College-Bound in the Time of Charlottesville

About this time two years ago, Tim and I took our eldest child, Keara, to college for the first time. It was a tough day for all of us, and it brought back a lot of memories of another “leaving day” that I had experienced twenty-five years earlier. You can read about it here.  Even when we heal, there are parts of a broken heart that will always be more tender. But two weeks ago, on a midweek morning, with no fanfare, Keara packed up a car and headed back to her third year at CSULB. What a difference 700 (or so) days make! With the day already at 90+ degrees, even a long hug was out of the question, so I stood in the street and waved goodbye as she drove away with David Bowie blasting out the car window

But that doesn’t mean this Fall will be easy. In a few days, child #2 is moving out and heading to college about 100 miles away. This time, it feels just the same and totally different. The same part is that it’s a portion of my heart walking out the door and setting up residence in another jurisdiction. You learn to function that way, but you walk with a limp for a while. The different part is that it’s Finn. If you don’t know what I mean, check out my post from June. The house will be quieter, less fun-loving and jokey, but just less loving too. When Finn’s been out of the house at dinner time this past year, Tim, Molly and I have kind of looked at each other sideways across the table, each of us thinking, “Just the three of us, huh?”

IMG_4449
Graduation Day: Finn and Dr. Renfree, principal of Serra High School

Molly probably feels the most anxious about the 40% population drop, a little ripped off by her change of circumstance.  I was the “big sister” in my family and never experienced the sense of abandonment that the younger ones must go through as siblings move out on their own, one after another. However, Molly is thrilled with Finn’s decision to move in with my parents and attend junior college for two years before transferring to San Luis Obispo.  For one thing, it’s 200 miles closer; for another, he can’t dictate (exactly) when she can and cannot visit him. She’s got her own key to Grandma’s house! She adores her big brother and some of the most tender moments in the hospital this last Spring were when he sat by her bedside. No matter how she felt, Finn always got a smile.

IMG_2682
February 2017

A mama knows that the fabric of her family will eventually be stretched by time and distance (and other things), so she spends the first decades of her kids’ lives stitching them together, so that when the bonds are tested, the Love of her family will stay strong. Undoubtedly, some of the threads will come loose and the edges will fray, but she prays the integrity of what she’s woven will hold.

With that in mind, I approached this summer with the goal of creating as many opportunities as I could for the five of us to be together, tightening the threads, and stockpiling enough hugs and laughter to last us for the months (or weeks) that might pass before we are together again. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn’t, but there were beach days, dinners out, movie nights, evening body surfing sessions, Scrabble games, Slurpee runs to 7-11, conversations across the table, sing-a-longs in the car, and Snapchat videos shared.

Every once in a while, I would find myself wondering – a little anxiously if I’m honest – “Has it been enough? Have I been enough? Have I done enough before I let them go? Will our fabric hold?” It takes a lifetime for those answers to unfold, but I was getting all teary-eyed thinking about how my time of biggest impact was coming to a close.

And then Keara left.

And then the date of Finn’s departure neared.

And then Charlottesville (and our President) happened.

And then my tears dried up.

I’ve got nothing to cry about.

(I’m not saying I won’t cry, or that there’s anything wrong with crying about our kids leaving, but it gave me some serious perspective.)

My son is going to be just fine, and there are so many things in our world that are not fine at all.

I’ve raised a white, middle-class, soon-to-be college-educated young man in a two-parent American, “Christian” home. He has been privileged in every way his whole life. Of course he’s worked hard and honed his skills, but every door has been opened for him, except the ones we couldn’t afford (but those were few and far between and he didn’t need them anyway). Every step of the way, from parents to teachers, coaches to employers, police to waiters, he has been given the benefit of the doubt, not just because of the color of his skin, but because of the smile on his face, the kindness and confidence he exudes, the vocabulary he’s developed (in part from having two parents with multiple college degrees between them).

All of it comes “naturally” to him and that’s a form of privilege.

So is that fact that he can wear clothes from Goodwill, and loiter in the local park with his friends all hours of the day and night without “concerned” neighbors calling the cops.  So is the fact that he can go to school for the next two years without taking out a loan. So is the fact that when he needs a job, we can call upon dozens of professional connections to help him get a foot in the door. So is the fact that he can “follow his heart” and pursue a career in photography. If it all goes belly up, he’s got some money in the bank and many, many places to land.

To be sure, he isn’t guaranteed a damn thing. He is going to have to bust his ass to make his dreams come true. He may fail many times, but this kid has multiple choices and multiple chances to succeed. Anything he accomplishes will be based, not just on his own talent, grit, hard work and luck, but also because the world welcomes him with open arms as a straight, white man and that’s privilege.

Last week, when everything in Charlottesville went down, Tim and I had Finn to ourselves on a 20+ hour road back from Montana. It was a gift to have so much time with him, right before he leaves the nest. We talked race, religion, politics, enneagram, technology, social media, national parks and the environment, our dreams, fears and failures. We offered our takes and heard his and I have to say, I am less worried about him than ever. I believe in him – his talent, skills, vision and work ethic, but most especially, his heart.

I haven’t posted anything about Charlottesville, because I didn’t want to add my voice to the fray. There were so many good, and important things being said by people who were there and people who have wrestled with these issues their whole lives, people like Brené Brown and Brian McLaren and  Ruby Sales, among countless others.

But I do want to highlight two voices I came across that were kind of hidden away, but are every bit as worthy of wide-scale attention.

The first is a bit of parenting advice from Brian Vincent from Farmville, Virginia, a born and bred Southerner, who contributed to a forum on BitterSoutherner.com.

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 4.42.57 PM

“As I looked at my girls this morning, I remembered that I have the most potent weapon against this kind of ugliness, right at my fingertips. We can Raise Warriors. We can raise children who speak out in defense of love, and denounce hate at every turn. We can combat a long history of calculated disparagement of ‘others’ by educating and reminding our children of this country’s history, while emphatically celebrating its diversity.

Step your game up. Engage in the uncomfortable waters of contentious conversation. Fight back with sharp intellect, and a heart filled with fierce morality. Teach your children that this war will not be won with physical combat, but with a spiritual warrior’s discipline and adherence to love. Be bold.”

@The Bitter Southerner

The second is from the Native American award-winning poet,  and author, Sherman Alexie. His brilliant poem, HYMN, was written just days ago. You can find the whole thing here, and I hope you’ll take the time to read it, but here is an excerpt to get you started.


It’s too easy to keep a domestic score.
This world demands more love than that. More.

So let me ask demanding questions: Will you be
Eyes for the blind? Will you become the feet

For the wounded? Will you protect the poor?
Will you welcome the lost to your shore?

Will you battle the blood-thieves
And rescue the powerless from their teeth?

Who will you be? Who will I become
As we gather in this terrible kingdom?

My friends, I’m not quite sure what I should do.
I’m as angry and afraid and disillusioned as you.

