Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Way Forward

This week I am watching from a remote Caribbean location as people pick their candidate and political party over their relationships with humans, even the humans they love and are close with in real life.  It is a lot bit sad. If someone doesn't agree with me, that is okay. It doesn't make them inherently evil. We DO NOT have to force anyone to change their mind. BUT - If people would choose to listen, I mean really listen to the experiences of others, who knows what sort of common ground we might find. (To be clear: I desperately love people that say Trump was the only way they could vote. I desperately love people that think Trump is a very bad man and they felt they could never vote for him.) 
These clowns have nothing to do with this post ~ but don't they look joyful -
peacemakers and bridge builders, that's my hope!

And so - here we are - utter grid lock, Haiti-Traffic-Style. I guess in some ways we are a people that will choose to prove our point and our correctness over choosing relationship.   (That is not my plan. I choose relationship while still trying to be honest about my thoughts.)  (Do you want to be right or do you want to be kind?)

(BTW - I don't like Trump and I do accept the results and respect the process, if the electoral college needs to go away, you cannot expect it to go after an election -- you have four years to ask your government representative to get rid of it if you hate it. I don't think there is any other way but to move forward but in hope and prayer for the President and to be the kind of individuals we so hope he and his team will be.) 

(Be the change.)

I think people are generally unwilling to pretend for a moment to be someone else.  If you have only experienced a middle class life in the suburbs, it might be hard to imagine the life of an (documented or undocumented) immigrant. If you are a person that has been on welfare for five years, you probably have not considered the person working three jobs in order to feed her family and not be on welfare.  Last weekend I read the memoir of a gay Christian man. It helped me so much to pretend to be him for the two days it took to read his memoir.
If you'd like to REALLY TRULY KNOW (different than "know of") a materially poor person, a Muslim, an immigrant family, a gay couple, a blue collar factory worker, a democrat, a republican, a person with a physical disability, a wealthy Christian businessperson, someone of a different race  -- or anyone at all that does not reflect you back to yourself, (think - different than your mirror) - WELL, that takes listening for the purpose of understanding and empathizing. (A lost art. Thank-you Internet for that.)
Always discounting (or never even being willing to hear about) the experiences of others is a way to have no friends that are any different than you. 
Heck, maybe you don't want to have any friends with differing backgrounds and experiences, that's your call. 
Me??? I want to try to see if I can live a little bit like Jesus. (It is hard, I don't like trying but I feel like I need to continue.) I figure Jesus hung out with all sorts of characters (even shady ones) and not just his buddies with exactly the same thoughts and background as him. That is what motivates me to try and have all the awkward and challenging relationships I have in Haiti. 
Just so you understand this, know that I don't sit with someone hungry, poor, homeless, or practicing another religion than I do without feeling the total awkwardness of it all. I do it because I think we are all made in God's image - Imago Dei and all that jazz . My life experiences are pretty limited - so I figure I can learn from the materially poor just as much or more than I can learn from someone that looks, thinks, acts and hangs out at the same places as me.

Knowing many people with varying experiences and backgrounds is important to me - it helps give me a fuller picture of God's Kingdom.

As we go forward with the new President we chose or the new President we didn't choose ---  We are still (always) in charge of how we act and love. Nobody tells us (me) how to respond to the multiple daily one-on-one encounters we (I) have. That's our wheelhouse! Go get it done the way you know best!

With Hope and Love,

Karen Swallow Prior -Professor of English at Liberty University,    “This election was a referendum on the echo chamber, and the echo chamber won. We can choose now to retreat once again into those echo chambers or begin to listen more attentively to one another—to love our neighbors by learning about them and their needs and perspectives whether black, white, Asian, or Latino/a; whether Christian, Muslim, or none; whether upper, middle, or working class; whether voter or one of the nearly half of eligible voters that sat out this election. Following this election, I’m convinced that we don’t know our neighbors well enough to begin to truly love them.”

So as not to cause offense, sharing two view points below. 
(FTR -I have met neither of these people in real life.)  

Meet Guest Writers Erika and Suzy ...  

