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ABORTION AMBIVALENCE IS NOT AN OPTION

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Those of you who have followed this blog for a while (thank you!) know that I love politics. Probably too much. It’s an addiction, like football or baseball for some people. I follow all the stats, watch every “game,” know most of the players. This makes sense, since I lived and breathed politics during my thirty-year career as an environmental lobbyist on Capitol Hill. 

But it goes deeper than that. I grew up in a well-informed family steeped in the study of world history and engaged in current events. My father worked for the CIA and my older brother campaigned for Bobby Kennedy. Politics was always on the menu at our dinner table, for better or for worse. Some of my fondest family memories involve all of us gathered around our black & white TV set, watching political conventions. I thought this was normal.

MUST WE TALK ABOUT ABORTION?

All this to say that you may or may not have noticed that there is one hot political issue I have never written about in the ten (!!) years I’ve been blogging. Abortion. I hate the topic, and I hate how both sides use it to raise money, win elections, and stoke division and outrage. Such political posturing and messaging is hurtful and/or insulting to women. Abortion is a deeply personal and intimate issue, and every woman I know who has struggled with the decision of whether to terminate an unwanted pregnancy has been through hell, or at least purgatory.

You are not “pro-life” if you don’t support programs that help low-income women who decide to give birth to and raise their child. The GOP has always been intent on shredding the social safety net that provides healthcare, education, and nutrition for these families. You are not a “good Christian” if you verbally or otherwise abuse beleaguered woman and their doctors. 

Likewise, when Democratic strategists decided to adopt the slogan “I (heart) abortion,” I was aghast. Who loves abortion, even if you think of it only as a medical procedure? What a slap in the face to the millions of women who have faced that decision! 

I sometimes want to scream, “Shut up, everybody just shut up!”

And so, I have largely shut up. I remember once trying to cross Massachusetts Avenue with my fellow liberals when a large group of “Right to Life” marchers was wending its way up the street waving pictures of bloody fetuses. My friends were apoplectic. I stupidly said what I was thinking, which was that these people were being manipulated by radical right extremists, but that if a person truly believed that babies were being murdered, shouldn’t they be marching in the streets? 

Oops. That opinion was not allowed. 

THANK YOU KANSAS, FOR SPEAKING UP

I’ve never fit into a proper box. When abortion has been on the ballot in my state, I have voted for choice, but never enthusiastically. It wasn’t “my” issue. Over the years, my ambivalence has meant that I’ve not always been supportive of women friends when they needed me most. I deeply regret that. I hope that I am a more compassionate and less judgmental person than I used to be. 

My opinions and feelings have evolved over time, informed by science, my spiritual beliefs, and my experiences. But that’s the point, isn’t it? MY feelings, MY opinions, MY understanding of spirit and science. It is not MY right to tell anyone else how they should feel or behave, most especially when it comes to their own bodies.

And it’s certainly not the right of the government or a specific religion! Not in America. 

The Supreme Court’s extreme political activism means that I no longer have the luxury of laying low, of being “understanding of both sides.” Nope. I am wiser now. Better late than never, I guess. Ambivalence is not an option. Silence is not an option.

So today I am writing to say THANK YOU to the voters of Kansas. I especially want to thank those who may have been confused, ambivalent, or evolving on the issue of abortion, but who voted to protect a woman’s right to choose. Because in the end, it’s not about abortion and what you think about abortion. It is about abortion RIGHTS. And our basic rights are at stake. So thank you for showing up when you could have stayed home. Thank you for not shutting up. 

Finding Hope This Fourth of July

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Happy Independence Day. I guess. It hardly feels worth celebrating this year, unlike last year when the vast majority of Americans celebrated the end of trump’s reign with a heartfelt “PHEW!” By last 4th of July, the trauma of the insurrection had begun to fade and denial was settling in, at least in my beleaguered brain. 

One year later, it’s hard to deny that the trump damage is wide and deep and lasting — for all of us, but especially for women and for the poor among us, who are hardest hit when voting and abortion rights are denied and the climate crisis worsens. 

IS THE SUN SETTING ON OUR REPUBLIC?

Life is overwhelming lately, right? I’ve had to abandon this blog post several times. Finding solid words to stand on is difficult, as I stumble between disbelief and grief, outrage and numbness, shock and hardened cynicism. Cynicism is the most dangerous, because it kills hope, and without hope we don’t vote and we don’t march and we don’t show up. And we “writing activists” don’t write. 

