Posted by: minnow | January 16, 2017

A Lesson from Dr. King

In his final address, I Have Been to the Mountain Top, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, had God asked him in which era he would want to live he would have passed over each time period right up until his own and he would have land right there. With a reputation for focusing on racial divides, King was in Memphis at the time to support the striking sanitation workers, having recently turned his attention toward what he understood was an even deeper divider of men–poverty. The next day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
I do not know if I could agree with Dr. King’s choice of when to live. I am not sure I would want to know how greed and fear has held us, since his death, in such slow motion that at times we seem to be racing backwards. In his address, King reminded his listeners that, “whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it…He kept the slaves fighting among themselves.” Then King urged his audience, “Now let us maintain unity.” I believe, had he lived, Dr. King would have broadened his sphere of advocacy and influence to include not only Black America but poor hispanic America and poor white America as well.  I could be wrong, but as Martin Luther King gave his speech that day in Memphis to people getting ready to march in support of better pay and better treatment of the mostly Black sanitation workers, I believe his eyes were focused on a fight they had not yet imagined, a struggle which would require people of color to link arms with white people, people of one faith to stand shoulder to shoulder with people of another faith, straight people to hold hands with people in the LGBT communities, a battle King believed was right around the corner but as it turns out was over fifty years in the future, the injustice of growing income inequality plaguing America today.
The haves, the wealthiest 1% in America, are doing everything in their power to hold on to their power.   And so far so good. Leading into the most recent election, they managed to keep the rest of us fighting among ourselves, fearful of one another instead of them.  They used the fear of lost jobs and a disappearing way of life to fuel distrust, even hatred toward people who do not look like “us”, pray like “us”, or love like “us” despite the fact “they” are more like us than the people holding the pursestrings.  Those in control let us believe and at times lead us to believe undocumented workers, refugees, and immigrants are stealing our jobs, when in fact, most manufacturing jobs have been lost to automation and will never “come back”.  But, the tough talk worked.  We elected a bully and his gang without understanding that “we”–all of us together who do not belong to the 1%–are the only ones on the playground the Bully now controls.
The majority in the House and the majority in the Senate are poised to undo every safety net that has ever been built for the poor, the  working class, and women. They plan to deregulate banks and undo environmental protections.  The Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) is already in process of being dismantled and women’s healthcare via Planned Parenthood defunded.  If Trump’s pick for Sec. of Education has her way, funding for public education will be siphoned off and land in the pockets of private education instead.  Civil rights including voting rights seem to be on the chopping block.  The guarantees of the first amendment to free speech, the right to assemble, and a free press exist now under the shadow of an oppressor’s hand.
As Americans–Black, White, Native American, Muslim, Christian, Gay and Straight, Americans of all shapes, colors, creeds, genders, and age groups–the time has come to muster our courage and heed the wise council of Dr. King, “Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis.”  It has been nearly 53 years since Martin Luther King delivered his I’ve Been to the Mountain Top speech. 53 years. Today (1/16) we celebrate more than the man.  We celebrate his achievements, his wisdom, and perhaps most importantly, given the event that is scheduled in just four short days, his vision.
When he spoke to those who had gathered with him to support striking union workers and to engage in a peaceful protest for justice, for truth, for equality, and for human dignity, I believe he was also speaking to us, this day, as we face an uncertain future.  In the words of Dr. King:
Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness…Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.
Let us not allow King’s challenge to pass unanswered. We must bind our hearts and futures together if we are to overcome fear and replace it with courage, thwart the power of greed and substitute the potency of generosity, defeat the emptiness of hate and distrust and exchange it for the fulness of compassion.  The time is long over due to finish the work King started in Memphis.
Posted by: minnow | December 29, 2016

Dear Trump Supporters

Josh Moon tries to explain Trump supporters in his column from the Alabama Political Reporter saying, “we in Alabama – in a number of conservative strongholds across America – have somehow started confusing bravado with actual strength.”  Bullies, like Trump, and make no mistake BULLY assesses his character perfectly, not only mask their insecurities through big talk and little forethought, they attract others who are equally insecure and who do not want their fragility found out.

Secure people don’t look like Trump and his supporters. They don’t hate other people.  They don’t blame other people or groups for their own lack of success.  They don’t continually draw attention to their resumes.  They don’t need to tell others they are strong, or capable, or smart.  Secure people simply are who they are.  They do the work in front of them and others, out of admiration, point out their strengths and successes, use them as role models, and follow their lead.

