Fierce Poet.
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 Working on something new.

I’ve been thinking about a new site or array of new sites.  I want to get back into the daily/weekly blog postings and ramblings in the hopes that doing so will encourage further poetry writing as well.

I’m envisioning two separate sites with a move of the poetry to a dedicated poetry site and the ramblings on their own as well.  Opinions anyone??  Does anyone still stick around here at all??

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 No Compromise

I recently listened to a series of insightful lectures on the American Civil War given by Dr. Gary Gallagher, a professor of History at the University of Virginia. Early on, Dr. Gallagher analyzed the failure of America’s political leadership to find a compromise on slavery in the days and years leading up to secession and the catastrophic and bloody war. There was the careful attempt to admit to the Union, in tandem, one slave state and one free state to insure the balance of power in the Senate. Henry Clay of Kentucky, the “great compromiser” helped to work out the division of Western territory so that this balance was to be preserved “in perpetuity.” Slavery, however, was not a political battle that could ultimately be negotiated; it was rather a moral battle that did not lend itself to compromise. It pitted a new consciousness against a dying definition. Slavery could not be partially moral or moral under some circumstances. It was either moral or immoral. There was no middle ground.

In the slavery debate, those who shared the new consciousness were quite clear. Human beings cannot be held in bondage. This new consciousness challenged those definitions, which suggested that some people did not qualify as human beings; that some people were primitive, childlike, created to be subservient, and were, therefore, fit for nothing other than manual labor. Within that definition, slavery was deemed to be morally acceptable and those who held this position actually believed that slavery was virtuous, since the slaves were assumed to be receiving the benefits of better health, longer life and wonderful new opportunities in “a civilized and Christian land.” These arguments sound strange, even hostile, to us today but ideas of racial superiority were still a powerful force in the Western world as late as the 20th century, fueling World War II, that cost the lives of over one hundred million people.

I thought about this period of history as I read of my own church, the Anglican Communion, seeking a way, “for the sake of unity,” to accommodate divergent opinions on the issue of homosexuality. The Church’s leadership is acting as if negotiation is possible in this conflict, yet the obvious fact is that homosexuality, like slavery, is a moral issue and thus not amenable to compromise. Once again today’s debate pits an emerging consciousness against a dying definition. The old definition asserts that homosexuality is a choice that evil, perverted or subhuman people make. It cannot, therefore, be tolerated.

People whose depravity causes them to choose “this lifestyle” must be converted or removed lest they destroy the social order; if they are homosexual because of a mental illness, they must be cured or isolated lest they infect the health of all our citizens. That is the definition, stated honestly but more baldly than its proponents will appreciate, that is held by those who call themselves conservative or traditional Christians. I suspect, based on the results of our recent election, that they are a majority in the body politic of America at this moment. They are, however, a frightened majority because every statistical study indicates that this point of view is declining. To defend this position by claiming that the refusal to accept this perspective will destroy “the unity of the Church,” is a breathtakingly bankrupt idea. Trapped inside dying definitions, these Christians assume that not to agree with them places their critics on the side of immorality and moral anarchy.

The emerging new consciousness, on the other hand, rejects every part of that definition. It asserts that homosexual people are neither morally depraved nor mentally sick, since one’s sexual orientation is not a choice; but something to which one awakens. It is like the dawning realization that one is male or female, part of a particular race or nation or even right or left-handed. A just and moral society cannot be erected on a premise that some human beings are subhuman or perverted, not on the basis of their doing but on the basis of their being. It matters not what any source of ancient wisdom has previously declared.

The Bible, for example, was once quoted to support slavery, to oppose science and to prevent women from achieving equality. On every one of those issues the Bible was quite simply wrong. To quote it now to uphold the evil of homophobia is no less wrong. These efforts will fail as they always do. The ultimate tragedy is, however, that some church leaders, ever on the wrong side of great moral questions of history, never seem to learn history’s lesson that any prejudice once publicly challenged by a new consciousness is doomed.

As I survey the debate on this issue in all parts of the Christian tradition, a tragic failure of leadership is once again depressingly obvious. The Roman Catholic hierarchy simply takes the old definition and labors first to defang it and then to perfume it. They call homosexuality “unnatural,” or “a deviation,” urging that it be suppressed wherever possible and controlled where not possible.
Homosexuality, however, has now been incontrovertibly identified as present in the world of higher mammals. It also appears to be a stable and unchanging percentage of the human ran race at all times and in all places. These data suggest that homosexuality is not unnatural at all but is a minority aspect of the created order that appears quite normally in all higher forms of life. Furthermore, this negativity in the Roman Catholic tradition is without character since it is both known and privately acknowledged that a major percentage of Roman Catholic clergy throughout history, including today, have been and are gay males.

