What Was the Women’s March For?

People ask what the Women’s March on Washington was for, anyway, as if not rallying around a single discrete issue is mere silliness. To them, I say: if only there were a single, simple, self-contained issue. Gosh, wouldn’t that be great?

Here’s the thing. When trouble advances, women are pretty much always on the front line to confront it. Add to that, the interrelatedness of the issues on parade on January 21. Scratch the surface and you’ll see that climate change, immigration, health care, racism, education, the right to facts from a free (unthreatened) press, a woman’s right to choose safe and legal abortion, marriage equality, and economic justice intersect over and over again. These and more are too much for any one person to solve. And they just got a whole lot harder.

Joan Baez and Ezekiel

I had the wonderful opportunity last night to hear Joan Baez live in our little town. Yes, Joan Baez of anti-war, hippie-days, protest, and beautiful love fame. And she was beautiful. The place, Charlottesville’s Pavilion on the downtown mall was packed. Lots of gray heads in the crowd but not all, and everyone seemed to be loving the show. Just as in those fresh days from decades ago, Baez continues to sing out injustice, the challenge and responsibility to be decent in a world bent on bending goodness into greed and simple pleasure into perversity. Her hair was cropped close, she wore shorts and a v-neck, and sang with the pure tone I associate with her ’60s and ’70s tunes.

“Bible-based job skills” — huh?

I just read this morning a brief notice that an Illinois Corrections Department uses a Bible-based job skills program to help released inmates find and maintain jobs. It’s so successful that they’re expanding it. Hey, I’m happy for them — sounds like a great goal, and kudos for achieving it! But I’m confused. What exactly IS a “Bible-based job skills program”? Anyone know? Surely it’s not to imitate biblical jobs. It’s tough for me to imagine the practicality of, say, shepherding in Chicago or officiating as a priest in the style of Leviticus. Fishing, maybe, carpentry, too; but  winnowing grain, or prostitution? er, nevermind. And how, exactly does an arm of the judicial branch of the US government justify the application of a distinctly religious set of ideas? Clarification is welcome!

Kagan, Justice, and Judaism

Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court got me thinking about Jewish traditions of justice, at least as the Bible suggests and reflects. Near as I can tell, it bodes well for the work she’d be doing. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that justice is a major preoccupation of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) — the Jewish Bible.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Kagan and Obama.jpgOne thing that makes me optimistic, if Kagan is informed by these roots, is how the Bible clearly champions justice while accepting that the just thing is not always immediately clear. Rather, doing justice requires wrestling with the particularities of certain circumstances (think of all those specific “laws” in Exodus and Leviticus, for example), balancing absolute “thou shalt nots” with the fact that sometimes we do anyway, and determining where and when is the most just thing actually mercy.

The Jesus of Gran Torino

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t yet seen Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, don’t read any more here.

Clint was all Clint in his latest, Gran Torino, but he did a mighty fine Jesus, too. I’m assuming, given the spoiler alert above, that you’ve already seen the movie. I loved it, especially for its ending. But of course the power of that ending would be nothing without the story and character development that led to it.

By the end, we long for a dramatic blood-letting, a great ass-whooping of the nasty thugs, and we know that Clint is just the guy to do it.