A STRONG DOSE OF HOPE

Thank God for Cassidy Hutchinson, who offered a strong dose of hope to those who seek truth and justice in the wake of the January 6th attempted coup. (Which is, let’s not kid ourselves, ongoing.) Everyone says her testimony was “shocking” and “stunning.” I suppose in a normal world, that would be so, but the most shocking part to me was that I wasn’t shocked.

A WOMAN OF COURAGE

As alarming as Hutchinson’s testimony was, none of it was out of character for the 45th president. Not the rage, the violence, the pettiness, the crazy. Not even the part where he demanded metal detectors be dismantled so that an armed mob could enter the ellipse and make a better photo op for him before descending on the Capitol building where the entire Congress and the Vice President were doing the work of democracy. 

OK, that particular bit did shock me. But not because of trump’s treasonous behavior — I just did not expect the Committee to hand the Department of Justice such a clear smoking gun. (Never has “smoking gun” been a more apt metaphor.)

WOMEN OF COURAGE

So if not shock, then what was my overwhelming feeling as I watched that brave 25 year-old woman raise her hand and risk her career — and perhaps her very life — for love of country? As she promised to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to that even braver 55 year-old woman from Wyoming who daily takes those same risks, only on steroids? I felt grief. Deep grief for our nation. I was surprised by my tears. My hard trump-shell cracked. Most of us knew we were in great peril when that man took over, but I honestly never imagined. And trust me, I thought I was fearing the worst. 

Let me be clear: I’m not saying Hutchinson and Cheney are heroes. They enabled and abetted trump every step of the way. Until they didn’t. They are courageous and they are strong and their bravery may save what’s left of democracy. Thank God for them, and may others follow their lead. But let’s not call them heroes. They and their ilk are largely responsible for America’s minority overrunning the majority, and for the Supreme Court’s dismantling of our freedom and independence just in time for the Fourth of July, 2022.

PRAYERS AND SPIT

I pray fervently for our nation this Fourth. Most especially for the direct victims of the Court’s recent rampage through our life, liberty and happiness: My heart is with all women — especially low-income women — and with Black voters, Native Americans, and kids who fear getting blown to bits at school. And of course my heart hurts for every living creature threatened by the Court’s choice of corporate profits and climate chaos over life. Amen.

Let’s celebrate this day with intention and determination and courage. May we all spit in the face of fear and take a hard hold on hope this Fourth of July.

BEAUTIFUL RAGE

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I may not be the most qualified to speak on the topic of anger. Though I am well-versed in the costs of bottling it up. I could probably buy a small Russian yacht with all the money I spent on cocaine in my twenties and therapy in later decades. Avoiding conflict is one of my specialties: “None of that unpleasantness, now,” as my mother would say. My older brother and sister seemed to relish rolling in the unpleasantness, while I cowered wide-eyed behind the couch. And you never knew when my alcoholic father would blow. So I learned to hide out.

Fury at Injustice

It’s a lifelong challenge for me. But there is one exception: I have always raged at injustice. It’s why I chose a career in environmental protection, to speak out and fight for the defenseless. At first that meant animals and trees and vague visions of future generations, but when this privileged young white woman learned about the heavy costs of environmental degradation on poor people and communities of color, my rage knew no bounds. Which may be why I march around the streets of D.C. and wave signs and yell at the top of my lungs from time to time. That’s my therapy now.

Interesting that my rage only seems to grow as I age. No mellowing out or going gently into that good night for this aging hippie. I mean, shouldn’t things be getting better by now?? We know about climate change and its disproportionate impacts on marginalized people, we know about police rage and violence, we know about the ownership of politicians by the NRA and multibillion-dollar corporations, we know about systemic racial injustice in housing, healthcare, education, land use, the justice system, pollution exposure – well, everything.

And then comes the rebirth of authoritarianism, not just “over there” but right here in the good ol’ U. S. of A. Even for those who find it hard to do “unpleasantness,” how can you not rage right now, watching yet another tragic, senseless slaughter caused by a narcissistic strongman and his pandering cronies?

And now, corporate-backed American politicians are using Putin’s murderous rampage to call for more drilling, mining, and carbon-dioxide spewing in the name of “freedom,” when any person with a brain (and a heart) can see that solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable sources could free us from foreign energy sources for good?! Great God!

