Signs of the Times

News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  11 April 2018 •  No. 158

Processional.For the Love of God” by Steve Vai, performed by Tina S.

Above: Mount Fuji, Japan, photographed from the International Space Station, February 8, 2016.

Invocation. “Ribbons, pearls, golden flags / The Messiah, son of David, is above us / He holds a goblet in his right hand  / And gives his blessing to the whole earth / Amen and amen, this is the truth / The Messiah will come this year.” —English translation of “Shnirele perele,” performed by Pharaoh’s Daughter

¡Sí, se puede! Happy birthday, Dolores Huerta. Born April 10, 1930, Huerta is an American labor leader and civil rights activist who, with Cesar Chavez, was the co-founder of the Farm Workers (UFW). Huerta helped organize the Delano grape strike in 1965 in California and was the lead negotiator in the workers’ contract that was created after the strike. She is the one who began using the Spanish phrase Sí, se puede (“yes it can be done”) in union rallies and marches, which became the motto of the UFW.

Right: Dolores Huerta, center, walks with Rick Miera, left, and New Mexico Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero during the two-mile 25th annual César Chávez March for Justice on 7 April. Photo by Marla Brose, Albuquerque Journal.

Call to worship. “Turn the other cheek he’d plead, / Love thy neighbor was his creed, / Pain humiliation death, he did not dread / Will the murders never cease, / Are thy men or are they beasts? / What do they ever hope, ever hope to gain? / Will my country fall, stand or fall? / Is it too late for us all? / And did Martin Luther King just die in vain?” —Nina Simone, “Why (The King of Love Is Dead).” Nina Simone and her band performed this song three days after Dr. King was murdered, having learned the song, written by her bass player Gene Taylor, that very day. This version (5:41) is abbreviated from the original, was much longer version (12:57).

Yom HaShoah (aka “Holocaust Remembrance Day,” more formally “Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day”) is observed one week after the end of Passover, this year beginning at sundown on Wednesday 11 April, the date linked to the anniversary of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Increasingly, the word Shoah (“calamity”) is preferred because holocaust has historical roots in the Hebrew word olah, meaning “completely burnt offering to God,” with the implication that Jews and other “undesirables” murdered by the Nazis during World War II were a sacrifice to God.

Profession of faith. “I have looked our destruction, our miserable end, straight in the eye and accepted it into my life, and my love of life has not been diminished. I am not bitter or rebellious, or in any way discouraged. . . . My life has been extended by death, by accepting destruction as part of life and no longer wasting my energies on fear of death or refusal to acknowledge its inevitability. It sounds paradoxical: by excluding death from our life we cannot live a full life, and by admitting death into our life we enlarge and enrich it.” —Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life. A Dutch Jew, Hillesum died at age 29 in Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp, in 1943. Her story been referred to as the adult counterpart to that of Anne Frank.

Prayer of confession. “Dear God: We confess that it is beyond our capacity to imagine the magnitude and meaning of the holocaust of the Jews. Hunted. Hounded. Herded. Shot. Gassed. Starved. Worked to death. Incinerated. We acknowledge that many among those who devised and implemented this unspeakable horror were those who breathed your Name in their liturgy of carnage.” —continue reading “Shoah prayer,” for use by Christians on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Hymn of praise. “Holy, holy, holy Lord / God of power and might / Heaven and earth are full of Your Glory / Hosanna in the highest.” —English translation of lyrics to “Sanctus” by Karl Jenkins, performed by the Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera and four Welsh choirs

Right: Beverly Langley, right, hands out water and encouragement as Oklahoma teachers march to Oklahoma City. Photograph: Mike Elk for the Guardian.

Good news. “We aren’t gonna shut up, we aren’t done, this movement has gelled us together. We are ready to fight for our kids for the long haul. We have power together.”

        So said Madeline Jacobsen, third-grade teacher, one of 150 Oklahoma teachers who marched 110 miles from Tulsa to the state capitol in Oklahoma City, calling attention to underpaid teachers and underfunded schools.

        Afterwards, the First Christian Church of Chandler hosted them for a special service. Though they come from different faith traditions, “they have developed a faith in each other.” —for more see Mike Elk, The Guardian

Testify.We’re Educators in Oklahoma. Our Faith Compels Us to Walk Out.” —Alan Parker & Janet Bentz Parker, Sojourners

¶ “Teachers across the country are striking and protesting en masse, shutting down school systems and putting the pressure on state lawmakers to meet their demands.” —for more see Sean Rossman, USAToday and Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg

 ¶ “Teachers in the U.S. are paid about 30% less than other comparably educated workers in the economy, and this gap is larger than most other industrialized countries. . . .”

        “Nationally, inflation-adjusted teacher salaries are down nearly 5% since the onset of the recession, and all of the protesting states have seen reductions of 6% or more from their peak. . . .”

        “Combining these salary reductions with increases in health insurance premiums and contributions to retirement benefits—both of which have fallen more on teachers’ shoulders over the last decade—means that most teachers have significantly less in take-home pay than they used to.” —Michael Hansen, “Hidden factors contributing to teacher strikes in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and beyond,” Brookings

Left: Artwork by Dan Trabue.

