Conversations with Clan Mothers:
Searching for Meaning in a National Statue
By Katya Miller
Atop the U.S. Capitol Dome in Washington, D.C., stands the magnificent Statue of Freedom. With her eagle-feathered headdress, she has stood guard over the dome for more than 150 years. A significant symbol of our nation’s history and identity, on par with the Statue of Liberty, she is frequently seen on nightly news broadcasts, yet she is largely invisible and unrecognized.
The Statue of Freedom in front of the Capitol before she was
placed back on top of the dome after her renovation in 1993.
My background is in fine arts, and I worked for years as a metalsmith. After reading about this statue in 1993, and connecting to her spirit, I felt the need to share her story. I began reaching out to historians and scholars who might have clues to my questions. For more than 25 years, I pored over maps, atlases, and hundreds of documents in the Office of the Curator. I met with historians at the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, and other D.C. institutions.
Who was this Statue of Freedom? What did her headdress represent? And how did the mixture of European and Native American imagery that adorn her, come to be created?
Ironically, these questions would not be answered by historians or archivists. In the lives and knowledge of real Native American and Canadian women was where I would find the meaning of her Native symbols, which I was determined to clarify and understand.
So, in the spring of 1997, I drove my son’s car from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst to Nedrow, New York, near Syracuse, where I spent two days with Alice Papineau Dewasenta. She was a Clan Mother at Onondaga, the smallest of the Iroquois’ Six Nations, aka the Haudenosaunee, dedicated to the balance among humans, plant and animal kingdoms, and the Creator.
Alice lived on a small piece of land left of the 900 million acres of original Haudenosaunee territory. She was in her late 80s and still a vital and outspoken advocate for her people. Today the people of Onondaga continue to keep the Central Fire Council and the knowledge of how to survive as a nation.
Alice Papineau Dewasenta,
Haudenosaunee Clan Mother
Alice had always wondered about the Statue of Freedom’s crowning feature and was glad I was addressing it. Her son spoke proudly about their lacrosse team. Lacrosse is a traditional game invented by Native Americans. He showed me his Gustoweh, the headpiece worn by Onondaga chiefs, made of turkey, hawk, or eagle feathers. It was similar to the statue’s headpiece but likely not its primary influence.
I feel privileged and grateful to have met Alice, and to have learned from her.
When I moved from California to New Mexico, one of my first acquaintances was Greg Schaaf, a historian of Native peoples. When he found out about my research into the Statue of Freedom and her native connections, he asked me if I would like to meet a “Clan Mother.” I had never heard of a Clan Mother, and honestly, I didn’t know such a role existed.
Seven generations of Shenandoah
I knew there were matriarchal societies scattered from east to west, but I had not seen anything written about them. I was given an album of music called Matriarch, by Iroquois singer-songwriter Joanne Shenandoah, which I played repeatedly. A few years later, I met Joanne and her husband, Mohawk author and historian Doug George-Kanentiio. I shared the history of the Statue of Freedom with them, and explained how the imagery had evolved through the years. Later, when they spoke and sang their songs in 2013 for the U.S. Presidential Inauguration, Doug told me they had invoked the U.S. government’s Native roots.
Singer-songwriter Joanne Shenandoah from the album cover of
Peace and Power: The Best of Joanne Shenandoah.
Joanne’s role as a cultural ambassador allowed her to share her unique talent in representing her people. The songs in her many albums reflect the traditional values of the Haudenosaunee. Women, as life-givers, and custodians of Mother Earth, are the true matriarchs monitoring the land’s resources.
I learned that Clan Mothers are selected among the mothers, serving as spiritual advisors, political counselors, and healers within their families and communities.
Joanne told me that her house sits on the homestead of John Shenandoah, who had been longtime friends with Benjamin Franklin. John was her seventh-generation ancestor who died there at the age of 110. She said, “Our family holds the oval Peace and Friendship Medallion bestowed upon [John] by George Washington. I heard that he was at Independence Hall for the signing of the Declaration of Independence!” Seven generations later, descendants carry on their cultural traditions at the very place where he lived. It is said that Washington named the Shenandoah River and Mountain in John Shenandoah’s honor, in recognition of the critical Haudenosaunee contribution to the Revolutionary War, bringing Washington and his troops food and supplies during the harsh winter of 1777.
