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.

 

Posted by: minnow | November 10, 2016

The Irony of Life

Last week, before the election, I was asked if my art students would make some anti-bullying posters.  The plan is to hang them up around the building and use the student’s own work to remind them to treat each other–all others–with kindness and respect. This coming Friday is Veterans Day.  Again, I was asked if my art classes (the elementary children this time) could make some “Thank You Stars” to hand out to all the veterans who come to our program, in recognition of their service to our country. Going into work Wednesday, after the election, I was a little lost emotionally.  I didn’t really want to engage in conversation or interact with people.  I wanted to sit at home and weep, weep for what I believe we lost as a nation by electing Donald Trump president. But, go to school I did.

As I walked around my classes, encouraging students with their projects, I quietly became aware of something.  Although the election will most likely impact my students for a very long time to come, it did not impact them the day after.  You see, I live is a small town (only one K-12 school), in a very red state.  Most of my students’ parents probably voted for Trump.  Most of the businesses have “We Support the Mine” posters in their windows–their priority being preserving the local economy verses protecting the environment.  My daughter was the only one in her class to vote for Hillary in their mock election (not quite the only one in the whole school but close enough). She was actually nervous about going to school the next day, though reported “only” being mildly teased about losing

The point is, most of my students, and most likely most of their parents, had already moved on.  Unlike me, they didn’t see the irony of electing a bully for president and working on anti-bullying posters the next day.  They did not contemplate a future in which the veterans from our next war could potentially be associated with an internal, rather than external, conflict.  They voted for Trump because Republicans simplified their message a long time ago–family, God, jobs, and country–and Trump was the head of the Republican party.  In the world of my small town ALL politicians are equally inaccessible, don’t actually represent their views, and honestly, don’t impact their daily lives much.  The vocal, ugly, fist waving Trumpsters the media likes to highlight are, to them, as harmless as Uncle Joe who talks big after a beer or two but won’t really hurt anybody but himself.  List Trump’s bullying offenses and you’ll likely get shrugged shoulders, “so what”, “get over yourself”, or “grow a pair”.  In their world, life is hard and only the tough survive.  If you happen to get teased a little in the process, well it’s for your own good.

I want to challenge them, readjust their paradigm, force them see the world through a more compassionately complex lens.  But to do that takes time they don’t have to waste and might make them soft. Becoming soft is their enemy. It threatens their very survival.  They can’t worry about who loves Steve.  They have crops to get in or a herd to winter.  They need the mine to stay open so their Daddy will have a job.  Unions might have helped the working man for a little while a long time ago, but they didn’t stop the factory from closing and moving overseas.  Trump may not be the answer (I certainly don’t think he is) but they don’t care.  Trump had a simpler message–Make America GREAT again. It’s a slogan they can wrap their heads around.  They know what their great America looks like, even if what they envision isn’t what others envision.  Racism? Sexism? Xenophobia? “Grow a pair.  If you know you ain’t the problem, then he ain’t talking about you.  Why make things more complicated than they have to be?”

Obviously, I hold a different truth.

I believe America is in the slow burn phase of this event.  We have a couple months to get used to the idea of a Trump presidency.  We will have a peaceful transition of power because that is how it’s done.  Most, even most of those who voted for Hillary, will initially be okay.  It’ll probably be a long time before my little town feels much negative impact. Of course, the first thing to go will be the Affordable Care Act because it’s called Obamacare and the GOP have already tried to repeal it 60 times.  But that’s okay because only 10 million people, approximately 3 percent of the population, are effected by Obamacare anyway, and the rest of us deserve lower premiums. Though, we probably shouldn’t expect that to happen since the insurance companies have gotten used to us paying higher rates and the moneyed interests are still in control of the legislature.  Of course, not having an alternative plan won’t matter much either because what’s 3 percent of the population.  Republicans in Washington have bigger things to worry about. They need to defunding Planned Parenthood (One and a half million people receive their healthcare needs through that abortion mill and it must be stopped). They must also push though a Supreme Court nominee who will over turn marriage equality (What’s another 4 percent of the population?) and finally rid us of Roe V Wade, (After all, less than a million women get abortions each year.  And, those baby killers ought to be locked up).