I was 14 years old when A Time to Kill came out in theaters. Being that I was red-blooded (obvs), blooming and easily besotted, the movie had me at Matthew McConaughey.
But what held me transfixed and returning for six more viewings wasn’t his pretty face, or his cute, khaki-clad buttcheeks. Rather it was something deeper, something in my chest; a feeling my young mind couldn’t quite unravel enough to comprehend back then.
Quickly and consciously A Time To Kill edged out The Man From Snowy River, gaining the top spot on my favorite movies list.
If you don't know the film I'm talking about, allow me to offer this brief synopsis: a fresh-from-the-bar-exam, full-of-zeal-and-ideals lawyer, Jake Tyler Brigance (Matthew McConaughey), defends a black man, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), who gunned down two white men because he knew they would otherwise be acquitted for their crime of viciously raping, beating and disfiguring his 10-year-old daughter.
During one of the following scenes Carl Lee beseeches Jake from behind bars, "If you was on that jury, what would it take to set me free?!"
And the viewer is left hanging from the end of this question until one of the final scenes, a scene starting with Carl Lee’s lawyer asking an all-white jury to shut their eyes before he launches his closing statement.
With all the sweat, blood and fervor he can assemble, Jake Tyler Brigance proceeds to paint a horrifyingly vivid, step-by-step and brutal word picture of this little girl’s abuse.
When the he’s done detailing the entire inhuman atrocity, he pauses and says to their still-shut eyes:
"Now, imagine she's white."
And I’m positive now. A Time To Kill had a more formative effect on me than any other movie I watched as an adolescent, that single scene replaying in my brain like a pull-string doll; repeating itself in a thousand different variations from that first viewing, to years forward.
Over time it became a personal spiritual practice to imaginatively stick my substance inside the skin of other people until I heard. Until I felt. Until I knew even an iota--the tiniest shred--of how it was to walk around inside their bodies.
Even though I’d never actually walked a mile in their life.
It would go like this:
Erika, now imagine you’re . . .
Erika, now imagine you’re . . .
Erika, now imagine you’re . . .
See me sitting in a place long enough with a people in my mind--standing behind my eyes. And see me trying just enough to imagine everything. See me imagining what I would say to them if we were face to face, what I would do with my hands and my one thumping organ I’ve learned to call a heart.
Over years I cultivated this habit and would imagine touching my forehead to a forehead and just absorbing, absorbing the heave of another chest, the sorrow of another story, the texture of another skin. I would try to imagine the irises, the fear, the survivor’s strength; motion and emotions; languages, ways and rhythms.
I now have a strange condition called connection.
So here’s where I’m going with this:
Our next president is Donald Trump. And Donald Trump, by his own words and actions, has permissioned hordes of people to bring out into the open a hate that was somehow still festering within a countrywide wound we had no idea was so deep and rotten.
(If I’m giving DT the benefit of the doubt, I could say that possibly he unintentionally invited what he invited. MAYBE HE’S JUST THAT DUMB?! Maybe I need to get inside his skin, too, but I’m not there yet. Not today. Not when the Klan’s celebrating, and my very own friends are having their homes tagged and lives threatened because of their ethnicity.)
SO. Do I believe that everyone who voted for Donald is racist? NO! Not by a long shot, and not anymore than I believe people who voted for Hillary Clinton condone lying under oath or obstructing justice.
But it’s clear that we live in a world where it's NOT ENOUGH to NOT be something.
And as long as ANYone on our watch is oppressed in the smallest distance or degree, then it's our responsibility to imagine:
Imagine that your sons are black. Do it! Imagine that your sons are black and that one of your house rules is “No Hooded Sweatshirts”.
Imagine that your Hispanic roommate woke you up at 4 in the morning because you could hear her wailing through your bedroom walls.
Imagine that you are a refugee--not at the end of your rope--but with no rope left, being told there’s no room for you at America’s "Whites Only" Inn.
Imagine that one of your dearest friends is Queer, and that his life has been threatened in the streets all over again.
Imagine that your daughter is disabled.
Imagine that you’ve been sexually assaulted.
Imagine. Imagine. Imagine! Day in and day out, never stop imagining the removal of your own skin and the slipping into of someone else’s. If you voted for Trump, but didn’t look in the mirror to see someone other than yourself looking back, you might not have taken enough steps.
Then it’s our responsibility to ACT.
Again, I KNOW the majority of people who voted for Trump aren't against whole human groups, but if we’re going to get through this civil unrest together then we need to take a million steps down the road of unity.
We all have to walk straight into the kind of compassion Frederick Buechner talks about when he says “compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it’s like to live inside someone else’s skin.”
FATAL is the operative word. It is fatal to live inside some people’s skin, not because they face the same risks that every human faces--car accidents, cancer or heart attacks--but because who they are by NATURE is compromised. In fear. Under fire.
This a threat to our national security.
All of which is to say: If you voted for Trump and claim not to sanction what’s happening, then let’s jump out of our skin. Let’s become unhinged. Let’s publically demand that our president-elect stand up somewhere--anywhere--with a loud speaker and a screen and make a statement condemning and rejecting every act of violence that is being done in his honor. I want to hear him say: Not on my watch.

Erika Morrison is a writer and speaker, a visionary and life artist. With an unconventional approach to spirituality, she paints bold, prophetic portraits of Kingdom-come. Erika makes her home and invests her heart in the Yale University town of New Haven, CT along with her husband Austin; their sons Gabe, Seth and Jude; and a female pit bull named Zeppelin.

