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 Grief

Y’all, yesterday was rough.  I discovered that this election meant more to me than I ever could imagine.  I experienced feelings that are usually reserved for things that happen within my private sphere.  For the first time, I made an election personal.

There are 5 stages of grief:  Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Denial happened for me around 8pm Tuesday night.  I am in the anger stage right now and that’s okay. I will get through this, but it’s a process.  You may ask why I am experiencing grief. I don’t know that I have a firm answer to that question, but I do know that I’m not alone.

Tuesday night, I couldn’t make myself go to bed.  I dozed in my recliner, but I never slept.    I watched in disbelief as it felt like all the hope I had built up for the future was gone. Truthfully, I know that is an exaggeration, but it was how I felt at that moment.  When Marianne got up she asked me how the rest of the coverage went and I just started crying. No amount of soft words or “it’ll be okays” were going to make this situation any better.  I couldn’t even really tell her why I was crying. I mean it was an election and my side didn’t win. It happens to half the country every four years! Where was all this emotion coming from?  I don’t really get that emotional over much and here I was sitting staring at my best friend with not enough words to express all the feelings.  I was grieving and though I didn’t realize it yet, so was half the country.

When I got to school, I went to see a friend.  We got through our hellos and again the tears started.  We cried because we had lost something.  We lost lots of somethings.  We tried to talk out our feelings, but there were not enough words – just emotion.  We sat through my first class; because at that moment, that was where I needed to be.  I needed a metaphorical wake.  When the words came, they expressed our fears, our sorrows, and yes, our grief.  We talked about what we have lost.

Women all over this country have lost the ability to say, with confidence, that our bodies are our own.  This isn’t only about abortion either.  When this country elected Donald Trump as our next president, it decided that it was okay for a man to gawk at, comment on, or grab any part of our bodies.  This country elected someone with absolutely zero respect for women.  This country elected a man who thinks he can “grab her by the pussy” or walk in on naked teenage girls because he has money.

If you are a woman who has never encountered any type of sexual harassment, you are in the minority.  From a young age, our bodies are not our own.  We get pulled into laps and tickled whether we want it or not.  As we get older and start to look like women, our father’s friends tell him to “keep us locked up” and more often than not, comment on our growing breasts or say “call me when she’s 18…”  When we become an adult, it doesn’t get any better.  During college, 1 in 4 women are raped and even worse than that statistic is the fact that we are blamed for it.  When we go out with the girls, random men rub against us and grab our behinds.  It’s all okay though because it’s just what men do.  When they tell us to show them our breast to get a drink, it’s okay because it’s just a joke.  It’s just “locker room talk.”  When we enter the work force, we learn that sexual harassment is just part of life.  When we are looking for a mate, we learn that rejection can be dangerous because if you turn down a date with someone it’s because you are a lesbian who “needs a lesson on what it’s like to be with a real man” — not because you’re just not interested.  With this election, we told our little girls that all of this is okay.

Some of us have also lost the right to health insurance.  Mitch McConnell has already said that their first order of business will be to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  You can read my whole story from earlier in the week here: http://wp.me/p84ZbE-g .  In short, I have Lupus and if the ACA is repealed, I will have no protection from the insurance companies.  They will be able to charge me whatever they want or deny me coverage all together.

We have lost what little equality we were gaining in this country.  The Republican voter base is largely made up of conservative, evangelical Christians.  Don’t get me wrong, I have respect for these people; respect for their beliefs and their devotion.  Many of my closest friends fall in this category, but that life is not for everyone.  They believe, for the most part, that women are to be subservient to men.  How is this still a thing?  Every woman has the right to live life as she chooses — with or without a man.  We lost the ability, for now, to show little girls that a woman can rise to the highest office in America.  We lost this, not because Hillary Clinton wasn’t qualified, but because men refused to vote for her.  She lost to a man with no experience, no decorum, and no respect for anyone.  She lost because sexism is still a thing here in the US.  Sexism is blaming a woman for her husband’s affair.  Sexism is calling a strong woman nasty.  Sexism is judging a candidate by what she wears instead what she says.  Sexism is paying a woman less for the same job as a man.

