[an excerpt from Ed Bacon's meditation at last evening's Lessons & Carols service at All Saints Church.]
The person I personally know who makes it his business to memorize poems when they call to him is Rabbi Leonard Beerman, the rabbi-in-residence of our church. From time to time he emails a group of us or mentions in a speech, a sermon, or in a prayer, a poem he has tried to keep “freshly remembered” as he puts it.
Last month, praying at the Human Rights Watch dinner in Beverly Hills, Rabbi Beerman quoted from a poem from the great Israeli poet, Daliah Ravikovich, who died just a few years ago, considered to be the outstanding woman poet of the Hebrew language.
“One of her best known poems is entitled, “Hovering at a Low Altitude.”
In this poem, there is a female narrator who presents herself in a very satirical way as witness to the rape and murder of an Arab shepherd child. The narrator watches from the safe distance of a low altitude and does nothing. As she watches she says, “I’m not here.” She sees the little girl, yet she says over and over, “I’m not here.”
The image of hovering in this poem (the Hebrew word is rechifa) contains a double meaning, connecting the language of army bulletins --“Low flying helicopters in hovering formations over the Gaza strip”-- with Tel Aviv slang, where l’rachef means “to be cool, by staying detached from the political situation.”
The image of low altitude hovering over an atrocity is an emblem of the situation of the ordinary citizen knowing, but choosing not to see certain terrible acts being perpetrated. It is primarily a parable of the moral untenability of detached observation.” (Beerman Leonard, Human Rights Watch, November 17, 2009, Beverly Hilton Hotel)
That is why we in this faith community consider it morally untenable to maintain any detachment or any silence when a country like Uganda passes laws that execute homosexual persons for being who God made them to be.
That is why we in this faith community consider it morally untenable to maintain any detachment or any silence when a Church leader like the Archbishop of Canterbury uses his pulpit to be silent about Uganda but rather condemns the diocese of Los Angeles for electing a woman in a life-long partnership with another woman as its suffragan bishop.
That is why we in this faith community consider it morally untenable to maintain any detachment or any silence when a president as wise and reflective as Barack Obama chooses to send 30,000 additional troops into a foolish and immoral war in Afghanistan.
And that is why we in this faith community consider it morally untenable to maintain any detachment or any silence when this nation will not provide universal health care when 222 Americans die each day from lack of health care.
And THAT is why it is such a blessing to be member of the All Saints Church staff