On the overwhelming need to commiserate

Gosh guys, what’s happening out there.  This is just how I’m feeling today.  I don’t have anything specific to say or any statistics to back it up; I just feel the need to talk.  To commiserate.  To be honest, I’m scared.  I know. I know. You’re thinking, “Waa waa precious little snowflake is worried about losing her health insurance again.”  Well that’s not it today.  Okay, I’m still terrified of that too, but today, I guess scared isn’t the right word.  I don’t know that I have a word. I have lots of things going on in my very busy brain.

I keep compulsively opening Facebook. (really, I should stop; it’s making it worse.) Anyway, I keep opening facebook and seeing the news.  I have unfollowed about 90% of my friends it seems (I still love you, but I just can’t take the Trump love anymore) so all I have left are a few new friends I’ve met through groups and the news.  Well friends, the news is depressing and terrifying and all sorts of unpleasant things and it is making me just want to retreat to the farm, turn off all of the media producing devices, and watch the lambs hop around.

Unfortunately,  I can’t. I can’t because ignorance about everything happening will not make it go away.  This is not the cat in the box or a tree in the woods; this is life.  My life. Your life. America’s life. It feels like a week ago, everything still felt like a joke.  I could watch that guy on SNL imitating the president elect and it was funny.  It was a “haha are we living in an alternate universe” funny. It was an “is this real life” funny. It was a meme. America was a meme.

On Friday, shit got real.  Shit got real real.  Everyday, shit gets more and more real and it feels like there’s no stopping point. It has only been 5 days, but it feels like months have gone by.  So much has been signed or has been promised to be signed that does nothing but hurt the American people.  Keystone has been signed, DAPL has been signed, an immigration order has been signed, a promise to repeal the ACA has been signed, grants have been striped from vital resources like the Office of Violence Against Women. The public’s access to the government has been restricted. The media’s access to the government has been restricted.  The government’s access to the media has been restricted. See, I can’t even tell if I’m getting it all; I don’t even know everything because it is too much.  It is too hard to keep up with all of the damage to America that is taking place.  It is too hard to count all of the people that these actions are going to hurt.

I see people already saying that Trump has done more in 5 days than President Obama did in 8 years.  The way they are meaning it is pure bullshit, but in a way they are right.  Donald Trump has hurt the American people more in 5 days on purpose than the others presidents did by mistake.  Maybe I’m wrong; my presidential history is sketchy at best. (for some reason I know that the 11th president is James K. Polk).

Anyway, I digress.  I think what is bothering me the most is that people are celebrating their own destruction.  I get it. You hate abortion.  I don’t particularly love it, but  to me, it represents the freedom of choice. Being forced to carry a baby is one step from being forced to abort one.  There I said it.  I am not against abortion.  Condemn me to hell.  Hate me.  Pray for my soul.  Do whatever it is you feel the need to do.  I’m secure in my faith and in my opinion because force is force and if your government can force you to do one thing with your body, they can force you to do another; it is a slippery slope.  Don’t tell me it can’t happen, because there is NOTHING that can’t happen.  Do you think people thought it was possible for someone to kill 6 million people without the world batting an eye?  I bet no one thought that was possible, but Hitler managed to do it.  Given the power, governments can force anything.  I won’t sit back and let it happen without a fight.  I won’t give my government that much power over my body.  I make decisions for my body.

If you haven’t already stopped reading, remember this: there is never just one side to an argument.  You may absolutely think that abortion is wrong and you may be right, but it’s not just about the act of abortion; it’s about telling another person what they can and can’t do with their bodies. It’s about telling a woman with three children and a husband at home that the fetus she is carrying will kill her, but she has no choice but to carry it to term because of an absolute, no exception ban. Does God want her to die?  Is that his plan? Maybe you have the emotional strength to carry a baby for 40 weeks that will live for only a few minutes or even a few hours. Maybe you can survive the crushing disappointment that you feel when God doesn’t answer the most sincere prayer you’ve ever had.  Maybe you can, but just maybe she can’t.  Maybe something like that will break up their marriage; maybe carrying that baby, who has no chance at life,  will get to be too much in month 8 and she takes her life because she thinks it’s the only way.  Was trying to carry a dying baby the right decision for her? Was it worth her life?

