Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rock Me Mama Like a Wagon Wheel

Charles Dickens is famous for saying, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That's pretty much the story of my life right now.

This week started off with a state arrival at the White House and me stalking the POTUS as you see in this picture. It ended with a day of kayaking with the best roommate in the whole world, the very best turkey sandwich i've ever eaten, and a live rockin' concert with three of the coolest people in this district.

In the middle were a lot of tears. We'll start with the bad news first. Tuesday night I was supposed to have a tutoring orientation for this program for kids living below the poverty line and struggling in school, but I had the nights mixed up and it was actually Wednesday. So, I grabbed a bite on Capitol Hill, did some reading, and made my way to the steps of the Capitol facing the Washington Monument and the sun setting behind it. It was glorious, the sky skattered with pink streaks and a blazing orangefireball sinking below the horizon. It was a breezy cool night, one of those that is just so physically obvious that there is a God and he is very real. Sitting outside enjoying great weather, whether at camp in the hill country, on the ski slopes of Colorado, or here in the capitol, i am hit with the reality that God is so around us all the time, and I am just too busy or naive or unwilling to see Him.

I prayed to God that night from the steps of the Hill, thinking how blessed I am to have so much going right for me in life: health, job, friends, happiness, connection to Him - and that he is so in charge. But I also felt very alone, very much that it is me and God and that's all we've got in this world. Which in a way for everyone, even married people or people that have huge families, etc. But the aloneness didn't last long and it was a very enjoyable Tuesday, watching the sunset in a place I never imagined I would live for at least a full year.

Then Wednesday came. Long conversations on the phone, loud bursts of crying, moments of anger and confusion and sadness. My Homie, Jay Chen, is really struggling in his fight with that disease called cancer. Its trying its best to take over his body. And I know that God has his hand on Homie and is very much aware of his hurt, but it doesn't make it any easier. Of all the books I've read, college education I've recieved, you would think that I could use an extensive vocabulary to describe how my dad, Jay's brothers, wife, sons, my mom, all those who adore him as much as I do, feel. But I can only say that this completely and totally SUUUUUUCKS!

ugh. gross freaking cancer.

So that covers the worst of times part. I thought I'd rather start with the negative and end with the positive, but I don't feel much like talking about the positive right now.

I will tell you that my roommate, Dr. Kathy, and I went kayaking today - about 2 miles from our house is this place called Fletcher's Cove, and you can rent double kayaks for $15 an hour, so we did, and its so close to the city yet you can't see any of it. just massive amounts of trees and green and beauty. it was wonderful. then we went home, i rode my bike to a renowned sandwich place around here that i had never tried. i took my book and ate outside - it was so great. my sandwich was delish - wheat bread with carved turkey (think thanksgiving) - stuffing, cranberry sauce, with a little herb seasoning. seriously, it was like one of the sandwiches on friends that joey would risk his life for. the bread gets soggy with all the wonderful ingredients as you near the end, cranberry sauce is falling out everywhere, hmm. i talked to my grandmummy, honey, and she's going to start making them. we'll call them the georgetowner.

then tonight caitlin & patrick connor -aggie figi doing teach for america in DC- & katherine and i went to see old crow medicine show live. great place, not too huge, lots of people watching and singing at the tops of our lungs. they're old school tennessee/alabama style, they play banjos and obos and fiddles and violins and sing about drinkin and women and the union. most famous/fave song is "rock me mama like a wagon wheel."

they sang one of their new songs about no do overs. the lyrics brought big tears to my eyes - they were talking about the line between fear and faith, life in this world don't last forever, we aren't going to get any do-overs, you can't do better in the next go 'round.

so here's to making the most of each day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We Will Never Forget (Or Conspire)

Living in DC makes September 11 a little more realistic to me. What a terrible day. I know God works for good through all things, but this one was hard. I can remember going with my mom to the prayer room at Chapelwood Church the night, or maybe it was the night after, September 11. I remember the fear and sorrow I felt for those people. I can remember the President’s address to the nation the Sunday after Sept 11, and that churches and synangogues were packed to the point of overflow with people searching for comfort, peace, refuge.

It’s easy to forget it happened. Easy to forget those that died, the children and families and jobs and hopes and dreams they left behind. Easy to pretend no Islamic extremist spent years training – on our soil – to fly planes into our building and kill innocents because they hate the freedom and prosperity those buildings stood for.

Then I go through an airport, where I pay an extra security fee, and take off my shoes because of those crazies. I want to call them harsh words, refer to them as bastards, cuss and curse them, when I think of the lives they attempted to ruin.

Yet almost worse than them are the cynics living here in America. These people in Washington, Texas, California, anywhere, that walk around with misguided thoughts about America. Read “Three cups of tea” and get back to me on the fact that we don’t need to be spreading democracy.