Frankly, I no longer care WHY you supported Trump.  I do still care about what he and his unqualified, band of bullies plan and whether or not the equally inept Congress will help them beat up the Nation or hold them accountable.

These  people’s are Trump’s best for the nation.

Steve Bannon is Trump’s chief White House strategist.  Before signing on with Trump in August, Bannon was the executive chairman of Breitbart News Network. Bannon himself labeled it “a platform for the alt-right”.  If you are unfamiliar with the alt-right think of the white supremacists and anti-feminist in suits and ties.  Their latest hate vehicle–social media.

Rex Tillerson is his pick for Secretary of State.  Tillerson has been cozy with Russia for 2 decades. Putin awarded him Russia’s Order of Friendship in 2013.  As the CEO of Exxon Mobil, his oil dealing with Russia are currently blocked by U.S. sanctions against Russia which were left in place just last month because Russia refused to agree to a cease fire against the Ukraine.

For Attorney General, Trump picked Jeff Sessions.  In 1986 he was deemed too racist to be a judge.  He is anti-immigration and thinks the only bad thing about the KKK is they smoke marijuana. As AG, he will provide the president with legal advice and determines what legal cases the federal government pursues.

Trump tapped Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA. Ironically, EPA stands for the Environmental PROTECTION Agency.  Pruitt has received over $300,000 in contributions from gas, oil, and coal companies.  He currently has a law suit pending against EPA.  Can you say–conflict of interest?

Ryan Zinke* is Trump’schoice for Secretary of the Interior.  Charged with protecting public lands Zinke’s dismal track record caring about the environment seems par for the course for Trump.  Zinke favors fracking, for example, and stands against the Endangered Species Act. He received a 3% favorable mark from the League of Conservation Voters. That’s an F folks.  (*If you read the article, also read the first comment).

Betsy DeVos never taught in, went to, or sent her children to public school, yet she is Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education.  DeVos tried for years to funnel public money to private education in Michigan and will undoubtedly do the same as Trump’s flunky.  She has fought teacher’s unions for years believing teachers should not have the right to protest.  No wonder some believe she is public education’s enemy #1!

A retired neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, Trump’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development pick, described himself as not  experienced enough to run the Department of Health and Human Services. Yet, somehow childhood poverty qualifies him to run HUD.

Trump’s pick for the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, not only wants to abolish the ACA, he plans to cut Medicare benefits–you know the tax you paid into for years, that isn’t connected to the budget, is self sustaining, and covers your health care after you retire.  He also believes insurance companies shouldn’t be required to cover birth control and is anti-abortion rights. Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, not to be confused with the larger and more reputable AMA. The group Price champions is responsible for spreading medically questionable information like: immunizations cause autism.

Though some believed his promise to drain the swamp, Trump’s former financial advisor, Steve Mnuchin, is his pick for Secretary of Treasury. Prior to jumping on board the Trump cruise ship Mnuchin both worked for Goldman Sachs and was CEO of Dune Capital Management, a hedge fund. Trump and Mnuchin are alike in some ways–both made their first million through inheritance, have had business dealings plagued by racial discrimination accusations, and could be the poster child for the 1% who have taken from the 99%.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s chosen National Security Advisor was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency after only two years.  He has shared security information with foreign countries without permission and is extremely anti-Muslim.  Like his boss, he is impatient and outspoken, not risks our national security can afford.

As a final example of Trump’s picks, Andy Puzder his nominee for Labor Secretary is described by Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, Christian Owens, as the least suited person for the job. Owens contends, “Puzder will be there for his low-wage-industry CEO buddies, who are now salivating over the prospect of rolling back the Obama administration’s efforts to raise pay for low-wage workers, improve workplace safety, and increase corporate accountability.” Clearly, Puzder won’t be there for the American worker.