Change.  Not the type to impact my little town too much, but change that will keep the religious right thinking it won its war for the moral conscious of our nation.  Change that will appease the Right when other more drastic changes occur.  Change not worth risking our progress, reputations, moral high ground,  or livelihood over.

Did you know, Hitler was raised a Catholic and routinely used Biblical arguments to advance his cause against the Jews? Ironic, isn’t it.

Posted by: minnow | November 7, 2016

He Is Not the Guy in the White Hat

14955821_1299656800127371_3245661880528220596_nThe photo to the left was recently shared on my FB feed. I understand why.  Reasonable people are still trying (I am afraid in vain) to show Trump supporters how hypocritical Trump is and thus how unwise it is to vote for him. He cannot be trusted. He himself is guilty of outsources jobs to save a buck.  “See you guys,” they are saying with these memes, “he manufactures his hats in China.  He has no intention of bringing back our jobs, unless of course we are willing to work for pennies on the dollar, like the Chinese.”  Over and over logical arguments are put forth by serious minded people–Republican and Democrat alike–hoping to convince Trump supporters that their candidate is not who he pretends to be. He will not follow through on the vague policies he has put forth nor uphold the Republican platform.  He has no intention of helping them out unless doing so helps Donald Trump more.  He may, in fact, be incapable of any sincere empathy despite his proclamation that only he can “make America great again.”

Who has Donald Trump shown himself to be? He is racist, earning the endorsement of white supremacist groups like the KKK. He is sexist, assaulting women both verbally and physically. A rape hearing was set for December until the woman got death threats and dropped the charges. He’s an unscrupulous businessman, refusing to pay workers, declaring bankruptcy, and finding loopholes in order to avoid paying taxes.  Finally, he is a compulsive liar. Politifact has his true and mostly true meter at just 15% which is 2% less than his pants on fire rating.

Sadly, the facts simply don’t matter.  The conspiracy theorists have won.  They have cast doubt on the legitimacy and integrity of Clinton and her campaign.  They have cast doubt on legitimacy and integrity of reputable news sources despite having a majority agree.  And, even if Clinton wins, unless she wins by an overwhelming majority, they will no doubt cast doubt on the legitimacy and integrity of our democratic process.

As a child I remember wondering how it was possible for a man like Hitler to come to power.  Today I understand, more than I would like, just how easy it is.  When good people do nothing, or worse, when they tell themselves and convince others  they can keep pandora in the box without nailing down the lid, evil becomes acceptable, excusable, a necessary price to pay. A single spark of fear can ignite an uncontrollable flame of distrust, anger, hate, and eventually violence.

Sadly, the religious right has been stoking the fire  of fear for years.  As more and more people leave their buildings and fewer and fewer enter in voices within the conservative evangelical Church have thrown out grave warnings of end times, of the widening gap between good and evil, of the need for their brand of purity and righteousness. Leadership has “prophesied” the falling away and the empty pews are proof it is happening. Ultimately they only succeeds in ostracizing the very people they were called to love and in isolating themselves from the realities of the day.  No wonder conservative Christians are afraid; they’ve been spoon fed a religion of powerlessness. “The end is coming! You are helpless to do anything about it.  Scripture has predicted! So, batten down the hatches, trust in the Lord’s chosen leaders to protect you and pray.” In swoops Donald Trump.

Those in the middle and lower income brackets have also been sold a bill of goods. For them, fear and distrust is served on a plate of anti-intellectualism and hyper militaristic patriotism. You can’t believe in climate change because those liberals just want to take away your jobs.  You can’t talk about immigration reform because those illegals just want to steal your jobs, get free healthcare, and avoid paying taxes. We can’t open our doors to refugees because they don’t look like us or talk like us.  Remember 9/11.  That’s who these guys look like.  BE AFRAID OF THEM. Those liberals want to let them in. Don’t let them.  They want to give them your jobs.  They want to break up the family, kill babies, destroy marriage. Don’t let them.  Somebody has to stop them. Enter Donald Trump and his “I’ll make America great again!” agenda. Build a wall. Keep them out. If they don’t like us–bomb ’em. We’re the greatest military power in the world after all. And Donald Trump says he’s going to bring our jobs back!

Maybe he’ll start with the ones he outsourced.