Today, Joanne’s niece, Michele Shenandoah, carries on her ancestors’ passion for protecting their lands and bringing about the truthful telling of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s influence on democracy throughout the world. With the guidance of her mother, Faith Keeper and Sculptress Diane Shenandoah, Michelle has seeded Rematriation, based on the concept of Seven Generations, with love, forgiveness, and peace. They are Keepers of the Land and see it as a relative, not a resource. Michelle’s organization helps to strengthen their traditional teachings, and to heal from the impacts of colonization. They are truly returning the Sacred to the Mother, aka Rematriation.
The Fire Next Time: Deforestation and Climate Emergency
by Lynn Feinerman Producer, Women Rising Radio
In November of 2021 the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland boasted of its Leaders’ Declaration to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. The monumental hypocrisy and duplicity of this announcement, hailing signatories from 145 nations, is that the declaration replaced a similar one made in COP21 in 2015, wherein heads of state worldwide announced that deforestation would be halted by 2020.
Having nothing much else to announce, the PR spinners for COP 26 cynically threw this at the media as if it was a big breakthrough from the Glasgow summit. It wasn’t.
And in fact, this month the Forest Declaration Platform Assessment reported that “not a single global indicator is on track to meet these 2030 goals of stopping forest loss and degradation and restoring 350 million hectares of forest landscape.”
Experts warn that there is no way to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius unless the world stops cutting trees – no matter for what purpose. That means that somehow, global grassroots communities are going to have to rise up and demand an end to the devastation of forests for roadways, access to petroleum and mining, timber and agricultural lands use, and any other enterprise.
States and their corporate puppeteers have mobilized both their militaries and police to crush any grassroots uprisings. To get a sense of just what kind of violence and manipulation grassroots activists are up against when they organize to stop the destruction of forests, you can listen to our Women Rising Radio program titled “Deforestation Emergency”, and listen to the stories of women from the US to Chile to Paraguay and to the Netherlands, who are battling against deforestation:
An End to “Big Fossil” Must Come Swiftly and Soon
Big Fossil versus Human Life on Earth
by Dr. Carolyn Orr
We’re already well into the 2020’s – the decade which will be critical in determining our future. And yet greenhouse gas emissions keep rising despite our knowledge that we need to drastically reduce them in order to keep the world to the (relatively) safe limit of 2.7 ℉ (1.5 ℃) global heating.
As it is we’re currently on track for 4.9 ℉ (2.7 ℃) of global heating, which will be catastrophic for human health and prosperity.
Why are we not managing the turnaround? Why are we still headed towards the cliff?
It’s not that we don’t know what to do to safeguard our present and future. We need to stop burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – and transition rapidly and urgently to renewable forms of energy.
There are lots of reasons we are failing – and some are simply to do with how we are wired as human beings. Humans are very good at solving problems that are immediate, visible, precedented, that have direct personal impact, and that are are caused by an obvious enemy (the Bad Guy). But climate change is none of these things: it is slowly evolving; it can seem invisible (depending on what media you choose to read); it is unprecedented in human history; and for most people in the developed world it hasn’t yet had a huge personal impact. And we’re all to blame (unless you don’t ever eat meat, drive a car or fly in a plane).
But there’s another very significant reason that we’re failing. There really is a Bad Guy in this story – the fossil fuel industry – who are making obscene profits as we careen to the cliff face.
Big Fossil have known the harm they cause through air pollution and climate change for decades. They responded by funding junk science designed to muddy the ever increasing evidence of climate change, while funding lobbyists and politicians to promote doubt. And because they intentionally misled us, we wasted decades arguing about whether or not climate change was real. But it is now proven and widely accepted that climate change is real and happening at a frightening rate.
And so the fossil fuel industry has pivoted to messages that acknowledge the problem, but downplay its severity and urgency. Their new strategies are delusion and delay.
Delusion includes the fantasy that new technology just around the corner will save us. The best example of this is carbon capture. This is storing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions underground – literally burying the problem. Unfortunately carbon capture has never been shown to work at anything like the scale that would be needed to address the climate crisis. Instead carbon capture and other emerging technologies (the solution always being just around the corner) are used as an excuse to keep funding fossil fuel companies.
Delusion also involves overstating the industry’s progress toward addressing climate change – greenwashing. When you read about fossil fuel companies reducing their emissions – invariably they are talking about the emissions created in digging up and processing fossil fuels – not the emissions created by burning them, which dwarf the former. The industry that has done the most to create the climate crisis will not solve it.