But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist

To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.

I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.

I will sing honor songs for the unfamiliar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.

I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.

I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.

And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.

I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.

We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.

Finn gets it. He knows he’s got a head start and that to judge, dismiss, divide and denigrate others is a bullshit way to make it in the world. What do the gospels say? “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from him who has been entrusted with much, even more will be demanded.” We have been given so freakin’ much, we’ve got to start giving back, somehow, in some way. Maybe Finn won’t in big ways for a while, but the fact that he gave me the “okay” to publish this is a start. He’s just a kid after all, but I’m the adult and I’ve got to step up my game.

Welcome to the world, Class of 2017.

I’ve known some of you since the day you were born and I’ve watched you grow up, go to school, play sports and skateboard in my front yard. I’ve surfed and studied and supped with you. I’ve watched you float and falter like all kids do. I have fallen in love with your hearts and witnessed your potential to change the world, so get to school; get to work; get to learning how to Love. We’re counting on you.

 

My Marching Orders Continue

It will come as no surprise to most of you that I spent last Saturday morning at the Women’s March. If you were at a march as well, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Where were you? Who did you march with? And finally, the big one: Why did you march?

That’s the question, isn’t it? Why did we march?

While the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington did an excellent job of laying out a positive and comprehensive platform, I think every person participated for their own reasons.

Here are some photos I posted on Instagram that day, where I explained some of mine.

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-4-05-44-pm

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-4-05-27-pm

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-4-04-24-pm

Obviously, I was proud of Finn for rallying with us that day and being such an active participant. I didn’t set out to raise a feminist son, (and he still doesn’t love the title), but his actions speak louder than words.

Here are some other signs, photos and groups I saw and enjoyed that day.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-12-29-37-pm

 

img_2312

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-8-34-06-am

 

Here’s part of Tim’s take, which if you follow him on Instagram, you’ve already seen. If you don’t follow him, you probably should.

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-4-40-27-pm

An armchair quarterback, whom I love and respect deeply, posted this article from The Guardian the day after the march. (I call him an armchair quarterback because he’s really good at critiquing the plays, even when he’s not in the game himself.) The author argued that the organizers and participants in the march need to capitalize on the energy of the event and translate it into concrete goals and actions. Too many rebellions start with a bang and end with a whimper. His point was well made, so a friend immediately shared the 100-Day Action plan supported by the organizers of the march to keep the momentum going.

If you haven’t taken a look at it, especially if you marched, please do. What I most appreciate about Step One – The Sending of Postcards – is that they leave space for each person to fill in what is of greatest concern to them. They are not trying to make a blanket statement, or speak for everyone.

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-4-44-53-pm

postcard-back

For some, the march was about women’s equality, for others, respect and kindness in our civil dialogue. For many it was about women’s reproductive rights. I saw signs in favor of earth care, the ACA, common sense gun laws, LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives Matter, respect for science, and Love Wins. I’m not saying Trump is personally against all of those things, but the voting and governing coalition he put together certainly is as a whole. I did see more than a few signs about our new president and his disparaging comments about women and his coalition’s desire roll back women’s healthcare access, but they were by no means the dominant message.

For me, the march was about all of those things and more. That doesn’t mean I agree with every single person in the march, but I wanted to lend my voice, time, body and energy to a movement of women – for women, by women and supported by men.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-8-36-17-am
This sign was courtesy of Elizabeth Gilbert on Instagram.

I want women of all ages, colors and faiths to have a bigger seat at decision-making tables, starting with those in their own homes. Don’t tell me they haven’t earned it, aren’t ordained to it, or don’t care enough about it. None of that is true, except through the filter of those who feel threatened by it.

So, onward sisters and brothers of all political persuasions. Stay in relationship with one another. Keep Loving, keep talking, keep trying to find your way to common ground. It may seem further away than ever this week, but I’m not giving up hope and I pray those on the other side of the aisle won’t either.

Post Script:

Over the past week, the Women’s March on Washington has been fetèd and critiqued. I’ve read essays about how wonderful it was, how white it was, how effective it was and yet ultimately, how it won’t change a thing. I don’t pretend to know what the effect of the Women’s March will be on political policy as a whole. I only know what I experienced and how it will play out in the choices I make and those are all good.

 

 

 

An Advent To-Do List

“Get up! Go into the world and live in the flow of Love. Forgive, show mercy, be compassionate, care for the poor, tend to the earth as family; find your inner wholeness in the Love of God, and create new wholes in your midst, in your communities, your workplaces, at shopping malls, and jazz fests. Live in the energy of the Spirit; let yourself be led…. Stop playing with your toys, your electronic gadgets… Do not lose yourself to consumer products that blind your vision, or distract your attention from the whole. Get up because you are too old to be asleep… Grow up because it is time to move on. The world is begging for new and more abundant life. The life of the world is your life, and your life belongs to the whole of Life. Stop trying to preserve yourself; lose yourself in something more than yourself…Live to the point of tears and don’t be saddened by sin, misunderstanding, weakness, and hate. Omega Love [God] is in our midst, and this Love is our power, our hope and our future. Remain in this Love…Be the co-creator you are made to be; emblazon the world with the grandeur of God.”

Ilia Delio

Okay, admittedly, it might take me a little longer than this Advent season to live into this call, but as I wrapped up Ilia Delio’s brilliant Making All Things New: Catholicty, Cosmology, Consicousness this past week, I knew I had found my marching orders for 2017 and beyond.

In the face of so much division and adversity in our nation, it can feel overwhelming to figure out, “What is mine to do?” the question I asked last month. But that’s what I love about Delio’s list. Anything that takes you out of your comfort zone and adds Love, life, energy, goodness and wholeness (understood as healing and holiness) to the world is yours to do! The only thing we can’t do is shrug our shoulders and go on with business as usual. Delio’s exhortation reminds me of Joan Chittister’s response to people who ask her what they should do to make the world a better place. “Do something!” she pleads.

It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

This season, if you are waiting in expectant hope for something new or better to come along, keep this call in mind. Print it out. Tape it on your bathroom mirror. Stick it over your coffee maker, or tea kettle. Read it every morning. Reflect on it every night and realize:

We are the something better we’ve been waiting for.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Joyous Kwanzaa to you, my dear friends! And if none of those apply, Happy Holidays! I wish you an abundance of whatever it is that warms your heart, tickles your fancy, fills you with gratitude, and encourages you to start anew.

f5205ef9a91f49fd5b4123ee87d0428f
Image from Amnesty International Christmas cards, 2016

 

An Elephantine Misunderstanding

elephant-modern-illustration-free-vector-jpg-graphic-cave-1080x628
Image courtesy of GraphicCave.com

This election cycle has brought to mind a classic parable. I’ll share a version from the poet Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks.

Some Hindus have an elephant to show.

No one here has ever seen an elephant.

They bring it in at night to a dark room.

