Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Luchando for Christmas All Year ‘Round

For me, what most significantly marks Christmas here is the choir music. Instead of singing about angels, Santa, and even the traditional Nativity scene, most of our Christmas carols talk about Christmas as a state of being, one marked by conscience, solidarity, and action. During the Christmas season I sang over and over again about how Christmas should be present the whole year around in the struggle for social justice and the way we relate to one another.

For example, in “Navidad sin estruendo” or “Christmas without Thunder,” the chorus says:

“To Bethlehem we come and go by pathways of joy, and God is born in each one who devotes themselves to others. To Bethlehem we come and go by pathways of justice, and in Bethlehem people are born when they learn to struggle.”

The word luchar, which I’ve translated here as “struggle,” is the principle word used in Spanish to describe that state of working towards and hungering for social justice. To understand the miracle of Christmas as the birthing of luchadores/as, or “strugglers for social justice,” is striking because we usually associate images of gentleness and passivity with the Christmas story. Struggle, however, has little to do with sitting and waiting patiently. How much more meaningful is the Nativity scene when we reflect on the difficult journey that brought Mary and Joseph to the stable, and when we remember the struggle that Jesus chose in his adult ministry? As a poor, unwed-but-pregnant couple, Mary and Joseph were labeled as sinners by their society, but instead of listening to the criticism, they chose to glorify God by following his plan for them. And as a prophet speaking truth-to-power, Jesus faced both political and personal adversity, glorifying God with his peaceful but revolutionary stance.

The second and third verses of this carol talk about the people awaiting a rich, submissive, kingly figure as their Christ, and how instead, they got a poor but powerful-with-words baby who denounces oppression and proclaims liberation in the name of God. Of course, I, too, love the image of Jesus as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. But that image moves me more when I, like Mary, ponder in my heart the future of the baby and how I can radicalize those around me in the name of Love and Justice (aka God).

The song goes on to say in its final verse:

“Christmas is a pathway that doesn’t produce a great thunder, because God resounds within those who walk in brotherhood. Christmas is the miracle of going door-to-door and finding out if our brother needs our bread.”

And so it isn’t about changing the world alone, miraculously birthing a divine but human savior, or gift-giving. It’s about an awareness of and willingness to struggle with those around us for God’s abundant life.

Click here to hear the choir singing another Christmas carol.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cookie Monsters

Twas mid-December, and all through the house not a creature was stirring, except maybe a mouse...and Amanda and I decorating for Christmas as we strung up a line of white lights on our porch, a batch of Betty Crocker cookies baking in the toaster oven. Stepping back to admire the effect of our Christmas decoration, we noticed the distinct aroma of charred cookies. (Luckily you can't make too many cookies at a time in a toaster oven, so we had plenty of dough left to try again). Suddenly, there arose such a clatter in the street in front of our house that we went to see what was the matter. We found a group of eight little boys from the neighborhood, probably ranging in age from 8 to 13 years old. They were clamoring for water and making smooching sounds at us: "Hey, Sweetheart! Bring me water!" "Hey, gringa!"

This immediately caught our attention. As self-proclaimed feminists, we knew we couldn't allow this kind of behavior to continue. Amanda began a dialogue with the boys while I ferried cups of water back and forth. She asked the biggest boy why he was making the smooching sounds.

"Because he likes you!" the younger ones chorused.

"Well," Amanda explained, "when you like a girl, you have to get to know her first before you call her sweetheart and get her permission to kiss her. Do you like it when people do things to you without your permission?"

"No..." another boy answered.

"Well, that's how I feel when you say those things to me."

Lesson over, they smelled blackened chocolate chip cookies and insisted we give them some. Since you can't bake many cookies at one time in a toaster oven, we only had a few cookies to give away. Amanda told them they would have to share two cookies between them.

"We don't care, we want cookies!"

So Amanda doled out pieces of the two crispy cookies, which were greedily snatched up by the boys, who didn't seemed as interested in sharing after all. When the cookies were gone, the boys wandered away and Amanda and I returned to the kitchen to experiment ways to bake cookies without burning them. Five minutes later, we heard the same commotion in front of our house. "Hey sweetheart!" and more smoochy sounds. Amanda stalked out angrily and announced that they were being disrespectful and they couldn't be friends anymore.

When even this didn't deter them, I went out and threw a bucket of water on them.

Once it quieted down again I had a chance to think about what had just happened. Feelings of frustration lingered, and I remembered that at the gym that evening a bunch of teenage boys had also been catcalling at me as they passed by. Was I supposed to put up with it in my own house, too? Then I felt guilty for having resorted to violence, even though it was only a bucket of water, to resolve the situation.

I wonder what Mother Theresa would have done.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The U.S. Economy and Immigration Reform

Recently, the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center released a report detailing how comprehensive immigration reform will not only cause economic growth but is necessary to boost the faltering U.S. economy. The report, complete with economic analysis of three immigration policy scenarios, and written by UCLA economist and founder of the North American Integration and Development Center Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, can be found below. Or, for a quick summary, watch this interview with Angela Kelley, VP for Immigration Policy and Advocacy at the Center for American Progress.

Immigration Report - Complete