Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas Comes Early

                                          *Photo Credit: Google Image Search

It’s been a minute since my last post.  I’ve not found anything really noteworthy to say.  Mostly each day is filled with some new revelation about the president-elect/country/humanity that has rendered me physically ill, and I find myself searching for a way to block out what I’m hearing.  I’m debating quitting social media.  Despite a few attempts at engaging folks who disagree with me in a dialogue, those who I know voted for Trump have mostly returned to business as usual – posting about recipes and pets, while a few truly unkind few (who are mostly folks who consider themselves Christian) continue to post and like hateful articles that basically poke fun at the pain the “libtards” are feeling.

Meanwhile, a jury of 12 individuals (only one person of color included in the mix), could not come to an agreement to convict Michael Slager of manslaughter as he shot Walter Scott 8 times in 2.7 seconds as he ran away.  8 times.  In the back.  As he ran away.

I think my hope/faith in humanity has never ever been lower.

But.

I noticed something, at least in my neighborhood.

My neighborhood is very blue collar.  Folks who live around me have either lived there for the entirety of their lives or moved out of the city when they could no longer afford city prices.  Many are police officers, electricians, teachers.  It’s a really fascinating mix of ages and ethnicities.  “Proud Union Home” signs are all over the place.  My elderly neighbors across the street were Polish immigrants who met in a concentration camp and prior to her death, the woman would bring over sweets on regular occasions.  Her husband also bestowed upon me one of the most profound theological insights of my life ( http://reachingacrossthechaos.blogspot.com/2015/07/in-our-place.html)  My other elderly neighbor is a retired shoe salesman who drops off coupons for diapers every week.  It’s a community that doesn’t have a lot of frills, but one that pays attention.  It’s a community that many would drive through without noticing, except for around the holidays.

My neighborhood is the kind of neighborhood that more houses than not have inflatables outside their home at any given moment.  Halloween? Giant ghosts and ghouls wave in the wind.  Thanksgiving?  Turkeys 10 times the size of any I’ve ever seen are on all the yards.  Christmas?  Don’t even get me started.  Initially, I thought it was ridiculous that so many people fell into the trap of buying these crazy decorations (and so many people have the exact same decorations purchased at the exact same Ace Hardware down the street).  But then I had kids.  And I totally get it.  Watching my kids react to these decorations and the holidays in general is one of the best experiences of my life.  Their eyes light up with wonder.  Their bodies shake with excitement.  It is a joy to behold.

A couple days after the election, I started to notice a shift in my neighborhood.  Sure, the Thanksgiving d├ęcor was around, but I started to see Christmas trees placed in prominent front windows.  I first thought it might just be a few die-hard early Christmas decorators, but then I realized that there were more than a handful of houses that had also decorated their exteriors.  And they were houses that weren’t the ones on my normal list of early risers.  It was clear, to me at least, that folks needed something the shine a little light – a little earlier than normal.

Whether these folks in my neighborhood were decorating their homes early for Christmas for themselves, for their kids, or because the weather was a little nicer this year, I’ll never know for sure.  But what I do know is that this gift of a little extra light and joy is exactly what I need right now.  All the “Advent purists” need not remind me what season we are in, trust me, I know all about longing right now.  But I also need the promise that there is light somewhere, because it’s damn hard to see right now.

I hope that you are able to find some light in the world right now too.
 
“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What's the Big Deal About Steve Bannon?

                                            *Photo Credit: Google Image Search

Yesterday, I spent my commute home calling my elected representatives to encourage them to strongly oppose the recent appointment of Steve Bannon to the position of Chief Strategist  and Senior Counselor for President-Elect Trump (to find your elected officials and their contact info, check this out: www.commoncause.org/take-action/find-elected-officials/).  While I bumbled through my awkward complaint/encouragement, I realized I was having a hard time articulating why the appointment of this man was so terrifying to me.  Which most times, when that happens, it means that I need to do some more work on supporting my feelings rather than reacting in an emotional manner (not saying an emotional reaction is not warranted and should not be respected, but that for me, I need to be more equipped to express myself). 

Additionally, I’ve heard very few conservative folks speak out in opposition to Bannon’s appointment, which makes me think they are not aware of the brevity of this appointment or they do not know Bannon’s history.  So, readers, I thought I’d take a moment to outline some of the reasons I (and many other folks are FREAKING OUT about this appointment):

-Bannon is executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC and through his leadership, moved the already radical “news” outlet into the alt-right territory.  He himself declared the website “the platform for the alt-right.”  Some greatest hit articles include: Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?; There’s no hiring bias against women in tech, they just suck at interviews, Gay rights have made us dumber, it’s time to get back inthe closet, and Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy.

