Friday, November 18, 2016

So Now What?

I have said a lot of stuff on the blog this week.

I'm Not Racist, But...

Kindness Isn't Enough

What My Feelings Are Not

Defining My Faith

It's a lot. And it was pretty raw. And very therapeutic for me.

That doesn't mean I am now all better, though. It doesn't work that way.

I am still struggling but I am also trying to figure out what I am supposed to do now. What can I do that will impact change? Or that will protect change?

Am I called to get involved in politics and impact systemic change?

Am I called to do more volunteer work to focus on those who are marginalized?

Am I called to get involved at rallies and protests?

And then I struggle.... will any of it even matter?

I am watching as Trump entertains, taps and names known racists for cabinet positions and important jobs.

I am watching as friends share stories of hate directed at them or their loved ones.

I am watching as Americans, people who are supposed to believe in liberty and freedom and dignity, talk about a Muslim registry.

The fact that ANY of these things have to be explained as blatantly wrong is simply beyond the pale.

Clearly, action is required. There is no option to hide or "wait and see." The exact things that so many of us were afraid of are exactly what is happening.

But what do we do about it?

Here are some ideas.

1. Republicans Step Up. I have heard from Republican friends that they voted for Trump or know people who did but they weren't happy about it because of his bigotry. Well, now is the time for you to step up and be louder than the rest of us. You put him in office, now tell him that he is failing you. Talk to your fellow Republicans and demand action. Fighting bigotry is exactly where the country should be coming together.

2. Brush up on your Civics Lessons. There is a lot we all forget of what we learned in history and social studies back in school. You have to know how the systems work in order to influence change in those systems. This pdf is designed to help immigrants pass a citizenship test - so it seems like an ideal place to start. And this is a website designed to make learning about civics a little more fun and engaging. Finally, I've always enjoyed TED talks and here is a collection of various TED talks that cover civics topics.

3. Contact your government representatives - local, state, and federal. This also calls back to number 1. I live in a red state and have few Democrats to rely on to fight for things I believe in. So I need to make sure the elected Republicans understand that they also represent my voice in their office. You can use this website to find out who your representatives are. Mark your calendar to call your reps - call about specific legislation, call about topics that are important to you. Write a script and say the same thing every time if you have to. But your elected officials - especially if you didn't vote for them - need to be reminded that their agenda should be for all the people they represent, not just those who voted for them.

4. Get Involved. Decide on what is most important to you. And then put time towards what matters. Put money towards the groups that are fighting the systems.

5. Call Out Racism, Sexism, Xenophobia, Homophobia. This one is specifically for white people. For men. For Americans born in the US. For straight people. We are inside the culture that needs to change. When you hear comments or jokes or support of the things that you know are wrong, you have to be willing to speak up.  This one might be the most important, and maybe the hardest.

6. Mix Up Your Social Groups  If you look around at the people you spend time with and they are all basically just like you, it's time to mix it up. You are going to have to get very purposeful about widening your circle. Getting involved in volunteer organizations, finding a church with a more diverse population, finding groups that specifically seek to create bridges between communities - that's what needs to happen. Step outside of your bubble.

7. Have A Plan Ready  If you see someone being mistreated, know how you will handle it. I've prepped my middle schooler - told her that my expectation is that she get involved. Step in and get the victim out (I'm supposed to take you to the office). Get an adult to help. You don't have to confront the bigot/bully. But we can't turn a blind eye, turn our backs, look away. Every one of us has to be willing to step into a situation. You can step into the situation to be next to the person being attacked or taunted - be their ally and help them get to a safe place. Sit next to the woman in hijab on the bus. Stay close to the transgender person in your bathroom. Walk by the non-white person.

It's hard to find the drive to fight in the midst of reeling from what is happening all around us. But the reality is that what Trump said and showed is proving to be exactly the truth. We all said we were afraid of his supporters - the people who took his words as permission to fly the bigot flag and be very open about their nationalist and supremacist desires. We all said we were afraid of what Trump would do in office - and those fears are coming true as we watch him build his administration.

The reality is here. The fight has begun. Figure out what you can do and start doing it.





Thursday, November 17, 2016

Defining My Faith

I was doing research on another topic - civil discourse. And I was ruminating on this blog post. This week has essentially been my personal therapeutic post-election series. My relationship with God will always be the foundation of my healing.

So I'm reading and researching and ruminating. And I come across this pdf from an Episcopal church. The 6th page has a list of Scriptures, thoughts from Thomas Merton, and a prayer of Saint Francis. I looked up all the Scriptures. I read the words of Thomas Merton. I read and then prayed the prayer of Saint Francis. I can't really say it any better than it was all laid out in this one pdf page.





