‘Til Each One of Us is Free

What are you doing to confront racial injustice?

How are you committing yourself for the long haul?

What questions are you asking?

What are you doing to examine your privilege?

How are you caring for those who are struggling right now?

How are you educating yourself to be a better ally and a better person?

How are you incorporating critical self-reflection into your life?

How are you listening to voices that are very different from your own?

What are you doing to prioritize justice over order?

What opportunities have you passed up? Why? What will you do differently next time?

How is your worldview changing?

How are you changing yourself?

What are your core values?

What is justice?

What is peace?

What is freedom?

How can you expand your definition of love?


Dismantling Our Empires

I have been hesitant to say much publicly about the recent murders, protests, and riots firstly because I wasn’t sure what would be helpful for me to say and secondly because I’m not convinced that posting on Facebook really amounts to much. This is precisely the kind of situation where voices like mine need to become less. But it is also the kind of situation where I must be unequivocal, so I offer a few words to white people.

I have decided to say something–even the bare minimum–because I know I have the space and the privilege to do so without consequence. White people need to be talking about these things and we need to be making progress on them right now. It is not a time to wait and take stock (though it is absolutely the time to listen). This will not be exactly the right thing but I feel that it is important to try.

I urge you in the strongest way to seek out first the voices of people of color and heed what they have to say. Only when you have done that do we come to this place to be really clear with ourselves where, exactly, we stand and to communicate that we are doing something about it.

As a small aside, because music is powerful for me, I want to call to your attention this version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic and in particular this line, which replaces the original “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free”:

Dismantling our empires ’til each one of us is free.

This country is and has always been built on racism, colonialism, and misogyny. Not accidentally but with absolute deliberation and clear intent. Do not appeal to the Constitution, it is a racist document written by racists. Those legacies have never been dealt with. There have been acts of progress but we as a racial majority in power have never fully reckoned with the roots of oppression, the realities of privilege, and their generationally compounded costs on uncounted lives.

All of our systems have been built by white supremacy. Law enforcement, politics, voting, education, healthcare, employment, entertainment. Everything. As a white person, it is a mistake to imagine that I can erase my complicity by any action or wokeness. Those actions and that awareness are critical but just by living here I continue to be a part of systems of oppression. This is not about white guilt but an admission that we are all touched by white supremacy and there is no escaping it.

I support any protest of injustice, particularly when the language of protest has again and again been restrained, reinterpreted, co-opted, and rejected by those in power who are not the victims of that injustice. I do not love violence, I do not think that we should repay evil for evil, but I will not condemn people for responding to unanswered violence that has been done to them.

No one can tell you how to respond. People change, even as people grieve, in their own ways. But I will advocate that you listen to the needs of your community–local and national–and respond appropriately.

Donate regularly and strive to keep racial justice in your active consciousness, as people of color have no choice but to do. Watch and read stories and information that will teach you truth and help you respond. Listen to people of color and let them guide you on this issue, though be wary of expecting them to instruct you constantly. Use your political and economic privilege to agitate continually for a better society. Look into local police. Contact your local politicians. Protest, if you think that’s right for you. Do the rhetorical work when people of color are tired of explaining their existence. Acknowledge the diverse intersectional nature of injustice, from race and ethnicity to class, gender, and sexuality.

I will tell you that one thing I am doing is reading I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown. There are many other resources available for you to take advantage of without requiring personal emotional labor to teach you. I posted a friend’s helpful list on Facebook with many good options. You can also look here, here, here, here, and here. There are a million more places to look, literally google “how to educate yourself about race” if you have to. Do not feel like you must learn it all, read it all, master it all. But do not feel like you’ve done enough.

We must dismantle our empires. Tear them down. It will take a long time. It will often seem hopeless. Do it anyway. Do not stop until each one of us is free.

What the Locusts Have Eaten

FIRST: A CHRISTMAS PET PEEVE OF MINE. The Twelve Days of Christmas are the days following the holiday, not preceding. December 25th is the first day of Christmas. Every time someone talks about the twelve days leading up to Christmas, I die a little. Anyway. The more you know.

SECOND: I accidentally talked a lot about Good King Wenceslas again in this post. I’m not sorry about it.

THIRD: Last one before actually getting to the post: cat gallery.



And you thought ‘gallery’ was an exaggeration. All the cats this week.