-Bannon was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery, and dissuading a witness in 1996 following an accusation of his first wife Mary Louise Piccard.  Police were called to their home where they photographed red marks on her neck and wrists as well as a broken telephone
(http://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000156-c3f8-dd14-abfe-fbfbbe310001).  His wife also accused him of anti-semitism.  Charges were dropped when his wife did not show up to court, which if ANYONE tries to convince me isn’t a flat out confirmation that that woman was scared for her life, I will remind you that victim blaming is the norm for any type of domestic abuse claim and she was incredibly brave for saying anything.  I hope that woman has found peace and safety.

-Bannon was known by his employees at Breitbart for being “a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies."

-Bannon admitted to and was found guilty of threatening employees at Space Biospheres Ventures.  “He told Pinal County jurors that after Abigail Alling wrote a five-page safety memo, he once threatened to “Ram it down her fucking throat.”  Bannon also admitted calling her a “bimbo” and referring to her as “self-centered and deluded.” 

-“That’s why there are some unintended consequences of the women’s liberation movement,” he said, according to BuzzFeed. “That, in fact, the women that would lead this country would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England. That drives the left insane and that’s why they hate these women.” (Political Vindication Radio, 2011)

To be perfectly honest, I’m too tired/disgusted to do much more digging, but if you can’t see how these are deeply alarming things to have on the resume of a White House Senior Counselor, please let me know some redeemining qualities that can trump these.  And if you agree they are abhorrent (which I would venture to say most people do, even those who voted for Trump), say something!  A Trump supporter who speaks out about his cabinet has a much louder voice than mine right now.  We need you!!



Monday, November 14, 2016

What I'm Hearing Now

Photo Credit: Google Image Search

In trying to remain true to my word, this past weekend, I completed the arduous task of going through my facebook friends and refollowing those I had intentionally unfollowed due to their political posts that I had disagreed with.  To be perfectly honest, this was painful.  And while I don’t derive a great deal of pleasure from social media anymore in general, this made the experience of scrolling through my feed quite uncomfortable.  But, I have committed to live into this discomfort and I made an effort to really read what was being shared or liked, and here is what I’ve learned:

People who voted for Trump overwhelming appear to have done so because they did not like Hillary and were afraid of what she would do while in office.  Oftentimes, this appeared to have boiled down to abortion.  And to be honest, this rhetoric seems to make sense to me and if more people would openly say this, I think it could help move the conversation forward.  While I am most definitely pro-choice, I can respect that for some people, the deal breaker is abortion.  Voting your conscience on this issue is something I can’t really argue.  The idea of Hillary appointing Supreme Court justices who could tip the scales of the court to lean left was truly terrifying for some people.  I can respect this.  I disagree with it, but I can respect it.  I would encourage folks who voted for Trump for these reasons to speak up.  To remind folks that they voted for a candidate who made them feel safe in regards to issues that are fundamental to who they are as people, as religious folks, etc.  I think that could do a lot to dispel the myth that the majority of folks who voted for Trump did so because they agree with how he speaks.  This would have been the dialogue if any other republican candidate had won, in my opinion.

People who voted for Trump think that the liberal folks are being sore losers and need to get over it.  I’m sure it’s annoying to see people “bellyaching” over this election.  I was in Alabama when Obama was first elected, and I remember thinking to myself “come on, folks, this is not that big of a deal” as well as “you people are ruining it for me!”  It’s a feeling that both sides of the coin have occupied and I am definitely eating crow this time around.  BUT.  People are scared.  People are sad.  People are sick.  You do not get to tell people how they are going to react to something.  As a parent, I have to constantly remind myself to validate my son’s feelings even when I think they are ridiculous.  And yes, they are ridiculous, and sometimes I have to encourage him to move beyond his emotions, but that’s because I’m his parent.  You are not the authority of anyone’s emotions except yourselves (or maybe your toddler children).  If you don’t like how people are reacting, don’t watch.  Remove yourself from the equation.  Engage with folks who are responding “appropriately” if you really can’t handle it, but in the interest of unifying a country, I’d encourage you to dig deeper.  Ask someone that appears to be over-reacting why they feel as strongly as they do.  If you provide a safe space to engage this conversation, I’m sure these people will tell you.  For me, I’m terrified for myself, but moreso terrified for my friends who fall into any of the categories that have been under attack throughout Trump’s campaign.  Sure, he may not have done anything yet, but as the great Maya Angelou has said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”  Trump has a lot of work to do in regards to undoing that impression – and while there have been glimmers of hope since last Tuesday, there have also been some terrifying validations (i.e. appointing a white supremacist as his chief strategist).