Did you read all that? How are you feeling after reading all of it?

Because I felt convicted. I felt like I was being reminded of my purpose. That how I treat others is what matters more than anything else, and especially matters more than how others treat me.

We are all connected - to each other and to God.  Help the poor, listen, protect people, show love, act justly, be humble, speak up, speak out.

Then I went on to read 1 Corinthians 12. It's the Scripture about all of us being the body - and we all have different parts to play. Click on it and go read it. It'll take a couple of minutes but it's important.

We each have a gift. We each have some way that God intends to use us for good.

And then there was that cliffhanger at the end. "Let me tell you of a more excellent way - love."

So I clicked on over to 1 Corinthians 13.

Go on, click over with me.

I can do all kinds of fancy and important stuff. But if I'm not loving people, it doesn't mean a damn thing.

Then there is all that well known, usually heard at weddings and stuff. But the love in this passage isn't just about romantic love. This is love between all people. This is love in action, being a verb. Love is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not easily angered, not selfish. All people are created by God. This love is how we should be treating each other. All of the each others. Our kids and our spouses, our friends, our congregations, our neighbors. Our parents and aunts and uncles and cousins. Our teachers and bosses and co-workers and fast food workers and toilet cleaners and doctors and bus drivers and cashiers and CEO's.

And even our president-elects.

*GULP*

And even the people who are using the example of the president-elect as the power behind their deplorable behavior.

*BIGGER GULP*

I'm not saying we all need to suck up all these feelings we've been having. Not in the SLIGHTEST. Because I have to read all of this along with the rest of the Scripture.

I have to figure out how to radically love all people. And stand up for the poor. And listen to those who are on the margins. And stand up against injustices. And see the connections between all of us and God. And be the voices of those on the margins.

So how on earth do I follow my faith and radically love everyone?

That's maybe where those gifts come in to play.

Someone out there has gifts that will allow them to preach love into the hearts of those whose hearts are hardened. Those who are lashing out against brown skinned people and non-Christian people and differently-abled people and non-male people and same sex loving people. The people whose hearts and minds and actions are overcome with hate need some seriously radical love and only God can break through those barriers.

God is the one who can tear down that wall. And Christ is the one who paid for it.

As for me, my call to love radically has always been focused on the people in those damn margins. People who haven't been "allowed" to know God's love in churches. People who have been mistreated, harmed, damaged, hurt, enslaved, killed - because of who God created them to be. And often times by people using the name of God to cause harm.

So there it is. The reminder.

Do what you've always done.

Except.

Things are different now. So do what you've always done but do it more, do it louder, do it for more people. Focus on the radical part of loving others. Because that's what's needed now more than ever. Radical, far-reaching, extensive, profound, sweeping, wide-ranging, complete and total acts of love beyond my circles, pulling people into my circles, and inside my circles.

It won't be easy. It requires risk, discomfort. My spirit needs a little more time to build up strength.

And then the radical love revolution begins.





Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What My Feelings Are Not

There seems to be a lot of confusion and assumptions about what the "election losers" are feeling.

I am sure that some people are feeling the disappointment of their candidate losing. I am sure that some people are concerned about what will happen on the issues that matter most to them. I am sure that some people are worried about a man taking this job who has no qualifications, no experience. I am sure there are people who are crushed at the loss of the first potential female president. I am sure some people are angry that the popular vote doesn't bear more weight and consequence.

I can't speak for all the people who either didn't vote or who voted against Trump or who voted for Clinton.

I do think it's important to speak about my own feelings, though. We are one week out from waking up to the news (or having only gotten a few hours sleep and waking up to the reality because we'd hoped the news was wrong) that Trump is now the president-elect.

I have been around long enough to see Republicans win some elections and Democrats win some elections. This isn't about that.

I have been around long enough to know that racism is real. Sexism is real. Homophobia is real. Xenophobia is real. And all of this existed before the election. While I think things are different than they were 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago (and so on), I did not live in a bubble that thought all these things had been eradicated.

Here's what my feelings are not.

I am not "in shock."

I am not having a pity party.

I am not being a sore loser.

I don't feel hatred towards Trump or his supporters.

Here's what I can determine that my feelings actually are:

I am angry. I am confused. I am worried. I am scared. I am sad. I am heartsick.

Not because a Republican won. Not because someone completely unqualified won. Not because someone completely inexperienced and ignorant to the job won.

But because there are people who voted this man into office and did not care or completely denied the awful things he said and implied and justified.