I’m not trying to get you to accept that something is okay; you don’t have to change your beliefs.  But neither does she.  Maybe a baby that is aborted has a bright future.  Maybe it has a purpose.  But you know what, it doesn’t know that.  You know who has a definite purpose and a definite future and the cognitive function to know? The woman carrying that baby.  Maybe it is a sin, but is it up to you to pass absolute judgment?  How does it affect you?  Is your life on the line?  Is your future on the line? Will your life change one bit?

You are willing to sit back and not only accept, but celebrate, all of the horrible things that are happening in our government to get a ruling that can’t be enforced.  To get a piece of paper signed that will change nothing in your life.  It may hurt your soul to know that abortions are happening.  It may break your heart.  It may make you sad for humanity, but it won’t kill you.  Someone else’s abortion won’t send you to hell.  Pray about it.  Maybe God won’t make anymore babies that are destined to die before they are even born.  Pray about it.  Maybe God will stop that man before he rapes and impregnates that woman.  Pray about it.  Maybe God will change biology and make only intended pregnancies happen.  Pray away the need for abortion, but don’t tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies and maybe no one will ever tell you what you can or can’t do with yours.

On Words

There is a popular country song on the radio right now by Eric Church called “Kill a Word”. I have to be honest.  The first few times I heard the song, I thought it was about fishing. No lie; my brain interpreted the lyric as “kill a worm”.  Let’s face it, I’m not too observant and I expect country songs to be about fishing – not the power of words.

The truth is that words are the most powerful tool we have.  I haven’t always understood this.  I was one of those people who thought the world was becoming too politically correct.  I was of the opinion that it was the meaning behind what was said that mattered and not the word itself.  I was wrong.  This didn’t make me a bad person; it just made me ignorant.  I was ignorant because words had never been used against me.  Maybe they have, but like I said, I’m not too observant.  I also have the blessed ability to not really be affected by much.  I guess you could say I have a “thick skin” or selective deafness, either way the school yard chant about words and rubber and glue kind of resonated with me.  This isn’t to say that I went around hurling hurtful words at people; I’m much too polite for that. These opinions, about words, not people, only came out in private thoughts and conversations.

I can almost point to the day on a calendar when my attitude changed.  I was stranded in an airport reading a book while waiting for my plane to board  when a nicely dressed woman breeze by in a huff.  As she walked away, I heard her say “Those damn #$#$%@ are ruining this country.” This wasn’t something she said under her breath either; the entire terminal collectively gasped at the disparaging remark.  She meant for everyone to hear what she was thinking – not just her target.  We fellow travelers exchanged nervous glances and we mumbled to our companions about how horrid of a woman she was, but not one person called her out or sought out the target of her rage.  Within minutes the normal din of the airport terminal returned and the moment was quickly forgotten.

I was reminded of this incident the other day when I read a comment about President-elect Trump along the lines of “I’d rather have someone I know is a racist than someone who I don’t know what they are hiding.”  This comment sent a chill down my spine.  Suddenly, I was back in that airport terminal witnessing what it was like when a woman thought the world needed to know exactly what kind of person she was.  She too was proud of her hatred; the difference was that the people in that terminal were shocked.

People are no longer shocked by hatred.  In fact, I think it’s become celebrated.  Not caring if your words hurt has become a point of pride.  The attitude that kindness and consideration is nothing more than “PC bullshit” is now the norm.  I use to make excuses for older people because it’s “all they’ve ever known.”  Well that’s only true if they’ve been living under a rock for the past 50 years.  Everyone knows what words are harmful, what words cut so deep that they may as well have been carried in on an arrow.  It’s not okay folks.  I’ve heard people say that our President-elect isn’t a racist or homophobic or any of the other things “the liberals” claim he is.  He may not be, but this week, he just placed the de facto leader of the alt-right movement into a position of influence into the white house.  These are people who carry signs proclaiming that diversity is white genocide.

How many times have you heard the phrase “If you lie down with dogs you get fleas”? This is a phrase that is told to teenagers who are hanging out with the “wrong crowd.”  Well, even if our President-elect had never once said an off-color thing (which he has multiple times) he still didn’t stand against those who did.  While he has had plenty to say about the people protesting him this week, he has yet to speak against the hateful words that many of his supporters have proudly displayed throughout his campaign.  If you are a white, Christian American, please imagine for a second that you are not.  Imagine you’re an African-American mother trying to explain to your children that the men holding the sign saying “make American white again” doesn’t really mean it or that their new president doesn’t really hate them.  Imagine you are a Muslim American family sending your daughter to school everyday scared that she will be assaulted because she’s wearing a hijab.  Imagine you’re a Mexican-American third grader who has only ever known the United States as his home worried that his parents, who have also been here since they were children, are going to be deported because they have never been able to afford to become citizens.  Put yourselves in their shoes for one minute and tell me this is all okay. Tell me these words aren’t harmful – that they’re just words.