Yes, sexism is still a thing.  Racism is a thing.  Homophobia is a thing.  Xenophobia is a thing.  We cannot continue to let these “things” control our country.

I am not the only one grieving.  The women in this country are in a state of mourning.  We will pass through all the stages and recover.  We will rise.  We will educate.  We will vote again. What we won’t do is be silent.  As of right now, there is a secret Facebook group that is over 3 million women strong.  This group was started less than a month ago.  Women are joining together to fight for ourselves.  To fight for our bodies.  To fight for the LGBT community, immigrants, people of color, and anyone else who will be marginalized in our new political climate.  We will fight and we will win because we truly are stronger together.

On disappointment

Yesterday I needed to talk about unity and so I did; I still need to today, but this time I’m talking to myself.  Unity will not be easy simply because unity lost; diversity and inclusion lost, the people lost.  However, this is what the majority of American’s wanted, so I have to live in it and accept these results.  I have to keep my optimism for this country.  I have to believe that goodness will prevail.  I have to have hope.  Eventually these things will come, but today is not that day.  Today I’m  disappointed and scared and sorry.

I’m disappointed because I thought we could do better.  I thought people would care enough about each other to not give in to fear.  Boy was I wrong.  The thing that disappoints me more than any thing else is people’s lack of self preservation.  I have about 400 Facebook friends, and with the exception of about a dozen people, I know them all.  I’d say around 90% voiced their support for President Elect Donald Trump.  I know them well enough to know their situation.

For my friends who receive food stamps.  What will happen in six months when the “united” executive and legislative branches cut the program because they will have no one fighting for the poor?  The fact that we have had a Democrat controlled Senate and a Democrat President is the reason you can feed your families. Republicans have tried to pass bill after bill in an attempt to gut the program.  All I have to say, is that hopefully the people who will be profiting off of this election, business and the very wealthy, will do what they can to support their local food banks in the years to come.

For all of my friends making minimum wage, especially in the poorer southern states where your local governments are desperate for new manufactures to move in. I hope your state will step up when the federal minimum wage vanishes and it’s up to your state to set their own.  I hope your state legislature and governor doesn’t turn your, already too low, $7.50/hour pay into $5.50/hour to attract new businesses; unless, of course the reason for adding more jobs is so people can have more than one.

For my friends who have children on Tenncare, ARKids, or another CHIP program.  Did you know this has been on the chopping block too?  Kids healthcare is expensive.  I hope there will be new programs that pay for all of those shots, doctor appointments and medications.  How much is cost of amoxicillin these days?  Adderall? Insulin? I honestly don’t know and I bet you don’t either.  Maybe you’ll never have to find out.

For my friends who’s kids get free or reduced lunch at school.  Again, I hope the food banks stay stocked.  With your new, state set, minimum wage, it will be hard to buy all the extra food needed to send your kids to school with a full lunch box.

For my friends who’s kids go to daycare.  I’m sorry you didn’t see the need for that to cost less, especially knowing what could happen to your paycheck.

I honestly, sincerely hope these things don’t happen.  I hope that congress will want to help the american people – even if it’s just because they want to hold on to their seats in the mid-terms.  I hope they care more for the people than we did, but I’m scared.

I’m scared that racism and violence will increase.  I’m scared that hate for those who are on the margins will destroy lives and lead to atrocities.  I’m scared that I won’t be able to afford health insurance in 2018 and if you read http://wp.me/p84ZbE-g  you’ll know why.

Some will say that if I’m a Christian I should be happy, not scared because now abortion will be abolished.  It won’t, and if it happens to come to pass, congratulations.  You will have finally accomplished your goal of having an untold number of babies in homes without the  resources to feed, provide adequate healthcare for, or educate them; remember, no health insurance = no vaccines = no school.  When rates of preventable childhood diseases rise and children start dying from lack of adequate care, I will mourn with you . That will not be the time to divide us more with I told you so’s.