One by one, we go in the dark and come out

Saying how we experience the animal.

One of us happens to touch the trunk

A water-pipe kind of creature.

Another, the ear. A very strong, always moving

Back and forth, fan-animal. Another, the leg.

I find it still, like a column on a temple.

Another touches the curved back,

A leathery throne. Another, the cleverest,

Feels the tusk. A rounded sword made of porcelain.

He is proud of his description.

Each of us touches one place

And understands the whole in that way.

The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark

Are how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.

If each of us held a candle there

And if we went in together, we could see it.

Politics is always about the part of the elephant you’re touching, but Rumi’s description is particularly apt this election season. A friend commented on my last blog: “We know what we know. We know what we don’t know. The problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know.” We may be humble enough to admit a lack of expertise in a few areas,  but we generally can’t imagine the vast expanse of our own ignorance.

We get ourselves into trouble when we believe our own frame of reference is the only one and fill in the blanks with our own assumptions instead of using our collective knowledge to get a bigger picture. He pointed out the trouble, but like the rest of us, he isn’t exempt. We all do it – in our politics and personal lives. Listening and empathizing with another person’s perspective and pain is one of the most courageous and difficult actions we can take as human beings.

Sometimes, our part of the elephant is the only one we’re willing to touch. And that’s okay – for a while, maybe even a long while – but eventually, if we want to make progress as a family, community, or nation, we’re going to have to enter the darkness with our shared light. Think of it as “group enlightenment.” Entering that space together, we’ll no longer be 100% right, but we will have fuller understanding of reality.

Another friend posed the question: “Will America stop listening to the media and start listening to each other?” I don’t know. I hope so, since it’s the only way forward, but I think it’s way too soon for a lot of people who are deeply wounded and defended on both sides. If a respectful conversation isn’t possible this holiday season, maybe it’s okay to take a year off. So much still needs to come to light, from within and without.

Where are you finding light these days and how are you manifesting that light in the world?

Some people are really good at being spotlights, pointing out what needs to be seen. Some are blowtorches, using their heat to skillfully craft something new. Unfortunately, too many of us are still forest fires, burning out of control, destroying everything in our path. But all is not lost! Even forest fires make way for new life in the spring.

I don’t know what kind of light I am. I just know I am called to return again and again to the source of Divine Light. I found one call to action from a wisdom teacher Matthew Wright especially helpful.

Listen deeply, friends. I am no fan of militaristic metaphors used for the spiritual life. Nevertheless, a battle is coming, and is now here. Our weapons are light (sharp, clear-seeing), love (non-judging, compassionate awareness), resistance (refusing to fall backwards into complacency, instead joining the forward movement of evolution on its messy way through struggle and pain), and relationship (holding our hearts open–within our capacity–so as to allow for authentic connection, born of deep and vulnerable listening). As Jesus constantly says in the Gospels – be sober, be vigilant, be watchful. But do not fear.

 

Light.

Love.

Resistance.

Relationship.

Courage.

Pick up your “weapons,” friends and enemies alike, because if we commit to fight with these in our arsenal, we will find ourselves on the same side of the battle more often than not.

c06092da549a740b19bc094bd8589b3b
Poetry is a constant source of light these days. This quote is from Ranier Maria Rilke and is currently up on our family quote wall.  

 

Finding a Way Forward

I’ve been pretty quiet here the last week. I started quiet, because I didn’t want to add my voice to the post-election cacophony. So many good and powerful and true things were being said. For the first few days, I felt what was mine to feel, but I didn’t feel the need to share it with the public. I’m grateful, however, for all the people who did, including two men I love.

My husband spoke up, and I was proud of him. Tim Kirkpatrick is a man who feels things deeply and I have a ton of respect for men like him, who are willing to express their vulnerability, especially when those emotions include a deep compassion for “the other.” A couple months ago, when the election was heating up, he started posting a series of funny, 30-second videos of him singing (badly) and riffing on all things from surfing to business to comedy. This last week, however, he stopped joking and posted some more somber reflections on the election outcome. Here is a link to his two most recent posts: “Tracks of My Tears” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

But there was a new voice too, one that hasn’t spoken up before and I am very proud of him too. My son Finn posted this commentary on Facebook on Wednesday night. (He asked permission to correct the grammar and add a couple lines).

I’m new to politics. And historically speaking this is weird place to join the convo. However, I thought I’d share this clip about Trump talking about the “good old days.” He says he loved the days when protestors would be “taken off on a stretcher.” This clip is showing footage from Civil Rights movement protestors (Brown vs Board of Education and more) and then modern-day protestors. He encouraged others to inflict harm on protestors of today. This clip made me sad. Yes, I know this clip comes from a documentary with an agenda. What documentary these days doesn’t? Yes, it was intended to make Trump look bad. Still, it has some truth to it.

This clip comes from the documentary, 13th, a doc about the mass incarceration of black men in America. They cover how little progress has really been made. First, the US had slavery. Then we had Jim Crow laws. Now we have a mass incarciration of black men. When the 13th Amendment was passed, it banned slavery, with the exception of crime, so then they just made them criminals. More and more laws were made to get more and more people in jail. Now the prison system is another example of institutional racism. It’s hard for me to explain. Anyways just watch the doc on Netflix; it will blow your mind/ reassure you how corrupt our whole political system is.

But back to Trump. This made me sad, sad for all of those who Trump has diminished and put in harm’s way with his words (shown in the video). Sad for my sister and the rest of the LGBTQ+ community, for the minorities and all who Trump has already put in harm’s way. Most of my friends, being Trump supporters, tell me that he doesn’t mean what he’s saying, or that we need to give him a chance. But as far as I’m concerned, whether or not Trump believes his rhetoric, it still empowers other groups take action. And give him a chance? …Yeah, we should forget everything he’s said.  But I am still hopeful for the future. If you actually read this, thanks for listening; hopefully it makes sense.

I had originally embedded the clip in this post, but I am trying to be aware of adding more violent rhetoric to the atmosphere these days. However, it is a powerful statement on the impact of Trump’s language on his supporters. If you are able to watch, or interested, you can find the clip HERE.

As a newly registered Independent voter, Finn’s observations aren’t tied to a political party. It isn’t about being a Republican, or Democrat. It’s about how one young man is trying to keep his eyes open, and share what he sees with others. It’s what he does as a photographer and a budding film-maker as well. Most of his friends are Trump supporters, but he had the courage to speak up, to show them what he sees when he sees them wearing their “Make America Great Again” hats.

My heart broke a hundred times this week, beginning on Election night when I got this text from Keara:

img_1715

More than anything, I wanted to hold her in my arms and tell her it was all going to be okay, but I couldn’t, because I just don’t know. Trump has flip-flopped on his LGBTQ+ stance. I know that. He hasn’t been openly hostile to the gay community, and yes, he has even appointed a gay cabinet member, but Pence has consistently worked to disenfranchise, disrespect and demonize the gay community for decades. For many Trump supporters, putting the gay community “back in its place” was a huge part of the appeal. Ultimately, I believe it will be okay, but the long view wasn’t what Keara was looking for. I had to let her feel what she feels, but a week later, I have to help her look for hope.

