MakingOne

My Journey to Zion

Trying to figure out why federation isn't working for me.

It's working now.

I almost can't sing this song without crying. It touches very close to feelings of the last decade of my life.

Here is my arrangement and recording

Original in plain text literal translation italicized my best English translation bold

Urlando contro il cielo

Howling against the sky

Crying to the Heavens

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My Translation

If you are here just for my translation, I'm putting it first. After that is the original matched with a (mostly) literal translation and with my singable translation.

I'm sure I'll have to tweak (or rewrite) the poem when I set the music, but I'm pretty happy with this draft.

America the Favored

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Pierangelo Bertoli wrote a song that won 4th place at the San Remo music festival in 1992. It is one of his most popular, from a career spanning decades and well over a dozen albums. Yet there isn't a translation for it on lyrics translate.com into any language. To be fair, lyricstranslate skews to new popular music, since it's powered by volunteer translations, but the rest of his 5 or 6 most popular songs have translations, many into English. I thought, maybe I can contribute something! This was even on of the most famous Italian protest songs, so it was one of the reasons I discovered Bertoli.

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I remember singing this hymn, new to the LDS Mormon hymnal in 1985, with my dad and little brother. We sometimes sang it as a round. It's a tune that brings lots of feelings, but I recently have found the words less meaningful to me. So I set out to modify a few of the words, but it kept coming out wrong. I couldn't keep the feel of the verse. The language shifted period, came across as forced, rhymed badly, or was just dumb.

Then all my attempts turned into my own new hymn. I hope you enjoy. I'm pleased with it.

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Twelve Years in Georgia

I feared we were alone. We left our homes for a strange land. We were welcomed with care and love, But we stayed strangers. When we were seen, they blessed our hearts And left us strange.

In music I am not alone. Hopes and dreams cross generations, oceans, and tongues. I sing my new hymns. I bring the words from other times, I bring the tunes from other lands, To mine.

I can stay a stranger if that’s my call. Whiteness may be the state religion, But I don’t have to lend it my good skin. I can hold no laws sacred Until they leave no rich and no poor, Noone bound, And don’t stop at the rights of men.

Science for Everyone, the Ivory Tower I Want

Good, Smart Scientists

I am 95% a teacher and about 5% a researcher, but before I started teaching I was a graduate student and post-doc for close to 10 years. Since then I've had chances at least a couple of times a year to listen to researchers in a wide variety of chemistry fields. Here's my experience:

Researchers working for big and small agrobusiness, chemical manufacturers, and pharmaceutical and medical research companies are smart, conscientious researchers. They want to do good work that improves products, is more environmentally responsible than the current products, and is useful to humanity. It's amazing and clever many of the things they are doing. Things like: * making paint pigments spread more evenly at a molecular level so that it takes less paint to cover a wall, * making plants that are more drought and pest resistant, * finding gut microbes that can treat depression, and other things that add up over a whole society to huge reductions in resource use, huge increases in food production, or huge improvements in human well-being.

The Rich Get Richer

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I had a dream

I dreamed I was ready to go back to church for the good community and support we could find there. I woke up and thought, maybe I can do this. I dreamed that maybe we can make it here, in the South. Maybe, with strong, loving community, we can live full lives here.

Then I remembered all the reasons I left. I remembered all the reasons I would share with my community if they would give me a voice. But they spent years silencing me. My dream is gone, now, and I'm lying awake wishing I could share my life with you, but you would have to show me you hear me. Without that I can't give my body, my time, and my soul to you, even if it would feel safe to quietly partake of your love for a returning lost lamb.

You would have to hear my cry

You fear immigrants

Many of you fear immigrants. You grab on to the carefully worded caveats of cowardly leaders that we must welcome immigrants while respecting laws. So you say they have to come the right way.

What is the right way to come?

What is the right way to flee starvation? What is the right way to leave when your farm dried up because of climate change? What is the right way to flee gangs that will kill or conscript your children? What is the right way to flee a government that can't or won't protect you? What is the right way to run to a hope of freedom? A hope that with hard work you can raise your children in safety, and maybe rise from poverty and fear? What is the right way to come to America?

You are riled up with fear

In your fear, many of you support a man who kidnapped children to keep their parents from coming to America. In your fear you think we can't integrate so many foreigners into our way of life. In your fear you think leftists are trying to replace true Americans with foreigners. Love has no room for these fears.

You fear women

You fear trans women

Many of you fear women who weren't born looking like women. You fear they are making a mistake or sinning when they change their appearance or body to become the woman they are. You fear that a trans woman might win a sporting event because she has some extra testosterone. You fear a man might pretend to be a trans woman to sexually prey on girls. You fear they will decide they are men after all and regret their previous choices. You let this fear make laws to oppress these women and control them.