Finally, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for all the people who are not white, christian males.  I’m sorry African Americans.  I’m sorry that the police will no longer be questioned when they step out of line.  I’m sorry Muslims.  I’m sorry that your freedom of religion will be challenged.  Keep the faith; I will pray that God blesses you.  I’m sorry fellow women.  I’m sorry that we live in a world where rape is our fault because if it’s our responsibility to keep ourselves from getting raped, it’s our fault if it happens.  I’m sorry that we won’t have equality in the work place for awhile.  To our young women and girls.  I’m sorry that we failed you today.  You didn’t have a voice; remember this day and choose wisely when you can.

The truth is that I hope I’m wrong.  I hope I backed the wrong candidate.  Dear God, I hope I have never been more wrong in my life.  I hope with all that I have that President Elect Donald Trump truly is the right person to lead this country and that the extreme things he said were to entertain and get votes.  I hope he wants a second term badly enough to fight for the people like he claimed and not against them.

No matter what, I hope we can stand together and keep this country from falling apart.  I hope we can survive this.

 

 

 

On Election Day

Well friends, today is the day.  The day we pick the next president of the United States of America.  For the last several days, I have explained the reasons I am voting for Hillary Clinton to fill that position.  Today, I want to talk about something else.  Unity.

No matter who wins today, there will be a loser.  Let’s not make it the American People.  This has been a very nasty election cycle and it makes me worry for our future.  I wish we could go back; back to before this election started and put some thought into what we would say, or more commonly post, in the months that would be to come.  We have relationships to heal.  The truth is that on Wednesday morning, we will all still be family, coworkers, neighbors, and friends.  Those bonds didn’t disappear when we decided to disagree so furiously.  Come January we will have a new government who are going to need to work together too.  Can we set an example for them?  Can we unite again?

I have heard Republicans say that they will not recognize Hillary Clinton as their president if she wins and Democrats say they are moving to Canada if Donald Trump wins.  There are people already claiming that the election is rigged.  We need to be careful.  Yesterday on the news, a reporter compared this election to the election of Abraham Lincoln.  He won the presidency and it split the country in two.  It happened then and it could happen again if we let it.  We can’t let this division remain.  We can’t let the fear that has driven this election continue.

I saw a quote today: “Every single day we need to choose hope over fear, diversity over division.  Fear has never created a single job.  Fear has never fed a single family.  And those who exploit it will never solve the problems that have created such anxiety.”  If you are on the losing side today, don’t let the fear take over.  Don’t let the hate continue. We can’t go back in time and unsay the things we have said, but we can move forward with genuine kindness toward each other.  Whoever our new president is will have a big job ahead of them and I hope that we do our part to help.

If you haven’t voted yet, join me at the polls.  Join me in electing our next president.  More than likely we will be voting for opposite sides, but don’t let that tear us apart.  You wear your “Make America Great Again” hat and I’ll wear my pantsuit and then we’ll go and have a metaphorical drink together, because as long as you’re kind, I want you to stay in my life. As much as I support Hillary Clinton, if she doesn’t win, I will still be an American and you will still be my friend.  I won’t stop fighting for all the things this election represents and I won’t let hate win.

How did we get here?

I don’t know if you are aware, but we are currently near the end of the most horrifying presidential race I’ve ever experienced.  Many of you may be thinking that I am referring to the fact that people have to choose between two awful candidates (I’m not, I don’t think Hillary Clinton is “the lesser of two evils;” I think she is very qualified to serve as President of the United States and agree with her platform and policies).  No, this is the most awful race I’ve seen because of the public hate for the side that is not your own.  Folks, this is bad; this is really bad.  It has gotten so bad that people are actually afraid to publicly support the candidate they support.  Read that last sentence again.  People are AFRAID to publicly support a candidate.  I have to put a disclaimer here: I have done zero research on instances of voter violence or property vandalism; I am only voicing what I have observed in my (very small) community.