To watch the leaders of this church condemn that which is a fact in the lives of its cardinals, bishops and priests is either dishonest or an act of unconscious psychological denial.

The evangelical and fundamentalist churches proclaim that these definitions of antiquity embody the eternal truth of God and any attempt to change them is either the work of Satan or a godless secular spirit that is challenging the word of God in the name of immorality. Yet the new consciousness is dawning there too. As long ago as 1988, the Southern Baptist Convention voted by over a 90% majority to “reaffirm” its condemnation of homosexuality as “behavior repugnant to God” and “condemned by scripture.” They seemed not to recognize that any definition that has to be reaffirmed is no longer holding. The only questions are how protracted will the debate be and how many people will be hurt before that prejudice dies. When anyone seeks to protect a dying definition, failure is inevitable.

The leaders of the mainline churches, aware of the new consciousness, pretend that some compromise is possible. They seek to protect unity by attempting to civilize the debate until a new consensus arrives. They count “the unity of the church” as a worthy goal even as that forced unity violates that Institution’s integrity. Can you imagine that part of the Church that said no to slavery being asked to apologize for upsetting the consciences of the slaveholders? Can you imagine Church leaders saying to slaveholders, “we will not challenge the morality of your decisions about slaves because we would rather keep our faith community united?” Can you imagine coddling slaveholders so that they will not separate themselves in schism from the Church? Can anyone imagine any slave-holding church claiming to be the body of Christ?

Yet if you substitute the word homosexuality for the word slavery, that is what is present today in the main line churches. If homosexuality is a given not a chosen way of life, the continued violation of gay and lesbian people, in order to preserve unity with the Church’s homophobic constituency, is simply immoral. Not to bear corporate witness to those who still languish in the dying definitions of the past is to turn one’s back on the very meaning of the Christ. Do we imagine that Jesus’ invitation was, “Come unto me, some of ye.” instead of “Come unto me, all ye?” Can any Church discriminate against any child of God and still sing, “Just as I am, without one plea, O Lamb of God, I come”?

Slavery could not be compromised in the 19th century because slavery was finally understood as a moral issue. Homosexuality cannot be compromised in the 21st century because it too is a moral issue. To the threats of parts of the Christian Church to leave if homosexual people are welcomed fully without any distinction, the body of Christ must be prepared to say, “That is your choice but we do not compromise truth to comfort you in your prejudice. The Church’s doors will be open when your consciousness is finally formed and you decide to return, but we will not reject homosexuals now to avoid offending you. If the essence of our Christ is summed up in words that John’s Gospel attributes to him, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly,” then the choice is clear. Homophobia diminishes life; it does not make it more abundant. It must be ended; it cannot be tolerated even by making it kinder and gentler.

To the leaders of the Churches today I say: “Stop playing ecclesiastical games. Compromising truth never serves the cause of unity. The call of Christ is not to be all things to all people. The time for negotiating and compromising is over. It matters not if you are the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury or one of the heads of the various national and international bodies of Christians around the world, both the moral integrity of the Christ you claim to serve and your ability to speak for Christ on any other issue are at stake. There is no room for waffling on this moral imperative. The idea that you will allow politicians to advocate placing discrimination against homosexual persons into the Constitution of this country, while your voices are either in agreement or remain deafeningly silent, is an embarrassment. If it takes a split in the body of Christ to make this generation understand that homosexuality, like slavery, is a non-debatable, moral issue, then for God’s sake, for Christ’s sake, you must be willing to pay that price.”

-- John Shelby Spong

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 Dysfunctional

In the far off distance of the
past where honor was the cause
and the effect was heart tearing,
I tried to understand my difference
in this world but I didn’t find
the understanding which I graved
so.

I was like a hungry lion looking
for his prey, stalking it, pouncing
yet it got away.  I hungered for
knowledge, yet I died of starvation
from lack of wisdom.

