Uncategorized

WE ARE CALLED TO SPEAK

            Even old, white women like me are called to speak about injustice.  Silence is giving permission to seventeen-year-olds with guns to kill, rogue policemen to shoot first, Christians to hate rather than love, and the weak to follow rather than find their inner conscience.

            Two unconnected stories have come to mind during the past couple days.  The first is about nine-year-old granddaughter, Tiffany, and the second is about my father.

STORY ONE

            Tiffany and her brother were visiting us for a couple weeks.  Tiffany was happily twirling in my dining room.  Then it happened, an antique goblet fell to the floor and shattered.  Tiffany looked at me with fear and sadness in her eyes rather than with that magical sparkle of joy from a few moments earlier.

            I told Tiffany that people were more important than things.  A hug and a little cleanup erased the pain of the moment. 

            Although this part of the story as little to do with my point of my story, I have to share.  A couple hours later we were sitting at the dining table and Tiffany kept rocking her chair up on two legs and bouncing it against the china cabinet.  When I told her to stop because she might break something, she said, “Grandma, you said people are more important than things!”  A wholly different conversation followed.  Even today, she has strong opinions, a hearty spirit and much love to give.  Great adult and parent.

STORY TWO

            A former minister’s daughter was raped and murdered after going to a bar with friends.  So brutal.

            While visiting my parents later in the week, my pious, judgmental father said, “Well, it wouldn’t have happened if SHE had not been where SHE was not supposed to be.”

            If you know me, you can imagine where our conversation went as I expounded on victim blaming.

CONNECTING THE DOTS

            I have listened to speakers say (paraphrasing), “If they wouldn’t have been out after curfew, it wouldn’t have happened.”  “If they wouldn’t protest, the looters wouldn’t steal and start fires.”  Then there is Trump who says Biden will bring death and destruction, as if 180,000 unnecessary deaths and the greater racial strife he has incited is not enough hell on earth for one man to create as President.

            Protesters are not looters.  Stop confusing two separate groups of people.  Free speech is an American right.  Arrest the looters and leave protesters alone.  As far as I am concerned, people who refuse to separate the two groups are doing so deliberately because they believe things (buildings) are more important than people, specifically black people.

            Anyone who believes that a wall is more valuable than the lives of children locked in cages at our border has zero respect from me.  Such cruelty!

            Victim blaming is demoralizing our country.  A person is not guilty of a crime because they are black rather than white – not on the streets, not in their opinions, not in any just society.  Victim blaming because someone was in a conversation with the police or on the streets protesting is not acceptable.  Know the circumstances.  Certainly, whether before or after curfew, a seventeen-year-old hater does not have the right to kill other citizens.

            I know this will not convince one hater to love or one Christian to speak the language of brotherhood.  I simply had to say these truths because sharing creates positive bonds of strength in the thinking, loving community.

            I am going to continue to love and to speak, because our silence gives the Trumpers their greatest victory. 

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Abuse, Politics

Who Says Those Things

I grew up in a very conservative home.  My father served up linear, single-minded thinking in an inside-out world.  Hate was called love, suffering was called deserved punishment, and everyone not in the family was “other.”  Judgment was the language.  So, I recognize the psychology of control, fear and abuse.  What a painful place to live.

When I see FaceBook posts in support of hate, I cringe.  I want to believe my friends grew more kind and thoughtful over the years.  I want to believe they are not second or third generation abusers, actively trying to control the convictions, voting rights, and freedoms of other Americans based on religion or race.

I do not weaponized my religious beliefs to judge others.  I celebrate all good people.  Some are Christian, others Muslim or Jewish, and, yes, some are atheist.  My God (kindness) works for good through the eyes of people of all faiths, colors and creeds.  In unity, the empowerment of good flourishes.  In division, we all suffer.

I do not limit truth-telling.  Reinventing a version of the truth is not truth, but rather a lie.  I believe when we support people who are not honest, we have an obligation to look at our own motives.  What do we have to gain from a manipulator’s agenda?  From my perspective, screaming an opinion is how an abuser communicates, not the way a loving, logical and healthy person shares an idea.

I do not choose fear.  I love change because we cannot grow without movement away from what is comfortable.  If segregation is comfortable, then get to know someone new and challenge your own growth.  If your healthcare comforts you and your neighbor’s lack of coverage does not bother you, ask yourself why you are fearful to see others have the security you enjoy.  If walls make you feel safer, ask yourself if children caged away from their parents behind walls are a real threat to you.  Fear is a choice.  Fear is judgment.  Fear is not democratic.