In the aftermath of this election, I’ve frequently thought of Mister Roger’s mom. When something scary was happening, she would tell him: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

That is what I’ve been doing this past week. I’ve been looking for helpers: those who could help me grieve, those who could help understand and those who could help me move forward.

The first category was amply supported by my husband, my sister, many friends, my Facebook feed, and late night talk show hosts. Lots of people out there are feeling my pain.

The second category was assisted in part by this article on Cracked by David Wong and this interview with Michael Moore on Morning Joe. I actually have a much deeper understanding and compassion for Americans in deep poverty, who have been asking for attention and assistance for decades, only to be ignored by both parties year after year, despite campaign promises. This vote was the biggest “F*ck You!” to Washington they could muster. If it f*cked over a lot of other Americans, so be it. It was still their best shot to be heard once and for all. The Michigan vote, home to Flint, the filthiest water in America, makes more sense now.

The third category, the one that inspired me to write today, was this TED talk by Jonathon Haidt. No matter whom you voted for, I highly recommend you watch it. Today. Multiple times. It could be critical to the success of your holiday season and maintaining future relationships with family members, even though they voted differently than you.

It was given a serious boost by this hour-long conversation between Rob Bell and philosopher Pete Rollins. Like Haidt, they are progressives, but balanced. They don’t demonize “the other” and they offered me a larger framework for what’s happening in America right now and how we can move forward. As a side note, Pete grew up in Belfast during The Troubles, so this isn’t just an academic exercise for him.

I could probably stop now, and maybe I should, but I’m going to push my luck.

While I started off quiet to allow other voices to speak, I’ve stayed quiet, because I couldn’t write anything that wasn’t a lament, or a tirade, and there are plenty of those out there already. I have several unpublished essays where I go from being vulnerable and centered to angry and raging. While that may be how I feel, I’m pretty sure it’s not helpful.

Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 7.26.17 PM.png

I was amazed with Liz Gilbert’s ability to immediately focus on what she needed to do, asking “Who Do I Want to be in this Situation?”

I was impressed with Glennon Doyle Melton’s call to action.

While these ladies were out there encouraging the world, I was at home in a fetal position. I’m not finished crying yet, but this is what I have to offer as of today. Some tirade, some lament, some progress, hopefully.

I’ve heard a lot about the “echo chamber” the progressive elites were sitting in during this election and I’ll admit, I was there. But I will counter that many Trump supporters have been sitting in their “echo chamber” for the last eight years, watching Fox news and reading Breitbart, as blissfully unaware of the alternative point of view as we were. In our “echo chambers,” we are ignorant of each other’s pain and fear, (which we always cover over with righteous anger) and it is easy to assume the worst.

The clip Finn shared is a glimpse into the progressive “echo chamber.” If you haven’t yet, please take a moment to watch it, especially if you’ve been sitting in the other one (and if you aren’t deeply concerned by this election outcome, you haven’t been in my “chamber.”) We are all – every single one of us – in some “chamber,” breathing the air of our own confirmation bias. It makes us human, but not as wise as we could be.

For all of you who voted for Trump, who said it was about the economy for you, Hillary’s past, the need for change, or the “sanctity of life,” know that for a fair part of Trump’s base, it wasn’t just, or only about those things. It was about this! THIS is what fired them up and what they hope to see more of in a Trump presidency. It may, or may not happen on a policy level, but it is already happening on the streets and Trump, their candidate, told them it was okay. In this video, in his own voice, he waxed nostalgic for it.

If you don’t believe me, look at the feed of Shaun King who is collecting data and reports about these types of incidents. If a millennial civil rights activist isn’t a reliable source for you, here is Dan Rather on the subject. And if you don’t trust him either, look for the honest reporting of it in your own go-to news sources. If it isn’t there, know that your “echo chamber” is alive and well. (And yes, I have seen at least one video of it going the other way. I have also sought out inflammatory videos about Hillary, so I could experience the other echo. I am trying to do my homework.)

If you are a part of my life, I believe your vote wasn’t about this. I know you aren’t supportive of this type of behavior or rhetoric. I believe you aren’t racist, or homophobic, or xenophobic. You wouldn’t be part of my life if you were. A few of you have even reached out to reassure Kiko of your support. I trust that you want justice to prevail for ALL Americans.

But know that if you wear your victory on your sleeve, this is part of what you are clothed in, along with misogyny and a whole host of other qualities that I know you do not teach your children. You wouldn’t tolerate Trump’s behavior in a classroom teacher, or even a volunteer soccer coach. I KNOW you. I’ve seen you speak up and activate for your own kids. Trump would be fired the first time he made a comment about your daughter’s performance based on his impression that she was “bleeding out of her you know, whatever.” But we didn’t fire him; we hired him.

So if your child is spouting Trump’s rhetoric, or rocking a “Make America Great Again” hat, perhaps you could talk to them about all that it implies. Show them the video clip (and the one where Trump talks about grabbing a woman by the p*ssy) and encourage them to make a statement about what you (and presumably he, or she) actually stand for – an end to the insider’s hold on Washington, an end to abortion, a more conservative immigration plan, a business man in the White House? Whatever it is, don’t offer Trump a blank check to speak for you.

And this is where I want to be clear about my own culpability.

Every time I raise my hand to point a finger at you, three fingers are pointing back at me. I know that. There’s a good chance  you see me in the same way.

I know my support of HRC was incomprehensible to many Americans, especially people who share my faith. I imagine you see me clothed in her sins as well. So let me be clear, as I am asking you to be. I did not support all of her policies. I am fully aware of the many unethical choices she’s made over the course of her thirty-year political career. I may be sporting a whole host of obnoxious sartorial choices you find unfair, and unfaithful. She would not have been my first, second, or even third choice for a president, but against Donald Trump, she was my ONLY choice.

I will wear a pantsuit and hold my head up high if that’s what it takes to say that women, the disabled, the immigrant, and the oppressed be treated fairly, with dignity and due process. Hillary’s sins were many, but mostly politics-as-usual as far as I’m concerned, ones that men have used for centuries to get ahead. The corruption of the DNC was despicable and their inability to grasp the consequences of their actions in real time contributed to a truly horrific outcome for all Americans. I wear it all, not with pride but with humility, conscious of the fallibility of the candidate and our political process.

I’m pointing my three fingers back at me. I KNOW what was wrong with my candidate and many of her positions, but Trump’s character, actions, standards and campaign rhetoric are beyond the pale for me. There was no formula by which I could have voted for anyone else but the one woman who could have beaten him, who did in fact beat him in the popular vote.