People told me to grab the world with
both hands or it will pass me by.  I was
paralized to watch it decay.  The
endless corruption, the violent and horrendous
acts of people.  I treid to stop them
yet I was paralized only to pray.
I breathed their polluted emotions and
drank their intocixated blood, I didn’t
crave it, I had no choice, but to live,
to live in the pollution, the darness,
the family of my past.  But I have
recovered.

© Blake Rackley

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 What...

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 I Hurt

The physical, the elemental pain
was sometimes beyond my understanding.
My flesh was torn; my body fighting in vain
to detach itself from my mind; fleeing

My mind is shattered, no longer free
A castle gutted by flame, hate and greed.
A candle smothered.  Why did you not see
me hurt?  I am drowning.  Do you see me bleed?

Dear God, art thou in heaven?  Did I sin?
Am I forsaken?  Why did you not know
my soul was being devoured by kin?
I am the Godless, lost and dying too slow.

I thought I won the battle for my life,
but here I lay, holding a bloody knife.

© Ryan Sales

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 Still Remembering...

Tribute to Matthew Shepard (Flash File)

My son Matthew did not look like a winner. After all, he was small for his age—weighing, at the most, 110 pounds, and standing only 5’2” tall. He was rather uncoordinated and wore braces from the age of 13 until the day he died. However, in his all too brief life, he proved that he was a winner. My son—a gentle, caring soul—proved that he was as tough as, if not tougher than, anyone I have ever heard of or known. On October 6, 1998, my son tried to show the world that he could win again. On October 12, 1998, my first-born son—and my hero—lost. On October 12, my first-born son—and my hero— died 50 days before his 22nd birthday. He died quietly, surrounded by family and friends, with his mother and brother holding his hand. All that I have left
now are the memories....

Matt officially died at 12:53 a.m. on Monday, October 12, 1998, in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. He actually died on the outskirts of Laramie tied to a fence that Wednesday before, when you beat him. You, Mr. McKinney, with your friend Mr. Henderson, killed my son....

By the end of the beating, his body was just trying to survive. You left him out there by himself, but he wasn’t alone. There were his lifelong friends with him—friends that he had grown up with. You’re probably wondering who these friends were. First, he had the beautiful night sky with the same stars and moon that we used to look at through a telescope. Then, he had the daylight and the sun to shine on him one more time—one more cool, wonderful autumn day in Wyoming. His last day alive in Wyoming. His last day alive in the state that he always proudly called home. And through it all he was breathing in for the last time the smell of Wyoming sagebrush and the scent of pine trees from the snowy range. He heard the wind—the ever-present Wyoming wind—for the last time. He had one more friend with him. One he grew to know through his time in Sunday school and as an acolyte at St. Mark’s in Casper as well as through his visits to St. Matthew’s in Laramie. He had God....

I feel better knowing he wasn’t alone....

Mr. McKinney, one final comment before I sit, and this is the reason that I stand before you now. At no time since Matt was found at the fence and taken to the hospital have Judy and I made any statements about our beliefs concerning the death penalty. We felt that that would be an undue influence on any prospective juror. Judy has been quoted by some right-wing groups as being against the death penalty. It has been stated that Matt was against the death penalty. Both of these statements are wrong. We have held family discussions and talked about the death penalty. Matt believed that there were incidents and crimes that justified the death penalty. For example, he and I discussed the horrible death of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas. It was his opinion that the death penalty should be sought and that no expense should be spared to bring those responsible for this murder to justice. Little did we know that the same response would come about involving Matt. I, too, believe in the death penalty. I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. To use this as the first step in my own closure about losing Matt. Mr. McKinney, I am not doing this because of your family. I am definitely not doing this because of the crass and unwarranted pressures put on by the religious community. If anything, that hardens my resolve to see you die. Mr. McKinney, I’m going to grant you life, as hard as that is for me to do, because of Matthew. Every time you celebrate Christmas, a birthday, or the Fourth of July, remember that Matt isn’t. Every time that you wake up in that prison cell, remember that you had the opportunity and the ability to stop your actions that night. Every time that you see your cell mate, remember that you had a choice, and now you are living that choice. You robbed me of something very precious, and I will never forgive you for that. Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life, and may you thank Matthew every day for it.

Full Excerpt after the Break.

