say, money or the government) and RELIGION OPPRESSES WOMEN. PERIOD.
Money and government, of course, have never oppressed women.
And so, the impasse. The small religious feminist communities labor onward, but they are struggling by themselves. They need the authority and influence of the larger feminism, which is too uncomfortable with religion. And the religious women are often too naive and provincial for the larger feminism as well. The problems feed each other.
And I get banned from Apostate's blog, and called stupid.
Maybe I am, since I am ever hopeful we can all get together.
The Five of Wands, Strife. (from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck)
And in fairness, since I linked Mandy and Brittany's piece above, I suppose I should also link their subsequent apology for writing it, or for how they wrote it, or something. (I am curious if they deliberately chose Ash Wednesday, a day of penance, to apologize, or was that an accident? Great symbolism.)
Initially, I had no problems with the piece, until reading some of the criticisms, particularly Renee's, Sylvia's and Lauren's. I still think their hearts were in the right place, and that does count for something. I am not too fond of the term "token" which as I said on Renee's blog, used to denote something very specific, back in the day. A "token" was someone who shores up the status quo using their minority status; they lend legitimacy to a possibly-illegitimate enterprise. Nowadays, it seems "token" just means any minority-person in majority space, and that is not how I use the term, or how I grew up understanding and relating to it. I have recently been called a token myself, to my puzzlement; it basically meant I was the only _____ in a certain space. No one has ever accused me (and certainly, not Renee!) of perserving the status quo. Ha!
Thus, when first reading the word "token" I assumed this was the "new" meaning: a minority person in majority space. So, I did not criticize the word. However, I now see that the term "token" is meant differently by different people, and People of Color still adhere to the old usage that radicals have historically favored. It is white people who simply mean "a minority person in majority space"! Aha!
With this helpful delineation, I am enlightened. And I understand why minority people would bridle (as I have, in various settings) at this label. And why this piece caused so much strife throughout Feminist Blogdonia.
(NOTE: There were also additional issues over language used in the post, such as the use of an offensive term for transgendered people.)
On the other hand, I found the self-flagellation in the Official Apologia a bit much, even for Ash Wednesday. Is all of this really necessary? Well, maybe so.
In the fallout of the original incendiary discussion, Amber Rhea attempted some discussion of her (mixed-up and confused, which was the whole point) class background, and was flayed for it bigtime. I was shocked. (Do they expect everyone to emerge from their 20s talking like Leon Trotsky, or what?)
Perhaps Apostate has a point--why do we go after each other this way? What good does it do, exactly?
Heart, whom I have had major issues with (as regular readers know), thinks it's the invasion of The Man. I admit, I really go for that 70s talk, and she is all over it:
On this Ash Wednesday, let me say dramatically: SHE IS RIGHT.
Regardless the movement, the Man can be depended upon to approach movement people who are the most marketable, the least experienced and therefore the most trusting (and grateful) and the least risky, people he knows will make honest, exploitable, mistakes, and who are already leaders with manipulatable followers. He’s not all that concerned about what the people he chooses actually believe or the quality of their activism; he just wants to make a buck where a buck is to be made. Movement people are virtually always naive about these things, and their leaders often have big heads. They frequently readily believe what their followers have said to and about them and are too quick to believe their own press. They imagine they have been discovered and chosen because of their unusual skills or gifts or something like that, because the Man is impressed by their ideals, dedication and vision, when usually, it’s more that they are marketable, naive and exploitable. They are young, they are pretty or handsome, they are white, they are middle class, they have the right kind of education, they say the right kinds of things in the right kinds of ways and so do their followers, and so, people will buy. That’s all that matters to the Man.
Once the Man gets in, all hell is guaranteed to break loose. Movement people will now fight, not in the productive ways of the past but in the destructive ways that always follow in the Man’s wake. They’ll fight over who was chosen, who wasn’t chosen, why the chosen were chosen and the not-chosen weren’t. They’ll fight over the fact that some who were hardworking weren’t recognized and some who weren’t so hardworking were. They’ll fight over the way the chosen behave, what they do once they have all of that attention, and what they don’t do. They’ll fight over who did and didn’t get the credit for this or that, who stole this and who stole that. The chosen will find themselves — always, guaranteed — in a downward spiral of compromise, because you have to compromise to deal with the Man. The compromises the chosen make will become fodder for ever-worsening, ever-deepening and -intensifying intra-movement conflicts, more blaming, more resentments, increased finger-pointing, increased vigilance. New people who join the movement unaware of the history will defend the wrong people, accuse the wrong people and will get gobbled up by the Man themselves. They won’t understand the hostility they then face from other movement people; after all, they’re not doing anything differently from what others have (apparently) done. And their confusion will be eminently understandable. In the end, everybody will be drinking from the same poisoned well, and everybody will be sick from drinking there.
Yes, you read it correctly, I just admitted HEART IS RIGHT.
I am reminded of a bunch of girls in high school, clamoring for a place on the cheerleading squad.
Can we please STOP?! Heart thinks it's too late, the thief has entered (nods to Heart, with my Bible reference there)...and I wonder, is she also right about what this means: The End of Feminist Blogging (the title of her post)? Is it already too late? Can we turn this shit around, or will we have eaten each other alive first?
I have criticized the denizens of Feminist Blogdonia as much as the next feminist blogger, and probably will continue whenever I think there have been damaging excesses. But the wholesale evisceration that is more suitable for a radio edition of FOCUS ON THE FAMILY, needs to stop. Going onto a blog where someone is, for example, attempting to clarify their own class consciousness and telling them what they OUGHT TO BE DOING, is not going to help us reach any feminist goals, but will instead cause more women to withdraw from feminism in fear that they cannot possibly measure up.
Time for the Act of Contrition--I have confessed, now it's everyone else's turn.
My official Dead Air Ash Wednesday hymn, Saving Grace by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, was removed from last year's post, you may have noticed. Warner Music Group (or similar capitalist greedhead swine) strikes again! I found the song performed live, but can't embed it here. Blah. My second choice, Redemption Song by Bob Marley, also has embedding disabled. WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND HERE?!?!? Harumph.
Looking for alternate hymns, I figure yall might like at least ONE of these.
Letter to Hermione - David Bowie
No offense to my beloved Bob, but as we all know, it's often umm, better to find his fabulous songs sung by someone else!
I found this really nice version of "I Shall be Released" by Chrissie Hynde at something called the "30th Anniversary Bob Dylan Concert"--no other details of where the performance was.
I Shall Be Released - Chrissie Hynde
And more Bob! I've been looking for this one forever--it probably won't last out Lent! Better listen now!
"For every hung-up person in the whole wide universe..."
Chimes of Freedom - The Byrds
*NSFW* MAY TRIGGER* ETC*
I defy you to listen to all 10 minutes. It's actually edited down from the original 11 minutes, believe it or not.
I have a tattoo inspired by the line "I'm not gonna wear my heart on my sleeve" at 4:39. (As a result, I do wear my heart on my sleeve.)
Some people got no choice
When they can never find a voice
to talk with that they can even call their own
So the first thing that they see
That allows them the right to be
They follow it
Know what that's called?
Street Hassle - Lou Reed
Happy Ash Wednesday to you all!