You can call me a hypocrite, a sore loser, a false Christian. I don’t know; I may be all those things, but I’m also an American and at the moment, I’m heartbroken and concerned about the safety and civil rights of my fellow citizens. Even if the system works, and the Trump/Pence ticket is limited by the checks and balances of Congress and the Supreme Court, I am disappointed for my daughters, that they heard again at the largest scale possible that men can say and do whatever they want to women and get away with it, as long as they have enough power, money, or charisma.

Donald Trump is my president. I support the demonstrations that are happening around the country as a protest against his campaign strategies, but not against his rightfully won position. I condemn the violence and awful, inflammatory statements made by some protestors. I absolutely believe in our election process and the peaceful transition of power. I am extremely proud of the way both Secretary Clinton conceded the race and President Obama began the transition. In fact, I am blown away by Elizabeth Warren and her clear offer to work with Trump on many of his election platforms. You can read it here. They are true politicians, and I mean that in the nicest way, and I didn’t even know it had a nice way. Even Trump has sounded presidential a few times since the election, civil and conciliatory. If he keeps it up,  disavows his earlier rhetoric and condemns the violence it has spawned, that hope we so desperately need just might rise.


This was a really difficult essay for me to post. I SO wanted to get to a place of total peace and acceptance before I published anything, something like the Dalai Lama. If nothing else, this election has truly humbled me, showing me how much work I have to do to become the person of peace and unity and Love I want to be. But people have told me many times over the past week that they have reread my last post and asking themselves, “What is mine to do?” So, finally, I came to terms with this essay.

This is mine to do: to grieve, to educate myself, to share my process, honestly and with as much Love as I can muster. I am hoping this essay helps you do a little bit of that too. I know this has been a long post, with a lot of additional information, so I appreciate it if you made it to the end.

 

 

 

 

All of these People

longley

Michael Longley, Irish poet, survivor of the Troubles, and soothsayer wrote this poem as the whiff of a ceasefire blew across Belfast in the 1990s.

I thought of it this morning as I woke to thoughts of our election day.

“All Of These People”

Who was it who suggested that the opposite of war

Is not so much peace as civilisation?

He knew

Our assassinated Catholic greengrocer who died

At Christmas in the arms of our Methodist minister,

And our ice-cream man whose continuing requiem

Is the twenty-one flavors children have by heart.

Our cobbler mends shoes for everybody; our butcher

Blends into his best sausages leeks, garlic, honey;

Our corner shop sells everything from bread to kindling.

Who can bring peace to people who are not civilized?

All of these people, alive or dead, are civilized.

 

Though we have never been a truly peaceful nation, I believe we are a civilized one. Civilization creates space for diverse opinions, and respectful dialogue. It is at the heart of every human interaction. It is the only way a society works.

Maybe tomorrow we can remember that and ask our elected officials to do the same. Enough with the obstructionism and party politics. Enough with the gridlock and corporate interests taking precedence over those of everyday people. Get to work creating a government that works for us instead of leading us into unworkable situations, at home and abroad.

 

I heard this poem recently while listening to an excellent interview with the poet Michael Longley on On Being. I highly recommend it!

Voting for Life

cuzmxpfw8aahsjj

I don’t often get political in this forum, but I’m going to take a risk and go there today. As Election Day nears, it seems to me that barring any extreme revelations everyone has settled on whom they are going to vote for and why. We’ve come to terms with our decision and I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. I appreciate that during this painful election season, most of us have had to dig a little deeper than usual. Instead of simply pulling the lever along party lines, we’ve had to consider what is of ultimate importance to us, what we can live with and what we can’t live without. I think it’s healthy that my kids are being exposed to so many heated conversations at the dinner table, even though Tim and I consistently vote the same way.

But if you live in California there is an issue you may not have decided on yet: the two death penalty propositions.

Let me say right off the bat that I do not believe in the death penalty. From the research I’ve done, it fails to work as a serious deterrent to crime, as a cost-saving measure, or as an instrument of justice, but I do understand how significant it must feel when a perpetrator forfeits their life in payment for their crimes. I’m not saying it’s an easy decision to make, but if you are conflicted about which is the better option, I’m hoping you’ll read on.
For the last decades, the end-the-death-penalty movement has been growing across the nation and in each election cycle, Californians get closer and closer to making the decision to end the practice in our state. In fact, we got so close four years ago that Prop 66 was written simply to confuse the issue and keep the death penalty in place. The motto of Prop 66 is that they can “mend it not end it,” but I don’t believe that’s possible and certainly not according to their method, which is to hurry up executions by REDUCING the number of safeguards. The efficient answer isn’t the right one in this case, nor does it address any of the greatest moral and practical objections to this increasingly rare method of justice. You might be surprised to see the company we keep on a global scale by maintaining this practice. Check it out here. (Spoiler Alert: China, North Korea and Iran make the list.)

But apart from practical reasons for abolishing the death penalty, I feel even more strongly about the moral ones. As most of you know, I have some personal experience with being “pro-life.” I was raised a Catholic Christian and part of my upbringing was to honor a “consistent ethic of life,” in the words of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, from “womb to tomb.” That ethic played a huge role in my decision to change the course of my life at 19 and become a birth mother. Abortions were safe, affordable, and readily available and many friends urged me to make that decision. It could have all been over within 24 hours of that positive pregnancy test, but I believed in the value of protecting a child’s life over preserving the privileged conditions of my own. I believed it on an intellectual and moral level, but I also believed it on an instinctual one. We are made in the “image of God” and I was not about to extinguish that Divine spark. Instead, my desire has always been to nurture that spark within myself and at the very least, claim and hold space for it, especially when others don’t see it in themselves, or their enemies.

But being “pro-life” was never a political litmus test for me, because having that ethic goes so far beyond simply outlawing abortion. Conception and birth are the first steps of life, but they are not the only ones that matter. I love this statement by Sr. Joan Chittister clarifying the terms for her audience.

12047090_1004970076215108_6286412291888440921_n

It’s easy to cherish those first few breaths of innocent life, but we are by no means allowed to forget the rest. I love how Richard Rohr puts it. When people insist that “God loves innocent life,” he responds, “Oh dear, I hope not!” for who among us is innocent? Beyond the implications of what “pro-life” means when it comes to social services, education, and our moral obligations, for me, being “pro-life” is also reflected in how I respond to end of life issues such as suicide, aging, euthanasia and mental health issues.

And if you aren’t “pro-life,” but are pro-justice, then please consider the fact that innocent people die through our use of this instrument and that is not justice. More and more DNA exonerations take place every year. Additionally, prisoners on death row are overwhelmingly people of color, of poverty, and of limited mental capacity and that is not justice. Their percentages are not commensurate with the rate at which they commit heinous crimes, but are rather a direct reflection of the life-saving privilege that money, color and connections can buy. If you believe that #alllivesmatter, then voting Yes on Prop 62 and No on Prop 66 is one way to stand up and show your support for the lives that many would rather forget. Prop 66 does nothing to address these (and other) deeply unjust patterns.