And Big Fossil is still hard at work to prevent meaningful timely action on the climate crisis. Invariably this is coached in terms of financial prudence, by pointing out the expense of transformative action away from fossil fuels and towards renewables. And so we hear constantly about the cost of the clean energy transition, in the media and from certain politicians. In fact, delay in action on climate change is forecast to be far more expensive.
There is a historical precedent for this, in the struggle to abolish slavery. Decades were wasted on economic arguments that the economy would collapse if slavery was stopped. That wasn’t true then, any more than arguments that is it too expensive to make the changes we need to stop global heating are now. In fact, the abolition of slavery led to an era of enormous technological innovation and prosperity. It is not hard to foresee that the same is likely to be the case for the renewable transition.
And just like slavery, the false economic argument ignores the cost of the human suffering that is being and will be caused by global heating.
The Deadly Cost of “Turning Back the Clock”
One family’s story from when abortion was criminal
By Valerie Love
Valerie Love is a mother of two, and an activist, organizer and spokesperson, currently, with Greenpeace.
“Jane O. Webb is Dead in the West” reads the obituary headline of my great grandmother, who died at age 35 in Seattle, Washington in 1921. But the obituary cryptically states “the further particulars are lacking regarding the cause of death of Mrs. Webb’s illness.”
Only recently did I learn the tragic truth behind her death: she died of an illegal abortion. In light of Friday’s Supreme Court decision to strike down Roe v. Wade and strip women of their constitutional right to obtain an abortion, I feel compelled to tell the story. This is Jane’s story, a dire warning and a call to action.
At the time of Jane Webb’s death, she had four small boys at home age five and under. When Jane discovered she was pregnant for the fifth time in 6 years, she and her husband made the decision together that they could not support another child in their family. Abortion was not only illegal, but inducing abortion was a criminal offense at the time in Washington state. Still, Jane and her husband George knew it was the right choice for them and they went to their trusted apothecary for help.
This apothecary had worked miracles for them before. He had offered a cure for their son’s diabetes, giving them a concoction made from pig’s bladder, which mimics today’s modern insulin shots. It was literally a lifesaver, and so they turned to him for help in their dire situation. He gave them a potion, presumably in good faith, and Jane took it. But days or hours after ingesting the “cure,” she died of internal bleeding. How excruciating and heartbreaking those last hours were, I can only imagine.
My grandfather Oliver was just 2 years old when she died. Being left motherless, with three other siblings, took its toll. As an adult, he was a gruff man who rarely showed affection and spoke little. As my mom sees it, he “lost his main attachment in the world at age 2 and never trusted love again.” The ripple effects of this trauma span the generations; we are still working to unwind the far-reaching tendrils of this tragedy.
When I heard this story, I prayed I would never live to see the clock turned back to a time when women were forced into the shadows, risking their lives to maintain choice over their bodies. And yet, here we are.
Just like my great grandmother Jane in 1921, women in post-Roe America – especially Black, brown and working class women – will be forced to make dangerous, and sometimes deadly, decisions. As my family knows all too well, you can’t ban abortions. You can only ban safe abortions.
At this critical moment in history, it’s time to fight back and ensure that women in the US maintain access to safe and affordable abortions in the face of these unprecedented attacks. About 60% of Americans support legal abortions. With our collective action, this is possible.
Because the truth is, there is no way the radical right can turn back the clock completely. For example, unlike in 1921, there are now safe, effective and affordable abortion pills that are available by mail across all 50 states. These pills are safer than Tylenol, FDA approved, and effective up until 13 weeks of pregnancy. While legislators in Red states are moving to outlaw them, it is currently up for debate whether they can actually be banned. And even if the pills are banned, policing people’s mail boxes and other conduits for receiving packages will likely prove challenging.
If we work and fight together, we can ensure that we leverage this decisive moment in history to not just maintain but expand access to abortion care in America.
Here are the ways you can help:
- Spread the word that there are safe, effective, affordable abortion pills available by mail in all 50 states.
- Make a donation to an abortion fund that will financially help women obtain the care they need.
- Support independent clinics (which provide the majority of abortion services in the US) by donating to Keep Our Clinics.
Turning back the clock isn’t an option. But it’ll take all of us working together to move forward. Let’s do it for all the women we know and love. Let’s do it for Jane.
