Iraq And Syria

It’s a pity, nobody has called me from Washington yet to get my valuable insight on the grim happenings in Syria, which have clawed its way into a seemingly tranquil Europe.

So you guys are it: my audience.

Nothing further needs to be said about a people, who made available to us the profound ideas of equality, fraternity, and liberty: concepts rooted in a Judeo-Christian ideology.

Never mind, the French may have given up on the Christian part of it long ago, but the tenets remain, etched into the French psyche. The beautiful Notre dame, a structure we visited in 1974 with our infant daughter nisha, is sitting there very pretty and very empty.

So after the killing spree at the offices of the French cartoonists in January of this year, the French were said to be despairing over the stubborn resistance to assimilation on the part of the millions, whom they welcomed to their land, to live and to let live.

The next thing they knew, those very rights they fought a revolution over, 4 centuries ago, had become endangered, or been put on the threshold of being eliminated altogether.

The Bikini or the Burqa.

That clash of values catapulted us to what happened last week.

As we see all sorts of added and painful security measures being elevated all over Europe, and across the Atlantic, questions have arisen over how to handle the refugee migrants from a God-forsaken place called Syria.

Ironically, and aside from the rest of the story at hand, some of us call ourselves ‘Syrian Christians’. I don’t think there are any Christians left in Syria. Perhaps we should rename ourselves ‘Suriyani christhianis’. only the ‘suriyanis’ will know what to make of that term.

Anyway, instead of vilifying the governors and the presidential candidates for suggesting we put a lid on the ‘Great Migration’, I have come up with the following. I’m sure some of you are going to tell me, ‘you’re kidding, right’? and it’s ok to do that, and I am not.

Google came to my aid, and I discovered that there are roughly 350,000 Christian congregations in the U.S.

Assuming most of them possess their own sanctuaries, I propose that each of the churches adopt one refugee family each, and house them right in their sanctuaries. Giving sanctuary in a sanctuary.

If you think I’m being facetious, I am not.

In return for this, this guest family can help the churches with moderate amounts of housekeeping, until they’re on their feet, and can move onward. Kind of like W’s ‘Faith Initiative’. and it’s 340,000 more than what the president is edicting.

and on that note: what’s up with the president going abroad, and going around questioning Ted Cruz’s patriotism? isn’t it the same as when his patriotism was called into question? the Filipinos are probably confused.

All the vetting, that word we’re hearing a lot these days, (initially I thought this meant putting some water over the head of these people ), will be the responsibility of the sponsoring church. And the church will also be liable for any adverse outcomes.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and I have a story to tell. Just bear with me a bit more.

Once a time long ago, I was the food co-coordinator for my church Carmel MarThoma. poor folks, they haven’t got over it yet, and have not invited me back to repeat the performance.

thanksgiving rolled around that year, and I foolishly came up with the the novel idea of us, the church folks, preparing the whole thanksgiving meal, turkey and the sides, and openly inviting the Hudson townspeople to share it with us.

I was surprised by the resistance to the proposal, on the grounds of safety mainly, and other matters. I’m not blaming anyone. I haven’t invited townsfolk to my house, ever. I’m just suggesting, we have a different approach when something directly impacts our daily lives.

It’s getting a little tiresome to be repeatedly exhorted of our Christian duty to care for the least advantaged. No argument there. It’s right there in Matthew’s Gospel. This may be arguably the most quoted Gospel verse. No problem with that either.

but is it possible, Jesus may have meant, we the individuals, you and I, take care of this? and not putting it on Caesar’s head, and be done with it?

as a fact, Jesus never exhorted Caesar to do anything.

Next point in this business of the blame game is, that of giving preference to ‘Christian’ refugees.

We can opt out of this dilemma by offering to take people over 50, with no extended families accompanying them. No religious litmus test will then be necessary. It will still be better than the ‘all or nothing’ stand.

Some of us are suffering from this malady called, The Bias of Lowered Expectations (BLE). What is good for the goose is not good for the gander. Some are expected to do only the ‘least of their best’.

why don’t we expect Saudi Arabia to take in half the number of refugees, with whom they share a religion, language, and a culture, that are being sent to Europe? Why is it OK for the Saudis to stand idly by, but not for the Europeans? Isn’t caring for widows and orphans mandated in their holy book?

I wonder if Jesus said anything about double standards? WWJS(ay)?

