Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Friday, December 10, 2004



I sum up my plain leadings (for none Quakers what I personally am drawn to, not what I lead others to...) as dressing as a witness for:




On truth, the difference between fashion and style. Fashion is dictated by the designer, the market, the common denominator. Style is statement. As an Urban Friend, I must be able, in my profession, to walk into a court room or a scholastic lecture and look different without looking out of place. I am not drawn to dress like a farmer, or in jeans and a workshirt... as if I am a laborer (done that loved it ... will always have Tar under me nails...). But, when I walk into a court room with my broad brimmed hat firmly planted on my head, and my letter from the Federal Court Administrative Judge recognize our right as Quakers to keep that hat on my head, I enter the court with the history of my faith in company. So, yes, the line of my jacket was lifted by Mr. Lal from an Armani suit (my kind thanks to Friend Armani for his good eye and talent), but that jacket is plain black cloth and with a classic Quaker small collar -- no lapels (what was once called a "Neru" jacket collar).

A surprising number of folks on the street recognize it as Quaker, and as one neighbor who does not have a roof over his head said, "Man! That hat WEARS YOU!" (Thank you Kore Stoltzfus).

Why is it important to bear witness to our Quaker history and Faith? Well, a good explanation may be an event in Washington, where a Quaker peace vigil coincided with a Palestinian protest. We were a few hundred Friends walking up Pennsylvania Ave. completely surrounded by Palestinians chanting death to one thing or person or another, and some other rather violent chants mixed in with their chants which expressed hope for justice. I began to sing in a rather ... well really loud voice, "All we are saying is give peace a chance" (thank you John Lennon). Other Friends took up the song. We began to be heard over the bullhorns.

A young Palestinian girl looked daggers at me and hissed, "I can't sing that song!" I smiled at her and said, "We are called to sing that as we are Quakers." She instantly broke into a HUGE warm smile and said excitedly, "I know about you! You have the school in Ramalah!" She pulled others of her friends around to introduce us to them. "It's all right, I know why you are singing now," she said. And that is it.

Our witness for peace is not like every other witness for peace. It is wrapped in our past of standing aside from all war, while loving the combatants equally. So, my public life is a statement as a Friend.

Peace. That is an easy one. A good story which goes along with this thought, is my friend and Friend John. John told me that he was running for a subway train and swiped his card at the turnstile and forged ahead. The card was not read, and he was hit rather hard in his lower middle by the turnstile which refused to turn. A rather vile oath was ready on his lips. He said he thought of how silly it would look, a Friend in a broad brimmed black hat cussing like a sailor, so the curse stayed put in his shocked and momentarily angry heart. Peace.

Fair labor is the hard one today. I try hard not to purchase slave made or prize goods. Plastic is a prize good, and it is hard to justify replacing it with Ivory again, though I understand North Sea dredging has now found so much Woolly Mammoth Ivory that there is now a market for it! (It's OK, the Mammoth is already extinct!) But, seriously, as in earlier posts, this is an aspiration and attempt, but still a witness. I hope we may urge other plain communities to stop production in China unless we can be assured that the Asian workers are well paid and not used to disemploy our sisters and brothers in the USA.

I must admit here, that one of my plain jackets from Goodes was made in China, bought it in a pinch and like Penn's sword, I labor over my comfort and discomfort in wearing it. I hope Amish Sisters and Brothers may be able to tell me of how and where in China and under what conditions Amish imports are made. I think that we should consider seeking an opening way to make our clothes here where we can oversee the fairness of its production.

I am also concerned of clothing made in association with the "Christian Patriot" movement. It has been my experience and their public writing that the "Christian Patriot" movement endorses violence and violence in the worst way, cowardly stalking and killing of those they perceive as "God's enemies." I pray we all hold them in the light and ask them to look deep into their souls to find God's love.


At 5:39 AM, Blogger david said...

That is utterly amazing.

I have tried plain speech in the past but been unable to maintain the discipline. I was working as a teacher's aide during one attempt. I found that so-called "low-functioning" children caught the langauge use. Would find it funny or comment. But would accept it. The so-called "noraml" or adult populations, including soem Quakers, would resist it.

It has been a while though. The thought of using it in -- say a job interview -- terrifies me.

At 5:30 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

Hiya Kwakersaur - Iam usingplain speech here and there, mostly with customers who smile and think it's an act for more tips, and with a few close Friends (like Lor, here) who know what's up. I pull it out fromtime to time in the social hour after meeting...people generally find it charming.

We're all easing into this plain thing...


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