People who voted for Trump believe that the millennial generation is weak and entitled – the precious snowflake generation.  The idea of college aged kids needing to take time off or requesting safe spaces on campus following the election being the #1 point to confirm this.  Now, I have to tell you, this dialogue and this pejorative description of my generation is really really annoying.  Since most people who are making this claim about the generation are baby boomers, let me ask you to read this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gene-marks/this-is-why-the-baby-boom_b_4441735.html. If you’re not willing to, I get it, it is really offensive to have your generation categorized in a negative way.  So, hear me when I say – your feelings about this generation are doing NOTHING to help the situation.  And, in all honesty, many of the people sharing these articles or making these claims are the very ones who raised the millennials and shaped their worldviews.  So, let’s remind ourselves again that in the interest of unity, making fun of or disrespecting an entire generation of people is not moving that forward. But let me also speak to this “precious snowflake” stuff.  I used to hate the term, but now I love it.  Why?  Because I think that is the most wonderful way to look at the world.  I was given the message over and over again in my life that I am special and unique and valued and worthy of respect.  This message came to me from my parents, my friends, my extended family, my school, and my church.  I would say that I absolutely believe I am a precious snowflake.  But the beautiful thing is – I see everyone else as one too.  That, my friends, is why this election is so painful to my generation.   We have been raised to be empathetic and so watching our friends and family members feel pain and fear and sadness has made us realize that they have been made to not feel precious.  And it has profoundly shaken our worldview.


I’ll continue to live into this conversation, and would also welcome additional conversation about any and all of these.  I’m ready to listen if you are too.

Friday, November 11, 2016

How I Helped Elect Donald Trump

Let me premise this by saying that no, I absolutely did not vote for Donald Trump on Tuesday.  And have been pretty vocally opposed to everything he has said/stood for since the beginning.  But it has become abundantly clear to me that I played a role in this catastrophe.  And to be perfectly honest, I think many people are kidding themselves when they say or think they had nothing to do with this.  

Here is where I believe I helped this man become the most powerful man in the world:

Reality TV – Most people who know me know how much I love reality tv.  Beyond the entertainment values that many of my preferred shows offer (Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, Real World, the Bachelorette), I have always found it fascinating to watch normal people caught on tv.  Whether these are truly reality is debatable, but here’s the issue: these shows have created a society which values people who have no real inherent quality that makes them worthy of our deference.  We value these people simply because they have been caught on tv.  Kim Kardashian, for example, has never once done anything to truly warrant the pedestal of worship she holds.  And with that pedestal of millions of followers and worshipers comes great responsibility.  Responsibility I do not believe she has earned or deserves or really knows how to handle.  Donald Trump is obviously another prime example.  The media fell in love with him – and then the world.  He was given a platform to entice and influence the world that I fully believe he did not deserve.  Donald was on tv constantly and at no cost to himself  because he was entertaining, whereas Hillary appeared very rarely and had to pay for advertisements.  We enabled this because we were entertained by him.  Who does deserve these types of platforms?  I’m still working on that, but I will tell you, reality television has fundamentally changed the value system of our country.

My response – I will no longer watch ANY reality tv.  None.  This is actually going to be quite difficult for me.  But I will no longer consume media that has facilitated a rise to power of people who are entertaining with no real further qualities.  We as a society MUST move back to a place that finds entertainment elsewhere.

Biting My Tongue – I was starting to think that with my age came the wisdom to know when to speak and when to let things pass.  I’d see or hear people saying things that were inappropriate – racist, sexist, ignorant, or just plain wrong – and I’d oftentimes excuse it for the cause of keeping the peace.  By not engaging in conversation or calling people out on things that are flat out wrong, not only have I done a huge disservice to those who are functioning with incorrect or inappropriate views, but I’ve done a huge disservice to myself.  By not engaging, I never fully developed the skills to articulate these views or statements to those who disagree with me.  Sure, I could say my piece to people who agree, but that doesn’t matter.   Donald Trump built upon this quality of society – he “told it like it is” for those who felt they could not say how they really felt, and white liberal heterosexual cisgender people like myself bit their tongues.

My response – I will no longer bite my tongue.  Just like they say at the airport: “See something.  Say something.”  If I hear people saying racist, misogynist, sexist, homophobic, or really anything that can be considered hate speech, I am committed to speaking up.  It is clear that folks who used to keep their awful perspectives on other people to themselves have been emboldened to come out of the gutters.  In some ways, we are now able to see the true problems our country has to address, but I will not stand by and I will not be quiet.  Readers be warned: if I see you commenting or liking things on facebook that can fall into any of the qualities listed above, I will be saying something.

Shutting Off People who I think have deplorable worldviews or values – On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve done a great job of surrounding myself with people who agree with me.  My family and friend network is built up of people who agree with me almost completely on issues I find to be of highest importance.  Scrolling my facebook feed shows articles and statements that pleasantly support and encourage my worldviews.  On the rare occasion that I see something that disagrees with me, I unfollow or unfriend the person.  Or if I’m out with a friend of a friend or hear something that offends me, I make a point to avoid that person moving forward.  I write them off.  By doing this, I was able to come to the conclusion that most of the world agrees with me – that I don’t need to do anything because there isn’t a problem.   As someone who has done work to acknowledge my privilege, I failed here.  Had I kept my finger on the pulse of what “others” were thinking or saying, I would have been more aware of the incredible problem facing our country.