The net worth of Trump’s groupies is $4.5 billion dollars plus, a 60% increase over the cabinet they will replace.  Instead of draining the swamp, Trump has filled it with alligators.  So dear Trump supporters, when good paying jobs don’t return from China and you must choose between working for less due to “Right to Work” laws or having the plant close; when Obamacare is repealed and your premiums–the insurance companies raised to begin with–go up again to make up their lost revenue and you suddenly can’t afford your prescriptions and your previous medical condition won’t be covered; when your children’s schools can’t afford new technology, books, or building repairs and teachers are no longer willing to subsidize their students’ education materials with their own dwindling paychecks, when your sons and daughters are sent to war because our president couldn’t keep his tweets to himself or we must protect “our oil” (in someone else’s country) or “we’re gonna show those blankity-blank-blanks they can’t tell the U. S. what to do”, remember you elected this Bully because he was going to Make America Great Again. His failure does not need to be yours.  You are not stuck choosing bravado over truth and integrity. Real strength, Alligator wrestling strength, will be needed if we are going to take America back from the Bullies.

 

 

Posted by: minnow | December 25, 2016

Happy Chanukah!

Posted by: minnow | December 17, 2016

I Do Not Believe

That’s not a very popular thing to say this time of year.  As a little girl learning Santa and the Easter Bunny weren’t real changed my perspective.  One Easter Mom simply made the announcement: the Easter Bunny wasn’t coming to our house any more.  I didn’t believe her. So, Easter morning I got up and hunted for treats in all the usual places, but Mom was correct; he’d quit coming.  I probably already knew the Easter Bunny and Santa were Mom and Dad but my spirit was bruised a little anyway. Santa still showed up the following December (Mom was a bigger fan of the Christmas traditions than the Easter ones ), but the season had lost its magic.

As a parent, I wanted the joys of the holidays to last for my children. I also was against intentionally lie to them.  So, I told my children lots of stories about Santa.   We enjoyed secretly filling stockings on Christmas Eve and hiding eggs for Easter morning. Our fun lasted well beyond the time our children might have quit “believing”.  In fact, all the way to adulthood my children filled one another’s stockings in secret and took turns wearing a Santa or elf hat to hand out presents Christmas morning.  But, this post isn’t actually about the pros and cons of telling your children Santa is real.  It isn’t even about childhood disappointments though that comes a little closer.

The truth is, a foundation from my childhood has been pulled out from under me and I feel like I’m toppling over.  I’m not talking about a childhood fairytale most children simply grow out of believing as they mature, like Santa Claus. I’m talking about my faith in America.  A fundamental piece of my identity has crumbled and I don’t know how to stand straight anymore.  Those who stand up straight are usually proud of something, confidant, and ready to face the day. I don’t feel at all ready and I am certainly not proud.

I was taught though she has faults America was basically good.  We were birthed during a revolution to end tyranny.  We stood against a monarch who saw tax revenues instead of people.  Brother battled brother to preserve a Union and to free the slaves.  We joined our friends in Europe and defeated Hitler and the Nazis, madness and fascism.  We lost JFK, and King, and Bobby, but the Civil Rights Act was passed, and the Voting Rights Act was passed, and separate but equal was debunked. We resisted communism, saw a wall come down, and the break up of the U.S.S.R. When America witnessed oppression, discrimination, and intolerance she put on her white hat and went to the rescue.  We were the beacon of freedom and justice for all.  Even if it meant doing battle with ourselves, as a nation we banded together, looked to the greater good, the truth that would serve the whole, and righted the wrong.  That was the America I believed would prevail, the America I trusted, the America I pledged my allegiance to.  That was the America of my childhood.  But today that America stands broken, like me, she looks to be toppling over.

After 50 plus years of believing in a dream, I have woken up. What I’ve awakened to is not a good nation with flaws we can overcome by majority rule or by ignoring them as we’ve done in the past, but rather a fragile framework which depends entirely on the good character of her people, including her leadership but not exclusively, to function as she was designed to function.  If we the people are not willing to stand for more than our own self interests, if we the people are not willing to see the “other” as deserving, if we the people are not willing to look in the mirror and be repulsed by the greed, the bigotry, and the fear staring back at us, if we the people are not willing to do the work to change what is wrong, our national integrity–that which is good–will not survive.

Before Trump, I could tell myself we were taking steps in the right direction. Small steps to be sure, and for those waiting to be recognized painfully slow steps, but steps never the less.  Today, the veil has been ripped.  The election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence followed by Trump’s assault via advisors and cabinet picks on the principles and values I thought were American makes it impossible to believe anyone but the very wealthy will benefit from a future America.