 

Posted by: minnow | November 5, 2016

A Plea to My Friends

I understand some are tired of this election, simply wish it was over, and feel the need to plea for both sides to see the other as an equally valid choice in order to preserve the peace. I get that many have been told for 30 years how terrible Hillary Clinton is and have even repeated the mantra themselves without understanding how thin the evidence is to support it. I have even said I did not support Hillary because I did not want her husband anywhere near the White House.  I f the likes of Donald Trump had not been the GOP nominee I may have even stuck with that bias.  Had the Republican party offered up a reasonable alternative–say Kasich or even Jeb Bush, I certainly would not have looked into her past as deeply as I have. But they didn’t. And so, I studied.

Since the conventions, I’ve spent hours on-line, trying to convince various groups of people that the policies and vision Clinton has for our country line up with Christian values and building a strong middle class. I’ve shown the numbers for how abortions are lower now than when Roe VS Wade made abortion legal. I’ve illustrated how oppressive GOP policies increase abortion rates, wreck havoc on the middle class, and fail to protect our environment. Obviously, you are free to disagree. You’re free to listen to slander and unfounded conspiracy theories. But, if you vote for Donald Trump you are doing MORE than voting against Hillary Clinton.

If you vote for Donald Trump, you throw your support behind the most opening vile and unqualified candidate to ever lead a major party in America. You embrace his hate and his ignorance.  You accept his lack of experience, his connection to Putin, and his manipulation and abuse of the tax code and bankruptcy laws to avoid paying his workers and his taxes. You declare unimportant his racial slurs, his bullying, and his blaming of others in order to avoid responsibility and stir up fear.  You ignore his long and well documented vulgar and abusive treatment of women, including a pending hearing for raping a 13 year old girl. In short, you betray the values of freedom, good will, and common decency that have been foundational to what is right about America. You willingly gamble with your family’s future.  And you undermine any witness you might have as a Christ follower.

My mother used to say, “You are judged by the company you keep.” Now, I realize God is able to look beyond our words and behavior to the substance of our hearts and judge between the bone of our intention and its marrow.  Still, I’m pretty certain my mother’s words depict human nature fairly accurately; our witness to the world around us is determined by what others see and hear from us. Thus, your support of Trump’s candidacy implies that he represent your views. In essence, you give his rhetoric and behavior your stamp of approval. And, you will be at least partially accountable for what happens on his watch.

From what I can discern three kinds of people support, and will vote for Donald Trump. Wealthy people (mostly white men), who are afraid Hillary will move left after the election and who know Sanders and Warren will do everything in their power to force her to become more financially and environmentally progressive, have told themselves they can “control” Trump and plan to plug their noses and vote for him.  Uneducated people (again mostly white men) from the middle and lower economic brackets who have seen their jobs disappear and who have bought into Trump’s fear and blame game are the second group of Trump voters. They believe politicians are what’s wrong with Washington and pick Trump as the only “outsider” left in the game. What they don’t understand is that Trump, and the rest of the wealthy elite, are the very people who have bought the politicians they want to avoid. And, as long as the system that allows them to wield their behind the scenes political influence stays in tact Washington with remain in the hands of the wealthy elite.

The third kind of Trump supporters are single issue voters (often Christians) who have been told so many times Clinton wants to kill babies, destroy marriage (and the family), take away our guns, and give our jobs away that they accept the hyperbole as fact without really studying out the issues.  Unlike the fear mongers and cynics, these people believe in heroes, the guy in the white hat, and the protector–as opposed to the bully. Their underlying fundamental flaw is that they harken back to a day that never actually existed, to the good ol’ days of Ozzie and Harriette, and they want someone else to make it happen.  So when Trump swoops in with his “Make America Great Again” slogans and his promises to fix it all for us with the stroke of his pen and the because I said so attitude, his followers want to believe it’s that simple.  They are tired and they just want things to settle down so they can go about their business in peace.

YOU ARE THE VOTERS MY PLEA IS TO.  Please, do not throw your support behind this man.  He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and it is time we discern the truth about how dangerously close America is to making a fatal error, a mistake we will not be able to take back, not in four years, not ever.  If for the love of God and family and country you cannot vote for Hillary Clinton, I will accept that.  But if you choose to vote for Trump we have no common ground on which to stand.  I cannot see that choice as equally valid, as have any principled reason, as based on any Christian value.  There is nothing so seriously wrong with Hillary Clinton that Donald Trump is a better alternative, end of story.