Apostle Paul was a supremely learned Jew, a pharisee, on his way to Damascus in Syria, to kill the newly minted Christians in AD 33 or so, but lucky for us, he had an Encounter With A Good Jew and he had a change of heart. Is it unrealistic to wish that some of the ‘bad guys’ may also have that same encounter with the same Jew, if we all prayed hard enough? Or am I nutty?

Good Wednesday evening…i hope i get at least a few (dis)likes to my post.

mercy

A Tale Of Two Josephines – Shirley And Laila

friends and family,

Shirley Josephine Fentin died one week ago. she was 94.

a good Jewish woman, our David’s Grammy, lived in southern California towards the end of her long life. A woman who raised 6 children to accomplished adulthood was the quintessential Jewish mother.

Yet, this was also a Jewish mother, who welcomed her Christian daughter-in-law from a Connecticut Yankee family as one of her own.

And we’re all the better for it.

Didn’t a famous Jew long ago teach us to love our neighbours as ourselves?

I feel privileged to be related to Shirley.

She was Grammy to our Mekhala and David. But ever more sentimentally, our precious Laila was her namesake.

Our three daughters advanced into the twenty-first century, a centuries-old tradition, unique to the Syrian Christians of Kerala, of naming grandchildren after grandparents, first patriarchal and then matriarchal, in that order. All three named each of their firstborns after a paternal grandparent. I call it grand after grand.

Thus, an Italian-Irish utterly devout Roman Catholic family of new England, a Swedish-Norwegian clan from the Midwest, and a Jewish-Episcopalian family from western Massachusetts, all got inducted into the age-old practice of a people, from a faraway place and a remote culture, by having a grandchild (their oldest in the case of two of them) named after them, thus connecting races across the span of continents and time. One human race.

And we have Laila Josephine Fentin.

Any retelling is best served with anecdotes.

So here goes one.

When Laila was born on a full moon night, (I swear with a lunar luminescence), on an April day of 5 years ago, her ecstatic ‘bampi’ Fentin called his own mother, who was in Florida at the time, to announce to her the good news:

‘ma, you have another great grand-daughter. Her name is Laila Josephine.’

Grammy glanced around with some surprise and exclaimed,

why, Gary, that’s my middle name!’

To which, Gary replied,

‘ma, they named her after you.’

I obviously couldn’t see this great-Grammy’s precious expression of the moment, but I’m certain there was pure and well-deserved glee in those 89-year-old eyes.

Susan, Mekhala’s mother-like mother-in-law, always spoke of her own mother-in-law with great fondness, so I’ll paste here what she posted on that ubiquitous social medium called FB. So you don’t have to take my word for it. now we know where Susan gets it from!

“This is my mother-in-law, Shirley Fentin, who never made me feel like I was anything but the handpicked choice for her oldest son and who called me her third daughter. I’m headed out to San Diego tomorrow morning to say goodbye and praying for a peaceful transition to her next destination. Bless you Mom. I love you.”

We might say in 2015, ‘what’s the big deal about a Jew marrying an Anglo-Saxon’?

To put it into perspective, we have to only glance back to the not-so-distant past, when we ‘all’ would have myocardial infarctions (!), if or when our children married ‘white’ people. Someone removed from this culturally might similarly ask, ‘what’s the big deal’?

Our Lord God places certain special people in our lives at various stages, to show us without the aid of any holy books, that such goodness is possible.

Shirley Fentin’s final words were, according to Gary … “no tears, just smiles.”

One of God’s Chosen Folks.

I’m glad that Shirley Josephine came into my life, and that I have a Laila Josephine in my life.

Good night…

Mercy

 

 

The Kentucky Clerk And The US Constitution

The Kentucky clerk is back in the news, which is unfortunate for her and for us.

The media come up with these catch names for the characters of their stories, such as ‘Kennedy cousin’, ‘Arizona shooter’, the NY prison worker, and so on, in lieu of their real names. If i said, Kim Davis, you’ll say, Kim who? so, she’s now refusing to claim the licenses are being issued by her office, thus making it invalid or something like it.

Now, i do appreciate this woman’s Christian fervor. I really do. But it seems that she missed a pertinent part of her high school civics class. It must have been the day she was out with the flu, or else she’d have clearly known that the US constitution is the supreme law of the land. Any religious governance is subservient to that. Her church’s cannons cannot supersede what the Supremes have decided. She doesn’t have to like it, she just has to obey.