The religious right and the white working class who supported Trump are in for a rude awakening. Deals like Trump’s Carrier bribe will provide some camouflage, but until Americans are working for nothing like their overseas competition, the working class will continue to loose ground in terms of jobs.  As more Unions are broken, wages will freeze.  Re-training programs will stagnate or never materialize.  The safety nets for the unemployed will disappear and those young enough will likely be funneled into the military or turn to crime.  Privatized prisons will provided an unpaid labor force, the new indentured servants.  NGO’s, including religious organizations, will be expected to pick up the slack in order to care for the poor and disabled. And, while Donald Trump will placate the religious right as long as it benefits him to do so, his current alliance should not be misunderstood as a submissive embrace.  Trump submits to no one, including God.

The biggest difference between Trump’s America and Hitler’s Germany is: America’s military has nukes and we already spend several times more on our military than our closest adversary, which until recent events was Russia.  With regard to our Second Amendment rights, I’ve always said our guns are no match  for the fire power of our own government.  Today I will add, do not be surprised if it’s a President Trump who decides who can own a gun and who cannot.

THIS is not my America. But all too soon, it could be the nation in which I live.  I pray I am wrong.

 

Posted by: minnow | December 8, 2016

What Have We Done?

We elected a man who isn’t even interested is receiving intelligence briefings.

We elected a man whose VP believes you can torture the gay out of people.

We elected a man who picked a white nationalist as his chief strategist.

We elected a man who wants a climate change denier to be the head of the Environmental PROTECTION Agency.

We elected a man who wants to hand the Attorney General job to a someone deemed too racist to be a judge in 1986, who doesn’t think grabbing a woman by her pussy without her consent is sexual assault, and who thought the KKK was okay until someone told him they smoked pot.

We elected a man who wants a private school advocate to have control of PUBLIC education, someone who has never been a public school teacher or administrator or student.

We elected a man whose pick as National Security Advisor has a history of breaking the rules including giving classified information to other nations without approval and who, like his boss, has a habit of making up facts.

We elected a man whose pick for Health and Human Services is no friend to women.  He is vehemently anti-abortion but also doesn’t believe insurers should have to pay for birth control.

We elected a man whose pick for Housing and Urban Development admitted to having no government experience and whose only qualification until it was recently revealed to be a lie was that he lived in public housing as a kid.

We elected a man who wants to turn off the internet in certain areas of the United States as a security measure.

We elected a man who thinks he can make a foreign country pay for something he wants built but it might not.

We elected a man who turns to Twitter every time someone bruises his ego. And, we elected a man who uses Twitter every time he wants to distract us from the truth of what he is actually doing and who he is.

DON’T GET ME WRONG, I am not calling our president-elect stupid.  Quite the opposite. Donald Trump knows exactly what he’s doing and with whom he has surrounded himself, which is precisely what scares me.  He pulled the wool over the eyes of the electorate once, keying into and exaggerating our frustration with Washington and the state of the economy, using colloquial language to seem more relatable, directing our hostility by scapegoating minority groups, and appealing to the working class though he himself shipped jobs overseas. His most recent stint of “saving” 800 (though he claimed 1100) Carrier jobs by bribing the company with a $7 million dollar tax break and then demonizing their steelworkers rep, Kelly Ray Hugunin when Hugunin criticized him is a case in point. Donald Trump is skilled in the art of pitting one person, one group, against another.  He built his television persona doing just that.  And, he will continue to use it as a strategy as long as it keeps working.  He doesn’t care who or what he hurts, just ask Boeing.

Bill Clinton used to be know as Mr. Teflon meaning no negativity stuck to him.  Well Donald Trump makes Clinton look like a magnet.  We all know Donald Trump is wealthy.  We know he filed multiple bankruptcies and faced thousands of law suits.  We know he didn’t want to reveal his tax returns and that the small loan from his father that started him out in Business was for a million dollars.  If we were listening we also know that up until recently Donald Trump was a democrat.  He donated to Hillary Clinton’s presidential run in 2008.  He supported multiple other politicians over the years and always expected big favors in return.  In fact, during the debates when he spared with Jeb Bush over a casino Bush said Trump wanted but didn’t get, Trump bragged, “If I wanted it, I would have gotten it.” But for some reason the negative connotations of these facts haven’t stuck.  Nor has it mattered that Trump refused to pay people who he hired to help build his casinos, that he continually uses offensive language when talking about women, or that much of his language and behavior are racist.  Republicans still give him a pass, evangelicals still give him a pass, and much of white America still gives him a pass.