Don’t Just Rage, Do Something!

Speaking of God (see how I did that?), it’s the start of Lent, as I mentioned in my last post. What about trying a Lenten practice of feeling and expressing anger at injustice in a healthy way? I find that much of my anger comes from feeling powerless. What’s breaking your heart and raising your blood pressure these days?

You’re smart. You’re creative. Find one useful thing you can do about it. Write a letter to a decision-maker. Write a letter to your local newspaper. Call in to a news show. Get your neighbors together (in a COVID-safe way, of course) to watch a video about an issue that gets your ire up. Gather a few friends and have a “honk and wave” on the street corner, holding signs about racism, the climate crisis, Ukraine, your passion. You are a co-creator of this world with God – get out there and generate some beautiful holy rage!

“God of Holy Rage,

Too often we fear that to allow for anger is to become less like You. Let us meet the God of the prophets. You, who tells the truth. You, who holds fury at injustice. Help us to remember that You, in embodied anger, flipped the temple tables at the site of injustice and exclusion.

In a world where the powerful terrorize the marginalized – exploit people and land – would You help us to become faithful discerners of when to calm and when to rouse? Rejecting that anger which leads to bitterness or hatred of another, yet tapping into a righteous rage when that which you’ve created is under abuse and neglect. The dignity of creation demands our emotions. Make ours a beautiful rage.”

Cole Arthur Riley

The Eternal Election Night

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The last four years have been interminable. The year 2020 itself has lasted four long years. And now we have entered the Election Night that would not end. Several people have requested that I write a blog post in response to what is going on, even a friend in New Zealand. I’ve never had such requests before, so I’m trying to comply.

I find I’m up against some challenges, one being that I’ve just returned to Maryland after four months of hiding from COVID up at my place in New Hampshire. I drove on Election Day because I hoped there might be a pause in the wilding trump supporters who have been harassing people, stopping traffic, and trying to run Biden buses off the road. My car is plastered with liberal bumper stickers, plus it’s a communist hybrid. Thankfully, it was a quiet drive. But I’m all discombobulated and can’t find anything in the wreckage I’ve unloaded from my car.

Also, as I mentioned in my last post, WordPress has instituted a “new and improved” blog platform that everyone seems to hate, and I haven’t had the time or inclination to learn how to use it. Blogging is not the simple act it once was. I can revert to the old platform, which worked perfectly well, but it would cost me $300. So there’s that. 

And finally, I don’t much feel like writing. My head is jangling, filled with all kinds of brain chemicals I’m not used to. I don’t have a TV, so usually don’t see commercials or hear the stress-inducing manic music most of America lives with. But the networks are graciously allowing even plebeians like me to livestream this week’s mayhem, so here I am, hooked. I’ve been glued to my computer screen since I arrived home at 8 p.m. election night. I watch the red & blue vote tallies not move, as I flip back and forth between MSNBC and CNN and FOX (my first time ever watching the latter — it’s kind of fascinating).

The Narrow Path

Last night I wisely unplugged and went to a prayer practice circle held on the grounds of my church. We used the Welcoming Prayer, which I’ve blogged about before. I recognized and welcomed my fear and anxiety and anger, and then I released them to God. 

It was harder to let go of the grief that I’ve discovered underlies it all — grief for my country, for humanity, for the planet. Grief feels good and right, even holy. No matter who wins the election, the fact remains that nearly half of America thinks it’s OK to have a president who cannot tell the truth, who promotes violence and racism, gasses peaceful protesters, denies science, and gleefully puts the profits of coal companies ahead of human survival. Grief is appropriate.

Biden’s path to electoral victory is narrow, and trump’s is narrower. But the narrowest path is the path back to basic sanity and civility for our nation. If Biden becomes president, it’ll be a steep and dangerous climb. If he doesn’t? Well, you see why I can’t write about this.

What we know so far . . .

Awakening From the Trump Nightmare?

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I’ve had the strangest feeling lately, sometimes several times a day. I feel happy. I’m just going about my business, chopping fresh summer squash and tomatoes or brushing my newly adopted kitty Alice, when all of a sudden I realize there’s an underlying happiness. I’m not sure what this is about, but I have some ideas.

