No spectators in a crisis
Thanks so much to Rev. Barber for sharing the Light, in the form of his brilliant, powerful, courageous, spiritual analysis and call to action (“The Third Reconstruction” by William J. Barber II, FJ Sept. 2016). I must say that you gotta lotta Quaker in you, sir!
This is precisely the kind of spark needed to ignite a Third Reconstruction. People need to realize that there are no spectators in this crisis. One is either for equal justice under law, or with the snakes. And no amount of denial, rationalization, apologies for racism, or coddling of racists will change that stark reality. We either embrace the ocean of light, or support the ocean of darkness. It’s just that simple.
I’m just so excited now about the fight that I thought I was doing on my own for my own. I’ve always known it wasn’t about me and my immediate family; it’s about us all. Thank you so much for allowing me to believe in this country once again. I’m all in for the third and final reconstruction of America.
Michael J. Bond
A ministry in public education
I am so glad to hear the thoughts and feelings that Mike Mangiaracina writes about, regarding being called to witness, leaving teaching in Friends schools, and choosing to continue his ministry in public education (“Quaker Teachers Aren’t Just at Friends Schools,” FJ Jan.).
As Friends, we are called to see that all children have equal opportunity; access to loving, supportive relationships; and quality education. As a former co-clerk of the Public Education Group of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, I believe that the vast majority of Friends are in an active state of denial, not willing to acknowledge that we have a responsibility to commit to working for this for all children. We would rather be a teacher, or head, or serve on an overcrowded board of an elite Friends school than take on the struggle of quality public education for all of God’s children.
Friends remember their first time
I love reading and taking in the learning of folks experiencing their first time in a silent Quaker meeting (“My First Time at Quaker Meeting,” QuakerSpeak.com, Mar. 2016). Many years ago when I first took my first child—then a toddler of three—to meeting, I noticed how silent she was, thoughtful and listening. When she got restless, she sat on the floor and put her book on the chair “reading it.” After meeting, I complimented her on her behavior and thanked her for being mindful of others.
She responded, “But Mom, meeting was asleep.” Loved it. Out of the mouths of babes! She was honest but respectful of the silence. The memory warms my heart even now, 40-plus years later. Meeting is always like coming home.
I was taken to my first Quaker meeting in 1990 here in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire (UK), by an American Friend staying with me over the summer. It was very strange to be silent for an hour, but I knew immediately two things: like so many others, I had found my spiritual home, and I had probably always been a Quaker without knowing it. I’m pretty sure there are an awful lot more Quakers “out there” who just don’t know it! I hope QuakerSpeak finds some more of them. Perhaps someone could say this on one of your videos!
My first experience of silent meeting was when my confirmation class visited a Quaker meeting as part of our class. We also visited a Catholic monastery and a synagogue, but the Quaker meeting really resonated with me. Imagine my surprise when I was told (for the first time) that our family had Quaker roots going back to the 1600s. But one of my ancestors was read out of meeting and that was the end of that.
I did not attend meeting again until many years later. What struck me about that meeting was that someone rose to share a message but did not tell us what he thought we should do about a particular problem. Rather, he suggested there might be more than one answer. He encouraged us to see if we too might be led to address this problem; each of us needed to decide for ourselves. Ironically, I forgot what the message was about, but the idea that we could disagree stuck with me and got me to return.
Quaker ethics in the workplace
I was once the licensing agent for an auto/RV dealership that had five branches up and down our state (FJ Jan. issue on “Quakers in the Workplace”). My task was to see that our immediate branch kept accurate records of vehicles sold and traded, and that out-of-state sales were properly documented. I was their only notary public, answering to state authorities and licensing inspectors. Each county collects its own licensing fees, which fund road repairs, so I was surprised when a private license renewal for a south branch manager’s privately owned car crossed my desk up north. State law requires addresses where the vehicle is used/garaged, as license fees vary county to county, yet the vehicle wasn’t even part of our fleet. My fairly new boss instructed me to send the renewal down to that branch’s title clerk. A couple of months later, I found the renewal back on my desk; the southern manager had been ticketed for expired tabs. It was then I was ordered (not asked) to handle the renewal. This meant I had to affirm on a legal document that this private vehicle was a company car at our northern branch (lesser license fees) and sign my name. I said I was unable to do that—both as a Quaker and as a notary public. I was again ordered to fill out the form. I again declined, pointing out a manager would be recognized by the state for licensing. At the end of the week, I was told my services—provided to this company for nearly 15 years—would no longer be needed. I have no regrets. I realized to have complied would have gone against all my basic Quaker tenets, truth and integrity among them, and I would be forever damned as a notary public of any credibility. My letter of reference said the company was downsizing, which was believable but for the ad seeking my replacement. I suppose I could sue for damages. But that’s not the Quaker way either. I know I did right and am content to leave it at that. As for the dealership? The company closed my branch.
Understanding violence through video gaming
I’m compelled to share an alternative perspective to Greyson Acquaviva’s “Violent Video Games and Quaker Teens” (FJ Nov. 2016). I am a 40-year-old lifelong Quaker and trained conflict mediator. I am also a lifelong tabletop and video gamer, including violent games. Yes, some violent games can draw you into a dark moment of seeing the world through an aggressive person’s eyes. But if we maintain self-awareness, we can use that perspective to understand how violent people think in the real world, a crucial step in helping such people move away from violence. I’ve learned the horrors of war from video games, and that inspires me to work to end war in a way nothing else has.
Also, I use such games as an outlet for frustration. Sometimes a walk or a deep breath doesn’t do for venting. Finding safe venues for releasing, rather than oppressing, frustration is crucial to managing anger in a healthy way.
Regarding children and teens, parents must engage with their children and discuss the violence they witness in any and all forms of pop culture. Games, wonderfully, are interactive art; parents should play them with their children. Adults and teens must research what is appropriate for their consumption. Like other forms of pop culture, video games target a variety of audiences. Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto—the games Acquaviva identified—are clearly labeled Mature Audiences Only, 17+. No responsible adult allows their under-17-year-old child to play such games any more than they allow them to see an R-rated movie without supervision. Enforcing this can be hard, but no one becomes a parent because it’s easy. We must study and experience all pop cultural art and learn to engage with it appropriately, rather than condemn it out of hand in ignorance.
Shedding light on family history
It’s strange, reading Paula Palmer’s “Quaker Indian Boarding Schools” (FJ Oct. 2016), to know my ancestors were on both sides of this particular coin. My great grandma was inducted into one of these Quaker schools for Indians. She eventually married a white Quaker man, but nothing was preserved in our family of the Native heritage, except our black eyes and hair.
It was spoken of in quiet tones through the 1970s. My grandma called her mother-in-law “the Indian woman” in a rather derisive tone, not acknowledging that her own husband, my grandpa, was half Native American.
Oddly, none of this was really brought to light until I started studying my ancestry several years ago. All I knew was my great grandma was Indian and married a Quaker. Thanks for the article; it helps shed more light on an obscure part of my family history.