Donald Trump’s appointments and advisors send a clear message to the American people if we are bothering to listen. He plans to gut the government. His goal is to create chaos. He intends to denigrate those who oppose him with slander, lies, and constant belittling.  He means to build his own wealth and the wealth of those who prove loyal. And he doesn’t care who or what is squashed in the process.  His is the most unqualified cabinet in the history of our government.  Men and women have been put in positions they have neither the experience nor temperament to navigate, let alone lead.  And those who oppose this sort of juvenile, dangerous, behavior are continuously told to give him a chance!

A chance to do what exactly?! Skip town before somebody nukes us?!! Hyperbole?  I hope so.

James Mattis, Trump’s proposed Secretary of Defense, once said, “Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”  Let us hope that continues to be the advice he gives the President-elect.  In the meantime, thinking America needs to remain on high alert.  Make known the impact of Trumps words and behavior.  Follow the actions of your Senators and Representatives.  Replace ALL of those who do not act in our best interest.  To re-appropriate an old proverb: When is the best time to take back the government? 20 years ago, but the second best time is now.

 

Posted by: minnow | December 7, 2016

There are over 20 holidays between Thanksgiving and New Years so if my greeting to you gets yours wrong you can choose: return my greeting with a Happy, Merry, Joyous Whatever as your faith allows or Ba-humbug me and feel like Scrooge the rest of the day.  As for me…Happy, Merry, Joyous Day!

Posted by: minnow | December 6, 2016

Get Over It: Resist

A petition to stop the Anti-Trump protesting popped up on my FB news feed last week.  I was taken back a bit since I’d heard rumors that FB had started grooming people’s news feeds so they got more of the types of posts they were likely to “like” and fewer of the ones they wouldn’t.  Then I noticed the names of the people who “liked” the article.  Three people I knew from where I used to worship.  I read the article. The comments alone made my heart sick.  Most blamed “liberals” for everything wrong in our country. The rest ordered those who hadn’t voted for Trump to “get over it!”

Well, I’m not going to get over it, at least not any time soon.  Nor, I suspect, will you.

Call me liberal, I prefer progressive but liberal doesn’t offend me.  Since liberals have been a part of every good thing that happened in this country. Sure their party affiliation changed, like when Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt were elected. But, their politics moved the country forward while striving to make all her citizens safe, equal, and free.

Call me divisive if it helps you sleep at night. But let me tell you something about division.  When you blame those who shine the light on evil by suggesting  the light created the evil, you have deceived yourself. Light only revealed what already existed.  Let me repeat that: light only reveals what already exists. And, the light must continue to expose evil, so the marginalized and the falsely accused can instead be welcomed at the table.  Hate, due to racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia’ or whatever other fear an oppressor uses to see someone as less than, must be exposed.

So in this instance, I hope am divisive.  A divide should exist between those whose words and behavior harm and hate, and those who claim to follow Christ, who believe in equality, or who think freedom and justice are values worthy of a fight. I want a clear distinction to exist between those two groups of ideas because the minute we let even a little racism, or sexism, or xenophobia, or homophobia creep in, we have lost our right to claim support of or allegiance to the principles of equality, freedom, and justice.  The second we give in to our fears, our insecurities, our ego, or our greed and begin to think of, talk of, or treat any “other” as less valuable, less important, or less worthy than ourselves, we are no longer following Christ. Period.

So go ahead, tell me to “get over it”, but understand this. My answer is NO. I will NOT normalize evil by playing nice.  I will NOT spare your sensibilities by keeping my mouth closed.  I will NOT act as if Donald Trump’s words and behavior to date have been normal, are presidential, or should be followed.  He has shown himself to be self consumed and dangerous.  He has disclosed his disregard for any authority above himself.  He has revealed his distain for others. He has demonstrated his ignorance of or complete lack of concern for the Constitution and its roll in protecting the citizenry. You can bet what little good may come from anything he puts forth is an unintentional byproduct of some greater benefit to himself. I do not believe it is hyperbole.  By electing Donald Trump we have opened Pandora’s box.

So instead of getting over it, I plan to wake up.  I plan to get more involved in the political process than I have ever been.  I plan to be vocal about what I know to be good and right and decent about America.  I plan to link arms with my friends and make new friends with whom to link arms.  Ignorance and fear have made their choice.  What is left to be seen is what good may prevail and who will stand up.

