Amanda Kovattana

Middle-aged musings in interesting times

Monday, February 28, 2005

The Work of Earthworms

In a corner of my garden the tiny leaves of iberis cover the ground between stepping stones. I take a garden tool, the one with the long shaft ending with a small flat forked blade and poke it into the wet earth beside a dandelion. As I twist the tool, a few inches away an earthworm surfaces with such speed and vigor that I nearly fall backward. Its pink shaft emerges clean as a babies thumb straight up from the matt of tiny bright green leaves. As I pull on the dandelion another earthworm shoots into the air a hands width from the first. Both wiggle away as I free the dandelion and wonder at this temerity of earthworms. The work they do healing the soil, taking into their bodies small toxins and rendering them harmless, leaving castings that feed plants, breaking down dead leaves into crumbly organic matter earn them the awe and respect of organic gardeners and pagans. As long as there are earthworms we will be okay.

At the last peace rally I attended the night of the inauguration, a man with a gentle face and a ponytail came up to me and asked if he could recite a speech he had written. "Sure," I said. The recitation listed statistics about the impact of oil and automobiles, facts I already knew. "Do you like my car?" I asked him and swept my hand Vanna style behind me where my little car was parked at the curb. His delight broke his solemn decorum. "You have a Sparrow," he said, "I love Sparrows." I showed him the banner I had painted that afternoon to drape over the body. "No blood for oil. Plug into clean energy." For a dollar he sold me a tiny bumper sticker that said, "Mend your fuelish ways." He was taking pictures. I had many conversations that evening about the car. At the end of the rally the same man came back and asked if he could recite another anti-war speech and I listened politely as he did so. I wondered what we were all doing preaching to each other, to the converted. Before we parted he left me with a quote "the revolution will be born by a thousand writers." How did he know I was a writer?

On the internet 20,000 new blogs are created every day. Writers bearing their soul on their online journals, sharing their lives from every corner of the world, flogging the media for its bald face lies, ranting from the Left and the Right, revealing their ignorance, their expertise; a thousand voices working in community sifting information, commenting on it, breaking down the news, feeding their readers. Bloggers are hot. Bloggers uncovered the identity of Jeff Gannon who entered the White House day after day, was part of the Press corps, used a pseudonym and pitched questions that so obviously favored the administration. Bloggers found him out, found his porno sites and naked pictures. Bloggers doing the work of healing public discourse, keeping healthy our freedom of speech. Bloggers as virtual earthworms.

Breaking news comes to me these days via the Internet. Articles passed to me by diligent friends concerned with the earth, with civil rights, with the partisan manipulations of our current administration. On Wednesday, two articles from two different sources came in about Jim Wallis and his new book God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and The Left Doesn't Get It. He was possibly the answer to our prayers - the one that goes "Please God, could you send someone to talk to the Christians." He was a new phenomenon - a "progressive" Evangelical Christian. He gave voice to the very sentiment I had so long been waiting to express. For years now, whenever the media presented the Christian agenda, there would I be on the other side. I've worked with Christians. I know we have common ground here. Anyone with values outside of consumerism and the bottom line shares with me similar ideals. We are the Jihad Vs MacWorld to quote another book title. Jim Willis had come to tell Christians that they don't have to spend their whole lives talking about abortion and Gay marriage. By Thursday Catherine had bought his book and couldn't put it down.

"He's speaking in Menlo Park", I told her, "at the Presbyterian Church, but its on Oscar night". She wrote it down in her day planner. She did not ask if I would join her, afraid of what I might say. "Over my dead Gay body. You know those crosses are very bad Feng Shui. Look at how they stab into the ground and into the sky. Besides what kind of nerds would go out on Oscar night in a rainstorm"? Wholesome, clean-cut nerds it turns out, all ages. The line was half a block long and filled a church nearly as big as the Castro theatre, a church wealthy enough to have close circuit TV and two big screens at the stage. Oh yes and a rock band and a large silver cross on a black backdrop. Very Goth. We squeezed into the pews. I had agreed to come as long as we didn't miss The L Word.

What we learned in our sojourn to this foreign land was that Jim Willis is bringing the message of social justice to the nation as a way to bring back the disillusioned Christians, the ones who actually care about the poor, the degradation of the environment and peace. (The Unitarians have been doing this for years, but they're not Evangelical, are somehow suspect, might not even be Christians). He told the story of his appearance on The Daily Show where he was able to inspire cheers from the secular Lefty audience by reading from the Bible about helping the poor. The gathering applauded, celebrating with him. He spoke of the e-mails he got from people that started "I didn't know you could be a Christian and care about peace... the environment... the poor". The audience gasped in disbelief at these mischaracterizations of Christians. They did not care so much about the persecution of gays. Only a few people clapped when he talked about how he had challenged the Focus on the Family group by asking them how gay and lesbian marriage would hurt their own marriages. (When pressed the group couldn't say why, but finally admitted that the gay marriage issue drew lots of contributions when they sent out their fundraising letters).

He was trying to take the national dialog to higher ground by urging the congregation to get away from the politics of the Right (and the Left) and take up social causes. He was calling his people to become impassioned with a cause then join a movement, not necessarily a Christian movement, but one working for social change. He asked them to think big. He didn't want a little faith. He wanted a big faith invested in big changes. I am not at all familiar with the components of religious faith, but I did understand the need to commit to change as an act of faith. Faith in our own humanity, faith in the movement of a free people even though power is clearly in the hands of a cannibalizing, exploitative system promoted as free market capitalism. Will we go down with it or will we save our selves? What a cliffhanger.

Earthworms can bury a city. Darwin proved it in one of his books. It shouldn't be so hard for humans to do the same to a system that doesn't serve us. Humans have done this before, have staked their life on ideals when they had nothing more to lose, but can we do it from comfort, from privilege? Can we forsake luxury? Reminds me of a skit from Monty Python - No, no, not the comfy chair.


At 5:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked the work of earthworms. It was a pleasant surprise to find myself mentioned in the 2nd paragraph!


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