September 1, 2010

Silence on a stick?!

Here where I am, the end of the summer is marked by what is called the Great Minnesota Get-Together: the Minnesota State Fair.

One theme for the food that is sold at the fair is "food-on-a-stick": fried Twinkies, chocolate-dipped cheesecake, and caramelized bacon--on a stick.

The other day while hanging out with some Quaker friends, one of them suggested we could have a Quaker booth at the fair next year and sell Silence-on-a-Stick.

The idea got some laughs, but in light of what is happening with the increase in "Islamophobia" in the U.S., I was struck by our initial corporate Quaker silence across the country. When I started this post a few days ago, I took heart at what rabbinic student Rachel Barenblat wrote shortly after a drunk man urinated on the rugs of a New York mosque. I left the following comment:

...Not only did I post the link on my Facebook page but I also called my local TV station and referred them to your blog, asking that some air time be dedicated to the GOOD THINGS that Americans can do for one another.

One downside to the portion of Quakers that has no formally recognized clergy is that we sometimes lack the leadership such as what you and apparently Stu provided in this instance: in a moment of inspiration, to act and not just pray.
While I search my own heart for how I might be led in these horrifying times, I also ask that others point me to positive responses and goodwill outreach that is taking place.

What are the Quakers in your corner of the world doing to refute the blame and the hate that is going on?

What does our faith call us to do, in addition to pray?

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

I'm grateful to see messages now put out by New York Yearly Meeting in collaboration with AFSC, as well as a statement from Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Some highlights from these statements:

    We dare to imagine the site of the World TradeTowers surrounded by the evidence of our nation’s commitment to religious freedom, and our nation’s pluralism. We welcome it alongside current mosques and other houses of worship, and other interfaith and community centers near the site and throughout our city.
    To counter the distrust and misinformation, more people need to state publicly that they support the freedom of American Muslims to worship and to gather together.
But I also return to this haunting piece, which could just as easily begin with "First they came for the Muslims..."
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.
What do these melancholic words impel us to do, at the very least...?



RantWoman said...

All your serious comments are great and I love the call the local TV station interaction with the instant media age.

But if you're going to sell :silence on a stick,: how about in a spirit of religious dialogue, some statements about why "silence on a stick is halal/ is kosher / invokes the 4 directions.... and maybe invitations to others to offer statements about how"silence on a stick" speaks to their faith or spirit or lack thereof...

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you so much for this helpful and encouraging post. I encountered most shockingly on Facebook yesterday an instance of Islamaphobic efforts to ignite racial hatred, and have written privately in remonstration to the lady generating the material in question.
Reading your post today is a balm to the spirit; a breath of sanity in a troubled world.
I am wondering if the increasing call to Plain dress that women of all denominations are hearing may be linked to the urgent need to build the Peaceable Kingdom?

Lone Star Ma said...

Thank you. We must all stand up.

Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks, Liz. Just gave this a mention on my post today

Johan Maurer said...

In turn, I mentioned both of you. Thank you very much.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks for the comments and encouragement...

RantWoman -

Like you, at times I wonder just how to go about selling "silence on a stick" and how to use that for outreach and dialogue. But I don't think the Minnesota State Fair is going to see a Quaker booth anytime soon. smile

Ember -

I know that some people question--rarely--why I post what I do. Mostly I'm doing what I can to follow the nudges and prompts of the Spirit. So I appreciate hearing from you and how you this post impacted you when you came across it.

Lone Star Ma -

Good to see you here!; thanks for commenting.

Eileen and Johan -

Thanks for letting me know. And for readers who want to track Johan's post (since he omitted a link), it's here.


RantWoman said...

Heh! If I amgoing to advocate public Quaker witness I should perfectly well get my own meeting to do some local variant of silence on a stick. Let's see....

Robin M. said...

Here where we (or I at least) feel very far away from NY, we have scheduled the next two weeks of our middle school FDS program to learn more about what is happening with the Muslim cultural center in Manhattan and to think about what we as a Meeting could do to help. Connecting it to how religious persecution is part of history and how exclusion is a dynamic in our every day lives.

Paul L said...

Did you know that the Fair has a silent meditation tent, on Cosgrove just north of the Education building if I recall correctly)? There was no one in it every time I visited, but it was good to know it was there.

Liz Opp said...

RantWoman -

I heard of a group of high school Friends who decided to hold a public Meeting for Worship... at the Mall of America! Not sure how that went, either for them or for folks who passed by...

Robin -

Thanks for letting me (us) know what San Francisco Friends are doing, at least within its First Day School. Sounds like a good way to teach and learn about tolerance.

I also find myself wondering: If we can take the time to talk with our children and youngest Friends about Islam and the religious persecution that Muslims in America are currently facing, maybe I can start educating myself too. So thanks for planting that seed...

Paul L -

I actually did see the meditation tent... and I wondered if any Muslim fair-goers used it for daily prayers, or how many people even know such a thing exists.


natcase said...

I've found myself thinking about alternatives to the words words words approach to public witness lately.

I had a mental picture of Friends at marriage-based rallies, at a tent or just a set of chairs, with a sign "Tell me about your marriage, and let me tell you about mine."

I had a picture of a crowd gathered silently at the church where the Koran burning was to take place, who at the moment the burning began, all turned their backs in silence.

The memory I'm carrying is of Princess Diana's funeral, all those thousands upon thousands of people, utterly still in respect, lining the streets of London.

Or the widows of Chilean "disappeared" dancing the cueca silently with photographs of their husbands.

Could we move the idea of public silence so it doesn't just have to be about mourning?

I am reminded of the proposal a Friend from our meeting had around public silent worship some time ago.