Publisher’s Note: Women Rising Radio can’t resist adding a historical reference to The Jane Collective, or “Jane”, officially known as the Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation, an underground network based in Chicago, Illinois in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, just prior to the Roe v. Wade decision. In honor of decades, centuries of struggle for women’s right to control over our bodies and our lives, let’s do it for all the Janes! Currently there is a documentary on The Janes playing on HBO.
Movie Reviews Through a “Poverty Skola” Lens By Lisa TIny Gray Garcia, Editor, Poor News Network
“I live in there, its my home,” Frances McDormand “playing” a houseless woman named Fern in the new movie Nomadland, says to mechanics who tell her it will be $5,000 to fix her van, which she “lives” in, in the movie. These and other moments are some of the excellently “crafted”, lines by brilliant actor McDormand and are classic examples of Hollywood’s ongoing dedication to performing poverty, disability and homelessness. to feed the ever-hungry, ever-exploitative film, media and akkkademik industries.
Another example is Adarsh Gourav, “portraying” Balram Halwaia,a very poor chauffeur working for Indian wealth-hoarders, scamlord class in the movie White Tiger a depiction/performance/portrayal of Poverty in India.
Both of these movies are artistically powerful, both of them have critiques (albeit way too subtle in Nomadland) of wealth-hoarding, employee slavery and CorpRape entities like Amazon. White Tiger is a deeper and more powerFULl critique of the scam-lord “upper classes” and even politricks itself. But they both are depictions of us poor people without us poor people. (Notwithstanding the only redeeming part of Nomadland, three poverty skolaz “playing” themselves)
Aravind Adiga, author of the book White Tiger and Jessica Bruder, who did a “story” on houseless “Nomads” for Harpers magazine and then published a book of the same name, are both themselves middle class/owning class academics, journalists, who have “never missed a meal” as my mama would call it, but who were “fascinated” with the “underbelly” aka Bleeds it leads possibilities of writing about poor people. And as my OG ghetto poverty skola mama would also say, because they are well-educated mofos, they are excellent editors and writers, story-builders and are able to create spins and slants and stories out of our messy, CONfusing realities. But the thing they both share with countless writers before them who write, perform, and create an endless stream of “about us without us” narratives about poor, houseless, landless, disabled, indigenous Black, Brown, and immigrant/migrant communities, from Dickens to Steinbeck to most recently, the fake Raza writer Jeanine Cummins of American Dirt, is what I call By-line privilege and linguistic dominance.
In other words these writers had a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and shoes on their feet, while growing up so they could focus and learn what I call in the Poverty Scholarship book- linguistic domination skills, so they could carve a powerful story arc, and create these beautiful portrayals. In both cases, the filmmakers of these movies, Chloe Zhao and Ramin Bahrani, were also schooled, clothed, loved and protected so they could go to institutions and “learn” expensive software editing programs, get high-priced computers, meet people who would finance them and make connections to Sundance festival and other spaces, to fund their budgets so they could create powerful productions with excellent sound, and cinematography , and more.
Newsom Twists and Turns Against Worker Protections
Earlier this year we at Women Rising Radio posted a short article lauding the California governor’s announcement of a commitment to support the state’s substantial population of undocumented and essential frontline workers, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Governor Newsom said:
“We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportation but are still addressing the essential needs of tens of millions of Californians. And that’s why I’m proud as governor to be the first state to announce a program for direct disaster assistance to those individuals, a total of $125 million.”
Since we published that piece, I as the author have wondered what proportion of that $125 million has actually been spent on the ground, in beneficial support for the undocumented doing the critical work to maintain us all, in this chaotic time.
I haven’t been able to do that investigation, but Women Rising Radio is broadcasting program titled “Women Challenge Capitalism”, in which we visit with domestic workers spearheading workers’ cooperatives in New York City. Those women, while they are not undocumented, faced exploitation and physical endangerment cleaning residences, until they formed cleaning cooperatives to protect them and their work.
Domestic workers in the USA, primarily women and people of color, are excluded from OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) regulations and other protections offered workers. The California state legislature just recently passed SB 1257, to remedy that problem. The bill removed the exclusion of domestic workers from CAL/OSHA, and gave them the same basic safety protections as other workers across the state, such as health and safety training, protective equipment, and legal protection against retaliation if they need to advocate for their own health and safety. at work.
The bill was authored by Senator Maria Elena Durazo, and co-sponsored by Equal Rights Advocates, the California Domestic Workers’ Coalition, Worksafe, and the California Employment Lawyers Association.
SB 1257 went to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom for signing – and he vetoed it. Why?!