My response – No more.  I will not shut down or ignore differing views.  I will engage.  My preferred way to do this is in person, because social media is garbage for actually encouraging dialogue.  But, I will not turn away.  I will look directly into the eye of the beast so I am more aware of what I need to do and what is at stake.

I have work to do because I am part of the problem.  I am a white woman.  Did you see the numbers of us who voted for Donald?  It’s time to stop pointing our fingers at others and looking at ourselves.  We cannot change or control other people, but we can change and control ourselves.  Be the change you wish to see.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Happens Next?

Dear Hugh and Louisa,

It’s Nov. 9, 2016. I write this letter to you bleary-eyed from lack of sleep and understanding.  Last night, our country elected a new President.  After months of mud-slinging and hate speech, it’s done.  And the outcome was not what I had hoped or expected.   Instead of waking this morning feeling confident and excited about the future, I am scared.  Scared for you.  Scared for us.  I’ve never quite had a feeling like this before, but I am keenly aware that it is something that many in this world live with on a daily basis.  Being afraid feels paralyzing.  And I sat in the paralysis as the results poured in, trying to come up with a plan – should we leave the country?  Should we take our money out of the bank?  Should we get our passports in order?  Should I call my Mom?

But then morning came.

And I heard you begin to stir.  Louisa, you were singing your version of Twinkle Twinkle from your crib with all the gusto you could muster.  Hugh, you began kicking the walls in anticipation of a new day.  And I was reminded that we have work to do.  So we got up, and we started a new day.  Your Dad and I put on happy faces despite the dread we fear about the future.
We have work to do, dear children. And this election has made it all the more clear that we cannot push the responsibility of raising kind and generous children off on anyone else.  So, I thought it might be helpful to come up with a value statement for us – for how we interact with the world, to remind us of the path forward.

We will be kind – Kindness is a virtue that has all but been erased from the public discourse of late. And I will admit that I do not always model this.  We need to work on this.  We need to speak gently about other people.  We need to go above what we think is required of us, but rather seek out opportunities to be kind to each other, to animals, to the earth.  We will value this virtue above any other accomplishment one of us achieves.

We will be curious – The world is full of beautiful things and people that sometimes seem peculiar.  We will be a family that seeks out the unusual or the different and attempts to learn more.  We will ask questions.  We will read books.  We will value learning about new things in all forms. 

We will be forgiving – Things will happen to us that will hurt.  In fact, we may hurt one another – intentionally and unintentionally.  But, we are in relationship, and that relationship means we must seek to be reconciled at all costs.  Forgiveness must not and cannot stop there.  Forgiveness must be something we defer to in all situations.  Our family will heap apologies and forgiveness upon each other and the world as much as possible, because you cannot do too much of this.  Which leads to…

We will be generous – We will give away what we have when we can, and even when we think we cannot.  Our family is so incredibly blessed, and that blessing was not earned.  We were born into a particular context with a particular skin tone that has afforded us more opportunities than most.  We will make decisions about how we spend our money and our time based upon the premise that we have too much already. 

We will show up – It has become clearer and clearer to me that what matters most in this world is that you show up.  Whether it be to a baseball game, or a friend’s birthday party, or a funeral for a distant cousin, showing up means the person matters enough to be given a portion of time from your life.  And time is so precious.  So we will show up even when we don’t want to. 

We will be small – We will never think our lives are more important than anyone else’s.  We will always remember that our lives are a blip on the long history of time, that our earth is a small blip on the map of the universe.  We will also live small, because by living small we will ensure that we do not take more than we need or what is useful.

We will not be afraid – As I mentioned above, fear breeds paralysis.  And paralysis wastes time.  Even when it is dark and scary and we don’t know what will happen next, we will stand firm in our belief that love wins.  It must.

We will love when all else fails – The only thing I know for certain in this life is that love is the only truth.  It is the only unifier.  We are bound to each other as human beings through the common thread of love.  So, we will trust that love will win.  Maybe not now.  Maybe not tomorrow.  But it will win.  So we will love now.

So, now we move forward.  4 years seems like an awfully long time.  Hugh, in 4 years, you will be turning 8 and in 2nd grade.  Louisa, you will be 5 and in kindergarten.  Who knows what may transpire between now and then, but I commit to you now that these will be our foundational ways of looking at the world.  Regardless of whether my fears are unfounded or realized, we will continue the work of raising children/a family/ ourselves in a way that spreads a message of love.

Love,

Mom
 
Copyright 2009 Windy-Wisdom