This brings me to a number of years ago, to the day i proudly appeared for the interview process, as part of my application to become a US citizen. As many, or all of you may know, there is a guide book you can study, to ace the interview. My husband had gone through the process a few years prior, but when the time came, in my know-it-all fashion :), I declared I didn’t need this book. ‘hah! I know all about US history, geography and the political process.’ He kept urging me to at least read the book once to be aware of what kind of questions will be asked. Sad to admit, I’m not typically known for my obedience :( , so I went to Boston’s Government Center, without so much as ever glancing at the book. Frankly, in my own defense, I expected questions of the sort, ‘who was our first president’, ‘where is the US capital’, etc.

So, this guy who was interviewing me, assessed rather early in the game, that I was being a ‘smart alec’ and proceeded to one-up me, and started asking ‘secondary’ questions to, I’m sure, trip me up.

He asked: what is the constitution?

Me: it is the law of the land.

Interviewer: what kind of law?

I was thinking to myself, (but didn’t say it out loud): is there more than one kind?

Interviewer: what is the qualifying part of it?

Me: silence. what?

I was miffed. We’re allowed one or two (max) wrong answers, and he was determined to catch me on this one. And, to his delight, I simply didn’t know. Then he ‘smart-aleced’ me back and said: you should know, it is the ‘supreme’ law of the land. He almost gave me a mischievous look that seemed to suggest that I failed. But then he found some mercy(!) deep in his inner being and let me go. He may as well not have wanted to deal with me one more time. :)

So for the law: the word ‘supreme’ covers it all. I had known the gist of that even before, but this episode with the astute government clerk, who didn’t want to let me off the hook that easily, cemented it for me, and it has stuck. The courts will always try to stay out of thorny situations, but if someone decided to bring a lawsuit, the rulings will have to side with the law.

Which brings me to a more current story. Recently, a Muslim woman filed a lawsuit against a budget airline, that she couldn’t and wouldn’t serve alcohol to passengers in flight, because it was against her religion. Oh, brother. An obvious option for her in this case would have been to step aside from that job, and find something else to do. But, why choose the obvious option when you can pick the more contentious one, right?

This is America after all. Home of the brave, and land of the free money. God bless America.

So, she went to court to make the airline bend policy for her. Alas for us, airlines operate on minimum staff (for better or for worse), and if one purposely won’t perform her part of the job description, what is the option they’re left with?

I then found it astonishing, that the same folks who’re unhappy with the Kentucky clerk are the ones who thought the flight attendant had a case. No harm in a little double standard. right?! Freedom to practice one’s religion. The first amendment.

I know the government is not the same as a private employer, but the emotions, that precipitate out of these polarizing situations, are the same. I’m principally opposed to the death penalty. Only a God who created us in His image has the right to take it away. But do I think the courts should make it illegal based on the pope’s exhortations? Probably not. However, the High Court’s clerks are welcome to comb through the law books to find some loophole by which the justices can put it in place. By all means, yes, and please do.

But Exodus 20:13 (Ahimsa), should not be the basis for the law. It can only, but certainly, guide our core values and our conscience.

Similarly, abortion is like adultery. bad, bad, bad. wrong, wrong, wrong. We should never commit it. But should we legislate it and make it illegal? I think not.

Hope you’re enjoying the wall-to-wall coverage of the Bishop of Rome. A twenty-first century man who resembles a first century Carpenter from Nazareth. may God go with him.

Happy Saturday… mercy

Border Insecurity and The Donald

Kunju,

Well, this one is tricky. Now, don’t just move to the conclusion that I’m a Trump fan.

It happened like this. when the media first reported that Trump may run for the 2016 election, I was like, ‘here we go again’. Remember, he had made the same attempt four years ago. Then when he actually announced, I went, ‘you’re kidding, right’?

At the juncture where, what he said to Megyn Kelly and about her, and especially what Megyn said what he had said to some apprentice contestant, all came out, is when I found it all beyond offensive, and rolled up the welcome mat from under him. He somehow didn’t slip.

If he had said those tired, old lines to anyone in my company, he’s the one who’d be ‘fired’.

Then it was like, wait a minute … to, well, now.

His first pronouncement about illegals and the way the media got on his case, I remember thinking, ‘he didn’t mean all immigrants, come on guys, he was talking about illegals’. To me, the terms ‘undocumented immigrants’ (a term coined by the NY Times) and ‘illegal immigrants’ are the same. It only means that they crossed the border illegally to come here.

