NYTimes video remembers the 1965 Selma James Reeb attack

One of the white min­is­ters with James Reeb in the 1965 attack that helped pro­pel the Vot­ing Rights Act remem­bers the night.

He also reflects on the val­ue of white lives vs. black lives for nation­al atten­tion in the Civil Rights Move­ment. While the actu­al Sel­ma march was protest­ing the killing of black civil rights activist Jim­mie Lee Jack­son by a state troop­er, nation­al out­rage focused on the vis­it­ing white min­is­ter.

In 1967, Dr. King not­ed, “The fail­ure to men­tion Jim­my [sic] Jack­son only rein­forced the impres­sion that to white Amer­i­cans the life of a Negro is insignif­i­cant and mean­ing­less.”

Don’t miss Gail Whif­f­en Coyle’s overview of con­tem­po­rary Friends Jour­nal cov­er­age of Sel­ma on our web­site.

Normcore and the new-old Quaker plain

In the last few weeks, the fash­ion seg­ment of the Inter­net has gone all a-buzz over new term “Norm­core.” Nor­mal, every­day, cloth­ing is appar­ent­ly show­ing up in down­town Man­hat­tan — gasp! Like many trendy terms, it’s not real­ly so new: back in the nineties and ear­ly oughts, Gap ruled the retail world with posters show­ing celebri­ties and artists wear­ing t-shirts and jeans avail­able at the local mall store. “Norm­core” is just the lead­ing edge of the utterly-predicable 20-year fash­ion indus­try pen­du­lum swing.

It also per­haps sig­nals a cul­tur­al shift away from snob­bery and into embrac­ing roots. One of the most pop­u­lar posts on the New York Times’s web­site last year cel­e­brat­ed region­al accents (appar­ent­ly Philadel­phi­ans are allowed to talk like Philadel­phi­ans again).

An ana­logue to this fash­ion trend has been occur­ing among Friends for a lit­tle while now. The “New Plain” dis­cus­sion have revolved around reclaim­ing an atti­tude, not a uni­form.

If you read the old Quak­er guide books (called “Books of Dis­ci­pline” then, now more often called “Faith and Prac­tice”), you’ll see that unlike oth­er plain-dressing Amer­i­can groups like the Amish, Quak­ers didn’t intend their clothes to be a uni­form show­ing group con­for­mi­ty. Instead, plain­ness is framed in terms of inte­ri­or moti­va­tions. Avoid­ing fash­ion trends helped Friends remem­ber that they were all equal before God. It also spoke to our con­tin­u­ing tes­ti­mony of integri­ty, in that Friends were to dress the same way in dif­fer­ent con­texts and so vouch­safe for a sin­gle iden­ti­ty.

When I began feel­ing the tug of a lead­ing toward plain­ness it was for what I began call­ing “Sears Plain,” indi­cat­ing that I wore clothes that I could find in any box store or mall. I devel­oped a low-maintenance approach to fash­ion that freed up my time from shop­ping and the morn­ing dress­ing rit­u­al. Mod­ern plain­ness can lesson the temp­ta­tion to show off in in clothes and it can reduce the over­all wardrobe size and thus reduce our impact on the envi­ron­ment and with exploit­ed labor. But all this is noth­ing new and it nev­er real­ly dis­ap­peared. If you looked around a room of mod­ern Quak­ers you’ll often see a trend of sar­to­ri­al bor­ing­ness; I was sim­ply nam­ing this and putting it in the con­text of our tra­di­tion.

image

Over time I found that the­se moti­va­tions were more preva­lent in the wider cul­ture, espe­cial­ly in the min­i­mal­ist techie scene. Steve Jobs famous­ly sport­ed a uni­form of black turtle­neck, jeans, and New Bal­ance sneak­ers (explained in 2011). In a 2012 pro­file, Barack Oba­ma talked about lim­it­ing his clothes to two col­ors of suits so that he could free up his decision-making energies on more impor­tant issues (I wrote about his fash­ion in “Plain like Barack”).

Non-celebrities also seem inter­est­ed in work­ing out their rela­tion­ship with fash­ion. My arti­cles on mod­ern plain­ness have always been a big draw on my blog. While my fel­low Quak­ers are some­times mild­ly embar­rassed by our his­toric pecu­liar­i­ties, out­siders often eat this stuff up. They’re look­ing for what the techies would call “life hacks” that can help them pri­or­i­tize life essen­tials. If we can com­mu­ni­cate our val­ues in a real way that isn’t propped by appeals to the author­i­ty of tra­di­tion, then we can reach the­se seek­ers.

