#metoo

Since about mid-September, I’ve been thinking back to, “This time last year….”

This time last year, we were closing in on the US presidential election. I was not certain that Clinton was going to win. I knew nothing was a given. But I was hopeful. Having grown up in evangelicalism, I have as many conservative friends as liberal ones. I know them to be good people. Surely the majority of Republican America would not vote for this man.

And yeah, yeah, HRC got 3 million more votes than Trump. That is the tiniest bit comforting. But just the tiniest bit, because Trump still got almost 63 million votes.

This time last year, I was daring to believe that there weren’t that many people who would put up with his shit. I was wrong.

I’ve been debating whether or not to post #metoo. Because of course, #metoo. Reading the avalanche of #metoo stories, I feel as I did watching the second presidential debate, almost exactly a year ago, when Trump incessantly interrupted Clinton and paced menacingly behind her: I feel like I can’t breathe.

Over the years, I’ve heard people say, “There’s no need for feminism anymore.” I witness that is their reality, that they feel no need for it, but there are millions of us gasping for the air of autonomy. To not be interrupted. To not have our space taken away from us. To not have to contort our selves into ever smaller shapes to make room for others’ sprawling colonization of our space. And of course, to not be raped. To not be blamed and shamed.

It is part of my story, one that I tell openly, that I’ve dealt with depression since I was 13 years old. I don’t view it as a pathology so much as a completely appropriate response to having read a history book. An appropriate response to the feeling of fingers beginning to creep around my neck, squeezing my throat, threatening my breath. I was so young, but I was already experiencing the silencing of my girl voice and objectification of my girl body.

One might call what I was feeling grief. As I’ve grown older, as I’ve surrounded my self with friends and a life partner and poets and other authors who are witnesses, who get it, I’ve come out the other side of grieving. The depression has subsequently eased.

I have to admit that as I’ve read all of the #metoo stories this week, I have been scared of grieving again. So much grief. How can we bear it? Especially, how can we bear it in this world where even a man who claims to be an ally, joining our marches, has assaulted dozens of women? Where a man stalks a woman, openly, in front of God and everybody, and 63 million people say, “Yes, he should be the most powerful man in the world”?

I don’t know the answer. All I know is #metoo.

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A Red Jordan Sneaker

Red Jordan

As the whole world now knows, yesterday in Charlottesville, a man plowed his car into a crowd of people. Several people quickly posted videos from the scene. I watched in horror. As I viewed the video of the Charger speeding in reverse from the scene, I noticed something red caught in its front fender. I watched the video several times trying to figure out what it was and finally realized it was one of the red Jordan sneakers being worn by one of the victims. In the picture that has been posted by numerous newspapers of two men flying in the air after being hit, you can see one of the men wearing these red Jordans.

My daughters and I went to the downtown mall to place flowers at the site of the murder. There was already a memorial there. At the back were several of the victims’ shoes left at the scene, including a red Jordan.

This small detail continues to stick with me. A piece of this person, dragged off by the speeding car.

What the racists, fascists, white nationalists cannot take, what no one can drag away, is the dignity and value of any of God’s children.

* * * * *

The gathering at the mall tonight sang, “This Little Light of Mine.”

And the darkness will not overcome it.

I’m Not Angry. I’m Awake.

I’m not angry. I’m awake.

Today I’ve been thinking a lot about the manipulations that are used to keep people – especially historically disenfranchised people, such as women and minorities – out of places of power. This happens in systemic ways, and it happens in every day personal interactions.

A few years ago and again this week, I had an experience where I was, open-heartedly and with great vulnerability, sharing my thoughts and feelings with other women. What I was telling them weren’t my edicts on the world. They weren’t even feelings I would share publicly, as they were thoughts-in-process. I was searching, to sort through them and pick out conclusions that were good and useful.

The women cut my process short by leveling an accusation at me: I was angry.

This stung me, the pastor’s daughter. This stung me, the authority pleaser. This stung me, the woman who didn’t locate my nexus of control inside myself until my mid-20s.

An extra layer of hurt was added because both were women who would have described themselves as feminists, and because they were older women whom I looked up to.

Anger is a word lobbed at those-with-less-power to discount our experiences: “You’re just angry.” I don’t think the women I was talking with meant to invoke this historical context of the anger accusation. I think what we were discussing triggered their own feelings. It was still an arrow that hit an old, scarred-yet-tender mark in my heart.

I’ve been sitting with this today. I lit a candle. I said a prayer that I would find the truth I needed from this situation. The words just came to me: I’m not angry. I’m awake.

I am a gentle, kind, thirsting-for-righteousness woman who has taken back (from history and society and specific experiences) my power. I am human and imperfect, so sometimes I say the wrong thing or act the wrong way. I am always willing to apologize. In fact, I find peace and healing in saying, “I’m sorry.” I see injustice and powerlessness and pain, and I recognize it and I often use words to express my witness of it.

I’m not angry. I’m awake.

Amen.

Reproductive health care is not “just one issue”

I love Bernie Sanders. I voted for him in the primary. But Bernie is wrong to refer to reproductive rights as “just one issue,” as he did yesterday in his defense of campaigning for an anti-choice mayoral candidate in Nebraska: “I think you just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue.”

For context, Bernie recently declined to endorse Jon Ossoff, Democratic candidate for the Georgia congressional seat Tom Perez left open when he became Trump’s Health & Human Services Secretary, stating that Ossoff was “not progressive” on economic issues.