I look around me and I wonder.... Does that white guy recognize his racism and privilege? Does that white woman recognize the sexism she lives in and perpetuates? Would that straight guy deny service or condone violence against my gay friend?

Are people that I love and respect aware of the reality of bigotry and everything that it means?

It isn't that I think every white man or white woman is automatically a bigot. But I look at white skin and I make assumptions. I have questions. I have doubts. I don't trust. Same for men.

I know there are some good and loving and kind white people / men. They want to understand. Maybe the election result is their first time really having to face bigotry and hate. But how do I know? How do I know that your remark is well intentioned but simply lacking experience or understanding? How do I know if you are one of the "good" ones?

And a safety pin or a bumper sticker or a t-shirt isn't the answer.

The most important thing about the feelings I am having is that these are the feelings so many Americans live with and have lived with daily. For years. For centuries and decades. For some, these feelings are locked up inside their "closet." For some, these feelings are always screaming at them because you can't turn off the color of your skin. For some, these feelings are realized when they put on their hijab and feel the burn of hate and misunderstanding in the eyes that only see the headscarf.

And here's the thing. I can choose to turn off the feelings and just move on. I can choose to go back to life as usual. Because I am white and straight and Christian. I can blend in. I can turn a blind eye. To be completely honest, there is a good chance that will happen anyway. That what I am seeing and hearing and feeling this past week will end up becoming a new normal and I will become slightly numb to it.

I have the privilege of going numb if I want to. White, straight, Christian gives me that privilege.

But being a Christ-follower means I don't get to rest in that privilege. I am called to stay aware. I am called to love radically. I am called to fight injustice. Even if I am tired. Even if I am scared. Even if I just want to go numb.






Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Kindness Isn't Enough

We are 1 week past election day. And in the week that followed that election, there have been countless stories of women and minorities experiencing blatant, in your face hate.

I didn't want to share the stories but if you haven't heard about any of them (which would be a surprise), it's worth sharing. Keep in mind I am only going to share 5 stories and all 5 are things that either happened to someone I know personally or happened to a friend of a friend. These are not stories making the viral rounds. These are firsthand accounts.

A young woman who does not have white skin was approached and told she'd better enjoy the time she has left in this country. She is a college student and this is her first time experiencing blatant hatred because of the color of her skin.

A black female attorney was leaving the courthouse and a white man wearing a Trump hat walked up to her and told her to go back to where she came from.

A non-white woman was out for a run and a white teenager ran up to her and struck her on her bottom.

A white friend went to a peaceful protest and had a positive, peaceful experience. As she was walking back to her car, a large military truck with Trump/Pence signs on it drove up to her and the driver screamed at her out his window.... "Nigger lover."

An Episcopal church in southern Indiana was vandalized with graffiti - swastikas, "Heil Trump," and "fag church." The Episcopal Church is known for their progressive Christianity.

I am seeing people looking desperately for hope. Hanging on the possible "good" that they think the president-elect is doing when he looks in a camera and tell people committing acts of hate in his name to "stop it." Believing him when he makes a statement that the gay marriage law is already in effect so he won't overturn it afterall.

But then he names a known supremacist to a cabinet position.

But he doesn't change his rhetoric to truly address the hateful actions being done thanks to him or in his name.

But he doesn't state that Roe v Wade is also "already an existing law." Instead, he states he will get that one overturned.

I see people wanting desperately for things to go back to how they were before Nov 9 - when we woke up to this new, twisted world.

I see people wanting to practice "random acts of kindness" in response to the hate happening around them. Wanting to spread good news and warm fuzzies and stories of hope and humanity.

I have previously been one of those people. It's a tactic I've practiced often. Let's focus on good things, let's do good things. Not because I want to discount anyone's pain but because, honestly, I want to alleviate my own and also spread some love in the world.

It isn't enough anymore.

A string of people paying for each other's Starbucks isn't going to fix this.

All of the holiday generosity isn't going to fix this. Not even folks who go in and pay people's layaway bills or even past due utility bills.

Videos of cats afraid of cucumbers isn't going to fix this.

I don't have the answers. I'm going to keep saying that.

And I still think kindness is important. And we should be doing nice and generous and thoughtful things for each other.

But we can't expect those gestures to comfort people who are reeling, hurting. Yes, people need to see there is good in the world.

But please do more. Please. I know that I feel incredibly powerless. Maybe that's why a "random act of kindness" doesn't feel like enough. Because what we need are people in positions of power to create the needed gridlock to stop Trump from having power. Republicans who have been voted into office need to be willing to refuse his Supreme Court nominees, to stop legislation that will cause harm. And people who vote Republican need to make their voices heard to their chosen representatives - tell them you voted for them and tell them what you expect.