Now, someone is going to yell at me and say, we’re all immigrants, America is made up of immigrants, the first pilgrims were illegals, blah, blah, blah. It creates a good sound bite, but we all know that that’s not what we’re talking about here.

Just take the case of Mexico.

Now, no one from Washington has called and asked me to be part of a ‘think tank’ to find solutions to our border insecurity, but I’ll offer my valuable (or laughable?) ideas on how to stem the flow of illegals.

First, why don’t we export the American governing systems of free enterprise, law and order, and democracy, to Mexico, so that this country with enormous amounts of natural resources (human and earth), can become the envy of the Western Hemisphere? I’m well aware of the studied notion that, people similar to animals in the wild, go where the food supply is. In which case, why don’t we help them find food where they are? Like, teaching to fish, instead of giving fish, so to speak?

Second, dismantle ‘the Department of Customs and Border Protection’, and let people come and go as they please, kind of like, when I go to Connecticut and back. On my return, I’m greeted with a ‘Welcome to Massachusetts’ sign every time. :)

What’s the point of paying the feds top salaries to man the operation, and then claiming it to be inhumane, when they actually do their jobs? It’d be a blessing if we don’t have to stand in line after a 24-hour flight from kochi, anyway. kudos to the feds, once I got fined $25.00 for bringing in $2.00 worth of curry leaves. :( All the more reason to get rid of it. :)

Third,  don’t laugh, we can make Mexico our fifty-first state.

That way, no one will have to jump the ‘Trump Wall’. I know it sounds preposterous, but it is no more so, than providing for ‘anchor babies’ for life. The last two states were annexed in my lifetime. I remember when it went from 48 to 50. What’s one more? :)

Now, somebody has decided ‘anchor babies’ is a bad word. Oh, brother! This is how Trump gets traction.

Anyway, back to our friend, Mister Trump.

What’s so abominable about saying we should first hire ‘American’ citizens for American jobs, before we invite foreign nationals? Isn’t it the job of the president to take care of his citizens before he does the same for the rest of the world? He’s our president, not our pastor.

It costs an arm, and a leg, and then a house, and then some, (and no kidding!) to college-educate children in this country, in any discipline.

When all is done, and the kids and their sorry parents are out of exorbitant amounts of cash, they’re competing in the marketplace with young adults who did university for 1000 rupees, and who can then afford to take jobs at a lesser pay. See the vicious cycle? We’re talking about our kids here.

What about Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella, and the parents of Vivek Murthy? you say. Oh, May be, we can make a special visa category for South Indian Brahmins, there is some sort of a pattern here, don’t you think? :)

Also, perhaps we can consider temporarily employing the folks on California’s unemployment payrolls, to pick grapes, so that the grapes don’t rot in the sun as somebody lamented?

Really, Trump is echoing commonly-felt concerns. People are tired of the P-C-ness, which is a just nicer word for disingenuousness, bordering on fakery. Vilifying Capitalism on the one hand, and allowing other nationals to seek jobs here on the other, is an extreme form of this. Claiming our democracy is not well-functioning, and then wanting to offer asylum to war-zone refugees is another.

It’s a novelty when a politician speaks the truth. Trump tells it like it is, in his world view. Folks are flocking to him for this reason and nothing else. In the end, they may not even vote for him.

Citizens are silenced into keeping mum for fear of being called heartless, homophobic, xenophobic, racist, nationalistic, un-Christian, and what not, by the dominant media, and the land that gave us the precious ‘right to freedom of expression’ is gradually chipping away at our ‘freedom to express’. The free press is stifling free speech. Not a good plan.

I don’t think Jesus would approve of all this name-calling.

As Christians, I realize we’re mandated to see that the least fortunate among us are taken care of, but somehow, I don’t think that includes rich Chinese women who give birth here to anchor their babies to the soil.

I would have said that ‘the Donald’ has the chance of a snowball in hell, to even get the party’s nomination, let alone win the national election, but, If he does, I’ll be concerned about how it appears to the world, to have a bellicose leader in the pattern of Hugo Chaves, as the leader of the free world. Even in death, Hugo is remembered for having said, ‘death to America’, and not for the free heating oil he provided to the needy of Dorchester, Massachusetts. When he died, president Obama eulogized him, by saying he’s glad Hugo has gone on to meet his Maker, and it couldn’t have happened any sooner, or something to that effect. Oh brother!