And if you don't fear these women, you still silently let your neighbors fear them, and let them vote for politicians who oppress trans women without calling them to repent, as the gospel commands.

I do not fear trans women.

If a trans woman or girl makes a mistake, I will do what I do with anyone close to me. I will love and support her in her hard decisions and in her ever changing life.

If one wins a sporting event, I will say, you go, girl!

If one wants to use a women's bathroom, I will remember that men have been sexually preying on girls for millennia without pretending to be women to do it. I will remember that men are the biggest danger to girls, to women, to trans women, to boys, and to other men. I will vote for laws that actually keep people safe, not those written by and for fear.

If my neighbor speaks fears and lies about trans people, I will not let it pass unchallenged. I may be gentle. I may not fight. But I will speak. I left because I could not speak by myself to the every week drum beat of “you are wrong, you are wrong, you are wrong.”

I tried to speak with patience, love, kindness, and generosity for years. I know you knew I was different. You heard the dissonance with the love, and you accepted me. But you never spoke up with me. You never changed. You made me say the same things, over and over just to protect myself. Just to be myself among you. And you would never let a trans woman be herself among you.

You fear women's bodies

Most of you fear a woman's sexuality. You teach that, unless tightly controlled through proper dress and behavior, it will corrupt men and boys.

I trust women to dress themselves. I trust men and boys to decide wisely and respectfully how they will interact with women, and to not blame women for their choices. Of course we will all make mistakes, but I'm not going to blame a woman for mine.

You fear women making choices

While women are encouraged more to have a voice on councils, every decision ultimately rests with a male priesthood. Any decisions made by women are a gift from God sanctioned by men. Men control the money. Men control who speaks. Men are instructed that it is their duty to regulate speech and to correct “doctrinal errors.” Institutional choice ultimately rests with men, without exception.

I do not fear women making choices. I support my women bosses and respect the expertise of my women colleagues. I vote for radical women that you speak of as cautionary tales of how our nation is falling from truth and righteousness. I believe women should have the priesthood and be equal voices in number, wealth, and position in the church and in our government. You fear such change will be our destruction. I believe it is our only path to salvation.

You fear abortion

You recognize that there are times when abortions are right. But you fear so much that women will make a bad choice that you vote for politicians who try to stop all women from making any mistakes.

Not only are you wrong to deny your trust to mothers in deciding what is right in their lives—that is Satan's plan, after all, to stop anyone from sinning—but you are wrong that very many of them are making a mistake when they choose an abortion.

It is a hard choice. I would never want to be faced with it. That's why, after four kids, when my body, my wife's body, and our time, energy, and patience were stretched so thin that we questioned our ability to raise the children we have, I had a vasectomy. Another child would have destroyed my wife's health, both physical and mental. It likely would have done the same to me. It would have stretched out finances to breaking—pretending that other circumstances weren't already pushing us to constant insecurity. And we are in so much better of a position than the majority of women who seek abortions.

I'm 2022, 87% of women seeking abortions were unmarried. 66% were racialized women (Black or Hispanic), and another 8% were foreign. 61% already had at least 1 child. You all know the problems that come with being a single mother of color. If you don't speak of it outright, you speak about it in code often enough. These are the women your laws want to control.

I do not fear these women, with trained professionals assisting them, making the best choice they know how in circumstances that I have been spared. Let God judge them, and let us show them love, compassion, understanding, and support.

You fear that taking our guns is taking our freedom

I drove through a small town where a mortuary displayed gravestones for sale unironically behind a sign for a gun shop.

I do not fear common sense gun regulations. Universal and enforced background checks. Denial of gun rights to domestic abusers and others with violent pasts. Limits on ammunition sales and magazine size. Requirements for training and safe storage. If we need a new amendment to make it happen, we can do that. Making amendments is supposedly part of the Constitution.

And if you think it's a mental health problem, I support widely available, government funded mental health care. You can, too. You don't have to be afraid of it.

I do fear weapons

I fear politicians endlessly funding the military industrial complex. I fear weapons manufacturers using their taxpayer funded wealth to lobby for more taxpayer money.

I fear disaffected and disillusioned men with weapons. I fear for them, too many taking their own lives with guns. I fear their using their easily acquired, easily lethal guns to kill innocent children. I fear arming everyone, thinking that if everyone is ready to shoot the bad guys we somehow will magically stop shooting people.

I fear for the young men who feel that the military is their only chance at a good, financially stable life. I fear at our willingness to take advantage of their need. I fear at our willingness to scrimp and save on caring for them after they gave their health for us. The hoops we are willing to make them and their families jump through to get the benefits we promised them when they signed up.