Please keep being kind. Maybe try focusing your kindness efforts on people who are most at risk right now.

Just don't get upset when people tell you it won't change the world right now.

I don't think any of us know exactly what to do right now. We want life to go back to normal. We want to be able to just focus on raising our kids and loving our friends and families and working our jobs and driving our cars and going on our vacations and celebrating our holidays.

But the world isn't normal right now. Normal has to be fought for and it is still going to look different when we come out of this.




Sunday, November 13, 2016

I'm Not Racist, But...

This is a phrase I've heard a lot lately.

I'm not racist. I'm not a bigot. I'm not sexist. I'm not homophobic. 

But I voted for Trump.

But I understand why others voted for Trump.

But "All Lives Matter."

But those protesters are too loud/violent/troublesome.

But.
But.
But.

I've struggled greatly this past week. I am not going to pretend like I have all the answers because I most certainly don't. I couple of days after the election, this was what I shared on Facebook:


And I've been doing a lot of thinking and searching and contemplating since.

This isn't about he won and she lost. This isn't about who "my" president is or isn't.

This is about a very ugly side of our society that has now been given validity and permission to change, in a dangerous way, our societal norms. 

For the sake of this blog post, I'm going to focus on racism. But this applies to any aspect of the hate speech and actions perpetuated in the past election season. Feel free to read it while thinking about your attitudes and thoughts about black people or Muslims or the LGBTQ community or women or survivors of sexual violence or disabled people or whatever.

A couple of points to remember.

1. Racism has existed a long, long, long time. Pretty much the entire history of America, in fact. Trump being elected President is not the cause of racism. 

2. Racism will continue to be around for a long time. If Trump had lost the election, racism would still be a reality.

3. This conversation is not for the people who voted for Trump in support of his hatred. This conversation is for the people who are baffled by the response or maybe understand it a little but not the intensity of it. 

4. Not everyone who voted for Trump is a bigot or filled with hate. Not every Republican is a bigot or filled with hate. Not every Democrat is open minded and affirming and loving. 


A big question I've heard from some people is.... how can I be ok with people who voted for Trump or who support people who voted for Trump? How can I get past my anger and hurt and reconnect to people I love or care about?

Well, here's the answer that has been rolling around in my brain.

I will embrace these people because I was once embraced when I was ignorant about racism, too. 

In high school, I became friends with a group of girls and all of them were black. Now, there was no test or questions asked about what I thought of black people or my life experience involving black people. We just got along and had fun and friendships grew. And over the years, through conversations with my friends, through time in a club at school, through experiencing the lives of my friends, I had to face the realization that I was racist.

By virtue of being white, I was racist. 

But I was willing to learn and change and grow. That's what my friends helped me do. There wasn't an agenda or a checklist. None of them had this idea that they were somehow going to take this white girl and teach her how to be not-racist. But it was a natural occurrence. It was a natural consequence of spending time with people who were black.

In college, I didn't know many black people at all. But I did start to connect to other non-white people. Phillipino and Indian and Middle Eastern and Chinese and more. But it was in college that I took a hard look at racism, thanks to my social work degree program. I learned a lot about American history that wasn't really talked about in standard education. I learned about statistics. I learned about the idea of "mob mentality." I learned about societal norms and prejudice. I learned about social injustice.

After college, I started my career in social work. The agency I worked for had a focus on diversity and part of that included a brown bag lunch series designed to encourage conversations about race. This was around the time of Rodney King and the subsequent riots. I was a 23 or 24 year old white girl and as I listened to the experiences of the older black women in the room, I found that I wanted to wave my arms and sing "Good news! I'm not racist! I'm the hope of the future! You can trust me!" The conversation turned to the riots in Los Angeles. And to the idea that a group of black people had attacked a white person. And I very much wanted to know what to do - I'm white and I would want to be part of fighting injustice but is there some way to let people know that I'm not a racist or a bigot or whatever? So that I don't end up attacked? Some way to let them now that I'm one of the good white people? 

That was remarkably ignorant. And pretty damn racist of me. I basically was saying that I wanted my white privilege to allow me safety. That my whiteness should somehow be able to rescue people or be appreciated by black people.

When the response was that a white person getting beat up was.... well.... too bad, so sad.... I was angry. And hurt. I thought it was a really terrible answer. I thought they were the ones being racist! 

And it took another 15 years of reliving that conversation and that idea for it to start to really crack my brain open. 