Grappling with this subject is difficult, especially if you were raised to believe that all people were equal in the eyes of the law and that justice would always be served when it simply isn’t true.

I don’t have the space here for the data and detailed statistics arguing why the death penalty doesn’t work. Other people have done it passionately and effectively, so I’m sharing a list of books and films that have shaped my thoughts on the subject. And there are a lot of thoughts to be shaped!

  • Bryan Stevenson: Just Mercy
  • Fr. Greg Boyle: Tattoos on the Heart
  • Sr. Helen Prejean: Dead Man Walking and The Death of Innocents
  • Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow
  • Thirteenth, now of Netflix

And finally, I want to address one more issue. One of the biggest arguments for keeping the death penalty in place, and one of the hardest to refute, is that  so many of the victim’s families want it to remain. I cannot even pretend to know the depth of their pain, but in the case of many families, the execution of justice through the death penalty did not bring them the relief they sought. After having gone through the process, more and more family members are speaking out against the death penalty. Here is a small collection of their testimonies, as well as the example of Tamika Brown that I wrote about in early 2015.

The bottom line? I’m voting

Yes on 62 and No on 66.

For more information, you can check out Death Penalty Information Center, or Yeson62.com 

Finally, if you are Catholic and want to hear an extensive interview with Jennifer Bonakdar, Yes on Prop 62 leader, as well as Beth Webb, a sister of a murder victim, who is opposed to capital punishment, you can tune in HERE to the Immaculate Heart Radio replay.

 

 

Raising a Feminist Son

feminism_defined_tees-rf06c7d83cbd049e18e056a6dd9017279_f0yux_1024

For the record, feminism by definition is: ‘The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.'”

 – Emma Watson in her speech at the UN in September 2014

A couple weeks ago, I read an essay by Courtney Martin, an author, activist and mother to two daughters. It was called “The Limitless Potential of Men to Transform Manhood.” In the essay, she commented that her husband, John, is relieved to be raising daughters. John is definitely male, but not an alpha. He doesn’t identify with the masculine stereotypes of yesteryear, so daughters seem like a more comfortable fit. He knows the message he wants to deliver – Be strong; be yourself; transcend your limitations, etc. John’s lucky; he also married a ringer of a role model– a super intelligent, strong wife, who wears the pants in the family, just like he does.

Sons? John’s not so sure what he would say to them. It’s confusing enough to be a young man in today’s world, much less raise one. (He’s right; it’s way easier to teach someone to step into their power, than to temper it.) Being a journalist, Courtney ran a little informal poll and found lots of men who felt the same way. Whew! I’ve got girls. I know the message I want to convey: empowerment, strength, personal freedom. It’s disappointing they don’t feel like they could give boys those same messages, but I get why. The implication for a boy, based on historical evidence, is that male empowerment, strength and freedom comes at a cost, usually to everyone else. Patriarchy flourished over the past millennia on the backs of the “other,” namely women, the weak and the poor.

Feminism of the sixties and seventies started down the path of trying to beat men at their own game, by being even stronger and more aggressive. (We just have to look at the fashion of the eighties to know it’s true.) But many women of my generation disavowed feminism for that very reason. We got sick of trying to “out alpha” the men, so we quit playing, which really angers some long-time feminists.

But this isn’t a case of young women taking our ball and going home. It’s NOT because we were losing; it’s because we woke up to the fact that the game’s not worth playing! We never got a vote about it in the first place! We didn’t help make the rules; we didn’t get to pick the venue, or the referee. We didn’t get any input on how the points were scored, or what determined the winner. It was handed to us, with men favored at every turn. The second-wave feminists were just so determined to get on the field that they were willing to get their teeth kicked in over and over again, just for the privilege of playing the game. It may have been a necessary step, but a new generation of feminists is calling bullshit on the whole system. They are sick and tired of having to compete, succeed, and perform on every level: personally, professionally, physically, civically, spiritually, organically, etc. and then face criticism if they don’t meet some pre-determined standard.

Young women are ‘leaning in,’ but not to the patriarchal, “winner and take all” game. Even if it means never getting their turn in the big arenas (coincidentally, the ones men built), young feminists, of both genders, are trying to invent a new game – one where everyone can play to their own strengths. Everyone is invited to the conversation, to take leading and supporting roles, to find their niche in a system that honors all of who they are – the masculine and the feminine – the parts of themselves previous generations had to deny when they were locked into the essentialism of their gender at birth. (Essentialism is just a fancy word for the false belief that men are THIS and women are THAT – biologically and entirely, with no exceptions.)

Now, I know that oversimplification might ruffle a lot of feathers in the blogosphere, but in broad strokes, I think there is something to it. We want more parity, but not just according to the old paradigms. (Change happens on the margins, so if you want to see more examples of where this happening, look no further than the young women flocking to the Bernie Sanders movement over Hillary Clinton’s campaign, or the huge emphasis on the T and the Q in the LGBTQ community. Gender non-binaries are where it’s at!)

So what does all this have to do with raising a feminist son?

After I read Courtney’s article, I sent it to Tim, who I thought might understand where her husband was coming from, but in fact, Tim was super disappointed in John’s perspective. In his email back to me (and my mellow brother-in-law, Nathan, who is raising three girls), he wrote:

“I feel the opposite. I’m happy to raise strong women, but I am grateful to have the opportunity to raise a son that isn’t a typical alpha-male. The world needs less of those, so I’m glad I get to play a part in moving things forward rather than backward. But whoever we are raising, I think that we need to raise them with less gender constraints and more humanity.”

Hot damn! Is it any wonder I love that man?

I just wish his perspective was more common among Courtney’s husband and their peers. If any of them have sons, I know they will step up to the plate, but I wish they were more excited about the prospect. We need to change the narrative about parenting. We can’t change our daughters’ futures unless we change our sons’ as well! We can’t leave our sons in the dark, while we lift our daughters into the light. It is going to take the evolution of BOTH genders to bring about real gender equality.

But I know Tim and I aren’t alone on this belief. In our circle of friends, we know a ton of boys who are being raised to see girls as their equal, and to treat them with the respect due a peer, not a princess. Some of these young men are even willing to be vulnerable, to have conversations with each other about their dreams and disappointments. They are intentional about who they are and how they want to be in the world. Finn and his friends give me a lot of hope for the future and so do a couple of other people out there in the wider world.

One of them is Glennon Doyle Melton. She’s on the other side of the country in Florida, but I share a lot of her work on Facebook and sometimes link to her through my blog. About a year ago, she wrote something about her son Chase that she reposted recently. I think it’s a perfect model for how to raise a feminist son. She wrote:

When Chase was eight, a woman approached us at the grocery store and said, “What a handsome boy! What do you plan to be when you grow up, young man?” Chase looked at her and said, “I plan to be kind and brave, ma’am.”