So, how do we “kill a word” like the song says?  We kill them first by not using them.  We kill them by reminding people that they are not okay when you hear someone say them. We kill them by replacing them with kind words.  We kill them by realizing that words can hurt.  We kill them by purposefully removing them from our collective vocabulary.  Let’s kill these words once and for all.  Let’s kill the hateful words and replace them with words of love, acceptance, and kindness.  Get up and shake off the fleas. Be kind. Be respectful. Love your neighbor.

 

 

On change

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”  I have heard this phrase many, many times.  I have no idea who said it (Gandhi maybe??) – I know I could find out with a ridiculously fast google search, but I don’t really want to – or need to for that matter.  All that matters are the words and I know what each of the words in that sentence mean.

Be – To exist; to live.  Be is the very essence of who we are.  Be is an action.  It means you are doing something.  I am, I was, I have been, I am being.  It’s also not something you have to do alone.  We can all be.  We can all exist in so many ways.

Change – To make different; to transform.  Do you know how difficult this little word is?  A caterpillar has to fight and struggle to become a butterfly – it doesn’t  just happen overnight.  This is monumental stuff.  That six letter word is one of the hardest tasks in the history of tasks.  Think about some of the ways you can change: you can change your heart, your mind, your attitude; these can be wonderful things, but none are  easy – there’s a level of sacrifice involved.

Want – to desire; to yearn.  Want is probably a word you hear all the time.  You want a drink, your child wants a cookie, or your dog wants a treat.    Want can become mundane, but desire – desire is special.  Something you  desire is something you want from the very depths of your soul.

See – To perceive, or more deeply, to discern.  Think about this word as  more than what you do with your eyes.  When we discern, our eyes are  only a part of it.  To discern is to understand – to know.

World – the earth, and all the people, animals, plants and things in it.    Now this is a big one.  Think about how much space you occupy in your house at  any given moment and about how much space your house occupies in  your town, your town in your state, your state in your country, and now your country in the world.  The space a single person occupies is so insignificant that it is immeasurable – the world is just that huge.

 

With a little word play, “Be the change you want to see in the world” becomes “Exist to be the transformation you desire to know in this giant place we call Earth.”

As I sit here thinking about everything that has changed in the last week, it gets to be somewhat overwhelming.  I decided to start writing this blog on a whim because Facebook posts were not enough to contain all the words I had, and now there are over 300 people a day reading those words.  I’ve always had a lot of words, but now, I have a cause.  I have something worth fighting for – worth changing for.

This change has not been easy.  If a caterpillar can’t break through its cocoon, he dies.  It’s not the transformation that kills him, it’s the inability to leave the safety of the familiar and comfortable world he created.   Like the caterpillar, I’ve had to break out of my cocoon.  My cocoon wasn’t made of silk though; it was made of fear, complacency, and social blindness.  My emergence has had a mostly positive reaction.  I’ve been getting a dozen or so Facebook friend requests and messages everyday from strangers who identify with my words; that’s the good part – the easy part.  I imagine it’s how the butterfly feels after his emergence as he shows off his new wings and bright colors to the world for the first time.  This is where the caterpillar analogy starts to break down because his is a change that all of his little insect friends expected – mine was not.

When I get new messages, either here on WordPress or on Facebook, my phone makes a noise.  That noise has started causing a bit of anxiety.  So much so that I’ve started giving my phone to friends to pre-screen the message, or just delete it if I know it’s going to be antagonizing.  I’m not afraid of confrontation, but I don’t want this to make me have bad feelings toward people.  People challenging my views isn’t what bothers me. What bothers me are the people who send me messages damning me to hell or telling me that I’m not a real Christian anymore because of my transformation.  Not one of these messages have come from a stranger; they are coming from people I know – multiple people from different stages and places in my life.  I know this has been shocking to some and I have lost some people who were at one time very important to me, but that is a sacrifice I have to make.