So. Last week’s post was a bit of a tough time. Understandably. And it’s hard to follow up something like that. I think, however, I can draw upon the inspiration of a few Advent things that I’ve encountered this week to offer some small encouragement.

There is a passage in Joel that I recently contemplated as I read this little reflection. It is describing a time that will come after–perhaps long after–a great calamity, where God will make things right. This is just a bit after we are entreated to rend our hearts and not our garments ( a phrase I have always found deeply moving). God declares,

I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm—
my great army that I sent among you.
You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.

All that has been lost will be restored. It will not be–cannot be–erased, our wounds and the wounds of the world will not simply disappear. But there will be a truer restoration than anything we have heretofore known. The true peace. More than not-war, more than inner calm; true peace is deep and abiding relational harmony. As in positive peace, the correcting of systemic violence (which is injustice in any form).

That, at least, was the theme of the sermon at church this past week. That the peace so many seek comes less from within and more from doing right by one another. To paraphrase loosely, we do peace by taking care of those around us, in large and small ways. As I have said before, and the lyricist of Good King Wenceslas said before even that, “Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.” As a matter of fact, rereading that post, I am just impressed with how well it’s held up. It’s a good one and it explains what I like about that song really well, if I do say so myself. Which I do.

Anyway. The point is this: in the midst of the despair of pain and death and things literally called ‘crimes against humanity,’ there is something else as well. Something, as Samwise would say, worth fighting for. And it is in the fighting that we fan the ember of hope into flame.

There is precious little we can do about the enormity of the problems facing our world. But, I believe, we are called to face them nonetheless. It is not said, ‘Blessed are the peaceful.’ It is said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’

May we all make peace as we can.

Cessation of Hostilities is Not Peace

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, one hundred years ago, something ended and something began.

The peace after the first World War was hard-won but it was also half-hearted. Fighting stopped but many issues remained either unresolved or resolved poorly. It could have been a time of great hope and instead proved to be the intermezzo between two conflagrations.

In my studies of international relations, the term negative peace is generally used to refer to the absence of war, while positive peace indicates the presence of just, peaceful, and equitable systems. Clearly, the latter is as elusive as unicorns in Sunday bonnets because I’m going to go out on a limb and say that positive peace has never been a reality on this good earth.

I don’t really know what else to say about this upcoming anniversary. In my experience, the topic of the war and ensuing events tends to get short shrift in the US. During my time at Exeter, I took a class on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and the first-hand readings for that class repeatedly made me weep. The first day of the Somme– 1 July, 1916–was and remains the bloodiest day in British military history.

And, in my current context, that makes me think of the US. The day when the most Americans died in war was the Battle of Antietam in 1862. Americans fighting Americans.

I will tell you, I am not happy with the results of the US election this week. My fears were not realized but my hopes were disappointed. It could have been worse but it could have been so much better. In Washington, they supported some gun and public safety measures but rejected the carbon fee. In Michigan, I supported all three initiatives and all three passed, but my district’s Republican Congressional representative was reelected. Political mixed bags are rather par for the course but still.

Lots of exciting ground was broken nationally–for LGBTQ+ candidates, women, people of color. Lots of things happening and there are good things among them, so there’s that, at least.

I was going to write this whole post about the anniversary of the armistice, but here we are. In many ways, though, it’s a similar kind of feeling. No war ended, of course. But there was an opportunity for some structural change and I feel like most of that opportunity was squandered.

This is all just kind of processing. These are just my initial thoughts and feelings. I don’t really consider myself a huge politico or policy wonk (or whatever bizarre term you prefer) but over the past few years I’ve gotten a great deal more into it. Simply put, I’ve recognized that all of these things effect me. They impact me.

On Facebook, I’ve seen a little saying going around. “You can’t say you love someone and then vote for people who will hurt them.” And I don’t have much else to say at this juncture.


Surprise, I have not been up to much of anything this week. We had our first solid rain yesterday and I was pleased. It felt good, even if it didn’t really seem to influence the city-ness of the air. And my walk to work is only like five minutes, so I wasn’t even that wet. Back in Dublin, it was tough when it started raining part way through my forty minute walk and there were no buses on their way. Anyway.

On Wednesday, I had a small addition to my routine. Normally, I go into work to putz around, plan, and grade or whatever miscellaneous work needs to be done before phone sessions. This week, I was in charge of a review session for the first part of the day. Basically, we looked at answers the kids all had already, chatted about topics they only vaguely remembered, and played games. But it wasn’t so bad.