Posted by: minnow | November 25, 2016

When Life Tilts

To give thanks.

I am having difficulty this year, not because I don’t have a lot to be grateful for, but because fear took up residence in my heart after the election and has worked hard to push all other feelings aside.  I am truly nervous for the future–the future of our country and my own family’s future.  I want my children to be safe and happy.  Not happy exactly;  I want my children to be content with where they’re heading which really means, I want them both to be heading somewhere rewarding and confident they will get there.  In other words, my goal for my children is that they have hope.

This election, the current result of this election, has tampered with my hope and the hope I had for my children’s futures.  Yes, I have my health, food on my table, and a roof over my head.  I have a job, a car, a comfy bed.  I have many things other people around the world are not fortunate enough to have, to the point that not feeling thankful or not acknowledging my blessings makes me a privileged snob and I feel guilty for my lack of gratefulness. So yes, I ought to get over myself.  But, I’ve lost something and I want it back.

Proverbs 13:12 teaches us that, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”  Personally, I feel sick.  And no, not from gorging myself at Thanksgiving dinner.  I am heart sick, overwhelmed by all the reports of harassment, intimidation, and violence, dejected by the lack of concern from those who demand I give Trump a chance and claim they aren’t sexist, racist, homophobic, or xenophobic. I am demoralized by most of the President-elect ‘s appointments. And, I feel helpless with regard to the on-going events at Standing Rock.  Article after article on my news feed predicts gloom and doom for our country.  And from Trump’s supporters?  Jeering and hostility, or worse–silence.

My brain has  tilted somehow and I cannot push it back to where it was.  I don’t have a better way to explain how this election has impacted me.  As a relatively safe person–because I’m white, because I’m educated, because I live in a rural community, and because I have a steady job–I haven’t personally felt the impact of what happened, so being off kilter like this doesn’t make sense. And that is precisely my problem–I can’t make sense of this.

Trump’s horrific treatment of women,  xenophobic and racial slurs, mismanagement of money, abuse of employees, and manipulation of bankruptcy laws and tax codes were well-documented and often repeated.  His verbiage and behavior doesn’t square with the work ethic and moral fiber of the American I knew and believed in, yet he was elected.  I don’t want to believe that many Americans are racist or sexist.  I don’t want to believe that many people are ready to abandon our principles of liberty and justice for all.  And in fact when I listen to the other side, I hear many people argue that it is because they believe in those principles that they voted they way they did.  They say they are tired of a government that has forgotten the  needs of the working middle class, a government that caters to the whims of wealthy, a government that does not treat all people equally.  That is why they elected the “outsider”.  It was a perfect storm–people wanting change and a tough talking anti-politician offering to give it to them.  But now that the hurricane has been  unleashed, we need to learn to navigate the gale forces about to hit our shores.  I know not everyone sees a storm coming but that lack of knowledge won’t protect them.  And, I can’t shut my eyes and pretend I don’t see what I see.  Fear cast a long shadow but perfect love casts out fear.

This Thanksgiving as I contemplate what I ought to be thankful for I am reminded of another passage of scripture, Isaiah 42:4 “He will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”  Christians claim this prophesy points to Jesus.  According to the Gospels the ministry of love Jesus walked out was often accomplished one person at a time–administering justice, healing a person’s wounds, addressing individual brokenness, and infusing the discouraged with hope.

So, it might not be much, but this year I am grateful for Christ’s one person model.  It helps to revive my hope and that restores my balance.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: minnow | November 23, 2016

“I am a Muslim”

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, recently promised if the United states began a registry of Muslims he, “a proud Jew”, would register as a Muslim.  A FB group I follow ran the article and the comments filled with others making the same pledge.  I wanted to.  I even started to add my name.  Then my brain began playing scenarios–what if someone held my son or daughter at gun point and insisted if I was a Muslim my child must also be.  I tried to reason with my brain telling myself, “I would just say I converted but my child did not.” It didn’t matter.  In that moment I knew their threat engaged my fear and trapped me.  Only when push came to shove would I know my true character. As much as I wanted to add my name to the comments, I didn’t actually know what I would do.