Chase wants to be a human being who is kind and brave and he is already that.  He knows that his “success” does not depend upon whether he lands some job or not. He knows he’ll be a success if he continues to practice kindness and courage wherever and with whomever he finds himself. Today he is a kind and brave sixth grader and one day he’ll be a kind a brave high schooler and one day maybe he’ll be a kind and brave teacher or artist or father or carpenter or friend. His roles will change but his character will remain. He is already who he wants to be. So he can just go about being himself forever. Following his curiosity. One Next Right Thing at a time.

Glennon and her husband Craig are not raising their son to play the old-school game, of winners and losers. If you are yourself, if you are a person of character, if you are conscious and compassionate, YOU WIN! This kid is going to be a feminist, but not just because he is growing up in a home with sisters who are his equals, and a strong mom. Perhaps most importantly, he has a strong dad, a man who doesn’t derive his power from dominance, or by diminishing the ideas and gifts of those around him.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 8.33.32 PM
Colby and Kate, on a date

The second example is a little closer to home. Here in San Diego, there is a little church called Sojourn Grace Collective. It was founded about two years ago by a couple, who pastor together: Colby Martin and Kate Christensen Martin. We’ve stopped by a few times and we love what the church is about. But what I love especially is that Kate is on fire for feminism and Colby is on fire for Kate (duh, who wouldn’t be?), but for reasons beyond the obvious ones. Like Kate, he is all about changing the rules of the old-school game, even though, as an educated, straight white man, he could have won big time by playing for the patriarchy. He has a book, Unclobber, coming out in the fall about the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community in the church and society; he writes blog posts about why #BlackLivesMatter and he is just wrapping up a sermon series on Liberation Theology and how it changed everything for him. Kate preached her own liberation sermon Mother’s Day. You can check it out here.

 

But there is one more thing about Kate and Colby that is pretty special. They have four sons! They get to reverse engineer this whole feminism thing for the next twenty years by lifting up their sons! I want them to write a book about that next! Parents who are wondering how to raise boys in our ever-changing world could probably use it!

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 8.12.04 PM

So, how do you raise a feminist son?

I think there are a thousand ways and more, but it has to start with wanting to. It has to start with realizing that feminism isn’t just about the empowerment of women and girls to be all they can be. It is about the liberation of men and boys from outdated cultural models that force them to be less than who they fully are. We have to free our children from the belief that masculinity is synonymous with material success and stoicism and that strength and forthrightness are not feminine. We have to honor them for ALL they are and encourage them to “lean in” to that above all else.

But first, we have to wake up ourselves to the fact that this “war” between the sexes is not a zero sum game; we are not actually on different sides. We are winners and losers  together. Feminism is the path we need to embrace for now to get on the same team, but true liberation for both genders is about so much more. It is about the fullest expression of who we are as individuals and a collective humanity. It will always be a dance between freedom and responsibility, strength and vulnerability, struggle and victory. It’s about equality for all and we have to be willing to get into the new game ourselves, showing up humbly and authentically, ready to play.


 

150924202755-21-pope-francis-0924-super-169
Do these ladies look excited, or what? 

As I was writing this post, news broke that Pope Francis will put together a commission on studying the restoration of the deaconate to women. The liberation begins!

 

 

 

 

 

Also, one of my favorite podcasters, Mike McHargue, is a super smart and super spiritual guy, who also proudly claims to be a feminist. Unfortunately in my opinion, he is raising only daughters. Sigh…So is his incredible podcast partner, Michael Gungor. Check them out at The Liturgists sometime. You won’t be disappointed!


Finally, let me be clear as I end this post:

Finn has never claimed the title “feminist” for himself, but when I showed him the definition of feminism above, he looked at me with a “Duh? Who doesn’t believe in that?” kind of look. “I believe in feminism,” he said, “but I wouldn’t call myself one.”

All in good time, my son, all in good time.

 

 

 

What Can Trump a Trump?

donald-trump

I’ve been wanting/dreading to write about the Donald Trump phenomenon for months now, but I kept delaying, hoping it wouldn’t be necessary, that I wouldn’t actually have to face what it says about us as a country that he may win the Republican nomination. As each primary day approached, I would think, “Surely, this time, people of ___fill-in-the-state ____won’t vote for him.” And yet, each time I was proven wrong. I was SO very wrong about last Tuesday’s five states. Thank you Pennsylvania, Delaware, et al, for fueling up that crazy train and pointing it West.

The Donald finally arrived on my own Southern California shores on Thursday night. His first rally ended in violent protests, destruction of property, physical and verbal assaults and seventeen arrests. Welcome to the Golden State! But Trump didn’t seem worried in the slightest; in fact, he seemed to enjoy it, which is just another sign of his unsuitability to be President. He has taken on the persona of a WWF promoter, not the leader of the free world. The President of the United States needs to be able to solve problems though consensus, and regardless of how well you think our current, or past presidents have done it, things will not be improved by stirring the public to violence and hate speech. Sadly, based on the rally’s turnout and recent polls, it looks like Trump is going to win here in California too. And all I can think, as I look out my window at my sunny palm tree-lined street, is “Et tu, Brute?”

When Trump’s campaign began to take off, I, like many others, thought his popularity was an anomaly. But as the weeks and months passed by, my incredulity grew and as did my curiosity about his supporters. I just kept thinking, “What is wrong with these people?” But I’m not asking that anymore. Although I don’t agree with them, I don’t think there is anything wrong with them. They are simply speaking their truth and giving voice to their pain and frustration, in rallies and at the ballot box. I may not agree with them, but they are not fundamentally different from me.

Whatever’s wrong with them is what’s wrong with our whole country: classism, consumerism, racism, sexism, cynicism, and a whole bunch of other things. We are deaf to each other’s cries for help and blind to the painful realities facing Americans of every race, gender, class and age in this brave new world of ours. No one is immune. For the most part, we are poorer, sicker, less hopeful and (coincidentally?) more suicidal. We are afraid for our safety, at home and abroad, and afraid for our children and their future. (This is especially true if you are one of the minorities that Trump demonizes regularly.) The winning lottery ticket entitled “The American Dream,” used to be handed out freely with a high school degree (at least if you were white). Now, it seems like there’s a 1 in a 100 chance, even if you play by all the rules. I don’t know anybody who isn’t affected by these fears, either consciously, or unconsciously, but our future and the future of the world will be defined by how we face them.