As I said earlier, change comes with sacrifice.  I am willing to make this sacrifice to stand up for what is right.  If my words can make even one person see that there are people being hurt by others in our country – it’s worth it.  If my words can encourage others to speak up when they see hate toward another person – it’s worth it.  It’s worth it because in order for this to become a better world, I have to be a better human and part of that is not being silent.  What we have now is a country full of hate and distrust and the only way that is going to change is by each person making a decision to fight that hate with every word and every action.  I am being the difference I want to see in this world and I’m not going to stop.

My call to action is simply this: stand with me.  Stand with me to fight racism.  Stand with me to fight sexism and misogyny.  Stand with me for our LGBT friends, our Hispanic friends, our Muslim friends.  Stand with me for all the people who are, rightfully so, too afraid to stand for themselves.  Stand with me against hate of all kinds.  Let’s stand together in love, inclusion, and peace because that’s the only way that we are going to stop all the bad things that are happening all around us.

 

 

On Hope

This election has shown me some of the ugliness that exists in this country, but something good has come out of it that I couldn’t have predicted and it has given me hope.

Over the last few days I have spent a lot of time on Facebook.  Not just scrolling through, but actively engaging with people.  Through this, I have met a few people who, like me, are saddened by what is taking place in this country.  They are saddened by the racism, sexism, and hate in general for people who are not white, straight, and Christian.  Within these various groups of strangers, I have found my voice.  That may sound funny to some who know me, since I never seem to be silent, but the truth is that I have been.

When people make remarks that are racist, I have been silent.  When men make sexist jokes, sometimes even directed at me, I have been silent.  When someone says something disparaging about a different religion, I have been silent.  My silence tells people that it’s okay.  My silence makes me an accomplice to the hate.  This is not okay.  It’s never okay.

Through random post in random groups on Facebook, I have met people, who are complete strangers, encouraging one another to join together to fight the hate.  They are pledging to “Love, honor, and call out racist bulls***” when ever they see it.  They want to “create a world filled with learning, laughter, and compassion” and to “work together to foster equality knowing that together we will build a world far better than we could imagine alone.”  Is not an amazing attitude to have at a time like this?

For those of you shaking your heads and denying that there’s anything wrong with the new leadership.  There is.  Maybe not for you, but for many there is.  Since Tuesday night, suicide hotline calls from LGBT teens has gone through the roof.  They are scared of future legislation that might restrict their lives or threaten their safety.  Whole schools have dismissed early because of an abundance of racial slurs and threats.  Families are worried about being torn apart.  This friends, is a problem.  A problem that was caused by silent compliance.  I read a blog post earlier.  Here it is so I don’t have to write it all out: The Cinemax Theory of Racism Basically, someone who voted for Trump, even if they are not racist, sexist, or any of the other things he stands for, they were willing to accept those things in order to “Make America Great Again.”

In random Facebook conversations, in Random Facebook groups, I have seen that America is already great, if you know where to look.  I have seen that there is hope for our future. The hope is in people who want to make this country great for everyone in it.  The hope is not in the silence – the hope is in the collective voices of those standing up against all the terrible things that the election of that man represents.

 

 

On reconciling faith and politics

It should be more than clear by now that I am supporting Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election.  I am also voting, for the most part, Democrat down the rest of the ballot.  I have a confession to make though.  I use to be a Republican.  I voted for George Bush in my first Presidential Election in 2004 and John McCain in 2008.

I can give myself a pass in 2004.  I was 20 years old and the only thing I knew outside of my wretched home life was the church.  Not just any church either; a church of the Pentecostal persuasion.  I didn’t listen to any music that wasn’t labeled as “Christian.” I didn’t watch any movie with an “R” rating  (when I give a funny, “I’m pretending I know what you’re talking about” look when you bring up 90s and 2000s pop culture — this is why).  From 13-18, I “kissed dating goodbye” because the temptation to sin would be too much for my developing body (this is why I don’t have prom, homecoming, senior trip, or post-game bonfire pictures).  I had shunned my best childhood best friend because she was a “Jezebel”.  Wait, what was that?  Yes, that really is a thing in some churches.  Personal note: if anyone reading this was present during this time period and you think I am out of line – I’m sorry and if any one that was present during this time and you feel the same way, I am also sorry; there is a support group on Friday night (just kidding, but there probably should be).  Don’t get me wrong, everyone was perfectly lovely to me.  I’m agreeable and have some sort of charming quality I can’t explain, like a kitten or puppy,  where people want to treat me with overall kindness, for the most part at least. There were a few instances when I felt how others must have felt standing under the scrutiny of the church people, but I digress.  The truth is, I was one of them.  The way I treated my childhood soul mate was the most shameful thing I have ever done.  She died shortly after she turned 22 in a car accident thinking that she was not only unloved, but unloveable. She was truly the best of us. She loved without limits and she loved God with all of her heart.  She saw us as her family, only her family told her she wasn’t good enough, and I wasn’t enough of my own person to stand up for her.  The point is, I didn’t know how to think for myself yet.  I was told the democrats were bad because they supported abortion and gay marriage and if I was really a good Christian, I would vote Republican.  Period.