Posted by: minnow | October 25, 2016

I Had Five “Abortions”

At least that’s how the medical personnel who worked with me kept referring to what had happened. The first time in the hospital, I was a conservative, on the verge of Bible-thumping, evangelical Christian.  The nurses kept chatting about my “abortion”. I eventually got so irritated with their character assassination, I yelled at one of them, “I did NOT just have an abortion!” She patted my hand and assured me, “Oh no sweetie, you had a spontaneous abortion, not an induced abortion. It’s okay.” But, it wasn’t okay with me.  I didn’t believe in abortion.  A couple days later, when I was cleaning the fish bowl I accidentally washed my son’s goldfish down the drain. I fell completely apart, “I was a murderer!”

During my next “abortion” I actually held the baby I lost in the palm of my hand.  I could see her nose and her eyes and count her toes. She was perfect. Except she was in the palm of my hand not the safety of my womb. I hemorrhaged. I nearly passed out in the ER.  The doctor ordered a D and C to stop the hemorrhaging.  And, I felt totally guilty.

The last time my body aborted was the most frightening. It started with “spotting”.  I’d spotted before, with my son, but given the loss of my two most recent pregnancies, I went in for an ultra-sound.  No heartbeat.  In fact, no baby.  Where a tiny embryo should have been growing I had a mass of cells that looked like a giant cluster of grapes.  Cancer….well, potentially cancer.  My body was obviously trying to expel it.  Another D and C was ordered to help it along.  Yes, the blood test said I was pregnant.  But, no I wasn’t. Not with a baby. It was this Molar Pregnancy instead. And it could become life threatening if I didn’t become unpregnant fast.  But what if the ultrasound was wrong?…what if… No, my doctor insisted. The blood test was wrong.  The hyper elevated hGC actually indicated an abnormality.  There really was NO baby.

So, I had a medically necessary, induced abortion, to rid my body of behaviorally cancerous cells that were pretending to be a baby.  I needed monthly follow-up blood tests for a year to make sure my hGC levels went back to and stayed normal.  And, it was highly recommended I never become pregnant again.  The chances of a viable pregnancy after a molar pregnancy were low, at best.

Abortion.  The latest topic to reach center stage in this election.  I shared my personal journey through the land of “abortion” in part because I want to bring some humanity to the table before I start blasting my way through with facts and opinions.  I could keep sharing stories, like this one from a woman who needed a life saving late term abortion, but, the real problem, at least for those in my circle of friends who plan to vote for Trump in order to honor their objection to abortion, isn’t a lack of compassion.  Most of you care deeply not only about the lives of the unborn but about the rest of humanity as well.  I do not fault your heart when it comes to the issue of abortion.  But I do fault your logic.  And frankly, I don’t understand your faith.

Prior to the Roe VS Wade decision, abortions were legal in 17 states.  Most, however, were much more dangerous for the women getting them than they are today, thus the “safe, legal, and rare” campaign leading up to and possibly impacting the Supreme Court decision.  Between 1950 and 1960 (before Roe vs Wade) the abortion rate was as high as 1.2 million, with nearly 5,000 maternal deaths annually, impoverished women suffering the most complications and casualties. Since Roe VS Wade, the abortion rate has decreased steadily from a 1990 high of 1.4 million to approximately 700,000 in 2012.  In other words, WE ARE ALREADY BELOW most estimates of pre Roe VS Wade abortion rates.  Thus, comparatively speaking abortion has become more rare and is definitely more safe.

Those who think abortion is immoral. period. might not care why women seek abortions.  However, if we honestly want to decrease the occurrence of something we might benefit from understanding why it occurs in the first place. Maternal health, rape, and incest combined account for only 4% of all abortions, while women seeking late term abortions (after 20 weeks) account for only 1.5% of all cases. Those are the extremes, but here are some other factors based on 2014 statistics that might help to paint an honest picture. 75 % of women seeking abortions were slightly above to well below the poverty line. 46% were single women many of whom reported the lack of support and resources as contributing to their decision (think no childcare and no health insurance). Over 50% identify as Christian. More than half were in their 20s and 12% were in their teens. Finally, many women voiced concerns for how a baby, or even a pregnancy, would change their lives (think job loss, disrupted schooling, and loss of community and family support).