Scarecrow via Melissa Etheridge

Showers of your crimson blood
Seep into a nation calling up a flood
Of narrow minds who legislate
Thinly veiled intolerance
Bigotry and hate

But they tortured and burned you
They beat you and they tied you
They left you cold and breathing
For love they crucified you

I can’t forget hard as I try
This silhouette against the sky

Scarecrow crying
Waiting to die wondering why
Scarecrow trying
Angels will hold carry your soul away

This was our brother
This was our son
This shepherd young and mild
This unassuming one
We all gasp this can’t happen here
We’re all much too civilized
Where can these monsters hide

But they are knocking on our front door
They’re rocking in our cradles
They’re preaching in our churches
And eating at our tables

I search my soul
My heart and in my mind
To try and find forgiveness
This is someone child
With pain unreconciled
Filled up with father’s hate
Mother’s neglect
I can forgive But I will not forget

Scarecrow crying
Waiting to die wondering why
Scarecrow trying
Rising above all in the name of love

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 Remembering Kenneth Tietjen

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About the Kenneth F. Tietjen Memorial Foundation

imageThe Foundation was created in November 2001 as a non-profit organization to honor the memory of Port Authority Police Officer Kenny Tietjen, who sacrificed his life at the World Trade Center on Septemebr 11th.The main goal of the Foundation is to provide bicycles and/or other aid to underpriveledged children throughout New Jersey.

The idea for the Foundation came about because each year during the Christmas season, the Tietjen’s would “adopt” a needy family and provide all the food, clothes, and toys to help make the family’s Christmas a happy one. It was always Kenny’s job to provide the bikes for the children - it was something he looked forward to doing.

With the holidays approaching less than three months after Kenny was killed, his family and friends wanted to find a positive way to keep his memory alive and lessen the huge hole that they would feel by spending Christmas without Kenny.

Through generous donations from friends, family, fellow Port Authority police officers, and wonderful strangers, the Foundation was able to purchase and deliver 11 bicycles to needy children that very first year.  With continued support, the Foundation donated 37 bicycles, 3 computers, and many other toys to families throughout New Jersey during 2002.  With your continued support, Kenny’s Foundation is looking foward to expanding its “Acts of Hope” in the years to come.

For additional information or to make a contribution, please contact {encode="info@kenskids.org" title="info@kenskids.org"}.

Thank you for helping us to keep Kenny’s wonderful spirit alive!


He Claimed the Respirator

As a boy, the two things that scared Ken Tietjen most were fire trucks and police cars. So he took some ribbing from his family when, as an adult, he chose a job that required him to ride in both.

Mr. Tietjen, a Port Authority police officer, was at the 33rd Street PATH station when he heard about the terrorist attack, said Laurie Quinn, his sister. Mr. Tietjen commandeered a taxi, banished the driver to the back seat, and drove to ground zero. He rushed into the north tower and helped people down, but when he emerged to get a new respirator, only one remained, his partner recalled. Smiling, Mr. Tietjen said, “Seniority rules,” took the respirator and ran into the south tower. Moments later, the building fell.

Typical, said Ms. Quinn, noting his commendation for bravery this year, received for tackling a man who had stabbed the sergeant he worked with. As a firefighter several years back, he returned to a burning building to rescue an unconscious colleague.

One of those Mr. Tietjen rescued on Sept. 11 attended his memorial Mass. But he did not stay because he became overwhelmed.

Ms. Quinn said: “My brother had a choice whether to go back and he chose to go back in. I wouldn’t expect anything less from him.”

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 1, 2001.


Kenneth Tietjen, 31, rushed to the scene

imageKenneth Tietjen, a police officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, always wanted to be a firefighter.

In junior high school, as a member of the Middletown Fire Explorers, he rode his mo-ped to local fires. When he turned 18, his dream became a reality when he became a volunteer for the Belford Engine Company. His mother remembers how proud he was after fighting his first fire.

“He came home and said, ‘We had a great fire today. It was a propane tank,’ “ said Janice Tietjen of Belford. “He was right at the front of the hose and I said, ‘Why were you there?’ He said, ‘That’s where the excitement is.’ “

Mr. Tietjen, 31, of Matawan, died while rescuing people trapped in the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 attack. He led workers, some of them badly burned, from Tower One before grabbing the last air pack in sight and entering Tower Two.

“He waved to his partner and went in,” his mother said.

Mr. Tietjen, who was engaged to be married later this month, died when Tower Two collapsed.

Mr. Tietjen, who had been a Port Authority police officer for nine years, was working his job on the PATH trains when he heard of the attack. He immediately rushed into Manhattan to help, first commandeering a cab, then hopping an emergency vehicle.

