Susquehanna Morning

Susquehanna Morning

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Binghamton Responds to the Orlando, FL Mass Killings

Image by Brett Jaspers, WSKG News
I don't need to recap it for you, the horrific events at the Pulse in Orlando, FL, in the early hours of June 12, 2016.

I want to share my remarks on the occasion of Binghamton's Candlelight Vigil, held on Tuesday evening June 14.

For me, the most moving part of the evening was the sight of perhaps thirty members of our  local mosque, the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier, filing onto the stage in a show of solidarity.

Or maybe it was the silence when the candles were lit, soon to be broken by "We Shall Overcome".

Or the sight of lanterns gently lifting off.

This was an event in which we refused to be divided from one another, vulnerable communities-- Muslims, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.

I was so very proud to be a part of it.


My name is Patricia Raube, and I’m the pastor of Union Presbyterian Church in Endicott, a congregation that loved me right out of the closet in 2009. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been intentionally ordaining LGBTQ people since 2011, and allowing its pastors and churches to celebrate the weddings of all people since 2014.

Because I’m up early on Sunday mornings, I read about the shooting at 6:30, when the news was “20 casualties.” By the time church was over, the whole country knew that there were 49 murdered, and 50-plus in the care of hospitals.

And we want to know why, and we, some of us, are quick to say why,
even before we really truly know.

But the one thing no one can challenge, the one thing we must agree upon, is that this was an attack whose targets were members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community, as well as the Latino/ Latina community. Queer people and people of color bore the brunt of this act of hate, no matter what impulses or beliefs inspired it. It was an act of homophobia and perhaps racism. No matter what we learn about the motivations of the killer, we must not erase the identities of those whose lives he took.

This was an attack on the queer community and its allies.

But this was also an attack on our safe spaces, our sanctuaries. Many of us in the churches have not done nearly enough to make our congregations the safe spaces they should be, to make our sanctuaries, sanctuary to the LGBTQ community. So our queer community has found sanctuary elsewhere—in places like Binghamton’s own Herizon, and Merlin’s, and Squiggy’s, and Orlando’s Pulse. And now—for so many of us—these sanctuaries have been violated. These sanctuaries are haunted by this terrible act of hatred. These sanctuaries, for some of us, have ceased to be those holy spaces of safety and love.

So where do we go from here?

In one sense, we do what we always have done. We continue to find families of choice, and safe spaces, together. We hallow new grounds and rooms and clubs, and make them our sanctuaries and, perhaps, we re-dedicate and re-sanctify the old spaces with new fervor and intention.

At the same time, for you, for me, for each of us: I offer you what my faith tells me to be true: that Love, a love greater than any of us is capable of on our own, created us, each of us, and made us mysterious, and beautiful and perfect, just as we are. I offer you what I believe with all my heart: that our love and our bodies and our lovemaking are precious, good, and sacred. I offer you what each of us must cling to: that our goodness and our holiness cannot and will not be diminished or erased, no matter who tries to hunt us down, or keep us out of our preferred bathrooms, or in any way legislate us out of existence.

We exist. You, and I, and each person dancing their heart out in their sanctuary of choice. Those whose names we will say tonight, and those who are still dancing cannot and will not be diminished, or forgotten, or erased. Just as it has before: Love will win.

Image from WICZ News

Friday, June 3, 2016

Healing, By the Numbers

I returned to the pool this week, for the first time in a long time.

First time since having pneumonia.

First time since last summer, actually. I had to look at my calendar and check. It was true.

I am in the midst of a... what? A program, maybe? Of actions I am taking, very intentionally, to restore myself to health.

This is about more than having pneumonia.

I am walking, a little longer each morning. I am walking with my partner, S, and a dog we have sort of half-adopted, a beautiful blue-and-black Australian cattle dog who belongs to one of S's tenants. We walk a little longer each day. (A mile and a half, today.) And with that, I notice that this process seems to involve a lot of numbers.

There were lots of numbers involved, at the Y, when I went for my swim.

* Re-memorize lock combination. (Same lock I've had for over 20 years. Always have to re-memorize.)

* Note time when I began my swim. How long are the laps taking me? (Answer: a little longer than usual, by a full 15 seconds.) And wonder: can I successfully keep my start time and the combination in my head for the full duration of the swim? (Yes.)

* Note time/ distance during which I felt great. (It was about 20 yards.)

* Note time/ distance before I tired. Which is to say, before my lungs began to burn. Under normal circumstances, I can return to the pool, even after nearly a year, and swim a half mile with little or no trouble.

(In fact, I do believed I moaned with pleasure at the feeling of the cool water washing over me, on a hot late spring day, at the end of what was my longest day in the office since my return.)

After that... well, it's the lungs, you see. They are still not where they were. I struggled through one lap (two lengths), and flipped onto my back to do the second lap. Backstroke is much easier, breathing-wise. It gives me time to return my breathing to near-normal, before attempting another lap with the crawl.

* Keep count of the laps. (Turns out, when you are alternating crawl/ backstroke, it's relatively easy to do this.)

* Assess level of success: I did not make my half mile; I could only swim half that, a quarter mile. And that felt like a victory, all things considered. ("All things" including: the memory of the first week of being sick, when I sounded like a death scene in a Dickens novel. When, for the first time in my life I could not take breathing for granted, but was experiencing it as an underwater-type of phenomenon, noisy, ragged. When, if I am completely honest with myself, I was frightened.)

And then, there was the exit from the pool...

* Wonder at the length of time I need to lean on the wall, after exiting the pool, before legs stop feeling wobbly. (It was only a minute. Less, probably.)

So... next up in healing by the numbers:

Length of time it will take me to understand that this is a slow process, and I can neither dictate it by force of will, nor game it by racking up the "right" statistics. All I can do is take it step by step, stroke by stroke, breath by breath.