New at Women Rising Radio’s Featured Essays Department!
A TRANSFORMATION OF CONSCIOUSNESS: GOVERNOR NEWSOM RECOGNIZES THE DIGNITY OF UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS
April 15th is a day that the undocumented must dread more than any of us who pay taxes. Out of their minuscule wages received for long hours of often backbreaking work in farming, food factory labor, domestic labor and caregiving, they must pay taxes to the United States government.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a report in February 2016, stating that 11 million undocumented workers in the United States are paying annually an estimated amount of $11.64 billion in state and local taxes, “on average an estimated 8 percent of their incomes.”
California’s governor finally – and miraculously in a nation that largely ignores the poor and marginalized – Governor Newsom finally recognized the undocumented for doing labor that, in the time of Covid-19, is considered to be essential, frontline and indispensable.
Newsom recognized and honored undocumented workers in California – and by inference in the USA – on April 15th, normally “tax day”, underlining the irony of the undocumented being forced to support the US government but getting almost no services from that same government.
Said Newsom, “We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportation but are still addressing the essential needs of tens of millions of Californians. And that’s why I’m proud as governor to be the first state to announce a program for direct disaster assistance to those individuals, a total of $125 million.”
The program will assist 150,000 undocumented workers in California with support payments of $500 to $1,000, depending on their circumstances. Granted there are about a million and a half of these essential workers in California alone, and Newsom is quite aware of that. But the recognition, the swift action to give relief, and the gratitude expressed by the governor of California are a huge breath of fresh, healthy air.
NEW SHORT ESSAY ON “JINWAR”, A DEMOCRATIC WOMEN’S ECO-VILLAGE IN NORTHERN SYRIA, THREATENED BY THE INCURSION OF THE TURKISH MILITARY:
Solidarity with a Kurdish Women’s Eco-village Community in Northern Syria
In early October 2019, when the US administration announced that it was abandoning its Kurdish allies in northern Syria, and leaving about 1,000 US troops trapped there to face the onslaught of the Turkish military, Women Rising Radio got an alert from a conference in Italy, where Syrian Kurdish women appealed to their supporters worldwide to come to their aid. They were, and are, directly in the path of the violence in northern Syria, and the eco-village paradise they created there is also in dire danger. Women Rising Radio has featured women working with eco-villages, peace villages, and women’s activist cooperatives across the globe. We are in solidarity with the women of JINWAR, the feminist and democratic eco-village in northern Syria. And we want all of our listeners to know about JINWAR. Perhaps among you there are organizers who can give assistance to this great undertaking – helping to protect it. Here is an excerpt from a letter delivered to the conference in Italy, from the women of JINWAR themselves:
“JINWAR is a place where women are able to live in a communal way and autonomously raise and educate their children freely and without huge daily influence of the dominant male mentality. Many brave women and men fought and gave their lives, in order to liberate this territory and make the possibility to build a new democratic system inspired by the concept of Democratic Confederalism. This system is based on ideas of Abdullah Ocalan concerning women’s freedom and self-administration of different ethnic and social groups, which are living here side by side together. Our village JINWAR is a part and in the same time a result of this revolutionary process. Furthermore, it is also a practical example, how we, as women, can create alternatives in fields as communal living, ecology and economy. During this process many things have been built here in Rojava: Women are organizing autonomously in every city. Examples for this are “Kongreya Star” and “Mala Jin” (Women’s houses), where women are gathering and developing solutions for problems of the whole society. In the “Mala Jin” women are supporting each other in solving conflicts in families. Women’s leadership and participation in decision making processes is also a key component of the direct democracy model being enacted in Rojava. Through that women could gain a new position in society and in politics. This achievement can be an example for all the women in the world.”
The women of JINWAR who drafted this letter go on to describe the dangers facing them and their visionary enterprise:
”You could see what we have built up: the houses made of clay, in which we live together, the school, the healing center for natural medicine which is supposed to be opened soon, our bakery, the garden, the fields, all the trees, which grow bigger and bigger and all of all our common life, far away from oppression and violence, based upon our will to live together as free women and children. …All this is now under direct threat by the Turkish State, which openly launches attacks against Northern Syria. Erdogan’s plan is to extinguish the Kurdish people and to occupy our region. We can see the results of this politics in Afrîn, which has been occupied by Turkey, DAIŞ and other Jihadist groups. The situation in Afrîn turned out really bad for the people, especially for the women, whose rights were taken away, who suffer from violence and rape, who are sold and treated as slaves. The attacks and another occupation by the Turkish state in other parts of Northern Syria could mean the same brutal exploitation for women here.”