At the end of the day, I see as abusers those claiming to save our democracy from science, people of color, a misguided view of the godless and Democrats.  In my country we celebrate differences.  In my country we embrace our neighbors.  In my country we love rather than hate.  In my country we are always moving toward a more perfect union, not living in the past.  

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Peace, Personal Growth, Personhood, Politics

POLITICS 2020

I have given a great deal of thought to linear thinking lately.  Vile posts and conversations have invaded my space.  I listened to the rant of an unfeeling Sons of the Confederacy member who believes the virus is a hoax.  I have seen posts by well-educated people who are unwilling to recognize history as a fluid experience with learning opportunities rather than as a place we inhabit mentally in perpetuity.

Both parties have people who, although not at the fringes, are incapable of expanding their world view.  Single-mindedness or linear thinking is another way of renaming lack of empathy and bigotry.  I do not believe many of these people behaving in bigoted ways are aware of their harm to others.  I also believe most would claim to be without prejudice.  Linear thinking is not given to self-examination, but is generous with the judgment of others.

I believe there is room for compromise for the sake of peace and, most importantly, for the sake of justice. 

Compromise 1:  Wear masks.  The people who want to open everything up get their way.  Those of us who want to be protected from the virus get our way.  Win.  Win. 

Compromise 2:  Relocate the monuments.  Living in Texas magnifies all symbols of personal independence.  The questions are: When the symbols of independence and freedom were erected, were they meant to only allow freedom to whites?  Were they meant to intimidate people of color?  Are these symbols of oppression more important than the living people whose souls shrink in their shadows?  Are the monuments representative of who we are today?  Do the monuments keep us stuck in the painful past?  My compromise:  Put the monuments in Confederate cemeteries or in museums.  Raise a statue of a man reading to his child in front of the local library.  Put a quote in front of the courthouse, “Justice cannot be for one side alone, but for both.  Eleanor Roosevelt.”  In front of the schools erect monuments that inspire achievement – scientists, artists, John McCain (one of my more recent political heroes).  

If we do not learn to compromise, we will lose our country.  The question for us all is whether being right is worth sacrificing our democracy.  Let’s get real and do the hard work of learning to get along.  Regardless how we may want to win all the marbles, our children may lose everything if we plant our feet in the past and refuse to move forward.

Stating the obvious: the past is behind us and the future is our gift to the next generation.  What are we creating in the now?

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Humor, Politics

The Accident

My late husband and I built a house in the N. Georgia Mountains.  We would soon learn red-neck law.  Rumors were that the sheriff was paid off by the drug dealers who dropped canisters of drugs from planes in fields, and if a canister broke open and a few cows died…..oh, well…..  The local restaurant menu offered local statistics including the fact that there were no blacks in the county.

            Another sub-group the red-necks discriminated against were the Atlanta folk migrating to the county for fresh air, the scenery and less crowding.  Just as some Texans hate the blasted thinking, weird Austin-ites, people in this Georgia county hated everything about people from Atlanta.  Local thieves broke into Atlanta migrant homes on a regular basis.  Although law enforcement knew who the thieves were, they chose to ignore the thefts.  Atlanta folk were fair game.  The thieves eventually made the mistake of breaking into the home of local, retired teachers and were arrested immediately.

            I decided to stay alone in the mountain home during the week with my German shepherd and rifle to save our home from damage or theft.   We continued to work on the finishing details of our home on weekends.

            With a shopping list for lumber, nails and other building items, one Monday morning I left home in my pick-up truck, the dog riding shotgun beside me.  We had worked hard all weekend and I was exhausted.  Apparently, I fell asleep.  All of a sudden I felt a steep decline into a deep ditch on the left side of the road.  Weeds whizzed by my window.

            Brakes applied.  A sudden stop.  The dog who had been thrown against the dash was peeved.  I tried my door and it opened enough that I could squeeze through.  The dog refused to exit with the woman who was responsible for his discomfort.  I feared copperheads and had not worn boots.  I climbed the steep embankment and would realize later that my concern should have been for all the chigger bites.

            While building our home we had used some day labor from the minimum security prison.  In the approaching truck on the lonely country road were one of the prisoners we had hired, a second prisoner and a pig in the truck bed that was going to the processing plant run by a local Baptist minister.  I climbed into that truck with two prisoners and a pig. 