I don’t really have anything else to report. Sometimes I appall myself with how truly and utterly I fill my time with nothing. I don’t even watch that much Netflix. I have no idea what happens to the time, though I know even if I had more I lack the willpower to do anything much with it. I have a few theories about this particular iteration of nothingness here in Seoul, maybe I’ll share them at a later date.

For now, I’d like to give you a bit of insight at how my BA in international studies continues to actually mean something in my life, even if it’s not directly related to my job.

I recently subscribed to the blog Political Violence at a Glance, which issues both a weekly compilation of important news articles and longer topic pieces on relevant issues. This is the latest of three similar updates I follow to keep track of international events. I claim this neither as many nor few, but I encourage everyone to take some time regularly to look at what’s going on from sources that don’t only care about things in other countries when our country is involved or there’s a horrendous disaster.

This week’s discussion was on the fighting, both militarily and socially, the violent extremist groups in the Sahel and Maghreb (if you’re interested, you can read it here). Importantly, as the piece notes, counterinsurgency is not just about wresting control of territory from violent groups, it is also about the classic winning of hearts and minds. This has long been the dilemma of people involved in counterinsurgency efforts. The author drew a comparison between contemporary states’ attempts in the region and colonial French policies and I think it’s an important one.

The writer talks about the ways in which groups are defined by the state as constitutively violent change depending on who’s in power (because generally religion doesn’t advocate a whole lot of violence). The problem they describe, therefore, is not one of message but of identity. The solution, it follows, is then not about amending your ways but of amending yourself. It’s “be a member of this sect” instead of simply “don’t preach violence.” This isn’t entirely unhelpful but it will not bring a durable peace.

In my studies, I have encountered a wide variety of ways to talk about peace but this brief article provided a new one for me, and one which I immediately took to heart in times like these. Defining the problem in the terms outlined above does not actually distinguish between violent and peaceful groups. They certainly are violent but the response to them comes from a redefinition by the group in power. The line drawn is between revisionist and politically quietist.

I may have run across the term “politically quietist” before but it didn’t seem to make much of an impact. Here though, and now, I find it resonating deeply. And the term is easily transferable. Protesters: Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, Women’s March ect. Viewpoints: political correctness, legal discrimination, minimum wage ect.

Is it peace or is it status quo? Do you want what’s right or what’s easy? What’s true or what’s convenient? Political quietism is just a fancy way of saying the people with the power want to protect and (pre)serve power. Keeping things the same is a heavy and powerful idea.

And do we see people as essentialized, petrified bastions of oversimplified beliefs or human beings who can make mistakes and learn from them? Who are deserving of mercy and grace? Who can be forgiven even if they do not seek forgiveness?

Using another term, I want to seek positive peace–not the absence of war but the presence of justice. I want unity in diversity. If that makes me a troublemaker, so be it.

I reject quiet. I pursue peace.

Cold as Snow

If you do not currently or have not ever lived in the Puget Sound lowlands, you may perhaps not understand the excitement with which I write to you: it snowed this week!


Our backyard

Of course, because it is the way of things, the snow did not amount to much nor did it remain long. Nonetheless, I rejoice because I love snow and there is little joy quite like watching snow fall, even if it’s in huge, wet flakes that foretell the incipient return of rain. the morning was made even more delicious by the fact that I didn’t have to work so I could wake up lazily (at seven) and spectate without a cloud of weariness. Indeed, I basically glanced outside (after winning the battle to leave my warm bed), saw white, turned on my phone to take pictures, and ran outside in my bare feet.There are some things worth numb toes.

Regardless of the length of the snow’s stay, this event has helped me overcome, in part, the difficulties in feeling Christmasy mentioned in last week’s post.The snow also recalled to mind a wonderful carol from my childhood, but more on that at the end. Suffice to say, the snow was well enjoyed while it lasted and called attention to inner chills of perhaps greater import. Anyway, a brief feline interlude.

The cat picture this week is a little different….. because variety is the spice of life? Also because the British Museum is the single most incredible building I’ve ever had the privilege of spending a day inside.


Cats deserve an afterlife too. Yes, there’s a mummified cat inside.