The women of JINWAR are calling out to the people of the world to raise our voices and assist them in rescuing all that can be saved, from the violence of war:
“In the moment we are writing this letter different villages and places around have been bombed and many people have already been killed. Our village, our society, our lives and the life and future of all people here, especially women and children, is under urgent threat. We, as women and children from JINWAR call you to raise up your voices and take action against this war. Use all the possibilities you have to spread information and raise awareness about the Turkish occupation politics! Don’t stay silent! Let’s stand up together for free life and for our common future!”
Please send out this plea to all who can be of assistance to the brave and visionary women of JINWAR.
PRO-CHOICE ACTIVIST LAURIE BERTRAM ROBERTS TAKES ON MISSISSIPPI! BRAVE ACTIVIST.
Women Rising Radio‘s program on reproductive health here:
Democrats and Democracy: Chicago 1968.
A Killer Kulture
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Democratic National Convention held in Chicago in 1968, the Democratic National Committee is set to hold a significant meeting – in Chicago – August 24th and through the weekend, to consider election issues that have been critical for a long time.
That coincidence of time and place evoked in me deep memories of the debacle I witnessed 50 years ago.
April 1968 was “the cruelest month”, in the words of T.S. Eliot, blooming in red, black and blue with the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., undisputed king of the civil rights movement, and a hero of mine.
With that spring of 1968 came an offer from my college professor, to join a group of student activists headed to Mississippi for a summer of registering voters of color – mostly African Americans blocked from exercising rights enshrined for them in the Voting Rights Act. I wanted to go with that group.
By 1968 I’d been a foot soldier in the nationwide movement against the war in Vietnam for a few years. I’d helped to swell the ranks of the hundreds of thousands marching in New York and Washington. I’d participated in a reading of the trendy play MacBird! with Smith and Amherst students – as a witch chanting “double, double toil and trouble, Burn Baby Burn and Cauldron Bubble…” I went on to organize teach-ins against the war.
But I hadn’t devoted much time to focusing on civil rights and voting rights. So I called my parents, who always supported my student political activities both morally and financially. “I’m going with a Smith group to register voters in Mississippi!”
After an unexpected, stony silence at the other end of the phone conversation, my father finally responded, “Over my dead body.”
“You’re not going there, Lynn,” my mother added. “You have no idea of the danger involved.” They pointedly reminded me of the gruesome deaths of three CORE field activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner just 4 years previously during “Freedom Summer” of 1964.
My parents linked forces to demand that I do something else. When the conversation ended I was, to use a phrase of the time, “hung up”. I couldn’t go without their financial support, and I clearly had neither that nor their emotional support.
“Nuclear is NOT an Option
by Women Rising Radio Producer Lynn Feinerman
Published in the Tikkun magazine Daily Blog:
Here is the article. Join the Women’s March to Ban the Bomb: June 2017
Digging in my tiny Jewish library this Passover season, I came across a short contribution to a published symposium, made by Rabbi Nehemia Polen, a well-known scholar, author and congregational rabbi.
Polen wrote his short piece in 1986, for the literary publication New Traditions. But his words were ominously current for me, discovered as if by what we Jews call “hashgachah pratit”, a kind of destined timeliness.
He was considering the phrase in Jewish prayer liturgy, “hem yevoshu ve’yehatu mi’gevuratam”, translated “may the nations of the world be put to shame and crushed despite their power.” He meditated on the meaning of this phrase, and its intention in prayer:
“Then it hit me. Ever since nuclear weapons entered the world, with the potential to destroy not only the victim but the attacker as well, the nations of the world have indeed become terrified of their own power. A sense of shame does indeed adhere to this power. The logic of power in history has reached its extreme, self-negating limit…”
Polen perceives this part of Jewish prayer as “a lengthy meditation on the shamefulness of power”. I’ve been considering it throughout this Passover season. And the world’s so-called leaders have given me plenty of evidence corroborating that shamefulness.
This past weekend, as we observed both Passover and Easter worldwide, and likely other holy days not given so much publicity; as we asked for freedom and commemorated the death of a free-thinking Rabbi, we watched and listened as Trump and Un of North Korea rattled nuclear sabers at one another, threatening on one side to send “armadas” – sailboats from Spain?