You can brush my tummy. No, really, go ahead . . . trust me

Life Right Now

Several things have happened. For one, I’m staying longer term at my beloved country house in New Hampshire, away from the COVID hotspot near DC where I live most of the time. Four months instead of six weeks. So there’s less anxiety. I am still very careful, but I don’t feel as if I’m taking my life in my hands when I go to pick up cat food. At night I watch stars, listen for owls, and hope to see the shadowy shape of our local bear. During the day, I sit on my deck and gaze over the same meadow that my grandmother and my mother gazed over, waiting for the wild turkey and deer to show up.

The Meadow

I also got off my last prescription meds after losing seventy pounds. In my journal I wrote: “Last prescription med taken. I am the Queen, the boss, the winner, the smartest, best, rockingest human on earth. Just so you know.” (That last sentence has the ring of a presidential tweet, doesn’t it?) This is a long-time goal, and I’m feeling really good about it — so good that I went to the local sandwich shop and got two scoops of my favorite ice cream, peppermint stick. First ice cream since December, and it was beyond delicious, especially topped with hot fudge and caramel sauce.

Hope At Last

Lastly, there’s Kamala. I’ve already told you how I feel about her. I am under no illusion that the pollsters have a clue what they’re talking about. I am nowhere near complacent after 2016 and with all the voter suppression going on. The stakes in this election are literally life and death, COVID, healthcare, climate chaos, police brutality. Even more so if you happen to have been born with brown or black skin.

Still, there’s a tiny tinge of hope where there was none a few months ago. Perhaps America will step up. I don’t know. But we might.

Tears, All the Tears

Last night was unexpectedly weird. We knew it would be weird, being the first virtual convention in history. What surprised me was my reaction. I was in tears within minutes. I often cry at “America the Beautiful,” but I never cry at the National Anthem. Too militaristic for me. Not so last night. I started crying when all those regular old American people began reading the Preamble to the Constitution, was in full flood by the time Biden’s grandkids read the Pledge of Allegiance, and then all those faces, young hopeful faces singing the anthem! By the time we got to Bruce Springsteen’s inspiring song, The Rising, I was drenched.

 

Watching the videos and listening to the heartfelt speeches, I proceeded to run through all the feels in short order: deep sorrow, anger and rage, hope, fear, even trauma. Especially trauma. What we have been through and continue to suffer, as individuals and as a nation! I love America so much. I texted my friend: “I hate what he has done to us!”

And you know what? I feel happy about those feelings, all of them. It reminded me that Melanie’s still in here. All my feelings are still alive, despite having had to put a lid on them for the past four years. I mean, you have to build up defenses against the constant atrocities and the dread, especially if you’re a sensitive sort like me.

I felt my defensive numbness starting to melt last Sunday at the Quaker meeting I attend. A woman rose to remind us that New England Quakers are celebrating three hundred sixty years as a faith community working for justice and peace. “And two years ago,” she said, “a new light was lit when we began meeting here at Orchard Hill. I am constantly amazed at the light.”

I found I was crying. All the lights, all the amazing lights.

A light was lit at Orchard Hill

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Celebrating Biden/Harris, Hope, and My Blog’s Anniversary!

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I initially opened my laptop to write a quick blog post on Joe Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris, and to say how excited I am about watching the Democratic Convention next week. I think Senator Harris is without a doubt the best choice. Warren would likely be a better VP from day one, given her experience and expertise, but it would have been a big mistake to choose another white person well into their seventies. It’s 2020. In this day and age, there is no excuse for that.

Though it will be a steep and messy climb out of this cesspool America has plunged into, I think there’s a chance the two of them can restore dignity to the White House and civility to the national conversation. Without that, we cannot tackle zero-hour issues like electoral integrity and the climate crisis. At the same time, I expect and hope that the progressive wing of the party will keep agitating for a more just and compassionate society.

OK, that’s what I was going to say initially. But then a powerful deja vu led me to a big realization — this month marks eight years since I started Writing With Spirit!

Woo-hoo, hooray, and haroo, you guys!

 

EIGHT YEARS!!

And THANK YOU to my 5,301 followers! I really, really appreciate EVERY ONE of you, I seriously, absolutely do!

 

There’s a reason for the deja vu. I started this blog right here at my grandmother’s house in New Hampshire where I had come, and have come again, to write. (The house is now my own, but it will always belong to Beedie).