“Wherever he could be, that’s where he was,” his mother said.

At the time of his death, Tietjen was training to be a member of the Port Authority Emergency Services Unit. All he needed was to complete a scuba diving course to fulfill his dream, his mother said.

Mr. Tietjen received several awards for his work with the Port Authority, including a special commendation in 1996 for subduing a man who rammed a patrol car in the Holland Tunnel and then stabbed a police officer.

Off the job, Tietjen, who moved to Matawan two years ago, liked action, too.

He was an avid hockey player and enjoyed riding dirtbikes with his fiancée’s 13-year-old son. He was a reliable handyman, always ready to help others with a home improvement project, his mother said.

“He loved Home Depot,” she said. “He loved everything—life, sports, people, his job. Every day was another project for him. He was a lovable person with many, many friends. And I know it sounds corny, but he was a really good kid . . . He was born on the Fourth of July. He was a hero.”

Tietjen was a parishioner of St. Joseph’s Church in Keyport and a member of Fraternal Order of Police No. 110 and the New Jersey State PBA Lodge 116.

In addition to his mother, Mr. Tietjen is survived by his father, Kenneth Tietjen; his fiancée, Karen Dalla Valle of Matawan; and two sisters, Cindy Tietjen of Belford and Laurie Quinn of Hazlet.

A memorial Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Joseph’s Church. Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the John E. Day Funeral Home, 85 Riverside Ave., Red Bank.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Kenneth F. Tietjen Foundation, which provides bicycles to poor children at Christmas. The address is 27 Gregory St., Hazlet, N.J., 07730.

Profile by Carrie Stetler published in THE STAR-LEDGER.

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 Pledge of Allegience

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I pledge allegiance to this land
Where heroes protect every woman and man
The flag that represents freedom and choice
The flag that gives us all a free voice
And on September 11th, when our nation was attacked
We all came together and we fought back
In the midst of terror, many heroes died
They fought to save others and in the end sacrificed their lives
They didn’t think twice as they ran toward the fallen cries
All they could think about was to save those victims’ lives
Though they have fallen we can still hear freedom ringing in their voice
From the battlefields to the white house we all had to learn to survive
The tragedies on September 11th left a whole nation to mourn and cry
Now we live on to protect our flag’s integrity
From the people who just don’t seem to see what our nation sees
Though they attack us, never will we fall
I give a salute to the firefighters and soldiers lost on that day
Together we mourn for the victims who had to lose their lives that way
But in their deaths, our nation finally saw
That no matter how much they try, together we cannot fall
So, I pledge allegiance to this land
Where heroes protect every woman and man

© Meghan L. Thomas

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 I Saw an Eagle Cry

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Today I saw an eagle,
With a teardrop in his eye.
It literally took my breath away,
To see an eagle cry.
I asked him,What’s the matter?,
And he told me what he saw.
A cowardly attack was made,
On the towers that once stood tall.
He said everything he stood for,
Had taken a shocking blow.
So he had to take a moment,
To let his own emotions show.
Then he proudly told me,
That our Nation would survive.
That our Liberty and Freedom,
He’d be sure to keep alive.
He said for us not to be afraid,
To stand together, not apart.
For a terrorist has succeeded,
If he puts fear within our hearts.

© Cassandra L. Gilbert

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 The World Stood Still

image

Early one morning on a September day
While we were all busy at work or play

Two towers stood tall as the day before
Not knowing that tomorrow they’d stand no more

When the first plane crashed into tower one
No one knew what had just begun

As people were trying to get out alive
Then plane number two took its dive

Then out of the blue one building fell
You could see people run and hear them yell

As we all sat and watched in fear
We dropped to our knees and sheaded tears

Many workers, children firefighters and more
Were all in the path of the mad men that soared

And as the dust from the building began to fade
We all felt sadness but still we prayed

Then the news that another plane had just went down
Out in Pennsylvania, but it hit the ground

For the passengers that rode that plane that day
Stood up for their country in their own way

What else what else could our country take
But another plane went down and the Pentagon did shake

More people were injured and more lives were lost
And the people that did this would pay the cost

Many lives were lost on that September day
As our world stood, still and each of us prayed

Many people just like you and me
Gave their life to set another one free

And on this day when our world stood still
We all joined as one, in God’s Will

For the towers that stood in New York so tall
On September 11th affected us all

© Tracy L. Greer

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