Many, many moons ago, I sang a song in choir called Child of Peace for our annual Christmas concert, Gift of Song. The third and final verse reads, in part, thusly:

Child of Peace who came so long ago!
Child of Love still with us here we know!
Let thy tears of passion freely flow,
Melting hearts within us cold as snow.

This world is certainly not at peace. This world certainly does not exhibit much love, it seems. This world is a world of snow, and not the fun holiday kind. Like, snow in January snow– nobody wants it because January isn’t a warm, cozy month full of Christmas decorations. The next world, I think, will only have December snow. But until then, we look to that Child who came so long ago and in so looking we are reminded that he is with us here, now. We not only wait for the surpassing peace of the world to come, we work it out now because the Prince of Peace is with us.

Let us, then, be melted.

Let us pray for peace, people everywhere.

Let us serve both the poor in body and the poor in spirit.

Let us remember that his law is Love and his gospel is Peace.


I’m dreaming tonight of a place I love

even more than I usually do.

And although I know it’s a long road back

I promise you…

Early Saturday morning, I head home to spend a few weeks back in the Pacific Northwest. Very much looking forward to seeing friends and family and just being home. I know I haven’t been away for a long time, really, but this season just brings my love of home right to the fore. After all, it’s all the things we do for love that feel like Christmas. Basically, I want this whole post to be quotations from Christmas songs, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum. To get things started, here are a couple pictures of my cats getting in the Christmas mood.

So, my final week of classes included only two actual classes, one of which was a group presentation. I still have two assignments, one of which I’m in the midst of  and the other not due until the end of January. School-wise, this semester ended up being really good. There were some things that were difficult to love (Research Methods) and some that were interesting in content and kind of awful in delivery (UN) but generally I really enjoyed what I learned and my professors were, generally, pretty wonderful. So I’m grateful for that, because things would have been a great deal worse if I came all this way for a lame education.

Also this week were a couple fun events that really helped facilitate my procrastination. On Sunday, I sang carols with Choral Society in Heuston Station to raise money for a charity and we’ll be in front of the General Post Office this Friday for another charity. It’s a lot of fun and who doesn’t like caroling, yeah? So really enjoyed that. On Monday evening, I attended the Graduate Students Union Christmas Commons and it was absolutely fabulous. We had a three course meal in the Great Hall at Trinity, then moved next door for dancing (though there wasn’t a ton of actual dancing, they had some technical difficulties with the music or something). It was 1920s/Great Gatsby themed and was just generally, all-around good fun. On Tuesday night, we had our last Community Group of the year with dinner and everything. There was a great deal of laughter involved, so you know it thoroughly enjoyable (and probs extended our lives by several months in one go).

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m super pumped to go home. I’ve really enjoyed my time in Dublin and will look forward to returning in January, but I’m glad that I’ll be home for Christmas. In the immortal words of the Muppets, it’s the summer of the soul in December. There’s a great short story I my family reads every year around this time called If He Had Not Come. A young boy wakes up on Christmas morning and nothing is different from normal–no decorations, not presents, no goodwill toward men, nothing. He goes down the road to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan–an empty lot, with a gateway arch inscribed with the words of the title. He then rushes back to bed and wakes up again to the real Christmas morning and says simply, “You came! You came! Thank you for coming.” It’s such a piercing reminder how connected everything around us this season is to a small human in the Levant who changed the world.

In my last post, I was pondering what the world would be like without Christianity, particularly around this time of year. Because pagan Europe certainly had midwinter festivals and things and some of those traditions are actually preserved in modern Christmas celebrations. But at the same time, nothing would be the same because it would still be a season of hope. Hope that spring would come, that the crops wouldn’t fail, that the Vikings wouldn’t attack… Instead, we live in the reality of hope (if that’s possible?) because all our hopes were fulfilled in Jesus’ birth (and life, death, and resurrection). We don’t live in hope anymore, it’s more like expectant waiting. We know that spring is coming (and so much more) and we’re just sitting here tapping our feet impatiently.

I love Christmas (let me make this clear) and going home to see friends and family. But it’s so much more than that. It’s even more, dare I say it, than songs and presents. It will come without ribbons, it will come without tags, it will come without packages, boxes, or bags. It will come because two thousand some years ago, he came, and that changed everything.

In singing carols this past week, a particular line of one of my favorites stuck with me, relevant to my life, my studies, and the world at large. Bid thou our sad division cease and be thyself our King of Peace.

So here’s to peace on earth.