Quiet Hills

I never intended to include so much politics in the blog, but it happened to be convention season when I began blogging, and — well, I am who I am, a political addict. Even as our current national nightmare threatens my emotional stability and mental health, I can’t stop watching the train-wreck.

So it happened that eight years ago, I wrote two brief blogs about writing and then launched into politics on August, 29, 2012 while watching the GOP convention:

“I’ve always been a convention addict, ever since my Dad decorated me with Barry Goldwater buttons, handed me a little American flag, and plopped me down in front of a black-and-white Zenith television with a box of Lucky Charms. I was hooked – everyone wore funny hats and brandished signs and tossed balloons and generally acted like children; but at the same time I felt grown up, watching politics with my family. It’s all they talked about at the dinner table. I belonged. Four years later at age thirteen, my friend and I plastered ourselves with bumper stickers and leapt around intersections like cheerleaders, shouting, “Humphrey, Humphrey, he’s our man, if he can’t do it, Muskie can!” (By 1968, I had discovered the teenage joy of ticking off your parents, and I’ve remained a life-long Democrat.)

Energy, engagement, belonging, purpose. That’s what politics has meant to me. But last night {watching the GOP convention} I didn’t get any of that . . . The first century Roman philosopher Seneca said, ‘As long as you live, keep learning how to live.’ Sometimes that journey is a process of elimination, of shedding old behaviors or interests that you adopted for whatever reason – to survive a chaotic childhood, to please a partner or parent, to feel significant, to belong. So maybe I won’t be watching the Democratic convention. Maybe I’m done.

Who am I kidding? I’m still fascinated by politics, even if it’s more like watching a car wreck than a country at work. I like to think that, like me, America is on a transformative journey, learning how to live. Maybe eventually we’ll decide to drop behaviors that don’t serve our common good. Perhaps we have to see how low we can go, before we can start climbing our way back up to constructive civility. So, yeah, I guess I’ll keep watching the extravaganzas. It’s my country, and besides, the Democrats usually have better hats.”

Well, just wow. Eight years ago, I thought we were in a hole. I was bemoaning the lack of “constructive civility.” Who could have foreseen such a debacle as the past four years? Yikes.

Believe it or not, I still think that America is on a transformative journey. We have now seen just “how low we can go.” And I can’t wait to watch the Democratic convention, even if there won’t be hats this year! 

I smell hope.

#BidenHarris2020!

Going Around the World to Escape America

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At long last, I have found a reason to thank Donald Trump. I’m not certain, but there’s a good chance that without his spectacular take-down of my country, I would not be here in Auckland, New Zealand at the start of a Grand Adventure. (I also want to thank the Accidental president for dictating that random capitalization is a Big and perfect Win.)

Pondering the Grand Adventure

I hadn’t realized that America’s Great Embarrassment had anything to do with my impulsive exit from the U.S. of A., but this morning as I pondered my maps, I realized for the first time that I have journeyed to the far side of the earth from my home near Washington, D.C.

As far away as I can get.

Note: In actuality, the antipodes of D.C. is a 15,912-foot-deep trench in the Indian Ocean called the Diamantina Fracture. These waters are known as some of the stormiest and loneliest in the world — could it be that the vicious D.C. vortex penetrates the earth’s core, ruptures rock, churns magma, and agitates the depths of the Indian Ocean on the other side of the planet? I’d believe it. At any rate, New Zealand is one of the nearest land masses to the trench, and this is where I have landed after seven hours of hanging about in three airports, eighteen hours of flying through the air, and the total loss of November 5th, 2019, which was left hanging somewhere over an ocean.

Blessed Space

I’ve written a bit about my motivations for coming here, but thus far they’ve been in the “life is short and I’m not getting any younger and you only live once” category. I feel I’m in a dynamic transition after long years of grieving family losses, leaving my pastoral role last year, and shedding thirty-plus pounds this year. Exploring the wilds of New Zealand in a camper van seems as good a way as any of spending a month while I try to open my spirit to sense what God has next for me.

I had not identified the need for escape as part of my motivation. Yet last night over spinach cannelloni and salad, as my Kiwi cousin implored me to explain what in bloody hell is going on in America and who ARE these trump voters anyway, and I struggled to articulate what I have spent three years trying in vain to grasp, I felt a familiar sense of heaviness descend, a physical sensation of added weight, as if I were carrying not just those lost thirty pounds, but another hundred as well.