So, when we throw all these factors on the canvas what picture do they actually paint? First, the passage of Roe VS Wade did not dramatically impact the number of abortions in the United States.  Thus, spending time, energy, and resources trying to over turn it instead of using that same time, energy, and resources to create an environment where fewer women  seek abortions, is a waste of our time energy and resources.  Secondly, voting Republicans because they promise to make abortions more difficult to obtain, yet rarely fulfill their promise, is illogical, especially since they also contribute to a pro-abortion environment. Their policy and laws that discriminate against single moms, allow unwed pregnant women to be fired, try to make healthcare more difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and keep women in poverty by refusing to support an increased minimum wage and equal pay for equal work laws are completely counter productive. Therefore for all these reasons, Democrats who fight for social justice in fact do more to reduce abortions than the GOP.

Earlier I shared my experiences to bring a little humanity to the table. I also want to used it as an illustration, specifically for Christians.  I felt guilty even though technically I had no control of my situation.  The medical personnel didn’t blame me, but the language they used triggered a sense of shame that was extremely powerful. I wanted to hide, and did to the degree that I didn’t even tell my own parents what I was going through.  In addition to understanding what your actions are not doing–voting for a pro-life Republican is NOT reducing the number of abortions–I want you to understand what you are doing.  Remember, over 50% of the women seeking abortions identify as Christians.  The vast majority understand that an abortion ends the life of their baby. Yet, they choose to have an abortion anyway. They choose to live with the guilt and shame they put on themselves rather than the guilt, shame, and potential abandonment by their families.  The language we use as we describe abortions and the women who get them, the damnation we cast on women (not men) who become pregnant outside of marriage, and the attitudes perpetuated by the Republican party that the poor are freeloaders, lazy, and unworthy of our concern creates a pro-abortion environment.  Many women are hiding, just like I did because they are too afraid of the consequences if they are found out.  I am not saying we need to avoid teaching our children to be morally responsible individuals but we must re-evaluate how we teach those lessons. If we do not couple our “superior” morality with lessons of grace and compassion then we are NOT walking out the love of Christ.

I believe my Christian friends and family are caring people, people who personally would walk the extra mile.  I just think the Republican party has sold you a pack of lies and you need to do a reality check.  If you sincerely want our nation to return to Christian principles it won’t be accomplished by throwing your support behind the Republican party in its current manifestation.

Posted by: minnow | October 16, 2016

Entertainment Isn’t News

Ever since Donald Trump became the heir apparent to the GOP crown, we have seen numerous attempts by the media to explain how it happened. Thoughtful conservatives, whether fiscally or morally motivated, are in shock. And, more and more of these same conservatives are parting ways with the Grand Old Party as a result. They simply refuse to climb in bed with the fiscally reckless and morally bankrupt Trump, even if it means Hillary Clinton becomes president.

So, how DID it happen? We have the first woman to be nominate by a major political party, a person more qualified than any previous candidate to run for the office, and a second candidate who has never spent a day in public service, is less qualified than any previous candidate, and the most publicly vulgar individual we have ever had run for the office, and still, SHE has been just as hard a sell to voters as he is?

Something is seriously wrong with this picture but the problem is NOT Hillary Clinton. Nor, interestingly enough, is the problem Donald Trump, though he is his own brand of problem.

Quite frankly, the reason these two candidates have been running neck and neck (until Trump’s most recent scandal, that is) lies squarely at the feet of the media.  The “fourth estate” is no longer in the business of truth telling, news reporting, fact finding, or serious story telling.  Instead, it is in the ratings game, the business of entertainment, and the sensationalizing of every scandalous story it can get its hands on.  Surprisingly, they even admit it.  Just before the first presidential debate, Chris Wallace, the host of FOX News, said it won’t be his job–as a moderator of an upcoming presidential debate to be the “truth squad”.

Yet, the rest of the world sees him, and other newspeople, as someone who should know the facts.  Sadly, when he offers no follow-up question to get to the truth, when he avoids confronting the interviewee, the public assumes the speaker said nothing wrong.  When a person is allowed to tell the same lies over and over again without challenge, without being asked to prove their accuracy the public’s perception becomes skewed.

