Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Share the Wealth with Lynda Oppong: Finding Purpose

I am grateful for this opportunity to talk a little bit about myself and my experiences so far. How living between two countries now have moulded who I am now and how my life in the US has helped me look back at Africa and has given me this strong desire to go back home and help my own people in any way I can. Usually, when people leave the continent, they find it hard finding their way back and helping their communities and all their talent and skill is used to help other places grow. As Africans, I believe it is important to realize how much potential the continent has and how much room there is for improvement and development. It is my desire to take advantage of the learning experiences I’ve had here to help my continent in any way I can.

I am a final year student at Maryville University, studying criminal justice. I am originally from Ghana, West Africa and I’ve been here for four years getting my bachelors degree. The goal is to go to law school then move back home after.

Join us
On Sunday 25 February
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Bring something to share
Lynda begins sharing at 6:45
At the apartment of Kine, Lina, Sarah, and Sandra
on Maryville’s Campus
650 Maryville University Drive, 63141 St. Louis
Hilltop Apartments (far north end of campus)
Apartment number: Pine 15

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Notice What You Notice

Laura Bronstein came over to my home
To drop something off from Henry

(He wasn’t able to get out much anymore
And he was gradually accepting help)

Laura noticed one of my shelves in particular
“So, you are into Simone Weil?”

“Yes, lately I’ve been working my way
Through Pétrement’s bio in French”

Laura said in her unshakeable tone
“I identify more and more with her”

Our eyes locked for several seconds
Before she turned to leave

And the thought occurred to me:
She’s the Categorical Imperative in corduroys


–work-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris

“Just Mow ‘Em Down”

Next month will mark the 50th anniversary of one of the very few well-known atrocities committed by U.S. forces in Vietnam. Compare mainstream coverage of this anniversary with the following …

Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim, Four Hours in My Lai  (New York: Penguin Books, 1992).
Seymour Hersh, My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath (New York: Random House, 1970).

On March 16, 1968, over a hundred men of the Army’s Charlie Company of the Americal Division entered the village of Mỹ Lai and murdered over five hundred people, overwhelmingly women, children, and old men.  A military cover-up of the mass murder ensued. Lieutenant William “Rusty” Calley was the only member of the company or of the higher command who received any punishment, initially, a sentence of life imprisonment with hard labor, which became three and a half years under house arrest, after which he was released. Some in the Army were relieved as the Mỹ Lai massacre was eventually termed a “tragedy,” later to be viewed as an “incident.” Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Brittany, Julia, and Suzy: Reflections from the 2017 Mev Puleo Program

We–Brittany Butler (junior), Suzy Kickham (sophomore), and Julia Nouse (sophomore)–spent 10 weeks studying liberation theology and living in community in Nicaragua this past summer. Now, after six months back in the states, lessons we learned in accompaniment, community, and gratitude have continued to shape us. We hope to share with you all some of our experiences of both joy and brokenness.

While we will begin by sharing stories, we mostly hope to foster a conversation during which we can all share and reflect together.

Join us
Sunday 18 February
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Sharing begins at 6:45
At the home of Julia Brucks
2819A Shenandoah
Saint Louis, MO
63104

Suzy, Julia, Abbie, Brittany

Hair/2 (Letting Go/2)

The following is from The Book of Mev….

Hair/2
(Letting Go/2)

The next day we met with Dr. Friedberg, who recommended we see a couple of neurosurgeons to see what could be done about the brain tumor Mev evidently did have. The second one we saw, Dr. Robert Fink, shared the various options, and we decided that Mev should undergo a de-bulking surgery as soon as possible. We came to this decision on a Tuesday and the surgery was scheduled for three days later. Family began to arrive day after day to offer their support and love. Friends from the Jesuit School of Theology held an all-night prayer vigil for Mev the evening before her surgery, while at our apartment, Steve Kelly presided at a liturgy with much appreciated grace and calm. One of our friends, who wasn’t religious at all, came, and said to us afterward, “If all Masses or services were like this one, I could see why people would wanna go, even I was moved.”

That April Friday morning, Mev and I, her parents, her sisters, our friends in Berkeley and a few from St. Louis all arose at the early hour of 5 a.m. to make our way to the Alta Bates Hospital at the corner of Ashby and Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. After checking in at the hospital, we prepared ourselves for a long, uncertain morning. One of the necessary preludes to the surgery was the shaving of Mev’s hair. Soon after that, she would be taken away for the surgery. I wanted to be with her as long as possible, so I stayed in an adjoining room as the nurse kindly and soothingly prepared Mev for a haircut unlike any other she had had. One of the hospital staff told me the previous day that nurses were quite sensitive and skilled in this part of their job, since many women about to have Mev’s kind of surgery would go to pieces at the thought of losing their hair. Mev appeared quite steady as I gave her a kiss before leaving her with the nurse for the few minutes it would take to cut off her hair. Read the rest of this entry »

Unpronounceable Words

George McGovern and William R. Polk, Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now