~ ~ ~

As a good Catholic girl, I have a confession to make. I voted for Donald Trump. I’ll pause for all the gag noises. I know, I know. All the things you’re thinking…I know. I have to say right up front that this is very difficult for me to write. I am the very least confrontational person on the planet (like when I return something to Target, I’m afraid the customer service worker is going to be mad at me and I get nervous). I’ve thought a lot about whether or not to write this because I sort of fear the negative commentary. I am very sensitive to harsh, negative criticism. But you know what? I’m pretty mad-sad, so I’m not going to hide. I go out of my way to be kind and respectful with my words when it comes to sensitive matters; politics being THE most sensitive of matters. So I ask that you are also kind and respectful with your words if any of what I say here gets your goat.
I went the entire election cycle without publicly saying a word (well except for that Vanilla Ice meme. That shit was funny. We all could have used the laugh). These last several months of social media campaigning have been bad for my heart. Generally, I don’t believe social media is the right platform for politics. I prefer cute cuddly otters, remember #betheotters? I find that people make their minds up for themselves and no matter how many memes or articles you display, it only creates animosity and divisiveness and is not productive in changing anyone’s vote. So in that vein I find it a little self indulgent. But this post-election vote-shaming is absolutely reprehensible and I will not stand by and let people make a mockery of me. It is insulting and offensive and should not be tolerated. Because, after all, isn’t one of the reasons that the anti-Trumpsters ARE anti-Trumpsters in the first place because they think he is intolerant of certain folks? Do you see the irony here people?
So back to my vote for Donald Trump. I am white. I am a woman. I am a college graduate. I am upper middle class. I am a devout Catholic. I am a conservative. But here’s what I am NOT: I am not a racist. I am not a homophobe. I am not a xenophobe. I am not a sexist. I am not a deplorable human being. You know what else I am not? STUPID. Being a conservative white lady doesn’t make me a moron just because that’s not what the cool kids are into. Politically conservative does not equal unabashed hatred. I am highly insulted that the media is “blaming” me and and all the other conservative white chicks for getting Trump elected. I am also highly insulted that the media, and even some of my more liberal leaning peers and relatives, are insinuating that I am a racist homophobe because I voted for Trump. Hello? Anyone in there?? That vote doesn’t mean that I am Donald Trump, ya’ll. If you know me personally, you know that I am not a racist, sexist, homophobe or xenophobe as he is accused of being. Casting my vote for Trump does not change that about me. Much the same way that casting my vote for Trump doesn’t make my hair cotton candy-ish,  my skin a puzzling orange creamsicle shade and my hands tiny like a baby. I am a flawed person just like everyone else. But I’m not hateful. Therefore, I do not deserve to be lumped in with those kind of people (and I do not deny that they exist). Newsflash: there did not exist a fairy with a magic wand at the polls who sprinkled hate glitter onto people when they voted for Trump. I am not the stereotypical IDEA of whom you think it is who voted for Trump; I am an actual PERSONwith thoughts and feelings and opinions of my own. I wasn’t hateful when I walked in, and I wasn’t hateful when I walked out.
I don’t owe anyone an explanation for why I voted for Donald Trump. It was my constitutional right to do so and I shouldn’t be shamed for it. Because, freedom, love and acceptance and all that jazz, right? But I will say this: Hillary Clinton and I have some fundamental differences in values. THAT is why I didn’t vote for her. Does that mean I am a puppet of Donald Trump and stand for every word that he uttered? The answer to that would be a very loud and high pitched NO. That is all I really care to say about that. But I am highly offended by the implication that because I am a white woman I should be ashamed that I didn’t vote for the white woman just because I share her gender and race. Do you know what that is, my friends? SEXIST AND RACIST. Stop and think about that. Doesn’t that strike you as, I don’t know, just a smidge hypocritical being that so many of these vote-shamers spew their hatred for Donald Trump because they believe him to be a racist and a sexist? This level of hypocrisy is mind boggling. Mind boggling, I say.
So let’s meander back to freedom, love and acceptance. Lean in close and hear me loud and clear: ACCEPTANCE AND LOVE ARE A TWO WAY STREET. We must not forget that. If you demand acceptance and love, you MUST, in turn, accept and love. Because, as I tell my elementary aged children: Jesus commanded very simply that we shall love our neighbor. Well…loving your lovable neighbor, the one you like, the one with whom you laugh, the one with whom you share fundamental beliefs is easy, breezy, lemon-squeezy. But loving your unloving neighbor, the one with whom you disagree, the one with whom you argue, the one you with whom you wouldn’t be caught dead having a beer is freaking HARD, man. THAT is when you know you are doing it right. THAT is when it counts the most. But guys, here’s the kicker: it goes for BOTH sides. We must be kind to one another. It really is that simple. I often remind my children (and shouldn’t have to remind adults) that when people are unkind to you, you should be extra kind to them. They might really be in need of kindness themselves but don’t know how to ask for it. It is hypocritical to preach “love trumps hate” while at the same time harboring a vicious contempt for our president elect and those who voted him into office. It is curious to me that “love trumps hate” is being used as a slogan by a movement that kinda hates our newly elected president. The bottom line is that you don’t get to pick and choose to love and accept only when it falls in line with your agenda. That sort of defeats the acceptance part. Love will only trump hate if we ALL participate. Capisce?
So, in closing, he won people. He won fair and square whether you like it or not. If you are an American citizen, he IS your president. No amount of hashags or tweets can change the constitution so you’re wasting your thumb strength. Redirect your energy to being the change you want to see in this country. I am a patriot. I love my country. I value the gift of freedom and the chance to have my voice heard. But my voice does not deserve to be shamed. That, my friends, is just plain un-American.
Suzy Clark Carlisle is a Gainesville, Florida-based writer, dedicated wife and mother, and proud Catholic.