In America, I walk around with this heaviness all the time, sometimes in the form of dread, sometimes despair, sometimes grief, sometimes horror, sometimes numbness. And it never entirely goes away because there is a Malignant Narcissist in the White House who is trying to destroy my beloved homeland. Here in New Zealand, the heaviness seems to be lifting. This morning when I saw on the news that there is a big rally in D.C. tomorrow calling for the impeachment of our Great Embarrassment, I thought, “Excellent, I hope a million people turn out.“ And then I thought, “I wonder what I’ll have for breakfast.”

I finally have some blessed distance from America’s crisis: 8,774 miles, to be exact. Or 12,742 miles if you go straight through the center of the earth. I have space to breathe. This morning I lounged in bed with my tea and gazed out the window, where I swear a bird was singing something very like, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I scrolled past atrocity after atrocity on my newsfeed, but instead chose to read Mike Tidwell’s fun example of travel writing about his 1998 expedition to a place I will not be visiting: a big rock that juts out of the lower Indian Ocean and is the actual antipode of Washington, D.C. 

Morning view over the rooftops of Botany Downs, Auckland to the volcanic mountains beyond

What September 11th Means To This American

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September 11th: we call it the “National Day of Service and Remembrance.” Honestly, I’d rather not remember that soul-shattering day in 2001, except for the surreal sense of oneness and belonging — the connection, concern for others, grief for the state of the world — dare I say universal love? I do want to remember that. There were beautiful tributes at American embassies worldwide, thousands of flowers and flags and candles and cards. And of course we remember those first responders, many of whom are still paying the cost of their sacrifice. No wonder this date is dedicated to unity and charitable service.

The world loved America that day, warts and all. Even this old hippie drove around with an American flag tied to her car antennae for months afterward. Remembering the unity and big-hearted patriotism that surrounded us in the weeks after 9/11 makes me feel homesick, wondering how we could have fallen so far so fast. The seeds of division and nationalism that plague us today were already planted and well-rooted in 2001, but they were easy to ignore if you were a privileged white person such as myself. I was busy.

Now, though, there’s no denying it.

America is desperately ill, and the seeds of evil have grown into gnarled trees of corruption and greed and white nationalism. Our president and his cronies are intentionally feeding and watering those trees. Evil is flourishing right out in the open: we have a mentally unbalanced, strongman authoritarian seeking dictatorial power with the complete compliance of the once “Grand Old Party.” There may be violence if he loses, he warns, as he stokes the fires of anger and fear at his hate-fueled rallies.

I barely recognize America anymore. She never really was “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” but at least we all wanted her to be. Now the strongman tells elected officials of color to “go back where you came from.”

But here’s the thing: I still love America, even more than I did when I tied that flag to my antennae on September 12, 2001. Her founding ideals may have become a mockery, corporate money may have damaged democracy beyond repair, and greed-driven climate denial may spell the beginning of the end for our species. But that “liberty and justice for all” thing? That’s still worth pursuing and defending with all we’ve got. Good-hearted women and men have fought for those ideals for hundreds of years, some in uniform, some in courtrooms, some protesting in the streets, some being martyred. Their spirits live on.

So on this “Day of Remembrance and Service,” let’s remember what this country stands for. Let’s commit to speaking up when we see racism and injustice in our daily lives. Let’s commit to educating ourselves fully, to admitting and learning from our mistakes, to voting, and to teaching our children to vote. Let’s march in the streets to protect one another, and let’s get involved in the upcoming election.

“Don’t mourn, organize!”

Joe Hill, songwriter and union organizer executed by the state of Utah in 1815.

In Remembrance

 

 

I Don’t Want to Dwell on the Sharpie Thing, But . . .

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Of all the bizarre, twisted, scary, unfathomable actions and statements from the man we all wish we could ignore, this latest “Sharpie-gate” thing has thrown me into the deep end. I can’t reach reality with my feet or find a safe flotation device to cling to. It’s as if one tiny scrawl on a map means more than the entire Mueller report. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have a hunch I’m not the only one who feels this way. My mind is on strike and refuses to process any more of this.

I can’t even . . .