            The self-proclaimed Baptist minister, as found in little Baptist Churches on every corner in Georgia, was kind.  I called my husband and a tow truck to pull me out of the ditch.

            The tow truck broke two chains trying to pull my truck out of the ditch.  The top of the truck was even with the road surface and wedged into the red clay.  At last the truck was free, but a tire was flat.

            Then a Barney Fife character arrived.  He flashed the lights on his patrol car and strutted towards me, an Atlanta woman despised by all good red-necks.  The prisoners and Baptist minister left me alone with the deputy.  After getting my ID and my story of the accident, he told me I had broken the law by moving the vehicle.  I could be put in jail and furthermore would not be able to collect insurance on the accident.  He spent a great deal of time berating me for my failures. 

            After he left, I sat on my tailgate and had a good cry.  I had escaped death in the accident, ridden with prisoners and a pig and was going to jail.  The total lack of empathy for me, my health and my helplessness in that moment was lost on the deputy who had all the power.

            I did not go to jail.  I did collect my insurance for the accident. 

            I have thought about my helplessness after my accident as I witnessed abuse by the police against our black citizens, a 75-year old man pushed to the ground and left bleeding, and media deliberately pelted by rubber bullets and tear gassed. 

My story does not compare to that of systemic racism and death by bad policemen.  At the same time, I have seen firsthand what is happening in our court systems today and the arrogance of policing. 

I hope we will not do away with good public servants who police our streets, but will reduce their numbers in favor of more community advocates working with people in trouble.  Laws probably need updating.  More importantly hearts and heads need changing.

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Church, Personal Growth, Politics, Uncategorized

CHURCH SYSTEMIC RACISM

I am a liberal, old, white woman who has supported equal rights for women and people of color over the decades.  I would NEVER vote for a white supremacist like Trump.

I do not know the black experience because I was born into white privilege.  This is not to say I did not experience poverty as a child or did not work hard over the years.  And I might add, I have had to deal with over-zealous police who scared the bejesus out of me, but my outcome was better than that of a person of color.

Why is the church, MY CHURCH, not doing a better job defending the rights of black people?  We must acknowledge there are a number of bigots in our congregation who would claim they are not.  The white, thinking church congregants want to be too polite.  Don’t rock that boat!  We protect the feelings of people who hate because they are volatile, loud and will throw scriptures around like bread crumbs to ducks on a pond.  Enough!

I am scratching my head over the hypocrisy of this position considering Biblical teachings.

Over the past few years, I personally have had the following experiences with other women, just to name a few:

  1.  I did not feel a team calling itself the Rebels and carrying a Confederate flag (the flag tradition ended, I believe) should be allowed in the public school setting.  I was told by clergy that as a native Texan, she could accept this tradition.  Apparently, Texas tradition trumps (pun intended) all things holy.  As a congregant, this conversation diminished my respect for the practicing theology of my church.  Needless to say, I left this church.
  2. I am a Methodist and have been very enthusiastic about educating girls in foreign countries, as well as in the U.S.  This was the original passion that drove the creation of United Methodist Women – the right for every girl to receive an education, especially in countries where girls were seen as “lesser than” the boys.  When I asked why the mission of UMW was not being shared with the women in my church, I was told it was too political.  I had never heard that mission was political in my previous churches.  As a congregant, I felt I was being told to be silent, join a Bible study and allow ignorance to flourish in my congregation.  Silence was polite and easy.  Talking about the needs of brown children was too controversial.  After all, we were allowing Hispanic children to be caged at the border in Texas and were remaining silent as a church. 
  3. A church woman called me.  In the course of our conversation she told me, “The Bible says you should respect Trump.”  I need not expound on this church experience.  Not pretty.

For women, like me, who were brought up to be polite and not create a scene, it requires some tenacity to speak up. 

Our silence gives permission to evil intent in all its forms.  I recognize at this point in history, I need to be vocal. 

I am proud of our protesters.  They are not only making demands for their own rights, but are most likely going to save our democracy.

Those of us with heart and intellect must be less polite and more engaged.  We owe that to our black neighbors and to our country.  The peril is great.

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Poetry, Politics

SILENCE

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of distant voices

singing with enthusiasm in churches long ago,

four part harmony proclaiming love while people of color

watched white folk sit at the lunch counters.

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of distant voices

giddy because frocks, shoes and jewelry were purchased

and the people of color sat at the back of the bus

after pressing white girls’ dresses.