I don't fear someone like Bernie Sanders who calls for an end to our endless wars and at the same time calls for us to respect and fully fund our promises to our veterans.

You fear equity and diversity

When others raise up women and people of color in large numbers to lead us, you run the other way with your votes. You elect white men. You elect a few women and people of color who exactly toe the party line. If one steps out of line, even if it is to tell the truth about a liar, a rapist, a thief, and a would be dictator, her political career is ended—no matter how quintessentially Republican she is in every other way.

And if you aren't running to elect the next white, male, Christian, anti-abortion, wealthy businessman to office, you don't feel like you can say anything about it at church. So you don't, except to a few sympathetic ears. And nothing changes. No one repents, or even knows they should.

You fear government

You think that government is corrupt, that it wastes money, that taxes are theft, and that regulation and government run services are anti-freedom, anti-capitalist, and anti-American. So you elect corrupt leaders, who prevent the IRS from collecting taxes from the wealthy, who (since Gingrich in the mid 90s) never compromise to get government work done if it doesn't help the party, who try to break government services like Social Security and Medicare, and who deregulate or turn over regulation to the wealthy and to the businesses being regulated. You let rich people and corporations run our government. You let judges who are bought by wealthy men rule on our laws.

Then after fulfilling your own prophecy, you self-righteously reassure each other of how you knew you were right and how it's all a sign of the times that the world is ending and God is coming, soon.

And if you don't believe these things, you still can't call it out as evil. Or at least you won't be heard. Or you'll be reminded how the things you say are what the Soviet Union did—even though the truest similarity between the Soviet Union and American policies are how repressive and exploitative, authoritarian policies destroy peace and prosperity.

I do not fear government

Government is our way to work together to usher in the Millennium. As Brigham Young taught, we have to prepare the world for Christ's return by building Zion. Government is our way to build Zion with others who don't share our religion.

Government is our way to build a society without rich and poor. A society that is no respecter of persons, but treats all equally. A society that is peaceful and safe for all. I believe we can build Zion through the hard work of democratic government, and that we can never build it through authoritarian government, or government run by money. I believe we can build Zion through respecting diversity and choices that don't oppress or harm others. I believe we can build Zion by giving voice and power to the many, diverse groups that live within our country.

I'm awake now

I wish my dream could come true. I can't go back. I miss your community. I miss people who would love and look after our children, as we looked after yours. I miss singing with you. I miss believing we could build Zion together.

But Zion is a place where there are no rich or poor. Zion is a place where those fleeing violence can find safety. Zion is a place of love, where we trust God to save us from our fears. We have to act like a Zion people to build Zion. I'm awake now, and I can't go back, even though I miss you.

“I won't stop short for common ground that vilifies the trodden down.” -Become You, Amy Ray, Indigo Girls

I found a 1960s-70s protest song that has been an enduring anthem in Italy. It has been covered by some of the greatest stars of Italian music. And it speaks to me, today. So this Easter season I give you Francesco Guccini:

And now I give you my translation, updated for 21st century America:

God Is Dying

I've seen it Some of my generation wandering here and there Along the paths untried too often leading nowhere, Seeking out their dreams that sometimes leave them crazy Looking for the promised peace they'll never find In this world that has been left them, nor in sorrows they tried drowning in a bottle. Some looked in psychedelic dreams for their salvation and in the smoke they saw a world made for Econs not for beating hearts— they could protest or swallow whole the structures of their prison walls.

While God is dying. Along car crowded streets, God is dying In cars bought in installments, God is dying. In the childish dreams of summer, God is dying.

They told me That this my generation's fallen far from grace. Rejecting lies so often masked in robes of faith, No more “My country right or wrong” no chosen nation, Because the time is now to stand with truth together and reject all that is false: No more the blind faith of tradition, fire and brimstone. No more the promises forgot after elections. No more of “Greed is good”, each for his own fifteen minutes empty fame. Hypocrisy of leaders following Winners never risking loss.

While God is dying. In the walls along the border, God is dying. In the myth of Great Replacement, God is dying. In the fear of all that's foreign, God is dying.

But I think That this my generation long has been preparing For a new world with hope reborn and not despairing, For a future that is here, A revolution without arms; Because we still believe That if our God is dying in three days He will be risen. In the things that we believe, Our God is risen. In the things that we desire, Our God is risen. In the world that we will make, God is risen.

Happy Easter, my friends.

I'm gradually collecting hymns that speak to me at this stage in my life. Many aren't from any hymnal, and aren't church music at all, but this one is, and makes me think of my many ancestors that paved the road I walked for so much of my life. Here's an arrangement and performance I did all by myself. So expect everything to be amateur.

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