I want candidates who are progressive on economic issues, too. It is inconsistent, however, to hold such a hard line with Ossoff yet be willing to overlook the harmful anti-choice stance of another Democratic candidate.

Here’s the bottom line, and listen up, because this is important:

Abortion is not just one issue. It’s health and economics and education and stability of families.

Most of all abortion is VIEWING WOMEN AS AUTONOMOUS BEINGS.

And that is everything.

The day I found out Christians could be Democrats

One of the most important reasons I started this blog: to fill the void of too-few liberal voices talking about how our faith inspires our politics.

When I was about ten years old, growing up in a conservative Christian home, I asked my grandmother if she was a Republican or a Democrat. Obviously, I knew she was going to say Republican, because all Christians were Republicans. (My grandparents, who were given awards for their perfect Sunday School attendance – as adults! – and watched Bill Gaither Homecoming videos, were most definitely Christians, in the cultural sense and in the most personal.)

Except she said she was a Democrat, and it poked a hole in my worldview.

It was the first hint I had that politics might be more complicated than I had previously realized. (To be fair, I was ten. The entire world was more complicated than I had previously realized.) What I didn’t know then was that Democrats, with their New Deal and Social Security and fairer labor laws, had made the American Dream possible for people like my grandparents, who never graduated high school; who drove a garbage truck; who worked at a factory. Democrats made it possible for them, and so many others, to create a good life out of hard work and to raise children who had more than they did. One of their sons went on to own his own business. Another, my dad, got a doctoral degree. My grandparents were so proud.

Back to faith.

My grandfather who was a garbage truck driver was also a farmer. At his funeral, people our family didn’t even know packed into the church and later told us how he would bring them food from the farm when they were down on their luck. That was part of my inheritance from my family: I learned that you’re supposed to help other people because that’s what Jesus would do. That’s what love would do.

Republicans argue that government shouldn’t be in the business of helping people, because people should be helping people. I can understand that to some degree. Certainly, the onus is on us as individuals to love our neighbors as our selves.

Unfortunately, no matter how I and my local faith community may help people, I have to recognize that not all people have access to a community that gives generously. I have to recognize that too often churches place restrictions on their helping, that exclude the very people who may need it the most. Additionally, I recognize that not all congregations have equal resources to help their communities. Some areas of the country need more help than others. I appreciate that there is a federal government that can provide help and is accountable to us, its people, for doing so in fair ways.

One may deride that as socialism, but when all is said and done, it is, for me, more personal than any political label. It’s about my faith. It’s about what I learned, deep in my bones, from the words of Jesus and the life of my grandma and grandpa.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

Last night on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell inadvertently told the story of women throughout history: “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Ironically, he meant his statement as a pejorative comment on Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was attempting to read Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter to the Senate regarding then-US Attorney Jeff Session’s nomination to a federal judgeships. In her testimony, King urged the Senate not to confirm Sessions, based on his poor record on civil rights.

McConnell and his Republican colleagues voted to refuse Warren permission to continue speaking. McConnell stated: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

A black woman who led the civil rights movement and a senator reading her words, silenced.

All of our lives, we have been warned. We have been explained to. We have persisted anyway.

Because we have children to feed and jobs to do and stories to tell. The strength that grows babies within our wombs sustains our persistence. We will never stop birthing a better future.

I am reminded of the words of another powerful woman of color, Maya Angelou:

“Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.”

When my first baby girl was born, I wrote her a blessing: May you roar like a lion.

We will not be silenced. We will roar. We will persist.

emma-roar

Aleppo

I don’t know why we haven’t been able to stop the slaughter in Syria.

I have a master’s in international relations from a Department of War Studies. There are many, many people who are far smarter and more learned than I am, but I have spent a significant amount of time poring over texts and historical accounts and theories of how diplomacy and war works. When faced with the question of why we can’t prevent and stop Aleppos, I still can’t come up with any better answer than the human capacity, even tendency, to see some people as “others”. Different from us. Dangerous. Less ethical. Less feeling of pain.

In all the major international relations texts I was assigned, the ones you’d find in any graduate IR program, I don’t remember coming across a chapter about what songs the Aleppo children or the Darfur children or the Chibok schoolgirls sang during their winter concert, like my eight year old sang tonight. They didn’t say anything about the children hoping to be selected to play the xylophone, like my Emma wished for and gave me daily updates about. They didn’t mention the way the children’s mothers greeted them after the concert, brushed their hair from their face and kissed the tops of their heads and paused to cup their hand around their babies’ cheeks, remembering those same cheeks at their breasts, flooded with a feeling of love so deep it would cause them to do anything to protect that child that was both part of them and so much more than them.

Maybe if the texts included these stories, we’d be able to figure out the rest, figure out diplomacy and no fly zones and freezing bank assets and not selling weapons for Christ’s sake.

Maybe if we read these stories that are so similar to our stories, their babies would become our babies, so we’d figure it out, because we’d figure anything out for our babies.

Fatima asks from Aleppo why we are not saving her baby girl. I am so sorry, Fatima. I am so sorry that too many of us cannot see that Bana is our Bana. But know that you are not alone in spirit, if it brings any small strength. As I watched my daughter perform tonight, I thought of Bana and wondered what songs she likes to sing and if she likes to play the xylophone.

We have failed you. May God have mercy on us. May God have mercy on Aleppo.