So now that “Norm­core” is appear­ing in places like Huff­in­g­ton Post , the New York Times and fash­ion mag­a­zi­nes, will Friends be able to talk more about it? Do we still have a col­lec­tive wit­ness in regards to the mate­ri­al­ism and ego-centricity of fash­ion mar­ket­ing?

The QuakerRanter Top-Five

Outreach, Family, Pacifism, and Blog Culture

At year’s end it’s always inter­est­ing to look back and see which arti­cles got the most vis­its. Here are the top-five Quak​er​Ran​ter​.org blog posts of 2013.

1. Outreach gets people to your meetinghouse / Hospitality keeps people returning

This grew out of a inter­est­ing lit­tle tweet about search engine opti­miza­tion that got me think­ing about how Friends Meet­ings can retain the curi­ous one-time vis­i­tors.

2. Tom Heiland

My father-in-law died in Jan­u­ary. The­se are few pic­tures I put togeth­er while Julie was still at the fam­i­ly home with the close rel­a­tives. Thanks to our friends for shar­ing a bit of our life by read­ing this one. He’s missed.

3. Expanding Concepts of Pacifism

A look at Friends tes­ti­monies and the dif­fi­cul­ties of being a fair-trade paci­fist in our hyper-connected world today. I think George Fox and the ear­ly Friends were faced with sim­i­lar chal­lenges and that our guide can be the same as theirs.

4. Rethinking Blogs

A num­ber of new ser­vices are try­ing to update the cul­ture of blog­ging. This post looked at com­ments; a sub­se­quent one con­sid­ered how we might reor­ga­nize our blogs into more of a struc­tured Wiki.

5. Iraq Ten Years Later: Some of Us Weren’t Wrong

This year saw a lot of hang wring­ing by main­stream jour­nal­ists on the anniver­sary of the Iraq War. I didn’t have much patience and looked at how dis­sent­ing voic­es were reg­u­lar­ly locked out of debate ten years ago – and are still locked out with the talk that “all of us” were wrong then.

I should give the caveat that the­se are the top-five most-read arti­cles that were writ­ten this year. Many of the clas­sics still out­per­form the­se. The most read con­tin­ues to be my post on unpop­u­lar baby names (just today I over­heard an expec­tant moth­er approv­ing­ly going through a list of over-trendy names; I won­dered if I should send her the link). My post on how to order men’s plain cloth­ing from Gohn’s Broth­ers con­tin­ues to be pop­u­lar, as does a report about a trip to a leg­endary water hole deep in the South Jer­sey pines.

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has a page devoted to issues of faith and next…

Pew Forum on Reli­gion and Pub­lic Life has a page devot­ed to issues of faith and next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

Embed­ded Link

2012 Pres­i­den­tial Can­di­dates Reli­gious Back­grounds | Pew Forum on Reli­gion & Pub­lic Life
Inter­est­ed in how reli­gion could affect the 2012 elec­tion? Learn about the 2012 pres­i­den­tial candidate’s reli­gious back­grounds in Pew Forum online biogra­phies.

Google+: View post on Google+

I thought I’d try an experiment

My life is now such that I don’t have the time to do long-form, thought­ful blog­ging. When I have time to think about big ideas expressed in well-chosen words, it’s as edi­tor at Friends Jour­nal. I have a rather long com­mute but it’s bro­ken up with trans­fers, I often have to stand and I usu­al­ly don’t have a lap­top on me. What I do have is a smart phone, which I use to keep up with Quak­er blogs, lis­ten to pod­casts and take pic­tures.

Despite this, I can usu­al­ly write a few para­graphs at a time. Kept at steadi­ly those could amass into blog posts. But the finishing-up effort is hard. I have a 2/3rds com­plet­ed post lav­ish­ing high praise for +Jon Watts’s new album sit­ting on my phone but haven’t had the chance to fin­ish, pol­ish and pub­lish. So what if I seri­al­ized the­se? Write a few para­graphs at a time, invite com­men­tary, per­haps even alter things in a bit of crowd-sourcing?

Any feed­back I’d get would help keep up my enthu­si­asm for the top­ic. This infor­mal post-as-chat was actu­al­ly the dom­i­nant ear­ly mod­el for blogs, one that fell away as they became more vis­i­ble. It’d be nice to get back to that. The medi­um seems obvi­ous to me: Google+, which allows for extend­ed infor­mal posts. So I’ll try that. The­se will be beta thoughts-on-electron. If they seem to gell togeth­er, I might then pol­ish and pub­lish to Quak​er​Ran​ter​.org, but no promis­es. This is most­ly a way to get some raw ideas out there.

Google+: View post on Google+