For almost 30 years Hillary Clinton has had to answer accusation after accusation.  Even when she’s been cleared by investigators of any wrong doing, even when her accusers offer no evidence, even when the facts are in her favor.  Policies aside, if no names were attached to the resumes and the only information the public had was the list of their accomplishments and service no one could honestly say Trump would make a better president than Clinton.  No one.  But honestly, the media’s treatment of Clinton just set the stage for this election.  Their other decision nearly spelled our doom.

Trump’s selling power (because he is so ridiculously easy to joke about and make fun of), coupled with the media’s greed for ratings meant he has received an inordinate amount of attention.  He garnered so much attention that the other GOP candidates had trouble getting any. (Let’s face it–even Cruz was dull by comparison).  The estimate is, Trump was handed 3 billion dollars worth of free air time–3 BILLION dollars worth.

Sadly, we refused to recognize the danger until it was nearly too late. As the nominee for a major political party Trump received the legitimacy he lacked.  Had he actually had some degree of self restraint, had he one or two policy ideas he could (and would) actually promote the media might have dug us an inescapable hole.  Fortunately for the press, and the American people, Trump’s scandals just might undermine his victory–no thanks to the press.

Unfortunately, the damage to our safety and international reputation has already occurred.  That some members of the press still claim it is not their job to help the public understand the truth about Trump’s lies and ignorance completely baffles me. But, even without THAT craziness, the obsession on the part of the press to continually point out Hillary’s every “misstep” is mind boggling: ‘She nearly passed out during a 9-11 memorial service.  They say its pneumonia but could it be something bigger.  You know she hit her head 5 years ago, maybe…’  Trump is heard talking about groping women, making sexual advances that are not consensual.  He faces hearing in December for raping a 13 year old girl.  But Hillary, she stood by her man. REALLY!??!  Can any sane person seriously argue that these two actions are comparable?

Now a word specifically to the media:

Even though the public laughed at the Late Night stand-up routines lampooning Trump, is that a good enough reason for legitimate news sources to give Trump a pass?  Is it a valid reason to show clip after clip of his bombastic rhetoric as though he actually had something of value to say. The media has forgotten its first calling: reporting real events, no matter how unpopular, informing the public of the FACTS and the hard truths. The minute you began to care more about an attractive face, broad shouldered men and good figured women than an anchor’s ability to think, and reason, and postulate, the NEWS was lost. We need to find it again!

You pride yourselves on balance? Then start being more provocative! Because what America lacks is real, hard hitting news! We have comedy.  We have reality TV.  We have late night entertainment.  We need the serious truth.  Stumped? Try emulating The Newsroom!  

The American public is angry.  And, your trustability ratings are the lowest they have ever been.  We are entering dangerous time–thanks in part to media’s laziness and timidity.  We cannot afford to give Donald Trump, or his minions any more room to spread their lies and fear.  What comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth IS NOT NEWS just because he says it.  If you cannot substantiate his claims with an independent source, don’t report them.  Truly, it is that simple.

Please, for the sake of the American people, take back your integrity.

Posted by: minnow | October 11, 2016

Trump’s Conservative (?) Christian(?) Support

Most of the labels attached to Trump which actually describe him–racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, egomaniac–haven’t seemed to damage his popularity much.  On the other hand, one label I would argue has no place any where near Mr. Trump seems somehow permanently attached–Christian Conservative.  Simply do not understand.

Mr. Trump is about as far from a true conservative or an authentic Christian as one can get. But sadly, we don’t have many true conservatives left.  And, far too many Christians have forgotten what it means to follow Christ.  These days it seems we mostly have Trump and Trump-wannabes. So, what’s the difference between Trump’s brand of conservative Christian and the real McCoy?  Let’s explore the real McCoy first.

True Conservatives want to invest in the United States economy for their own benefit certainly but also for the benefit of the country as a whole.  They believe a solid day’s work should yield a solid day’s reward.  They recognize and respect the men and women who keep America going and growing and believe the working class should be compensated for their efforts. True conservatives want government to be fiscally responsible. They invest in their communities.  And, they pay their fair share of taxes because they know their tax dollars are necessary for maintaining the infrastructure, quality public education, a trained and equip military, social services, and law and order.  True conservatives are found at every social and economic level.