My thinking quickly turned to history.  I thought about all the Christians who were fed to the lions and the Romans who  converted to Christianity under Constantine rather than be crucified.  I thought about the Crusades and about how Native Americans were treated by whites as settlers “expanded” the West. Over and over through out history people groups have been told, “convert or die.”  Eventually, I returned to the original post. The idea of converting in order to line up with those slated to die was pretty novel. (And please, don’t insult my intelligence; we all know registration was simply the first step to Hitler’s gas chambers). The more I thought about it, the more I was struck by what an amazing feat it would be if enough non-Muslims registered as Muslim to put a wrench in the whole plan.  But, who would line up?  I was certain I could name people from history–Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boom, Martin Luther King–people of faith and principle.  But what about now?

Surly some would come forward, modern day men and women of faith and principle who would stand with Mr. Greenblatt.  I thought about Larycia Hawkins, a Wheaton College professor who wore a hijab not long ago as a symbol of support for Muslim women. She took a stand, lined up on the side of compassion and justice and was summarily fired from Wheaton, a Christian institution.    Then I thought about other religious voices, like Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson.  I remembered their defense of Trump even in the wake of his blatant racist and sexist remarks.  I thought about all the name calling, finger pointing, and hat speech reported about Trump’s followers since the election. And I thought about the stunning silence of these same Christian voices.

Just to be clear, we have had plenty of opportunities to speak out since the election.  The most recent update from the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s Hatewatch lists over 200 anti-immigration incidents of harassment or intimidation since November 8, with over 50 directed specifically against Muslims.  If we add other targeted groups, such as Blacks and people from the LGBT community, the incidents number over 700.  These are staggering numbers, especially when you consider for every reported incident, we can expect a dozen or more that go unreported.

Back in high school in my world history class I used to wonder about the German people.  How could they allow Hitler to commit such horrific acts against 6 million Jews?  In my naïve self-righteousness I over looked the fact that Hitler also killed 5 million non-Jews in his camps and gas chambers.  These deaths included: half a million Gypsies who were also seen as inferior to the pure German race, 5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses for refusing to pledge their allegiance to the Nazi cause, between 5,000 and 15,000 homosexuals labeled deviants, thousands of mentally ill and disabled people, nearly 3,000 Catholics many of whom were priests, and as many as 3 million who were merely part of the resistance.

SO, what’s my point?

To begin with, today we can see how easy it is to ignore the hate inspired violence and  intimidation occuring right before our eyes. Fear and self preservation kick in and we choose to keep our heads down rather than step forward or speak out.  Secondly, by ignoring the fact that multiple groups were targeted by Hitler, we  can tell ourselves that what happened in Germany can’t possibly happen again, especially in the United States. Besides, we don’t hate Jews.  Yet.  Although President-elect Trump, his advisors, his future cabinet members, and his faithful followers have already begun to advocate policies such as the registration of specific people groups, rescinding the civil rights of certain citizens, conversion therapy for “deviants”, and racial segregation, we are cautioned by Republicans and evangelicals alike, that comparing Trump to Hitler is hyperbole bordering on hysteria.  Sadly, most will listen. They ‘ll temper their objections and take a let’s wait and see what happens with the real issues.

Meanwhile, brave men like Jonathan Greenblatt, who have drawn their lines in the sand, are left to wonder if others will recognize push has come to shove.  The time to choose between our fear and stepping forward is now.  Greenblatt’s declaration of solidarity with the Muslim people is not for those of us standing on the sidelines, a now or never challenge.  But, it is a warning shot across the bow of our indifference toward the injustice, oppression, and evil perpetrated on our fellow Americans.  At some point the rest of us will be called on to draw a line in the sand or turn our heads in shame.

I know what it is like to make a vow I cannot keep, so I will not sign my name to a pledge that might cost me nothing now but could cost me everything later.  I will, however continue to speak out.  I will continue to advocate for justice, inclusion, and equality.  And I will pray that when history and my Maker are ready to judge my witness, I will not be found wanting.

 

 

Posted by: minnow | November 17, 2016

At the End of the Day

cropped-img_36431.jpgTrump won.

Wow.

My FB feed is full of “how did this happen” questions followed by a ton of finger pointing.  Friends are grieving, lamenting, de-friending people, celebrating, and planning their next course of action.  Some call for unity.  Others call for resistance. Most simply feel stunned.