Trump wants us to face them kamikaze-style, by clinging to an out-dated idea of who we are as Americans – a colonial power: all-white, all-knowing, and all-powerful. For some Americans, that vision is a dream come true, but for many, it’s their worst nightmare. However, I don’t know that any of the candidates, on either side of the aisle, have significantly better appeal. Cruz was recently called, “Lucifer in the flesh “ by the former leader of his own party, (although that was more of a pot-and-kettle situation). Hillary has serious credibility issues and serious ties to Big Money, which is a huge problem for many voters. Kasich, whom I have been rooting for since Day One, is apparently too nice of a guy to be taken seriously by the general public. (Jimmy Carter anyone?) Bernie is a kamikaze in his own way, calling for such radical economic and social changes, that the country may crash and burn in his hands as well. (Based on the age of his supporters, I have a feeling that Bernie’s flight plan is where we will land eventually.)

The late civil rights activist, Vincent Harding, said, “For me the question of democracy, also opens up the question of what it means to be truly human. My own feeling is that when it comes to creating a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, democratic society, we are still a developing nation.” We aren’t used to thinking of ourselves in that way. We are used to believing that we have “arrived,” that we are “evolved,” that we are a model for the rest of the world to follow, but this election cycle has shown that we are just getting started.

The first thing we can do is have a little humility. We aren’t the cool kids on the block anymore, like we thought we were when we elected Obama in ’08 and’12. Apparently, we are in that awkward phase of puberty, with angry red pustules popping up all over, revealing the infections beneath the surface. We stink in all sorts of places, reminding us that we have some dirty laundry to take care. God knows, no one is going to do it for us.

Because this is such a painful revelation, the second thing we have to do is remember that “No situation is improved by going berserk.” It might feel good in the moment, but it is neither helpful, nor kind.

The third thing we can do is speak up, with decency and respect, to the people with whom we disagree. I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of avoiding politics with people who I think might be Trump supporters. While I haven’t actually swallowed my words, I’ve certainly done everything I could to avoid the subject. I’ve sat through dinners, thinking, “Please don’t say anything. Please don’t say anything.” I am ashamed to admit my own reluctance to engage in challenging conversations on this subject. I don’t have to convince anyone of my point of view, but my silence might be taken as tacit agreement.

Well, today I got my comeuppance on that point from two different sources. The first was from Michelle Alexander, author, lawyer, professor and activist. In an interview she gave recently, she said, “We’ve become a nation of stone-throwers and it’s not enough to just drop your own stone.” I may not be holding a stone in my hand, but I certainly haven’t been active in convincing anyone else to put theirs down. Over the course of the next six months, I’m going to work on that, starting with this post.

My second source of inspiration and conviction came from an open letter, published on CalledtoResist.org , which was signed by over fifty members of the clergy across denominations. (I am more than a little sad that only one Catholic priest signed the document.) The title is “Called to Resist Bigotry – A Statement of Faithful Obedience.” In it, they make clear that while voting “differences must be respected in a democratic and civil society… Christians from across the political spectrum [must] come together around political realities that threaten the fundamental integrity of Christian faith and the well-being of society itself.” They are sympathetic to people who support Trump. Clearly, “the failures of both Washington and Wall Street have created legitimate citizen anger and alienation across the political spectrum, and many of us are empathetic to the many people who feel marginalized and unheard by economic, political, and media elites that don’t serve their needs,” but that doesn’t offer us an excuse to support a candidate who “promotes racial and religious bigotry, disrespects the dignity of women, harms civil public discourse, offends moral decency, and seeks to manipulate religion.” Please read the letter for yourself and see what you think. If you agree with them, consider sharing it on Facebook, or emailing to family and friends, those who will agree with it, as well as those who won’t.

This far into the primary season, we can no longer ask, “Who can trump Trump?” It seems that no one can. But we can still ask, “What will trump Trump?” because we just might have the answer to that one and it begins with the courage to speak up.

We have to put down our own stones and look around. Who of our family members, friends and neighbors are still holding one? How can we encourage them to put their stones down as well?  How could we listen to them with compassion and how could they best hear an alternative point of view?  Ultimately, we may not change anyone’s mind, but at least we will have engaged in civil discourse, instead of simply yelling at each other, or  avoiding the subject all together.

 

 

 

Politics as Usual?

A friend posted this on my wall yesterday morning, the day after the election.

None of my bloggers touch the topic of Politics. I am really needing one of you to post something inspiring this morning. I understand why you don’t but I am really dying for some words of wisdom to hang on too… I don’t even care what you voted for. Just some overall words to live by either way… ok, I am done pleading!

I wishI had some soothing balm to apply to her soul. She is a compassionate conservative, a lovely young woman, in a liberal bastion of Northern California and I think things got pretty nasty in her neck of the woods.

I’ve sat with her request for 24 hours and I still don’t have much, but like The Beatles offered in Can’t Buy Me Love, “What I’ve got, I’ll give to you.”

“I’m sorry you have been feeling so much pressure. I am sorry your blue friends and neighbors aren’t being kindly, compassionate, good winners. I am sorry if your red family and friends are being poor sports. For the most part, I’ve been able to avoid it down here. I make it a pretty hard and fast rule that I don’t talk politics with anyone I might want to like the next day – that goes for family as well.

People who feel strongly about their party affiliations make me extremely uncomfortable. They have ever since I was about 16 years old and figured out that I didn’t, in fact, have all the answers to the world’s problems. It seems to me that the party ideologues still haven’t figured that out yet. I think people who post rabid support for one party, or one candidate are fooling themselves. I try to never get caught up in politics, because it is almost always synonymous with hypocrisy.

  • No matter who gets elected, the first ones taken care of are the biggest financial backers.  Every party looks out for their own.
  • The candidates promise the moon and the stars, with no hope of delivering anything resembling those celestial bodies. If we are lucky, the average citizens get covered in the dust.
  • Everyone talks about the need for bipartisanship, but no one wants to play.
  • People are so wrapped up in their own ideologies that they can’t see what is good, right, or even reasonable in the other point of view.
  • To win, transparency and honesty are impossible for the candidates to uphold and therefore, they are impossible for me to know, or trust.

I recognize in myself all these pitfalls. I know I am capable of getting drawn into these same behaviors and emotions, which is why I don’t engage in politics with anyone, ever, if I can help it. I try to take a wider view (for which my father will call me a Pollyanna).

I believe that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are both good, decent men. They love God (as they know him); they love their country and they love their families. In their own way, they have served those ideals faithfully throughout their lives, along with those in need in our country and the world beyond. They might define “need” differently, but they looked to something larger than themselves upon which to base their lives and their work. Their attempts have earned my respect and though I despise the political rhetoric they both spewed during the election season when pandering to their party’s core, they have not quite lost it.

I do not know where America will end up. I know it cannot go back to the time where the WASPs ruled and everyone else fell to the back of the line. It breaks my heart to think that we might go the direction of European socialism, and the financial dependency and apathy that goes with it. I hope we Americans can find a way to reinvent our nation, and ourselves like we did over 200 years ago. Ultimately, I know that screaming, shouting and denigrating our political opponents will bring about NOTHING good. I can only vote with my conscience and do my best to live out the values that I profess to believe in: faith, hope and Love.”