Also get back to me on this: Joe Biden was quoted in 2005 as saying, “Americans need to know we are sending these troops over there to stay in Iraq for ten years, maybe more. They are needed there.” Now that’s not word for word but when I find the link I’ll get back to you.

The people who I want to kick in the shins the most are these people wearing t-shirts and bumper stickers about how September 11 was an inside job. I don’t care if you think the President is a red-neck who is a terrible speaker that trashed our economy or if you think “No Child Left Behind” is a terrible policy or if you think he attacked Iraq because he wanted to finish the job his father set out to do. Fine, whatever, all of these points are at least debatable. However, if you think or say or imagine that the President planned, premeditated, dreamt up this horrendous attack on our nation, you could not be more wrong or more deserving of a kick in the shins. Listen to the President for one second talk about his faith in God or humanity or in America. Listen to him as he talks about AIDS killing Africans and look at the number of lives he has saved through pledged US dollars and simple things such as mosquito nets. (It’s a record for a US president.)

President George W. Bush did not set up those attacks. He hated that they happened, hates the terrorists responsible for them, hates any country’s government that was not going to hand over those terrorists, that was going to let them find a safe hiding place within their borders.

I’m not saying this war is great, the lives we’ve lost are meaningless, etc. My point is that the President of this country would not let an attack our country happen that hurt lives, economies, our way of life, our security. They would do anything in their power to prevent attack, let alone plan it. I don’t think that President Clinton would plan September 11 and I disagree with most of his policies and all of his morals. So why can’t people just shut the hell up about September 11th being an inside job? I am INFURIATED every time I see those protestors or hear people discuss it. The people that should be most offended are the people who lost a loved one in those attacks: these speculators, conspiracy theorists, are belittling the murder of their friend, spouse, parent, relative, neighbor, colleague.

Enough of my rambling. Tomorrow they’re dedicating the Pentagon memorial in Virginia. The President will stand at the very spot that an airplane, hijacked by Islamic jihadists, loaded with American citizens, crashed into the nation’s defense headquarters. I’ve been to the very wing in the Pentagon that the plane crashed into. I’ve stood there and seen pictures of the two grandparents that were on their way to see family in Florida when their lives abruptly ended, and for what? As part of the President’s grand plan? No. As part of an attack on our freedom, of religion, thought, expression. I’ve heard the story of the family of four that was on their way to Disneyworld for vacation and then burned to death in that plane crash. Their lives are OVER because of the terrorists wanting to kill us because American is our nationality.

Writing about this helps prevent me from lashing out on a conspiracy theorist on the metro or on the street, from grabbing their shoulders with my hands and shaking them until I can get some sense in them.

All of this to say, tomorrow I will remember. Remember what class I was in when we heard of the attacks. (American History, Coach Kemble.) Remember my mom coming up to lunch at the high school and being fully relieved to see her. Remember not fully grasping that this was NO accident while watching the news that night with my dad, so thankful that he hadn’t died, thankful that he wasn’t in an airport waiting to get home to Houston, like some of my classmates’ Dads. Remember feeling compassion for all of these New Yorkers and others who lost loved ones. Remember falling in love with Rudy Guiliani and the President as they handled the crisis with bravery and sincerity and compassion.

Most of all, tomorrow I will remember that we have beaten the terrorists. I may take off my shoes at the airport, I may think twice while riding the metro from time to time, I may get nervous at packed football stadiums that could easily be targeted with a bomb or air attack. But they have not been able to strike again.

We still stand for freedom over here. I may hate putting up with them, but the cynics can complain all they want, they still have the freedom and the right to voice their opinion. They can shout from the rooftops about the President’s inside job attack on the World Trade Center. And they can thank their lucky stars they still have the right to shout. We will know what they are shouting is wrong. I know they are wrong because if the President had the will and the power and the cruelty in him to plan an attack on our soil, he would also have the will and power and cruelty to make this into a Putin-style democracy, where he could stay in power as long as he choose. Or he could run us over like North Korea runs over their citizens. Or he could turn us into communists like the Chinese.

The President used to have an 80% approval rating after he attacked in the Middle East. We needed him to feel safe; we clung to the security he provided. We’re comfortable again, and we’ve turned our back on him.

Newsflash: September 11 was not that long ago. For most of us, though, we didn’t lose a loved one in the attacks. We weren’t gasping for oxygen as we ran down those stairs praying to make it out alive and wondering what had just happened. We aren’t haunted daily by the reality that was September 11.

I know that God works for good through all things, Romans 8:28, but I sure hope he doesn’t have another 9/11 in those plans. Tomorrow, I won’t kick anyone I see protesting or arguing about 9/11 in the shins. I will wear my red, white, and blue with pride and say a prayer for all the victim’s families. And I will say a prayer for the conspiracy theorists: that their hearts are softened, their minds enlightened, and their lives protected if another attack should come.