Nate silver is predicting that Donald won’t make it to the finish line. we’ll see. win or lose, he’ll have started ‘the Conversation’.

Regards to Susy and Happy Monday evening.

‘Time to buy’… and don’t sell…:)

mercy

Castle Island – Boston Harbour

This brings me to my ongoing quest to be a ‘blogger’ with a worldwide audience(!), and the effort to be your ‘trip adviser’ for one day.

For the past three weeks, we had the awesome pleasure of six little persons visiting us from three different states, in the forms of Sophia, Lily, Liam, Mia, Laila, and Nora.

They accompanied us to a few local spots, one of them ‘castle island’, right in the Boston harbour. most notable to me, because in the more than 4 decades of our existence in Boston, we’ve never been to this place. At first pass, it’s a just very nice beach with a distinctive New England flavor.

However, although it’s called an island, it’s not ferried, which makes it for a quicker reach. It also means, I can leave home without my Dramamine. It’s connected to the (in)famous Southie by a causeway. I wonder if Sri Raman, his ‘annan kunju’, and Hanuman provided the prototype for its architecture!

The island beach is formed into many alcoves, offers long walk paths along the edge of the water, a shaded area with park benches, a well-furbished kiddie playground, a shack called Sullivan’s that serves classic American fare, including that must-have summer treat – lobster rolls. And listen to this, lots of free parking. Do we know of any Massachusetts beach that doesn’t charge a parking fee?

On a good day, it’s a half hour drive from our house. Just veg-out there in a beach chair, with a good book (i recommend reza aslan’s ‘Life And Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth’), and watch and listen to the jets roaring right overhead one per minute. you can almost touch the landing gear on them.

although one of our former governors bragged that the water in the Boston harbor is good enough for drinking, i’d advise against it.

so, take a trek out there. we still have a whole month left. and if you do make it, i’d love to hear about it, and while there, please say hello to Matt Damon and Ben affleck for me.

Happy sunday afternoon..

Cecil – The King Of The Jungle

“And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31

OK, everyone, let’s take a Sunday break – from Cecil, the king (of the jungle), and the coverage of his untimely demise. The story can be found to run parallel to the narrative of the Garden of Eden. Man had everything going for him: A paradise, dominion over all vegetation and animals, A mate God personally chose for him, and for whom he gave up a rib, And crowning it all, the constant companionship of God Himself. And he had to go after the one thing he couldn’t have. The forbidden fruit. I think a tear was spotted in the corner of the Creator’s eye at this majestic cat’s fatality at the hands of His most purposeful creation.

The Second Amendment

kunju,

i’m with you, more or less. with a caveat.

if we solved racism altogether, if we removed all vestiges of the abomination that was slavery, and the confederate flag, if we had only loving homes and Christian teachings, if we somehow stopped terrorism dead on its feet, if we eliminated police over-reach, we’d still have the massacre of little children in a CT elementary school, the slaughter of movie-goers in a Colorado theater and in a columbine (CO) high school, we’d still have the Arizona mall shooting that killed a bunch and gravely injured a congresswoman.

The common denominator in all this is the gun: the lack of its control and the easy access to it.

Now, i have the utmost reverence for the United States constitution, and the founding fathers who constructed it in elegant prose. i agree it should not be changed at every whim. but we have amended it 27 times. before the 19th, i, as a woman, couldn’t vote.

So it’s time to revisit this idea of, ‘the right to bear arms’, which was written when the roaming outlaws could hurt the pioneers living on the frontier plains, and it was designed to give them the right to protect themselves and theirs from harm, and the word ‘militia’ is in there somewhere, too.

We have moved out from the wild west and the barren plains and advanced to strong laws and stricter policing, but a whole lot of crazies (sorry, i couldn’t think of a better word) are buying guns the same way i buy milk. and they can decide to snap at any time.

I’m with the president on this one. imagine that! he’s right, no advanced nation has this kind of mass killings from within. Europeans are appalled with this kind of gun proliferation, and miffed by our seeming inertia towards it. In a bit of irony, they hold dear the right to free speech the way Americans hold gun rights.

Having said all this, i have no idea how we’ll go about to bring change on this one, so that some day, simple folks studying the Holy Scripture in the peacefulness of a church sanctuary will go home to tell about it.

on a positive note, this time around, there is only ‘one side’ to this tragedy. no two sides as to who was in the right.

regards to Susy, and happy summer solstice…

mercy
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