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of today’s voices

  in posts, tweets and TV interviews searching for peace and justice;

and the President mocks people of faith with a photo-op Bible

as George Floyd’s spirit moves a nation.

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of today’s voices

on streets across this nation, “I can’t breathe!”

The police shoot rubber bullets.  “I can’t breathe!”

Seats of power threaten to silence Americans.  “I can’t breathe!”

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of breathing –

in and out as my rib cage moves, the cadence of life.

George Floyd is still.  History repeated. 

Freedom more rhetoric than practice.

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of silence

by the privileged who know the price paid for their wealth.

There is a ringing in my ears, the steady hum of silence

by churches never confronting bigots in their midst.

There is a ringing in my ears.  I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.  I CAN’T BREATHE. 

Silence.

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Aging, Art, Country, Memoir, Peace, Politics, Uncategorized

Political Winds

Seventy-one and a woman who’s seen mighty change—internet, cell phones, and one step for mankind on moonscape.  Veterans of WWII branded their stories on my young soul.  That damned McCarthy caused me to look for communists neath my bed.  Viet Nam tattooed my innocence.  Patriotism, plated as political righteousness, challenged the rage against dying and peace movements—Gandhi dared Patton philosophies wrestling for ethos.  No winners, just battle-worn heroes.  Now drums the social-till-doomsday-shrill-media robbing weak heads of free thinking—new mind control.  Fear like rain cuts rough, new gullies of hate, fear and rage.  Peace lost not on a battlefield, love in surrender to hate.  Godly abandoned in rallies, the modern lion’s den, truth’s death.  Long serving soldiers dismissed for truth-telling.  A Medal of Honor bestowed on a bigot.  Romney the lone statesman.  Loyal, weak servants rewarded and righteous, strong saints defiled.  Labeling knowledable elitist.  Labeling brown other.  Labeling good hearts feeding hungry folk socialists.  Villainous!  Rise up you virtuous patriots.  Be the strong voice of right.  Rise up still Christians and claim the mantle of kindness.  Rise up to speak!  Rise up to vote!  Rise up!

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Baby Boomer, Politics, Uncategorized

Fragile Democracy

I am a baby boomer, born shortly after WWII.  Throughout my childhood I heard the stories soldiers told in their living rooms, stories about riding on ships, their wounding, the friends they held while dying, the skeletons (as one man said, “…flesh hanging on bones”) walking away from the newly freed concentration camps.

History and civics were taught with vigor in those days because we knew the price and fragility of democracy.  Hitler was voted into office, so we had a duty to study the candidates and make good choices.

I watch the impeachment of Donald Trump and think back to Richard Nixon’s impeachment.  I was in my twenties and making calls for the local Republican Party.  I knew Richard Nixon was innocent.  I watched the trial day after day, as obsessive as I am today about justice.  When I realized he had committed the crimes, I was devastated.  I felt a personal sense of betrayal, not because I was a Republican, but because I was an American.

I wondered in 1974, as I do today, how anyone can take an office as powerful as the Presidency and not feel humility.  It is like holding a sparrow with a broken wing in one hand and a nuclear bomb in the other.

Democracy is a fragile balancing act.  Only a fool sitting in the Oval Office or in a congressional seat would place personal gain above freedom.

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Art, Country, Personal Growth, Poetry, Politics, Uncategorized

Angst

These times challenge saints more than sinners.

Fear and anxiety accompany worship and school attendance.

Slowly we move into democracy lost or renewed.

Our children will live on a dying planet or learn stewardship.

This journey will make heroes and villains of us all.

 

Must we relinquish control to madness?

Some frantically compose FB posts to vent their anger –

posts with scripture to counterpoint side against side,

posts to request prayer – pointed and raging – self-defeating peace,

posts with cartoons screaming louder than words.

 

Must we become what we hate in others?

If my voice is the loudest, am I right?

If I manage to trample on your rights to protect mine, am I right?

If I belong to a party, does my membership make me right?

If I rationalize without facts, can I proclaim truth?

 

Have we seen these behaviors play out in history?  Perhaps.

The Crusades.  Germany.  Turn neighbor against neighbor,

religious sects in pious rebellion abandon values long held,

citizens dehumanize the immigrants, the disadvantaged, women.

Like Legos in a three-year-old’s hands, we are breaking apart.

 

I refuse to conform!

I have the power not to be evil or angry or hurt.

I will speak truth in a quiet voice, but I will speak!

Perhaps, someone will join me and two of us will be free of hate.

Awesome power.  All I control is me.

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