In the last few days, I ‘ve wrestle with these few thoughts.  1). More people do not walk in my shoes than do.  2).  A huge disconnect exists within the Democratic party between the leadership and the voters.  3).  Four very different groups voted for Donald Trump.  And 4). The next four years cannot merely be an echo of the last eight.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote I couldn’t comprehend how anyone, especially those I thought of as friends, could support Donald Trump. My frustration leading into the election increased with each on-line conversation. My arguments, facts, documentation didn’t matter.  These people simply chose to be ignorant, unreasonable, and stubborn.

For some my judgments were accurate.  But not for everyone, at least not in the ignorant, unreasonable, and stubborn way I chose to read the situation.

My life experiences, biases, and priorities color my perception. The same is true for you. At the same time, most people have not experienced life the way anyone else has experienced life. Thus, if we are going to correctly interpret how another person sees the exact same situation, we need to put that individual’s shoes on and walk around a bit. The best way to do that is to ask questions, listen, and silently observe the people we hope to understand.

As I wrestled with these thoughts after the election, I had an ah-ha moment.  Most in my community might be “ignorant” in the sense of the type of information they consume on a daily basis. After all, they get their news from the guy at the hardware store, their pastor’s sermons,  and the radio they play in the background while they do their chores or run their errands. But, they are not ignorant about their own lives or the lives of their neighbors.  They know when Joe down the road got laid up and sold off part of his meadow it meant things were bad.  Like my Dad, most have worked since they were 12 and could see over the dashboard to drive the hay truck.  Unlike my Dad, most didn’t go to college, didn’t transition to the white collar world. These people realize a mild winter might mean a higher fire danger but they also know a harsh one can cost them livestock. If they’re told regulating industry might affect weather patterns but will cost someone his job, well, they see a friend suffering and a neighborhood falling apart.  Weather isn’t a theory to them; it’s personal and present. And we, in the Democratic party need to realize today’s community crisis trumps tomorrows possible one, every time.

Democrats experienced these types of disconnects all across the country. As a middle-aged, Christian, white woman from a small town in a red state, making less than $50,000 a year I technically belong to one of the demographics that went to Trump.  So, what about his message resonated with those voters more than Hillary’s?  To begin with, most have lived with subtle sexism their whole lives. It’s their norm and people prefer what they know to what they don’t. “Get over yourself” is a way of life. Secondly, these women have watched their husbands struggle to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. They may have intentionally limited their own earning potential, in part to avoid embarrassing the men they love and in part to meet the family’s other needs. Yet, tough economic times often force them to work outside their homes and they resent it.

Now we can pontificate about inequality hurting men as well as women all we want, but if we want to reach these men and these women we  have to change our tactics and understand their priorities.  Maybe trump did sell them a pack of lies about bringing back jobs and lowering their tax burden, but our bold faced truths don’t matter until we begin to speak their language.

Most Trump supporters, in my community and hundreds of other communities around this country, are good people. Though they may be people of faith and they may have some preconceived ideas about strangers, they don’t belong to the other three groups of Trump supporters: the racist, sexist bigots and bullies who blame Mexicans and Muslims; the wealthy elites who voted to increase their advantage, or the theocrats like Franklin Graham and Ted Cruz who want to legislate morality according to evangelicalism rather than justice according to the Constitution. Sadly, our attempts to lump all four groups together and call them ugly names only manages to create more distrust and animosity.

We have heard a lot about how Donald Trump has destroyed the Republican party.  But, what we haven’t been willing to acknowledge, yet must, is how Washington destroyed the Democratic party. The people’s timing may stink, but good, hard working middle-class Americans blame career politicians for their tight belts and precarious futures.  And they responded to their perception of their situation with the strongest, simplest language they have.  With their votes they shouted at all Democrats: You don’t understand us anymore.  We reject your candidate.  She (and you) failed to convince us she was OUR candidate.  And we’ve had enough! 

If Democrats are to overcome a Trump election, we must return to our roots. We must relearn the language of the working class, and prove ourselves worthy representatives. Certainly we must call out evil–greed, inequality,  racism, the destruction of the planet, and fear mongering. But, we must also recognize and stand for what is good–family, diversity, community identity, pride of place, accountability, the contributions of the individual, and hard work!  If we fail to accomplish BOTH then we will fail to regain the public trust and I fear the Great American experiment will be over.

 

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