March 2007

Dear Andrew,

I have finished McGovern and Polk’s primer on the catastrophe in Iraq and how to get out of it. It does remind me in form of Carter’s book on Palestine: short, succinct, easy to read, intended for a huge audience. Certainly, a huge audience in America could and should be enlightened by this book. Early on, the authors ask, “How can a person distinguish between propaganda and fact?” And they respond in a way that is a challenge to us, CTSA, and our students: “The short answer is diligence and time, plus a healthy dose of skepticism.” [14] “The challenge is to devote the time. On the Iraq war the American public and Congress clearly did not.” [15]

The early chapter on what is Iraq and who are the Iraqis would be welcome, I think, for so many of our students, given their (our?) poor sense of history and geography. I am reminded of a remark a young Palestinian woman made to me in Ramallah, “We know everything about America, and Americans know nothing about us.” Her remarks generalize beyond Palestine, of course. The authors show how embedded journalism does us no real service: “Few reporters went to Iraq knowing the local language, and so they could not hope to get the opinions and observations of most Iraqis. We tend to accept this fact as a given, because Arabic is a difficult language known to few Americans, but we should ask ourselves how we would rate reports on American political affairs written by a Chinese journalist who could not speak or read English.” [10] Read the rest of this entry »

Who Is Learning from History?

1.

Oscar Romero’s Letter
San Salvador February 17, 1980

His Excellency
The President of the United States Mr. Jimmy Carter

Dear Mr. President:

In the last few days, news has appeared in the national press that worries me greatly. According to the reports, your government is studying the possibility of economic and military support and assistance to the present government junta.

Because you are a Christian and because you have shown that you want to defend human rights, I venture to set forth for you my pastoral point of view in regard to this news and to make a specific request of you. Read the rest of this entry »

The Future Belongs to South America

Jessie Sandova, From the Monastery to the World: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Ernesto Cardenal (Counterpoint Press, 2017)

I had initial high hopes for reading the correspondence of Thomas Merton and Ernesto Cardenal. I started reading Merton in the early 80s and Cardenal in the late 2000s. Alas, unlike the blazing selected letters between Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac who were friends and equals, this correspondence was one between an older, maturer spiritual master and his devoted, younger student. There is a fair amount of mundane exchange on writing, publishing, translating their works in both the USA and Latin America. (There was at one point a Merton Reading Club in Managua.)

Most of the passages I marked were from Merton’s letters to Cardenal, such as the following…

Merton as kvetcher: Gethsemani is terrible. Tremendous commerce—everybody is going mad with the cheese business. I want to leave very badly.… Do you know that some fanatical Catholics in Louisville have burned my books, declaring me an atheist because I am opposed to the Vietnam War? …This country is mad with hatred, frustration, stupidity, confusion. That there should be such ignorance and stupidity in a civilized land is just incomprehensible…. On the other hand, I would be ashamed to be in a Latin American country and to be known as a North American…. We simply cannot look to the established powers an structures at the moment for any kind of constructive and living activity. It is all dead ossified, corrupt, stinking, full of lies and hypocrisy, and even when a few people seriously mean well they are so deep in the corruption and inertia that are everywhere that they can accomplish nothing that does not stink of dishonesty and death. All of it is rooted in the cynical greed for power and money, which invades everything and corrupts everything. Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Ashaki Jackson: Some Food for Thought

My name is Ashaki Jackson and I am native to Trinidad and Tobago. My family immigrated to the U.S. when I was 8 years old and later on I moved to St. Louis and pursued a degree in Anthropology. I am working towards an MSW degree with a special interest in mental health and mind, body, and spirit healing.

Ashaki Jackson, among many other beautiful things, is an explorer. If you pay close enough attention, you will observe her on one of her bold expeditions across the body, delving into the mind, and unbinding the spirit. She searches for what proves elusive, an old knowledge spoken in new languages, a nurturing of imagination, a bold embrace of all the joys and sorrows that exist within simply breathing and being present in this moment with you. –TK Smith

Join us
Saturday 10 February
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Ashaki begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Jim and J’Ann Schoonmaker Allen
4519 Oakland Avenue Forest Park Southeast
63110

Doing the Opposite of What Dr. King Suggested

Reagan Patrick is taking her third course with me, Comparative Religion and Culture. She recently spent some time with Dr. Martin Luther King’s April 4, 1967 speech on Vietnam and wrote the following reflection.

After listening to this speech, I found it strange how this is my very first-time hearing anything about Dr. King giving this speech. Being from Memphis I’ve learned about Dr. King from kindergarten to the day I graduated high school; but this speech has never had the spotlight. We all know Dr. King for being the one to start the Civil Rights Movement, and to be a huge public figure. He’s someone who didn’t hold back on how he felt, so this speech is something that I’m not surprised about.

I think the whole point of the speech was to get the people to see that the country was choosing to put the people last. It didn’t matter the race or the gender of the people, it was just the fact that the country chose to take away the poverty program to put money towards guns, and its military. He didn’t see that as something that was right. Read the rest of this entry »