Likewise true Christians come is all shapes and sizes. They believe the fruit of a person’s life reveals his or her spiritual health.  They take seriously the words of Jesus when He told his followers to take care of the widows and orphans, the downtrodden, and the foreigners.  True Christ followers walk humbly, share their blessings including their wealth, and live at peace to the best of their ability.

Trump, on the other hand, has no interest outside of himself.  As this article from the New York Times explains, his business dealing have been reckless and self-serving, though technically legal.  For years, he has been a major contributor to what is wrong with Washington, donating to politicians on both sides of the isle in order to garner favor, thinking only about what would help him get rich, the rest of the country be damned.  In the early 90s Trump encouraged lawmakers to create loopholes that would allow him to avoid paying taxes on the loans he took out while at the same time declaring bankruptcy and refusing to pay those he hired.  He has declared bankruptcy on four separate occasions and buried most who have tried to sue him for non-payment with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of legal bills.  Throughout the campaign he has avoided laying out any sort of plan for rebuilding the economy, restoring our flailing infrastructure, improving education, or creating jobs.  He wants to cut taxes on wealthy people like himself but calls workers too poor to pay taxes freeloaders.

The other adjective which seems stuck on Trump–Christian–is equally confusing. The most recent storm to hit the air wave concerning Trump, a video tape recorded in 2005  on which he explains–using extremely vulgar language–how easy it is for him to assault women, should be enough to illustrate just how far away from Christian values Donald Trump stands. The fact it is only one of dozens of such comments denigrating women, slandering Hispanics, condemning people in the LGBT community, and vilifying Muslims should cause Christians who claim to vote according to their principles grave concern.  Yet, for some unfathomable reason, except that it is not actually unfathomable but rather very patriarchal, evangelicals on the Right–Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Ralph Reed of the Faith and Family Coalition, David Bozell head of ForAmerica, Robert Jeffress senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a member of Trump’s Faith Advisory Council, David Brody from the Christian Broadcasting Network, evangelist Franklin Graham, James Dobson of Family Talk, president of Liberty University Jerry Falwell and Mark Harris the pastor at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, WV–all continue to support him.

After the latest scandal, some tried to suggest Trump’s values are not why they support him but rather the more pressing issue of a justice to the Supreme Court is the more important factor.  Others insist that, that (meaning the latest scandal) was then and Trump has since been born again. To that suggestion I say, bologna! If we were talking about a before and after that were different from one another then perhaps the argument could hold some validity. The problem is Trump’s after  is very much like his before. The example of scripture is that once we come to Christ we understand how desperately we need forgiveness. We recognize our past failings as despicable. We humble ourselves before our Maker and yes, before Man as well. NONE of this rings true for Donald Trump. Since his supposed come to Jesus moment Trump has: 1. stated that the President and Secretary Clinton were founder and co-founder of ISIS, 2. tried to embarrass Humayun Khan’s family by ridiculing his mother, 3. called Clinton the devil, 4. threatened the Muslim neighbors of a terrorist with “consequences”, 5. slandered former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, excused the latest scandal as “locker room talk” and 7. suggested the 2nd Amendment folks could do something about Hillary. These are not the ravings of a man who has had a life changing encounter with Christ. Trump’s behavior threatens the physical and economic safety of the United States. His excuses and explanations reveal extreme arrogance, a desire to deflect blame, and a troubling refusal to accept responsibility.

If you do not agree with Hillary Clinton’s proposals and policies then don’t vote for her.  But for the sake of God and country stop pretending Trump embodies any conservative or Christian value worth holding. The man can’t remember what he said an hour ago let alone what promise he made or what platform the Party faithful drew up.

Posted by: minnow | September 23, 2016

A Peaceful Protest Against Violence

Until you are outraged about this:

Please keep your opinions to yourself about this:

This is not disrespect of the military or even our country. It is using one’s celebrity to call attention to a problem because in America we have the freedom to peaceful protest.  It suggests that our justice system is in need of attention.  It calls attention to the fact that some of our fundamental values as a nation–life, liberty, innocence until proven guilty, equal PROTECTION under the law–are not walked out with the same passion for ALL groups of people.  It makes us feel uncomfortable because it sheds a spotlight on a troubling truth of our times.  As a white person who believes in these foundational values the least I can do is recognize the privilege with which I walk the streets of my city and extend a hand of unity to those whose experience is very different from mine.

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