Take a jump forward and ask me again - how can I love, care about, embrace, help the people who don't see that they are part of this hurt and anger?

I will because my black friends embraced me when I was a racist and didn't know it.

I will because my black co-workers were honest with me about my racism.

I will because my white college professor believed in teaching a bunch of privileged white kids about what racism really is - and she didn't hold back or try to protect our feelings. 

I don't have all the answers. Especially not right now. But if you are willing to really set aside what you think you know and listen, I am willing to be in that discussion with you. I am willing to learn with you. I am willing to find answers together. 

Maybe that is how we all start moving forward. 










Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dear Trump Supporters

I'm sorry.

I have realized in the past weeks that many of the people I know who support Trump are people who are afraid. I hear it in interviews, I read it in Facebook posts, I see it in the articles and hear it in the sound bites.

For the past 8 years, you have been living in fear. You have not felt safe under President Obama. And you are probably confused and angry as to why other people haven't been feeling this same way.

For 8 years, you have been certain that your family is in danger. That your home is about to be attacked by terrorists. That your ability to defend yourself and your loved ones is on the verge of being taken away from you. That your jobs will either end up moved to a foreign country or be taken over by immigrants.

I can see how scared you are and I can see that spending 8 years living in that fear has directed you toward Trump. He speaks very directly to those fears. He acknowledges and validates your fear and your anger and he promises that he is big enough and brave enough and smart enough to make you feel safe.

He points to the people who are driving your fear - ISIS and Muslims and Obama and Clinton. He validates that you are under siege, under attack.

I am sorry that you have lived in fear.

I know what that feels like - but in a different way.

It takes a lot of bravado to cover up fear. You want to speak to it by pointing to your enemy and by creating enemies to pin blame on. You need an outlet for this underlying certainty that they government's leadership is working to destroy your freedoms.

Living in fear is a terrible and stressful way to live.

I am not going to try and convince you that your fears are unfounded. I am not going to try and point out the perspective on "the other side" of your viewpoints. I am not going to try to sway your political standing.

I just want you to know that I am trying to understand. And what I am hearing and seeing is stress and fear and anger. Serious concerns that your family's safety is at risk. Serious concern that your neighborhood or city will be the next terrorist target. Serious concern that your financial security - whether you have savings and securities or you are living paycheck to paycheck - is going to be stolen away.

I have lived part of my life in fear and under great anxiety. I understand what it feels like to try and keep it all together while feeling like you are cracking on the inside. I know the feeling of hope that comes when you think someone understands and can make it better.

I'm not anyone with any power or with any answers. I walk out my front door each day and I am not afraid of what the day holds. I do not have the fears that you have so I can't fully connect to where you are coming from. I'm not claiming any personal responsibility, either.

But.

I just want you to know that I am sorry. Because living in fear is a terribly stressful and negative way to live and it hurts my heart that this is the place that people are in right now.

I truly do wish that there was a stronger sense of common ground where all Americans could stand together. I wish we had unity and connection, not division and finger pointing. I wish we had One Thing We Can Agree On so we would all have a place to stand where we don't have to feel constantly under attack, afraid, angry, opposed, in constant conflict.








Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fishing

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

This idea came up in a conversation recently. A man's church is finding themselves in an argument because some church members don't like that the church has a community meal that feeds the hungry. They want the church to offer classes and resources to teach the hungry to be self-sufficient.

Why can't we do both?

I guess I just think the compassionate response to a hungry person is to feed them.

If I come upon a naked person, am I going to leave them naked while I teach them to sew? Or am I going to give them my shirt?

And who says they don't already know how to fish? Maybe what they are lacking is a full belly, a safe and comfortable place to sleep, mental health care, a fishing pole and net, and a safe, healthy place to catch fish.

I'm sure this isn't some new idea. But it just struck me - why is it one or the other? Why can't it be a parallel path? Feed the hungry person. And if you can be part of a longer term solution to resolve what is causing them to be hungry in the first place, do that, too.

Too. Also. In addition. Likewise.

And you know what really slays me? There is this idea that the give vs teach idea is somehow Bible or Christian based. And there are Christians who believe that it is, too.

It isn't.

When Jesus fed the 5,000, he didn't take the small amount of fish and the small bit of bread and look at the hungry people and say, "Go get a few nets and some boats, find a quiet place to cast the nets into the water, Wait patiently to fill your net with fish and pull the net in slowly."

Nope. The disciples said - let's tell them to go buy themselves food because we only have this small amount. Jesus said not to send anyone away and then he fed thousands and thousands of people.

He never taught them to fish. He didn't send them away. He just fed them. And even had leftovers!