The person sitting in the Oval Office has the emotional maturity of a nine or ten-year-old, so his lying to cover a mistake isn’t a surprise, even a mistake that could have been deadly: Thank God that the man-child’s magical forecast did not accidentally omit a state targeted by the hurricane, rather than add one. He undoubtedly would have spent the week insisting there was no danger in South Carolina, no flooding or destruction happening; he would denied federal aid and raged at fake media outlets for showing victims on TV.

But there’s no need for speculative craziness, what we have is more than enough. The president if undeniably unwell and unfit.

What I can’t fathom is the White House staff and agency personnel who coddle and enable him. Do they all have Stockholm syndrome – has every one of them completely lost all sense of shame, responsibility, decency, duty, reality? The latest reports are that the man-child himself literally took his Sharpie in hand and altered an official weather map (a crime punishable by fine and/or imprisonment, but criminal activity doesn’t seem to hinder this White House). He faked the map to continue his fantasy falsehood that Alabama was in deep doo-doo due to Dorian.

He did this in front of staff – lots of them. During an official briefing leading up to a press conference, he decided at the last minute to change the map being presented. How on earth could not one person in the room say no? “You can’t do that, Mr. President, that’s our official map and lives depend on its accuracy.” Sure, he/she would have been fired, but how, how, how could they not speak up? There is some deep psychological distortion emanating from this president, and it seems to engulf everyone around him. Smart people. Experts. Public servants.

Most of all, why has the Vice President not invoked the 25th Amendment? And is it possible that Mitch McConnell is every bit as sick as the president? If Sharpie-gate isn’t enough to see what a clear and present danger trump presents to all humanity and what a completely broken psyche he has, what is?

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?” Psalm 82:2

 

A Conversation About Racism and White Privilege

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Because there just hasn’t been enough about politics in the news recently, I’ve been reading up on potential Democratic presidential candidates for 2020. I wondered why people identified Senator Kamala Harris as African American, since her heritage is Jamaican and Indian. Although I had a feeling this was a really stupid question, I nevertheless sent my query to the African American Registry.

File:Kamala Harris Delivers Remarks on 50th Anniversary of the Signing of the Civil Rights Act 11.jpg

Sure enough, a guy named Ben wrote back simply, “Follow the middle passage.” Too late, I remembered my trip to the Museum of African American History and Culture last year and all I had learned (and forgotten) about the early slave trade: the maps outlining slave ship routes from the African continent to the islands, the pictures of the sugar cane plantations, the whips and shackles and chains. In fact, by the time of the American Revolution, there were close to 200,000 African slaves in Jamaica.

Feeling sheepish and frustrated with myself, I wrote back thanking Ben and asking him to forgive “my ignorant white self.” I am always aware and grateful to people of color who take the time to educate me.

Much to my surprise, Ben wrote back and asked if he could interview me. Turns out he is the director of the Registry, and an important part of his work is educating white people. He said he hoped I could help him “understand whiteness.” I told him I certainly couldn’t speak for all white people, but I’d be happy to help if I could.

Understanding Whiteness

Ben has two main questions:

  1. How much does guilt propel whites to try to step outside their comfort zone in the professional world?
  2. What does it look like to consistently give up one’s racial privilege for a lifetime?

These questions have got me thinking, and I’m looking forward to our interview. Understanding my own history of family racism and privilege has been an important part of my personal and spiritual growth, and was also key to my professional development when I worked on cultural competency and dismantling racism at the Sierra Club. Getting beyond my guilt and shame was essential. 

What really interests me, though, is his second question. I’m not sure that white people *can* give up their privilege. It just is. It is a fact. You can’t take off your skin color. I did nothing to get it, it’s just the way other people and society as a whole view me.

I am aware of it now, and do small things like always letting a person of color walk through a door first or get in line ahead of me or speak first in a meeting. Just to purposely step out of my unwarranted position of privilege. And I work towards racial justice and reconciliation and try to make sure that the groups I work with are not led by white people. But I just don’t think that a person can “give it up.” The trick is to become increasingly conscious of it and to decline it or bring it to light whenever possible.

What do you think? I’d be really interested in your thoughts on either of these questions. These are such important conversations as our nation struggles to confront the resurgence of white supremacy in America today.

I wish you a blessed, just, inclusive, and compassionate new year!

— Image of Senator Kamala Harris from Wikimedia Commons

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