I have recently started voicing my political opinion on Facebook.  I don’t do this by sharing ridiculous memes or hyperbolic “news” articles;  I just share opinion articles that I agree with and add my comments when appropriate.  I did once attempt to ask a thought provoking question about the Constitution, but that went up in flames like an old barn stuffed with straw soaked with lighter fluid.  Anyway, I don’t post anything that could be considered offensive or derogatory; I just post my opinion.  Well, naturally, my posts have come up in conversation — real conversation, like person-to-person conversation with people I actually know in the real world.  My social circle encompasses all sorts of people: pastors, students, university professors, farmers, lawyers, retirees and everyone in between.

I pretty much know where everyone lies politically, so it was no surprise when my more liberal leaning friends voiced support of my posts (again, #imwithher).  What was surprising was the conversation that often comes next.  Someone, more than one someone actually, told me that they wished they felt free to be as bold as I was being on my Facebook page.  Again, I’m not being loud or disparaging.  I’m not saying whatever comes to mind or voicing my most private thoughts in free association like stream of word vomit.  I am exploring all sides to arguments in a pretty fair and very controlled manner.  So I was curious as to why this made me “bold”.  It made me bold because I took a side that is unpopular in my region.

I have friends that are worried that if they publicly voice their political opinion too much, they will face social repercussions, have their property vandalized, or even become the victim of physical violence.  Seriously folks, this presidential election has gotten so out of control that people are worried for their physical safety, their property, and their financial security if they share what they think in a public forum.  

Let me say this again because it is so important to understand.  PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO PUBLICLY VOICE THEIR POLITICAL OPINION!  This can’t just be happening in my social circle.  The country is pretty much split 50/50 on the nose; the race is so close right now that there really is no clear winner (no matter what partisan media outlets are telling you).  As I drive my usually path to and from home and around town, I see many houses and cars showing their support for Donald Trump.  In fact, I have only seen 2 yard signs for Hillary Clinton.  To, be fair, Tennessee is historically Republican, so one would expect to see more support for the Republican nominee; however, I know there has to be a few Clinton supporters in the area because my own, fairly large, social circle is split about 50/50, just like the rest of the country.

There are many houses in my usually traveled route with no signs.  Could these people too be Clinton supporters who are afraid of repercussions if they voice their support?  Are they afraid that, because they have a blue yard sign, someone will vandalize their home?  Are they afraid that they will get jumped in a parking lot for having an #imwithher bumper sticker?  Are they afraid that they will lose their job if they like the wrong post? If so, this is a sad, sad commentary on our society.  

This election has stripped our society of the very essence of what it means to be American — individuality.  Harry Truman once said, “When even one American – who has done nothing wrong – is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth – then all Americans are in peril.”

We are in peril.  The reaction to this election is un-American.  It’s un-American because America was founded on the freedom to choose.  American is the land with no king, no ruling elite, no dictator — no one telling you how to think or how to be.  We are the land of the free and the home of the brave.  When did everything change?  When did we become a country where dissent from the majority is dangerous?  When were we transported into a country with a dangerous regime that threatened our safety if we disagree?  Has America become Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, or Mussolini’s Italy?

No, we are different from all those other places because this isn’t coming from the leaders, this is coming from the people.  We the people are denying each other the freedoms our great country was founded on.  We the people are the fascist dictators because we the people are the ones we fear.  We fear our neighbors, our family, and our friends.  We fear our colleagues, those who share a pew with us on Sundays, and those who teach our children.  We are afraid of being singled out.  So afraid in fact that we can’t stand together publicly.

I’m not encouraging anyone to stand with me because the truth is that your fear is a wise fear.   This election has changed people; it has changed America.  There are people who can’t be public about what they think and that’s not going to change in the next three days.  This election will hopefully go down in history as unique.  Unique because we cannot let this happen again.  We cannot let opinions cause fear.  We cannot restrict people’s freedom to choose.  We must, no matter who wins this election, unite for the preservation of this country.  There is no “us” and there is no “them”; there is only “we” as in:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

No leader, no president, no one person can fix this.  We are all equal under the constitution. We all have the right to voice our political opinions without fear because this country has never been, is not now, and will never be made up of just one kind of people.  We are, to use yet another cliche, a melting pot.  We are the humbled masses. We are the people.