In 2008 I really had no excuse.  I had plenty of time on my own at this point.  I had lived lots of places and my passport was quickly filling up.  Honestly though, I wasn’t really into politics.  I was 24 and the world was good.  There was no poverty in my world by this point.  There was no racism or bigotry, at least not in my circle.  I was voting my laziness.  I didn’t research candidates.  I didn’t even know what a platform was. I didn’t care who became president.  I was, however, still a Christian and Christians vote Republican, so that’s what I did.

Everything started to change in 2012. I was 28.  I felt like I had lived 12 lifetimes due to life circumstances and illness.  I was working as an advocate for people with disabilities.  I was single. My cats and I spent Friday night watching NCIS reruns.  With my much slower, rural life, I had time to observe the world around me.  Publicly, I was still the same person, but inside I was changing.  Maybe it was the move to West Tennessee where racism and bigotry were rampant.  Maybe it was my own health issues.  I really hope it was the former, but I honestly don’t know; it happened so gradually.  I voted for President Obama in November of 2012 and I didn’t tell a soul.  I was still afraid my people would judge my Christian heart and find it lacking.

Well, now I’m 32 and I know for a fact that the only people who know the state of my heart are me and Jesus.  Me and Jesus think my heart is good — even if I vote Democrat.

So many people say, when asked how they can justify, as a Christian, voting for Donald Trump, the antithesis of the religious right, that they are voting for a platform not a person.  Well, I’ve examined the platforms and I still don’t understand.  I’m voting for a platform AND a person.  A person I believe to be a person of faith.  A person who cares about people.  A person who, like a good Methodist, proclaims that we should “Do all the good we can, for all the people we can, for as long as we can.”  See, while I am no longer affiliated with the church of my youth, I am still very much a Christian.

Three years ago, I walked into my local United Methodist Church and almost instantly, I felt at home.  Here was a group of people who worshiped together without condemnation.  A place I could worship without fear.  A place I could invite anyone to join me without having to explain the things they couldn’t wear or the parts of their lives they couldn’t talk about.  To be honest, this is not what I expected.  I live in a town in West Tennessee with a population of 5,000 people.  It sounds strange, but anyone of any color of any background of any orientation – anyone on any point of the “Christian” scale could walk in the door and feel welcome and comfortable.   See the thing is, I was no longer comfortable saying that I went to a church where everyone was welcome when they really were not.  If a lovely family with two beautiful children walk in ready to worship and be accepted into a community of faith but happen to be a family with two dads or two moms, I want to worship in a place where they can sit next to me.  Where they can serve their community. See, what church is to me is a community and communities are not homogeneous.  They are not made up of just one kind of people.  I want my politics to reflect my faith.

Here is the truth friends.  I was going to post all of the political facts and compare the platforms, but then this turned strangely personal and it no longer seems to fit.  Instead I’ll just tell you why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I don’t want to revert back to a country where people are ostracized for who they love.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I think everyone should be welcome in our country.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I don’t want to live in a world where women are subservient to men.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I don’t think sexual assault is okay to joke about.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I think everyone should have access to health care.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I think everyone should be paid a living wage.

Most importantly, I am voting for Hillary Clinton for girls like my friend from long ago.  I don’t want a country ran by people who think it’s okay to shame a young lady because she is beautiful or label a 16-year-old girl as “too promiscuous, too much of a threat to the ministry” to even clean the bathrooms in their churches.  I don’t want this to continue to be a country where girls are told it’s their responsibility to protect the boys from impure thoughts; that it’s their responsibility to keep themselves from getting raped.  I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because it’s not okay to grab women by any body part.  I’m voting for Her for all the hers out there.

I am voting for Hillary Clinton because I have grown in my understanding of what it means to be a Christian – I want to do all the good I can, for as many people as I can, for as long as I can.