Now It Begins, and Heaven Help Us All!
The Food Gap, Poverty, and Income Disparity

Monday Link Roundup: Interfaith Heroes, Praise for Our World, Womb Outsourcing, and Vet Suicides

Read the Spirit, an ambitious and thoughtful site devoted to issues of spirituality and religion, is devoting a portion of their impressive energies to a month of Interfaith Heroes. Featured so far, brief, illuminating essays on the lives of such disparate voices for tolerance as Moses Maimonides, Jaluddin Muhammed Akbar, and Roger Williams.

(Incidentally, we also owe a word of thanks to Read the Spirit for their link to us and a very flattering mention for Beacon Press generally and the blog specifically.)

In other good reviews of work from Beacon, the L.A. Times ran a thoughtful and moving piece by Susan Salter Reynolds about Our World, a book that collects Molly Malone Cook's photographs with accompanying text by her life partner, the poet Mary Oliver.

The photographs Oliver has chosen reflect Cook's intuitive relationship with her subjects (even inanimate objects). The little girl on the stoop in New York City looks directly at the photographer, as does a kindly Robert Motherwell and a fierce, almost intimidating Walker Evans. Even though most of the photographs are dominated by a central person or object, there is a lot to look at in the margins, all part of the story. The stance of her subjects -- reading a book, looking through a telescope -- is always distinctive, creating the mood of the entire composition. The two photos of Oliver could have been taken only by someone who knew the subject well.

Marketplace ran a story over the holiday break that many, including Judith Warner on the New York Times opinion blogs, found troubling. The story highlighted the practice of "womb outsourcing," an increasingly popular surrogacy option involving hopeful parents from wealthy countries paying what amounts to "bargain rates" (when compared with the high cost of surrogacy in the U.S.) for surrogates in India. Amy Tiemann at MojoMom condemned the practice – "Is this what colonialism looks like in the 21st century?" – and invited Barbara Katz Rothman, author of Weaving a Family: Untangling Race and Adoption, to comment as well:

We women of the wealthy world profit from the exploitation of poor women, men and children with almost every shirt we put on our backs, almost every bite of food we take. We exploit people in poverty and never have to think about it. And now we can profit in our motherhood -- but unlike the shirt and the food, this time the product is going to grow up and demand an explanation. (Read more here)

And, to return to a topic  we discussed during Veterans Day Week last November, Penny Coleman, author of Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, and the Lessons of War, has been writing about the issue of veteran suicides regularly at Alternet. Her latest post is an account of her experience testifying before Congress alongside Mike and Kim Bowman, who lost their son to suicide after he returned from Iraq. In the piece she quotes Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida, who displayed a stunning lack of tact and understanding of the issue when he passed the buck to the Bowman family for their son's death:

"The building up of the self-esteem is the key," he said, "and the parents somehow have to convince him or her that everything is going to be all right, we're going to work through it. And in this case it didn't happen, and so, tragic and sad."

It is precisely because of this tendency to blame the victims that the work that Coleman and the Bowmans do is so important. The hearing ultimately resulted in a dressing down of the head of mental health at the VA by the chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Bob Filner, along with the appeal that the VA start listening to the stories of families who have lost loved ones to suicide. Excuses and passing the buck are not going to save any lives.