Hymn of supplication.Djelem Djelem,” Žarko Jovanović, performed by Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra. The song, in the Romani language, tells about the atrocities Roma people suffered in World War II and the rise of the Roma people to come. (Click the “show more” button for more background.)

Bill Maher is not my favorite talk show host. But he absolutely nails it in this scathing commentary (5:35 video) about the inadequacy of public school teachers’ salary. (Thanks Bill.)

Words of assurance. “The angel up on the tombstone / Said He has risen, just as He said / Quickly now, go tell his disciples / That Jesus Christ is no longer dead.” —Keith Green, “Easter Song

¶ As the Economic Policy Institute reports, teachers “are burdened by growing pay inequities. Over the last two decades, teachers are contributing more and more toward health care and retirement costs as their pay falls further behind. Teacher pay (accounting for inflation) actually fell by $30 per week from 1996 to 2015, while pay for other college graduates increased by $124.”  Jeff Bryant, commondreams

Right: Jennifer Hanner, a first-year teacher from Harts, W.Va., held a sign Thursday outside the state Senate chambers in Charleston, West Virginia. Teachers statewide went on strike Thursday over pay and benefits. (John Raby/AP)

Hymn of intercession. Baba Yetu” (“The Lord’s Prayer” in Swahili), Angel City Chorale.

¶ “Why America’s Schools Have a Money Problem,” by Cory Turner from National Public Radio, explains a basic level of injustice in school funding: The surrounding tax base plays a significant role. Simply put, schools in wealthier districts reap greater benefits than those in poorer districts.

Courage is contagious. “I think the #MeToo movement has even really propelled us forward.” —52-year-old Radonn Broeffle Musgrove, 31-year teaching veteran, on the Oklahoma teachers’ march

For more background on the starving of public education. “The teacher crisis has been brewing for more than a decade. The recession hurt local tax receipts, which led to a cut in school funding and teacher layoffs. Nationally, teacher pay is 1.6% below their average earnings in 1999 and 5% lower than their 2009 pay, adjusted for inflation, according to the Department of Education.” Aimee Picchi, CBSNews (Thanks Susan.)

Hymn of resolution. “If I can help somebody, as I travel along / If I can help somebody, with a word or song / If I can help somebody, from doing wrong / No, my living shall not be in vain.” —“If I Can Help Somebody,” performed by Memphis' Cordova High School Concert Singers exactly 50 years after King's assassination in their city. (Thanks Kimberly.)

Preach it. Responding on Facebook to news that Trump has pledged federal funds to train teachers to carry weapons, my friend Sally Sandidge writes:

        “They should be armed all right. Armed with paid off student loans. Armed with a professional level salary. Armed with schools that have social workers. Armed with schools that have homework help centers during after care or free time. Armed with paraprofessionals that can go into the class when the teacher, or a child, needs a time out. Armed with raised garden beds, musical instruments and dance lessons. Armed with a community that cares a lot more about a child than a test score. The teachers need to be armed all right with every weapon available to fight the fight.”

Can’t makes this sh*t up. “Text neck” is becoming a medical issue that countless people suffer from, and the way we hang our heads has other health risks, too, according to a report published last year in The Spine Journal.” Adam Popescu, New York Times (Thanks Jo.)

Call to the table. “I have bled on half of these women.” —Madeline Jacobsen, third-grade teacher from Tulsa, after Oklahoma teachers marched the 110 miles from Tulsa to the state capitol in Oklahoma City to demand increased support for public education. She was referencing the blisters most of them developed during the walk.

The state of our disunion. “Food shaming” public school children—who get behind in paying their lunchroom cost—has gotten to the point that state legislators are passing legislation to outlaw all such stigmatizing action. In March 2017 New Mexico was the first to enact such legislation. In 2016 a Canon-McMillan, Pa., school district lunchroom staffer, Stacy Koltiska, resigned her job instead of refusing to provide a student’s meal. “As a Christian, I have an issue with this,” said Koltiska, of Canonsburg, Pa. “It’s sinful and shameful is what it is.” T. Rees Shapiro, New York Times

Best one-liner. “True national security begins within our borders, in the health and education of our people.” —former Oregon Republican Senator Mark O. Hatfield (1922-2011)

For the beauty of the earth. Dance of the Peacock Spider, with accompanying soundtrack.  (3:01 video. Thanks David.)

Altar call. Franz Schubert’s “Serenade,” performed on guitar by Shin-icki Fukuda, with video of scenes from Jewish victims of Nazi terror. The song was played many times by Jewish musicians in concentration camps.

Benediction.Shalom Alechem” (“Peace Be With You”), Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra.

Recessional.Hallelujah,” Ken Medema, with new lyrics drawn from Psalm 23 and sung to Leonard’s Cohen’s tune.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Beloved, what we will be has not yet been revealed.” —1 John 3:2

Lectionary for Sunday next. “The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want / Green pastures rise and from the font / Flow waters, ever gentle, to surround me / My soul restored, my heart aflame / My feet will walk and for that Name / My lungs will lift to sing, Hallelujah.” Ken Sehested, new lyrics drawn from Psalm 23 sung to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Just for fun. You’ve seen the videos of thousands of dominoes falling. But this creative genius actually creates art and not just spectacle. (Thanks David.)

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• “Cuba’s Historic Crossroads: A new president—one not named Castro—will soon take office,” commentary by Stan Hastey

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